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19 June 2008, Thursday

1:07 am

 

It has been raining a lot, recently.



The throat.

 

He walks slow: A pace of a man who finished his day already. 

Or haven’t started yet.

 

It’s the throat, your first and foremost target.

 

Had he been wiser, he’d bring treats. 

 

Now all the cats are paying him dust.

 

You like the blood on your sword, don’t you, Fukuzawa-dono?

 

Four legged residents of the one way street mill around. Wary glares vary by degree in many vertical slitted irises. How sad. 

 

But no matter. 

He only needs to find one calico.

 

One cat, three colors, one m- A haunting echo starts.

 

A whisper too broken, a plea unheard until now:

 

A match flicks.

 

He expects a rush of orange and red to color the alleyway. Expects warmth shoved in a container, prayed about to get one soul through the night.

 

No fire starts.

 

The match flicks again, the sound is clumsy.

Hand to sword inch by inch- A cat runs by him:

 

Orange.

 

Black.

 

White.

 

The paws were too light for footsteps, perhaps.

 

Only after a blink, a muddy light quivers. It’s a boy.

 

A slum firefly, the flames are sickly as they lead to a body just as strong as them:

They cough their light around in bursts.

 

On the midnight dipped, overnight chilled ground sits a boy. 

 

Body frail, clothes torn in many places, covered in stains from many places, he blinks up.

 

 

Eyes brown, hair browner, every muscle freezes over and over. The boy stares at Fukuzawa like a secret long in the making, like a shock as expected as it can be.

 

Why?

 

In his hand, between fingers of fawn legs wrapped in makeshift bandages, shines a single birthday candle.

 

Do you honestly think a wolf can help sheep?

 

20 June 2008, Friday

6:37 am

 

Where the blue touches the city horizon, it blushes.

Dawn breaks lazier than cicadas. 

 

The boy hasn’t said a word, hasn’t eaten a bite, hasn’t slept for a second.

 

Hasn’t existed until Fukuzawa was looking at him.

 

Bruised knees are tourists on top of the brown, soft blanket: Observing, out of place.

 

You are an alarming presence, Fukuzawa-dono.

 

If there are other injuries, they are left untreated to spare the trust nothing can heal yet.

 

The clients are restless about you.

 

21 June 2008, Saturday

8:12 pm

 

Emerald is no gem in eyes compared to what he stores in his head.

 

The door opens. Closes. 

 

Familiar.

 

Footsteps. Comforting. Candy wrappers wrinkle.

“Did you take the train on your own this time?”

 

Ammonia, 

 

“Nope! An officer helped me.”

 

The boy flinches with their sounds. Every time barely there muscles tense up, older ones tug around Fukuzawa’s chest.

 

A proper apology is needed for being so loud in the presence of a guest.

 

But the boy flinches at everything.

 

Hydrogen peroxide, 

 

Rampo shuffles into the living room with a smile of steel: Stainless.

“But,” he whines, despite his age, “He refused to carry my bag. Boring.”

 

Cornstarch,

 

Green meets brown.

 

It is difficult to say if they will ever amount a forest.

 

Cold saltwater,

 

The boy freezes again, freezes with intention. 

The evening air is still humid, the old fan still grumbles as it turns. But now Fukuzawa is locked out of a conversation quieter than rust.

 

They all are efficient to remove blood stains.

 

Sugar is dusted off his voice as Rampo speaks:

 

“What you were running from is behind you now, Tsushima Shuuji.”

 

But I humbly doubt any would work on the silver wolf’s claws.

 

No one gets to use that name again.

 

2 July 2008, Wednesday

5:09 am

 

Chairs creek. 

Knight, bishop, rook.

 

Stars flicker like a long due light bulb, then fade abruptly.

 

Like an ambulance rushing by - important, yes, but too quick to acknowledge - the morning is urgent for Fukuzawa: On his way to cover the back of a crimson splashed white coat. 

 

But for the boys facing each other on the board in between, it is nothing but a detail.




The queen falls silently.

 

One is spread out on the chair, smile in place, eyes borrowed from a sleepy cat.

 

The king, in his clumsy sorrow, falls after soon enough.

 

Other boy is folded. Chin on knees, an arm pressed to visible ribs, another stretched out as if to ask for his black, plastic kingdom back.

 

You and I will be part of something big. 

 

Rampo chuckles, head tipped back.

How strange, he never stays up for anything else.

 

In front of him lays… Dazai’s chess pieces.

 

“Don’t frown. You held out well.”

 

How strange.

 

“But of course! It is futile against me ! Correct?”

