Tokyo Demons Book 1: Chapter 4
Audio version of Chapter 4 can be streamed on YouTube below:
Kiyoshi cried a lot at the wake. He couldn’t help it–his parents had died so suddenly that by the time he processed it and was ready to grieve, he was standing among black-clad adults who expected him to formally receive their condolences. Every pitying look, every “we’re sorry for your loss” sent new tears welling up in his eyes. Incense stung his nose and soaked into his only suit. He hugged the framed photo of his parents and sobbed as quietly as he could.
“It’s okay, buddy.” The broad hand of Uncle Jirou fell onto his shoulder. Kiyoshi curled against the frame and let his uncle handle the adults.
“Poor little Kiyoshi-kun. Will he be staying with you now?”
“For the time being.”
“We’re so sorry for your loss. Honda-san was a good friend of ours.”
“Yes, thank you for coming.”
One of the adults, a familiar face from dinner parties, knelt down and gripped Kiyoshi’s shoulders. Kiyoshi rubbed a fist under his leaking nose and hesitantly looked up.
“Atta boy. You’ll be all right.” He clapped Kiyoshi’s shoulders. “Men have to be strong in times like these.”
Kiyoshi’s bottom lip trembled so fiercely that he had to bite it. Tears continued to roll down his face.
“Your father was telling me you’re the best on your archery team. Said you have a real chance at taking the prize in the Junior High Nationals.”
Kiyoshi sniffed loudly. He didn’t want to talk about the stupid archery team. He wanted to bury his head in a pillow and cry in private.
Uncle Jirou put an arm around him, allowing Kiyoshi the privacy of an arm, at least. Kiyoshi buried his face in his uncle’s jacket.
“Thank you for coming.” Uncle Jirou bowed at the man. “We appreciate it.”
The man sighed and stood. “You’re good to take him in, Jirou-san,” he said quietly. “Still can’t find that ungrateful daughter of theirs?”
Uncle Jirou gently rested a hand on Kiyoshi’s head to cover Kiyoshi’s free ear. “We don’t have a reliable address,” he answered under his breath. “The last few correspondences were postcards from different countries. No phone number, either.”
The man shook his head. “What a disgrace,” he hissed. “What kind of girl drops out of touch with her family like that? Missing her own parents’ funeral!”
“This isn’t the time…”
“Hajime told me how demanding your job is. You shouldn’t have to take him in when he has an adult sister!”
“Please,” Uncle Jirou said quietly. “I’m happy to take Kiyoshi until we get back in contact with her.”
Kiyoshi could hear them, but he didn’t care. He barely knew his sister. She was the teenager who used to live in the other bedroom, a smiling girl who gave him candy when he was in elementary school. He used to fall asleep to the sounds of her fighting with his parents. After she left, she was just a series of letters and strange souvenirs, polite and impersonal. Over the last year she’d transformed into nothing but a sigh on her parents’ lips as they bemoaned her falling out of touch.
“Hang in there, Kiyoshi-kun.” The man left, allowing another adult woman to approach them in his place.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” she said quietly. She bent slightly to be Kiyoshi’s height. “How’s archery, Kiyoshi? When my grandfather died, being in a sports club really helped me cope.”
Kiyoshi sobbed again.
Ayase was getting worse. She could feel her self-control slipping from her rapidly failing grip.
And Sachi had noticed. He’d jumped out of his chair the minute she’d come back from the hospital bathroom, asking why she’d gone so pale. No matter how much he pleaded for an answer, she didn’t mention Kadoyuki. She needed time to process what had happened in that bathroom, and Kadoyuki had begged her to be silent. Ayase complied because she had no better ideas.
She didn’t sleep that night. Her dreams of that foreigner thug were getting worse–now she saw him glaring down at her every time she closed her eyes. She’d never actually seen him in person, but he matched all of the descriptions…there were new details now, like his dirty blond buzz and angry hazel eyes. There were more strangers by his side, some of them foreign. She was locked up somewhere, powerless under their collective gaze, and every time she tried to block out the image and fall asleep the thug would grab her and shake her violently until she shot up in bed. After the seventh or eighth time, Ayase gave up on trying to sleep. She curled up with a book and tried to read through the blurred haze of her tears.
