Tokyo Babylon † A Day in the Life, pt. 2
Tuesday began, and things grew very confusing.
Subaru conducted his early mornings with the same discipline he applied to everything else. Switching off his alarm, he rose at six a.m. and began his daily routine in the privacy of his room and his polkadot pajamas. He was only halfway through his first kata when when the phone rang.
This wasn't unusual; people often called at odd hours, hoping to be able to hire him for another "emergency" during the day, and while it was Subaru's natural instinct to jump to the aid of anyone who asked, of late his hands had been tied. Aware of the selfless tendency to sacrifice on Subaru's part even to his own harm, his grandmother had expressly forbidden him to take any job outside of those officially contracted.
Being who he was, Subaru rarely disobeyed her; but sometimes his desire to help people overpowered his desire to be good. It created a very odd paradigm.
The caller hung up just before triggering the answering machine, waited a few seconds, and then tried again. It was annoying; eyes closed, Subaru continued to center his chi, sighing a little when he realized that his sister did not seem inclined to answer the phone.
Puzzled, Subaru padded to the door and peeked around it.
"Hokuto-chan?" he called. The phone continued to ring, unabated, and once more stopped just in time to avoid the answering machine. A few seconds passed, and it rang again.
This was weird. Hokuto was always up and around by this time in the morning; if it WAS morning - his alarm had gone off, yes, but something in the light was strange. It was too grey; slanted oddly, just tinted with blue, as if someone had placed a polluted cloud cover in front of all the windows.
Subaru crept down the long passageway toward the kitchen; as he walked, he noticed that the sounds of his footsteps seemed to die even before they reached the walls. Unease crept down his spine in a quick chill as he reached for the phone.
I am coming for you
The voice on the phone echoed, somehow, inside of Subaru's mind, carrying all the live qualities his own sounds had not, and the room began to spin. Blinking and gripping the table in an attempt to stay upright, Subaru gasped. "Wh... who are you?"
I am coming for you
It wasn't his mind playing tricks on him - the room was buckling, twisting as if in an earthquake, and Subaru fell to his knees.
I am coming for you... SUMERAGI
And suddenly Subaru was falling. The floor opened up beneath him, showing darkness, showing nothing, and Subaru fell through the air freely with nothing to slow him, spinning so quickly he felt ill, eyes shut tightly against the black but knowing that even though he couldn't see it, IT could see HIM -
And it knew where to find him.
Subaru woke up with a scream.
Hokuto spilled her tea and Seishirou jumped as they heard the scream from one of the back bedrooms. Eyes widening, they glanced at each other once and then took off for the hall, both springing for Subaru's door without hesitation. Seishirou arrived first and threw open the door.
Subaru was sitting up in bed, one fist gripping the cover, white knuckled, his other hand around his throat. He was gasping for air as if suffocating.
"Suba-" Seishirou said, and then Hokuto was on him.
"SUBARU!" She cried, tearing past Seishirou and plowing onto the bed beside Subaru with the kind of concerned panic reserved for loving if slightly overbearing siblings; Seishirou was wise enough to simply get out of the way.
"Subaru! Subaru! Are you all right? What happened?" Disturbed for some reason by his body language, Hokuto pulled Subaru's hand away from his throat; and then, she gasped.
His pale skin was marked; it was beginning to bruise right before their eyes.
Both Seishirou and Hokuto stared; frightened and vaguely guilty, Subaru stared back.
Subaru passed out.
"Are you sure you don't remember who did this to you, young man?" asked the doctor for the fifth time, bending down to make eye contact with his patient. Subaru sat before him on the examination table, looking slender and ethereal in his hospital gown, and shook his head.
"No, sir. I just woke up and it was like this."
The doctor sighed, nodded, and straightened. Looking stern, he turned to Hokuto and Seishirou.
