The derelict section of the city was the same as always, unkempt and filled with the typical thugs, drug dealers, and whores. None of this was new to Shouta as he strolled home lost in his own thoughts. He had ruined his friendship with Dai, the teen would consider him a freak or worse, a friend willing to use him while vulnerable. ‘Shit, why the hell did I have to do that of all the things to do?‘ He continued to beat himself. ‘Why a kiss?’ Shouta remembered the jealousy he experienced during Dai’s relationship with Shi or when he was riding around in that red sports car with the blond haired guy. His mind flashed on Dai getting out of Kane’s limo. ‘Being concerned about someone does not mean you have to like them!‘ He shouted in his head ignoring the luring calls of the drug addicted women and lady boys. One thing was for certain he knew he had to get to the bottom of this so called boy crush before he did anything else to destroy his friendship.
The voice called to him as lay in the stiff yet comfy white bed. ‘Dai.’
The teen gripped the cool metal bar using it as leverage to lift himself into an upright position, at least that was his plan. He had no strength left to do anything and his bones felt like ground up glass slicing through his skin. The pinch of the needle attaching a tube to his veins did not help matters much, although he figured it was for the best to leave it in. None of that mattered–the pain, the needle, the tube, the clear sodium liquid above him. What mattered was that voice–that familiar voice calling to him.
“Shi, is that you?”
“Yes. I am here. I’ve always been here.”
“Are you okay?”
“No. I’m not.” He finally appeared to him–his face bared no expression yet his eyes were filled with malice. “It’s because of you that I’m here.”
“S-Shi” Dai’s voice trembled along with his fragile body.
“You did nothing but get in my way.”
Dai’s breath hitched.
“I wouldn’t have died if I hadn’t gone back for you.”
“I swear I didn’t want that! I wanted you to run away!”
“That was impossible you fool. It was my fate to die.”
Within the maelstrom of darkness the older teen appeared more vividly than before. “Is that what you want to hear?” He shrugged.
Dai was lost in utter confusion and despair.
“You want to torture yourself forever and blame yourself for the path I chose to walk through life?”
“But Shi…’”he reached out for him but could not bring himself to touch him. His golden brown eyes shone as though he was alive but they both knew otherwise.
“There are no buts when fate is involved and no coincidences. I was meant to die just as I was meant to meet you. In death there are no regrets and I don’t regret a single day I spent with you. With you I finally knew what it felt like to be in love and for that I thank you. But Dai. Move on so that I can too.”
“But Shi!” His mind raced for the right words. “ This darkness! The old man?! Are you…suffering?”
“Yes and no. It’s dark here and maybe I will move on to some place darker but I would much rather face that hell than watch you suffer.”
Within the sadness came his resolve.
“Shi! I’ve never believed in religion but I believe in what I saw in the old man! I will save you!”
The brown haired boy laughed but it carried no mocking tone. “Save me if it makes you happy, but to do that you have to be strong cause right now I see you saving no one.”
And just as quickly as he came his image flickered in the dark until nothing remained. Dai reached out wanting desperately to hold him dream or no dream.
Glassy gray eyes fixed on the clear bag with the liquid inside the smell of alcohol and disinfectants filled his nostrils and he had no desire to view the endless game shows and soaps on the TV screen.
‘I need to snap out of this.‘ He thought hating how everything seemed to spin so out of control. The only thing he remembered was offering prayers for Shi and Shouta kissing him. ‘Where did that even come from?‘ He thought furrowing his brow in confusion. ‘Did he do that thinking I needed it? Or…‘ he raised his free hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. ‘I have to go to school and get myself together…I have to finally let grandpa place Shi’s urn at his grave….if he hadn’t already done it.‘
The waning sun streamed its golden hue into the classroom, Kei loved the soothing touch of heat hitting his skin, he closed his eyes knowing no one was around to say anything disparaging about his actions then he picked up his warm turkey, cheese, and tomato sandwich and took a bite. For some reason he liked the taste of the sandwich after it sat sweating in his bento box all day. The bread was a little soggy and turning pink from the juice of the warm tomato and the cheese melded in the meat combining as one mixture of yellow goo.
School was over and as the last trace of students laughed their way down the hall and out of the building he alone sat in silence waiting for Aya to finish with her dance club meeting so he can walk her home–a normal routine that sprang from him not wanting her to trek alone after the danger they faced from Miki’s gang. He would walk her to the very doors of her house then took a series of short cuts to get home, only this time they both planned to meet Shouta at the hospital to visit Dai.
The sudden seductive giggle of a girl’s voice alerted him to the goings on across the hall and he remembered that the room was being used as a makeshift club for the rock band Parasitic Wasp, he peered out the door window to see Aya and her friend Megumi flirting with a spiky haired band member. ‘Band boys get all the girls’ he frowned watching the girls blush over the antics of the multi pierced teen.
