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I.

 

 

You don’t buy the ticket to run away.

 

It’s simple, in that you know what takes you to the city isn’t always what brings you back to it. 

 

The distinction’s important now, with the town running itself on the rumor mill of what’s driving you away. 

 

Running is what half the people in your hometown think you’re doing, once rumor spreads about your high school choice, and a few kids start whispering about email exchanges with Masaomi you let slip through in pieces.

 

And it almost makes you want to laugh, how easily the theory accepted. Like there’s anything in this town to run away from .

 

The other half divides itself up into he’ll be back within the year, just watch. And, let the kid run the city out of his veins.  

 

The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that you’ll come back. 

 

When Orihara Izaya says, under his pin name and across a screen, treading the wall between the you-here and the one you’ve fitted to shape into, his back covered to both: “I think there could be something for you in Ikebukuro.”

 

You buy the ticket and don’t tell him you’re the one who planted it there. 

 

Two faces are already waiting for you in Ikebukuro, a mailing list you’ve been vetting through for a year, and a promise sealed fresh on your tongue laced with Masaomi’s voice.

 

And when the train pulls out of the station, you don’t look back.

 

 

 

II.

 

 

 

You see Masaomi from the tracks.

 

For the first time since elementary school, since online chat rooms and leaked Dollars forums.

 

And time doesn’t stop, exactly, but you can feel it humming through you sharp like electricity.



Because this Masaomi is different. The same but twisted out.

 

And when you say, “Masaomi?” You already know the answer before it comes out too much like a question.

 

He’s bleached blond and pierced straight through, loud and sharp edged and still just as quick tongued. 

 

Not quick enough to leave you ignorant of the scars spanning across his knuckles, even when he throws his hands up and sideways, loud and familiar.

 

Masaomi’s grin takes up half his face when he says, “Was that a question? Sounded like one, so now you get three answers to choose from!” 

 

He’s loud and warm in the chaotic way of staring into the source of what brought you here. 

 

“One: Masaomi Kida. Two-

 

But you think of yellow and rumors and the empty chat forums. The I heard the Yellow Scarves leader left. And I’ve never seen a kid so ready to get his hands dirty, that you refreshed for five hours straight so many months ago.

 

You cut him off at three, say: “Masaomi Kida.” And it only halfway feels like breaking something. 



Masaomi’s smile grows like you’re both ten again, like the tan line where there used to be a yellow scarf isn’t glaring. 

 

And you know that if you looked close enough, ventured close enough to ask, you could read the shadows under in his eyes, and that at the right time, maybe, he would tell you everything you want to know, easily.

 

You don’t.

 

When Masaomi says, open and warm enough to evaporate the missing years separating you: “Welcome to Ikebukuro, Mikado.”

 

It’s so easy to let your smile spread across your face.

 

You are aware, distantly, of how you both have always been too attracted to trouble for your own good.

 

 

.

 

 

Taro: Hi, everyone! I have some great news!

 

Setton: Welcome back! 

 

Setton: What is it?

 

Kanra: Hi, guys!

 

Kanra: Yeah, don’t keep us waiting, Taro! What is it?

 

Taro: oh well, I mean it’s not that big!

 

Taro: It’s just, I’m moving to Ikebukuro tomorrow. 

 

Taro: And I was looking for some advice. 

 

 

 

 


III.

 

 

Ikebukuro in the evening softens the city like a back light when Masaomi runs over the streets, naming them off himself as you follow.

 

“There’s a structure to the city,” Masaomi says, leads you both down another block, smile sharper in the moonlight. “You just have to learn how to read it.”

 

You remember his quiet there are some people to watch out for here, at the station and all the names littered across emails. 

 

You hum and nod and Masaomi stops suddenly, long enough to let you step slightly ahead and hear him whisper, soft, and now behind you: “Oh.”

 

And you know better than to mistake the lilt of his voice for anything but careful poison when it’s like this. You don’t glance back at him, though. 

 

Because you already know the man standing across from you before Masaomi moves to angle you behind him, saying something indistinguishable between them as the name beats in rhythm with your breathing.

 

Masaomi says, loud enough for you this time: “This is Izaya Orihara.”

 

And the motions around you fade out from the moment and fracture, pieces falling right into the teeth of Orihara’s tight smile.

 

The city feels like it’s tilting beneath you, and you’re half expecting him to do a million different things you know are possible. Like pull a knife you know he’s carrying, or shift the conversation into a public specter of its own.

 

Instead, Izaya says: “I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure of meeting.” And you don’t have to force the smile spreading across your face when you bow.

