Tokyo Demons: Book 3, Chapter 8, Part 2
A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #037 back issue.
Ayase was barely conscious for the next week. The few times she woke up and was coherent enough to form words, her friends explained a few more details of what the hell had happened. Her slow, fatigued brain tried to absorb it all as she blearily crammed food into her starving body.
Her surroundings changed every time she woke up. A bustling hospital hallway became a moving stretcher, the back of a car, a futon in the corner of a darkened room. A peeking Emi became a pacing Sachi, became Kiyoshi curled up on the floor, asleep by her mattress. When she woke up in her hotel room, dwarfed in its giant Western bed, Jo was sitting on the other bed, fully dressed and slumped against the headboard as he typed endless text messages into his phone.
She drifted through stifling darkness, her wounds throbbing as the stew of emotions in her chest bubbled like a cauldron. But when the hot, oppressive darkness finally sifted away, her body cooled in the new clouds of healthy sleep. She vaguely felt the ends of her fingers and toes, felt the spill of long hair brushing her face. The anxiety drifted away, leaving her with a lightness like nothing she’d ever felt.
She dreamed. Of clasping hands and glassy eyes, of kisses and the cocoon of arms. Of lips in her ear, rasping gentle breath that made her heart float in her expanding chest.
She pushed through the clouds, and her eyes opened.
Kadoyuki stood at the end of her bed.
For a moment, all she could do was blink; he stared at her intently, like they’d been halfway through a conversation. She opened her mouth, but all that fell from her tongue was stale breath.
Am I awake…?
He seemed to sense her confusion, because he awkwardly broke eye contact. He leaned against his crutch and stared at the wall.
“Yes,” he said quietly. “I didn’t mean to…scare you.”
It took Ayase a moment to remember how to talk to this boy.
You read my mind.
“Heard your thoughts. But yes.”
Ayase swallowed and tried to clear her foggy brain. She pushed down her comforter with two hands, scooted up against the headboard with two legs. Soaking in the unfamiliar familiarity of a full body, she eased herself back.
“Where…am I?” she croaked.
She was in a new bedroom she didn’t recognize, sparsely furnished save for the single bed that held her. Kadoyuki was wearing what looked like new clothes–a long-sleeved top layered over another shirt, and pristine slacks that stood out after the disgusting clothes they’d all been living in. His scraggly hair had been washed and combed, although it was hard to tell under the gray newsboy cap sitting snugly on his head.
“I’m not exactly sure where we are,” Kadoyuki admitted. “We’ve been moved around a few times. We’re in someone’s house right now, but I think we’ll be leaving soon.”
He nodded. “I think it might belong to Kobayashi-san. The nurse at T. Hospital. He’s Ban and Takeshi’s father…and he’s grateful that we saved his remaining son’s life.”
Ayase blinked her heavy eyelids. She gripped her forehead and tried to remember if she’d ever met the man.
Kadoyuki shifted against his crutch and cleared his throat.
“I wanted to talk to you, Ayase-san. And I knew when you’d wake up properly.”
How? Ayase wanted to ask, but the word died in her throat. A vague memory of someone explaining that rose to the top of her mind.
Kadoyuki could see the future now.
She rubbed at her eyes, not sure what to say.
“Touya’s alive,” Kadoyuki said quietly. “And he’s going to survive his detox.”
To Ayase’s surprise, she didn’t recoil at the news. The mention of Touya’s name didn’t cut into her heart or boil in her stomach. It didn’t scatter violent images of him sneering in a police uniform across her brain.
The only picture that flashed in her mind was of a naked teenager, kneeling on a hospital floor, his pulsing eyes flickering as he waited to die.
And she barely felt anything at all.
“Okay,” she murmured, feeling stupid even as she said it. She knew she should say more, feel more, but she just…didn’t.
She was done with Touya. He didn’t mean anything to her now.
“There was…Pitch left,” Kadoyuki offered after a moment. “They’ve been using it to wean him off. In custody,” he added, his voice hardening at the end.
I hope he’s chained to whatever bed they put him in.
“I told them Touya might be too strong for straps or ropes,” he confirmed. “They’re taking precautions.”
“The police?” Ayase asked.
