It's raining the day Oriya receives the documents, a cold late autumn rain. He takes the papers inside and sets them on his desk, meaning to leave them there while he has the dojo aired out for tonight's sparring with Hisoka. But a word catches his eye on the top page, and he frowns, peering closer to see what manner of business correspondence would include the term "Meifu."
There's mention of shares in a startup company by the name of Meifu Advanced Theraputics, of a trust of which he is the trustee, which only tells him to look deeper. Oriya sits down, sifts carefully through the various contracts, forms, financial statements and certificates, until he finds the note. It's small and the paper is cheap, but he knows that elegant, arrogant scrawl, can imagine Kazutaka wielding the pen as precisely, violently, as though wielding a scalpel.
He only makes it as far as the mention of Tatsumi before he stops the first time, suddenly feeling the length of those six years stretching so far he cannot see the other end anymore. He realizes he's been assuming all along that Kazutaka was alive, yes, but also keeping tabs on him, on his life. There has, in fact, been some part of his heart that's been certain Kazutaka was behind Hisoka coming to him that second time, to tell him of the fire, to accuse him of harboring Kazutaka. To provoke him into another duel, and thus begin a tradition that's lasted six years.
He's been losing more often of late. Hisoka's improved as much as a talented boy does with six years' diligent study, and Oriya...well. He feels the effects of six years differently. This is another: Kazutaka no longer knows every minute detail of his life.
Then he comes to the mention of Hisoka, and wonders if he's wrong after all, if Kazutaka knows everything. Wonders what he's to do when Hisoka comes tonight, and tastes Kazutaka in his thoughts.
It's a concern that follows Oriya through the afternoon, and it's just as well the Ko Kaku Rou runs smoothly without his full attention, just as well there are no VIPs to be attended to tonight. In the end, he decides to start his kata practice a little early, in the hopes his mind will be calmer when Hisoka comes.
Unfortunately, even the forms don't bring his thoughts to order. He'll have to tell Hisoka something, but he can't decide what, or how. He's loathe to simply show Hisoka the note, and he's not sure if that's protection of Hisoka or loyalty to Kazutaka. After the initial challenge, the initial confirmation that Kazutaka had killed Hisoka, had taken Hisoka, and still Oriya was his friend, they've not spoken of it. They've not spoken of Oriya's suspicion that Hisoka, like the sakura in his garden that blooms out of season, is a gift from the dear friend who remembers his favorite season to be spring. They've not spoken of whether Hisoka still means to kill Kazutaka if he can. They've not spoken of how Oriya would greet Kazutaka if he returned to the Ko Kaku Rou. They've not spoken of who would share Oriya's bed in such an eventuality.
Now he knows that, at least, won't be a question for many years. Kazutaka sounds satisfied in his work in America, as if it's a thing he's been working toward; Oriya very much doubts he'll stage his own disappearance any time soon, only to see an old friend with whom he's found other means of communication. Especially not if Oriya's guess is right, and Kazutaka meant Hisoka to replace himself as a lover.
"You do complicate things, old friend," he says to himself as he pauses for breath, and behind his back he hears the shoji pushed aside.
"You've heard from him, then," Hisoka says, and Oriya turns to face him, sees he's brought his own sword, is dressed for sparring. Or fighting. Nor is he wet. Straight from Meifu, then. "Did you know where he was?"
"Wouldn't you have felt it, if I had?" Oriya asks in turn, and Hisoka steps up into the room, blade half-drawn, eyes narrowed.
"Did you know where he was, Mibu-san?"
And this is how you take the gift away, Oriya thinks, though it doesn't have to be. He could still lie.
He has never lied to Hisoka.
"I didn't know, but is that the question you truly mean to ask?"
Hisoka bares his blade. "I don't have to ask the other question, Mibu-san."
"No, of course not," Oriya murmurs, watching Hisoka's eyes. "Have you ever?"
Which is as Oriya expected, but begs another question. "Why did you come to me then, Hisoka?"
"To understand what bound you to him. To see if he'd come back to you, after what you've done for him."
Were he less guarded, Oriya might suck in a breath at that. Instead he says, "You did not need to share my bed to keep tabs on me."
