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Family Is What You Make It

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In the evening on the day before he was to meet with Morrie, Sakurai received a text asking to make a change in the arrangements. Morrie said in order to keep them guessing he wanted to change the meeting to that very evening. He also changed the location. He now wanted to meet at an old temple nearby.

“Do you think our phone calls have been overheard?” Sakurai texted, wondering what was prompting Morrie to act so cautiously about the meeting.

“Possibly. Don’t want to take any chances. Please meet me in an hour,” Morrie responded.

Acchan confirmed that he’d be there and after changing clothes, went to tell Imai about the change and that they needed to leave very soon. There was never any question about older brother going along, he just wasn’t expecting it to be right now. On the way out the door, Sakurai happened upon Sugizo in the hallway.

“Sugi-chan, we’re going to meet Morrie-san right now at the old temple close by. He just texted me and asked for the change. We’ll be back as soon as we can. Would you and Heath stay with the boys please?” Acchan asked.

Sugizo nodded. “Of course. Did Morrie-san say why he was changing the meeting?”

“He thinks there’s a possibility that our conversations have been overheard and he doesn’t want to take any chances. We’ll be back right afterward,” Acchan said as Imai joined him in the hallway.

“Be careful, please—both of you. Heath and I will watch the boys while you’re gone,” Sugizo said and watched as they headed for the door.

Not even fifteen minutes after they’d left, Hide, Taiji, and their two boys came in.

“Hey Sug’, where’s Acchan? I need to speak to him about something,” Hide asked as soon as he caught sight of his brother.

“Not here. He and Uncle Imai went to meet Morrie-san up at the old temple,” Sugizo answered.

“Thought that was supposed to be tomorrow.”

“Yeah it was, but Morrie texted him and wanted to change it. Apparently, he was suspicious that plans had been overheard, so he wanted to keep them guessing. Acchan and Imai left just a few minutes ago to meet him.”

“Wait…Morrie-san knows how to text? You’re kidding me,” Hide said with a grin.

“Apparently. I’m sure one of his sons or grandsons taught him.”

Hide nodded and walked on into the kitchen to get something to drink, but something kept nagging at him. After a few more minutes, he found his brothers in the sitting room.

“Listen, it may be nothing…I hope it’s nothing…but I’ve got a bad feeling about this meeting,” Hide said while pacing the floor, too nervous to sit.

“Why?” Heath asked.

“Don’t know. I just have a feeling that something is wrong—something’s phony about this,” he said and noticed the looks from the three of them. “I can’t explain it. Maybe I’m wrong, but the pit of my stomach is in knots. I’m going up there,” he said, walking out of the room only to be followed close behind by Sugizo, Heath, and Taiji.

One thing they had come to realize over the years was that Hide might be odd—he might be a ‘freak’ as they liked to call him—but his instincts were incredibly sharp and if he thought something was off it probably was.

“If you’re going, I’m fuckin’ going too,” Taiji announced, not leaving any room for argument. “Sugi, Heath—please watch Tora and Saga for us, okay?”

“Umm, okay…but stay outta sight and please brothers…be careful,” Sugizo said, suddenly becoming worried himself.

“Yes, remember to silence your phones but call if you should need us. Uruha and Kai are here and can watch the boys for a bit if necessary,” Heath offered.

“Will do. Come on, Tai-chan. We gotta cover some ground quickly,” Hide said, already moving toward the door.

Once outside, they both silenced their phones while they started across the grounds of the estate. Hide was careful to tuck his brightly-colored mane of hair under his hood as they headed toward the temple, moving much faster than any human was capable.

“Where do you think they’ll meet up?” Hide asked.

“If it’s on the up and up, I would say inside the temple. If there’s any funny business going on, it’ll probably be in the courtyard. That’s my guess,” Taiji responded.

In no time at all, they had covered the distance between the estate and temple hill, so they slowed down and tried to approach as silently as possible. They started up the path, keeping watch for anyone who might be around, using their enhanced hearing and sense of smell to seek them out.

Taiji took several quick sniffs as they made their way closer to the temple, trying to get a read on who might be around.

“Definitely several around, but not human. All I smell is banpaia,” he reported, but several steps later, the situation changed.

“Mmm…god…cover your nose and mouth, Hide! Now!” Taiji said harshly in as low a voice as he could manage.

Just about then, it hit the redhead’s nose and he clasped his hands over his face.

