Tokyo Demons Book 2: Chapter 3
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Shouri liked her church well enough. She’d hated the family church back in Georgia, but things were different in San Francisco. People were more…flexible. Open-minded. And unlike the useless lip service of her old church about how women could be pastors, her San Francisco pastor was actually female. When her dad mentioned that he found the woman “too liberal,” that was all the reason Shouri needed to keep going every Sunday. Shouri loved the added bonus of pissing off her father.
But whenever the cool lady pastor brought in guest speakers, Shouri remembered why she’d hated church. The boring white guys said the same things about God over and over. The sins they recounted with tearful regret were predictable and boring. An intervention that failed, Jesus finally bringing the light. Shouri would get so bored that she’d go over multiplication tables in her head until she hit a number she couldn’t square. She never hit that number, but the most mind-numbing of the speakers actually propelled her into the 1300s.
One Sunday, the pastor brought in some guy with more of a criminal record than usual. Shouri zoned him out, instead playing a handheld game system under her scarf. Shouri was so engrossed that she missed the end of service. She ended up at the back of line to get out, the procession slowed by the guest speaker shaking everyone’s damn hand. She squirmed, anxious and irritated, until it was time for her to rigidly jam out a hand for the man to clasp.
He didn’t. She frowned and looked up.
He was staring at her in shock.
And then, for some reason…something opened inside Shouri. She felt something strange and powerful pull her toward the strange man who stood before her. She opened her mouth, but words died in her throat. Something tingled up her spine.
“Y-you,” he breathed.
Shouri pulled back her hand, deeply unnerved. “Uh,” she blurted. “Have we…met before?”
The man snapped his head toward the pastor, who shook hands just outside the door. He grabbed Shouri’s arm and dragged her toward a corner of the church.
“Dude!” Shouri twisted her arm free of the bruising grip. “Don’t grab me!”
The man whipped to her and leaned in, breathless. “What’s your name?” he whispered as he licked his dry lips. “Are you part of this church? Who are your parents?!”
Shouri backed away from the man, throwing her hands up in front of her. “That’s none of your business, weirdo!”
“But you’re different, aren’t you? And you know you’re different!”
The man’s eyes gleamed; he nodded quickly at her response. “You know what I’m talking about,” he breathed. “There’s something physical about you that sets you apart…your body’s incredible in some way.”
Shouri paused, suddenly confused. “Something physical?” she repeated.
“Exactly! Like you’re strong or fast, or you don’t get sick…”
“Don’t get sick? I don’t know what the hell you’re…” Shouri trailed off as that weird feeling washed over her again. There was something about this guy. Something…familiar.
She suddenly flashed back to several specialists in her youth, sitting her down for hand-eye coordination tests. She’d broken some record, to the surprise and delight of her teachers, but all they suggested was she sign up for music or sports. Shouri hadn’t been interested in either.
The nostalgia coiled inside her, wrapped around the strange sensation that she’d met this guy before. She squinted at him.
“Who the hell are you?”
The man crouched to be closer to Shouri’s height, his face suddenly grave. “I’m like you,” he said quietly. “Different. We’re very rare, girl, so people like us can sense each other.”
He was starting to creep her out. Shouri took a step back.
“I have to warn you.” The man clasped his hands in front of his face, desperation in his gaze. “We’re stronger than normal people, but that’s because we weren’t made in God’s image. There’s always going to be a part of you that wants to do bad things–to hurt others, to break God’s rules. Don’t end up like me.”
Shouri felt anger well up inside her. Now she knew what he was getting at. It was an exaggeration, maybe, but not compared to some of the ignorant assholes she’d met.
“Then we did meet,” she muttered. “I must’ve bumped into you at the G-Spot or something.”
He blinked. “The what?”
“The club! The club in Bernal Heights!”
The man frantically shook his head. “No, we’ve never met! But we can sense each other because we’re both Evil!”