The sound of his favorite tune played on his phone and he squatted to avoid the turning heads of the teens playing in the hall.
“Hey Shouta.” Kei answered his cell. “What’s up?”
“On my way to the hospital. Did you and Aya leave the school yet?”
“Nope, just waiting for her to finish with her club.” After a small pause. “Do you know how Dai is doing?”
“I heard from his grandpa that he should be ready to leave once the IV is gone and he get a check up.”
“You know, Dai should apologize to Aya.”
“Where is that coming from?”
“I have a feeling Aya could be reluctant to see him because of their little fight, she feels strongly about it.”
“Yeah well Dai would never do that cause he feels even more strongly about it. He’s too far in his own grief, and honestly I would say he has more of a reason to grieve than her.” Shouta heard Kei sigh over the other end. He assumed Aya must have been talking his ear off about the matter and Kei, being the type of guy to try and make everyone happy, was trying to figure out a way to make that possible.
Kei and Aya headed to the hospital where Dai was held, the girl fidgeted little by little the closer they came to reaching the building. Eventually she could not take it anymore.
“I can’t go.” She finally blurted out.
“I can’t go see him.”
“Why? Is it because of that fight?”
“No…yeah, maybe. I don’t know. I don’t hate Dai. I care for him deeply but for a while I’ve had some less than friendship feelings for him…maybe it’s jealousy over Shi.”
Kei watched her for a long moment and sighed. “Well, if it would make you feel better why don’t we go out for a burger instead?”
Aya nodded her head in agreement.
Shouta arrived at the hospital surprised not to find Aya and Kei inside the room when he finally entered.
“Hey, buddy how are ya?” He asked taking a seat.
“You don’t have to talk to me like I’m a baby.”
Dai smiled in acknowledgement of his apology.
“Since I don’t have to be delicate. What are you doing to yourself that you would refuse to eat until you pass out? If you could have seen the look on your grandpa’s face you would have wished you had died!”
“Huh? Yeah.” He agreed relieved Dai understood.
The two sat in awkward silence for a long moment; each of them had the next topic of conversation in mind but refused to be the first to speak out.
“Thanks for being there for me.” Avoided.
“Huh? Yeah, no problem!” Shouta accepted the diversion. “I want to be there for you, we’re friends, right?”
“Yeah.” Dai nodded in agreement.
“Can you eat anything?”
“The doctor says I can eat whatever I like, my throat isn’t closed or anything. Right now I am eating this IV drip but I would love for something solid.”
Shouta smiled as brightly as the sun. “Good! I’ll go buy you a burger.”
“Can you put everything on it with cheese and get some turkey chili cheese fries on the side?”
And with that, Shouta rose and headed out the room, both of them seemed happy to move on without confronting the incident between them.
The sun was waning faster than before, the sky was grey and threatened to spill snow or rain once more, however neither came into fruition. The young boy was wrapped in his favorite blue scarf keeping his neck and face warm. The hood of his winter coat hid his jet black hair and he kept his equally dark eyes glued to the floor. But despite his young age and small stature he was on a mission as he entered the towering steel and glass building and marched through its halls and pushed open the large office doors.
“Brother…brother!” he called out, making sure he got the attention of the man behind the desk.
“What is it, Satoshi?” He finally closed his laptop giving the young boy his full attention.
“The trip. Have you decided yet? Are you gonna go?”
“Look.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose. He really had no time for this.
“C’mon, I have to get my permission slip in and get ready! It’s less than a month away!” He whined.
“Satoshi! I’ve been very busy…I will see what I can do, but I can’t make any solid promises. You know that.”
“I do but.”
“It just means you won’t go.” His voice faltered.
“I’m trying…Listen. I love the fact that we are getting along, I do, and I don’t want this to end. But you know that I don’t have a massive amount of time where I can just decide to jump up and go on a weeklong ski trip…besides, the place is going to be filled with mothers… I’m sorry…I will try.”
It was several days later and back to near perfect health Dai finally returned to school to the whispering rumors spreading the halls.
“I heard he tried to commit suicide.”
“No, I heard it was just a ruse so that the cops wouldn’t know he killed that new guy.”
“Wasn’t he obsessed with him or something?”
With his head hung he walked steadily down the hall until he felt the soft pressure of a hand pressed on his shoulder.
“Hello, I saw you with Shi several times; I assume you are a friend. Have you by any chance seen him around? He wanted these Marine biology pamphlets.? The old teacher smiled tightly.
“Um. He passed away over the break.” He did not give himself time to view the shock and tears from the old firm woman. He instead dashed from her sight, down the hall and into the nearby boy’s bathroom the acidic contents of his stomach spilling into the white bowl.
Soon the empty room echoed the steps of another, the feet slid a little against the stone floor as he pressed his back on the cold slab wall. With the graceful moves of a cat he pulled out a cigarette, quickly struck a match, and lit the tip sucking in the heat of the cancer stick and savoring the taste of death.
