Life goes on as it usually does for the residents of the bustling, busy kingdom of Morioh. Stores and stands are opened for business, selling food and trinkets to anyone who passes by. Kids are playing in the park. Students are on their way to school. And, overlooking the entire busy town, guards and police stand watch around the lavish castle that houses the kingdom’s royal family: The Kujos.
Yes, it is another fine day for all who call this town home.
Except for one particular boy currently being chased down by the police…
Skidding around the corner, a boy who looks to be in his late teens narrowly avoids crashing into a takoyaki vendor. At the last minute, a ghostly figure appears behind him- a strange being with a green body that quickly unravels itself into several tendrils that lift the boy up into the air and allow him to swing over the frightened vendor. The ghostly figure is invisible to all except for the boy himself, though, so to everyone else it just looks like he took an impressively large jump over the obstacle.
The boy lands a few feet away and continues running, ignoring the angered calls from the police officers to stop. His body and most of his face remain covered thanks to the long, tattered, hooded brown coat he wears, but his hands- one of which is holding a plastic bag of stolen food (the reason for the police chasing him)- are still free, which allows him to flip off the already enraged officers.
The lower half of his face is visible, allowing a smirk to show just below the edge of the hood’s shadow. “This is almost too easy.” He rounds another corner into an empty alleyway and the green figure from earlier appears behind him at his call. “Hierophant Green!”
The Hierophant splits itself into several green tendrils once more. A good portion of them wrap around the boy’s free hand while the rest shoot up towards one of the surrounding rooftops. This allows the boy to be easily lifted up onto the roof quick enough that, by the time the police arrive, he is already out of sight.
“Where’d he go?!” One police officer shouts furiously.
“He can’t be far! Keep looking!” Another replies.
The hapless officers run off down separate alleyways to search for him, unaware that their target is watching them from above with an amused smirk still on his face.
With the coast clear, the boy sets down his bag of ill-gotten provisions and begins taking off his coat. Removing the concealing garment reveals a boy of average height with a slightly muscular build to his slender and fit body. He has short red hair with an interesting stylized strip of bangs hanging down along the side of his face, purple eyes, and is dressed in a green school uniform and two cherry shaped earrings dangling from his ears. Two of the green tendrils from the Hierophant are seen wrapped around his waist, holding a brown school bag in place.
On the front of the bag is a tag with a name written on it- “Kakyoin Noriaki”.
Kakyoin takes the bag once the green tendrils release it and pops open the clasp so he can carefully fold and tuck his coat into the bag for later. “Not a bad escape, I suppose.” He comments to Hierophant Green while picking up his bag of food. “Now then, we should get back before Iggy throws a fit.”
The green specter nods silently and lays its tendrils out over a gap in the rooftops for Kakyoin to easily walk across.
As he reaches a run-down, boarded up factory residing in one of the much poorer neighborhoods of the city, Kakyoin uses Hierophant Green once again to lift him up to a broken window on the second floor that he can easily fit through.
Landing on the other side, he hears a familiar growl followed by a series of barks that he recognizes as something along the lines of “It’s about time!”
Kakyoin looks at the small black and white dog approaching him along the scaffolding of the high-ceilinged building. The dog barks and a strange looking being that seems almost half-animal and half-machine appears behind him. The being then turns into sand that the dog jumps on top of and easily slides down as it forms a loose ramp connecting him to the platform that Kakyoin is standing on.
Kakyoin chuckles slightly at the impatient glare the dog gives him and reaches into the plastic bag. “Don’t worry, Iggy, I didn’t forget.” He pulls out a pack of coffee flavored gum and tears a few pieces out of their wrappers before handing them down to the dog.
Iggy gives him a smirk and snatches the unwrapped pieces out of his hand with his teeth before the animal-machine specter from earlier reappears and takes the rest of the pack from Kakyoin’s other hand. Feeling proud of himself, the dog runs off and jumps up on top of a dusty stack of crates to enjoy his treat in peace.
