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Remnants Of Yesterday, Volume 1 - Indigo


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Title: Indigo (first volume of my Remnants of Yesterday Series)



SUMMARY: Lieutenant Yamashina Kyonori is working on secret case which has ties to a past incident that altered his life. He searches for the truth behind his lover's death and a special drug known only on documents as Stage Indigo. Despite the odds piling up against him, Kyonori strive forward hoping to solve the case and put his past ghost to sleep, all the while losing himself into that very past.


Warning: Angst, Language, Death, Graphic Sex


Status: On-Going Series


Author Notes: This work is non-linear and will jump between past and present or vice. Original Fiction-all rights belong to me.

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Category: Alternate Universe, Sci-Tech...Bio? (well it's not Sci-Fi with third eye aliens or far away planets) Crime, Drama, Action, Slice of Life, Angst, Love.









Hinageshi Red Light District, Shinkano City – June 10, 2012



Damn frog rain! Nori cursed as he ran through an alley. His right hand pressed over the wound on his side. His thin jacket did nothing to ease his anxiety. He felt cold to his bones. The plan had just been another night out when evening began. The usual gathering of seven friends down their favorite pub. Instead they found the bar closed off for renovation, which prompted them to venture across town to a lesser frequented territory. More like they didn't frequent it anymore; not since they outgrew their delinquent high school days.


Shinkano's red light district, Hinageshi, used to be the happening place for them. Drugs were the one thing they stayed away from. Other than that, they'd come here to do all sorts of evils. From the crazy karaoke parties to taking girls into love motels, and the underage drinking along with illegal gambling. To add on was the constant fights against rival gangs. The fights were the worst due to the escalating level of violence.

However, after losing one of their friends to a deadly encounter against a rival gang, they decided it was high time to walk the straight path. The loss had been too great of a tragedy to bear. The incident had altered them all one way or another.


They were all now twenty-one-year-old adults. Good standing citizens of society. Which came to say, they should have stayed where good citizens stayed. They shouldn't have revisited Hinageshi district because just thirty minutes after entering a random club, they ran into old foes who had not forgotten or forgiven them for past transgressions.


The confrontation escalated to heavy verbal insults and shoves, which got them all kicked out by the club manager. The face-off continued outside and hell broke loose when they failed to talk their way out a physical brawl. New faces arrived on the scene to add to the mob of thugs. These newcomers even had their choice of weapons from various knives to sledge hammers. Their group's only exit strategy was to scatter in different directions. Forget the cars since they wouldn't make it passed the parking lot alive. They each ran for their lives and kept doing so even as the night worsened with a downpour.






By eleven, Nori had run his way south of Hinageshi, entering into the Aokata slums, a decaying territory on the eastern outskirt of the city. There, a trio of thugs caught up with him and cornered him into a fight. Despite having become a good citizen, he still possessed the same fighting edge he had back in his delinquent days. His fast reflex and the speeding velocity of his punches were still his kill act. He'd always been quicker than most fighters he'd fought in the past. And that hadn't changed. He fought them with everything he had and ended up with a knife grazing his side. He took them down fast to avoid staying in the rain any longer. He'd been running in the wild storm far longer than his body could handle and felt himself becoming weak from it. While the thugs braced the cold concrete, struggling to get back on their feet, he took that second to get away.


Cutting through corners and alleys, he went on until he felt he was out of the assailants' sight. Using that small window of distance, he found himself a hiding spot. The backstreet he stepped into was even darker than the last. The narrow lane was a dead end with a stack of wooden crates against two dumpsters by a ten-foot iron fence. The alley stunk like a thousand dead rats. Never smelled such horrid odor before but he figured the sinister scent was worth the comparison.


Nori did the only thing that came to mind. He climbed up the crates and hopped into one of the dumpsters. Survival was primal when facing a do or die situation. It made swimming into a pile of rotten-god-knows-what garbage ideal to getting stabbed to death by a bunch of psychos.


The moment Nori jumped in, he fell onto something unexpected. Nevermind the death polluting odor. What suck the living out of him was the person pulling him down as they sunk further beneath the ghastly waste.

Nori struggled against his assailant, causing his wound to tear a bit more. The sting had him hissed a grunt through gnashed teeth.


"Shush!" The voice hushed and a hand covered his mouth.


Nori's heart receded to its steady pace and he stopped moving. "Sen. What the fuck, you ended up here too," came his murmur. It was his best friend.


Outside, a pack of thugs ran up to the alley's entrance. Two of them came towards the crates, shouting Nori's name. They kicked and smashed the wooden stack off as if expecting to find him hidden behind it. They opened one of the dumpsters and the smell shooting up their noses had them cursing out loud. One of them was mad enough to kick the dumpster. Before he could open the second one, the comrades from afar called out to move on. Once the thugs left, only the ambiance of a grumbling sky remained.


Nori drew a breath, teeth gnashing again. "Fuck."


"What's wrong?" Sen asked.


They toppled one another under piles of nasty torn plastic bags and wet cardboards. Sen shoved a few things aside to give them the much-needed room for air.


"Fuckin' bastard had a knife at me earlier." Nori told.


"Shit. How bad?"


"Dodged most of it but I ain't gonna lie, it stings as fuck."


"We'll move when it's safer. The fence is our only safe way out. Can you climb?"


Nori palmed Sen's forehead to stop the latter from fondling where his wound was. "Quit fussing. The cut's not bad."


"Well shit, just making sure I won't have to haul you on my back that's all." Sen retorted.


Although Nori knew he would. Sen would do more than carry him over a fence – the guy would carry him across a battlefield if needed. And he'd do the same in return. There was this unspoken rule that existed between them.


"You reek of feces." Nori uttered.


Sen scoffed. "And you're all Sakura bloom yourself."


They fell quiet again just listening to the heavy rain. A while later when the coast was safe enough, they crawled out of hiding, and climbed over the fence. They landed onto what appeared to be the back alleyway of an abandoned textile shop.


"Call your driver." Sen advised.


Nori shook his head. "Lost my phone in the struggle earlier. You?"


"Out of battery." Sen replied.


"B'sides, I can't just phone up home and tell them I got myself into a ditch again. Our last little adventure still has me off the old man's books, he's been leaving me dry lately." Nori reminded Sen.


"Aw shit, yeah." Sen fumbled through his pocket for whatever cash he had left. "How much on you?" He asked and Nori pulled out a few bills. "900 yen," he said as they put their money together. "Fuck! That's not even enough for a cab fare past this shitty territory. Damn, it's moments like these I wish I had a plastic card."


"Sorry, mine's not working at the moment, but maybe this cash is enough to buy us a night here." Nori thought up. "Remember the old eatery we use to frequent during high school."


"Mushino Noodles and Express Food? It closed down years ago." Sen recalled.


"Yeah but the establishment behind it is still open."


Sen's brow drew. "The dump-hole? Even then it's across this slum to the east of Hinageshi! That's a freaking forty-minute-walk."


"No phones, no car, no money. We're fucked. I'd rather try for a shitty place than freeze my ass running any longer. We can't return to the club's lot, Sen. Those fuckers are sure to guard our car, if they haven't already beat it out." Nori declared.


Sen couldn't argue that so they maneuvered through the slum with caution, stopping to hide whenever they sensed danger. A careful travel took them longer than the regular stride – better safe than dead in their case.

Once inside the inn, or dump-hole as Sen called it, the old woman at the counter gave them a split-second glance as if the brisk arrival of sodden strangers oozing of foul odors was an everyday norm. Considering decadency was the inn's ultimate appeal, perhaps it was. Without a word, she took the money they tossed up. Then eyeballed them. A scowl vivid on her face as her hand extended forward asking for more.

They had nothing else to give so her gaze settled on Sen's necklace, which he refused to give up. Irked, she threw the money back at them and waved her hand at the door, directing them to leave.


Nori drew up the one item he had on him that was worth anything. His name-brand wallet which would still sell for a good five thousand yen. He emptied out the content and pushed it towards her. "This high-end leather wallet should get you enough to cover your expenses for a day. Just give us a room for tonight, please. Please, mam."


"Nori—" Sen protested but felt his friend's hand latch around his wrist.


She looked at them, reluctant to take the bait but the young man's desperation won her over. She figured whatever they were running from was probably life threatening enough for them to look like drowned rats. And that name-brand wallet alone told her they weren't from this part of town. She didn't want dead privileged kids within her vicinity who'd attract people from the bureau. Decidedly, she took both money and card before ushering them to the smallest room she had available for the amount she was given.


What braced Nori and Sen was a space resembling a bathroom with its pasty white concrete walls. It even came with its own tiny area of a drain pipe shower and toilet. A tall slim cabinet with a microwave-sized TV sitting in its hollow space, and an old wooden chair with chipped legs sat by the door. Neither furniture did anything for comfort, and were probably only there to lessen the atmospheric lavatory feel though failing miserably. The bed was a single mat rising a good foot off the floor, which to their dismay seemed rather crowded for two people. Still, anything was better than freezing in the storm.


As soon as their bedroom door closed, Sen began with, "Sorry. I couldn't do it—"


"If you had given it up," Nori cut his friend off, "I'd have beaten you bloody. I was there that day. When your mother said her last words, and gave you that charm so don't fuckin' degrade what she left you with by apologizing. Money's only paper. And it's my old man's papers so there's plenty more where that came from."


Sen flopped down on the bed. "Acting all high and mighty, shit," he smiled, "thank you."


Nori flicked the latter's forehead. "Blockhead." He said shifting his gaze to the shower.


Sen looked up. "Pokerfaced." Following suit, he knew what Nori had in mind.


"Dumbass." Nori retorted with and began his move.


"Deepshit." Sen countered.


On cue, they both attempted to dash toward the shower for first use but intercepted each other in a wrestling match onto the bed. They horsed around until Nori emitted another painful groan.


"Shit, your wound. We gotta clean it up." Sen admitted defeat, moving off Nori.


"It's fine. I'll do it myself."


Sen shoved him back onto the bed. "Don't fuckin' know how to let me act high and mighty for once, do you?"

Nori chuckled and obliged. "Guess I can play the obedient patient for a night, so hurry up and patch me up."

"Patching coming up." Sen fetched the small hand towel from the cabinet then opened the cupboard to see if there was any antiseptic solution or something close to it. All he got was a small bottle of bleach. He looked at Nori and back at the bleach in hand and sighed. Rubbing alcohol was preferable but they weren't in the luxury to be picky. Besides just a few drops of bleach should be fine to help with disinfection.


"Strip." He knelt next to Nori and waited for the latter to expose the cut. The wound wasn't deep but did run down long. Looking at it made Sen want to pound his fist into the bastard who carved the mark onto Nori. "You'll have to do with this bleach shit."


"No choice. Let's get on with – FUCKIN' SHITTY MOTHER OF BITCHES!" Nori's entire body clamped down from the sting as he grabbed a handful of Sen's hair. "Fucking warn me, stupid bastard."


"Alright, alright, let go of my hair, asshole!" Sen kept shoving against Nori's chest.


"You fuckin' did it on purpose." They broke from each other's hold.


"What, quit accusing me," but his grin gave him away, "fine, fine. I thought it'd be hilarious to watch you make a dump-face." He laughed hugging his sides.


Nori kicked the taller man a few feet off him. "I'll get you, don't forget."


"Yeah, yeah." Sen moved on to grabbed the extra bed sheet on the shelf and tore off a sliver for bandage use. "I'll help you wash up – can't risk getting it any damper." He got up to toss the bloody towel into the bin.


"We help each other. Wash my back and I'll wash yours." Nori offered.


"Guess we can both use an extra hand. Hell, every inch of us needs to be scraped off. Freakin' stench is cause enough for a rat infestation in this room."


Nori wore a put-off expression. "Don't even want to imagine what that dumpster was home to."


"Better not to." Sen concluded.


They went on to disrobe and get on with showering.



To Be Cont...

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Chapter 1




Aokata District, Shinkano City, August 2026



The apartment buzzed with police officials. Among the commotion a young rookie raced outside to vomit his latest indigestion over the second-floor railings. His squeamish actions resulted in a few laughs and banters from senior officers except for those inside the house who remained uninterrupted.


Two Special Investigation Bureau agents from the 27th District and a lead forensic fixed their gazes on the four bodies scattered over the floor of flat 16. A man in his late forties, one elderly woman, another woman around the age of thirty, and a boy no older than ten. The old woman and the boy were shot execution style while the man and younger woman had been dissected in a precise manner as if whoever did it went on a scavenger hunt inside of them. The couple's organs were all missing.