“What is that?!” he said through his hands, backing up a step or two. “That’s nasty!”

“Don’t breathe it—it’s vervain!” Taiji spat. “Come on!”

                                                _______________

Several minutes earlier

Sakurai and Imai made their way up the overgrown path that led to the abandoned, ancient temple grateful that they had decided to change into street clothes. This wasn’t the terrain for fine silk robes and sandals.

“Hear or smell anything?” Sakurai asked his brother quietly.

“Yeah, there are others here—Morrie and some of his men, most likely. We should be seeing them soon,” Imai responded.

Another twenty yards along the path and they came upon the courtyard, dimly lit by several torches. They walked further out into it and still neither saw nor heard anyone.

“Morrie-san?” Sakurai called out, barely above his normal speaking voice.

Nothing. Sakurai looked back and shrugged at Imai who was only a few steps away.

“They’re here…I can smell them. Can’t you?” the older brother said.

“Yeah…maybe they’re inside,” Sakurai replied, quickly climbing the ten or so steps up to the large wooden doors that sat partially open. Imai followed behind, still scanning the courtyard for movement.

Reaching the doors, Sakurai took hold of one and pushed it further open. A loud creak was heard and dust fell in the doorway.

“Morrie-san? Are you here?” he called out, his voice partially echoing in the dark, abandoned space. Small animals scurried about at the sound, making Sakurai jump slightly.

Hearing no response, he moved a bit further into the temple and tried to look around. “Morrie-san?”

Still no response and now his senses were tingling. He smelled other banpaia in the near vicinity but he couldn’t locate anyone other than Imai. Turning back toward Imai he shook his head.

“Something’s not right.”

Imai shook his head and took his brother by the arm and pulled him along as he started back toward the doors. “We need to get outta here…”

Out of the temple and down the steps they moved quickly. The two brothers started back down the path they’d arrived on, but they only made it a few yards before they came to a sudden halt.

Standing across and blocking the narrow path were three masked figures, all features obscured except for their eyes. Sakurai and Imai instinctively fell back a couple of steps.

“And just where are you going?” the one in the middle asked, advancing a step on the two men.

“Get out of our way!” Sakurai said sternly, having recovered, his voice and stance showing no fear.

Two of the other men chuckled slightly while their apparent leader shook his head.

“No, I don’t think so. Now turn around and get back up to the temple,” he said, his voice deep and menacing.

Now the other two men stepped up to reform the wall blocking Sakurai and Imai’s way.

The leader saw that not only did the brothers not turn to go but that they seemed to be communicating silently.

Move!” he yelled.

Fuck you!” Imai yelled back and then he and Sakurai both reached behind them, going for the weapons they had concealed in their waistbands.

Now!” the man in the middle yelled and all three simultaneously smashed the odd-looking orbs that they’d been carrying in gloved hands on the ground right at the feet of Sakurai and Imai.

Somewhat stunned, it took a few moments for the brothers to realize what was happening as the trails of dust and smoke climbed higher. It was Imai who caught the first whiffs, eyes opening wider as he clamped a hand over his nose and mouth.

“Run!” he said to his brother as he half grabbed and half pushed him back the way they’d come.

Sakurai was still unsure exactly what was happening, but he turned and ran with Imai, trying to calculate in his head the best way for them to get away. There were several paths up to the old temple and clearly this one wasn’t going to provide their escape.

The three men who had blocked their way were now pursuing them, herding them back toward the middle of the courtyard. Imai pulled Sakurai with him, heading toward the side of the temple where another path would take them down the hill, but they found that way blocked as well. More masked figures wielding large knives had emerged from the trees, advancing on the brothers.

“Dammit!” Sakurai spat, pulling his own weapon while turning and running back toward the front of the temple.

Jumping over the fallen tree limbs, Imai and Sakurai made it to the courtyard just in front of the steps where they found four men standing there, waiting for them.

The two looked around them scanning for an escape route, but finding none, they stopped and faced the group, breathing heavily.

“What do you want with us?!” Sakurai asked loudly, refusing to show any fear, his blade still in his hand.

“Who are you? Who do you work for?!” Imai asked just as loudly.

The men smirked at the brothers and then one of them spoke up.

“Well, well, well…who do we have here?” the older man asked.

“That’s what we want to know,” Imai replied as he leaned forward and inhaled sharply, obviously taking in their smell. “You’re banpaia, but which clan? Take off the masks, you cowards!”