Kakyoin gives him a look that is only mildly annoyed by the dog’s antics. “Really? You could have just asked.” He sighs and shakes his head as he walks off towards one of the rooms- one of the few that actually has a lock on the door with the faded outline of the previous foreman’s name still visible on the frosted glass. “I’m going to lie down for a bit before school.”
His only response from the dog is a muffled grumbling noise as he continues to chew his gum that Kakyoin takes to mean “Whatever.”
Kakyoin summons Hierophant Green once more and has it reach through a tiny hole at the top of the door with one of its tendrils, loop it around to the lock on the other side, and open the door. Only once the door is closed firmly behind him does Kakyoin allow his passive expression to melt away into one of weariness.
He leaves the Hierophant out as he sits down on the ratty old mattress lying in the corner of the room. It wasn’t much of a bedroom, but he had claimed this office as his own since it was safer leaving his stuff in a room that could actually be locked while he was out or sleeping, so it was the best of a bad situation.
“You’re getting bored of this too, aren’t you, Hierophant Green?” He asks without looking at the green figure floating in the air beside the bed. He knows it won’t respond, verbally or otherwise, so he focuses instead on taking a small container of cherries out of the bag of food. “It’s just the same thing, every day. Day in, day out.” He pops one of the cherries into his mouth, playing with it on the tip of his tongue and making quiet “rero rero” sounds until he grows bored enough to actually eat it. “There has to be more to life than this..” He sighs after spitting the pit into a rusted-out metal waste basket near the bed.
He eventually ends up lying down on his back, staring up at the ceiling with a frown. ‘There has to be more to life than this..’ He repeats in his mind before closing his eyes and settling down for a well-earned nap.
Later that day, on his way to class, Kakyoin hears voices shouting in a familiar manner.
“Get back here!”
He instinctively tenses up and prepares to run, thinking the police are after him again, when he remembers that he’s not wearing his coat and hasn’t done anything since changing his clothes, so why would anyone be after him?
Looking towards the voices down the street answers Kakyoin’s question pretty easily: The cops are chasing someone else for a change.
Kakyoin has a good vantage point from his spot on the sidewalk, as it’s at the top of a small hill. He can clearly see a man in a hooded cloak running down the street with a few men chasing him. The men chasing him are dressed in uniforms, but they look a bit different from the local police uniforms- military, perhaps?
Kakyoin grows increasingly more curious, as it doesn’t look like the man’s stolen anything. Then, the man does something that firmly grabs Kakyoin’s attention- he summons a purple spirit behind himself with a shout of “Star Platinum!” The man uses the spirit to knock over objects and stalls behind him as he runs, making it more difficult for the officers to follow him.
Kakyoin watches as the man turns down an alleyway and frowns. “That’s a dead end..” He mutters to himself as he watches the officers start to follow him.
He should ignore this…
He should head to school before he’s late…
He shouldn’t get involved…
Even with all of these things considered, he still ends up summoning Hierophant Green and hoisting himself up onto the rooftops.
The man in the hooded cloak reaches the end of the alleyway and curses when he finds himself trapped between a few buildings. “Damn it..” A scowl is visible on the lower half of his face as he starts looking for a way out, the sound of the officers’ footsteps approaching quickly. Then, suddenly, a series of green tendrils drop down near him. “What the..?”
“Hey!” A voice above him calls. He looks up to see who it is, but the sunlight over the top of the building only gives him a silhouette. “You look like you could use a hand! Grab on!”
“……” The man contemplates it for a moment, obviously hesitant to trust the stranger calling to him. However, he seems to realize his lack of options as the footsteps and voices draw nearer and reluctantly grabs onto the strange green things with both his own hands and one of the purple hands of his Star Platinum. “Yare yare..” He grumbles, but holds on tight as he’s quickly yanked up onto the roof.
At least it was better than letting the officers catch him…
Kakyoin uses Hierophant to pull the man up onto the roof beside himself, then grabs his arm to pull both of them out of sight of the officers below. There are confused shouts as the men down on the ground try to figure out where he went. Once the officers run back the way they came, thinking maybe they got the wrong alley or something, Kakyoin finally releases the man’s arm with a sigh.
