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Stolen Soul [盗まれた魂]

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Pain whispered like an old friend.

Clack-clack, clack-clack, clack-clack.

Daylight assaulted his eye as the wind lashed at his empty socket. The floor rumbled beneath him and shook his teeth.

Clack-clack, clack-clack, clack-clack.

We’re on a train, brother, the specter of Yuusaku hovered above him. Do you remember the train that collected us in Asahikawa?

Clack-clack, clack-clack, clack-clack.

I wanted to sit with you on the ride to the coast, the foul aroma of matchlock and spilled blood invaded. I wanted to sail to Mukden with you, but I couldn’t find you, big brother.

Clack-clack, clack-clack, clack-clack.

I met Tanigaki Genjirou on that train, Yuusaku’s head weighed heavy upon his chest. I sailed with him to Mukden.

Clack-clack, clack-clack, clack-clack.

Hyakunosuke searched the darkness with a lone eye as bile bloomed in his throat.

Do you seek your stolen soul, brother?

Clack-clack, clack-clack, clack-clack.

 

*

 

Blue sky with billowing clouds.

A steady hand cradled his head to gently lift it.

“You need to drink, brother,” wetness filled his mouth as cold water soothed his parched gullet. “You need to stay hydrated,”

“That’s enough,” said a gruff voice. “You’re going to drown him,”

The sky above moved slowly and the air stunk of manure.

Tanigaki’s voice became distant, “Where are we going?”

“Into the woods,” said the gruff voice. “Can’t camp on the road,”

The pain faded when his consciousness slept.

 

**

 

Chill numbed his cheeks, and his breath appeared as a white mist. Warmth overcame one side of his body, while cold detained the other.

Amidst the glow of a blazing campfire, Tanigaki was down on his forearms. Ass high in the air, his body jerked with each thrust from the shadow behind him.

You’ve spoiled him, big brother.

Pain tore through his head.

Is this what you planned for me?

The ache became too much to bear.

Was it your plan to spoil me as you have Genji?

Agony hauled his consciousness into the black.

 

***

 

Gray skies and the scent of rain.

A warm rag grazed his chest before a tender thumb traced the scar on his cheek. Relief shone in the Matagi’s eyes, regarding him with a loving smile.

“You must keep drinking,”

The frigid water felt good going down.

Straw pricked his naked legs. Soft rain tickled his skin. Ducks flew in a line overhead.

Did he touch you, big brother? Yuusaku’s voice came with the stench of his grandpa. Did he touch you, or did you touch him?

“We can leave him at the hospital,” said a gruff voice. “There’s plenty of care stations between here and Tokyo,”

“I’m not abandoning my brother,”

“Just think about it,” the gruff voice faded. “They’ll take better care of him,”

That beast of man knows another predator when he sees one. Yuusaku’s fetid teeth appeared. What comes around, goes around, Big Brother.

 

****

 

Darkness without a moon.

The muddy ground was unfriendly, the brisk wind unkind. Wood crackled nearby, giving faint light to the swaying trees.

Thirst drove his arm out from under the blanket.

Fingers trawled the damp soil for the bucket of water, only to come upon the hardened toe of a boot. A broad hairy face stared down with the eyes of an exposed animal.

“I wish you’d died on the road,” fingers pinched his nose shut before a hand covered his mouth. “I got plans for that handsome brother of yours, and you’re in my way,”

Hyakunosuke struggled against the bearded man whose bald head shone in the firelight. His arms were useless, and kicking brought excruciating pain to his lower back and leg.

Yuusaku’s torn face materialized above the man’s shoulder.

What goes around, comes around, big brother.

Numbness replaced the burning in his cheeks. Vomit packed into his throat with nowhere to escape until a thick arm snaked around the bastard’s head.

Free of his grasp, the air blessed his lungs.

“I knew if I left him alone,” Tanigaki stabbed into the man’s fat belly with fierce, angry, jabs. “You’d make your move!”

Decayed fingers covered his eye as he emptied his stomach.
 

*****

 

How dare you…

How dare I what?

How dare you continue to breathe.

Staying alive is the only skill I have.

I’m sorry that no one loved you enough.

Leave me alone, you, condescending—I’m sorry no one loved you enough to show you that life is more than just killing or being killed—You’re weak, and that’s why I killed you—You killed me because you coveted my happiness.

Hyakunosuke woke to faded wood rafters above him, with ratty pale binds wrapped tight around their hoist joints.