Ayase brushed the new disheveled hair from her face. “Jo told me he destroyed the Pitch,” she murmured.
“Every last drop,” she went on. “There was no Pitch left.”
Kadoyuki grunted his reply.
He looked up from the floor.
She wanted to ask, but the unspoken question faded, like a vapor dissipating in the air between them. She didn’t need to ask, did she?
As he stared at her, his gaze almost unnervingly steady, she decided to drop it.
After a long pause, he opened his mouth. “I wanted to thank you,” he said, his voice softening. “While we’re alone. For…saving my life.”
Ayase furrowed her brow in confusion. “What?”
“I wouldn’t be here if not for you.”
Ayase grimaced. “I didn’t save you,” she replied, more defensively than she meant to sound. “You saved yourself. And you were the one who protected Sachi and helped find Touya and…” Her stomach sank as she said the words, her old guilt returning. “After everything that happened…you were better at saving people than we were at saving you.”
Kadoyuki shook his head. “I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about before it.”
He took a breath. “On the last night we were together. When you took the razor from my wrist and slept by my side.”
Ayase’s mouth slowly closed.
“…as long as I’m here, Touya will threaten anyone who has anything to do with me! As long as I’m alive, he might kill people to control me!”
The memories of that night had been barricaded in the back of Ayase’s mind–dark reminders of a failed promise she’d made to a broken boy. She’d kept most of it locked away in her misery after Kadoyuki’s death…but now that she could face those memories again, details glowed through the cracks like light through a crumbling wall.
The way he’d shivered in the bathtub, leaned his face into her palm. Him guiding her wet hand over his face in some silent ritual as he closed his eyes and breathed against her touch.
She’d woken up beside his bed, only to find him curled around her arm with his head buried against her shoulder. Kadoyuki, the boy who recoiled when people brushed his personal space. The boy who lashed out at everyone who loved him, crawling out of bed in the middle of the night to join her on the floor.
The boy staring at her now, an aching softness in his eyes.
Ayase felt a shapeless heat expand in her chest–something familiar yet foreign, laced with a confusion she couldn’t quite place. The silence in the room grew oppressive, so she tried to break it while blood flooded to her face.
“You… You’re the one who decided to live,” she said, the words weak in her ears.
“After you saved me.”
Ayase swallowed hard. “Kadoyuki…I’ve spent the last few weeks tearing myself apart for letting Touya drag you away. I failed you in that car when he kidnapped you and crushed all my bugs.” She rubbed her face with her hands. “You still had to face that psychopath again, only with Sachi as a hostage. And the rest of us were half a city away, helpless to back you up.” She shook her head. “But you did it. You didn’t need me, after all.”
He tugged at his cap, drawing it lower over his eyes. “I did,” he argued quietly. “I…do.”
Do what? she thought, her mind reeling. Need me?
He didn’t look up, and the resulting silence was thick enough to hamper Ayase’s breathing.
“I’m sorry for lying to you,” he offered at last, breaking the ghostly tension. “About everything.”
She sighed. “It’s okay,” she murmured back. “I know why you did.”
“Nngh.” His crutch creaked under him. “I wish I could say it will never happen again, but…” He trailed off.
Ayase drew her robe more tightly over her chest. “I don’t like being lied to,” she admitted, “but I’m not an idiot. Sometimes these things have to be done.”
For a long moment, Kadoyuki stared at the floor, one hand closing into a fist. He took a breath.
“I don’t expect you to understand me,” he said quietly. “I just want you to know that…I thought about you, while we were apart. I thought of all the times you pushed through the terror in your brain to do the right thing.” He swung his head. “Sachi does that, too, but…you’re so different from Sachi. I heard what rattled in your head when I first met you. You didn’t trust people, you were afraid of the world, you thought love was a liability, like…” He slowly looked up.
“You were like me, Ayase-san. Only righteous and powerful, like a warrior of God.”
Ayase felt blood rush to her face again. “R-righteous?” she repeated in disbelief. “Kadoyuki…we all tried to help each other through this. I mean, you faked your own death to end Core.”
Kadoyuki’s mouth sank in his face. “I know I hurt a lot of people.”
