[When You Gonna Learn]
Aya didn't really see much point in sweeping the snow. As long as it didn't stop snowing, the front of the shop would be snow-covered in no time. He just kept sweeping anyway, sweep and sweep and sweep until somebody comes to buy some flowers. It was rather boring, but he had nothing else to do. He preferred sitting in the shop, but he felt so bad when Ken speaks to him and all he could manage were single sentenced answers. It looked as if he didn't want Ken to be around, and it wasn't true. But that was the way he was, a man of few words, Aya didn't know how to change.
'Er... hey Aya.'
Aya turned around, taking a break from snow sweeping. 'Um?'
'What's the flower for love? Like, really head-over-heels love.' Ken bit his lower lip and stared at the flowers before him as if that would give him an answer. 'Something apart from roses.'
'Try yellow tulips.' Aya tried to smile. 'Who for?'
Ken laughed and untied his apron. Time to close the shop. 'No no, somebody phoned up to make an order. Oh yeah it's yellow tulips, I remember now. I took some to see Youji last time in the hospital confessing my undying love for him.'
Aya shook the white snow off the broom. Ken deliberately brought Youji up. Aya hadn't been thinking about Youji that often anymore, it had been a few months since he left. But he knew Ken and Omi were still trying to find him, though they never talked about it.
'Is he that important to you?'
'Come on Aya, I was joking.'
'I mean, is Kudou Youji very important to you and Omi?'
Ken looked uneasily at Aya, then he finally sighed and sat down. 'He's our friend. Our very good friend.'
Aya tried to brush the snow off his flaming hair, pulling a few bangs into place. 'Even after he ran away like that?'
'Maybe it's hard for you to understand, but Omi and I have known him two years longer than you did. We trust him.' Ken rested his arms on the table, looking at Aya who was still trying to fix his drenched hair.
'Remember the MO disks we got? We even joked that the information came from Youji. You know, the stuff was so ordered as if it was designed for us. It looked like it came from someone who actually knew how we work. The only thing is, Youji can't use computers as far as we know and MO's would be far beyond his league. It was just being too wild with our imagination anyway. But yes, this is how much we trust him.'
It was indeed too much for Aya to understand. He didn't know where Ken and Omi's faith came from. Even though Youji had once saved his life, Aya couldn't bring himself to forgive Youji for running away.
'To us, Youji is still a part of Weiß. We've written to Persia to ask him not to hunt for Youji anymore. It doesn't matter, Aya, if you feel differently. We're still a team. What about ordering Chinese take away tonight?'
Ken's sudden change of topic was replied by Aya's shallow smile. It was good that they talked about it, it made Aya feel less divided when Ken said they were still a team. They were friends. Learn to accept your friend the way they are, if Ken and Omi believed in Youji, let them do what they want. Aya managed to give a broader, more unreserved smile after a while.
'Eat it in my place?'
Youji stirred, opened an eye, and saw Manx sitting on a chair next to him, her hand feeling his forehead. He had fallen asleep, the paper he'd been reading fell on the ground at Manx's feet.
'You look terrible. Have you eaten yet?' She rummaged through the food Youji had in the place.
Youji didn't feel like eating anything. When he opened his mouth to speak, his voice was coarse and dry. 'Manx... will you get me some methadone?'
Manx watched Youji sit up on the bed, brushing his hair away from his face with a shaking hand. Even with very little light, she could see the dark circles under the eyes, the pale skin, the thinning face.
'Methadone? For you?'
'If you get me some needles too. Or just the tablet's fine...'
'Youji.' Manx gripped the young man's arm firmly, her eyes fixed on his unreadable face. 'It's only been four weeks since I last saw you. What happened in these twenty-eight days?'
Youji reached into his pocket and gave her a diskette. 'My homework.'
'I mean what happened to you.' Manx's tightened her grip.
The deadly silence was almost unbearable. She could almost hear her own heartbeat matching the pace of the dripping tap.
A sink, a bed, a chair, a bedside table with a lamp, that was about all the room had. The paint on the walls was flaking, showing the raw grey concrete beneath. Suddenly Manx felt that not only the walls were flaking off, but Youji too, was flaking away, little by little. At this moment, the eldest assassin of Weiß only looked like a young man who had nothing, sitting there like a rag doll. Like he would collapse any moment.
'Don't worry, my beautiful lady.'
'Don't even try to charm me with the state you're in. Methadone...' Manx suddenly gasped. No, it couldn't be that. '... You're on heroin!'
Youji tried to laugh. He didn't know what went wrong, but it sounded bitter. He thought he was very good at laughing, but today it failed him. 'They trade the stuff, I couldn't say "no"... but I'll be fine, trust me on that one. I've gone this far, I'll go the rest of the way.'
'Manx how many times have I told you to stop all the "but"s? Don't doubt me! I chose to do this, ok?'
Manx bit her lip and told herself not to ask anymore. Youji was getting more distant, pretending to be irritable because he didn't want her to know more than she needed to. He never changed. After working on his own all this time, he was still the same Kudou Youji she knew from Weiß. Maybe a little more hollow, maybe in deeper pain each time she sees him, maybe a bit more silent, but still the same Youji, the one who wanted to know if Omi passed his finals; if Ken was still learning the floral languages; if Aya managed to keep the girls who weren't buying flowers away from the shop.