Hearing the sounds of heaving in the stall in front of him, he tapped on the door.
“You all right in there?”
“Ya know you shouldn’t strain as much. It makes it hard to come out.”
“Huh? What?” Dai replied in a total state of confusion.
“You’re taking a shit right?” His thin lips formed a smile.
The sounds of laughter rung in the air bouncing off the walls. “No.” Dai answered back, his stomach hurting from laughing so hard and sudden.
Dai could smell the familiar smoke that made him think of Shi but found it did not stir any bad memories.
“Hey why don’t you sing me a song?” The teen asked after a long silence. Dai noticed for the first time since they began their strange conversation that his voice sounded deep and raspy like a slow scratchy tune. A soothing one.
“I… wait you want me to sing a song?”
“Yeah. Indulge me.”
Without understanding why he complied but he sung the few notes of ‘Heres to you’ by Ennio Morricone.
“Not bad.” The teen smiled.
“Why did you ask me to sing?”
“Our lead singer quit on us not too long ago and our band Parasitic Wasp is in need of one. We’ve been auditioning people for a while. But there’s always a slight problem. If they can sing good they look bad and if they sing bad they look good. Kinda hard to sell both, ya know? I just wanted to judge someone based on voice alone, without appearances. Why don’t ya just sign up? You’re decent enough.”
“I’m sorry I can’t.” Dai sighed. “I have nothing to sing about.”
“Too bad.” He singly replied before tossing a flyer into the top of the stall.
“My band has a gig coming up and we could make some good money off of it, maybe you can channel what’s making you so upset into the music.” And with his piece of advice given he headed out.
Dai held the flyer in his hand staring at the grunge lettering of the band’s name.
After school Dai blew hot air onto his hands to warm them as he waited outside the school for Shouta. The blonde waved goodbye to Aya and Kei before running over.
“Dude, you okay? I looked all over for ya.”
“That’s it?” Shouta asked looking for more.
“Yeah. I ran into Shi’s teacher, that’s all.”
“Dai. You gotta get it together! You can’t just split on school the amount of times you have.”
“I know. But I’m glad I did.” He smiled. “I think everything will be okay soon.”
The two exited the train to the desolate area of San’ya. This was far from the first time the blond had seen such hopeless despair living and breathing in the cracks of the earth, but he was surprised Dai would bring him here and even led the way to their destination which was a shielded old worn home.
Dai entered through the wooden flap door with the taller teen trailing protectively behind.
“Dai. What are we doing here?”
No response came as the smaller teen’s eyes were fixated on the list of names crowding the yellowing wall behind the altar. Out of the hundreds littered in red there was Shi’s name.
“He’s very hard to find but a tattoo by him is worth it, especially if you truly want something.”
He turned his eyes away to the old man who waited patiently, wrinkled hands clasped behind his back as if expecting the unexpected visitors.
“Uh, sorry for intruding.” Shouta bowed respectfully. “Dai do you think we should be here?” He asked not at all liking the various devil figure candles, drive away evil oils, human skulls, and other Hoodoo Voodoo paraphernalia laying about.
“I want a tattoo.” Gray eyes gazed with heated intensity. “But I want it out of love not revenge.” He continued. “Can you do that?”
The old man breathed deeply before he spoke. “It is very rare that anyone would come to me out of love. Yes, very rare indeed. What is your desire?” His voice sounded as if it was being washed on an old washing board.
“I want Shi’s soul sealed into my tattoo.” He continued his voice becoming passionate. “I want to protect him! I want to face whatever will happen to us in the afterlife!”
“Dai.” Shouta called out unable to stop him.
The man walked to his drawer shelf pulling out a few prepared bamboo sticks and a knife.
Handing the tools over to the young boy he smiled. “Carve.”
He then strolled toward the waxy altar taking out a dusty cloth undoing the hemp string holding the rag in place, and took out an odd candle. A white angel with devil horns, with black wings, clutching a gold colored spear and shield, and dressed in actual cloth clothing; a white robe.
The two boys stared at the large waxy figure, watching him place the amazing figurine at the very center of the massive altar, the saintly glory of the figure overpowering all others.
“That face.” Shouta whispered. Looking at the gender neutral being with short curled hair, soft and gentle eyes, but mouth gaped open with sharp fangs protruding, and body posed as if in the middle of striking something unforeseen.
“To travel to hell and have the strength to survive one needs a devil by their side. One that is fierce yet also compassionate enough not to forsake you.” The old man lamented as he observed the figure as if seeing an old familiar face. “It has been so long since I have seen this, so long I can hardly remember. So rare indeed that one would ask this of me.” He turned to the boy who was now seated on the floor carving away at the bamboo not caring to dust himself of the debris spilling onto his lap. “I will need a bit of his ashes, not all, but some. Yes, and your blood.”