“Well, that was certainly a close one.” He looks at the man beside him with a calm smile. “First time running the police, hm?” He asks in a slightly teasing tone.
“…They’re not police.” The man responds after a moment. Kakyoin could tell the man was eyeing him suspiciously, even with his eyes covered. “Who are you and why did you help me?”
Kakyoin shakes his head with a “tsk tsk” sound. “Don’t you know that it’s rude to ask for someone else’s name before giving your own?” When the only reply he receives is silence and a continuous covered glare, he relents and decides to answer anyway. “Kakyoin Noriaki. And this-” He has his green guardian reform from the tendrils behind him and points at it with a thumb over his shoulder. “-is Hierophant Green. I suppose you could say that’s why I decided to help you- I haven’t seen too many people who have these spirits like you and I do.”
“..!” Even with his eyes covered, the look of surprise on the man’s face is easily visible. His head tilts down for a moment, as if he’s thinking about something, before he looks up again and finally raises his hand up to remove his hood. “You can call me Jojo.” He summons the purple spirit from earlier and it floats behind him with its arms crossed. “And this is my stand, Star Platinum.”
Kakyoin is surprised to see that the man he’d saved is actually quite young. In fact, he appears to be about the same age as Kakyoin, so it may be more apt to refer to him as a boy. He has dark hair and exotic blue-green eyes. He must be part foreigner, Kakyoin thinks, which means they have something in common besides their..what did he call them? Stands? He seemed to know a bit about them, as well, which certainly interests Kakyoin even more.
“Nice to meet you both. “ Kakyoin says with a polite smile. “Now that the introductions are out of the way, why were those men after you? Did you steal something? Are you a wanted criminal?” He asks, partly curious, partly teasing.
“They were trying to drag me home..” Jojo answers with a scowl before looking around. “So, how do we get down from here?”
“Do you want those guys to catch you?” Kakyoin inquires with a raised eyebrow.
Jojo shakes his head. “Of course not.”
“Then take my advice: Avoid the ground.” Kakyoin snaps his fingers and Hierophant Green unravels itself once more, creating a rope bridge for them between their current rooftop and an adjacent one. It’s wider than what Kakyoin would usually summon for himself, but it’s apparently still small enough to make Jojo look at it cautiously. “Don’t worry, it’s safe- I do this all the time.” He steps onto the bridge to demonstrate and even jumps on it a few times to show how stable it is.
“……” Jojo still doesn’t look convinced.
Kakyoin sighs and holds out his hand towards Jojo. “Fine. Here, take my hand. If you’re worried I’ll try something like dropping you, then you can just hold on and take me down with you- fair enough?”
“……” Jojo finally sighs in annoyance and walks up to the bridge. He grips Kakyoin’s hand firmly with his own larger one and doesn’t seem too keen on letting go anytime soon. “If you try anything, I’ll break your arm before we hit the ground.” He warns with a glare.
“I’m already trembling in fear.” Kakyoin replies sarcastically as he leads Jojo across the Hierophant’s bridge. When they reach the end, he has Hierophant form another bridge to the next rooftop, starting a pattern as they walk with their hands still connected. “Was that your first time running from the law?” He asks in an attempt to help the other teen calm down.
Jojo grunts in reply at first, clearly trying too hard not to look down as they walk across another Hierophant-bridge. He answers once they’re on the rooftop of the next building and he relaxes his grip slightly. “No..but it was my first time getting this far.”
Kakyoin chuckles, loosening his grip marginally as well since Jojo seems to be calming down slightly. “I could tell- you clearly don’t know the streets that well. Were you running anywhere in particular, or just trying to escape?”
“Hmh..second one, I guess.” Jojo answers before they cross another bridge. His grip is still firm, but nowhere near as bruising as before. “I just wanted to get out for a bit.”
“Running away from home, then?” Kakyoin smiles calmly as they talk. Talking with Jojo feels pretty easy, compared to how most of his conversations with his peers tend to go.
“…Only for a bit.” Jojo answers after a pause.
“Well..if you want..” Kakyoin isn’t sure what possesses him to ask this, but he finds himself compelled to do so. “You are welcome to stay at my place ‘for a bit’.”