"Drug deal gone bad?" Said one of the SIB agents as he pressed the cloth in his hand firmer to his nostrils.


The carcasses had a lethal odor dating back a few weeks and were infested with maggots. Add on the decaying apartment's scent as well and the combination was as foul as sulfur. If it hadn't been for the old greedy hag landlord who kept harassing the closest police station to come help her evict the tenants, then today's findings would never had happened.


The old lady had been calling the station five days in a row about a noxious stench coming from flat 16 and how the tenant had been late in paying rent for two weeks. However, the Koban officers at the station didn't take her claim seriously because it was the Aokata district. Any case coming from such place was blacklisted as minimal urgency. Plus, the landlady hadn't sounded like she was even worried about the tenants but merely wanted the cops to play rent collector.


Aokata was the slum of Shinkano City. A place where lost souls lived. People who were running from something or someone, along with those who'd long given up on living a decent life. Drugs and prostitution was the way of life here. And it wasn't the sort of prostitution the red-light district offered either. Here, prostitution had a different meaning – one which had mothers selling daughters, fathers selling sons and the vice could even be said.


Majority of the cases from Aokata were overdoses and missing persons who went unreported because there was usually no one coherent to report them. In fact, the only reason those missing persons even made it to the search list was because they owed someone something and bounty hunters were often sent after them. Even then most of those bounty cases went on cold. Over the years, the city has tried to establish better laws and programs to help the district but those living inside Aokata only reach out so far before resuming to their old habits. In the end, the city fed up with losing tons of money to try and rebuild Aokata gave up on it. One city mayor even suggested that only a martial invasion would clean up Aokata, and such talks had been in debate since then but so far nothing's been concluded. They were many who opposed martial regulations of any kind. That and rich people didn't want their precious money going on to sponsor any form of assistance, be it military or innovated solutions, to help those they deemed unfit for life. Thus, Aokata remained a shithole. People here wanted cops to solve crime, they just didn't want to be part of the help. Proven true to Aokata nature, the landlady dismissed the cops once they arrived. She refused to cooperate in speaking with them and even went as far as barring herself inside her apartment yelling through the door for the cops to find her rent money inside that apartment.


"If it were a drug deal gone wrong Lieutenant Honjo, there'd be no need to gorge these two out." The forensic team leader said. "And this is Aokata, haven of junkies. Nobody comes here for organs, so it doesn't explain this type of killing either."


"If not over drugs and organs then what? I mean look at this place." Lieutenant Honjo Kazei, a five-year agent with SIB, muffled out his comment through the fabric held against his nose.


Flat 16 might's well be a gift boutique of 'All Things Dead' in hell's lobby. There were heaps of torn garbage bags filled with things that couldn't even be described piled up all around the room. Its floor was streaked with black dirt and blood everywhere. The single couch in the room was stripped to its bare wood and coated with fecal matter. A lone pillow with a nation of fungus was stuck between the couch's backsprings. By the side was a small round table with a set of old drug needles stained with blood residue. And the walls, they were decked with membranes of god-knew-what vining up to the ceiling.


"Despite the gruesomeness, Mobile Unit could have handled this. Why call SIB?" The second lieutenant said.


One of the senior uniformed officer said, "Because this is the fourth of its kind. First incident was two months ago in Ehime Prefecture – two women. The second killing was four days after, in Hiroshima City – three teenage boys. All teams who worked the cases made no connection until last week, the third incident in Hatsukaichi City just an hour south of that last one. Forensic results came back with a positive match that all these murders were done with the same tool, a pencil grip scalpel. And only someone with immense surgical experience could gut someone this cleanly."


The second lieutenant stood from his crouched position. "Forward all results to our division including all labs on the past three homicide scenes."


"Lieutenants," one of the uniformed called from a corner of the flat, "what do you make of this," he held up a blueish-purple marble, his fingers gently squishing it, "found it underneath this heap of plastic garbage. Looks like a bath gel, evidence or garbage?"


Kazei didn't care for it. "Garbage." He said but his partner had a different opinion.


"Neither. Just give it here," said the man after having peered at it for a long moment.


"Yes, sir." The officer dropped the gel cap in the lieutenant's hand and walked out of the room, a finger scratching his temple wondering why the man wanted the dirty gel-cap in the first place.


When all inspections of the crime scene were done, the two lieutenants headed back down to their car with Kazei's curiosity peeking. "You a fan of bubble bath now, Yashin."


Lieutenant Yamashina, or Yashin as Kazei called him, took to the wheel. "What, a man can't enjoy himself a bubble bath?"


"A man can. Not you." Kazei testified.


There was nothing laidback about Yashin's personality. He was all sharp edge, which contrasted his attractive visage. Fucking gorgeous face but Kazei knew damn well no one should ever mention it lest they earned Yashin's wrath. Their partnership had taught Honjo that Yashin reserved very little if nothing back when he struck a person. Reflexes and all, Yashin was capable of taking down three or four men in one go because the bastard always knew exactly where to jab a person to get them on their knees.


Yashin tossed the capsule to Kazei, and started the car. "Ever heard of Goryumo Lab?"


"Yeah, their shake down was all over the news back in 2003…was only in sixth grade then."


"What if I told you that before they were infiltrated and shut down by government forces, they were able to hide their last specimen."


Kazei's eyes lit up. "No fucking way! You're pulling my leg." He held up the capsule and peered at it. "It's just a damn bath gel."


"Glove compartment, open it." Yashin instructed, "Place it where it's darker and you'll see."


Kazei frowned but he did as he was told. He put the capsule inside the dark space. "Now what?"


"Look closer." Yashin said.


"I don't see—" Kazei left his words hanging while eyeballing the tiny particles inside the capsule irradiating blue lights. "How the fuck did you even see this from where you were standing earlier?" He swore there had been a good twenty feet between Yashin and the uniformed officer.


"Sharp vision," came Yashin's dry reply.


"This thing glows in the dark." Kazei commented.


"It's doesn't. It's just that you can detect it better in dark environment. Its particles absorb light and stores it for days. Once the cycle is over, the capsule dulls and becomes useless."


"How the hell do you know that, or if this thing's really from Goryumo Lab? Even Major has her doubts to what it looks like – as well as her boss, and those above her boss."


Simple, Yashin had seen it before, as a drawing. He read up on the drug's creation by accident so he can well distinguish between a harmless bath capsule and this specimen.Ten years ago, he'd gone into his father's study to find answers regarding the Rakujin Incident; one of the biggest hostage crisis ever to take place in their country. Since then, he'd been chasing this drug's tail, hoping that one day he'd come across the truth which sat at the center of all the mystery of that life changing event.


The Rakujin Incident had taken something from him – his future. What remained of him was a shell that breathed out of necessity in order reach the finish line of this case. When all was done, when he finally solves Rakujin, he hoped he'd still have enough strength left to live out what's left of his life.


"Yashin," Kazei threw his partner a side glance.


"Yeah," was his breathy reply.


"Whatever's up in that thick skull of yours, you ain't gonna share, are you?"


"We keep Major out of it." Yashin replied out of context, ignoring his partner's plea.


Kazei whistled. "You looking to end your career early."


"Major stays out of it." Yashin maintained.


Kazei raised a hand up in surrender. "Hai, hai. Whatever man but it'll be hard to look into things without Major being suspicious."


"We don't look." Yashin cut short, and after a moment decided it was high time he revealed a small fact. Mainly to test his partner, "I have someone off the books."


Kazei peered at Yashin. "Four years together and I'm just hearing of this."


"Nothing personal. I needed time."


"For what?"


Yashin's grip on the steering wheel tightened. "To make sure you aren't one of his loyal dogs."


"Ah so that's how it is." Kazei's partner didn't have to say who this 'His' was. He'd learned that whenever Yashin said 'Him', the man was referring to only one person; the great Commissioner General, Yamashina Hideo. "And have you? Made sure that is?"


"I've got my resources but I also know his resources outstretch mine." Yashin said.


"I see. So hypothetically, what if I were one of his loyal dogs?"


"Hypothetically, I'd put a bullet in you."


Kazei laughed. "And I thought my old man and I were the only ones who had it bad."


Yashin didn't trust people. There was only one exception to that and Honjo Kazei hadn't made the list. His partner may just be a mere pawn in this tug-of-war scheme between father and son. Even if he exhausted all of his resource to dig up the guy's background it wouldn't matter. He'd long ago learned that his father, Commission General Yamashina Hideo, was always going to be a step ahead. It had been a hard fact to swallow but one that he had to. There was no point in trying to figure out his father's next move – because there was none. The path had been paved beforehand.


But it didn't mean he couldn't maneuver through it because even the best laid out plans could have loopholes. And these said loopholes often led him back to stand before the gate of the Yamashina residence.

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Chapter 2





Yashin stood rigid staring through the bars of the gold and black gate of the Yamashina Residence. When thinking of home, one's place of childhood, the first thought should be that of comfort and fond memories. That didn't apply to him. This tall two-story stone mansion on the upper scale side of the city was once his greatest nightmare. He'd been too young to notice it back then but the small happiness he'd known for a short time had been a mere illusion veiling a secret. It had taken only a careless act on his part to see behind that curtain.




Yashin had been seven at the time; a timid quiet kid who loved airplanes. Sometimes, when his father came back home from a business trip, the man would bring him the latest design in aero models. He'd run outside with the remote-controlled toy just flying it around to see how far and high it'd go. His older brother, Ryuichi, would come join him whenever his studies were done, and the two would take turn flying the plane. He loved and admired Ryuichi.


Ryuichi was a kind and collected soul. There had never been anything amiss about his behavior and appearance. Good at everything from studies to sports, he was the family heir apparent. Both paternal and maternal grandparents had been extremely fond of him, and showed him off at social gatherings every time they could. For his age, Ryuichi had a tall athletic body, and his handsome face had always bought him floods of attention from women of all ages.


Their gate used to be ornamented with flowers and love notes all dedicated to Ryuichi from his fanclub. And each time, their widowed headmistress, Mrs. Inaba Umeko would grow mad from having to take down all those ribbons and flowers. She had even once proposed that his parents allow her to use her own pension to renovate their gate for a solid titanium sliding wall where girls wouldn't have anything to tie their love notes onto. His mother had laughed a hearty sound saying girls would just start throwing gifts over the wall then. And she had no plans of keeping Ryuichi from the world or vice versa. She'd told Mrs. Inaba that if taking down the flowers were too vexing then to just leave them to dry there. His mother thought a colorful gate of flowers and love notes all dedicated to her beloved Ryuichi was spiritually inspirational. Those had been her exact words.


One weekend, his father had finally received time off from work. Their family had decided to have a little picnic in the front yard. His mother and Mrs. Inaba had been sitting on the lawn while their father had gone back in the house for a phone call. He and Ryuichi had been flying a new model their father had brought home from his last trip.


Although it had been sunny, the wind had been strong that day so it had been harder to control the plane. Eager for his turn, he'd playfully snatch the remote from Ryuchi's hand and had guided the toy higher and higher. Laughing together, they ran around in circles chasing each other. Amidst their commotion the plane had ended stuck up their roof.


The wind became stronger and all he saw next was Ryuichi diving off head first because he'd slipped when reaching down too far for the plane caught in the gutter of the drain pipe. On his way down, his head had ended up banging the protruding ledge of the first level causing his body to flip mid-air. The plane and Ryuichi crashed onto the ground. The toy was shattered in several pieces and Ryuichi…


His mother and Mrs. Inaba came running to their side with the latter woman frozen on the spot from shock. His mother on the other hand, had emitted a shriek beyond normalcy the moment she saw Ryuichi sprawled on the ground with his eyes open and in a disjointed position with his head twisted to the side. She had taken Ryuichi in her arms, trying to straightened out his broken neck and place it back the way it should be. Each time failing, each time wailing louder – and louder. Her requiem echoed throughout their residence.

Yashin's small body had advanced forward. His bones had jittered like a marionette on a leash until his knees had dropped by Ryuichi's silent body. His trembling hand had attempted to touch the teen's colorless face but his gesture had forcefully been pushed away. His mother had shoved him off, her eyes glaring at him with something beyond hatred.


He had never forgotten it – her eyes. The way they had sentenced him eternally into darkness. He'd frozen. His child heart had stopped beating for that moment. He'd been so grounded by the soul swallowing abyss in his mother's gaze, locked inside that dimension of senseless void that he hadn't seen or even felt the first blow to his face. Or the second.