“You’re finally awake!” Tanigaki knelt beside him.

“Where are we?” he asked, voice cracking.

“You’re not as warm today,” Tanigaki pressed the back of his hand against Hyakunosuke’s cheek and then moved it to his forehead. “And you’re talking. I missed your voice,”

“Where are we?” his futon lay on a dirt-covered doma beside the shuttered entry.

Tanigaki brought a splintered masu to his lips.

“Drink, slowly, big brother,”

Ratty mushiro mats covered the raised floor and surrounded a centered irori filled with decades-old ash. Suspended on the chain above its hearth was his grandma’s worn kettle.

“Why did you bring me here?”

Dry twigs and straw burned in the komado’s undercarriage, and on the copper grill of the daidokoro sat a steaming covered pot.

“It’s remote,” he tossed a rape of bright green mizuna on the cutting counter and retrieved a knife from his grandma’s tansu. “This is the last place anyone would look for you,”

Hyakunosuke glared at the tansu; its veneer once shined smooth enough to display a reflection, but its polish was long faded and scarred from neglect.

“How did you find this place?”

“At barracks, you would make me go the postal annex with letters addressed to an Ogata Himeku,” he chopped the mizuna. “It was clever of you to put a portion of your pay in tax collection envelopes,”

Hyakunosuke’s lower back cramped when he sat up.

“The people living in your grandmother’s old rooms in Mito put all those tax bills in an unopened box. They happily gave me that box, so I took them to the post office in Mito to see if there were any others,” he salted some cut leaves before jamming a few into his mouth. “Postal clerk said he forwarded all the mail with her name on it, back to this address,”

“We can’t stay here, the landowner-’

“—is dead,” he opened the right panel of the entry door and tossed the cut scraps to the gathering rabbits. “I asked around the village before coming here. The owner was killed in the Hibiya riot a few years back,”

Hyakunosuke bent his stiff legs, desperate to get the blood circulating.

“The owner lost a shit load of money after the Treaty,” he said of Japan’s post-war agreements. “This land’s been empty since you and your grandmother left,”

Hyakunosuke’s stomach growled.

“Tuna, from town,” Tanigaki opened the pot and pinched off a bit of flesh. “I brined it first, to top the mizuna,”

He parted his lips to take the Matagi’s fingers into his mouth as tender, tasty meat melted on his tongue.

“How much money was here?”

“A third of each payslip,” he brought over a cup of water. “Two years, every quarter, you do the math,”

“Is that your way of telling me to wake up?”

“Your wound got infected, that’s the only reason I gave you morphine,” he clutched his apron, apologetic. “I got you off it as soon as I could,”

“How did you get us to Mito?”

“The train stopped at Sendai,” he returned to the kitchen. “I found a horse and cart after that,”

“How’d you get a horse and cart?”

“You know how I got it,” his rugged profile presented itself. “You opened your eyes a few times along the way,”

“I’m sorry, Yuusaku,”

“Genji,” he brought two speared sticks of tuna from the pot and set them atop a plate filled with lemon and miso covered mizuna.

“What?”

“I’m using my Hokkaido cover,” he set the plate beside him. “No one knows the name Tanigaki here,”

“We can’t stay here-”

“—Tough,” he took his own plate in hand. “We’re stuck here until you’re better than well,”

Hyakunosuke struggled to his knees.

“Easy,” the Matagi scolded, catching him.

“I don’t want to be here,”

“I put you by the door,” he backed away. “Because it was easier to clean your messes from there,”

Hyakunosuke reeked of urine, and whatever else occurred while sleeping.

“I need to wash,” he groused. “But I’m not getting in that furo,”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Give me the soap, I’ll wash in the pond,”

“It’s loaded with ducks,” Tanigaki said, mouth full of tuna.

“It’s always got ducks,” he stood as if he were learning to walk. “I’ll manage just fine,”

Tanigaki called after him, “If you fall in, just yell,”

Hyakunosuke appreciated his unwillingness to coddle.

The wash bucket sat beside his grandma’s furo; its Hinoki planks were long faded and cracked, yet the Matagi managed to somehow fill it with steaming water.

Across from it, on the wall where his grandma once tacked up their wet towels, were pages torn from his journal. Paper littered the floor and upon them were penciled scribbles of detailed maps.

“Yuusaku, what’s all this?”

“I had plenty of free time since we got here,” Tanigaki entered and pulled off his ratty juban. “You should’ve told me sooner about the gold, brother,”

“What do you remember?”