“What?!” Shouta leaned forward in the floor chair nearby.
“This cannot begin without ashes and blood.” The old man simply said.
‘Has Grandpa placed Shi’s ashes at his grave yet?’ Dai thought knowing the ashes were no longer in his room, but that was as far as his knowledge went. “What if I can’t get them?” Dai asked.
“It cannot begin without ashes and blood.” He simply repeated.
The boy nodded.
“And of course my fee of 8,330,400 yen.”
“What the hell?” Shouta shouted. “There are plenty of places that could give the same tat but cheaper.”
“I am not them.” The old man stated.
“It’s fine. I will pay you in advance. If it can grant my wish then it’s worth it.”
Shouta’s mind wandered to the kiss when they walked away from the worn house and although he was glad Dai let the matter go he couldn’t help but think about it. ‘Maybe it would be best if Dai fell in love with me. If he did. Would he still be going off the deep end like this?‘
Aya blew out smoky air as her and Kei made the usual trek down the narrow residential road leading to her house.
“Oh guess what?”
“I’ve decided to sign up for the play the drama club is talking about.”
“Awesome.” Kei smiled.
“If they have a leading man part I might grace them with my handsome manliness.” They both laughed.
With a hard thump Kei bounced off the broad back in front of him and landed on the cold road.
“What the hell?!”
“Oh my god!” He heard Aya shout but was quickly becoming enraged at the tall man’s smug features and snide remarks about his eye sight. Kei wanted to punch the cool looking man with his long silky black hair in the face.
Even more so when he stood up and saw Aya blushing in the lanky giant’s direction.
Through the haze of anger he allowed to consume him he did not hear the words Aya spoke to him in her soft and girlish voice but he clearly heard his.
“Maybe you should come see me play. I’ll make sure you get VIP access.” He smiled thinly, used to being the object of women’s fantasies. He stood tall in his black and white Dolce and Gabbana suit with blue tinted sunglasses. He wore two platinum rings on his right thumb and third finger and one on his left pinky, along with one of those blue colorful feathered dream catcher necklaces and two thin red and blue feather earrings on both ears. He looked like a mixture of a gypsy and a playboy. Kei hated him even more, the way he stood there so casually flirting without even trying.
“C’mon Aya. Time to go!” He shuffled her along pass the man who exuded confidence and scented spicy cologne.
“I’ll make sure to be there for your next performance!” She assured him before allowing herself to be swept away. She sighed as she took one last glance as the man entered his black sports car made a sharp screeching U-turn before speeding away.
“Who the hell was that?”
“Tsume from Parasitic Wasp! I can’t believe I ran into him here.”
“Oh yeah, that school band.” He dismissed them.
“They really have what it takes to make it. Their songs are really good and they had an awesome lead singer. But for some reason he quit and left town, at least that’s what I heard.”
“Well I never heard of them so they can’t be that special.” The jealous boy mumbled.
When Dai returned home he immediately searched underneath his bed for a small black and pink Sakura printed bento box. He held the smooth lacquer container in his delicate hands tracing the petal rivets.
‘8,851,050 yen should be here from the pawned tins. This is perfect. Now I just need the ashes. His ashes.’
Dai breathed deeply mustering the courage to go into his Grandpa’s room and ask him about the whereabouts of Shi’s remains. He was so afraid he would not give him any information, and although a part of him couldn’t blame him he had to have that component before the old man could begin. He placed the cash filled bento box back under his bed and proceeded to enter Benjirou’s room.
“Grandpa?” Dai called. His grandfather was a man of eclectic taste which showed in the African voodoo dolls that littered the shelves near the medium sized boxed window, the colorful floor rug from Costa Rica, beautiful in its simple woven pattern of dark and cool blues, bright yellows and tropical greens. The antique brass lamp from Hungry along with the small collection of blood red Vald the Impaler wines. Benjirou sat quietly in front of the cherry wood study desk parked in the corner of by the off white wicker lounge chair and sage green circular ottoman. Dai loved study with its graceful floral and swan carved patterns straight out of the 18th century.
“Ah, you.” Benjirou wistfully smiled as he turned in his seat. “How was school?”
“Fine… better than before.”
“That’s great.” He nodded glad to hear his grandson was doing fine. The old man looked over his visage noting the color that returned to his cheeks, the cheeks that were no longer slightly sinking in from starvation. The uniform he still wore seemed filled in. He looked well, actually more determined, and his quiet lingering presence only confirmed his growing suspicions. “You’re looking for Shi’s remains?”
“Uh…yes, sir.” Dai replied defeated. His grandfather knew almost everything about him and he knew Dai’s shifty eyes were scanning the room for a reason. “It’s not to mourn or wallow over them, I just really need them, it would help me finally settle things.”
“What do you mean?”