“Hey!” Shouri raised a fist angrily. “Watch your mouth, you bigot. Did you get a little action in prison and now you’ve got buyer’s remorse? Don’t try to spread your self-loathing to me!” She growled. “You came to the wrong church to preach. Our pastor’s not a hate-filled dick like you.”
“What?! I’m not–”
Shouri had heard enough. She turned and walked away, ignoring the man’s cries. She suppressed the urge to flip him off, since she was afraid the pastor would see.
Not made in God’s image.
The nerve of that asshole.
Shouri was used to being lectured–she was in church, for God’s sake. But who the hell walked up to someone and accused them of being evil?
But the weird sensation she’d felt from the man haunted her. Despite her resentment, she still had the sick feeling that she was leaving someone important behind. Like a friend, a sympathizer…
Or a brother.
Jo didn’t remember much from his escape out of Motoi. His body had been on the verge of collapse, and the violent coughing from the smoke inhalation had sapped the last of his strength. He’d heard yells, the distant blare of sirens. Arms had dragged him from the ground and away from the burning building. One of the people supporting his right side had planted kisses along his face; Jo had jerked back in surprise until he realized it was Mitsuko.
He vaguely remembered the back of a van, water between his lips, and coughing hard enough to gag it back up. He’d blacked out at some point.
When he finally awoke, he found himself on a stiff, familiar futon facing a wall. He heard soft music and voices behind him.
Huh? He blinked his eyelids, confused at how badly they stung. He slowly rolled around.
He was back in the church–in that giant sleeping room. On the other side of the room, someone had moved the old television from the kitchen onto a low table. Kiyoshi sat in front of it and slowly explained something to Zayd.
“…wasn’t supposed to come to her wedding, but he did. That’s why she was freaking out.”
Zayd frowned. “But…maybe he wanted to wish her well.”
“He was trying to steal her back.” Kiyoshi yawned. “And it’s gonna work. She’s gonna cancel the wedding after the commercial.”
“How do you know that?”
“You can’t have a wedding on episode seven. What would they do for the rest of the series?”
Jo swallowed, then winced. His mouth tasted like rotting smoke.
“K-Kiyoshi?” he croaked.
Kiyoshi craned his head around and lit up. As Jo pushed himself into a sitting position, Kiyoshi crawled over to his futon.
“You’re awake!” Kiyoshi smiled sleepily behind his pallor. “You were out forever. And you sleep like a dead guy.”
Jo squinted. “Since when are you out of the sick room?” he murmured. “Are you okay?”
Kiyoshi’s smile drooped a bit. He shrugged.
“They need the sick room.”
Jo rubbed his blurry eyes. Kiyoshi looked unusually skinny, like he’d lost a few kilos since his detox. The first tiny prickles of facial hair had sprouted up around his lips and chin; Jo assumed that was a new addition to his post-Pitch body. But even though Kiyoshi’s eyes were dilated, he seemed surprisingly lucid. Jo hadn’t heard Kiyoshi do more than murmur in his sleep since that fateful night.
Jo stretched out his legs, then winced at the screaming muscles. He rubbed at his aching chest.
He felt like overstretched taffy. That someone had stepped on.
Kiyoshi palmed the box of cigarettes near them. “Nee-san says you shouldn’t smoke yet, since you inhaled so much smoke. But would it help to suck on one?”
Jo frowned as Kiyoshi pulled out a stick. “I don’t…suck on cigarettes,” he explained. “That’s not how smoking works.”
“Really? I thought it was like hard candy or a pacifier. People like ’em because of that oral thing…”
Jo furrowed his eyebrows. “Oral fixation?” he finished.
Kiyoshi giggled. He mimicked the cigarette going in and out of his mouth.
“Yeah. Like little blow jobs.”
Jo stared at Kiyoshi. Maybe not that lucid.
Zayd sat down beside them and sighed heavily. “Kiyoshi just took his pill,” he answered. “So he is…high, I think you call it.”
