Tokyo Demons: Book 3, Chapter 5, Part 2
A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #027 back issue.
[Trigger warning for body horror in illustration below.]
Ayase clasped Sachi’s hand–with her only set of fingers–and wouldn’t let go. He squeezed back with a clammy, trembling grip.
She curled up with him on her bed, bleary and wired despite the suffocating misery that crushed down on her chest. Sachi wheezed half-words that rumbled through his throat, and she buried herself there, a waft of fabric detergent from his pajama shirt mingling with the sour scent of his sweat.
She closed her eyes…and dreamed about killing Touya.
The violent fantasies twisted in her head–burning down the love hotel with him still in it, stinging him until he ran into traffic outside the hospital, straddling him in a bathroom in some hidden apartment and choking the life out of him. She drifted back to Fukuhashi, and meeting him on the roof that night…where she could push him to his death before he raped Kadoyuki.
The dark desire consumed her, and she could barely even think about Kadoyuki. Every time a memory of him surfaced in her mind, fury wiped the slate clean, and she was back to the red haze of Touya. She simmered in a fevered rage as her body throbbed.
Aisha woke her at scattered intervals to help her to the toilet, but Ayase didn’t want to leave the bed. She clawed at Sachi’s shirt–first with one hand, then with two–and choked on refusals. She wouldn’t let him go again. Touya would take him away.
“He is asleep,” Aisha would whisper in her ear, her hand stroking Ayase’s naked head. “He is safe.”
And it was true, over and over. Sachi slept in that bed as if drugged, his arms draped over her, the greasy spikes of his hair drooping over his forehead. When Ayase returned from the bathroom, she would snake into his limp arms again and clutch him closer, unwilling to let him out of her grasp. She would breathe him in as the darkness claimed her.
Until, finally, she realized she no longer felt Sachi’s body pressed up against hers. Her eyes popped open in a panic.
He was sitting up in bed, his back propped up against the headboard. Even in the dim room she could see that he stared off into nothingness, a finger absently touching his cheek.
“Sa…” she croaked.
He went rigid in surprise; he dropped the finger from his face. His eyes snapped down to her.
Ayase fought through her fatigue and grabbed at his arm. She tried to sit up with his help, but suddenly noticed new sensation below her right leg. She dug the stub against the mattress to help her push up against the headboard.
I’ve grown more back? she thought in a daze. She flexed all ten fingers, now on two perfectly regrown hands. She reached under the sheet and scrambled to touch her legs; the left leg was still completely gone, but the right had regenerated most of the thigh, ending right above the knee. She took a breath.
“H-how long were we asleep?” she wheezed.
Sachi picked up his glasses from the bedside table. He unfolded them with a click.
“I’m not sure,” he murmured as he slid the glasses on his face. “It feels like…forever.”
The depressed softness of his voice made her chest ache. She felt the bleary rage of her long sleep leaking out of her, leaving a haunting guilt in its wake.
Had she really…slept in his arms and fantasized about murder?
She shivered. Still dizzy, she wrapped an arm around Sachi’s neck. He sighed and twisted her slightly to pull her into his lap, plastering her back against his chest.
They sat in silence for a long moment, where the soft rhythm of his breathing calmed her down. He eventually groaned and buried his face in the peach fuzz of her hair.
“There’s…more of you now,” he said quietly. “You’re starting to look like yourself again.”
The comment made Ayase notice her breasts, smaller than usual, pushing up against her shirt. When had she regained those? She did a quick sweep of her body with a hand again–some of the body fat was back, automatically regrown in her sleep. She remembered all those vague sensations of pulsing against her skin.
She was dismayed that she couldn’t control her regeneration better while asleep, but at least she was healing.
“Yeah,” she replied, not sure what else to say.
“Do you feel better? Shouri-san said you’re not in pain, but…”
“Yeah,” Ayase lied. “I’m starting to feel whole again.”
Sachi pulled back, his arms still tucked around her. He leaned against the headboard and stared at the ceiling in silence.
After a full minute of quiet, his forehead creased. “I keep…dreaming about Kado,” he said weakly.
Ayase swallowed a lump in her throat.
“I can’t stand it. I’m trying to mourn him, but then I just…” He trailed off, his mouth closing into a trembling line.
He took a shaky breath. “I’m having the same dream of that penthouse over and over. Kado’s…telling me that everything’s going to be okay.” He absently touched his cheek again. “And I believe him. That’s the worst part.”
Ayase furrowed her brow. “Sachi…”
“Why would I believe him? I haven’t believed him in weeks. Even when I touch him, it’s such a mess of feelings that I can’t figure out the truth. All he does is lie to me… All he did was lie to me.” He hissed something through his teeth and rubbed a fist under his glasses. “Did, did. Past tense.”
Hot tears burned in Ayase’s eyes. She tilted her head back against his chest.
“I bet that’s…normal.”
“How can that be normal? How can any of this be normal?” His arms tightened. “I touched him when he was dead, Ayase. I breathed into his mouth. I can feel things on people even when they’re asleep, but he was cold and empty, like a… Like an object. Like stone.” He rammed his head back against the headboard, hard enough to make Ayase stiffen. “So why do I keep hearing him whisper in my ear that everything’s gonna be okay?!”
Ayase’s stomach sank. But when he tightened again, she sucked her teeth, her fingers snaking up the back of his scalp before he could slam his head.
“Dammit…” Sachi his squeezed eyes shut. “Why am I so weak, Ayase? Why couldn’t I…do anything…?”
Ayase took a long breath, trying to cram the misery back down her throat. She slowly untangled herself from his lap and pushed against the headboard so she could face him better.
“It’s our fault,” she mumbled. “Not yours. It was our job to rescue both of you, and we…didn’t rescue either of you.” She rested her face against his arm. “I’m sorry.”