“I just feel like everything between Shi and I isn’t finished, I can’t close the book yet, sort of speak.” Dai pleaded with his eyes. He had a difficult time expressing how he felt, he just hoped his grandfather would understand without him having to say what he intended to do with the ashes.
The old man sighed for a long moment, then his body shook as he entered another of his coughing fits.
“Grandpa. Are you okay?!” Dai reached for the sweating glass of water, making sure he sipped slowly.
“I’m fine.” He waved him away. ‘I need to begin preparing him to make his own decisions.’ He stood from the cherry wood chair unlocking a small cabinet connected to the study. He pulled out the urn and handed it to Dai.
“I can’t make every single choice for you. I never had any intention of placing it at the grave. You have to do that on your own.”
Dai held the cool simple beige and gold trimmed urn in his hands and closed his eyes. The weight of holding Shi again overwhelmed him but no more unpleasant thoughts plagued him. This was a new start for the both of them.
A rough sweaty fist connected with the bone of the young boy’s jaw sending him stumbling into the wall behind him.
“I’ll kill ya, ya fucking little punk!” The older man grunted, the alcohol still fresh on his breath.
The blond ignored the throbbing on his face and the sting on his back and wiped the blood from his chin.
“I told ya to have yer ass in this house and making my dinner no later than five! Stupid little bitch!” The old drunkard charged again connecting a series of blows to the back of the head and hands of the cowering teen. “Whaddya gotta say about that?! Huh!?!”
“Get the fuck off me!” The teen yelled, his face boiling hot as he used every ounce of his strength to push the burly man off of him causing him to trip and stumble back, his already woozy head making it difficult for him to gain ground.
“You piece of shit!” Shouta yelled through his tears. “I’ve had enough of you! You’ve done nothing but put me through shit and make my life a living hell! You stole money from me and kicked my ass!” He wiped the water from his stinging blurry eyes.
“You little fucker.” The man slurred. “I’m the parent here! I took care of you! You—“ the man roared.
“I what?!” The teen shot back. “Owe ya?!” He laughed. “For what?! Having me? Like I had any choice in that!”
The man stood up catching his breath. “If it weren’t for me ya wouldn’t be here ya fucking sack of shit! I wouldn’t be a drunk if it weren’t for ya! Hanging out with punks and running around getting in trouble, getting shit grades, cause that’s all ya are!”
“Ya don’t know shit about my real friends! They’re the people who offered me a place to lay low when I needed to get away from you! Or a place to live because they know what a drunk abusive asshole ya are! The friends that saved my ass time and time again while you were stealing from me! Ya never gave a damn about me, you or ma! I got this tattoo on my back and did things I don’t even want to think of because I was trying to save your ass! I even begged mom to loan me some money. But don’t worry because I’m done with ya.”
“Ya punk son of a bitch I’ll kill ya!”
“Do it! I really wish that you would! But I won’t cower in fear anymore. I swear I will fight ya back!”
“Get back here!” The man shouted in vain as Shouta marched out the door, shoes in hand and the clothes on his back which was nothing but a blood stained white T-shirt and ragged styled jeans.
With zero money in his pocket he walked nearly three miles to the old shit hole known to everyone as Grunge City, home to wannabe rock musicians all over Tokyo. No one was sure if Tony–The American born rocker who founded the place–gave it the name because he fell in love with the orange and yellowed speckled walls, the grimy concrete floor, the bullet holes, and knife scrapped red wood and 70’s designed bar or because he was either too lazy or too broke to clean the joint up. It was late in the afternoon when he marched through the bullet proof glass doors and approached the beat up bar taking a seat on the rusted and torn red cushioned stool.
The pierced and dyed crew prepared to open . The tables and couches–located at the balcony were wiped down and day old peanuts were poured into the center ashtray which served as a holder. The grey concrete floor down below was swept as if that would do it any good and the first band–whose name Shouta always forgot, were preparing their sound checks.
“What do you want kid?” Tony asked as he cleaned up the last remaining glasses and flipped them upside down on the rack with the others to dry.
“I need a place to crash for a while.”
Tony’s one good eye zeroed in on the fresh bruise forming on his left eye. “Old man again?” He didn’t need an answer. “Ya can stay as long as ya help around here, and don’t ask for a salary.”
One a.m. marked the after hours, the club stood empty and in need of cleaning, most of the patrons headed out rushing to catch the last trains while the stragglers who lazed about cosigned themselves to their fate. The hopeful young girls hung around hoping to hook up with their favorite band member.
However, tonight was a good night and the bands were high on the music they played, so much so that they all got together and carried the couches to the lower levels. Tony kept the bar flowing and the bands performed various jam sessions that seemed never ending. It was three a.m. and the jam session was far from waning. Shouta parked on the couch above watching a few members of Parasitic Wasp join in the fun. He failed to notice the movement next to him until the boy had settled in and lit his thin black and mild cigar and sucked on the plastic tip. Shouta breathed in the sweet scent. He knew him as Rei–the bassist of Parasitic Wasp, his short spiked inky black hair, pale skin, and sharp features made him the soulful favorite among their small number of fans. While Muraki was the playful type, and Tsume the mature leader. Rei carried an almost quietly thoughtful aura. Like someone peering into the distance seeing what others could not. Shouta nearly lost himself for a moment and the silence was too much to bear.