Great. Jo snatched the cigarette from Kiyoshi’s suggestive fingers and slid it back in the box. He looked past the drama on the television to the empty hallway beyond the door.
“Where is everybody?” he asked. “What time is it?”
“Friday morning. You slept through Thursday.” Zayd took the box of cigarettes away before Kiyoshi could grab it again. “Sachi and Kadoyuki are with Ayase, who returned with Nick after Motoi.”
Jo ran a hand through his matted hair. “Ayase isn’t here?”
Jo felt a thread of anxiety swirl in his stomach. He thought one of the benefits of the church was their powerhouse wouldn’t leave.
And Ayase had snuck out with Nick before Motoi, hadn’t she? Jo sincerely hoped that Nick and Ayase wouldn’t make a habit of this crap. If the church was going to stay safe, it needed more to defend them than Adam and Zayd.
He paused. “Adam had better be here,” he said flatly.
“Of course. He is with Daniel and Emi, who are treating Shouri in the sick room.”
Shouri. Jo suddenly remembered her accusation in the fire.
Jo rubbed his head. He had to have heard that wrong. Who the hell called their rescuer evil?
Unless she was suicidal or something. But he’d definitely seen her fight her attackers, so he doubted it was that. Then what…
He still remembered the draw between them, a chilling parallel to his first moments with Touya. Jo shivered.
“Question about her,” Jo mumbled as he pulled his robe around his shoulders. “Is there, like, something weird about her?”
Zayd paused. “What do you mean?”
Jo rubbed the back of his neck. How the hell could he phrase this? She makes me feel the way Touya makes me feel? She said something crazy to my face? Jo had never told anyone about his weird “resonance” with Touya, since he’d written it off as Touya’s creepy pheromones. But now Jo couldn’t ignore it. What he’d sensed on Touya had been real–something tangible and unnatural, replicated exactly in his first moments with Shouri. It almost seemed like the way Sachi described his power working.
Jo swallowed. “Is she…supernatural?” he asked at last.
Zayd let out a breath. “No,” he answered. “Not exactly.”
Jo blinked. “Not exactly?”
“There is something different about her, yes. But it is very…private.” Zayd shook his head. “It would not be appropriate for me to tell you.”
Kiyoshi leaned back on his arms. “Like a girl thing?” he asked.
Zayd ignored him and furrowed his brow at Jo. “Who told you she was different?”
“No one. She just…” Jo felt frustration well up inside him. “She’s got a power but you won’t tell me? She’s not gonna freak out like Kado, is she?”
“She does not have a power. She is not supernatural. Her body is just…” Zayd sighed. “It is her business. If she wishes to tell you, then she will.”
Jo tensed his jaw. “Fine,” he snapped as he got to his feet. He winced as pain raced through him from toes to neck. “Then I’ll ask her directly.”
Kiyoshi blurted his surprise as Zayd stood. “No,” Zayd said firmly. “Do not stress her now. We think she is close to withdrawal.”
Jo clenched his fists. “Then…let me ask her something else. She said something to me and I need to know what she meant.”
“What did she tell you?”
Jo opened his mouth, but something stopped the words in his throat. He stared at Zayd.
A memory of Touya suddenly floated to the top of Jo’s mind. The upperclassman smiled and drummed his gloved fingers on a table.
“You and I have a lot more in common than you think.”
Jo’s mouth went dry. As that green gaze hardened at him, some heavy, terrifying guilt clamped around Jo’s throat.
Kiyoshi’s gurgle broke the silence. Jo snapped his head down at Kiyoshi, who suddenly gripped his mouth and turned a shade paler.
Zayd’s demeanor softened as he knelt by Kiyoshi. “It’s okay,” he said as he helped Kiyoshi to his feet. “We will get you to the bathroom.”
Kiyoshi mumbled something under his hand as Zayd rushed him toward the door. Jo made to help, but Zayd shook his head.
“You are injured, Jo. Lie down.”