He had believed he deserved all of her rage – deserved her hand striking him over and over until a nerve in his eye popped, his face blackened from bruises and his lips red of blood. She'd struck him so hard his blood had splattered everywhere. Even then he couldn't feel the physical pain because shock had overcome him. He only knew he had to stay still and take it.


Mrs. Inaba coming to sense had used her own body to shield him until his father came.


The man didn't even have time to process what had taken place and acted on his first instinct. His father had yanked his mother off him and thrown her onto the ground. She only got up again and clawed passed his father, and had her hands on his small throat, squeezing the life out of him. And again, his father had shaken her off until the stoic man who had never once expressed rage broke his patience. His father's fist had sent his rampant mother flying two feet off. She'd fallen, unmoving next to the dead Ryuichi, weeping and mumbling things no one understood except for his father. She'd cursed them all until she had no more strength to utter another word.


His father had ordered him to be taken away by Mrs. Inaba, who spend several days nursing him. She had sat by his bedside until he finally opened his eyes again. Even then she hadn't left him and if anything was needed, she'd ordered the other maid to get it done.


One morning when he had regained enough strength to walk, he'd gone downstairs and saw his father standing outside their doorsteps. Curiosity had driven him to stand behind the man. It was only then that he noticed his mother with a suitcase in hand. His father had wished her well and turned away, jolting at his sudden appearance.


A car had arrived next and his mother had gotten in. She had left the manor, never looking back at either of them. And somewhere deep down, he'd known she would never return. He hadn't been surprised by her action though, and had always known that she had never love him like the way she loved Ryuichi.


As a child, he had believed that all mothers behaved the same. That it was natural law for mothers to love and cherish only the first born while treating the second born as an excess baggage. But a few years later, he learned the truth – about his mother's background, about Ryuichi.


Ryuichi was the son of his mother's first love; the love she couldn't have. The love of a lifetime she had to give up on, in order to protect both father and son from her own parents.


The thing was, his maternal grandparents were the sort of authoritarian social elites to make things disappear should they choose to. To secure their new corporate deal, they had forced his mother to marry his father who haled from a politically endowed family. Those two old folks had threatened the life of his mother's lover without knowing she was already three weeks pregnant with his child.


When Ryuichi died, his mother had written her parents a cease and decease letter saying that if they ever went looking for her, she'd expose them for the monsters they were and kill herself as a grand public exit. In her letter, she'd revealed the truth about Ryuichi's biological lineage, and how he was her one and only loving son. She went on to declare that since she couldn't have the love and life she had always longed for, then her parents didn't deserve a grandson either. She'd confessed to killing their real grandson the night she gave birth to him and to hide it, she'd bought a baby off a prostitute to raise – that he was such child.


His maternal grandparents had stormed after his father demanding the truth. However, his father had neither denied or confirmed his mother's story. He'd told them he was wasn't around that first week when she'd given birth so he couldn't tell them whether she made it up or not. Outraged, his grandparents had ordered his father to get a paternity test done on him. His father had told them it'd be better left unknown, else they'd have no heir if it turned out that he was truly the son of a prostitute.


In truth, he really was his parents' biological son. His father had never doubted that, purposely leaving the prostitution claim ambiguous for the sake of pissing off those two old folks.


It was the last time he'd seen his grandfather explode in rage. The old man must have taken his father's words to heart because no paternity test was ever done. And whatever inheritance his mother's family had been given him at birth had been reduced to a bare minimum of university grant. A few months later, news of his maternal grandfather's passing came about. And his father's indifference to the old man's death along with his absence from the funeral was the last straw which severed all ties with his mother's family. Afterwards, his father gave up on family business, married their headmistress Mrs. Inaba to give him a mother, and began to make his way up the police chain.




"Young Master," came a man's voice.


Yashin's thoughts scrambled upon the sudden appearance of his father's righthand man. The man had grown old over the years. Maybe in his late sixties now. His hair a mixed of silver and black, gave him a vintage essence. The man's attire was the only thing in the last thirty years which hadn't changed. As far back as he could remember, he'd only seen the old man wear a dark gray suit. Styles and colors had never made a presence in Mr. Satoya's life – or humor for that matter.


"Is there is a reason you're stalling there? It is your home, you needn't wait for anyone to open the door for you, Young Master," said the stoic man.


"Home, huh." Yashin walked on passed the old man.


"Young Master, if you've anything you'd like me to do, please let me know. I am going into town for some errands in a bit."


Yashin halted. "Mr. Satoya, you needn't try so hard. You and I both know I've ceased staying here. My mother is the only reason why I step foot here, now where is she?"


"You can't stop this old man from hoping, Young Master," Mr. Satoya curtsied. "Madam is in the greenhouse. I believe she's still working on the orchids."


Yashin paid the elderly man no more attention and moved on to the back of the manor where a tropical nursery was. Entering, he caught sight of the only virtuous figure in his bleak life. The one exception to his not trusting anyone. "Mom."


She looked up, one of her cheek smudged with a bit of dirt but nevertheless a picture of warmth and loveliness. "Kyo. You're home." She sprinted to his side. "I'm so happy to see you. It's been too long."


"It's only been six weeks." He simplified to which her nose wrinkled.


"Six weeks too long. If I had it my way, you'd be home every day." She hooked an arm around his and walked him to a corner of the greenhouse.


"You wouldn't get tired of my needy self?" He teased.


"If only you were so," she smiled, "but Let me show you my new addition." She took him to a set of large camellias. "What do you think?"


"They're beautiful. I didn't know camellias came in such rich colors." Yashin found the blossom's sangria shade, a deep purplish red, fascinating.


"They're new hybrids. And very much in demand." She smiled.


"Ah so you plan to cultivate them into business?"


She nodded. "Let's go inside. You're just in time for dinner."


Yashin liked coming home to her cooked meals and converse about the process of her flower business. Back then, the backyard had been nothing but dried flowerbeds, a large old waterless fountain and a picnic bench area. The former lady of the house wasn't one who cared much for yards and stuff so the estate had been a simple landscape. All that was taken down though. The boring oak trees casting too much shadows on the lawn, the wild flowers which turned to weeds from lack of care, the stone picnic table – all these were gone. The estate was remodeled into a green field with a fish lotus pond, colorful blossom trees and a tropical nursery house.


His mother had turned this once dreary place upside down and brought in more vibrancy. If not for his strenuous relationship with his father, he'd probably visit more often and not just on the days the man wasn't home. That and he detested Mr. Satoya's prying eyes. When he was here, he had this nagging sensation that his every move was being watched. Keeping an eye on him was the only reason why his father hadn't taken Mr. Satoya with him to Tokyo.


"Are you doing good, Kyo?" Her voice filled with concern.


Yashin nodded. "Busy with cases, that's all." He watched a shadow cast over her face.


"One day, I'd like to see the real you again…if possible," came her soft words.


He knew what she meant. The real him. Not the meek innocent boy she used to protect but the one born after that. She'd been there to witness it all. The change that took place with him. How he grew from being an invisible, pitiful child into a young man filled with raw passion for life. One who lived with a vengeance to spite the woman told him he wasn't a worthy creation. Someone had taught him to live that way. Someone who had been his life force. That person was no longer, leaving him only half alive.


"We both know it's not possible," he reached across the table to place his hand over hers, "but it doesn't mean I'll stop living. So please don't look so sad each time."


Her eyes teared up a little, saddened by his response. "Let's get you settle in for the night." She said and they left the table for the young maid to clean up.


She ushered him to what used to be a storage space at the end of the corridor before it was turned into his guestroom. His old bedroom was located on the second floor but since moving out he hadn't returned to it. He had no plans to. Whatever he left behind in this house he no longer had a use for. And each time he visited, he'd always request this guestroom so eventually she renovated it to suit his taste. This house with its miserable history, he always wondered when it would be put up for sale. There really was nothing here for any of them. Regarding his mother's nursey business, it could easily be moved elsewhere.


"Mom," he started but hesitated.


She could hear the distress in his voice. "What is it?"


"My old man has given you this estate, you can easily do away with it and move to somewhere livelier, so why stay? This place…" he stalled looking out the window to where the picnic table once was. "Has never embodied true happiness." As he spoke those words, a flashback of Ryuichi arching down to the drain pipe and smirking while starring at the seven-year-old him came to mind. The vision sent a shudder down his spine and he shook it off by tearing away from the window.


"You're all I have. I stay where you stay. I'll go where you go." Umeko said with a soft voice.


"I'm sorry." He mustered. He hadn't realized he was the reason. "There are times that I want to give up because part of me feels that it's pointless since the past can't be undone. To start anew oversea – anywhere. But each time I find myself unable to move. As if something keeps calling me to stay."


She trapped one of his hands in hers and hugged it to the curve of her neck. "Intuition. It's your intuition. I told you to live for the truth so don't be sorry. Be strong, Kyo. Be nothing but strong. Also, don't mind me, will you – and you're wrong. This place did bring me happiness – it gave me you when I'd lost my whole family. Your father was kind enough to hire me to care for you. Perhaps because he saw how distant that woman was with you." She smiled and patted his cheek lightly. "Now cheer up. I'll make you your favorite breakfast tomorrow."


He grimaced. "I’m not five anymore."


"Five or fifty, makes no difference to me. I'll still enjoy making you your favorite breakfast."


Yashin chuckled but the smile faded away just as easily. Reaching the inside pocket of his twill jacket, he took out a small plastic zip bag and handed it to her. "Pass it on, will you."


She stared at the item for a second then nodded. "This is the fourth one you've found in the last six years. Is it like the others?"


"I think it may even be The One." He said.


Her pupils dilated. "How certain are you?"


"I was called into a homicide scene dating back three weeks. That capsule was found on site, still emanating light even after all that time. Only a true specimen could carry on for so long but I don't know how much time we have left for full accurate results. According to past notes, a perfect specimen lasts anywhere from two to five weeks."


"I see. I'll have Hack put a rush on it." Umeko slipped the capsule inside her pants pocket.


Ah Hack…Yashin was just reminded he’d be paying that person a visit soon. Another two weeks and it’ll be that time of the year again.


The thrice-a-year routine visit was the only business he saw Hack for. Anything relating to the case had to go through his mother because she wasn’t on his father’s radar - yet. She'd managed to keep a lowkey in her involvement in his case. In fact, he met Hack through her during his most turbulent years because she’d been so desperate to save him from his own destruction. And Hack had provided him with an outlet from his misery – even if only temporarily.


"Does Mr. Satoya suspect anything?" Yashin wanted to know where the leak would come from if ever his secret investigation came to light. Currently, there was only three people, his mother, Hack and recently Kazei, who knew he was investigating things off the books, and Satoya wasn't one of them.


"No. I've known that old bark long enough to sense when he's got his eyes on me. As far as he's concerned, I'm just running a floral business. But why do you suddenly ask?"


"I did a background check on Honjo when we were first assigned as partners. He came out squeaky clean but I can't be certain my old man hasn't polished that up. So, I told Kazei that I have an unnamed source working on this case."


"You want to see if he'll leak it to your father or if it'll be Satoya." Umeko confirmed.


Yashin only nodded. "Truth is, I could use another hand but I won't get anywhere with someone who may intercept every move I make. You know as well as I do that my old man and I are on different terms on how to end this case."


"I do believe your father means well. I know he's omitting something from you and he'll probably go on doing so for your sake." She looked at him and saw determination written all over his face. She knew that no matter the cost, he was going to unravel every stone in his way to find out the truth. "But you don't believe he has the right to make that decision for you, so the two of you will go on clashing until this case is solved."


Her voice echoed a drift of sorrowfulness, which hollowed out the pit of his stomach and he wished he could be more for her. There was no better person in this life than Inaba Umeko. She had been there through thick and thin with them, and was still able to love them. Both he and his father. Her only wish had always been to see them reconcile and for once realize that a loving bond between father and son could exists.


"Thank you. For all that you are, mom."


She smiled as she placed a hand to his cheek, patting it once lightly. "Good night, My Young Master." She said gently and left him to rest.


Once alone, Yashin went to his desk and opened the side drawer. He lifted up the bottom board to reveal a hidden layer when an old journal dating back to fourteen years ago resided. The notebook wasn't thick, just about fifty pages – fifty pages which meant the world to him. Fifty pages of pictures, of scribbled confessions and promises to come. Dreams of the past on inked papers.


Yashin drowned himself in the picture he held up. The person in it was the core of everything he once was, and everything he'd become. Tracing over the visage's contour, his finger came to rest over the person's lips. Forever captured still-life lips which will never be able to return his affection again. His heart raced as fleeting memories of youthful days spooled around in his mind.