“Bits and pieces,” he peeled the haramaki from around his waist, exposing the bands of his fundoshi. “But I can’t trust my memories anymore,”

“What do you mean you can’t trust them?”

“Before we left Kosaka, I took you to the hospital,” he grabbed the bucket from his grasp and filled it with water from the tub. “Doctor Yamada stitched you up. It was a clean shot, through and through, just like mine,” he presented his scarred backside with a smile.

Did Tanigaki finally remember being shot at Kushiro?

“I talked to him about some things,” he set the bucket down and stripped out of his fundoshi. “I couldn’t reconcile some of my memories with-”

“—with what I was telling you?”

“What you told me helped, brother,” he took a knee before dipping a bowl into the bucket. “If I didn’t know about being this Tanigaki person in Hokkaido, things would’ve been extremely confusing for me,”

Water cascaded down his arms and beaded up in his chest hair, “Even people who’ve never had brain injuries,” he scrubbed with a cake of white soap. “They get distorted memories over time,”

“Did you draw this?” Hyakunosuke touched a sketch that appeared to be a portion of Shiraishi Yoshitaki’s tattooed shoulder.

“It’s a map to a kotan,” he said, rubbing the white bar over his hair and behind his ears. “I was there when we burned it,”

“Where’d you get that soap?”

“There’s a sundry shop in Saginuma,” he rinsed the soap from his skin. “Let me wash you, don’t bathe in the swamp,”

“That burned kotan,” Hyakunosuke allowed himself to be undressed. “There was nothing about it in Tsurumi’s intelligence rep-”

“—he doesn’t know about, yet,” Tanigaki returned to the furo to refill the bucket. “I went over your early notes, reading what you gathered from your service, and your time with Hijikata, and your travels with that man, Kiroranke,” a noticeable edge entered the Matagi’s voice.

“Do you remember Kiroranke?”

“He saved me from drowning,” Tanigaki spilled the hot water onto Hyakunosuke’s back. “He also brought a chunk of ice down on my face,”

“He knew we were brothers, Yuusaku,”

“He tried to kill me,” Tanigaki smoothed the bar of soap between Hyakunosuke’s shoulders. “Or I wanted to kill him, I was angry, I know that much,”

“He never revealed you to the others,”

“You were his lover, weren’t you?” Tanigaki lifted Hyakunosuke’s arm and scrubbed.

“Are you seriously asking me this?”

“I was suspicious of him, and you, together,” Tanigaki scrubbed under the other arm. “I reconciled your notes on him with some things I remember from that night at Abashiri.”

“What do you remember?”

“Your notes told me why we were there,” Tanigaki handed him the soap before walking to the tub. “There are things I see so clearly, and feelings I know are real,”

“I never had sex with Kiroranke,”

“I remember saving that Sugimoto man, but back then, I thought Kiroranke was shooting at me,” he swung a leg over the edge and slowly lowered himself into the water. “It was you, though. I felt this anger at you, for shooting me,”

“It was all your idea, Yuusaku,”

“Every time I remember you shooting me, you always come back with that,” Tanigaki hardened. “Explain to me why we were doing all this elaborate bullshit,”

“Kiroranke had a line on the gold,” he replied, as Tanigaki closed his eyes and slipped into the water up to his shoulders. “The Ainu woman didn’t trust him, and you bought into her nonsense,”

Tanigaki’s eyes opened, “Huci wouldn’t lie to me,”

“Her name was Inkarmat,” he rolled the cake of soap in his hands until working up enough lather to clean his matted pubic hair.

“Inkarmat,” the Matagi smiled lewdly. “I remembered her back in Kosaka,”

He frowned, “No one trusted anyone,”

“You aimed a gun at her,” Tanigaki faced him.

“The shot I took at you at Abashiri wasn’t fatal for a reason, Yuusaku,” he reminded.

“I was so angry when you left with him,” Tanigaki closed his eyes again. “I remember how much it hurt,”

“You chose to stay,” he said. “You said it had to look like you were on their side,”

“You shot Sugimoto in the head,” Tanigaki whispered. “Then the disfigured man, you shot him too-”

“—you said to take them both out,” he snapped. “Let Kiroranke snag the girl,”

Tanigaki slowly shifted his gaze.

“I doubt I wanted you to rut him,”

“I never fucked with Kiroranke,”

“Then why did I want to kill him?”

“I don’t know, you wouldn’t tell me!

Tanigaki stared at the water.