“So…what are your plans after school?” Shouta nervously asked.
“You guys are leaving school this year too, right?’
“Oh yeah.” Rei’s voice was low and rich.
“We’re finding a singer and start our career, what else would we do?!” A whiny almost high-pitched voice chipped in belonging to the playful Muraki, his black and white hair was spiked with a long ponytail hanging down his back and Shouta wondered if he was scared to go outside during a rainstorm with all those piercings lining his ears, nose, and lip. Actually Rei sported a row of half looped silver rings on his left ear reaching the small pointed peak. Shouta laughed inwardly and wondered if it was mandatory for rock musicians to puncture the shit out of their bodies when they realize they possess musical talent.
Muraki winked at Shouta before tugging at Rei’s black beat up leather jacket. “Tsume’s ready to leave.”
“Where are you guys going?” A young bubbly red head bounced into Rei’s waiting arms. Shouta decided to get up, passing the lively trio. He could tell this was a normal thing among them…to be so close. The red head’s false blue eyes scanned the blonde as he walked to the bar.
“Who’s the hottie?” The red head asked.
“I don’t know, I think he works here.”
Muraki pulled the small boy off Rei. “I remember him from that gang fight in the locker room.”
“Oh yeah.” Rei remembered.
“Akio. I don’t think he’s gay.” Muraki laughed at the near salivating boy. But the teen paid him no mind as he glided across the room, his lithe body sporting his favorite old KISS T-shirt, the one he found at the bottom of his father’s closet and one he took to spite him one last time before his father kicked him out of the house for his sexuality. But he didn’t mind, his father was always a heartless ass and he, the rebel without a cause–in a mischievous way of course, he never allowed his hardships to get the best of him, especially when he was surrounded by friends.
“Hi.” He smiled resting his pale arms against the damp bar.
“Hey.” Shouta looked at him confused before dumping the last ashtray of salted peanuts into the tin and sealing it shut.
“You work here now? I think that’s great.” The red head pushed his body closing off Shouta’s zone.
Before he could work his self proclaimed magic.
“Akio, the dude is straight so he ain’t buying what you’re selling.” Muraki sang loudly.
The sight of the blonde turning scarlet sent the band and crew in hysterics and before the red head refocused his attentions Shouta had vanished into the back kitchen.
The next morning Kei stood at the bottom of the ragged apartment complex looking up at the rusted door overhearing the familiar commotion inside. He felt bad for his friend as he always did but the necessary steps to get rid of him had to begin with Shouta. The only thing he could do is keep his open invitation for him to move.
Shouta exited the door wiping the blood from his face with his ripped T-shirt and once he reached the pavement Kei spoke. “Another fight.” He stated matter of fact.
“I hate that bastard.”
“Not as much as me.”
“Need a place to crash?”
“Nah, I only came back to pick up ma uniform, I’m staying somewhere else right now and I might quit school and just get a job so I can get my own place.”
“You only have a few months to go.”
“I know…but how else can I support myself?”
Shouta stopped in a nearby empty alleyway and changed into his spare uniform and the two set off to school.
“You could’ve spent the night.” Kei said passing the disheveled teen a bagel. “You look like shit.” He said remarking about the formed bruises and overall appearance.
“Then I guess I look how I feel. I slept at Grunge City, I know the owner, he’s a pretty cool guy. These bands were having an all night session so that combined with the pain I couldn’t get any sleep.”
The boys eventually met up with Dai and Aya who approached their meeting spot in front of the colorful cell phone store– which seemed to act as the halfway point dividing their two sections of the city. Kei noticed the distance Dai and Aya maintained from each other and he figured their little fight wasn’t going to blow over any time soon.
“Oh my God, what happened?!” Aya said reaching out to touch Shouta’s sore flesh.
“Ma Dad. Don’t worry I moved out. I’m quitting school and working to save up money.”
“I can give you the money.” Dai offered as the teens set off toward the building.
“Nah, it’s ma problem and I’ll get maself out.”
“Take it, I was going to give this money to you anyway when you were about to run away from Miki.”
“What about the tattoo?”
“Tattoo?” Kei and Aya asked simultaneously. “You’re getting a tattoo Dai?” Aya continued.
“Yeah.” He smiled. “Shouta.” He turned his attention to the blond no longer having to strain his neck to look up at the teen. “I have the money to pay off the artist, with enough to spare for you and my Grandpa so don’t worry about it. You can’t just sleep on the streets, since I bet you’re too proud to crash at one of our houses. It will take forever to raise the key money and deposits so just take the cash. If you budget properly you should have more than enough to keep you going until you graduate.”
