Fyodor Dostoyevsky supposes he is to thank the multiple organizations and the diversity in people’s tastes in fashion in Yokohama nowadays. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be likely that someone like him or someone like Nikolai Gogol—his fellow member of the Decay of Angels, longtime partner and odd friend—would be able to go unnoticed in most public places. Not separated, and definitely not together.
It is less their physical appearance—although that’s an arguable point, considering Nikolai’s insistence in dressing up as the most theatrical clown in all of History—and more their personalities, the way they look at other people, and the things they talk about that bring that thought to Fyodor’s mind. Yokohama has good guys, like the Armed Detective Agency, and bad guys, like the Port Mafia. Even in opposite sides, those must have caused the people in the city to get used to behaviors that would normally seem unusual.
“So, what do you think, Dos-kun?” Nikolai asks, drawing Fyodor’s wandering eyes to him. He’s leaning backwards against the parapet—they’re currently at the balcony of a tea shop—and it doesn’t appear to be an easy fall in case he loses balance. Fyodor, as usual, doesn’t mention it. “Here’s a quiz for you: why did I bring you here today?”
Fyodor scrutinizes him, “Haven’t we talked about the silly nicknames before?”
“That’s right,” Nikolai singsongs, smirking at him, “Did you like ‘Fedya’ better?”
“Why is it” Fyodor begins, promptly ignoring the quiet laugh that his urgency rips from Nikolai’s throat, “That you always rush to give the answers of your quizzes to other people, but when it comes to me, I always have to get it right?”
“Aw, but you’re not like other people, are you, Dos-kun?” He smiles, wider this time, and leans backwards even more. Fyodor thinks he can hear the parapet’s low creaking, “You’re a more special version of everyone else in the world. Tell me, do you have the answer to my quiz? Do you?”
Fyodor does. It’s not uncommon for Nikolai to have impromptu desires like this; of wanting to go out with Fyodor out in the open, as if challenging the hundreds of enemies that they have made along the way to find them and dare to do something about it. Now, though, it’s even more than that.
“Aren’t we days away from the confrontation?” Fyodor asks, although he knows the answer better than anyone—because this isn’t about knowing or not knowing. It’s about humoring Nikolai. “Fitzgerald and the Guild… mustn’t they be offering the Agency the irresistible offer in the shape of money by now?”
“That’s right!” Nikolai exclaims, raising his arms, accidentally throwing the braid resting on his right shoulder back. His enthusiasm draws a few eyes to them, and Fyodor observes him with genuine interest. “And why, Dos-kun, does that matter at all? Let me give you a hint: it’s because—”
“Because we won’t see each other anymore after that,” He cuts in, and Nikolai beams at him. It’s absurd, how excited he can be about their mission—all because Fyodor supports his wish to become free, and to make of that his opportunity to seek freedom, “Do you wish to make the best of our days together?”
Nikolai raises his hand dramatically and points one finger up, moving it negatively, “Not days, no, but day. And I picked today, because the weather looks marvelous and the birds are singing happily. Is there any environment more fitting for a date of ours, Dos-kun?”
The ghost of a smile appears on Fyodor’s lips, “Are you overusing the nicknames in order to get the best of me, Nikolai?”
“I should take the others out soon, as well,” Nikolai says, ignoring him, raising one of his feet and placing it on the parapet’s grid. Fyodor lowers his eyes for a moment only. “I could even convince Ivan to stop praising you to the walls for a few moments in order to have some coffee with me.”
Fyodor nearly chuckles, “Ivan wouldn’t be pleased to hear your interpretation of his personality.”
“Forgive me, Dos-kun, for daring to insinuate that he does have a personality in the first place. All he wants is for you to win,” He looks at him, the eye that’s uncovered by the eyepatch softening for a moment, “And, really, can I blame him?”
There’s a version of Nikolai that Fyodor would actually rather not have met. Whilst Ivan shows no guilt in whatever it is they do, there’s a side of Nikolai that feels remorse. A side that probably believes he should find freedom in something that’s not destroying the world alongside Fyodor and his crew. A side that probably, in the silliest of ways, believes everyone, even Fyodor himself, is able to feel remorse as well.
Fyodor knows how to deal with the clown—the entertainer, the one with the mischievous eyes and mischievous smile—but he dreads the moment he will have to face the other side.