“Why can’t I shake the feeling that you’re lying to me?”

“Maybe because you were rolling around with Inkarmat,” he snapped. “You knew she was working for Tsurumi,”

“You aimed a gun at her after she rutted me in that fisherman’s shack,” Tanigaki then turned to him. “This Kiroranke had a line on the gold, and I was following it—we were following it. Our assigned marks joined up in Kushiro?”

He stepped to the tub and dunked his bucket without answering.

“Soak with me,” Tanigaki reached for him.

“I’m not getting in that furo,” he snapped, dousing himself with hot water.

“Why not?” Tanigaki demanded.

Naked and wet, he walked to the Matagi’s notes and noticed something swaddled leaning against the wall.

“What’s this, Yuusaku?”

Unwrapped, it was a rifle with a pale wood stock and a long muzzle. Heavy-bodied, it handled five-rounds and came with a lock designed to stop gunpowder from building in the catch.

Tanigaki climbed from the tub, “It’s a Type 38,”

“Six parts,” said Hyakunosuke, admiring it. “Makes the bolt easier to remove,”

“The dust cover’s nice,” said Tanigaki. “You won’t have to clean the damned thing every time you use it,”

Instinct brought the mount to his missing eye before reality made him bitter, “Where’d you get this?”

“Koishikawa munitions, they’re still churning out arms,” Tanigaki dried himself and then began drying Hyakunosuke.

“How did you get this?”

“You know how I got it,” Tanigaki said, grinning. “There’s always some idiot on the watch that needs his cock sucked,”

“You shouldn’t have wasted your time,” he said. “I can’t shoot shit with one eye,”

“You can, and you will,” said Tanigaki.

Hyakunosuke set the gun on the bench.

“The word impossible exists for a reason,”

 “You’ll need to retrain your aim, that’s all,” Tanigaki picked it up, walked to the open front door, and aimed it outside.

“Yes, Yuusaku,” he whisked past him and stepped out onto the deck. “It’s as easy as remembering your life after your brain’s been bruised,”

“Where are you going?” Tanigaki demanded.

“I’m going to take a piss,” he said. “You want to hold it for me?”

“I might have to,” Tanigaki teased. “Since aiming is impossible with one eye,”

 

*******

 

He aimed at a lily pad but didn’t pull the trigger.

October’s end brought rain and an ache to his eye-socket before every storm. Patches of orange, brown, and red loomed beyond the bobtails; it would be another month before those colors fell to the ground.

Back at the farmhouse, he slipped out of his sandals and pushed aside the entry panel to find the raised floor dotted with pots and pails.

“What are you doing, Yuusaku?”

“Roof’s filled with holes,” Tanigaki put the last pail in place. “It’s rained almost every night this week,”

“We won’t run out of clean water,”

“That swamp water’s nasty,” said Tanigaki. “I’m surprised there aren’t more bugs,”

“There’s too many toads,”

Tanigaki sat crossed legged near the irori, “They came back strong after the Samurai all died?”

Laughing wasn’t something often heard in this house.

“My mother used toad oil for everything,” Tanigaki said, smiling. “Cuts, scrapes, pimples, even if my nose was plugged up with snot, she smeared it on my upper lip,”

Hyakunosuke couldn’t contain his laughter, but then suddenly, Tanigaki’s smile faded.

“I can’t remember her face,” he said.

“I’m sorry, Yuusaku,”

“None of this is your fault, brother,” he snapped.

Hyakunosuke scratched his scalp.

“Your hair is filthy,” he got up and filled another bucket. “You need to let me cut it,”

“I don’t want my hair cut,”

He sat beside the bucket, spread his legs, and pointed at the space between, “Sit down, brother,”

“I’m not a child, Yuusaku,”

“Will you sit down and stop thinking so hard,” he said. “Just this once, do something without a second thought,”

The least Hyakunosuke could do was oblige.

“What is this?” he picked up the small brown bottle near Tanigaki’s thigh and read its stuck-on label; French was a language he’d never understand.

“It’s from the sundries shop,”

Tanigaki pulled the cork from its tiny top and filled his cupped hand with the white syrup inside.

“It’s a taisei hair soap,” he said, patting it upon Hyakunosuke’s head. “It made my hair squeaky clean,”

“Hair isn’t supposed to make noise,”

“You make noise,” Tanigaki worked gentle fingers through his locks. “You make plenty of noise when I touch you,”

Hyakunosuke leaned back onto his chest.