Sachi didn’t reply. In the resulting quiet, her mind starting closing in on the one thought she’d been avoiding–the regret that stained her heart, the truth she couldn’t change. She knew it would drag her to the depths when she needed to stay strong, but right then, in that bed, she finally let herself fall into cold reality.
Kadoyuki had died to save Sachi. He was dead and Touya had escaped, all because Ayase had failed them.
She choked down a groan as memories pounded on the gates of her mind. How many times had she sworn to protect Kadoyuki? Either to herself or to his face? She drifted back to that day when he’d held a razor against his wrist, and she’d flooded under the bathroom door to tear it away from him. He’d told her about Touya while shivering in that bathtub, and she’d held him, slept at his side, until he was ready to live again.
“But you’ve already saved me,” he’d told her, handcuffed in a stolen police car. “So please…save the others.”
She closed her eyes and gripped her mouth. He’d been trying to release her in that car, knowing she wouldn’t be strong enough to win.
You were right, Kadoyuki, she thought, even though he could no longer hear her.
She felt the muscles in Sachi’s arm flex against her brow; she finally looked up. Sachi stared off into nothing, his eyes unfocused, stroking his finger over the same spot on his cheek.
There was no cut or bruise on his face, so she didn’t know why he kept flicking his finger there. She finally gripped that hand and pulled it from his cheek.
She leaned up and gently, carefully, kissed him in the same spot.
To her surprise, Sachi jolted. He whipped his head to her, his hazy eyes focusing.
Ayase watched some strange expression dance across his face–like she’d shouted in his ear and he was trying to find his thoughts. His mouth opened, then closed.
When his eyelids drooped, her heart started to pound. Is this a bad idea? she wondered, her body pushing a little closer on instinct. She carefully slid a few fingers behind his neck.
There was an edge to his breath as he let those fingers pull him. As she leaned up, he suddenly pushed down, closing his mouth over hers.
His kiss was desperate. Despite Ayase’s fatigue, she felt a familiar flush race through her, this time heavy with relief and need; it blew the unhelpful thoughts out of her head. She kissed him back, opening her mouth, sucking down the dead words before they could be said.
It’s okay, she lied to herself. We’ll be okay.
A weak sound rolled up Sachi’s throat, and a protective desire flooded through Ayase. She changed the angle of her head and kissed him again, harder. She snaked in her tongue, desperate to consume him, desperate to pin herself to this reality and nothing else.
He wrapped an arm around her and crushed her broken body against his chest. She panted, her fingers pushing back his glasses, the uneven stumps of her legs spreading against him.
“Sachi,” she breathed.
“I love you,” he rasped back.
“Watanabe-san…I think God sent you to me.”
The memory of Kadoyuki’s whisper hit her like a battering ram. She was suddenly thrown back to that police car in the rain, her insect legs trying to cling to Kadoyuki as she was pulled away for the last time…so she could dangle in front of Sachi.
She choked at the same moment Sachi did. But she kissed him again, desperate, adamant that she wouldn’t ruin this. She moaned into his panting mouth and violently ejected the memories from her head.
She loved Sachi. She loved him.
Hazy rage clawed at her back like gloved fingers.
Sachi twisted his head away, gasping. He plowed a hand up his hair.
“Wait,” he said weakly.
Ayase panicked. Guilt and regret and need and anger boiled over in her like a hot cauldron.
“I-I love you,” she said, her heart tightening with the words.
“I’m sorry I never said it. Please, I just…!” She dug her fingers into his shirt. “I-I just want to be here with you. I’m tired of all the suffering. You’re alive and you’re safe and I won’t let…anything or anyone take you away from me again.”
Sachi closed his eyes and wheezed, the sound thin through his gritted teeth. Ayase threw her arms around his neck and hugged him close.
“I love you, Sachi,” she breathed.
His hands twitched up her back. She tightened, holding his precious head against hers, smelling the sweat in his hair and the stale breath that puffed against her shoulder. His broad chest expanded and retracted against hers, the rhythm slowing.
Finally, he pulled back just enough to look into her eyes. His gaze was tired behind the faint gleam of his glasses.
“You don’t…have to say it,” he murmured, an uneasy calm to his voice. “So don’t apologize.”
Ayase stared at him. “Huh?”
“I know you love me, Ayase. I’ve felt it on you for a long time.” His mouth twitched into a frown. “I used to think things were that simple.”
Foreboding rose in her gut. “I-I want them to be,” she blurted. She immediately tensed. “I mean…”
He grunted and rubbed at his eyes. “I know. So do I.”
With a heavy sigh, he sat back and slid his glasses off his face. He absently wiped them with the edge of his pajama shirt.
“I feel so weird. Like I’m half-asleep.” He shook his head. “When I touch you, you’re so clear, even if you don’t look like yourself. It’s almost overwhelming. But then I start feeling things that aren’t here, and my thoughts get all tangled… It’s like being trapped in an echo.” One hand drifted up to touch his cheek again.
“Everything feels real. Which means nothing does.”
Ayase furrowed her brow. She carefully put a hand on his knee.
“You, um…probably just need time, Sachi.”
“Nn.” He chewed on his lower lip. “But…”
Ayase waited. Sachi slowly slid his glasses back onto his face.
“I need to talk to you,” he said quietly. “About…something that happened in the penthouse.”
Ayase stiffened. He seemed to sense it through her touch, because he threw up a hand.
“Not with Touya,” he grunted, his voice unusually ragged. “That bastard barely even looked at me.” He hesitated for a second, then took Ayase’s hand in his.
“Something happened.” He took a breath. “Between me and…Kado.”
Proceed to Chapter 5, Part 2, page 2–>