 

A little boy so lonely that he picks his own name.

 

Don’t go collecting little… fragments along the way.

 

Dazai blinks. Looks down on the board. 

 

Brown sweeps the battlefield, no wonder mapping out personal missteps, tearing down what the opponent did right to swallow the thoughts behind.

 

“One more.” He says.

 

They won’t fit.

 

“I’ll win this time.”

 

That’s the most he has ever said in one sentence.

 

10 December 2008, Wednesday

1:23 pm 

 

Their teas are getting cold.

 

A thick white cloth closes around the city’s head every night, refreshes their kidnapping. Snow swallows every sound whole. 

 

Rampo has grown bored of instructing snowmen to Dazai, seeing no matter what the sixteen year old says, thin arms pile his personal blizzard in vague feline shapes.

 

Why turn eyes away from gifts?

 

Under the kotatsu the older boy naps.

 

Another sip. 

Fukuzawa counts the day as a bargain for the sleep he has lost for months: He has nothing else to do but be around his boys.

 

The corners of his eyes catch the movement before the felt tip cries out on the glossy surface, not disturbing his favorite radio show but completing it.

 

She is a gift, I insist...

 

“What are you doing?”

 

Dazai then looks up, methodically puts the pen and the calendar down to drink from his tea. He inches closer to the kotatsu.

 

It is an apology as much as it is a show.

 

If his engagement is out of fear or out of a wish to pry the glass shards off his eyes with tweezers of familiarity, Fukuzawa doesn’t know.

 

Dazai shrugs. 

It’s far easier on the heart then a flinch.

 

“I’m crossing off days.”

 

Brown doesn’t meet their irises for long. This time is no exception.

 

“So I don’t have to live them again. They were bad.”

 

...as much as she is a curse.

 

Day by day, the year they left behind is buried under a static of black.

 

1 August 2009, Saturday

2:46 pm

 

 

Warmth like tarmac, burn like flashlight.

Damn those scalpels to hell, they’ve long forgotten how to heal.

 

 

Steps quick, the humid air is a stingy hold for lungs, nothing like a ribcage.

 

Certainly nothing like his bruised one.

 

 

Fleeing the rooftop first, the building second, the doctor not yet; he finds that the pristine cuts and the marred marble under his clothes doesn’t matter.

 

All that matters is their safety.

 

Path twists, a careful snake. They agreed on the plan, on the route, on what will happen if everything goes wrong beforehand.

 

 

Dazai has contributed the most ideas to the latter.

 

 

So there you are, Yukichi. Siding with emotion rather than logic.

 

 

One more corner. Multiple meters to cross.

The first thing he sees among the crowd of the bus stop is green. He nods.

 

Rampo moves, pushing the wheelchair. The hospital gown and mask Dazai swept from god knows who and who knows where blends her into the daily rush of the selfish city. The scrawny boy follows them, doe eyes scanning restlessly.

 

 

You are brushing off the potential.

 

 

Fukuzawa reaches them quick, takes it on himself to guide the girl.

It’s Dazai who nudges the silence, never breaking it.

 

“We are unharmed, Fukuzawa-san.”

 

 

The afternoon sun bounces off the gold in her pale hands.

 

Then it skims through the wet patches under her closed eyes.

 

 

Silence falls with its own gravity. To his left, Rampo clears his throat. “She will join.”

 

 

No answer. 

Nothing fits nor survives the whirlwind of his guts now.

 

 

I will miss you.

 

 

They’re never wrong. Fukuzawa knew for a long time that the minds of his boys are unmatched: Exquisite.

 

 

She unveils her eyes. Abandoned wells envy the abyss.

Unforgiving.

 

Ducking into an alleyway like a mismatched family, no eye stares, no ear follows.

Quick.

 

Rampo grips the dagger Fukuzawa has put into his hands with a million prayers that he won’t have to use it. Knuckles bleach white.

Haunting.

 

 

They’re never wrong:

 

That’s why neither assures him they’re okay, they’ll be okay.

 

 

2 August 2009, Sunday

00:04 am

 

 

Thirty nine kilograms. Underweight.

 

Thirty eight celsius degrees.

A fever.

 

 

Thirty six weeks as a healer in war: The amount of time for life to bloom in flesh cribs spent with death on her shoulders.

 

Death she used to shrug off.

 

 

Fourteen years, eight months and five days old, according to the file.

 

 

The countdown drops like an uninvited cliff.

 

 

One word from the bitten, healed, bitten lips: “Why?”

 

No parents.

 

No relatives.

 

 

No will to live.