*** *** *** ***


// Hinageshi Red Light District – June 10, 2012…


Maybe it was the remnant of adrenaline from their marathon in the rain against those thugs – or the relief of their current safety. Who knew a shitty-hole-in-the-wall lodging would feel so sanctifying? Whatever the case, an alarming tension compacted into their tight atmosphere. It was absurd since they'd seen each other naked plenty of times before from attending public baths together, but tonight felt new somehow.


A hand running there. Another glossing here. Suddenly, the magnetic pull between them became unbearable – to the point that if the small space between them wasn't quashed soon, they'd suffocate to their last breath. The thumping of their hearts drummed on louder and faster. And the look they gave one another felt as though they could hear each other's lifeline vibrating out. Sanity was thrown out and replaced by savage desperation. Within one synchronized blink of eyes, aiding each other bathed unfolded into getting each other off.


From the shower to the bed, trembling and sloppy, moving with uncertainty, they began an inquisitive conquest to discover each other like innocent sweet virgin lovers would on their first night together. Except, neither of them was any of those pure things. Plus, patience had never been a well-practiced custom between them so the marveling exploration soon escalated to a sybaritic coition.


When the moment of folly came to a finish, the tempest in their chests rescinded to orchestrating droplet beats. Breathing became a thing of systematic harmony. A strange stillness ruled inside the room. Not the awkward kind of strange but the conscious sort.


Nori remained on the mat, back bracing the wall. His gaze lost in the small black screen of the cubic television, which resembled something from the eighties. The thought was irrelevant but he felt lucky to have been born after that ugly retro era. He never liked the ridiculous hair and shoulder pads look he saw in old magazines.


Sen occupied the chair. He sat there hunched over his knees with his hands resting on his head. His eyes fixated on the tip of his toes then moved to notice the ugly color of the floor; a dirty brownish yellow. Observing it, he figured the frayed tatami was older than him by decades.


Nori swallowed, the flexing on his neck bulging and visible. His mind wandering on about insignificant matters to postpone the surge of waking thoughts.


All the while, Sen began chewing on his lower lip. His consciousness refusing to lie sleeping much longer.

They weren't saying a word, nor making eye contact, but they knew. Both cognizant of their thoughts being identical. They lost themselves in a trance of self-reflection, cycling on about the same questions. When and how, what and where, what would come next, or should come next.


A clash of thunder struck the sky to affirm that comfort belonged to another realm and silence only solidified the dread. Though who should break it was up in the air. The sky roared again, a meeker grumble.


"I," came the unison word, then a long pause ensued causing both of them to clear their throats.


"Sixth grade," Sen took the initiative. "When you transferred in, the teacher mentioned that your family had spent time traveling Amazonia. Every boy wanted to be your bestfriend. The girls couldn't stop rambling on about you. They were so eager to have a cool classmate who'd seen things they hadn't experienced."


Sen chuckled at the memory as he went on. "But you were one fuckin' ominous being. Silent and cold, refusing anyone's approach and treating everyone like they were eyesores. Kids began to hate on you then. Calling you names and even picking on you. I believe their favorite insult was, That Creepy Alien From Out of Space."


Nori smirked as a flashback of his sixth-grade year came to him. Ah he'd been one bitter kid at eleven years old. Scarred by a past family trauma, he'd been unable to socialize with anyone. The mere thought of friendship seemed impossible at the time. Shedding his thick cocoon however came easier than he'd imagined when a certain eccentric boy intruded on his personal space. He was surprised by his own need to respond. Stranger was how close he and said boy became over the years, even landing them in this tacky room together.


"So, I've been wondering for the longest time," Sen scratched his neck. "You're from a prestigious family and all. And there were three other kids of similar status in our class. So why me? Why'd you respond to me?"


Nori's gaze shifted from the TV to hold Sen in plain view. "Because you were the only one who had this idiotic look on your face. The kind that said you didn't give a damn who I was or where I'd been. I was just another kid for you to fill your boredom with."


"What?! I came off that shallow?" Sen was a bit taken by the reply.


"No. Just so carefree. I used to think that nothing could harm you. Every day, you came to school with that stupid jovial face of yours as if you had the whole world in your hands – or loud mouth in your case." Nori admitted.


"Hey!" Sen protested to being called a loud mouth.


"Right, like you can prove otherwise." Nori said.


Sen's nose scrunched up. He couldn't. He really had been a mischievous insolent loud brat growing up. He straightened up and leaning into the chair, he crossed his slender legs at the ankles. "So, what you're saying is, I was damn impressive even at that age, eh." A smug grin plastered his face.


Nori hissed, "Don't get so cocky bastard and turn what I said into a compliment."


Sen laughed. "But you know, I was just gonna let you be all sulky and stuff, not bother with you one bit. But we ended up in the same junior high, even in the same class too so I had to put an end to it." He informed in a nonchalant voice.


Nori grunted. "It's not like I couldn't take on those kids' bullying."


Shaking his head, Sen emitted another chuckle. "That's not it. I could tell you were the type to handle yourself damn well. No. What I wanted to end, and understand, was your annoying endless gaze. Your gloomy eyes used to follow my every move."


Nori moved over to the edge of the mat and planted his feet on the floor. "You…"


"Didn't think I noticed?" Sen still wore his proud smirk on, "With the way you ogled me, it was only a matter of time before I stepped up to you – especially when we were going to be attending the same school for the next three years."


Nori leaped forward but tumbled down with a knee hitting the floor after two steps. Hell, he'd forgotten about the pain from their bed rumpling session until it shot up his back.


Sen sprinted to help his friend back onto the bed. "Calm down, Nori. I wasn't being funny or insulting. I'm just looking for answers."


Nori blinked. "Answers to what?"


In an Indian pose, Sen's chin rested on a brought-up fist as his eyes pondered sideways. "When and where it all started."


"Our friendship? Isn't obvious—"


"The thing, Nori. The thing that's become us." Sen stated and witnessed how Nori's expression lit up in bewilderment.


"The th-thing -- us?" Nori couldn't move passed Sen's tasteless portrayal of…well damn. Shit, perhaps it was a thing since he was lacking any other word himself. "And you thought going back to the first time we met would give you answers?"


"Isn't there a saying that if you get lost somewhere, or was it, lose something -- shit like that, just retrace your step? Wouldn't going back to the beginning be the logical thing to do? I mean, to find our turning point."


Nori frowned even deeper. "Logic and you in one sentence, do you even know what logic means."


Sen jolted. "Whathefuck! I've got brains!"


"I've seen your fist swinging out first countless times before your brain lit up neurons to consider other options. You're a classic case of, Brain What Brain?" Nori droned in dry humor.


To that, Sen grunted in defeat, only mustering a distasteful face at Nori.


Nori massaged his temple and groaned from fatigue. He adjusted himself under covers saying, "Since I'm the one who was breached into, I'm entitled to the bed so good night."


"The hell! Making it sound so damn technical and cheap." Sen felt slightly insulted, that and he really didn't want to feel the discomfort of either chair or floor but seeing Nori's daggering glare had him raise his hand up in defeat. "Please take the bed."


Nori closed his eyes, turning on his uninjured side for better comfort. "I'm kidding idiot. It should fit us both if we," he stopped short realizing what the next word was. Oh, the hell with it, they were passed that point.


"If we spoon." Sen finished the sentence.


Silence transcended upon them for a moment.


"Why are you still on the floor?" Nori incited, and a second later, heard Sen mount the bed.


Sen's warm lips touched his friend's nape. He latched an arm around the slender man's waist, careful not to touch the injured part. "Nori." His breath kissed the said man's ear and felt the latter curled against him. "I've seen you naked plenty before but I've never counted them."


"Quit spewing weird shit out, moron," came Nori's reply. The heat of Sen's mouth against his skin sent his heart racing all over again. Stupid sensitive body, came the thought.


"Seven. Seven beauty-fuckin'-marks from your nape down to your, well, palace entry." His grin was big and childish. "Makes good for some bird constellation migrating South-Pole if one plays connect the dots."


"Pa-pal-ace entry?" Nori staggered, trying to register the pun within the rest of the words. He rolled two hard knuckles behind him and slammed them against Sen's forehead.


"That fuckin' hurt, Deepshit!" Sen barked and rubbed the back of his hand over the burned spot.


"Being a fuckin' idiot has its retributions, dumbass." Nori grinned. Palace Entry, Constellation, and Bird Migrating South…Only Sen could utter such depraved stupidity.


"Fuckin' retribution, I'll give you retribution." Sen turned Nori over and topped him.


"The fuck happened to treating a patient kindly." Nori teased. He looked up the pair of eyes above him and saw his own reflection.


"That so, have I not been kind?" came the inquiry. Sen leaned down bringing their noses to almost touch.

Nori reached up and flicked Sen's forehead. "You've been kind," his index finger ran down the man's chin and up his mouth. The digit toyed with Sen's lower lip.


Sen caught the traveling finger in his mouth and grinned. "Yeah? How kind?" He mused, his mouth let go of the finger and moved down to graze Nori's lips.


"Sky high." Nori muttered and watched nostalgia wear Sen's face.


The unspoken rule that existed between them…Sky High.


It was more than a promise between friends. More than a pact. More than an oath of loyalty. It was an instinctual seal. Their seal; the invisible red thread that bound them together through thick and thin. Engraved between them for the first time nine years ago during their eighth grade year, when rather than help Nori fend off the bullies that had cornered him, Sen had just sat by and watched the whole scene go down.


…"You gonna cry for your mommy now?" He sneers down at the beaten-up boy sprawling on the ground behind their school's gym.

"Fuck you," is his rag reply.

The taller boy with the brightest smile says, "Don't know why you let them kicked your ass and don't care, but when you get tired of it, just rise. Rise sky high – to where I am," with that, he walks away whistling …


Thinking back on that day made Nori kind of miss the years when all they knew was to raise hell, laugh about it and tell tall tales of their glories.


"Shit, if I knew it was going to be this good," Sen said between kisses, "I would have jumped you sooner."


Nori was surprised by the revelation. "You idiot. You saying you've thought of doing this before?"


Sen chuckled. "Not just once. I don't know…the train of thoughts just sort of happened – and I couldn't shut it off. But in my defense, you're partly to blame."


"What stupid shit are you going on about now?" Nori couldn't figure out what he'd done to set Sen on this path.


"Sure, play innocent but hell, the way you look at me sometimes, Nori, it's enough to boil my balls."


Nori's shoulder shook with laughter. "Swear, I fucking hate your stupid analogies. Fucking idiot."


Sen's grin widened. "Yeah, whaccha gonna do about it?"


Nori locked his arms around Sen's neck and brought him down for a hard kiss. "How's that?"


"See, you are to blame." Sen teased.


As their lips sealed again and again, Nori realized how much he enjoyed Sen's tongue intrusion in his mouth – among other intrusions being done to other parts of his body. It was their first time together but Sen had a way of coaxing him to relax and let himself go. He didn't have to hide and put up barriers. With Sen, he was who he wanted to be – someone high on life, living the present like there was no tomorrow yet all the while paving is own future; with Sen by his side.


When the room turned black and quiet, Nori reflected on their friendship. He admitted to sharing Sen's curiosity. Their turning point – Sen had called it. When, where, and how. It bothered him because he was attentive to details. Yet he'd failed to notice the change in their friendship. Tonight's outcome couldn't be a spur of the moment thing. Decade long friends didn't cross over the fence on impulse. Not without having reached some similar level of infatuation somewhere along the way.


It had never been a secret in their social circle that they shared a deeper connection than the rest of their friends did. They knew everything about each other; likes, dislikes and all other family stuff. In high school, they shared almost everything. Even the girls they dated. Oh hell, he remembered the girls. They shared those girls like sharing the cigarettes they smoked. They even lost their sixteen-year-old virginities to the same college girl in an experimental threesome. Yes, they had an acrid reputation in the dating department. That somehow didn't deter the girls from coming their way thought. They were a good-looking pair of delinquents after all. Still were. The good-looking part that is. Truth was, their dating habit hadn't changed much since high school.


In fact, nothing about them had changed even after their copulation tonight. Cussing and squabbling was as on par as the hour before. There was no shying away, no lightning bolt declaration, and most of all no grand revelation of any kind. They were their same old selves – with an added awareness. //


*** *** *** ***


Yashin stirred awake. Morning shot into his room through the window. He'd forgotten to pull the drapes closed yesterday. Slowly, he pulled himself up and caught sight of the photo by his pillow. He picked it up and walked over to the journal he'd left opened. He placed the picture back on the page where it belonged and stalled, looking at it longer.


