[When You Gonna Learn]
2:30am. Aya heard the noises next door and could tell that Ken had came back. Perhaps he was out for a nightride again. Aya once considered learning to ride a motorcycle, but it was too much for him to rip through the wind like that. He needed things he could trust, things that were more secure. Like cars and friends.
Youji's coffee machine was sitting at the kitchenette next to the microwave, unused. The crushed beans had ran out and Aya didn't want to drink other coffee anymore. Youji was gone and gone was the coffee with him. He ignored his sudden crave for caffeine and opted for water instead. It was always good to drink water, the coolness it brought, even during the blizzard blowing outside, was nice, like a balm to his mind. Like friends.
He reached for the remote control and with the press of a button Luna Sea's 'I For You' was gone from his small living room. Silence kicked in, he sighed, wanting to talk to someone. He often wanted to talk, but it always ended up in mumbles and silence. Ken would be too tired to talk now and though he wouldn't mind if Aya dropped in for a visit, Aya did mind if he disturbed other people's resting times. Omi would be doing homework. There was nowhere to go, nothing to do other than to let his body sink into the sofa and stare at the ceiling. Aya thought about what it would be like to look at the ceiling like this, like Youji did when he was in hospital, for a few months. He narrowed his eyes, stared hard, and discovered that the ceiling would still be a ceiling no matter how he looked at it. He wondered if Youji saw it differently. Youji was an imaginative one, he had probably turned his little section of ceiling above him into his private TV station.
Youji was someone he could trust, someone that could calm him, if there was ever an emotional battle inside that he thought no one could see. Youji was. Was could did had, all past tense. Aya didn't know why he couldn't forgive Youji. He really didn't know. He put on his coat and went out, this house with its faint smell of coffee reminded him too much of the traitor, he needed to get out.
Crazy. Aya thought he must be crazy when he stepped out. It was beyond freezing outside, the blizzard seemed like it would blow everything away. What was wrong with this world? It had rained non-stop at late summer, then snowed non-stop at winter, as if to prove a point, though about what, Aya didn't know. But he felt better when he was out of his apartment. His feet led him to nowhere in particular, but he eventually realised that he had walked to Kitten In The House, and someone else was equally mad, or even madder than he was. Youji, with only a thin, flimsy jacket, was there outside Kitten, looking into the shop.
Cattelyas. Youji still couldn't believe it, not really, after months of telling himself that they would not want him to go back. Then he thought once again about the message from Omi and Ken. Was that real? Did Manx make it up just to get him going again? Did the two of them just want to see him, or was it all a lie to coax him out and make him pay for leaving them behind?
Someone was behind him. Even with the screams of the winds Youji heard the unmistakble sounds of footsteps on snow. He didn't expect to see Aya here, didn't expect anyone to be as insane as he was to come to a closed shop on the night with the strongest snow yet this winter.
Aya ran to him. Youji didn't, couldn't move, when Aya said that word. He had enough of running away. If Aya didn't believe in him, if Aya thought he was a traitor, then he didn't need to run.
'Kudou Youji! Traitor!'
Aya's gloved fist hit Youji on the jaw. It didn't make him feel any better, only worse, that Youji had stood there and taken the punch. Was it because Youji's attempt to smirk only gave a bitter smile?
Youji looked different. No, it wasn't the way he dressed that made Aya feel it. He looked closer whilst Youji bent over and rubbed his jaws in pain. The face was sunken, the eyes dark and that pale skin could match the white of the snow. What happened?
Aya wanted to say something. Ask him what he was up to, where he had been... and if he was feeling all right. Youji flexed his jaws, rubbed a few more times and stared back with challenging eyes. The emerald-eyed one knew Aya couldn't form a sentence that quickly. Then without saying a word, Youji started to leave.
Aya grabbed his arm to stop him.
'Leave me alone.'
'... I thought we are - '
Youji yanked his arm away from Aya's grasp, cutting his speech short. He bit his lip, then walked away, his figure disappearing admist the snow. Aya stood frozen, unable to chase behind him. They weren't friends, afterall. Youji didn't give him a chance to say it. Selfish bastard, didn't even give him the time to ask what was wrong. He was leaving again, without a word, just as he did last time. Only this time, Aya was free to chase him, yet he didn't. Enraged, Aya's started to run, away from the shop, away from Youji.
In the snow so harsh that they could hardly see where they were heading to, they got further and further apart, not knowing when or if they would ever meet again.