"As I said before, the marks on his neck - while definitely indicative of strangulation - could not have been made by him. The hands are too large, the fingers too long; whoever did it was very likely an adult male of average or above average size." And he glanced at Seishirou, clearly resting his suspicions there.
Seishirou seemed unaffected by the doctor's unspoken accusation. "But there were no fingerprints?"
"I doubt it," the doctor admitted reluctantly. "Between the three of you, whatever ones were there were would be smudged beyond recognition. However, I still think you should make a police report."
Subaru sighed, sliding off the examination table. "No... I really can't do that, Kurosaki -sensei. There's no one the police could arrest."
The doctor sighed. "Sumeragi-san, I KNOW you think this is some sort of supernatural event and that such things are theoretically your job; but my job is dealing in the real world, and REAL hands made those marks. Someone tried to kill you and failed. I don't know why or how, but if that grip had remained much longer, you would have been seriously injured. I wish you would rethink this."
Subaru shook his head no, picking up his neatly folded clothing and hugging it to his chest. "I'm sorry, Kurosaki -sensei; but no. My mind is made up. This is not for the police to handle."
The doctor nodded one more time and sighed. "Very well, Sumeragi-san. See the nurse at the out-patient desk before you leave." With that, he nodded his head as a farewell, and left.
Hokuto and Seishirou regarded Subaru in silence.
Subaru remained quietly thoughtful for a moment, still holding his clothes to his chest, and then looked up. "The police can't do anything, Hokuto-chan, Seishirou-san. Whatever or whoever did this... it's coming for me. And I have to find a way to deal with it."
Hokuto nodded and stood, smoothing the petticoated skirt of her short, candy-striped dress. Moving closer, she curled one hand against her bosom.
"Be careful," she said quietly, knowing that she could neither help nor hinder his quest, and left him to get dressed; her silence demonstrated her worry more than her words.
Seishirou stayed for a moment longer, looking at Subaru meditatively. "Do you even know where to start looking, Subaru-kun?"
"Actually... yeah, I do," Subaru said, reflexively clutching his clothing more tightly because of Seishirou's closeness. "I was analyzing that dream I had, and I realized that while the layout of the apartment was up to date, all the furniture and decorations belonged to the old one. I think I'm going to go back and see if there might be some sort of energy I can trace in the apartment I had before this one."
"That's a very good idea, Subaru-kun," Seishirou said, and stood. "I think I should probably go with you - you're going to need help."
"Ah... no, no, Seishirou-san, that's not a good idea, I don't need... I don't need...." His voice faded as Seishirou stepped closer, placing his hand on Subaru's shoulder.
Subaru blushed and clutched his clothing still tighter.
Dead serious, Seishirou said, "Should I help you get dressed, Subaru-kun?"
Subaru flushed and sputtered, and after awhile, Seishirou let him go. Positively burning with embarassment, Subaru pulled on his clothing as quickly as he could the moment Seishirou closed the door. Shame Hokuto had already gone; she would have just LOVED that exchange.
Sighing and trying to keep his mind on his work, Subaru donned his hat and left the examination room.
"Oh, well, of COURSE it's so good to see you both again and you've definitely grown and oh is your grandmother still well I haven't seen her around in AGES -"
"Oh, she's -
" - don't you know and you're becoming such a lovely young man how's your sister how's your job how's your life?"
This was the basic thrust of conversation with the landlord Tsunami Agasaki, both now and in the past. It was one of the reasons Subaru and Hokuto had moved after staying there for a few months; Tsunami was nice enough, but clearly unused to dealing with anyone close to being a celebrity, and he'd been over to visit every moment he could spare, asking questions, prying into information that he honestly had no right to know. Subaru, being polite, was kind to the man and did not simply turn him away; instead of that, he'd stayed just long enough that no feelings would be hurt, and then moved to another complex. Hokuto honestly thought the whole thing was very silly, but had to agree that leaving a happy host behind rather than remaining with one that was ticked-off certainly had its plus-side.