“I’ll ask the questions here. You’re badly outnumbered…or hadn’t you noticed?” the group’s spokesman responded, pulling down his mask to reveal a smirk. “Now, which of you is Sakurai-sama?” he asked, looking back and forth between the brothers, studying their faces.

After a few tense moments, Imai spoke up again. “I am. What do you want with me?” he lied, moving forward just a bit, partially shielding his younger brother.

The man stepped up closer to him and quietly looked him in the face. Imai, not flinching an inch, stared right back at him. Before very long though, he gave Imai a menacing grin. “Liar.”

The man then pushed Imai slightly aside and stood face to face with Sakurai. Again, he paused and studied the other man’s face. Sakurai, for his part, was studying this stranger just as intently, trying to figure out who he was and who he represented. He tightened his grip on the blade.

At last satisfied, the older man took a step back and gave a small bow. “You are Sakurai-sama, head of the Inamassai clan.”

“And you are…?” Sakurai asked, not missing a beat.

“I’m not important, but someone who is wants to meet with you. I need you to come with me. Let’s make this easy on all of us, okay?” He reached out and took hold of his target’s forearm, but lost his grip when Sakurai quickly jerked his arm away.

“Don’t you dare touch me,” he said in a low, menacing voice.

Imai laughed humorlessly and shook his head. “Not happening, fool.”

“Shut up, lackey,” the older man said sharply. “I’m talking to the boss here.”

Imai just growled at the man. He could feel the presence of several others slowly advancing on them.

“I’m going nowhere with you and you know that,” Sakurai said. “Tell whoever sent you that if they want to meet me, they can come in person if they’re not too cowardly. We’re leaving.”

The younger brother took Imai by the arm and pulled him along, taking a few steps backward away from the group. As expected, the men advanced on them further, producing weapons as they moved.

“Alright, have it your way!” Sakurai said loudly and plunged his knife into the first body he came to, turning it before pulling it back out and kicking the man away from him.

Imai pulled the twin to the sai in his right hand out of his waistband and attacked two men at once, impaling both in their abdomens. He retracted them simultaneously and proceeded to deliver brutal elbow strikes to the men’s heads, first one and then the other.

By this time, the other thugs that had been looming around closed in, seeing that their two targets weren’t the pushovers that they’d hoped. Luckily for Sakurai and Imai, Taiji and Hide came bursting out of hiding at that point and threw themselves into the fight.

Hide came flying at the thug that was attacking Sakurai, screaming at the top of his lungs, eyes glowing red.

Taiji approached one of the enemy from behind while the man was wondering where the redhead had come from and slashed his throat wide open, dropping him to the ground, blood gushing from the deep wound.

After Hide had silenced the one he was fighting, he turned to see his uncles both fiercely attacking other men, growling, fangs flashing, showing no fear and quite a lot of skill, he thought.

‘Fuck, forgot they were both trained soldiers!’ he thought, looking around for his next victim. He didn’t have long to wait as another thug tried jumping him from the right.

Shortly though, Imai and Sakurai found themselves back to back with men approaching from both sides. Both were bleeding, bruised, and panting heavily, but neither was ready to give up.

“Dammit, Acchan…” Imai said. “I’m not going out like this!”

“Me either! Do it for Ichiro!” Sakurai yelled, running once more into the fray.

A few of the ones that the two men had fought earlier had managed to collect themselves and rejoin the fight.

‘The bad thing about fighting other banpaia,’ their father Hideaki had said, ‘is that they don’t know when to quit. Even when you put them down they don’t stay down.’

This was surely the case at the moment as both Imai and Sakurai were again fighting ones that they’d met earlier. There just didn’t seem to be an end to the other side’s forces and even with the addition of Hide and Taiji, the four were still badly outnumbered.

The battle raged on until shots began ringing out from the steps of the temple, Hide and Taiji both spotting the sniper at nearly the same time. As they watched helplessly, Imai was hit in the thigh and then Sakurai was shot in the side.  

“What an idiot! That’ll only piss them off,” Hide said with a laugh, taking temporary cover behind a stone statue to keep from being hit himself.

To his and Taiji’s surprise though, a minute or so later, Sakurai started swaying and fell against Imai, holding his side. Almost immediately after, he collapsed to the ground, pulling Imai down with him. The older brother tried to regain his feet, but soon he lost consciousness as well, falling over Sakurai, motionless.