Jojo eyes him, a toned-down version of his earlier cautious expression. “Would your family be okay with that?” Ah, a roundabout way of asking if he lived with anyone. Smooth.
“I don’t live with them, so I suppose not.” Kakyoin offers him a reassuring smile over his shoulder. “I live by myself- well, with a dog- but neither of us are going to say anything.”
Jojo glances away for a minute or so, apparently weighing his options, before he finally shrugs. “Fine. Not like I have anything better to do.”
Kakyoin smiles more and gives the other boy’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “Hopefully the mess won’t scare you off.” He says with a chuckle.
“This is where you live?” Jojo asks when they reach the old factory that Kakyoin calls home. He looks confused and more than a little out of his element. “How the hell do you even get in?” He questions when he sees the boarded up doors.
Kakyoin points to the window he uses every day for entry. “Up there.” He summons Hierophant green and offers Jojo his hand. “Don’t worry, I won’t drop you.” He says with a slight smirk while offering his hand once again.
Jojo takes it with a bored expression. “You’d regret it before either of us hit the ground.”
“I don’t doubt that at all.” Kakyoin chuckles as he uses Hierophant green to bring both of them up to the window. He gives Jojo some help settling on the platform on the other side before looking around for his “roommate”. “Hm..he should be around here somewhere..” He brings two fingers to his mouth and uses them to whistle. “Iggy, you here?”
Jojo looks at him curiously when he hears the name. “You have a dog named Iggy..?”
Kakyoin looks at him with a shrug. “I wouldn’t say I ‘have’ a dog named Iggy, it’s more like I LIVE with a dog named Iggy.”
Jojo narrows his eyes while looking around, presumably for the dog in question. “Is he black and white with blue eyes and a stand that turns into sand?”
Kakyoin gives Jojo a surprised look at the completely correct assumption. “How did you-?”
He is surprised once again when Iggy suddenly jumps down from the rafters with a snarling growl, his stand acting as a paraglider before transforming into a spear made of sand pointed directly at Jojo’s head. He growls and snarls in a way that clearly means “DIE!”
Jojo summons Star Platinum, fully prepared to defend himself as the stand reels its fist back for a vicious punch. This time, however, it is Kakyoin’s turn to surprise both of them when he steps between the two stand users with his arms outstretched. He has his back to Jojo and is facing Iggy & his stand head on, effectively shielding Jojo with his body without even trying to call out his own stand.
“?!!!!” The protective posture surprises both the boy and the dog and makes them stop in their tracks.
Star Platinum disappears behind Jojo while Iggy, thankfully, has his stand drop its spear-form mid-air just before it reaches Kakyoin.
Once they’ve both recalled their stands, Kakyoin looks between them calmly. “I’m going to assume you two know each other?” He looks over his shoulder at Jojo for the first explanation.
Jojo nods, keeping a wary eye on Iggy but not making any moves to call out Star Platinum again. “Yeah. My grandpa brought him here from overseas when he found out he had a stand, too. He stayed with us for a few months before he got out and didn’t bother coming back.”
Kakyoin hums thoughtfully when Jojo finishes his explanation. “I see. I understand why he ran away, though- he clearly hates being kept around like some sort of pet.” He looks down at Iggy next. “And I’m going to assume you attacked him because you thought Jojo was here to take you back with him?”
Iggy looks off to the side and sits on the floor, keeping Jojo visible in the corner of his eye. He gives a huff and a short growl that Kakyoin takes to mean “Yeah…”
Kakyoin drops his arms but does not move from his spot. “How interesting..” He smiles in amusement as he glances between the two of them. “It seems I’ve attracted two runaways from the same household.”
Iggy looks Jojo up and down with a raised brow that seems to be asking “Really? You too?”
Jojo sticks his hands in the pockets of his cloak with a shrug. “Just for a little bit- needed some fresh air.” He looks back down at Iggy. “I won’t say anything.”
Iggy seems to accept Jojo’s promise and walks off with a nod.