It was not much warmer in the factory. Shirakawa Cooperates had acted as food manufacturers, and Youji recognised this as one of the food productions lines that produced instant noodles. Great invention. Youji could not remember how many times he had lived on instant noodles alone.
Aya still cared enough to think they were friends, that comforted Youji like the message from Omi and Ken did. He could understand Aya's rage, it was just like him to be so angry, so disappointed in him. Aya's trust was hard to earn, just like the rest of them.
The Head of Parties, along with many others, sat at a large, elliptical conference table. Youji could only recognise a few faces, having read through the information of the known managers in the cooperation. Youji knew he made the correct decision to come here instead of getting Weiß to come and bust the meeting - there would be too many people for them. He stood, like all the other bodyguards present, behind the man he was supposed to protect. The seat for the boss was empty. The Pope hadn't arrived yet.
The methadone was wearing down. The cramp-like pain started again in Youji's chest, as if his heart was suddenly gripped. Sweat ran down his back despite the cold, but Youji didn't move, though the desire to drop down and double over grew by the minute.
Not now Youji, almost there. As long as you see the damned face and get through this cursed meeting...
Then, at the sound of a pair of high heels against the tilted floor, everyone stood up. A woman in her early thirties stepped into the room, her high profiled style contrasting with all the men present, and one of the bodyguards pulled out the leather armchair for her.
Youji recognised her. The young second wife of the founder of the Shirakawa Cooperates, Maiko Shirakawa, the Pope.
Hot water cascaded down his shoulders, flowing down, warming his body. It was a stupid idea to go out, he must warm himself up before getting the flu. Damn it, damn it, what just happened, why did he let Youji go without explaining himself?
When Aya got dressed and stepped out, Ken and Omi were in his living room waiting.
'Sorry to come in without asking, but we need to talk.'
Aya glanced at the clock on the VCR. Talk, at four in the morning?
Ken looked at Omi, and Omi spoke. 'We found Youji-kun a couple of days ago, and went to meet him tonight. He gave us this.' He gave Aya a piece of folded paper. 'He promised to talk to us, and we want you to go along, because you're a part of Weiß, and also Youji-kun's friend.'
The paper was filled with artistic squiggles and hiragana and kanji, it was Youji's handwriting without a doubt. Aya only doubted what Omi said. Him, Youji's friend? Youji didn't even spare him the chance to talk just now.
'I saw him just an hour ago. He didn't want to talk.'
'He isn't ready, Aya-kun.'
'Ready what? He needs time to come up with some heart breaking story that will make me forgive his leaving?' Aya snapped, rising from his seat. 'No I'm not going, he denied our friendship. Why should I go?'
Ken held his hands together, palm to palm, and studied his fingers as he spoke. 'Aya, I thought you would be more understanding than that. Do you think anyone would risk his life for someone he didn't care for? Or are you trying to forget the fact that Youji did once saved you?' Then he looked up at the redhead, his brown eyes meeting Aya's violet ones. 'What are you so angry about, anyway? What is it you can't forgive?'
Lost for words, Aya bit his lip and sank back down to the sofa. Why couldn't he forgive? He didn't get hurt much last time, it was just a slash that had healed itself very quickly. Ken had taken a bullet, but he was the one asking him why. Aya didn't know, he really didn't know.
'Aya-kun, when will you see that we could have prevented it? Think back.' Omi played with the note in his hands. His voice was full of sorrow and regret. 'We all saw something weird in Youji-kun ever since he got hurt last time. It had been that way for months, Aya-kun, but did any of us talk to him? We didn't help him when we should have done. We just kept taking advantage of him and pretended nothing was wrong.'
Ken studied the change in Aya's expression, seeing the effect of Omi's words in Aya. It had taken a while for the words to settle in, then Aya closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands. So much for thinking that they were friends, Aya never helped Youji in his times of need. He thought Youji was the one that torn their friendship, but when had he ever contributed to it? Youji was ready to give his life for his friend, but what had he done? What had he done?
'I didn't see much of him, Aya. I mostly saw him from the back, but I can still tell that he had been through a lot these months.'
Aya remembered Youji's face. The quivering lips, the dull eyes and the pale, lifeless skin. Youji looked fragile enough to be blown away by the snow. Aya had punched him the moment he saw Youji, why should he expect Youji to talk when he hadn't displayed his care? Youji only knew he was thought to be a traitor. That and only that. He only knew Aya's anger, not friendship.