 

 

Back at the estate, Sugizo was walking through the kitchen carrying a cup of tea when he suddenly stopped, swayed, and then hit his knees gasping.

“Sugi! What’s wrong?!” Heath nearly yelled, hurrying over to his mate.

Sugizo’s eyes were glassy, his face contorted with pain. “Hurts…” was all he could manage at that precise moment.

Heath took his lover’s face in his hands and looked intently at him. “What hurts?! What’s happening?”

Trying and failing to take a deep breath, the auburn-haired man looked into his mate’s eyes. “Something’s wrong. Terribly wrong.”

 

 

“What the…?” Taiji hissed. “Those can’t be regular bullets,” he said in Hide’s direction and decided he had to get to the sniper.

He streaked up the steps and upon reaching the gunman, threw a powerful, vicious elbow to the man’s head, knocking him unconscious. He grabbed the gun from the steps and turned to exact some revenge.

Three thugs were already bent over Sakurai and Imai, in the process of picking them up to make off with them.

“Over my dead body,” Taiji exclaimed, opening fire on them as he moved in their direction.

Hide took out the man who was approaching Taiji. “No, no…” he said, violently twisting the man’s neck and throwing him to the ground.

Once Taiji had shot and taken out the men who surrounded his uncles, he yelled to his brother.

“Hide, bring your crazy ass over here! Help me carry them!” he directed, leaning over to pick up Imai.

The redhead looked up from his latest victim and wiped the dripping blood from his hands onto the man’s shirt.

“Oh no, I’ll get Imai—he’s shorter. You pick up Acchan. I can’t manage those long legs,” Hide said, scooping up one uncle and letting his taller brother take the other. As there were still some of the enemy starting to move toward them, Hide and Taiji used every bit of their superhuman strength and speed to move through the woods, heading in the direction of the back of the estate.

Once they had gotten a fair distance from the hill where the temple sat, the two brothers took a diversion or two, just in case they were still being followed. After a while though, they saw that their pursuers had given up, so they slowed down.

“Let’s get them back to the house. We lost the fuckin’ assholes a ways back,” Taiji said, looking down at Sakurai’s bruised and bleeding face. He could feel the blood from the man’s side soaking the shirt he wore. “So help me, they’ll pay for this!”

“You’re damn straight they will!” Hide exclaimed, a snarl on his face.

 

 

Heath had managed to get Sugizo back to the sitting room where he was still hovering over him.

“Sugi, please…can you tell me what’s wrong?” the dark-haired man fretted.

Sugizo just shook his head. “I don’t really know. Something’s happened—I think it’s Acchan,” he said, slightly slurring his words.

“Acchan?” Heath asked surprised wondering how his mate knew that.

 

 

Finally reaching the door of the main house, Hide kicked at it until it opened, a very surprised-looking Kai on the other side.

“Oh my god,” he gasped, seeing Imai lying motionless in the redhead’s arms.

“Move, boy,” Hide said, coming through the doorway with Taiji right behind him.

“Dad! No!” Kai cried. “What happened?!”

“Ambush,” Taiji said, carrying the unconscious Sakurai into the house.

“Heath! Sugizo!” the boy screamed, running through the house in search of his uncles.

“Let’s take them into Sakurai’s bedroom—it’s close,” Hide said. His brother nodded and followed.

Kai reached the others in the boys’ sitting room and stood there breathlessly, eyes wide.

“Kai? What is it?” Heath asked, getting up and moving over to his obviously frightened nephew. Sugizo got up shakily as well.

“Dad…Uncle Imai…they’re hurt! Hide and Taiji just carried them into the house! Tai-chan says they were ambushed,” he said and took off back down the long hallway to see where they’d been taken.

“Oh no…” Sugizo responded, eyes wide, and followed Kai with Heath coming right behind him. The other boys who were in the room got up and ran after their uncles.

They made it back down the hallway, looking for the men. Noticing that the doors to Sakurai’s suite were open, Sugizo and Heath figured they must be there and stepped inside. There they found Hide and Taiji on their knees beside the bed, holding pressure on the wounds and trying to get some response out of Imai and Sakurai.

“How bad?” Sugizo asked as he stepped closer to the bed. Heath was right beside him, holding him up.

“Bad enough. They’ve both been shot and are unconscious. Couldn’t have been standard bullets. Sakurai is losing a lot of blood,” Taiji responded, sounding anxious. “One of you please go and get Takanori-san. We need his medical know-how.”