Kakyoin finally steps away from where he was standing and gestures for Jojo to follow him with a hook of a finger over his shoulder. “Now that that’s cleared up, we can hang out in my room. It’s not much to look at, but it has a place to sit and there’s food if you’re hungry.”
Jojo quietly follows him towards the locked room, looking around at the dilapidated factory with a vague sense of interest. “…How long have you lived here?” He finally asks while waiting for Kakyoin to open the door.
Kakyoin thinks the answer over while using Hierophant to get the lock like usual. “Lets see..it was just after last winter- this place is nice, but not well insulated against the cold, so I’ll probably move out once the temperature drops again- sooo..a few months, I suppose.” He hears and feels the lock click so he opens the door, entering before Jojo and taking a seat on the bed inside. “Iggy was already living here, so we worked out a deal- he lets me live here and guards my stuff while I’m out, and, in return, I give him a share of any food I find.” He pulls over his bag of food and digs around inside while waiting for Jojo to join him on the bed. “Do you like melon bread? Or rice balls? I also have some instant noodles if you’d rather have something hot.”
Jojo sits next to him, looking at the bag. “I don’t see a receipt in there..”
Kakyoin chuckles and pulls out some melon bread for himself before setting the bag down closer to Jojo. “That’s because they don’t give you a receipt for money you haven’t spent.”
Jojo eyes the bag for a minute more before finally reaching in and pulling out a rice ball. “You stole it.” It doesn’t sound like an accusation, merely a statement.
Kakyoin shrugs while tearing open the packaging around the bread. “I can’t exactly spend money that I don’t have.”
Jojo looks down at the rice ball in his hand with a serious, contemplative expression. “……” He looks back at Kakyoin with the same expression. “You seriously can’t afford a place to live or even feed yourself without stealing?”
Kakyoin takes a bite of his bread with another shrug. “Hmh..” He takes his time savoring the taste before he swallows and answers Jojo’s question. “Not really. It’s fine, though. I have a roof over my head that doesn’t leak too badly and I can get enough food to survive. I’m doing better than a lot of people in this city.”
Instead of looking appeased by his answer, Jojo just looks down with that same expression- as if he’s trying to learn and accept something he’s not used to. “…Are things..really that bad out here?”
“Kind of.” Kakyoin speaks between bites. “Some people are just better off than others- that’s the way things work, no matter where you go. There always needs to be a bottom rung in society so the rest can prosper by feeling better about themselves and striving not to end up like us.” He looks back over at Jojo with a sympathetic smile. “I’m guessing you haven’t really had to see any of this before, have you?”
Jojo shakes his head, finally peeling the wrapper off of his rice ball. “My family’s…pretty well off.” He takes a bite, looking down at the meaty filling inside of the rice. “Always been busy with lessons and shit..never really thought about things like not having enough to eat or where I’d sleep..”
Kakyoin finishes half of his bread and pulls the wrapper back up around it so he can set it down on the bed before leaning his weight back onto his hands behind himself. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all- it means that the system is working.”
Jojo looks at him with skeptical expression. “Seriously? You live in a dump and eat stolen food and say it’s NOT a bad thing?”
Kakyoin chuckles as he holds up one hand with his index finger extended. “First of all, that was rude- calling the place I live a dump.” He raises a second finger. “Second, the whole system ends up feeding into itself at some point or another: Sure, my occasional petty theft causes the local stores and vendors to lose out on a few yen. However, the fact that I always get away reinforces the idea that we need police officers around to try and catch thieves- meaning that people are encouraged to continue paying their taxes. It also raises awareness of the current poverty level and causes those with more money to feel guilty just long enough to make donations to charities.” He holds up a third finger beside the other two. “And, finally, there are problems in EVERY social class. My level deals with things like not having enough money for food or shelter or buying things I want, and people from what I’m assuming your level to be deal with more social-based stresses.” He lowers two of his fingers, leaving one extended pointedly at Jojo. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be out here. Am I right?”
Jojo sighs and finishes off his rice ball, tossing the wrapper towards the waste bin. “Yeah..” He watches it bounce off the rim with a bored expression. “You’re right…”
Kakyoin watches the other boy with a sympathetic but slightly amused smile as the ball of trash falls off to the side of the basket. “You in the mood to talk about why you were out on the street running from the not-police?”