They vanished into the hallway. Jo heard footsteps, the creaking of a door, Kiyoshi gasping–and then, as usual, the familiar sound of vomiting.
Jo took a long breath and ran his hands over his face.
He needed a cigarette; fuck his lungs. Jo grabbed the box and his lighter from the floor and slid a stick between his lips. He lit the end and took a long, shaky drag.
It was like fire running through his chest. He started hacking uncontrollably, the strain tearing at his screaming muscles. He doubled over and dropped the lit cigarette.
“Sh-hagck! Shit!” Jo grabbed the smoking cigarette from his futon sheets, blinking water from his eyes. Gray ash sprinkled onto the fabric as his diaphragm spasmed a few more wheezes.
Jo gingerly cleared the phlegm from his throat. He grimaced and put the cigarette out in his portable ashtray.
He was glad no one had seen that.
He needed to drink something. He snapped off the television as he left the room, grateful to silence the cheesy music. His eyes caught on a row of paper bags in the hallway. His name was scribbled on one of them.
He knelt to crinkle it open. A familiar shirt was folded on the top of the contents.
Relief flooded through Jo. My stuff from the dorm, he thought. He’d forgotten about Emi’s trip there. Some of the knots in his stomach loosened as he brought the bag to the kitchen.
He found a half-empty bottle of tea in the fridge. Jo drank straight from it as he rummaged through his bag. Emi had brought him direly needed underwear, his only pair of jeans, a few tops…it was a marked improvement over the few outfits he’d packed before leaving Fukuhashi. He was sick of wearing the same damn clothes–or whatever Daniel lent him, which was usually polo shirts two sizes too big.
His toiletry bag had been crammed at the bottom. It had his toothbrush, hair products, cologne…he saw his razor and automatically ran his fingers over his face. He felt a little uneven roughness, but probably nothing visible yet.
He didn’t remember he was carrying his mobile phone until it buzzed in his robe pocket. He pulled it out and flipped it open.
It was a text message. From Mitsuko.
Still haven’t heard from you yet, it read. I hope you’re okay. Text when you can.
Jo noticed a number of unread texts in the phone. The first few were from Nick–updates during the Motoi attack, including Shouri’s move from the sixth floor. Jo felt a little stupid for missing those. But the rest were from Mitsuko, following up after Shouri’s rescue.
Jo took a minute to figure out the text interface on the phone. Just got up, he managed at last. Fine. Glad you’re okay.
The phone buzzed again almost immediately. Glad you’re okay! she responded. Byakko’s meeting up today or tomorrow. Takeshi said some of the church guys are coming. Are you?
Don’t know. Haven’t heard.
I guess it’s at Blue Light. Isn’t that your old stomping ground? :)
Jo blinked. Blue Light? He’d been hoping to never set foot in that goddamn club again.
Is that safe? Public place.
Looks like they’re closed for a few days…Takeshi said he worked out some kind of deal for us to use it. Good thing, since we don’t have a stable meet-up place for the gang right now.
Jo had no idea how she typed out those messages so fast. He awkwardly fumbled with his buttons, desperate to maintain his grammar.
Will ask. Will try.
Good! Try to come. I miss you.
Jo pursed his lips. He stared at that message for several long seconds.
tap tap tap
Jo froze. Had he imagined that? He put down his tea and went into the hallway, taking a few steps toward the back of the church. The further he went, the more clearly he could hear the high-pitched beeps of a heart monitor from the sick room.
tap tap tap
It had come from the back door. Jo craned his head around the corner of the hall; sure enough, he could see movement through the chink of the wooden slats nailed over the window.
“Allo?” a woman’s voice called in what sounded like accented English. She spoke a string of short sentences, but Jo couldn’t understand a word. He changed his mind about it being English.
Who the hell is that?
Jo’s nerves burned, but he forced himself to stay calm. The woman was knocking. He leaned back toward the kitchen and whisper-called for Zayd.
No response. When the woman started knocking louder, Jo pulled his robe closer around his body.