Hisoka isn't the boy he was six years ago, for all he still looks it, but his temper can still be courted with such insinuations. He stalks closer, moving into a fighting stance. "You didn't need to take me into it, no matter how much I reminded you of him when you were young. Or will you choose to lie to me now?"
"I've never lied to you. Can you say the same?"
"I've never lied to you." Hisoka's blade flashes out, and Oriya counters it, but really, the swords feel redundant today. After six years, they've honed their words for the true battle, and Oriya doesn't think either of them will walk away unblooded.
"How did you know I'd heard from him? Do you have eyes in the courier system as well?" Oriya feints, but Hisoka no longer falls for such tricks. Not from him.
"Tatsumi-san received a bundle of documents today. He wished to accompany me, but I persuaded him otherwise." Hisoka strikes again, and Oriya counters at an awkward angle, jarring his own arm.
"I wasn't aware there were courier services that could carry such things from Chijou to Meifu."
"Muraki has found his way in before. How do you think he kidnapped Tsuzuki?"
"I--" thought he came willingly. Oriya knows better than to say it, but he can't catch himself before he thinks it, and that's a cut he never meant to deliver. He's not met Hisoka's partner since Kazutaka brought the man to dinner six years ago, but he knows Hisoka's loyalty. It might be said to mirror his own.
"Muraki hurt him," Hisoka says, and he has not moved, but Oriya feels the attack building. "Muraki hurt me. He hurt you, and yet you've been waiting for him all this time, ready to be hurt again for just a word. Did you think I didn't know?"
They've come back to it again, Hisoka's rage and Oriya's acceptance. The pain Kazutaka's inflicted, and Hisoka's incomprehension that Oriya chose it, still chooses it, that dark brilliance that's spring twisted back on itself to become the bloodless, hungry heart of winter. Oriya himself doesn't truly understand it. He only knows that he wants, and he'll accept the cost of wanting.
"I was certain you knew, little brother," he says, and it's not a strike he savors, but it's one it seems he must make. "I'm only still uncertain why you played the role, when you knew."
"It was no role!" Hisoka shouts, and in the silence that follows, Oriya can hear the rain pounding relentlessly on the dojo roof. Autumn rain, for the season that is his, tumbling into winter, carried like a frozen ghost into spring. And he cannot make the seasons run backward, or stop, as Kazutaka can. He will always move forward, and winter will always be there to swallow him.
Hisoka disengages, stepping backward, sheathing his sword. Oriya's won the match, if either of them can be said to have done so. Hisoka looks distant and perfect in the lamplight, as he had under the stars when Oriya first saw him. Untouched and untouchable. Perhaps he's won after all.
"Tatsumi-san will wish to speak to you of the trust, Mibu-san," Hisoka says, all formality. "He is likely to come tomorrow night."
"Will you come with him?" Oriya asks, because it's in the forefront of his thoughts, and Hisoka will hear it in either case, but he wants to say it. Wants Hisoka to hear him say it. He'll choose them both, if they agree; he's been trying for the past six years.
It's no surprise when Hisoka shakes his head, and Oriya wonders what Hisoka makes of this pain, the choosing of it. "I think it's best if I don't, Mibu-san."
Oriya presses his lips closed against the next question bubbling in his throat, in his mind, and hopes Hisoka will have mercy enough not to answer it. Kazutaka never would, but Kazutaka is not here.
And still I choose him, Oriya thinks, struggling for a polite farewell to give Hisoka, but I don't think you want me to choose you only in his absence, Hisoka, and you will not let me have you both.
"Be careful in the rain, Mibu-san," Hisoka says abruptly, and turns to open the shoji once more.
"Wait." Oriya takes a single step forward, but the smooth words he might have said are swallowed at the sight of Hisoka in profile against the evening rain.
"I have waited, Mibu-san," Hisoka says over his shoulder. "We both have. Now the waiting's ended, at least for one of us. Farewell, Mibu-san."
He steps out into the rain before Oriya can stop him again, and is gone by the time Oriya steps up to the open shoji. Back to Meifu, Oriya thinks, back to his partner and his vengeance. Back to his own choices.
In the courtyard, the unseasonal sakura is shedding its petals under the assault of the rain. Oriya only pauses a moment before he shuts the shoji screen on the sight. Eventually, the rain will stop, and the sakura will survive.
Eventually, winter will come.