Shouta couldn’t help but smile at his friend. His eyes raked over his form and noticed he had gotten taller than before and now came to his nose. He smiled and turned away unable to gaze at those gray eyes for a moment longer.
“I’ll think about it, Dai.”
Once the teen changed their shoes and entered the hall the boy’s ears were assaulted by the screams and squeals of the girls around them and to their surprise Aya joined in with a smile that lit up the entire room.
“Holy Crap! It’s them!” She squealed at the dark and dangerous looking men.
“And who the heck are they exactly?” Kei asked unable to hide the jealously in his voice.
The young girls crowded the door to the music room asking for kisses, dates, and autographs.
“ Parasitic Wasp, a local band formed at the school by a group of seniors. I heard them play last night, although they couldn’t really perform without a singer. But they had one hell of a jam session with another band.” Shouta explained.
“You were there?!” Aya exclaimed. “How come you didn’t call me?!”
“I didn’t know you liked them.” Shouta shrugged internally cowering from the girl’s famous death glare.
“I love them! I think they have a real shot at making it, too bad they haven’t done anything since their lead singer quit.”
“Yeah. They’re only managing to keep their club room open by trying to recruit new members from the school but if they don’t find anyone soon they may have to dissolve the club. Which means they will lose the benefits of using the music room.” Shouta added.
‘Ah so that’s why he asked me.’ Dai thought, thinking of the small audition in the bathroom. ‘They must be desperate to keep their club alive.’
Dai’s eyes passed the colorful sign: Auditions for a play!: Come and let your creative juices flow!
“What is this?”He tore the piece of paper from the wall.
“You should try out for it.” Happy go lucky Toya Shimada, the captain of the drama club approached from behind. Dai believed he was the forever chipper type, the one who always saw the good in everything and everyone. “You’re reliable enough.”
Dai laughed unable to hide the contempt in its tone, he had no idea why.. “I doubt it.”
“C’mon, we’re trying to keep the drama club active and a play is a good start, I know you haven’t been a part of any clubs…”
“Fine, give me the sign-in sheet.’”He held out his hand for the clipboard the other boy gripped like a life line. The teen seemed surprised at his fast cooperation but quickly complied. Dai scribbled his name and handed him the board. ‘Maybe this is what I need to keep my mind off of Shi.’ He thought watching the soft featured boy smile at him. ‘I put myself down for set design, if that’s okay.’
“Sure, no problem! The meetings are after school in the auditorium.
The final bell rang as Dai entered the large empty room noting the artsy stragglers lofting about the lined red theatre chairs. They resembled a small and unified community–all in attendance because they either loved art, plays, music, or just had nothing else better to sign up for. His eyes shifted to the sound of a familiar voice. ‘Wow what is Aya doing here?‘
Soft eyes darted in the direction of the greeting but grew hard and directed her attention at her flock of friends.
‘Okay, I guess she is still mad at me.‘ He thought feeling a tinge of hurt. However despite her anger he did what he believed was right and quite frankly her throwing such a stink about his decision pissed him off more than the pain. But there was no time to reflect on the possible loss of a friendship the club leader was taking center stage and addressing the stragglers.
“Okay guys, thanks everyone for signing up for the drama club. I’m Toya Shimada and I’m the club leader.”
“What type of play are we doing?” A voice rang out from the sprawled out teens.
“Well, um. I haven’t decided yet. That’s what this meeting is about.”
“We can do Hamlet, it’s a neat classic.” A girl with glasses piped up.
“Okay, since everyone wants Hamlet then…”
“Why not put on our own play. Hamlet’s been done to death already.” Dai interrupted.
“ What do you have in mind Dai?”
“Well, we can do something original.” He shrugged. “Perhaps a dark story like Nightmare before Christmas.”
“Yeah that sounds kinda cool, but we can use our own music and story.” Another teen added.
“Of course.” Dai agreed.”“Hm, are you sure we can come up with an original play in such a short time? I was hoping to do it before the seniors leave school this year. This means we only have three months to go.” Toya lamented.
“If you want to prove the drama club is needed then a more original and creative show is needed. I’m sure if we all work hard we can meet the challenge of the two month deadline.” Dai said feeling himself getting more and more pumped up by the idea.
The sleek black town car parked with a kick back in front of the simple corner store. “Shit I can’t believe I’m running late.” The tall impeccably dressed man said as he exited the vehicle. ‘I just have to head in and out nothing more.’
He strode through the glass doors turning here and there looking for the possible aisle that housed what he wanted.
‘Why the hell does he like these things anyway?‘ he thought checking the cookie section. Sure enough he hit gold–a small package of watermelon Daifuku, he could smell the flavor emanating from the six little light green gelled balls in the glossy pack. He wondered why anyone liked them.