“Now, don’t get this in your eye,” Tanigaki warned. “It burns,”

Eyelid shut tight, he sat up and touched his chin to his chest. Hot water fell slowly over his crown as Tanigaki’s hand bunched and pushed. Towel tossed over his head, Hyakunosuke vigorously rubbed until his hair no longer dripped.

Tanigaki sat with eyes fixed on his soapy fingers.

“Did I have a sister?” he asked.

“No, Yuusaku, you didn’t,”

“I remember washing a girl’s hair,” Tanigaki spread his fingers and blew at the foamy bubbles webbed between them. “Rice water mixed with egg whites. I loved her so much, she was younger, and I taught her to wash her hair.”

“A girl you met before we shipped out?”

“I washed her hair the day of her wedding,” Tanigaki closed his eyes. “When I try too hard to picture her face, she becomes this little Ainu girl I used to call shit-head,”

“That’s an interesting name,”

“I’ve got a headache,” he heaved a sigh and fell back onto the floor. “I haven’t had one of those in weeks. I got used to not having them anymore,”

Hyakunosuke moved over his supine body.

“Your breath smells,” he said, turning away from his kiss.

Hyakunosuke rolled off and at the tub, filled his mouth with water. Sloshing it about, he spat it out.

“Don’t clean your teeth in the furo!” the Matagi scolded. “I’m going to have to drain it now, and that bottom plank is a bitch to seal back up,”

The dental string was likely back at Kosaka, along with every damned thing he owned, including his glass eye.

“That floss,” he said. “It came from the divisional station where you went looking for information,”

Tanigaki sighed, “I made a mistake,”

“That’s how they found us, Yuusaku,”

“I know, brother,” Tanigaki fell to his knees before him. “It won’t happen again,”

He savored that bristly jaw on his sternum, and pleasure took hold when warm, wet lips found his nipple. He feathered the Matagi’s ears with his fingers before digging them into his broad, muscular shoulders.

Tanigaki stared up at him before detaching noisily from Hyakunosuke’s tit.

“I’ve got something else for you,” he said, disappearing into the washroom.

“I hope it’s not a pistol,” said Hyakunosuke. “That also needs two eyes,”

“Pistol’s for me,” he returned with something in his hand. “Yamada took it out, I’ve been keeping it safe,”

Hyakunosuke closed his hand around the black glass prosthetic, “Why’d you buy a pistol, Yuusaku?”

“We’re going to need it when winter ends,” he came up behind him and kissed the skin behind his ear. “We’re leaving here after the last snow of the season,”

“Where will we go?”

“Are you still sleeping?” he teased. “Hokkaido, that’s where the gold is,”

“We’re not getting anywhere near that gold,” Hyakunosuke faced him. “Not with Tsurumi and Hijikata vying for it, along with Sugimoto and that girl,”

“Listen to me,” he sat beside the irori. “Hijikata and Tsurumi share the same goal, to control Hokkaido. Without Hokkaido, neither man can counter the Imperial Army.”

Cold tightened Hyakunosuke’s exposed skin.

“Tsurumi may have started out with a plan to move against the Imperial Army for whatever reason he had tucked away in that head of his, but since leaving a bit of his brain in Manchuria, he’s just out to wreak havoc, nothing more.

“Hijikata wants to recreate Hokkaido in the image of the era that raised him. Only in his new world, the Samurai won’t reject or even emulate the west. To make his world a reality, he must defeat the Imperial Army,”

“Hijikata’s new world,” Hyakunosuke was stirred by the Matagi’s confidence. “Financed by Tsurumi’s weapons and poppies,”

“Exactly,” he raised a finger. “Right now, they need each other, and right now working together is the only way to find the gold, but it won’t last,”

“Tsurumi won’t sit idly by why Hijikata becomes enemy number one with the Emperor,” Hyakunosuke mused.

“Something happened to him before Port Arthur. He wanted to cause grief before 203 Hill, now he’s less careful about who knows it,” he said. “Hijikata just wants to instill his own brand of order. Two very different goals once the gold is in hand,”

“While they’re killing each other,” said Hyakunosuke. “The gold sits untouched,”

Tanigaki smiled wide, “They’ll store it somewhere remote and with people that have no use for it. That girl whose father tried to take it to Karafuto, that’s where they’ll leave it, and that’s when we’ll make our move,”

“You want to steal it after they’ve found it?”

“We don’t need all of it,” said Tanigaki. “Just enough to-”

“—To what?”