“Yes and the other get the medical kit, some water, and clean rags. Get the boys to help you!” Hide said.

Sugizo and Heath moved quickly to do as they’d been asked, pulling Kai and Reita to help while putting Uruha in charge of the younger boys. Heath went to wake up Takanori while Sugizo found the supplies they needed.

“I knew it…I knew something was wrong,” Sugizo mumbled and tried to make his body move to deliver the items Taiji and Hide needed.

Running down the hallway to the area of the house where the servants lived, Heath had to guess which door to knock on. He just hoped he’d guessed right. When the man opened the door, Heath explained briefly what had happened and asked him to please come and help. Grabbing the small medical bag that he kept in his room, Takanori followed Heath back down the hallway.

Sending Reita in with the medical supplies and Kai with the water and rags, Sugizo tried to make sure that all the boys were still together and that they were okay.

“Sugi-chan…how bad is Dad hurt?” Aoi asked, not having been allowed in the bedroom.

Sugizo sighed. “I’m not real sure, baby. I know he was shot in his side and Taiji has been taking care of him. Takanori-san is coming to help now.”

“Is he a doctor?” Ruki asked, leaning into Aoi for comfort.

“No, but he was a field medic in the army. He knows what he’s doing,” Sugizo told them, hoping he was right.

“Is our dad okay?” Tora asked.

The auburn-haired man paused for a moment, having to remind himself who the boy was talking about. “Oh yes, as far as I know, both Hide and Taiji are okay. I’ll let everyone know if anything changes with anyone—promise. Just stay here and stay together please.”

Sugizo stepped back out into the hallway.

That’s still going to take some getting used to…Hide being a dad,’ he thought as he pulled out his phone. He quickly called Sakurai’s other sons who lived nearby.

“Hisashi, this is Sugizo. Listen…I’ve got some bad news.” He stopped and took a steadying breath. “Your dad’s been shot along with Uncle Imai. You guys need to come,” he said, his voice low and somber.

“What?! What happened? How is he?” Hisashi asked.

“They were ambushed. We’ll explain all that once you’re here, but you need to come. He’s losing a lot of blood.”

“Oh no…okay, I’ll grab Teru and Takuro and we’ll be right over. Thanks for calling, Sugi-chan.”

Once he’d hung up, Sugizo went back toward Sakurai’s room, wanting to be as close as possible should he be needed. He knew that a bullet or blood loss in and of itself couldn’t kill Sakurai or Imai, but then there was Taiji’s comment about the bullets not being standard. That was certainly worrying. And the blood loss could leave them so weak that it could take months for them to fully recover. Truth be told, Sugizo couldn’t bear to see Sakurai like that. He cared too much for him.

As he got closer, he heard a commotion going on and felt a knot form in the pit of his stomach. He saw Heath run into the kitchen with Kai right behind him. Sugizo followed them to find out what was happening.

Upon entering the room, he saw Heath and Kai quickly clearing everything off of the kitchen table except for the large table cloth.

“What’s going on?” he asked anxiously.

“Takanori is having us move Acchan in here so that he can try to get the bullet out of him and hopefully stop the bleeding,” Heath answered.

Sugizo squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. “Okay, I’m sure it’ll be easier in here. Anything I can do?”

“Not in here. Go see if Hide or Taiji need anything,” he answered while continuing to clear things away and make room on the counter.

The auburn-haired man hurried back over to his uncle’s bedroom just as Takanori, Taiji, and Reita were lifting Sakurai up off the bed and starting to move toward the kitchen with him. Sugizo helped as best he could and then made himself go back to see how Imai and Hide were.

As he came back into the room, he clearly saw the cloths that were soaked in blood as well as the basin of bloody water beside the bed where Sakurai had lain. He swallowed hard and walked around to where Imai was being cared for by Hide.

“How is he?” Sugizo asked.

“Still unconscious, but at least he’s not bleeding badly. His temperature is up though, that’s concerning,” Hide responded.

“How was Sakurai before we took him in the other room?”

“Unconscious, warm, bleeding more than he should be. I hope Takanori can do something quickly.”

“Warm? How can they be warm?” he asked, not understanding. Hide just shrugged.

Sugizo noticed that Hide was being quiet and reserved, not cracking jokes or making smart remarks. That in itself indicated how traumatizing things were.