People said time healed wounds. He'd like to meet those people and beat the living out of them for making stupid shit up. He only had desperate longing – wishful hope that one morning he was going to wake up and see that person sleeping next to him.


For every day after the Rakujin incident, he'd gone mad trying to off himself, and dosing himself to sleep because he'd convinced himself the whole incident was a mere nightmare. Believing that if he slept long enough and woke again, his life would go back to what it was.


It was his mother who brought him back to sense. Umeko had been so furious with him when she and his father found him near death's door in some halfway house's bathtub. He still remembered the slap she'd given him when he woke up three days later in a hospital bed. His father on the other only had on a blank expression and once seeing that he was alive left as quickly without a word.


Umeko had remained with him and in tears, she'd spoken words which had weighed in on his life. Those very words made him want to crawl back onto his feet.


..."You stupid child, if you die this way, both of your existences would just be in vain. If you truly loved that person, then live. Live and search for the truth, and carry that truth with you to your old age so it wouldn't feel like he died for nothing…"


When he stopped trying to die, when he cut off from the drugs and the drinking, he made her words his one and only goal. So time did take away the insanity, it just didn’t heal him. He closed the journal and put it back in its hidden place. Next month marked twelve years exactly since the Rakujin incident. Twelve years since he lost that person.




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Chapter 3




Aokata District, Shinkano City, September 2026




He received a call from Umeko saying it would be a week before Hack could give a full diagnosis of the drug. The results should be ready by the time of his upcoming visit. For now, his attention was fully drawn on the man he’d cornered.


Three days ago, he'd gone back to speak with the damn landlady since she had refused to cooperate the first time around. Disregarding her civil right, wasn't like residents of Aokata asserted their rights in the first place, most of them were always too high or too scared, he barged into her house and pressed her for information, even paid her. She caved and described a man with a burn mark on his upper right cheek – something resembling a musical bass clef as the last person who met with the tenants of flat 16. In the police database, there was only one man who matched the description.


Hashioka Yubei was a low-grade drug peddler, often getting his good from third party handlers. This time however the mule went and got himself into more trouble than he could handle, causing him to go into hiding. It made searching for the peddler a pain in the ass.


If not for Hack’s help Yashin would never have found Hashioka living in hiding inside his aunt’s closet. The piece of information hadn’t been easy to obtain either since the woman wasn’t registered as a relative of Hashioka. Hack had mentioned that a thorough search into Hashioka’s background only led to an old junior high graduation picture with his parents and some unknown woman next to them.


Yashin tracked down the woman and staked her place for two straight nights, waiting until the old woman was out to break in and search her apartment for any signs of Hashioka. He stumbled on the peddler in the midst of taking a shower, spooking the ladder who came at him with every nearby toiletry items he could grab. In return, he knocked Hashioka out with one sharp blow to the man’s gut. The impact only seemed worst because Hashioka wasn’t much of a fighter to begin with. He ended up hauling the man out into his car and drove them back to the most secluded area in Aokata where even stray dogs didn’t wander for fear of being eaten by the famished lost souls here.


"Come on man, let me go. I swear I don’t know anything." Hashioka begged on his knees.


Cigarette in hand, Yashin was leaning on a wooden box piled against the narrow backstreet’s wall. A leg stretching across to the adjacent wall and blocking the peddler’s only exit out of the lane. "Four dead, one a child and you expect to walk out of here tonight. You’re not very smart, Hashioka."


"I told you already. I just pick up packages." Hashioka insisted on his innocence.


Yashin crushed his cigarette between the two fingers which held it. Straightening up, he grabbed Hashioka by the collar and slammed the man against the wall. He pressed down on the man’s head, squashing his face even more to the cold façade. He drew his breath to the suspect’s ear, speaking in a low sharp tone. "Speak. Or tonight will be your last."


Hashioka’s body trembled. His whimpering muffled against the wall. "You wouldn’t dare. You’re a cop…you’re supposed to uphold the law."


"Even a saint has his demon. So make no mistake, if you insist on obstructing my investigation, I’ll insist on making you into maggot food." Yashin grabbed a handful of the man’s hair, pulled his head off from the façade only to smash it back against it. He repeated the motion until the man was sobbing for forgiveness. He finally let go and watched Hashioka’s slide down, leaving a streak of blood in its trail to the ground. He turned the guy over onto his back with the tip of his foot.


"Th- the Cobras," his busted lips quivering from fear and pain, Hashioka stuttered what he could get out, "It’s from the Cobras."


Yashin looked down at the man with utter curiosity. "What the fuck did you take from them?"


"I – I didn’t. I swear. It’s just that my buddies and I got curious about whatever shit they were keeping on the lowest deck of that boat, The Chameleon…so we waited until one night the ship was vacant due to port authority’s annual inspection. We stowed onboard and after searching every nook down the lower deck, we found a crate full of these purple gels – pills of some sort. And…" Hashioka hesitated to go on.


"And," Yashin’s patience was wearing thin.


"One of my buddies popped one in his mouth to test it out. Within minutes he was sweating bullets and panting mad. For a good moment, he kept saying something was wrong with his vision – that he was seeing in blue. And suddenly he became as high as a kite – making weird sounds. We couldn’t calm him down so we…"


"You’re on borrowed time, Hashioka." Yashin said when it looked like the peddler would rather choke himself to death than finish his tale.


"We killed him!" Hashioka sobbed louder. "We didn’t mean to but he wouldn’t shut up no matter what we did and suddenly, it felt as if he’d become stronger than all of us so we stabbed him, and dumped him overboard." Remorse for what he’d done came in the form of his breathless sobbing.


Yashin’s brows drew. A body in the port’s water? Why had it not made news by now? "The body, where is it?" Yashin demanded.


"I don’t know – but that’s the thing. Aren’t bodies supposed to float up when dead. Since that night, we’ve been waiting to hear anything in the news but nothing ever came."


"What of the tenants of flat 16?"


Hashioka shook his head. "I sold that slut some heroin that’s all. I had nothing to do with what happened to her and her family – but I can tell you who sold her the other stuff."


"You’re not the last person to see them alive?"


"I keep telling you…there were a few of us."


It darned on Yashin. Annual inspection of all commercial vessel docked at the port was two months ago. The same time as when the first scalpel murders happened. "One of your dumbfuck friends went back for the pills, didn’t he." It wasn’t a question but a statement which only required confirmation.


"Yeah. Bastard is the reason we’re all being hunted by the Korean Cobras." Hashioka revealed.


"His name, your friend." Yashin demanded.


"Toshi. Wakatsu Toshi." Hashioka revealed.


"Where can I find him?"


"I don't know. I haven't seen him since flat 16. We intentionally kept it that way so in case if one of us gets caught we wouldn't be able to snitch each other out."


"How does he look like then? And you’ better get me something I can go by."


"About five-seven and early forties. All I know is he’s got a kid brother. Toshi said the brat likes to turn tricks…you know with men. I heard Toshi call him Shuo. Probably the only person who may know Toshi’s whereabout."


It was better than nothing. Plus, he had someone who may be able to find out about this Shuo. Yashin knelt down to close in on the man. He dropped a stash of cash on the ground. "You have until morning to disappear. I don’t ever want to see you in this city again. You saw no one tonight. Not a word to anyone about meeting me. If I so much feel a whisper in the air, it’s not only a promise but a guarantee that I will hunt you down, find you and make you swallow your own tongue before burying you alive."


Yashin left the crook in the gutter and drove off. He was heading home tonight, finally after two nights of stake out. And he needed release.






Once done with shower, he slipped on a t-shirt and thin sweat pants, and called for the usual. Within thirty minutes, his doorbell rang. In walked a slender young man of twenty with bleach blond hair. Yashin noticed something new about the youth. Two small silver stars adorned the corner of his right eye.


"You like' em? I got them put on just for you." He said noticing how his patron eyed him.


Yashin admitted the jewels did compliment that pretty face even more but he wasn't impressed. Nothing about the youth impressed him. The boy was a mere walking sex doll. "Stupid thing to do then."


The young escort scoffed. "Yeah, I ain’t so stupid when I’m sucking you off though."


Yashin wasn’t in the mood for smart-attitude brats. He never was and the boy knew better, but perhaps he’d forgotten it. "I don’t pay you to have a mind or look all cutesy. Stick to our arrangement kid or I’ll find another regular."


The escort recoiled, feeling miserable about even trying to look nice for the man. "Sorry."


"Don’t get ahead of yourself and do stupid things to impress me. You’re a lifetime behind, and I’ve no room for anyone’s fancy ideas." Yashin reminded the escort.


While he was glad the boy had lasted two years as a regular, he didn’t need anything beyond getting blown by that experienced mouth. They’d never had sex, or touched in any other way. It wasn’t because he was afraid of physical contact with another being. He just had no desires for it. He only knew his body didn’t respond amicably to anyone’s intimate touch. And getting himself off by a paid blowjob was about as good of a release he could handle.


The escort looked like he had a comeback retort but fear provoking his patron.


"You’ve got something on the tip of your tongue, brat. If it’s worth saying it say it, otherwise can it." Yashin called the youth out.


"Nothing. Let’s just get on with it." The escort decided.


Yashin settled in the sofa chair and waited for the escort to work on his crotch. He watched as the youth undid the clip button of his sweatpants and began mouthing his member. He closed his eyes not wanting to settle his gaze on the young man. It was routine for him to imagine the youth to be someone else because it was the only way he could truly enjoy himself.


Behind shut eyes, the face slurping on his cock was no longer a flamboyant creamy skin, short scrawny blond. Rather he replaced such image with someone sharper. Taller. Broader. Toner in both complexion and muscles. Someone whose gaze alone used to make his body squirm. He remembered a time when they’d had sex for three hours on because, being young and stupid, they tried out some kind of aphrodisiac they’d bought on a shady website. The result was petrifying as they ended up with erections lasting longer than normal, and even thought they’d have to go to the emergency. Luckily, the amount they’d ingested hadn't been strong enough to paralyze them until morning. It was one night they didn’t repeat again. Safe to say their curiosity regarding sex and aphrodisiac was completely quelled after that. Sobriety had been a more intensive high.


He came back to sense when he ejaculated into the escort’s mouth. Mind still in a haze, he watched the youth through half closed eyes getting up and fetching a towel coming back to wipe his genitals. The youth used that same towel to wipe his own mouth – the action causing him to frown.


He buttoned up his pants and sat up straight. "Why did you do that?"


The escort blinked. "Do what?"


"Use the same towel on your mouth." Yashin said.


"Just seemed a waste to use another one. Besides what’s the big deal?"


Yashin stared at the youth for a silent moment. He knew something had been up with the youth lately but it hadn't bothered him until tonight. "You…are you falling for me?"


The escort turned quiet and walked off to throw the towel in the bin.


"Answer me brat!" Yashin barked.


The young man whirled around on his heels, an angry expression on his face. "Two years with you, Lieutenant Yamashina, I’m bound to feel something and I won’t say I’m sorry or make excuses. But I don’t expect you to see me as anything else other than the trinket you buy for a few minutes."


Yashin wasn’t a complete jackass. He did hold the youth up to some status. Just nothing past the level of professionalism.


"Kaoru," it was one of the few times he addressed the escort by name, "I won’t hold it against you if one day I call and someone else shows up. You’re welcome to quit seeing me as you wish. But you are right. Feelings are wasted on me. No one should have them."


"Why, Lieutenant? Caring for someone won't harm you. It's actually a wonderful feeling."


Yashin sighed. He didn't want to get into talks of his loveless life with anyone. "Enough of this talk. I didn’t call you here just for my enjoyment. There’s something else I’d like to discuss."


Kaoru knew best to drop the topic of his patron’s personal affairs lest the man cut him off. Despite everything, he wanted to keep seeing the handsome lieutenant. Any escort would cling to that face. He wasn't a disgusting prick like most patrons were. He was just detached – too detached.


"In your circle, is there anyone by the name of Shuo?" Yashin asked.


"I know at least four Shuo, all from different agencies but they all use that name it as a nickname only. Why?"


"It pertains to a homicide case I’m working. I need this Shuo to find and identify someone for me. It’s crucial that I catch this person." Yashin revealed.


"Do you have a physical description?"


Yashin shook his head. "All I was told was that he likes to turn tricks and has an older brother named Wakatsu Toshi."