She was so sleep-deprived that she passed out on her desk in homeroom. Mercifully, she was granted a reprieve from the nightmares that day. When she finally awoke to Sachi’s gentle nudging, she realized, in shock, that she had literally slept through every one of her classes. The students were shuffling out of the room after the final bell.
“Hey.” Sachi pulled up a chair as he rested an onigiri and a bottle of tea on her desk. He sat down and gently smiled. “You slept through lunch. You should probably eat something.”
Ayase groggily sat up. She blinked at him several times, waiting for his questions and unhelpful reassurances. But he just smiled, silent, and pushed the food toward her.
For the first time in a long while, she felt a whisper of genuine relief. She unscrewed the cap on the tea and took several long sips. That made her realize how hungry she was, so she unwrapped the plastic around the onigiri and crammed it into her mouth with little ceremony.
Ayase looked up, a few grains of rice spilling down her chin. Kiyoshi stood in the open doorway to their homeroom, his one visible eye wide with surprise.
“Whoa,” he commented. “Are you okay?”
Ayase blushed and looked down as she wiped her mouth. Sachi brushed Kiyoshi off with a gesture.
“She’s just had a hard day. I’ll call you later, man.”
Kiyoshi paused a moment, then dug his hand into his bookbag as he walked toward them. He pulled free with a handful of long, tube-like candies in brightly colored wrappers. He rested them on her desk.
“Here,” he said. “Ranger Cannons. Ever had one of these? They’re really chewy.” He scratched the back of his head. “Maybe it’s stupid, but when I’m having a bad day, these things take so much effort to chew that I can usually forget my problems for a few minutes.”
Ayase stared at the candy. Sachi lifted one up and squinted at it.
“Daisuke Cherry?” he read. “Is that supposed to be a flavor?”
“You never saw Space Lightning Rangers when you were a kid, Sachi? Daisuke’s the red one. Y’know–cherry.”
A little more of the tension in Ayase’s chest released its death grip. She cleared her throat and forced a polite nod.
“Thank you, Kiyoshi.”
He smiled at her. For a moment, she couldn’t help but notice that Kiyoshi was really handsome. But then she remembered his body crammed between her legs in a locker behind a drug deal and she immediately sank into discomfort again.
Kiyoshi left Ayase and Sachi to the quiet of their empty classroom. After Ayase finished eating, Sachi took one of her hands in both of his.
“Ayase,” he said quietly. “Will you come with me today? I think I know someone who can help you.”
Surprised, Ayase pulled her hand back. “H-help me?” she repeated. She couldn’t imagine how Sachi could even fathom her problems.
Sachi sighed. “I don’t know if you were going through something before all that stuff at Blue Light, and maybe the police and the hospital made it worse, or maybe something happened to you that night you’re not telling me about…I don’t know. I do know that whatever you’re going through, you don’t wanna talk to me about it. And that’s okay–I can respect that.” He lowered his voice, which seemed pointless in the empty room. “But this is obviously affecting your health. You do know that you need help, right? From somebody?”
Help. From somebody.
Ayase’s stomach clenched. She didn’t even know what she was running from. She didn’t know who that foreigner from the club was–or what he would do if he got his hands on her. Or whether or not he was working with the police. Or whether or not that had anything to do with…
Ayase’s head whipped around to the desks in the back of class. They were empty, of course.
“What’s wrong?” Sachi asked, following her gaze.
She swallowed. “That…guy who sits in the back,” she murmured, trying to sound calm. “Kadoyuki Yoshimoto. Was he in class today?”
Something changed in Sachi’s eyes. “Wait,” he said. “Kado? Do you know him?”
“I was just…curious?” she said to try and alleviate any suspicion, but she know how ridiculous it sounded at that point.
Sachi paused a moment. “Now that I think of it, no. I don’t think he was here.” He carefully rested a hand on top of hers. “Why?”