He started trying to clean up some to keep himself busy, but with everything showing signs of blood that he knew to be Sakurai’s, it was more than he could handle. The last straw was when he placed a hand on a dark spot on the bed and his palm came away stained red. Tears started to trickle down his cheeks with there being nothing he could do to stop them.

Upon seeing the man crying, Hide decided he had to try to cheer his brother up some or at the very least provide a diversion.

“Have you ever seen Sakurai and Imai fight? I don’t mean toy with someone—I mean really fight,” Hide asked.

“Huh? Umm...I don’t know. If I have, it was a long time ago. Why?” Sugizo asked, wiping at his face.

“Cause damn…they’re impressive. I forget that they were both combat soldiers during the war until something like this happens. They were fuckin’ those fools up right and left. I need them to teach me some moves,” Hide said, smiling.

“Hope you get the chance,” Sugizo answered and lowered his head again.

“Sugi…aww, babe…come on now. Sakurai will be okay. It might take him a while to recover, but he will. You know that, right?”

Sugizo sighed and then swallowed hard again. “I know…I just can’t bear to see him weak and helpless. He’s always been so strong, ever since I’ve known him.”

“Listen, I know you two have history. Some of that is probably why you’re taking this so hard. Just think with your head and not your heart. You know how these things work. Sakurai will live and he will recover,” Hide replied, trying to make his distraught brother feel better.

In all actuality though, things in the kitchen weren’t going so well.

“Heath-san, I need more light! I can’t see well enough,” Takanori pleaded, trying to keep his anxiety at bay.

He was attempting once again to find the bullet, but there was so much blood that he just couldn’t see. Finally, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“This is beyond my skillset. I’m almost positive he has some organ damage and that’s why there’s so much blood. I’m just not equipped to handle this!” he said, rubbing his forearm across his face to stop the sweat from dripping into his eyes.

“What can we do?!” Kai asked in an almost-panicked voice. “Can we take him to the hospital?!”

“No, kid…that’s out of the question. It would expose all of us not to mention the fact that he’d never come back,” Taiji said bluntly, not being known for his tact.

“Then what do you suggest, Takanori-san?” Heath asked, putting an arm around the now crying Kai. “There’s got to be something.”

“I’ll go snatch a doctor if I have to. Someone is going to help Acchan and Imai,” Taiji announced, pacing the floor like a caged tiger.

“Kobayashi,” Takanori said with a nod as he tried to apply pressure to Sakurai’s deep wound. “Time to put our friendship to the test.”

“What?” Heath asked, still holding onto Kai.

“A local doctor and I have been friends for years now. We talk shop from time to time. I’m going to go get him and bring him here--he knows a lot more than I do!” Takanori said. “Now one of you come over here and apply pressure just like I tell you. I’ll be back as fast as I possibly can.”

“Can he be trusted?” Taiji asked. It was a legitimate question. Strangers weren’t normally allowed to get anywhere near the house, much less inside.

“Yes, I really think so, but what other choice do we have?” the medic asked.

After showing the others what to do, he quickly washed up and literally ran to grab his car keys. He knew that time was not on his side and he needed to get there and back as quickly as he possibly could.

Not long after Takanori had left the house, Sugizo peeked into the kitchen hoping to get an update on Sakurai’s condition and saw Heath standing over him with no medic in sight. He quickly found out just what had happened.

“Where is Takanori?! He couldn’t help him?” Sugizo asked, eyes wide.

“No, said it was beyond him. He’s going to get a doctor that he knows. Just hope he hurries,” Taiji informed him, still pacing but keeping an eye on his uncle’s face. “How’s Imai?”

“Still out. He definitely has a fever though—his skin is really warm,” Sugizo answered.

“How can that be? We don’t get fevers or infections or anything. One of the perks,” Taiji said.

The auburn-haired man shrugged. “I know, but there’s no mistaking the heat coming from him.”

“Dammit, what did they shoot them with?” Heath asked. “Sakurai is warm too.”

 

Takanori drove like his life depended on it, going much too fast considering how inky dark the sky was that night.

‘He’s got to come with me…he just has to. I can’t operate on the master...I’ll just do more damage,’ he thought to himself as he drove along, glad that the man’s house wasn’t really that far away.

‘I don’t know how I’m going to explain things…probably best not to say too much until I get him to the house. Damn, this is going to be difficult.’