Just as he grabbed an extra pack to be on the safe side he spotted a familiar tuff of white hair and instantly thought of Dai. Sweets in hand he made his way down the florescent lighted hall toward the meat section and sure enough the teen stood sorting through the food. His short mane had grown to a length above his shoulders, and colored all black except for one white bang parted to the left. Kane could have sworn he was some sort of Yakuza thug but he knew Dai was far from some violent thug. He wore a dark buttoned up form fitted coat and for a brief moment Kane wondered about the body underneath. ‘Might as well say hello.’
“Kane!” The teen looked up surprised.
Kane loved the way his gray eyes glittered in the light.
“What are you doing here?” Dai asked while placing the meat in his cart.
“I have a parent teacher’s conference at Satoshi’s school. It’s not far from here so I stopped in to pick up some candy for my brother. I figured a place like this would have it.”
“So things are going well between you and your brother?” Dai smiled.
“It’s none of your business but yeah.”
“That’s good, I’m proud of you.” He Ignored the initial retort, he knew Kane had to slip a biting comment somewhere, might as well be sooner rather than later. “Oh, I never really got a chance to properly thank you…for the money. You didn’t have to but you did.”
“It was nothing.” Kane shrugged it off.
“Of course.” Dai lowered his head. “It may not had been a big deal to someone who had the money to give like pocket change, but…”
“It’s not like that. I wanted to help you…because I still care about you Dai.”
The shorter teen looked up and away, almost captured once again by those dark retina pools.
“You still care about me?” He steeled himself before looking up once more. “Hm, are you the real Kaito Kane? Or does a pod person have you?”
“No. I mean it.” He rolled his eyes but not in a mocking or cruel way. “So, how is that boyfriend of yours. Shi, was it?” He asked fighting back the tinge of jealousy.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, I didn’t know it was that deep.”
“His problems extended beyond what money could fix.”
Kane wiped away the shock that settled on his face. He truly meant what he said, if he had known he would’ve helped but the ruthless streak dominating his very existence for years rejoiced. Dai was free. But not even he understood what his freedom meant. He had to admit he had thought of him from time to time and they each had seem to have passed any transgressions between them. There was one thing he knew for certain–a lot has changed since the last time they had spoken and he wasn’t sure if Dai was even the same person from before, actually he was sure of it, but it didn’t deter him. In fact, he wanted to know more.
“If you need to let it all out don’t be afraid to visit me at my office, that’s where I usually am.”
Dai smiled, thankful for the offer. “Thanks, but I think I’m finding an outlet.”
“Good.” Kane nodded but not liking the possible brush off.
“But it feels good talking to you so I may just take up on the offer.”
The two smiled at one another understanding this invitation opened up new possibilities. However, where it would take them neither of them knew.
A young girl giggled at the pair before grabbing a wrapped pork tenderloin and passing them glancing back before disappearing down an aisle. Dai thought she resembled one of those old colorful Chinese jars made to look like little chubby women. ‘What a pair we probably make.’ He thought. Kane dressed sharply in his black suit and long dress coat, shoes buffed to a high luster, dark hair still spiked and neatly trimmed.
“Well I have to hurry up, and Dai I really mean it.” He quickly walked away.
‘Kane looks so mellow now, maybe Osamu’s death was for the best.’
“Fuck!” Dai yelled almost not expecting the echo to carry his voice across the auditorium. “I give up.” He breathed softly.
“What’s wrong Dai?” The young red head asked heading his way.
“I wasn’t blessed with drawing skills.” Dai replied with a smile.
“I can draw pretty good. Just tell me what you are going for and I can sketch something up.” The boy offered.
“I wonder if we will have this play done on time.” The boy asked looking around the room at each student busy working; sketching trees, gothic homes, rounding up old supplies from the drama club, anything screaming horror.
“I wonder the same thing. Shimada hasn’t written anything nor do we even have a name to begin advertising.”
“Hi I’m Akio.” The boy held out his hand for Dai to take realizing that neither of them knew the other.
“Dai.” He took it.
‘Cute and innocent.‘ He thought feeling the heat of the younger boy’s skin and finding it strangely comforting.
‘Hot. I heard he was into guys, I wonder if this would be my big break in losing my virginity, and to such a beautiful guy on top of it!’ Akio gushed inside his head, is eyes grazing Dai’s long neck.
“That’s it! I can’t do it! We are doing Hamlet!” Toya burst in from backstage.
“Why?” Dai asked disappointed.
“I can’t write anything good, every idea I have goes into the garbage! I can’t write dark! I’ve never been dark!” The boy panicked his glasses sitting crookedly on his face.
“Okay, relax.” Dai stood up and placed his hand on his shoulder hoping to calm the near hysterical boy down. “How about I take over as production leader?”
“…fine. I’m such a failure!” He cried.
“No you’re not, you’re gonna work your tail off too, we all will–and it’s going to be as good as we can make it.”