“But that’s just…” Ayase bunched the sheets in her hands, not sure how to articulate her thoughts. Seeing Kadoyuki standing here, alive, his head bowed under that cap as he hunched over on his crutch… It made her chest tighten. It felt wrong.
He wasn’t her cowering classmate anymore, paralyzed by his own panic. He was a force. A savior. And this was the absolute last place she wanted to see him sulk in uncertainty.
Buried emotions from before his death started to spill from her heart. Now she could remember what it used to feel like to be alone with this boy. But her old desire to protect him was warping, expanding, to make space for the man he was becoming in the darkness he’d learned to control. All she wanted was for him to be comfortable around her. If he was going to feel safe anywhere on earth, she wanted it to be here–when they were alone and no one could see whatever face he showed her.
She didn’t want him to drop to his knees in front of her ever again.
Warmth laced through her chest as she opened her mouth.
“My choices were easy,” she said, her voice shaking slightly on the word. “I didn’t have to give up anything to fight Core–it was hard, yeah, but I was a mess before I went to the Church. Fighting Core gave me friends and a goal… Agh, how do I even say this? They put me in front and told me I could save people. I had to wrap my head around it, but it was the obvious path for me to take.
“But you? When the strongest card you had to play was leaving, and you turned that into a weapon so you could still come back to us? So you wouldn’t break Sachi’s heart?” She threw up her hands. “You’re right–I don’t understand you! Because never in a million years would I have the headspace to dive into the muck with Touya and beat him at his own game.” She clenched her teeth. “I almost screwed up the plan on our end, you know. I was so furious with Touya that I just wanted to face him and get it over with.”
Kadoyuki looked up. “You still did the right thing,” he said, his voice steady again. “And after everything that happened…you still let Touya live.”
Ayase tightened her jaw. “So did you, Kadoyuki.”
Something fluttered across his face, his hand loosening on his crutch.
Ayase, despite herself, felt the corner of her mouth twitch. She stopped tangling the sheets up in her hands.
“How’s Sachi doing?” she asked.
“I’m sure you two had a lot to, um…” She hesitated. “Talk about?”
Kadoyuki didn’t answer that one.
A slight unease surfaced in her heart–something that felt weird and selfish, so she tried to ignore it. Was it jealousy? Was it as simple as that? Whatever soreness throbbed in her chest, it quickly subsided when Kadoyuki pivoted on his crutch and started clomping around the bed.
She stiffened. He walked over, carefully, until he stopped right beside her, close enough that his slacks brushed her sheets. A whiff of soapy scent wafted off him as he twisted to look down into her face.
“Ayase-san,” he repeated, his eyes soft under the shadow of his cap. “I don’t expect you to understand me. And sometimes I’ll do things that won’t make sense right away, because I’m planning for the future. Far, far in the future.” His voice hardened slightly. “I learned that from a monster, even if I don’t plan to be one.”
Ayase’s mouth went dry. Kadoyuki leaned down, closer, the shifting of fabric and the creak of his crutch too loud in the quiet. She stared up into that loaded gaze, felt his hot breath on her face.
“But one day,” he whispered, sending a shiver down her spine, “I promise…you will understand.”
Her heart pounding in her ears, Ayase stared up into that face, trying to decipher the alien softness in Kadoyuki’s eyes. She’d seen it during his return in the hospital hallway, when she’d trembled beneath his stare. It was back now, stronger, amplified in the quiet of this isolated bedroom.
“Planning for the future?” she repeated, her voice strange in her ears.
Is that…what you’re doing now?
Kadoyuki pulled back, his eyes flicking away. He tugged the brim of his cap down lower over his face.
“I’ll tell the others you’re awake,” he murmured. “They’ll be happy to see you feeling better.”
Ayase let out the breath she’d unwittingly held.
As he clomped back toward the door, his slight frame leaning against his crutch, she found herself wondering exactly how much of that he wanted her to understand.
She cleared her throat. “K-Kadoyuki.”
He stopped. Slowly, he craned his head back.
“Whatever that future is…” She swallowed down the heat in her chest. “I just…hope the rest of us can be in it with you.”
The edge of his mouth curled up in a small, honest smile.
“So do I,” he said as he opened the door.
Proceed to Chapter 8, Part 2, page 2–>