Tokyo Demons Book 3: Prologue
A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #015 back issue.
Touya crouched naked on the floor of the bathtub, the high spray nozzle shooting a curtain of freezing water over his back, and forced himself to breathe.
He shivered violently in the icy water. Colored lights danced under his eyelids as his pounding heart rammed against his ribcage in a tachycardic fit. His heightened senses made every seed of pain bloom into full torture–Ochi’s scratches were searing lines raked across his chest and arm, the ceramic crushed against the balls of his throbbing feet, the needle prick site on his arm burned like an open wound. He ground his aching teeth together, his jaw popping as the cold rivulets cut through his scalp and down his back like razors.
He slapped blindly with one hand until he shut the water off. He panted, trembling, and blinked his waterlogged eyelids.
Ghosts still danced across his vision, pushing past his carefully constructed blinders. He saw pale water in the tub appear, then vanish, then flicker in and out of his sight, the water level changing with every flash. He saw future strangers in the bath, the ceramic stained with time; the bath flicked back into a newer state, empty save for a pile of neatly folded towels. Then Kado appeared, curled against the wall of the tub, his eyes unseeing as he slowly dragged two fingers along the bath edge.
Touya turned the water back on, gasping as the cold scattered the ghostly visions. When he finally felt the rolling fog in his mind begin to ebb, he squeaked off the water and clenched his fists against the tub floor. He used his long-practiced control to push the quantum, jumbled slices of future to the corners of his eyes.
He swallowed bile and crawled out of the tub, his long limbs shaking with the effort. With tremendous difficulty, he grabbed the edge of the bathroom sink and pulled himself upright.
His eyes were still dilated in the bathroom mirror, but he felt…lucid. Mostly. Nick Marshall’s bilingual lab notebook was difficult to puzzle through, but Touya understood one fact well–he would be high through most of this detox. It would be a more persistent, less predictable trip than what he dealt with after Pitch injections.
He ran his hands over his face.
It took him a full fifteen minutes to weakly dry off and get back into his pressed clothes. It took another ten to run a comb through his hair and dab cologne to mask the scents of his sick body. When he could finally stand without steadying himself against the bathroom wall, he looked to the glowing red numbers of the clock over the door.
He was on schedule. His symptoms had been worse than the day before, but he’d recovered in the same timeframe. The incrementally smaller dose had been matched with his incrementally smaller resistance.
He left the bathroom and slowly crossed his empty private room. He fished the keycard out of his pocket and swiped it, unlocking the electronic door with a sharp beep. He listened for movement outside.
Sure enough, he heard shuffling and creaking from the direction of the living room. Touya took a long breath, brushed down his hair, and tugged the creases from his shirt. Then he pushed open the door.
Kado was clearly still waking up, sitting up but hunched on his place on the couch. He clutched his comforter against his chest as he rubbed his eyes with his free hand.
The boy’s hair was a mess, his voice thick with sleep–but Touya still heard the thread of fear behind the greeting. Touya smiled darkly.
“Sorry, Kado-kun–I survived another night.”
Kado swallowed and blinked his eyes. His hands slowly tightened in the comforter.
“I was…dreaming about you,” he said quietly.
Touya raised an eyebrow. “Just now?”
“You were…off the Pitch.” Kado looked away. “And you…let Sachi go.”
Touya stepped toward the couch, making Kado twitch. He stared down at the boy.
“I didn’t say I’d let Sachi leave after the detox.”
“I know, but…he can’t handle this, senpai. I don’t know how to get him through this.”
“I think you do,” Touya retorted thinly.
“Please.” Kado turned up his dark eyes. “Please let him go. I’ll…I’ll do whatever you want.”
“You’ll only do whatever I want because I haven’t let him go,” Touya snapped. “Now don’t ask me again.”
Kado’s mouth sank in his face, but he said nothing more. Touya’s eyes trailed back to Sachi’s locked bedroom.
The soft shuffle of slippers bled from under the door, as it did at all hours. Sachi was always moving, moving, moving, even when he was alone. His ear against the door. His face falling into his balled-up hands.
Touya’s eyes swung back. Kado had pushed the comforter aside to grip his knees, his sleeping robe sagging from his slight frame. His jaw tightened.
“I don’t want you to die.”
Touya let out a breath through his nose. His vision swam as faint silhouettes shifted in and out of his eyes, but he pushed them away. He pushed everything else away.
“You’re lying,” he replied.
Kado slid a hand up the back of his neck in thought, his pale skin winking in the dim light. “I hate being locked up here,” he mumbled. “And I’m still scared of you, after…” He trailed off and sat in silence for a long moment.
“But…that doesn’t mean I want you to die.”
Touya paused. He reached out an arm, but Kado recoiled automatically from his outstretched fingers.
“It’s okay,” Touya murmured.
Kado dropped his eyes to the floor. He sat still, his muscles tight, as Touya ran his Pitch-burned fingers across Kado’s cheek.
He despised the look of his black-veined hand against Kado’s pale skin. His mind faltered again, allowing shifting shapes and warped futures to flicker across his vision. He roughly grabbed Kado’s chin, focusing hard on his anchor to the present.
Kado started to tremble, but he didn’t try to pull away. Touya narrowed his focus to Kado’s face, drawing the boy into sharp relief against the shifting futures behind him. Touya’s eyes trailed along the curve of Kado’s jaw, the creases in his brow. On the new lines around Kado’s eyes, pinching at the dark circles.
The physical effects of stress had eaten into that young face. Kado had been a haunted boy for as long as Touya had known him, but there was something…different now, behind the fear. Touya couldn’t pinpoint it. As he traced a black, broken fingernail under Kado’s lips, those haunted eyes tilted up to meet Touya’s own.
“How do you control the visions,” he whispered, “when they fall out of the line?”
Touya grunted, his fingers tightening on Kado’s chin. “I haven’t lost control of anything.”
“I-I just mean…”
The shadows finally began to dissipate, clearing from Touya’s vision. He took a breath and released Kado. Then he crouched down, leaning his face so close to Kado’s that the boy shrank back.
“Every x-axis has a zero point, Kado-kun. So if I need to fix a line…” He smiled, his fingers lazily plucking at Kado’s robe collar.
“I just go back to zero. And start a new path at the gate.”
Continue to Chapter 1–>