“Come, then,” Nikolai requests, stretching out an arm and withdrawing Fyodor from his thoughts. He’s now fully leaning against the parapet, and the people on the sidewalks might be starting to worry. “Take my hand so we can enjoy the rest of the day, Dos-kun.”
Although the weather looks good, the winds are relentless today. Fyodor noticed it on the way here, gripping his hat on multiple moments, and he can feel it against his skin now. It’s merciless, and Nikolai’s clothes are moving against the wind, and he could be pushed back any minute. He looks the way he acts—beautiful, dangerous and fearless.
Fyodor doesn’t really take his hand, but he nods, and Nikolai gets it. He always does.
It turns out Nikolai has plans, but not actual plans. There is nothing he would like to do specifically, and, yet, when he tells Fyodor all about the city and the things he wants to see, it appears that he wants to see everything. Fyodor supposes that’s also part of Nikolai’s good side, wanting to see the world around them before they burn it. Yet, he doesn’t find it in him to argue.
They walk together for a while, taking in Yokohama’s sights, and the first thing to draw Nikolai’s attention—as amazing as it might sound—is a crepe truck. Fyodor watches, amused as always, as Nikolai explains in detail the ingredients he wants in his food. He returns with a crepe in hands, and it looks overly sweet and filled. The smile on Nikolai’s face is something else; Fyodor himself can’t quite point out if it’s genuinely happy or simply theatrical.
“We should bring one of these to Sigma-kun,” Nikolai says, licking the frost, “If we haven’t found a purpose for him yet, I’m sure he would find it in one of these crepes.”
Fyodor rolls his eyes, “I have found Sigma’s purpose. It took work to find the book, and even more to create a human with it, but, now that I’ve done it, I know exactly what I want Sigma for. He will be essential to the plan, Nikolai.”
“Yeah?” Nikolai smirks, and Fyodor swears that, when he bites the crepe and leaves a chocolate spot in the corner of his mouth, he’s doing it on purpose. “And how, exactly, is the baby going to be essential? Ah, I know it! Let’s make it a quiz! Dos-kun, how—”
“Nice try, Nikolai,” Fyodor admits, taking a step closer, practically daring Nikolai to move away. Within the many things he never told his companions about, there lies the secret of his ability. No one, not even the closest person to Fyodor, knows how it works; how it is activated, in how many ways it works. The last time Nikolai saw it working, a man touched Fyodor’s bare neck and met his end instantly. For all he knows, he could be in danger right now. Yet, Nikolai doesn’t falter. “You will know about each part of the plan when it is proven necessary. Until then, be satisfied with yours.”
Nikolai’s eyes glisten, as if he knew that was going to be his answer, although it might be less that and more the fact that most of the things Fyodor does and says seem to entertain him. Perhaps he is too easily entertained. Either way, he has always been like that. It infuriates Ivan, sometimes. Fyodor is grateful to his own mind, for anyone else would most likely make the mistake of placing the Decay of Angels and the Rats in the House of the Dead in the same organization, and that would disturb all of their plans.
The Rats in the House of the Dead are his way up. The Decay of Angels are his triumph.
“It is past lunch time,” Fyodor observes, eyeing the corner of Nikolai’s lips one more time, “And you have a smudge.”
Nikolai grins, “Wipe it off for me?”
“Oh, no,” Fyodor grips his hat as the wind around them whips at their clothes, “There are lots I still intend for you to do. I can’t afford to lose you just yet.”
“Aw, how precious of you not to dispose of me, Dos-kun,” He says, tilting his head, “Walk with me, then. It just occurred to me that there might actually be something very interesting in this city for us to waste this lovely day with indoors.”
There is no point in mentioning the supposedly reason Nikolai picked today in the first place was the weather—instead, Fyodor indulges him, as he does usually, and walks alongside such an enthusiastic clown around the city, observing with the corners of his eye each and every piece of ground that, in a few days, he will be responsible for destroying.
The place Nikolai refers to is theater. Although not fully surprising, it is quite an interesting choice. For all Fyodor knows, Nikolai loves to put on a show for others—watching other people’s shows, however, never appealed much to him.
“A play, then,” Fyodor looks around, watching the citizens walking in and paying for their tickers, “Will you waste the ideal weather for it?”