 

 

Dip, squeeze, the cold cloth meets the sweating forehead again.

 

How heartbreaking. How enraging that the sun is a gunshot wound in the sky’s chest when lilac eyes stare at it. The clouds disinfectant dipped cotton, the pavements long stripes of gauze.

 

 

Mouths stitched tight if they are not giving commands.

 

 

To his right, Dazai sits. Rampo stares out of the window.

 

Yosano shivers.

 

 

It feels cruel to grieve for beating hearts.

 

 

He had found them all in humid breaths of glued summers.

 

 

Ever so slowly Dazai rests his head on Fukuzawa’s arm. The movement is like his steps: Feather weighted.

Rampo gives a quiet huff. No doubt he’s smiling.

 

 

Still.

 

No one else will grieve what these children lost so soon, so fire quick, so concrete violent.

 

So unfair.

 

 

4 August 2009, Tuesday

11:32 am

 

 

They don’t have much to pack. Or anywhere to go.

 

Leaving the prefectural capital should be easy.

 

Phone calls made, letters received, one or two old friends and a couple who owes him should cut the deal.

 

 

Rampo slings his bag over his shoulder, a harness and a weapon on its own. One step, two steps, three, four, the candy in his mouth cracks.

 

“Stop worrying.”

 

 

Would anywhere in Kanto region be safe enough?

 

 

A sigh. Then a hand drops on the box Fukuzawa gathered together. “Are you even listening?”

 

His shoulders are tense, that much he can feel from the bandages looping around his chest. It doesn’t hold the rabbit heart worry bouncing inside still:

 

“You don’t know him, Rampo.”

 

The boy sighs. To his back, Yosano is picking books from the bookshelf. If he hadn’t known she can heal herself, Fukuzawa would guess several injuries, whole body stiff.

 

 

Chiba prefecture? Still close enough to Tokyo?

 

 

“But he knows you . He won’t try anything.”

 

A rope to tie one’s heart to:

 

Can they hope? Each with a scalpel chasing their spines—Rampo’s eyes flicker over Fukuzawa’s shoulder.

 

 

Chubu region, if all else fails. Adequate for contact with the Special Ability Department.

 

 

Turning, he watches Yosano bend with crooked knees. Dazai puts a hand on her arm to gather the scattered pages himself.

 

Her shaky breath echoes in Fukuzawa’s mind.

 

If he hadn’t known better, he’d confuse the tears with pearls, broken free with reckless abandon from their necklace prison.

She sobs, Dazai flinches.

 

“How did you do it?”

 

 

He takes a step back as Fukuzawa takes one closer.

Legs trembling, eyes moon phases, his voice matches her: Not from this life.

 

“I didn’t do anything.”

 

 

It feels like the boy uttered that before at dead ends and knife ends and where days end.

 

 

Yosano holds his hand in place, eyes a fawn’s of forest fire.

 

“How?”

 

 

Where the boy’s skin contrasts the darker one, a fickle light hums into life like a forbidden lullaby.

 

“I didn’t do anything, I swear, I didn’t—”

 

 

Rampo’s sigh is as low in a way that turns jars lethal. 

His voice is a needle prick at Fukuzawa’s neck:

 

 

“We can’t leave. Not with a nullifier on board.”

 

 

9 September 2009, Wednesday

3:45 pm

 

 

Dust piles. Regrets, owed money, empty wrappers of single use injectors pile.

None feels as calm.

 

 

“Wouldn’t it fall like this?”

 

The hazy gold of the afternoon drips into the living room like tea to the cup. It is humid. But the hum of the old fan is violet now. In bloom.

 

Her question is answered by the oldest with the most childish voice: “No!” Rampo drawls. “It can’t! It’s going so good!”

 

 

Vacuums on Fridays, groceries on Sundays, some tiles of their life fit well enough to become a foundation.

 

 

Dazai hands Yosano another card. Another floor in their breezy castle. She balances it with utmost care.

 

 

I will be okay as long as I’m not back with soldiers or that… man.

 

 

Rampo chuckles, a loud cheer if one knows how to look under the ladders of his eyelashes. Yosano pushes her red sleeves up freckled arms.

For the first time in so long it’s not blood.

 

 

The file is lighter in his hands now. He reads it over just for the sake of it. A man of time tables and numbers. A lively boy of the man.

 

 

The thinnest hands above the table supply more playing cards. 

 

It is not as unnerving as it used to be now, listening to Dazai’s silence. For once, the youngest fills it with an almost easy smile.

 

 

But... I have to say, I don’t understand why you are saving strays, Fukuzawa-san.