She remembered visiting Youji that summer night to give him that brown envelope with Balinese printed on it, the way he smiled and accepted it, telling her that he used to be a private detective and collection information was his specialty. She also remembered seeing his lips quiver as he spoke those words, how his hands shook as he put the paper back in the envelope and burnt it.
Manx could feel the envelope in her handbag. The papers rustled as she pressed hard on it, and reluctantly she took it out. The same type of envelope she gave to Youji six months ago. She had to give him one every few weeks with their plans and in exchange, Youji gives her an MO disk.
'How're they?' Youji asked as he started reading.
'As usual. They're stocking some new flower types, but I don't know what they're called.'
Youji chuckled, ignoring the pain in his shoulders as he did. 'When we first started who knew Kitten would really evolve into a business. It was just there as a communication point.'
'You're all business-minded young men, especially with Aya around.'
Youji gave another hollow laughter.
Manx promised to get the methadone as soon as possible and left Youji alone again in the room. He picked up his piece of paper and started reading again. All the other bodyguards around the Head of Parties were just about as new as he was, except one of them. It must be this one that the man takes to all the secret meetings. According to the documents he found last time, they meet irregularly and it was only the night before that the people involved get told when and where the meeting would be.
Youji knew he couldn't just kill the bodyguard. There had been a few deaths within Shirakawa Cooperates already, to kill another one was to blow everything for himself before he even got to know the Pope's identity. In his aching head, Youji devised a plan that would cost his life if it goes wrong.
Another drug dealer. Omi raised his hand, aimed for the heart and unleashed the lethal weapon. It took all but a few seconds for the man to die. This mission was simple enough to be completed alone, but Aya came along anyway. The dead man's body was swiftly buried by the snowstorm, white snow overlaid red snow, then white over white...
'Aya-kun, did you realise that all the mission that came in disks had something to do with the drug trade?'
Aya glanced at Omi but didn't reply. He hadn't and didn't really care.
'I wonder if there is a connection between all these people.'
'What if there is?'
'Nothing. I was just wondering.' Omi shrugged and got into Aya's car.
'Isn't it better to know less about the people you've killed?' Aya said expressionlessly. 'Or are you going to try to find that connection?' He started the engines and mumbled something about the weather. Driving in snow wasn't ideal.
'I don't know. I keep having this feeling that I should.'
If Youji was around, he'd definitely slap Omi's back and say that if he thinks he should do it, then do it and do damn well with it. Manx said they couldn't find Youji and they suspected that he had obtained a fake passport and had left the country. It better be true. If they killed Youji -
Omi couldn't imagine it. Youji, a stone cold body buried somewhere, or cremated, gotten rid of in some way. No more glassy green eyes and brilliant, generous smiles. Caught, put to death, disposed of. No more arms draping over shoulder plus 'how're you doing'. Finished. No more.
Manx better didn't lie to him.
'You're going to ignore her like this?'
The punk kept pulling and shaping his strands of turquoise hair, his eyes rolling upwards to see the bangs, and didn't answer.
'It's dangerous to let her come here all the time, you know.'
'So I told the guys out there not to touch her.' He crouched down, finally sitting down at the foot of the concrete wall just outside his place. Youji did that quite often too, whenever the small room just seem to press down on him and suffocate him, he went to sit outside. 'They won't lay a single finger on her.'
'Why don't you just tell her to leave?' Youji rolled a can of beer across the floor and the punk caught it. 'Tell her you don't love her.'
'She'll kill herself.' The punk opened the can single-handedly, tilt his head up and swallowed half of the can before he asked, 'Do you know what it means to love?'
Youji didn't reply. It wasn't a question for him.
'To give her the best, to protect her, to hide things from her if that's what it takes.' The punk mumbled, sticking a hand into his hair and messing it all up again. The dry, chemically treated hair resembled a bunch of hay on his head. 'That's how I love her.'
He poured the rest of the alcohol into his stomach, squeezing the empty can to a deformed mass of aluminium and tossed it aside. 'You don't understand, do you.'
'No.' Youji rolled his own unopened can to the punk. He was't supposed to be drinking, the doctors said, especially when he suffered from withdrawal symptoms. 'I'm afraid not.' His lips quivered again when he spoke.
'I'm involved in things I can't get out of.'
'Ah. I see.' Just like him and Weiß, though the thought of getting out of Weiß had never cross Youji's mind - what else could he do, with no connections to the world, with no identity at all?
The spasms were coming again. Sweat broke out on his forehead and his back, and he had a sudden urge to vomit, though he had eaten nothing to throw up. Youji held himself around the waist, feeling like he had stepped into a freezer and his body went rigid.
It's okay, it's okay Youji, don't be so scared. You'll be fine... just fine...
The punk watched Youji with his unfocused eyes for a while, then when Youji finally let out a long sigh and his body relaxed, the punk got up. 'Thanks for the beer.'
He paused, turning around to look at his curly-haired neighbour.
'You think you're doing the best for her. What if all she wants is to be with you no matter what? We all want to die happy, don't we.'
'Yes, but life doesn't usually work that way.'
[end chapter eight]
|chapter seven||chapter nine|
note: rather late, but Ken and Aya talked it over, which they should have done a long time ago. Didn't do much research on heroin, just got the basics off some websites, so it might not be entirely correct.