Tanigaki turned away.

“I thought about going after the gold before getting you out of the hospital,” Hyakunosuke walked around to face him. “I changed my plans because-”

“—Haven’t you ever just wanted to be someone other than the person you were raised to be?” he pleaded. “One thing I know about my old life was that I hated myself. I got a chance to be someone new, to be happy. You deserve that chance too, brother,”

Hyakunosuke threw himself into the Matagi’s arms.

“I need you with me,” large hands found Hyakunosuke’s cheeks. “I won’t do this without you, I love you, do you understand? It scares me how much I love you,”

Rain poured as they coupled upon the floor.

Water filled the pails until pings and prattles muted and threatened to overflow. A chill set in that prompted Tanigaki to carry him back into the warm washroom.

Ravenous for the Matagi’s body, he lost himself in the grind of skin on skin; his head cleared when firm hands spread the globes of his ass.

“No,” he whispered.

“Why not?”

“You’re too big,” he said, standing.

“I want to be one with you, brother,”

“Don’t call me that, during this,” he frowned.

On his knees, Tanigaki took hold of Hyakunosuke’s cock.

“Be one with me, please,” he hocked a wad of spit upon the head and kissed it.

“Is this what you want?”

Tanigaki lay back, “It’s what you need,”

Dampened strands tickled his tongue as he grazed the Matagi’s chiseled landscape. Legs parted and lifted without being touched, presenting him with the promise of ecstasy.

Hyakunosuke eagerly fed with the same care given to that Corporal in Kosaka. Soon, he found flesh that was pliant and giving; one finger wasn’t enough, neither was two.

 

*********

 

Dark clouds loomed on the horizon.

Hoof-stomps echoed beyond the reeds, signaling Tanigaki’s return from nearby Saginuma. Foxtails danced to the Matagi’s return, but not Hyakunosuke.

Late autumn in Ibaraki brought frequent downpours, trapping him with a determined man who refused to grasp that he could never again be a sniper.

After burning the futon where he’d convalesced, Tanigaki purchased a larger one, and for many glorious nights, they’d shared it without sleeping.

Then, like the trees shedding their leaves, the passion waned because the rifle remained untouched.

No matter how many times Tanigaki placed it by his boots, he refused to take the damn thing with him on walks around the marsh. His aversion to the rifle had created a rift within their intimate cocoon; now, they slept with their heads at opposite ends of the futon.

Childhood memories chased him like his grandma’s voice on the summer wind. Unlike his visions of Yuusaku, her phantom never fully materialized. There was no reason for her to be so generous. She gave her life to ensure him a future; her death all he was owed.

The aroma of Tanigaki’s cooking greeted him at the door. Boots off, he removed his winter juban before cleaning his face in one of the fuller pails.

“Did you shoot anything today?” asked Tanigaki.

“How many times must I say it?” he droned. “I can’t shoot with one eye,”

“You hungry?” Tanigaki hoisted the heavy cookpot off the copper grate and attached its wire handle to the hook above the irori. “It’s good that you’re getting out more,”

Hyakunosuke quickly removed the lid to find a bundle of enoki mushrooms amidst thick chunks of cabbage, tofu, and carrots. Broth bubbled within a nest of wavy shirataki, and at the center of it all were bite-size cuts of monkfish.

“What the hell is this?”

Bowl in hand and sticks between his fingers, Tanigaki helped himself.

“Anglerfish nabe,”

“You know I hate this,”

“We’ll be eating this every day, brother,” Tanigaki set a steaming bowl on the floor beside him. “Until you get out there and shoot something,”

Hyakunosuke rose to his feet, and with a kick, set the bowl and its steaming contents skidding across the floor.

Enraged, the Matagi jumped up.

“Damn you, Fumi—,” Tanigaki paused before stepping around him. “Do you have any idea what I’ve done to keep you safe!” face red with anger, he set about collecting bits of food from the mats. “Do you have any idea what I went through to get you here? To get you well?”

He whispered, “I’m sorry, Yuusaku.”

“You’re going to take that gun, and you’re going to shoot something!” Tanigaki glared up at him with teeth set and tears streaming down his face. “Do you hear me, brother?”

Defiant, he turned away.

Tanigaki inhaled sharply, a hand to his head.

“Yuusaku?” he said, kneeling beside him.

“Just get out of my face, Ogata,” Tanigaki brought a hand to his lips in shame. “I need to—” he then charged out onto the deck and vomited into the mud.