“The church is closed,” he called back. “Sorry.” He thought on that a second, then repeated the words in the best English he could manage.
The woman paused. “English okay,” she called back in awkward English. “I am Aisha. I am here.”
Aisha? Where had Jo heard that name before?
“Please,” she called. “I am Aisha. I am to Zayd. La…with Zayd. I am with Zayd.”
Jo was starting to believe she wasn’t an enemy–but if she was a friend, she had to stop yelling names outside where surveillance could hear. Jo called for Zayd again and ran to the door.
“Okay!” he said through the wood. “Just…keep it down.” He undid the multiple locks but left the chain in place. He tentatively cracked the door open.
A woman in a headscarf and long skirt stood on the back step. She had Zayd’s complexion, only darker; her eyes were brown instead of green. Despite the serious expression on her face, a wave of sweet-smelling perfume wafted off her.
As far as Jo could tell, she was alone. He undid the chain lock and quickly gestured her inside.
Jo redid the locks just as Zayd appeared around the corner with Kiyoshi. His eyes widened.
The woman’s expression softened. She said something to him in a foreign tongue.
Zayd gently removed Kiyoshi’s arm from his shoulder and helped him steady himself against the wall. Then he ran to the woman and clasped her hand. He pulled her close to kiss both cheeks.
Jo suddenly remembered where he’d heard her name. Someone had mentioned that Zayd was married.
Zayd and Aisha spoke quickly in their mother tongue; Zayd sounded more animated than usual, pausing a few times to kiss her hand. He eventually turned back to Jo and Kiyoshi.
“She is Aisha Salama,” he explained. “We are married by contract, but do not live together…it is like ‘engagement’ to the Japanese, I think.”
Jo frowned. “How did she get here?”
“She took a plane from Saudi Arabia. She came to the church in a taxi.”
Jo stared at him incredulously after the word taxi.
Zayd answered his unasked question. “It is safe for her to come here, because Core doesn’t know who she is or when she is coming. And she will not leave. That is much safer than a comrade bringing her here and driving away, when they could be followed.”
Jo opened his mouth to retort, then thought for a second. He closed his mouth.
That actually makes sense. He hoped–he desperately hoped–that meant the church was more organized and cautious than he gave them credit for.
Kiyoshi bowed politely at the woman, though he wavered on his feet. Aisha and Zayd exchanged a few words while her eyes trailed over Kiyoshi.
“Kiyoshi,” Zayd said at last. “She is asking permission to touch you. She is a doctor.”
Kiyoshi frowned in confusion. “Uh…sure,” he murmured. “But she’s not gonna…go for my junk or something, is she?”
Zayd furrowed his thick eyebrows. “What is your ‘junk’?”
Kiyoshi turned red. As he gestured, obviously still high, to his general crotch area, Aisha clucked her tongue and shook her head.
“She will not go under your clothes,” Zayd explained. “She is asking because she is a woman and we have rules about this in Islam.”
Kiyoshi exchanged glances with Jo. Jo shrugged.
Zayd said something to Aisha; she walked over to Kiyoshi and gestured for him to lean down. She pushed back his eyelids, craned open his mouth, and brushed the new stubble on his face. She pressed her fingers against his wrist and checked her watch.
She murmured something to Zayd. “Kiyoshi,” he translated. “This hair on your face…did you have it before you took the Pitch?”
Kiyoshi blinked. He ran a hand over his jaw.
“I have facial hair?”
Aisha touched Kiyoshi’s Adam’s apple. “This,” she said in English. “New?”
Kiyoshi stared at her. Jo translated into Japanese.
“Oh! No, I had that before…my voice changed in middle school.” He frowned. “Most guys change by middle school, don’t they?”
“She is just trying to understand what the Pitch did to your body.” Zayd exchanged a few more words with Aisha. Seemingly satisfied, she released Kiyoshi.
“She says you need to drink much more–liquid with salt and sugar and vitamins. But your heart feels strong. She will check more things later, but I need to bring her to Shouri.”