Who was it that didn't give each other a chance to talk? Youji, or ...Aya himself?
'So please tell us, Aya-kun, what is it you can't forgive?'
He couldn't forgive. Not Youji, but the one who couldn't handle the friendship; who didn't give a supporting hand; who took everything for granted; the one who knew all this deep inside, but had directed this anger towards Youji instead.
Shaky fingers moved furiously over the keyboard, recording every detail of all that he knew. Youji's concentration was fading, his body screaming once again for heroin, but he had no time for that. He didn't recognise the pain in his arm, or the fact that he had not eaten or slept for the last forty eight hours.
The MO was done when he finally noticed the knock on his door.
The punk gelled his hair differently, it was spiked up and trimmed shorter, he looked neater now. Youji wondered if that had anything to do with his girl. 'Your friends are here again. Three of them this time.'
Three? Aya as well?
Then Youji saw the men in suits coming around the corner, their hands reaching inside their coats. He recognised these men, he had worked with some of them.
'Do me a favour. Give this to them.'
The punk studied the disk his neighbour gave to him. This little piece of advanced technology resembled nothing to him. He had always thought his neighbour was no ordinary people, but just not so unordinary. Youji pushed him away when the men approached.
The punk ran for it when he saw those men pull out some guns.
Youji held his watch, narrowed his eyes, walked up one step then suddenly turned around, swinging his body whilst pulling out the thin, deadly wire, slicing the throat of one man swiftly.
Then he heard something crack.
Ken's knee dug into the robber's stomach, then Omi shoved him down to the ground, and they walked on. Aya had insisted coming here right away after the three of them had talked. He wanted to apologise, to do something to help, he felt he owed this to Youji. But was Youji really here? It looked nothing like the area Youji would go. Youji liked cleanliness, not these dark, hidden alleyways that were cleared of rats only because it was too cold. The snowing didn't cease, and these narrow backstreets amplified the winds, creating an alien hollow noise
They looked at each other when they saw a punk running up, stopping finally in front of them, a hand pressed against a wall as he bent down to catch his breath and the other holding up an MO disk.
'This is... from him...'
Him? He meant Youji? They all just stared at the disk. None of them touched it.
Oh my God.
'He... he... those men in suits had firearms...'
A few steps ahead, a group of men with dark glasses and suits turned the corner and walked past them. The punk immediately silenced.
'Youji-kun!' Omi shouted when he saw Youji amongst the group, his head bowed.
Youji looked up, his eyes searched for a moment before finally seeing his teammates so close, practically a step next to him. His eyes narrowed.
'Go home, kid, I don't want to see you.'
He walked on with the other men.
'Youji - '
Aya covered Omi's mouth with his right hand when he saw the dark gleam in one of the men's hand. 'You take one step closer and Youji's dead.' He whispered.
What was going on? Omi saw it too, it was an automatic, with silencer. Youji was being held at gunpoint? Why? Just what was going on? What had he done?
'Ken,' Aya said without turning his head, his eyes still fixed on those dark suits men. They were filing into two black BMWs at the end of the alleyway where it connected to the main street. 'Follow them on your bike, Omi and I'll find out what's going on then go home and get the gear.'
Ken nodded and ran, picking up his speed as a soccer player, his hand signaling 'keep in contact by phone'.
'Take us to his place. Now!'
It was a maze, Omi decided as he and Aya ran behind the punk, turning into yet another street before finally stopping at an opened door. The simplicity of Youji's hiding place was enough to shock the two of them, not to mention the computer they found that their assumed computer-illiterate friend had used. Packaged food bundled neatly - Youji's style - at the floor of one corner; a thick blanket folded up at the end of a woodboard bed; a small pile of clothes in the tiny closet. Everything was sorted, well ordered, just like how Youji normally did things. Aya's fingertips brushed over the clothes, yes they were Youji's, they were the plainest of the clothes he owned. Youji had hid here for months living just like this.
'What are you looking at, Youji-kun?'
'Learning how to use computers.'
Omi's eyes misted when he loaded the MO disk onto Youji's computer and read the information his friend had prepared for them just before he was taken away. Idiot, Youji was such an idiot, why did he have to work on his own?
'I can't work with you looking at me like that. Why do you want to learn anyway?'
'It's the twentieth century! And chicks like guys who know a bit about modern technology.'
'Youji-kun, do you ever learn something with a different intention?'
Youji laughed and didn't answer.
[end chapter ten]
|chapter nine||chapter eleven|