"Turn tricks?" Kaoru pondered. "Lieutenant, I don’t think it’s any of the Shuo I know."


"How’s that?"


"Because the term Turn Tricks is used only by street hustlers. Agency escorts don’t need to turn tricks, we choose from our verified paid in advance client list."


"Shit, so you wouldn’t know." Yashi said.


"I didn’t say that. In our line of work, we do friend a few street hustlers here and there, and if they're worth investing, we get bonuses when we introduce them to our agencies."


"I don’t want you getting killed over it, got it. Just try for an address nothing else."


Kaoru smiled. "Why, Lieutenant, you do feel something for me after all."


"Yeah. Preventing a white sheet over your dead body comes with my territory." Yashin could see his answer had wiped the mirth of the youth’s face.


"Always the mood killer." Kaoru got ready to leave. "I’ll see what I can find out but I may not get anywhere so don’t hold your breath."


"I won’t." Yashin locked the door after Kaoru left and slumped against its frame.


He didn't want to inconvenient the brat but he was out of better options. Besides, that trinket could have just refused – wasn't like he held a gun to his platinum head. Yeah, he knew beforehand that Kaoru would agree to help because from observation, the latter liked him way too much. He should feel bad and he did pity the youth but he was desperate. And somehow that became his motto over the long years; use anything and anyone to get his way. In the end, all that matter was solving his case…so he could finally put his past ghost to sleep, forever.


Yashin didn't know what the future entailed for him but he knew it be a lonely one – until he moved on from the past and learned to open his heart again. If possible.

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Chapter 4




Dream Parlor Numéro Sept, Neon Ward, September 2026




Yashin drove through Neon Ward. A sector north of the city where the high-tech corporations, among other small IT venues were located. A place where machines outnumbered humans. Anything from a simple hologram to walking, talking artificial intelligence existed. Be it an automated food-stop or a robotic tourist guide, the sector was built to cater to all human needs. Even emotional or physical needs.


He pulled into a parking lot which was closest to where he was heading. The ward was just one large high traffic street about five miles long. It reminded him of the Las Vegas strip in the States. Except Neon Ward was all high-tech buildings. Even the sidewalk was paved in metallic cobblestones. The ward had this super neat freak look to it. Not a piece of junk on the street or sign hanging where it shouldn't belong. Cylinder garbage disposals were lined up every ten feet along the sidewalk and a troop of bots was scheduled to pick the loads on a nightly basis.


He passed by some fancy hotels and other apartment buildings before turning into a dark alley between a large department store and a condominium. Going to the end of the lane, he reached a narrow four-story establishment. Above the entrance was a design of two dies with face-numbers equaling the sum of seven. Underneath the cubes were the white-light neon words of 'Numéro Sept'.


A dreamscape parlor.


One where people came to rest for a while to experience divine dreams. It was believed that those who awoke from such dreams became better people in both behavior and social status. Many of Numéro Sept's clients were either already successful people or people looking to become successful. However, membership came at a high cost though the company did offer a one-week pro-bono open-to-all session every year during Christmas as a community service.


Yashin stepped inside and was greeted by the usual humanoid receptionist at the glass counter, a girl named Karin, made to forever look twenty-five.


"If it isn’t my favorite SIB lieutenant of the 27th." She beamed, her pupils glossier than humans.


The first generation of humanoids had been stiff and majorly robotic in appearances. Today, their aestheticisms had become much more advance but not quite reaching the natural human look yet. Their movements still lacked fluidity and their eyes reflected too much light along with skin that was too glossy. It wasn’t because the science wasn’t there but funding only went so far. Public tech facilities were limited to how much they could spend, leaving only the richest private corporations up to the task. And even then, it was pricey and wasteful to produce a human-quality droid nobody asked for, so companies only created them based on demands.


"Good evening, Karin." He said in a mellow voice.


"Please have seat. Hack will be with you shortly." Karin instructed.


He nodded and took a seat in the lobby. Taking notice of his surrounding, he was surprised to see that the hologram theme of the mural had changed. The last time he was here five months ago was the Victoria Falls of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The year before, pirates and ships, and even before that, all things real or fantasy related to water and ocean. He'd swore Hack had an affinity towards wanting to be a mermaid – until now. Tonight, the mural of hologram was a juxtapose of blue skies and galaxies.


Yashin chuckled under his breath.


Hack must have gotten bored of the ocean life. Perhaps she'd developed an inclination towards wanting to be a bird this time. Or a spaceship. Or an alien. Who knew. Hack was eccentric that way.


"Sorry for the wait." Hack, a forty-five-year-old woman with a slender built and pitch black hair, came out from behind the set of double doors. She wore her usual white lab coat over a neat dark blue suit and her hair was tied in a ponytail. "You’re in for a surprise," she sounded eager.


"I’d rather not." Yashin was quick to dismiss the news. Knowing Hack, a surprise wasn’t always a good thing.


"You’re not even curious? I swear it’ll blow your mind off." She teased.


"No." He walked off into the open hallway and found the elevator.


"Party pooper." Hack whined after.


Reaching the end of the second floor's corridor, they stopped in front of a door marked Room 10. She led him inside to the sleeping pod. The ultra-white capsule with a squeaky-clean glass door was the only furniture in the room. The left side of the wall was a gigantic mirror where the control vestibule was.


"One last time, you sure you don’t want a go at my surprise?" She said while waiting for him to get all settled inside the pod.


Yashin shed his jacket, shirt along with shoes and socks. He was down to his tank-top and pants when he climbed into the capsule. "No, thanks."


"Your loss." She pressed the button to seal the pod then punched a code onto the monitor attached at the head of the pod. Within seconds small tubes on the inside of the capsule shot out to pierce needlepoint ends into the designated part of his body and brain. Once the set up finished, she disappeared behind the large mirrored wall.






Hack monitored Yashin's brainwave and breathing from the control room. She wasn't in the habit of surveying sessions. Her system was built to safely conduct every dream cycle and had never once in the fifteen years of business experienced a comatose client. There were those who felt some minor muscle weakness but nothing that an energy drink didn't fix.


Yashin was different.


His sessions required her full attention. Unlike the rest of her clients, who came here to experience marvelous dreams for happiness and success, he came to visit his past. She’d been against tweaking her system to accommodate him but his mother, well Umeko was someone she couldn't refuse.


Before bringing Project Live Memory to life, she’d instructed both mother and son about the physical side-effect. Possible nerve paralysis, fatigue and time-lag. There was also the chance of him being stuck inside a loop in the past. In such case, she'd be forced to use a defibrillator or chemically induce his awakening. She wasn't in favor for either method as neither promoted a health life.


Yet despite her warning, Yashin wasn’t deterred one bit. But along the line, the sessions began to linger longer than recommended.


She sat back in her chair and watched both monitors. One showed his vital signs along with brain wave. The second showed his past. A sequence of live memories appearing as strings of numeric codes she'd been watching for the past five years. Sometimes the same string repeated and other times, a new one was computed but it was still within a manageable scope. So long as there weren't excessive strings of new codes. New strings meant his mind was wrapping around too much detail, it meant he wasn't visiting his past anymore – but living in it and entering the first stage of brain vegetation. Her job was to make sure he never reached it.






// Hinageshi Red Light District – June 10, 2012



The first light of day was no bluer than yesterday. Except it sprinkled rather than cascade a river down. They got ready and no sooner left the dump-hole lodging, making a run for the subway station to catch the earliest train. There was no point in going back to fetch their car. It should be long gone by now with those hooligans probably having towed it to some impound garage. Relief only came when the subway cart finally rolled away from enemy territory. They exhaled together, shoulders slumping in ease as they took their seats.


"We have to find out if the other guys are ok." Nori voiced his concern.


"Yeah. We'll get with everyone later." Sen replied, hoping that their five friends were safe and sound. "But your car?"


Nori let out a restless puff. "I'll make up something."


After the station, they walked on in silence, immersing through the busy sidewalk of downtown's central square. Upon reaching parting point, their gazes lingered on one another. Neither sure whether to bid farewell or to say something more. Their idling prompted the buzzling people to sway aside, making them seem like a pair of still-pin anomaly within a flowy octagonal colony of parasols. The drizzle, light and steady, seemed to match the calmness of their heartbeats as each held one another in plain view. They turned deaf to the industrialized sounds of cars, blind to the many faces who passed them by. Their surrounding seemed to have hazed off in the way a camera blurred the background of its main subject to heightened said subject even more. The slow rise of emotion between them ignited, locking them into an eternity of a moment. Until a pair of young kids tumbled against them, quickly apologizing before running off, shattered the ornamental moment.


"Get to a payphone and call your driver." Sen reluctantly said, even croaking on the first word in the same manner as when he'd first waken up from a long sleep.


"Ye- yeah," was Nori's quiet and equally forced reply.


"I err…better head…on my way then," Yet Sen remained in place.


Nori watched Sen stalled there. Hands in pockets like a child waiting for something to happen. He recognized the stance. It was Sen's signature for wanting to say something profound but lacking in the matter. The guy wasn't all that great with words. He found himself wishing for his friend to break silence. Screw saying profound things. He just wanted to hear Sen utter anything to calm his own nerves down.


"I can drop you off." Nori offered in haste looking for a reason to latch on longer.


"Old man Satoya wouldn't appreciate the sight of me. He's got his loyalty to your father, whom we both know sees me as a mongrel."


What was it that Nori’s father had once said? Oh yeah, something along these lines, "I can, with great effort and much reluctance, accept that you are friends witch such undignified pack but I won't respect their kinds. Don't let me see them." The fact never evaded Nori though he hoped that someday his stringent father would see the good in his friends - especially Sen.


"I should go." Sen finally turned away.


Nori watched his bestfriend off and felt his stomach hollowed. The urge to go after Sen stirred him in a manic mode but he couldn't get his body to move. Instead he admitted defeat and went on his way only to stop several feet from his last spot. His gut nagged him over, reminding him he still had a chance to turn back. Yet fear grounded him. Fear? Maybe things weren't as clear between them as he believed. They didn't speak about the matter anymore than yesterday's few shared words. Yes, their cozy little interaction had left an afterglow richer than any fancy vocabulary translated. Still, he needed further reassurance. He needed to know that the transpiration between them wasn't just a fluke. Something to be cast on the shelf and never spoken of again because his heart felt heavier than usual, he realized.




His head snapped up at the sound of his name and felt a hand curling around his wrist.


"Sen." He breathed, surprised by the latter's return.


The moment their eyes met, they knew the morning couldn't just end with a simple see you later. So they ran their way to a familiar empty construction site. In the past, their crew used to occupy the unfinished building's fifth floor for their own enjoyment. The space offered a good lookout of the city tower. It was a great place to be during festivities for a nice view of fireworks.


Once there, they gently crashed against a steel column. Cold, breathless and hyped from the run, they looked at one another, eyes gleaming with equal anticipation.


"Why d' you turn back?" Nori said.


"Why d' you stop?" Sen replied.


Perhaps that unspoken rule between them laid foundation to a parapsychological link because words became useless. They knew, without verbal affirmation, what the answers to their questions were. Minds and hearts in sync, they delved into each other in a new light. No more clumsiness, or indecisiveness. Different from yesterday – passed seeking answers, passed the awakening. Today was simply acceptance day.





Business District – December 2012



Nori stepped out of a financial investment building, striding straight across to where the hourly parking lot was. He flung the passenger door to a white Subaru Impreza opened and got in.


"How did it go?" Sen asked.


"Aced the interview. Not sure if I’ll even take the job though."


"At least passing the interview will have your old man off your back for a while?"


Nori snorted. "Until he finds something else to pick on."


"He wants you in finances and shit like that huh," Sen remarked.


"Man believes people who successfully manages large accounts are capable of managing higher things in life – his thing, not mine." Nori told his other half.


"Let’s hope he’ll never thrown in an arranged marriage with that." Sen said.


"He won’t. That, at least, I’m certain of. It’s the only area of my life he won’t touch. Bad history and all…" Nori said.


"Yeah," came Sen’s breathed word. For that he liked Nori’s stoic father just a little. He knew of Nori’s awful childhood and about the person responsible for it.


"Let’s go," Nori said.


"Gift Shopping for Jun?" Sen suggested but received a sour expression from Nori.


They were due to buy something for their friend since the guy had recently gotten married. The girl’s parents found out she was pregnant and wanted to sue the Nakanishi family for emotional distress. Jun, the eldest son and heir to Nakanishi Property Development and Management responded by marrying her. Despite all the drama, the newlywed looked happy.