She pulled her hand free. Why wouldn’t he stop touching her? She wasn’t being subtle every time she snatched her hand back.
“I don’t know him,” she said. “I just…um…” She looked away. “You call him Kado? Are you guys friends?”
Sachi suddenly scraped his chair back. The sound was so loud in the quiet that Ayase jumped.
“We’re not getting anywhere like this,” he said, clearly frustrated. “Are you trying to distract me from your problems just because everyone knows Kado has issues? It’s not gonna work, Ayase.”
His frustration stoked her own. “I didn’t ask for your opinion,” she said lowly, her voice very nearly a hiss. “I deal with my own problems. It’s not any of your business, no matter how hard you try to make it yours.”
Sachi froze. After a moment, he visibly deflated. He slowly stood.
“You’re right,” he murmured. “I’m sorry.”
It was the fastest argument Ayase had ever won. She didn’t know how to respond to that.
He didn’t even deny it.
Sachi took a deep breath. “Ayase,” he said, his dark eyes settling on her. “If you want me to leave you alone, I will. I promise I will. But if whatever you’re going through is too big for you to handle alone…” He settled his hand on the desk, pointedly not touching her. “Then please come with me today. If I can’t help you, maybe somebody else can.”
Ayase swallowed. She hadn’t expected to find herself with the opportunity to directly sever things with Sachi. Did he mean that? Was he really giving her an out to his bizarre attention and possibly…friendship?
Accepting Sachi’s invitation to Blue Light had started this entire mess. Every step of the way he’d poked and prodded his way into her business even as she tried to brush him off. Few people in her life had gotten as close to her personal life as Sachi. Considering she’d only known him for a few days, it spoke volumes of his determination and how bad she was at deflecting it.
Not having him follow her around would be a relief. She wasn’t in a state to fend him off anymore–he might figure out her secret if things continued. And since he was the only person who’d bother inviting her out over and over, ending things with him would solidify a safe distance with Kiyoshi and Jo as well. It would give her her privacy back. She would be allowed to face her problems alone, as she’d always done.
Ayase opened her mouth.
“I…I’ll go with you,” she said.
Goddammit! Ayase winced. Her brain silently lectured her mouth for being stupid.
The tension melted out of Sachi’s face. He bent to retrieve their book bags and handed her hers. She reluctantly accepted.
“Come on,” Sachi said quietly. “We’ll take the subway.”
Ayase lurched to her feet. She was under too much stress–she wasn’t thinking clearly. First falling down the stairs, then the nightmares, and now this. She desperately needed a proper night’s sleep or she was going to screw things up beyond repair.
Ugh. She was sure Sachi couldn’t help her, but she also didn’t have any other ideas. She just prayed this wasn’t going to make things worse.
“Where are we going, anyway?” she murmured.
Sachi slung his bag over his shoulder. “To confession,” he answered evenly.
Jo puffed on his umpteenth cigarette. He always found pacing helped him focus when he needed to think, but his dorm room was too small. He was pacing so fast and turning so often that he was starting to get dizzy.
He ground out his cigarette on the overflowing ashtray. He coughed, his eyes watering in the cloud of smoke he had formed in the room. He opened the sticking slide window with a few harsh tugs and stuck his head into the twilight outside, breathing in the cleaner air.
“Hey! Over here!”
Jo grimaced. Mitsuko. Damn her–she knew what she was doing. Jo had definitely been distracted by her feminine wiles and killer body, but she’d also gotten a hand with long nails into his pocket without him noticing. And she’d robbed him in Blue Light without him seeing her at all. So the “sexy distraction” was just insurance–she was a qualified pickpocket without it.
Jo was mostly self-taught, but he’d met a few other thieves and burglars in his day. He knew a college student who could do slight-of-hand magic: he used it to earn coins while busking on the street, and jewelry while packing into overcrowded subways. One of Jo’s foster acquaintances was notorious for planting porn in the offices of federal employees who were dicks to kids in the system.