Of course, neither of them had ever thought they'd need the man's good favor to come BACK here.
"Nobody's rented this apartment yet, although I have, you know, kinda shown it to a few people since you lived here and all, mostly just folks who are really into the esoteric if you know what I mean, that is folks who would actually know who you ARE not that most people DON'T know who you are but was there any word on you getting on TV lately?"
"I - "
"Oh, that's great, just great, here you go, door's open, take your time, I'll be right back down at the desk - "
"Oh, that's - "
"- I'm sure this is nice secretive stuff you gotta do here, right, eh heh, you do your thing, yes you do, see you later bye!" And he left.
Subaru exhaled slowly; the wake of Tsunami was always a little bit tiring. Centering his mind and focusing his senses, he walked into the room.
Everything really did seem to be as he'd left it; even the wards he'd laid around the premises, meant for nothing more than basic protection and alarms, were essentially undisturbed. The average person would not have even known they were there, but by just living and working in these rooms would have eventually worn the wards down.
All of them were intact. No one had lived here since Subaru and his sister had moved away, and while this was mildly disturbing just for the stalking factor, it also would make his job easier. Undisturbed wards meant that he could trace the paths of any unusual energies that had passed through.
Closing his eyes and trusting his memory, Subaru began to move spiritually around the room.
Behind his eyelids, in the dark of his mind, shapes and spirits began to stretch out into an endless spiderweb of power, tracing connections with a blue powerful enough to leave afterimages. Subaru followed these with all the skill and tenderness of an expert weaver, all but sliding his fingers along each line with the familiarity of one who had seen and worked with them all of his life. And not unlike a spiderweb, any break in the pattern indicated where things had passed through.
It did not take Subaru long to find the first alteration. Something bright green and poisonous, even more vibrant than his blue, had come from far off in the distance and cut a swath directly across his. Its strings - untidy and shredded in his mind - mingled with some of his own, twisting together like strands of DNA. Here he could plainly see why the mystery being that had visited him had used the imagery from his old apartment; raw tendrils of the dream were left, hanging as if torn from their source, edges ragged and uneven.
Subaru inspected these; in his mind's eye, he ran them between his fingers, feeling their texture and power even though his projection's hands still wore leather gloves. Their substance was unfamiliar to him; focusing hard, his physical hands moving in the air as if weaving a glorious pattern, he began to trace the green threads back to their source.
And whatever was on the other end became aware of him immediately.
He had only just enough time; concentrating, relying on a lifetime of experience with the esoteric and surreal, he had just enough moments to create a kekkai as the being on the other end sharply cut off the power. The backlash from that immediately threw the severed threads back at him with all the force of a snapped bungee cord.
Subaru remained calm; even as what was left of the green web hit him in his mind's eye, flying at him from a great distance at such speed that it reached him in the amount of time it took to light a match. When it struck, his kekkai shook, rumbling as if in the throes of an earthquake; but it did not crack. The green threads and cables finally lost momentum and slid to the ground to lie at his feet, fading; and his kekkai remained unbroken. Relieved, he lowered it just in time to hear the hissing, vaguely threatening whispers that came after.
And then the voice was gone. There was no way to track it now; confirmation that whatever he was dealing with, his nemesis was more than expert in the field.
Sighing and hoping that he could find a way to identify whatever presence he'd felt before it was too late, Subaru left the apartment to tell Tsunami that he was finished. This hadn't been nearly as helpful as he'd hoped.
Seishirou was waiting for him out by the van. It had been a bit of a struggle to convince the older man to do so, but he'd finally agreed; much to Subaru's relief. Protecting himself had been hard enough; protecting himself AND Seishirou was something he didn't even want to think about, especially because then he had twice as much chance of making a mistake. If Seishirou were injured because of him, well....
He didn't want to think about it.
"Subaru-kun - what happened up there?" Seishirou asked, eyes wide as he opened the van door for Subaru. "You look disappointed," he observed, warm golden eyes filled with compassion and worry.