"It’s Friday and a Christmas weekend. Let’s wait ‘til Tuesday, when the crowd dies down." Nori said.

"Then where to now?" Sen asked.


"A comfortable place with pillows." Nori did a double arch of his brow.


Sen smiled. "Perv."


"Says the guy already running his hand on me."


Sen closed in, nibbling on Nori’s jawline while his hand fondled inside the latter’s pants. "You shouldn’t invite me so openly then."


Their mouths locked and it took Nori a moment to pull away. "Let’s get out of here – they’ve got cameras."


"Chill, chill. Nothing facing us." He teased and started the engine.


"Ah but let’s get some food on our way." It was past lunch time and Nori could use something in his stomach after the long job interview.


They ended up at a fancy hotel by the port. Nothing like the shithole inn they’d stayed at a couple of months ago. This time, Nori had enough cash on him. He didn’t like using cards since his movement could be too easily tracked by his father’s right-hand man. He had a hard time enough selling their last story of how he got his car stolen.


Nori booked them a neat suite on one of the upper floors. From their height, they had a good view of the entire shipyard and the port's bridge. The room was dimmed to a light glow and the city nightlights elevated the cozy ambience.


"I’m so stuff, I can’t eat anymore." Sen patted the pouch on his belly in front of the tall mirror. "Shit, why you always gotta fatten me up."


They’d ordered a bunch of takeout on their way here. The boxes were laid out all over the coffee table.


"You can simply just not eat everything, every time." Nori locked an arm around Sen’s neck, digging his knuckles into his lover’s skull.


"That hurts! Quit it, Shit-face." Sen ripped away from the choke hold and tackled him to the ground.


"This hurts too! Ass-wipe!" Nori was struggling to move from having his face pinned down the carpet and his arm twisted behind him. "I’m gonna beat the shit out of you!"


"Yeah, let’s see it then." Sen let go and without warning, his chin received Nori’s elbow. "FUCK! At least wait until I’m well on my feet first, cheapskate. Shit, I think my lip’s bleeding."


Nori shoved Sen backward onto the bed and toppled him, straddling his waist. "Let me see."


Sen removed where his hand rubbed to expose a tiny cut on the outline of his lower lip. "You gonna nurse me now?"


Nori answered with gently nibbling on Sen’s bruised lip, even sucking where the frayed skin was.


"Shit, you’re pretty gross." Sen commented on having his tiny wound sucked on.


"You didn’t like it?" Nori teased.


"Fuck, no. Like is an understatement. Shit got me turned on even more." He used his body as leverage to move Nori off and switch their position where he was topping this time.


"I’m just returning the favor." Nori said.


"Favor?" Sen took a moment then remembered. "Ah for back then, when you scrapped your arm during that stupid fight we had with those douche bags from Shirokai High."


"You licked my scars off in front of all of our friends." Nori trapped the tip of Sen’s nose with his knuckles.

"Seems we're equally gross. Match made in Japan." Sen said to which Nori echoed a laugh.






Kuroda Residence – March 2013



"Sorry for the intrusion Mr. Kuroda," a sheepish smile widened his lips.


"Oh, you're welcome here anytime so long as you help keep that slug in check." Kuroda Sozen's thumb arched back to his eldest son.


"Quit preaching old man and let him in," Sen barked at his father.


Sozen picked up a pillow and tossed it at him. "Get off your ass already and do the garbage. It's pick up day tomorrow. You'd better not distract Kaizen by having him help you clean up! He's busy enough with taking university entrance exams."


"What!" Howled the couch-potato. "Even if he didn't have all that, I'll still be left to do the dirty work around this house! At least give me some credit!"


"Yeah too bad for you. Should've been born with a brain," said Mr. Kuroda while putting on his delivery uniform jacket.


"HELL! You made me! Take some blame for it too! Shitty old man."


Mr. Kuroda pointed a finger at the loud mouth. "Feed Kaizen. Look after him, else I'll kick your freeloading ass out. When I come back, you and I are discussing getting you an interview with my boss so don't get your punk-ass into stupid shits and go breaking your neck, or I'll break your limbs along with it." He walked out of the apartment to go to work, leaving the two youngsters to their own machination.


"Arg! Dam old man. Always nagging my ears off."


Nori laughed as he settled his duffle bag down. "You two are so alike though."


"What?! No, we're not! Never."


"Denying it doesn’t help your case, Kuroda Junior."


"Yeah? Shit, then see if this help." Sen jumped Nori, both falling back onto the floor.


"No." Nori fought his lover off from groping him further, "Kaizen will be home from school soon."


"Naw. He's going to his friend's place. Something about a project so we got plenty of time." Sen informed.


"Stupid, wait – at least let me get my jacket off."


"Shit you're slow, here, off. Now we're on."


"Damn pervert." Nori retorted with.


"Fuck yeah and you like every bit of this perv," was Sen's comeback.


"Fuck no," Nori said with a head shake, "like is understatement."


They looked at each other and burst into a unison laughter before hushing their merriment by merging their lips together, suckling on each other's tongue, making-out until their bodies were engulfed in heat.


"Fuck I feel like I could piss myself dry every time I'm inside you." Sen proclaimed.


Nori chuckled but couldn't muster much while being thrust into. "You're sounding more like an old lecher each time."


"Says the guy whose blessed shrine's tightly housing my Knight-in-Skin-Armor."


This time, Nori let on a full string of laughter to where they both had to short-stop their mating ritual. "For fuck's sake! Why and where are you always getting these dumb shits from."


"Cuz I love your reactions," he winked, "you should see the face you make. As for where, the almighty Ishikada Juzo."


"Should've known, that damn loud mouth idol of yours. The comedy king of absurdity." Nori concluded.


"Not my idol," Sen groaned then said, "but you gotta admit the man's a genius at making weird shit sound hella funny."


"Who does that remind me of?" Nori gave Sen a knowing look.


"Shit would I know," Sen playfully whistled to the side.


Nori chuckled as he crossed his arms behind Sen's shoulder, hands going to the back of the latter's head and running his fingers through thin hair as they pecked and nibbled each other's lips. They've been in a relationship for nine months now and sex was good but the true connection lied in the smaller things. He was addicted to Sen's kisses, which felt like breathing in life's essence.






On Route to Fukuoka – July 2014



Two hundred-twenty miles till they reached Fukuoka.


Sen had come up to the manor to pick him up so they could go off and have their sweet time. They hadn't seen each other much since they both picked up working. He had an eight to six Monday to Friday schedule and Sen was constantly on route on the weekends delivering products in between the nearby cities. Today was their weekend off together. They were supposed to be off somewhere quiet.


When Sen arrived though Nori's mother and their maid were running around trying to find a delivery service which would make it to Shinkano by five in the evening. Seemed the nursery where Umeko had placed a large order of blooms from was experiencing a downtime with their truck and told her they wouldn't be able to be in Shinkano until Monday, which would be too late by then. The potted flowers Umeko had ordered were for a ceremonial event tomorrow morning.


Feeling bad, Sen offered her his truck and went back home to fetch it. He came back with it to pick them up.


"Again, I'm very grateful you boys offered to help. Thank you, Kuroda." She beamed from behind.


"It's, um, nothing. I just hope you ladies are ok back there. I know there's not much leg room." Sen said


from the driver seat. His truck was a mid-sized haul with a front bench seat and a passenger area in the rear, which wasn't catered to comfort.


"Oh, we're fine aren't we, Hisana." Umeko said to her young maid.


"Yes. Madam and I are quite comfortable so don't you worry." The twenty-six-year-old woman said.


"I'm just sorry I ruined you boys' plans for the day." Umeko voiced.


"It's alright, mom. We didn't have anything important. Just the usual outing that's all." Nori reassured her.


"Also, this is my thanks for always nurturing me with the most delicious food when I visit Nori." Sen said honestly.


Umeko offered a bashful giggle. "Oh Kuroda, your modesty. But I'm afraid my great kitchen skill is due to Hisana's mother having taught me so well."


"Even so, I'm still grateful and err…it's Senzaki." He volunteered his first name. "Kuroda, just sounds too much like one's addressing my father."


"Oh, is that so? I take your father must be a charming man too, Senzaki." Umeko said and the two young men looked at each other before laughing together. "I see I've said something humorous."


"Charming isn't the exact word I would use on that man." Sen offered.


"Well I think you're so very handsome and so very charming, Senzaki." Hisana blurted out in a chirpy voice to which Nori laughed even harder.


"Hisana," Umeko said in a very polite tone, "it's not lady-like to voice one's opinion so straightforwardly."


Nori reached over from the side passenger seat, a finger poking his lover's cheek. "Yes, very handsome indeed but charming…should I recount the times you—"


"Can it, dweeb." Sen threw Nori a side glance which said, don't dare make me look like an ass in front of your mother.


Nori raised a hand in surrender. "Calm down, I fold."


Here and there when the two ladies in the back dosed off or weren't paying attention, Nori's hand entwined with Sen's free one. The touch of Sen's thumb drawing circles in his palm sent an electrifying shudder through him. Shit they wanted each other so bad. Eight days without seeing each other, without sex, had packed them with enough dynamite to make one hell of a firework between them.


On his palm, Nori sensed Sen's finger spelling out some characters. He slowly deciphered each word and came up with Sen having written, "I missed you crazy. I wanna fuck you so bad."


Nori felt the weight of those words all the way down to his groin. "Stupid Sen." He muttered under his breath and pulled his hand away. He needed to distract his mind from the rising heat inside his pants, else he'd have some awkward explaining to do when they pulled over.


They arrived at the designated nursery in Fukuoka a little before noon. After loading the truck, they went on to have lunch at a restaurant that was on route back to Shinkano. It was a nice little joint at a rest stop on the roadside of the highway by the beach. Umeko and Hisana spent time checking out the blooms to make sure nothing would get damage during the drive while Nori and Sen took to walking on the beach.


The pair kept going until reaching a slope of trees. They sat there horsing around and ended up toppling each other into a makeout session.


"You don't know how many times I wanted to cut my routes short and come see you. I really hate these damn work schedules." Sen admitted.


Nori hugged the man above him and pecked the head resting on his chest. "It'll get better once I get the shift change in a couple of months. I'll do a four-ten schedule and get Wednesday to Friday off so it'll correspond with your days. Then we'll get two days to ourselves every week."


"Can't wait." Sen yawned, closing his eyes and just listening to Nori's heartbeat.


"You tired? Want me to drive back?" Nori asked.


"Yeah." Sen started to doze off. The warm weather and cool breeze dancing around, lifting only what it needed to lift from the tree branches, making sure not to harm the leaves, made him sleepy.


Nori kissed Sen's hair line. He inhaled the scent of the man above him as his arms tightened around the latter. If time stopped and froze them forever in this moment, he wouldn't mind one bit. But time wasn't on their side so with a heavy heart, he broke their serenity. "Come on. We better go before my mom comes looking for us."


Sen grunted from having his descent into slumber disrupted but obliged and pushed himself up. He looked down at Nori, taking in his lover's peaceful face.


"What?" Nori whispered, a finger going to the back of Sen's ear to push strands of hair to remain in place.

Maybe it was the atmosphere. The calmness of the day. The homely comfort that had settled in between them. But Nori swore he could feel it, see it, in Sen's eyes how much the latter wanted to utter the special words neither has yet to say.


"Nori, I…" Sen stalled for an elongated moment and whatever confession he wanted to make came in the form of crushing their lips together. Words be damned. They wouldn't do justice to what either were feeling.

This kiss felt different from others. It was a quiet confession. And knowing it was enough for Nori.


"Me too, Sen." He answered and brushed their noses together.


Sen seal their lips one last time before they got up to dust themselves and head back to the car. The second they turned around though they were braced with an awed-struck Umeko. Her eyes big, glistering at them as if she'd just witnessed something beyond her imagination. They froze in surprise too, feeling like the sky had just come down on them. The three of them stood still in place, and only the waves glided, and the breezed swooshed around them. The fragment of time felt eternal.


"Shall we go." Umeko finally turned on her heels and headed back to the car.


Nori's tensed body only loosened when he felt Sen's fingers hooking with his.


"Sooner or later, we're bound to face them all. So don't be scared – let's do it together." Sen said.


"I'm…that's not it." Nori finally uttered. He tightened his hold on Sen. "I won't run away. Never from you. It's just her sudden presence caught me off guard that's all."


Sen kissed Nori's temple to show he understood. "Let's go."