“Oh, make no mistake, Dos-kun,” Nikolai winks, although it is hard to tell, considering the eyepatch, “By no means do I want today to be an enjoyable day for me. I’m only doing it all for the one allowing me to pursue my freedom. You.”
Fyodor scrutinizes him. Somehow, even if he thinks he knows Nikolai to the core, there are still things that he says—and things that he does—that will be able to draw a reaction.
“Surprise me, then.”
Nikolai buys them seats. Fyodor notices the way the woman selling those to them eyes his clown clothes, and, as a response, Nikolai steps backwards, spins around and introduces himself as the performer of the century. It unfolds quickly, and the next person in line brushes it off fast enough that the woman says nothing more, but Fyodor allows a smile to show on his lips for a few moments due to it.
The ability users are a problem. People, in general, are a problem. Nikolai, however, doesn’t feel like much of a problem.
It’s curious, even to Fyodor, thinking about the irony of watching a show with hundreds of other people, considering those are the people whose lives he intends to ruin. It’s curious, but, of course, that’s all. Remorse is a foreign feeling to Dostoyevsky, after all. If it’s Nikolai’s intention to bring it up by showing him around and exposing him to the lively citizens of Yokohama, it’s pointless.
He considers teasing him about it, but, by the time he looks back at the seat next to him, it’s empty. Fyodor looks up slowly, scanning his surroundings. He sees children, women, men. He sees some of the actors, slipping into the backstage. He sees all kinds of people, but no sign of a clown.
Fyodor leans back against the seat, glancing back at the empty stage. Nikolai couldn’t possibly be planning to…
“Welcome, everyone! Here’s a quiz for you!” Came the voice from the stage, melodic in Fyodor’s ears, “Who am I?”
Fyodor—inevitably—smiles, “Oh, Nikolai.”
“That’s right! I’m your entertainer for the night,” Nikolai bows exaggeratedly, stretching out his precious cane toward the audience. Fyodor can see, from the corner of his eyes, how confused the people around him appear to be. They were expecting the actors in the posters, after all, not a clown. “Allow me to demonstrate that a good performer is worth more than a big circus.”
The guards are coming to get him. The way they slowly make their way towards the stage doesn’t go unnoticed by Fyodor’s quick eyes, and he notices there are two coming from each side. Nikolai, however, is no less attentive.
“Yes, please, gentlemen. Join us.”
He pulls his cape forward and shuffles with one hand behind it, presumably looking for something. Knowing the destination of his attention, Fyodor keeps an eye on the guards. When one of them is already about to climb onto the stage, a hand appears out of thin air and pulls the gun from his hip. Gladly, no one else seems to notice—at least, not until Nikolai retrieves the gun from the cape, and a collective gasp fills the room.
“Thank you, kind sir, for letting me borrow this,” Nikolai winks at the man, gesturing toward his hip, and only then does the guard realize what happened. The other three of them stop. Considering the record of incidents in Yokohama, it wouldn’t surprise Fyodor if they had already figured out how he did that. “Now, another quiz. If I pull this trigger, what happens?”
Fyodor bites the nail of his thumb, observing him. Nikolai meets his eye for a moment only, daring to wink at him, and looks back at the rest of the audience.
“This…” He hides the gun, twists his fist and retrieves it again. It looks exactly the same. Then, he points it directly at Fyodor, and the ones on the seats next to him immediately move away, clearly frightened. There is a big, enthusiastic smile on Nikolai’s face, “This is what happens.”
He pulls. Fyodor doesn’t flinch. The gun’s barrel explodes—the room erupts in prematurely scared screaming—and flowers of all colors and shapes fill Nikolai’s figure. He opens his arms, overjoyed by the scandalous reaction he got from his audience, and bows. He then throws what’s left of the weapon back to the guard, whom allows it to fall on the floor before his feet instead of reaching for it.
“Thank you, thank you,” Nikolai smiles widely, eyes falling back to Fyodor, “And a special thank you to the pretty volunteer from the audience. It has been an honor to entertain you all. Now, for my last stunt in this pleasant stage…”
He brings the cape to the front of his body one more time, stuffing his arm there and pulling something that looks like a picnic basket. Fyodor sees an actor peeking from the backstage and pointing at him with widened eyes. Fyodor concludes that must’ve belonged to them.