Subaru's stress was already slipping away. "I found it - it had been there, just like I thought, but then it got away again." He strapped himself in, and waited for Seishirou to do the same before continuing. "Actually," he said. "I'm a little worried that it managed to trace us to that apartment; perhaps I should send Hokuto-chan back to Kyoto just in case it comes to our current one."
"Now, you know she'd never go," Seishirou chided, turning smoothly into traffic for the drive home.
"I KNOW, but... but I just can't let her stay at risk," Subaru said more softly, heaviness in his heart and eyes and voice.
Seishirou studied him sidelong, driving carefully. "Mou, Subaru-kun," he murmured, and rested a hand on Subauru's leg, just above his knee. "You're so very kind. Always so kind."
Subaru responded to the touch rather than the compliment. He stared at Seishirou's hand as though it were a live snake. "S-S-SEISHIROU-SAN!"
Seishirou chuckled and squeezed twice before letting go. "Now, Subaru-kun, calm down - we're not even home yet. Save your energy so you can tell your sister what happened, hm?"
Subaru hunched a little, cheeks flaming red and eyes wide; touching, he was used to - touching so close to intimate parts of his body, however, he was not, and he couldn't even remember Seishirou being quite so... bold about it before. But perhaps Seishirou was right; he needed to save his energy, and stressing out over a touch from a friend who couldn't even see where his hand was going because he was driving simply made no sense.
Putting it from his mind, Subaru looked back out the window and thought. Surely there must be a solution somewhere.
Perhaps there was; but he was no closer to finding one by the time they reached his home.
Dinner had been uneventful; more harmless flirting, lots of harmless teasing, much joyful eating. Feeling warm and fed and loved, Subaru finally went to prepare for bed.
Wincing, he unwrapped the bandages around his throat and took a look at what had been done to him. He whistled, low, at the sight; whatever had grabbed him had really done a number on him, no bones about it. He would definitely have to be ready once his path finally crossed with whoever it was; it was unlikely this person would take to failing twice.
Climbing between his satin sheets - something Hokuto had insisted on, although he personally preferred cotton - he pulled the covers up to his chin and stared at the ceiling for a while in thought. Something that hated him so PERSONALLY surely couldn't be the ordinary, average kind of demon; perhaps it was something he'd exorcised in the past? But no - its touch had been completely unfamiliar to him, and he felt he would know a demon if he met it again. All of them were somewhat unique.
When sleep finally carried him away, his last thought was that he was glad Hokuto had persuaded him to sleep with the door open tonight. He could hear Hokuto's breathing in the other room, and could almost make out Seishirou's - the older man was sleeping in the living room, on the sofa.
It wasn't necessary - but Seishirou was doing it anyway. When he thought about how kind the veterinarian was to him, especially in the midst of things like this, Subaru could not quite repress a shiver. What it meant, he wasn't sure; he knew he wasn't ready to think about it.
At least he also knew he was grateful.
Comforted by this and other sleepy thoughts, Subaru drifted to sleep; and his extra wards held firm. He did not suffer even one bad dream that night.
And on the other side of town, Tsunami Agasaki, aquaintance of the Sumeragi twins and friend to many, sat in his living room and played with matches.
The giggles coming from him were so foreign they might as well as have been part of a show on TV.
"Show them," he was muttering to himself, lighting matches, then throwing them away; some went out on their own, but others did not. Two spots on the carpet had already begun to smoke. "Show them all," he said. "Disrespect me, ignore me - after all I do for them? Bah. They'll see. Show them. Show them ALL." And as he began to spill the rubbing alcohol he'd brought with him on all the flammable furniture in the room, somewhere above him a different voice cackled, filled with hate and madness and a joy so terrible it cut.
Sumeragi... it said; and then, the curtains caught fire.
(to part three | notes | back to TB fanfiction)