But he’d never seen a girl like Mitsuko. The combination of skill and charm were deadly. He also considered her one of the greatest threats he’d ever come across–not only because she was competition, but because she’d lifted two stolen wallets off him already. She knew he was robbing people.
Jo angrily bit a fingernail and fought the urge for another cigarette.
He either had to take Mitsuko down or win her over. Taking her down would be difficult, considering she was a popular (and female) upperclassman. He could try to concoct a trap that would get her kicked out of school, but considering how low Fukuhashi’s standards were, they probably didn’t expel for anything short of murder. And if she was already 17 or 18, her being out of school didn’t mean she would be out of his life. Hell, she possibly had a license and access to a car. She possibly had a cop boyfriend who would happily kick Jo’s ass. He’d seen hot girls with brains land politicians at her age.
No–taking her down was too risky. He needed to know more about her first. And the concept of winning her over instead was too tempting. The electricity he’d felt between them wasn’t just her trying to get into his pocket…was it?
Dammit, he thought. This is sounding dangerously hot.
Jo’s thoughts were suddenly cut off by a rapping on the door. He pulled himself inside the window and scowled. Spitting out the shards of fingernail now on his tongue, he went to unlock the door and yell at Kiyoshi for forgetting his keys again.
But Kiyoshi wasn’t outside. A tall upperclassman stood in the hallway, one gloved hand raised in preparation to knock again.
Their eyes met.
And…something happened. Jo didn’t know what it was. He just suddenly felt something pull at the deepest recesses of his being. He stopped breathing for a second, something very strange and very old surfacing inside his heart.
The upperclassman looked almost as surprised as Jo. His dark eyes were wide as he and Jo stared at each other. Then, after a few moments, his expression neutralized and he raised one fastidiously plucked eyebrow.
“Hm,” he drawled. “And who are you, young man?”
Jo snapped out of whatever had come over him. He cleared his throat and furrowed his brow.
“You’re the one at my door,” he said evenly. “Who are you?” He took a breath. “Senpai,” he added.
The upperclassman smiled. He was reasonably handsome, but more than anything, he was painstakingly groomed. There wasn’t a single crease in his uniform, a single hair out of place on his head. Even the mole on his chin looked strategically positioned. The black gloves he wore with his school uniform seemed strangely appropriate, like how white gloves looked natural on a man in a tuxedo.
“I’m sorry–you’re right.” The upperclassman lowered his hand. “I’m Touya Kamishita, one of the student advisors at Fukuhashi. I’m looking for Kiyoshi Honda.”
Jo was about to blurt an excuse, then reminded himself that Touya had asked for Kiyoshi. It had nothing to do with Jo skipping school that day.
“Kiyoshi hasn’t come back yet,” he answered. “I think there was some sports club thing he wanted to go to.”
“That’s too bad. Do you know when he’ll be back?” Touya glanced over Jo’s head, into the room beyond. “And were you smoking in your dorm room?”
Jo quickly stepped into the hallway and pulled the door shut behind him. “No,” he said quickly. “I don’t know when he’ll be back.”
Touya raised an eyebrow again. ”I suppose, as an advisor, I’ll have to reprimand you.”
In the hallway, Jo noticed more clearly that the man wore cologne. It was strong and smelled expensive. Was that the reason Touya made him feel so weird? Jo wasn’t used to smelling anything but smoke or cheap deodorant on classmates.
“Uh…it’s not mine?” Jo offered.
Touya leaned forward and rested a hand on the doorframe, effectively trapping Jo against the door. “Jo Oda,” he said. “Right? If I’m remembering the dorm assignments correctly.”
Jo was getting uncomfortable. The cologne was making him dizzy. Was there something in it? Jo was reminded of something he’d heard once: some swingers mixed actual pheromones into their perfume if they had the cash to buy it off cosmetic labs. Pheromones didn’t smell like anything, but they drew in people…
Jo stopped. A swinger.
“Uh…sorry?” Jo pensively offered this time.
Touya smiled, all but confirming Jo’s sudden suspicion. “You don’t look sorry,” he drawled.
He’s hitting on me.