“This is my farewell. You were all wonderful! Thank you!”
Nikolai jumps away from the stage—which seems to snap the guards back into action—and runs towards the exit. Fyodor takes that as his cue, but he doesn’t run. He stands up from his seat and peacefully walks out, watching the backs of the guards as they rush to catch Nikolai.
Outside the theater, he sees the four men, looking around, holding their guns, searching. Nikolai appears before him, still smiling, still excited. He pulls his cape forward, turns around so he’s facing the guards and pulls.
Fyodor watches, unfazed, as a huge truck falls on the ground, startling everyone around them, and covering the guards’ sight of them.
“Come on, Dos-kun,” Nikolai winks, as if they’ve got all the time in the world, “Walk with me.”
Fyodor doesn’t laugh, but he grins a little, and Nikolai takes that as his cue to start walking.
“So, what do you think?” Nikolai asks, dodging a man who comes running to help the guards search and doesn’t notice the clown calmly making his way there, “Was that performance satisfying now for the standards our mission requires?”
Fyodor squints, “Were you showing off so that I assign you to something more interesting? Have you more to show than my plans allow you to?”
“Oh, not at all! Don’t take this the wrong way, Dos-kun. Your plans are always the most brilliant. Besides, we made a deal,” Nikolai smirks, “And, by the end of it, I’ll be free.”
“Yes, you most certainly will.”
“And you will have all that you desire,” Nikolai says, and steps into the sidewalk that leads to the beach. He bends over, places the basket beside him and removes his shoes, stepping barefoot on the sand. “It will be their lovely decay—and our astonishing rise.”
Fyodor hums, “Most certainly. Have you had enough yet? I can only imagine how exhausting such an excellent performance must’ve been.”
“You flatter me, Dos-kun,” Nikolai smiles, bright as always, “In fact, I have not had enough. This basket I borrowed from the actors isn’t for nothing. Look, it’s a picnic!”
Fyodor watches, with renewed interest, as Nikolai flops down on the sand and spreads which appears to be a tablecloth between them, placing a variety of fruits, breads and even a bottle of wine over it. It’s fair to believe the actors had it all settled for a celebration—now, though, it belongs to someone else. It belongs to them.
“You humored me for a long time,” Nikolai says, gesturing for Fyodor to find a seat in front of him, “Now, I would like to hear from you, Dos-kun. Tell me about your deliriums of power, about the ability users and the fate that awaits them.”
“You’re an ability user, Nikolai,” Fyodor amusedly reminds him.
“Am not,” He raises a finger, peaking from behind his hand with a smirk, “I’m an illusionist. The secret behind my tricks shall never be revealed, for what is an illusionist worth if the world knows all about what he’s got up his sleeve?”
Fyodor hums, “An illusionist that’s worth very little, I imagine.”
“Ding, ding, ding! That’s correct, Dos-kun!”
“Ah, how nice,” He leans forward slightly over his crossed legs, “I wouldn’t like to get anything wrong in one of your quizzes, would I?”
“Absolutely not,” Nikolai says, looking down and pouting, “Oh, how careless of me. I must’ve completely forgotten about the cups. Worry not, though! I can fix this.”
He tugs at his coat, covering half of his torso with it, and Fyodor knows about the little trick before it happens. Nikolai uses his free hand to supposedly look for something in his pockets, and, then, a few seconds later, he retrieves too expensive-looking wine glasses from the coat.
Fyodor smiles shortly, “Did you drop the wine glasses somewhere else only so you could do that?”
“Wrong, Dos-kun. I summoned these wine glasses.”
“So, you did drop them somewhere else.”
Nikolai chuckles, low and genuine, and Fyodor’s heart does a flip. Ah, how detestable. He can’t afford those little flips, those demonstrations of weakness within his own body. He does, however, believe he should be proud of himself for keeping such a low profile and being so circumspect through the whole day as Nikolai’s date.
While Nikolai pours the wine into the two glasses, humming quietly to an unknown melody, Fyodor side-eyes the sea. If the plan went wrong and the Moby Dick fell on the sea instead, would it still work? Would it be strong enough to swallow the beach, to cause destruction? To erase such beauty?
