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The Great Soukoku Debate

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Atsushi shot a quick, contemplative glance to his mentor before his eyes settled on Kyouka and Kenji.

"I don't know..." he said slowly. "I mean, I get what you mean, but this is Dazai-san we're talking about. If anyone could, it'd be him."

"No Longer Human can only nullify an Ability when Dazai-san is able to make physical contact with the user." Kyouka disagreed. "He wouldn't stand a chance."

"What are we talking about?" the man in question suddenly appeared next to Atsushi, who startled.

Dazai's hands were in his pockets as he looked at the three of them in amusement, either not noticing (unlikely) or just not acknowledging (much more likely) Kyouka's hand dart toward the dagger she kept holstered to her leg until she realized it wasn't needed.

"Who would win in a fight between you and Chuuya-san." Kenji, ever the honest one even in situations where it might not be the best, answered with a smile.

Dazai's eyes lit up. "That's an easy one. Chuuya, of course!"

"Eh?" Atsushi's eyes widened in surprise at the answer, though Kyouka and Kenji were more surprised that the man was so willing to admit it than the fact that Chuuya would win in their hypothetical scenario.

"No Longer Human can only nullify an Ability when Dazai-san has a chance to use it." Kyouka repeated.

"Exactly." Dazai nodded at Kyouka, looking pleased as punch, though Atsushi didn't understand why.

"I might be able to win if I can get the little hat rack angry enough to forget to keep out of reach, but it's not like my Ability would do much if he decided to drop a building or something on me, or redirect a bullet my way, or-"

"But can't he only do the big stuff like buildings when he uses Corruption?" Kenji wondered. "It would kind of defeat the purpose if you couldn't nullify it and he died as a result."

Kyouka's gaze sharpened slightly as she caught the tiny shudder that overcame Dazai (despite his best attempts, she was sure), and the way his smile became slightly fixed. The latter wasn't unusual, not that she would've expected otherwise for someone who had been the Port Mafia's Demon Prodigy, but the first part was a surprise.

Not that she hadn't long since come to realize that Dazai wasn't as uncaring as he tried to make himself appear (as he tried to actually be), but honest reactions rarely slipped past the masks he showed the world.

The fact that said reaction was in response to the idea of the mafioso dying said quite a bit about how much the other meant to him, despite the fact that the two kept up an act trying to convince everyone (each other, possibly themselves) that they would love nothing more than for the other to finally die.

Well, perhaps Dazai would rather he himself die, but everything considered that didn't mean much.

"Chuuya~ doesn't need to use Corruption to drop a building on someone." Dazai shook his head. Kyouka wondered if it was partly to try and get the image of Chuuya being dead out of his mind, though she knew from experience such thoughts weren't so easy to get rid of.

She also wondered just who Dazai thought he was kidding. Chuuya's name was the only one she'd ever heard him say like that, and while she was sure he did it at least in part to annoy the other, there were also plenty of other people he loved to annoy that he'd never done that with.

"What about if neither of you used your Ability?" Atsushi piped up, ever firm in his loyalty towards Dazai despite the man's own stance on the matter. "You didn't seem to have any trouble with the tiger back when we met, and you weren't even using any weapons."

"Dodging is one thing, fighting is another." Dazai denied, leaning back on the kitchen counter. "I've gotten very good at dodging over the years when I want to, true. I had to be, to make sure I could get close enough to use my Ability. But hand-to-hand combat isn't my strong point."

"And the Port Mafia wouldn't acknowledge Nakahara-san as their martial arts expert without reason." Kyouka added.

"There's also that." Dazai agreed with a nod of his head and a small smirk (almost a smile) in Kyouka's direction.

Hard as she tried, she couldn't help but feel a tiny bit proud of gaining his approval, even if it was for something like this. Was this what Atsushi and Akutagawa felt like?

"What if it comes down to strategy?" Kenji offered, wide eyes eager. She often wondered what it must be like to be so genuinely cheerful. Maybe someday she would be lucky enough to know.

"I've always been better at long-term strategy than battle tactics, which is more Chuuya's area." Dazai hummed thoughtfully.

"So he'd have the upper hand, then?" Atsushi didn't pout. He didn't.

(He totally did.)

This time Dazai let out a sigh, but contemplative instead of irritated. He looked like he wanted to say something, but wasn't sure if he should.

"If I'm being honest, I really don't know." he said finally, deciding to bite the bullet in a less literal way than he would usually joke about.

(Because Kyouka still wasn't sure what to think about his suicide attempts. She didn't doubt that he genuinely wanted to die, but surely there were plenty of methods with far higher success rates that he hadn't tried, but instead he usually went with the obscure methods.)

"Let's just say that there's a reason Soukoku was so feared." Dazai continued, eyes glazed over as if lost in his memories before he blinked, attention back to the present.

He smiled at the three of them before walking off.

"I wonder what he meant by that" Kenji blinked.

Kyouka had an idea.

Neither of them would have the obvious advantage over the other in such a scenario because despite their individual talents, Dazai and Chuuya knew each other better than they knew themselves. They were constantly forming their plans around each other and, barring that, making adjustments according to how they knew (not guessed) the other would react.

That was why Soukoku had been so feared. Why it still was, even years after its dissolution, especially now that the pair had proven that they were still more than capable of working together when the need arose.

Because in all the ways that mattered, they were equal. True partners, even if they couldn't bring themselves to admit it.

Kyouka had never believed in soulmates, but if there was any pair that could make her reconsider, it would be them.