“……” Jojo summons Star Platinum and has the stand pick the wrapper up off the floor to throw it away properly. “My family wants me to get married.”
Kakyoin raises an eyebrow at that. “Really? Already? You don’t look like you’re even done with high school yet.”
Jojo waves a hand dismissively with a grunt. “Not yet. I just turned seventeen. But..” He reaches up with one hand and scratches at the back of his head with a frown. “I have to find someone to marry before I turn eighteen. If I don’t, then I’ll have to marry our family’s advisor. It’s some shitty old law we have to follow..”
“Your advisor?” Kakyoin asks curiously. Jojo’s family must be pretty high-class to have one of those. “How old is he?”
“At least a hundred.” He says casually, as if it’s normal. “He doesn’t look it, but the guy’s been our family advisor since my grandfather’s grandfather was a kid. He got mixed up in some weird magic or something and now he doesn’t age- he can’t go out in the sunlight, though, so at least he’s easy to get away from.”
“Are you serious?” Kakyoin is beside himself with confusion and awe. A man who’s over a hundred years old that doesn’t age?! That’s remarkable! Yet Jojo says it with all the calmness and sense of normalcy of someone discussing the weather!! “He sounds fascinating.”
Jojo shrugs and leans back in a manner similar to Kakyoin. “I guess..still don’t wanna get stuck marrying someone like him- he’s creepy, loud, and always talks about himself in the third person..”
“Hm, not to mention the age factor has to be more than a little off-putting..” Kakyoin nods along sympathetically as Jojo speaks. “Then are you running away because your family keeps trying to introduce you to girls and you’re not into women?”
“I’m not really ‘into’ anyone..” Jojo tips his head back to look at the ceiling. “They don’t care if I end up with a girl or not, I just..” He sighs in irritation, a look on his face somewhere between a frown and a scowl. “I dunno..I think I’m just weird..I can’t get into the idea of dating someone I don’t know, but I don’t get out much..they set me up on dates with anyone close to my age that fits their idea of what I need, but they’re just…”
“Strangers.” Kakyoin finishes for him with an understanding smile while looking up at the ceiling too. “At the end of the day, they’re strangers. No matter how physically attractive they are or how they try to sell themselves on how great they are and why you should like them, you still don’t know them and they know nothing about you besides what they see on the surface.” He turns his head to look at Jojo’s slightly surprised expression and smiles more when he sees he hit the nail on the head. “I may not have the pressure of needing to get married within the next year, but I’m still seventeen, just like you: I’m expected to find people attractive and lust after them and want to go on dates with them and get excited when someone cute or popular in my class hands me a love letter..but I don’t.” He shrugs and leans back further so he can lie down on the mattress and stare up at the ceiling with his hands beneath his head to act as a make-shift pillow. “They claim they like me, but how can they?” He briefly summons Hierophant Green above himself and looks up at its unblinking eyes. “This is a part of who I am- if they can’t even see it, how can they actually know ME?” He closes his own eyes, recalling the many love letters and confessions he’d started receiving after hitting puberty. “It sucks being alone, but I’m simply uninterested in dating someone who doesn’t understand me just on the sole-merit that they’re attractive and we might have sex one day. That thought isn’t exactly tempting for me…so…maybe I’m weird, too.” He opens his eyes and looks up at Jojo with a calm smile. “But I don’t think that’s a bad thing, either.”
Jojo stares down at him for a long time, just silently looking over Kakyoin with that same contemplative expression from earlier. “……” He eventually lets the corner of his mouth raise ever-so-slightly into what, for him, is probably the closest he gets to a smile. “I think I agree with you this time.”
He leans back further, not quite lying down like Kakyoin is, but enough that he can recline back against the wall next to the mattress. They sit together after that in a peaceful silence, one where awkward small-talk and conversation is not needed to understand one another. Kakyoin finds he likes this feeling of contentment, something he’s not used to feeling around other people.
He also finds that he likes seeing Jojo’s smile quite a bit…