He grits his teeth, shaking off those thoughts. There is no beauty in any of that. That’s simply Nikolai’s naïve side rubbing off on him—that’s all. A few minutes going through the plans with Ivan and listening to his point of view should be enlightening enough to erase those silly thoughts.
“Have a drink, Dos-kun,” Nikolai says, supporting his weight on the hand he’s resting on the hand, using the other one to dip the glass towards his lips, “You’ve earned it.”
Fyodor blinks slowly, “Oh, have I?”
“Of course! You got every answer to my quizzes right, and, above it all, you put up with me all day,” Nikolai points out, and Fyodor’s nose wrinkles in displease, “That mustn’t have been easy, considering such a busy man usually wouldn’t have the time to withstand a clown’s performance for so long, but you… Dos-kun?”
“What—what are you doing?”
A low, amused laugh escapes from the back of Fyodor’s throat. He stood up from his spot on the other side of the tablecloth and is now kneeling before Nikolai, barely centimeters away from his face. Although confusion colors Nikolai’s face—mixed with a tingle of curiosity—there is no signal of fear whatsoever. Even if he has no idea what it takes for Fyodor’s ability to function, even if this is a huge risk… Well. That’s the least, of course, to be expected from Nikolai Gogol.
“Here’s a riddle for you,” Fyodor speaks in a low tone, looking directly into his eyes, suppressing a quiet grin, “Kolya.”
The corners of Nikolai’s lips move upward.
“A rat and a clown have a date that lasts for hours. The clown shows the rat around the city he’s about to destroy and entertains him for a long time. How, exactly, does the rat show his gratitude?”
Nikolai tips his head to the side, “How, Fedya?”
“Oh, that’s an easy one,” Fyodor says, “It’s by gifting the clown something he has never gifted any other rats, clowns or humans before. What is the most cherished belonging of any rat, clown or human—the one thing each and every one of them should fight for?”
“That’s…” Nikolai squints, “Freedom.”
“For you, yes,” He shrugs lightly, “But, for the rat, freedom isn’t an issue. That’s why he has it to give to you so easily. The thing I’m talking about is something else. It’s a secret.”
“Yes,” Fyodor lifts a hand, resting two fingers against Nikolai’s chin and watching his slightly widened eyes. “Small, but still—precious enough.”
Nikolai smiles again, “So, your touch isn’t enough to kill.”
“No. Not without the intent.”
“Is the intent to kill all it takes?”
“I said a small secret,” Fyodor says, brows quirking up, “I expect you to have this in mind when the time comes, Nikolai. A secret has the same weight to me as the freedom you seek does to you. Do no take this gift for granted.”
Nikolai nods, “And now, my gift for you…”
He closes the distance between them, softly pressing his lips against Fyodor’s, and, surprisingly enough, Dostoyevsky doesn’t dance around him any longer. He uses the fingers on Nikolai’s chin to tilt his head slightly to the side and kisses him slowly and sweetly—as if he were the kind of person who would be willing to complement Nikolai’s good side, even if he isn’t.
Because there are already so many lies in the air between him and the rest of the members of the organizations he is in; why not allow a kiss to be a lie as well?
“Don’t be concerned,” Nikolai whispers as he pulls away the slightest, the playful smiles dancing on his shiny lips, “Your wish is my command. I shall treasure your gift to me the same way I treasure the freedom I seek.”
Ah, Fyodor blinks, a sudden realization hitting him at that moment. He smirks, nodding and kissing Nikolai one more time, although he moves away much sooner this time. In Nikolai’s eyes, he sees the confirmation of his newfound suspects. This man, whose uncovered eye looks beautiful and whose lips feel soft, will be the one to defeat me one day. Not my enemies, not the rest of my fellow companions. Him. And it will be entirely my fault.
“Shall we head back?” Fyodor asks, smiling, “We wouldn’t want Fitzgerald to lose track of the plans in case we don’t keep a close eye on him, would we?”
“Well, of course not,” Nikolai says, in that ever-so-enthusiastic tone of his, as he jumps up and stretches out his hand, “Come, Dos-kun.”
Knowing exactly what he’s signing up for—and knowing, truly, that he wouldn’t have it any other way when it comes to Nikolai Gogol—Fyodor doesn’t take his hand, but he nods, and Nikolai gets it.
He always does.