The drive home was done in silence. Even Hisana had picked up on the strange mood in the car and closed her eyes, pretending to be asleep the whole way. Once they arrived back at the manor, Hisana jumped to fetch Mr. Satoya to help them unload all the flowers into the greenhouse. She disappeared into the kitchen after the chore and came back out with a tray of refreshments. She set it on the small table by the nursery's entrance and left back in the house to tend to her usual duties.


Nori felt his mother's gaze follow them, as they walked to the truck. "How about I come to you after I clean up."


"Yeah." Sen replied.


"Senzaki," came Umeko's voice behind them.


"Mom –" Nori was cut short by his mother's hand on his arm.


"Please, Young Master Kyonori." It was rare for her to call him by his full given name with title. She hadn't done so since she stopped being his nanny and became his mother. "Allow me to say a few words to Senzaki." She pleaded.


Nori felt his stomach knotting. "I – I'd still like to stay and hear it though."


She said nothing to his request but went on to hold Sen in her gaze. "When I became this child's caretaker, I didn't think it possible for him to truly smile or know the joy that came with laughter. You probably already know of the person who made sure that those things were absent from my young master's life. He was to pay the price for the elders' mistake – him a little child who wanted nothing more but to be cherished by that same person. We all knew it was wishful thinking. And when she left, she also took away his worth as a human being. No matter what I or his father did, we couldn't repair the damage done. She'd left us a child devoid of emotion."


Umeko closed the distance between her and Sen, standing right in front of him. Her somber expression turned softer. "Then one day, he came home from school and I saw a spark in him that wasn’t there before. Faint, but it was there nonetheless. And as the years drew, that spark turned into a fiery fire," she showed him a maternal smile, "So Senzaki, I beg of you, please keep that fire burning for all the years to come." She said with a head bow.


Sen was taken back by her deep words of approval. He lightly touched her arm, urging her to raise her head up. "Ah, please d-don't. You needn't bow so formally. Really, I'd do anything for him without being asked to." He confessed, and heart racing, he dropped onto his knees. "So, please give me Nori."


Nori's breath caught in his throat. A surprised look on his face.


Umeko blinked at Sen's sudden action then laughed. It was her turn to urge him up. "You've won him the day you breathed life into him. And please don’t worry about Kyo's father. That man even if stringent, still has enough sense to know what makes his child happy. Though he may not be easily convinced at first – but that's what you both have me for."


She turned to Nori and patted him softly on the cheek. "I must get back to my work so I'll leave you two."


Alone, they stared at each for a moment then crashed together against the side of the truck.


"Hell, you got down on your knees." Nori couldn't stop teasing.


"Fuck," he exclaimed with a hand over his heart which was slowly coming to a calm, "I nearly pissed myself when she approached. And she's the easy one." Sen was already sweating having to face the head of the family.


Nori placed his arms on Sen's shoulder. "She's on our side and I believe my father will at least listen to her." He said and kissed Sen with all the joy in him.


"I'll see you in a bit." Sen said once they broke lips.





Nakanishi Jun's farewell night, Nakanishi Gallery Tower – August 2014



They gathered at the Nakanishi family's building. Their friend Jun came from a well-off family who owned a prominent property management firm. One of their newest addition was the Nakanishi Gallery Tower, a living and shopping complex in downtown. Back then, when it was still under construction, the structure had often been used as their group's hangout place. Now they only came here to meet Jun.


They were celebrating Jun's last night in the country. Came tomorrow, he'd be sent abroad to take on another branch to learn the ropes of managing the firm before ascending to the title of CEO. It'd be another five years before Jun and his wife could come back.


Their gathering was a closed celebration just for their group. Even Jun's wife had called it a night and left home. The seven of them sat around chatting and reliving tales of their old days. All coming to the realization that they may see even less of one another in the future as they toasted to Jun's new life and venture abroad.


When the night grew old, the guys began leaving one by one. Jun left Nori and Sen to clean up the booze mess while he accompanied, Akaike, their drunkest friend down the street to get the guy safely into a taxi.

When Nori finished with bagging all the cups, he looked about but saw no signs of Sen. He knew of only one place where his other half had gone so he followed after and mounted the stairs to the rooftop. He found Sen standing by the ledge gazing down at the city as a midnight sky hung above them. He made his way to Sen, coming to stand next to him. Upon his arrival, his lover immediately took his hand.


"It feels like it was just yesterday that we were running amok down those streets, not a worry in mind," came Sen's solemn words. "But after tonight, Jun will be gone and the others are each walking their own path."


Nori moved to hug Sen from behind. His head resting in the curve of Sen's neck. "And it feels as though we won't meet again, even though we're only a phone call away."


Sen's eyes were fixated on the distant boats in the bay water. "The world of adult, is all but responsibilities. Even if it's just a call, it's as if taking just a breather from our mundane routine would derail us. So, like a pack of motorize sheep, we all move to the tune of work and priority."


"Aren't you all melancholy tonight," Nori said in a soft voice.


Sen broke their hug, turning around to face Nori. He gently wrapped his arms around the slightly shorter man. He brought their foreheads to touch. "Nori."


"Hm?" Nori's hands went to cup Sen's face.


"I don't know what the future will bring us," Sen kissed Nori's forehead, "but I'm only certain of one thing."


"And what's that?" Nori hid his face in the crook of Sen's neck.


"Your life," Sen took Nori's hands in his and hugging both to his chest, "I want your life. I want every second of it."


Nori's eyes widened. "Sen…"


"It's time. Let's face them, our fathers. I want you as a priority. Fighting, laughing, figuring out life together, live every day together under one roof." Sen proposed.


Nori fell silent. His chest swelled up inside. He answered with a spontaneous kiss until the sudden light from the electricity tower above the terrace exit came on and disrupted them. To their surprise, they found Jun standing a few feet away, staring at them with the same widened expression Umeko had on when she'd first witnessed their intimacy.


Jun's jaw fell agape as he processed the image before him. "I'll be damn," he mustered and once the astonishment passed, a faint smile slowly crept across his face, "bastards."


A snort escaped Sen. "You'd have found out sooner or later."


Jun fumbled the hair on his nape. "Well it's not like we didn't entirely see this coming. I mean we've always had our suspicions, we just never quite figured out whether it'll really happen. And," he looked slightly annoyed.


"What?" Nori asked.


"You guys couldn't have done this sooner so I wouldn't have to miss out on the epic faces that your old men will be making?" Jun whined about the fun state of shock he'd be missing.


Sen and Nori looked at each other. "We'll take pictures and mail it them to you as postcards, asshole," came their dry humor as both sprinted to headlock their friend. The three horsed around, laughing and belching out foul names at each other before settling to all watch the city together.


"Remember the time we got into it with those Shirokai fuckers," Jun reminisced, "and you licked Kyo's wound like some freaking mother hen," he laughed and earned a tap in the back of his head from Sen, "Shit, Murai and I started making bets on when you guys would eventually get tired of kissing girls and start kissing each other."


Nostalgia embodied all three as they recall their late high school friend – the one they'd lost to some ruthless thugs. Murai had been the life of their group. His vivacious personality always had everyone thinking he was their leader even though no such hierarchy existed among themselves. But maybe in some ways, Murai had been their unofficial leader. His death had passed like a raging storm, cutting each one of them deeply and somehow washing away their youthful defiance. They'd each mourned Murai in their own way, some more than others.


Jun let out a heavy sighed. "If Murai were still alive, he'd make a big fuss and call a grand celebration with fireworks and all. Sunshine always did have a soft spot for the two of you. Sometimes, I think he may have even envied your closeness." He turned away from the city to look at them. "So don't disappoint him. Take good care of each other," he said and handed them a keycard, "I've let security know that you guys are still here, but you'll need that card to gain access back into the foyer since it's after hours." He placed a hand on each of their shoulder and patted them. "I'll see you guys in a few years."


"Jun," Sen called after, "Let's get together again when you get back."


Jun waved two fingers back as a response and he was gone.


Nori's gaze lingered on the door where Jun had disappeared behind. His thoughts going to both Murai and Jun who had been known as Sun and Sword. One as bright as daylight, the other sharp as a knife, a dynamic duo that once governed the halls of their high school. Jun said Murai may have once envied his bond with Sen but it was clear that Jun himself had held a special place for Murai alone. Perhaps if Murai were still here, Jun wouldn't have walked the life he was walking today.


Nori whirled around and yanked Sen to him, locking them into a hard kiss.


"What was that?" Sen asked surprised by the sudden embrace, which seemed to underline something.


"I don't want to end up like them," Nori lost himself in Sen's arms, "Sun and Sword…to never have had the chance. One forever gone while the other living on with thoughts of what could have been."


"We won't. I swear Nori, I'll do everything I can to defy the odds, I'll fight as much as I can until not a cell in my body's left to function, if it means to stay by your side for a second longer." Sen pledged.


Nori fisted Sen's jacket collar, bringing their face only a breath away from touching. "You'd better remember your words. If ever you fall, wherever you may find yourself, you'd better crawl your way back to me."


"I can say the same for you." Sen said.


"I've never had much faith in people until you, so let's do it together, this thing called life." Nori professed. //






Hack's gaze stilled over the numeric memory recording screen. A feeling of uneasiness crawled inside her. She wasn't looking at a normal chart anymore. The data showed not one new string of codes but a whole column of new strings. Five hundred new lines of codes. The 2013 residence scene was entirely new while more memory segments were added to the beach and gathering night scenes. The bit under the trees at the beach was too detailed down to the feel of the breeze. But it was the rooftop scene which was the most worrisome because its codes had repeated over fifty times.


Shutting off the program, she shot to her feet and went out to the capsule. Standing before the pod's glass door, she watched him sleep undisturbed for a long pensive moment then walked out of the chamber. It'd be another ten hours before he could open his eyes again. He wasn't in any danger where she needed to force his awakening so she left him be.


Hack took the elevator to the top floor where her office was. Settling at her desk, she took out her private cell phone. One she used solely to call a particular person.


"Yes," said the person on the other line.


"I've news regarding the specimen you gave me." Hack informed, "but first, I'd like to discuss the present matter." Hack turned on her computer and opened her project file.


"Is Kyo doing alright?" Came the worried voice.


"He's fine, for now," Hack mentioned, "which is why I'm shutting down Project Live Memory."


A long silence ensued between them. "Has it really come down to that?"


"Inaba-Sensei," Hack addressed her former junior high school homeroom teacher, "it's no longer safe for him to proceed with further sessions. Anymore and you'll have a vegetated corpse."


Umeko clutched the cell in her hand. "Have you no other alternative?"


"I've been working on something. I offered to show it to him tonight but he wasn't interested in seeing it."


Hack moved a folder to the outgoing mail box. "I'm sending it to you now. Open your email."


Umeko opened her drawer and took out the larger tablet for better view. She went on to download the file. Her eyes shot wide in horror as she studied the project. Her insides twisted in agony. "Trash it! Just trash it. Don't ever let him see it. Wh-what were you thinking, Azari?!"


Hack stiffened to the sound of her own name. A name she hadn't used since she turned eighteen and left the orphanage. "I can give it life – it's the next best thing to that damn ghost he's chasing."


"Have you learned nothing from watching his memories all these years?" Umeko pondered if she'd made a mistake by trusting Hack with her most important person. "Where you see life, he'll see the abyss he once crawled out from. This is an order, no, it's what you owe me. Scrap this new project immediately."


Hack let out a heavy long sigh. What you owe me…The words were knives digging into her bones. She was reminded of why she'd do anything for his woman. "Very well. Consider it trashed. I won't do anything this volatile again. And regarding the specimen's result, I'll discuss it with Lieutenant Yamashina once he wakes up tomorrow. Good night, Inaba-Sensei."


Hack leaned back in her chair, eyes scanning her computer screen. Looking at her latest project, her finger moved to the 'Terminate Data' button on the bottom of the page. She stalled, taking in the image of her new creation one last time.


An android. Not the half-baked polymer type which roamed Neon Ward. But a pure advanced one. One that looked and felt every bit like a real human down to a tee with flesh and blood, except his central nervous system and bones was all wires and metal. This android was built to feel physical and emotional pain, and bleed like any normal human – but he would never age. An exact copy of the person from Yashin's memory.

It was all for naught. A fruitless effort to try and heal Yashin's broken soul.


Hack pushed the terminate button and within seconds got a call from the lab downstairs. "Yes, you read correct Minoru, I just terminated all data. Now get rid of all physical evidence."







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