 

 

Almost doesn’t taste as sour, expired or silent today.

 

Years apart in age, the dining table - scratched surface and all – apart in geography, the three of them get to be what they never could before: Children.

 

 

Distantly, Fukuzawa whispers a wish for the Kunikida family to stay whole. Stay alive.



Ignores the wind’s regretful, almost apologizing, answer.

 

 

12 May 2011, Thursday

3:49 pm

 

 

The southern wall gone:

A big enough window to see the impatience gathering below the horizon. To see the buildings crumble like paper under water.

 

Leaping over the fridge, sliding under the diagonal column, it had been a wicked race:

 

Two months since their world trembled.

 

 

Sword on hand, heart on hold, Fukuzawa moves. An unchained shadow.

 

 

They still couldn’t wash away the ocean.

 

 

His steps are lighter than the words he breathed back home—but equally stern.

The slums make divers of his feet. Mud carries ripped pieces from overturned lives. These parts, not urban nor rural, get neither the attention.



Are you sure, Fukuzawa-san? 



Port Mafia. Even the name quivers many knees.

 

Lately, the vile union itself trembles as the doctor’s coat turns charcoal. 



You might need a change of plans there.



The water ripples: Plastic, danger and amenities bump into each other.

 

Rampo and Dazai both helped him, Yosano not quite ready yet. Even then, the mission looms over him with a renewed sense of dread.

Ever since he saw just how deep the scars run in these kids, his hand has a tremble to it.

 

Moving swiftly, he hopes the boy is around. Then, as a stand-by thought, wonders how can a child survive here.

 

 

On an exhale, he almost laughs at himself.

 

To search a god in such a place. 

 

 

Something stray thuds behind him. When he turns around, all that touches his eyes are bemire browns, soiled sorrows and rusted ramparts.

 

After an explosion, an earthquake and a tsunami, the Suribachi City groans with each breeze.

That’s when a coat flutters, both in his ears and in his mind.

 

 

It would be reckless to take you along, Dazai-kun.

 

 

Scarf long, coat longer, a man who shares his hair color stands on a dry patch: A scar on the earth’s skin.

Ignoring the whine of a pipe from behind him, Fukuzawa takes a step forward.

 

Unfitting to the environment from every direction, the man’s gloved hand twitch. It is not a yearning for a weapon. 

It is to beckon the boy flying above.

 

Or so he thought.

 

 

Violet gathers on the tip of a finger—

 

From the corners of his eyes, he sees Dazai stepping out of the shadows like a revelation, no doubt to nullify the ability.

Fukuzawa moves before a hand attached to an arm linked to a black suit close around the boy’s mouth.

 

 

He didn’t think his shadow would follow this well into the afternoon. Would follow against all of his warnings. 

 

Would touch feet down to the ground where his long healed but never reserved injuries sprouted from.

 

 

The katana flies. Lands fast with a sickly thud before the man’s gun touches Dazai’s temple.

 

Gathering the trembling boy in his arms lasts seconds. Fukuzawa doesn’t recall taking the sword back from the man’s new, third eye socket. But the metal is in his hand with the red lilies blooming on it.

 

The body hits the floor quietly.

 

 

In another blink, gold flashes. The boy Fukuzawa hoped to guide out is now inside a glistening cube, hitting the walls, voice non existent.



It fits, he sees now, that the place is such a ruin. The god needs a bowl to spit his anger into.



The clothes on him are mud splashed. There is a bruise budding around the blue blue eye. He looks younger than Dazai. 

With another man, donned in winter down to his mittens, coming into view the boy’s light cage gets smaller.

 

 

He doesn’t look like a god vessel.

 

 

“Shall we, Rando-san? I’ll contact Boss on our way back.”

 

 

He looks like a scared, scattered child.

 

 

Only then, on the light reflecting from the single glass Fukuzawa notices the crater on the ground. The dent on the building nearby. The debris flown off.

 

 

“Of course. Call your gunmen back please.”

 

Had he been alone, he would fight them off. Or die trying.

But the mafia is a dulating serpent: One that starts biting venom into flesh generations behind their target.

 

He can’t hide Dazai.

 

He can’t make him run.



He can’t save the boy.

 

 

Fukuzawa presses Dazai back to his chest – a hand suffocating his sobs – and plasters himself back to the alley they’ve ducked into.

 

With a heart that beats in shame, he links apologies after apologies in his mind’s tongue.

Bids farewell to blue irises. Even if fate casts those eyes upon them, they will never see light in them.

 

 

What a young age to be abandoned, one way or another.