Jo felt a degree of relief flood through him. If that was the strange vibe he was getting off this guy, Jo could definitely handle it. He’d been hit on by guys before and it didn’t particularly bother him. He knew on good authority that his style and grooming habits were particularly appealing to gay men, anyway.
His confidence regained, Jo met Touya’s eyes. “You don’t look a student advisor,” he retorted. “If you don’t mind me saying.”
“Is Kiyoshi in trouble or something?” Jo asked, trying to change the subject.
It worked. Touya pulled his arm back so he wasn’t looming over Jo.
“Nothing like that,” Touya assured him. “It’s actually related to the sports clubs. All the sports advisors want me to talk to him about joining the archery team.”
Jo remembered that Kiyoshi had mentioned archery before. “I thought he wanted to play soccer,” he commented, remembering the several times he’d tripped over that damn ball in their room.
“Maybe Honda-kun never spoke to you about his junior high experiences in archery. He is by far the most talented archer to ever come to this school, and his bizarre wish to join the soccer team would be a waste of his talents.”
Jo didn’t quite buy it. “Kiyoshi joining the soccer team is that much of an issue,” he clarified.
“Let me put it this way.” Touya flipped a few gloved fingers in the air. “He was nationally ranked in junior high–and I mean nationally ranked out of all archers, not just pre-teens. He beat records of adults and professionals.”
Jo paused. He tried to imagine Kiyoshi that good at something.
“Have you seen my sandwich, Jo? I thought I left it in the bathroom, but I already checked there.”
Jo frowned. “He never…got hit in the head at one of his meets, did he?”
Jo shook his head. “Never mind,” he murmured. “I’ll tell him you came by. Is that all you needed, senpai?”
Touya’s tone changed slightly. “For now. Although I’d be happy to set up an advisement meeting with you, Oda-kun.” He smiled thinly. “Fukuhashi is a dangerous environment for young people with no focus. If you’re going to make alliances, you should make them with peers who have your best interests in mind.”
Jo crossed his arms. “I don’t particularly like making alliances, sorry.”
Touya’s eyes dragged over to Jo’s white watch. Jo tucked his wrist more tightly into his arms.
“I have a lot of white shoes,” he lied.
Touya leaned in. His cologne assaulted Jo’s senses anew.
“Just like this school doesn’t want Honda-kun to waste his natural talents,” he said, “I would hate to see you waste what nature blessed upon you, Jo Oda.” Touya dipped a hand into his pocket and pulled out a small metal business card case. He unsnapped it with one hand and slipped out a card with two fingers, offering it to Jo.
It would get him to leave, and Jo didn’t see how it could hurt. He accepted the card with both hands as he’d been taught.
“I’ll keep it in mind,” Jo murmured. He opened the door behind him, slipped back in his room, and bowed his head before closing the door.
Touya smiled as he disappeared behind the edge of the wood.
Jo let out a breath. He really needed a cigarette, but he figured he’d wait a few minutes before risking it. He didn’t want Touya to knock on his door again and ask for some sort of favor to not report him.
He took a stick of gum from Kiyoshi’s change pile instead. As he tossed the wrapper and pushed the gum into his mouth, Jo looked at Touya’s business card more carefully.
Touya Kamishita, it read. Investment advisor. There was an e-mail address and phone number. Based on the glossy finish and the corporate logo, Jo figured that Touya had a pretty lucrative business advising outside of school. Which made it strange for him to be wasting his free time at a slum like Fukuhashi, but whatever. Schools were always desperate for poster boys–the administrators were probably making it worth his while somehow.
Ugh, the gum tasted like grape puke. Jo spit it out in the trash. He was about to toss the card behind it when he suddenly noticed the name of the business printed on the card.
Jo raised his eyebrows, suddenly much more interested. Sharing a last name with a holding company only meant one thing. After a moment of deliberation, he rested the card into his sock drawer next to some of his loose cash.
That upperclassman was probably rich as hell. And he wanted Jo’s ass. Jo smiled to himself.
This could be useful.
Proceed to Chapter 4, page 2–>