Kiyoshi bowed awkwardly at the woman, and she nodded back. He watched Zayd lead her around the corner toward the sick room.
When Kiyoshi said nothing, Jo cleared his throat.
“She thinks you’re okay,” he said quietly. “That means your sister’s been taking care of you.”
Kiyoshi screwed his mouth down. He scratched his chin.
“I think Zayd was on the phone with that lady during your detox. Some doctor was feeding us information.”
Kiyoshi twitched a little at the word “detox.” He swung dilated eyes to Jo before dropping his gaze to the floor.
“I don’t…really remember that,” Kiyoshi murmured. “But I had some nightmares about it. I hope I didn’t piss myself in front of everyone or something”
Jo decided to tread lightly. “No,” he replied. “You vomited a lot, but everyone’s been puking around here.”
Kiyoshi paused. He clenched and unclenched his hands.
“Did I…say anything stupid?” he asked quietly. “Something about Mai or…” He trailed off, clenching his hands again. A little color flooded his face.
Jo waited. Kiyoshi swallowed hard.
Jo furrowed his eyebrows. “No,” he murmured, a little uncomfortable with the question. “Nothing like that.”
“Really? I’ve had…kinda crazy wood. And something definitely happened last night, since my boxers this morning were all–”
“I get it,” Jo cut off. “I don’t need the details, Kiyoshi.”
Kiyoshi almost looked hurt. Jo forced down the defensive frustration that welled up inside him.
He’s still fucked up, he reminded himself. These are the drugs talking.
Jo sighed. “It’s probably the Pitch,” he said at last. “If it’s giving you a beard, it’s probably messing with your hormones.”
Kiyoshi touched his face again. His fingers rolled along the stubble, curious and bewildered.
He looked to the floor again. “I guess it…happened a little while I was training at Core,” he admitted. “Hard-ons and stuff.”
Jo shrugged. To his dismay, Kiyoshi went on.
“But I was really scared of it happening at night, so I sorta…took care of it in the bathroom before bed. So I could sleep better.”
Jo wished he would stop talking. “Sure,” he answered dryly.
“I hated doing it there. But it was better than, like…doing it in my sleep. In front of the bug.”
Jo paused at that. “Bug?” he repeated in confusion.
Kiyoshi turned red. “Ayase,” he murmured.
He’d completely forgotten that part.
Kiyoshi gripped his mouth. “I can get…kinda freaky in my sleep,” he said weakly. “And that time we were stuck in Blue Light, when Ayase was crammed in a locker with me, I sorta…”
What the hell?
Jo’s morbid fascination kept him from interrupting. But Kiyoshi, for some reason, didn’t elaborate on that one.
Jo’s discomfort rolled back at full strength. Kiyoshi had a horrible look on his face, so Jo threw out his hands.
“I’m sure most of that went over her head,” Jo assured him. “Believe me, you’ll know if you’re freaking a girl out. She’s not weird around you, is she?”
Kiyoshi thought on that a second. He furrowed his eyebrows.
“You’re fine,” Jo assured, more firm this time. “Your body’s just going crazy right now. Once you’re clean, I’m sure you’ll settle down.
Kiyoshi grunted in response, but it almost came out like a whimper. His eyes grew glassy.
Jo silently willed Kiyoshi to keep it together. Don’t cry, he begged. Don’t puke. No more dick stories.
Kiyoshi sniffed. Then, to Jo’s surprise, Kiyoshi wrapped his arms around Jo and buried his face in Jo’s hair.
“I’m glad you woke up today,” Kiyoshi murmured. “I missed you.”
Jo swallowed. Kiyoshi hung on him like an overgrown child, but his strong arms were uncomfortably tight.
Jo sighed. He slid an arm up to pat Kiyoshi on the back.
“I missed you, too,” he replied, trying not to let the drugs completely ruin the moment.
But I’m still waiting for you to come back.
Proceed to Chapter 3, page 2–>