 

“No,” you say, note Masaomi standing like a guard before you, Orihara’s sharp eyes following like he’s been waiting for this as long as you have. The word feels like honey on your tongue. 

 

“Not yet, I don’t think. It’s an honor to meet you.”

 

Izaya’s grin widens. Masaomi tenses his back, and you feel like you’re channeling the energy of the city beneath your skin.

 

It takes a moment to realize the loud crack you hear is not only in your head. And another to connect it to the scene in front of you— Izaya thrown across the sidewalk, a vending machine by his feet.

 

It’s easy to connect the strings after that, mask the anticipation running up your spine as unease before you even hear the voice yelling across the city.

 

The same moment you see a head of blond rushing towards the scene, the Izaya too sharp to be anything other than who you know it is, Masaomi takes your hand and says, “Holy shit, come on.” 

 

And then you’re both running, feet skidding across the pavement to the sound of a light post crumbling at Shizuo Heiwajima’s hands, Masaomi following up the back after he pushed you in front.

 

When you first turn to leave, you can feel the red stare burning across your back.

 

 

 

IV.

 

 

You’re everywhere you can reach, after that.

 

On the city streets, empty classrooms in Raira, trailing yourself to Izaya’s apartment and onto his balcony.

 

Izaya says, his hand making a half formed gesture at the ground below, like you haven’t had this conversation tens of times before under different chat names over too many servers: “There’s more to this than you think. The city doesn’t run so smooth on its own.”

And you know this can mean his network or humanity or anything else he likes with you both standing too high to catch.

 

“No,” and it’s your voice humming back, your voice as the imaginary wall distinguishing between you and him, the shadows falling across his face calling your bluff. 

 

The sleeves of your school uniform pushed out in front of you, leaning onto the railing like evidence of your age makes any differences between the two of you.

 

“That’s all you, isn’t it?”

 

You don’t have to see the grin stretching across Izaya’s face to know you’re right, but you look anyway, don’t break eye-contact as he leans back, all open arms like the appearance of vulnerability could ever mimic the true motion.

 

Izaya says, “I do what I can,” and you wonder if he knows, yet. Who it was who leaked the chat rooms codes to his forums, who tied the Dollars tight into a bow before handing them over.

 

“Yeah,” you say, and he doesn’t look as unnerved as you’d like when you smile back. “So I’ve gathered.” 

 

.

 

 

Taro: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! I feel at home already.

 

Kanra: Of course, Taro! What else are friends for, right?

 

Kanra: It’s weird to think about it now, actually….

 

Setton: So glad we could help you!

 

Setton: What’s weird now, Kanra?

 

Kanra: Oh nothing too much!


Kanra: I was just thinking about if any of us have already passed each other on the streets.

 

Kanra: It is a very big city, you know.

 

Kanra: So easy to get lost in.

 

 

.

 

 

V.

 

 

You have more questions about the city than Masaomi volunteers answers for. 

 

So when you say, “I heard the city has its own information organizer.” You watch Masaomi tense too quick to cover.

 

Masaomi straightens the rest of him to match the line of his shoulders and says, “I wouldn’t put too much trust in rumors.” 

 

And you don’t push it. Because having him distanced now is better than not having him with you, and you already have the name Saki scanned across half his folder and a faint hint of the rest in Izaya’s.

 

So you sidetrack. You meet Anri and start studying more for school, politely decline club invitations to the students littering the halls and open more chat logs.

 

Leak a few more Blue Square names in forums anonymously and link them back to news pages with, has anyone seen this? And: I read that some big name gang players are getting out on parole this week.

 

You chart Shizuo's rounds in town and read up on the yuakuza. Find where informants like to play. 

 

A week later Masaomi pulls back before you can push anymore and says: “There’s this new gang in town to watch out for called the Dollars.”

 

And you don’t say anything, not yet. Not when his eyes flash like he wants to add the rest you both know he’s still holding onto.

 

When Masaomi pulls you into an ally, after the Black Rider and Shinra’s number tucked inside your pocket and all the other sticky details you don’t let yourself think about when he’s this close, until Izaya’s laughter stops echoing so loud off the city streets and Shizuo’s fury stops flooding it back down, and says: “I’m serious, Mikado. You have to be careful here.”

 

He straightens your jacket when the street goes quiet and pulls you back out.

 

His voice is softer than you think he means it to be when he adds, “This city will eat you up if you let it.” 

 

And you want to tear down every petty level thug who ever made him think he couldn’t do the same.

 

You say, “I’m fine, really. I’m careful. I swear.” And he doesn’t look convinced, but the grip on your wrist loosens enough to make your words gentle.

 

Masaomi grins when bump shoulders, and you aren’t cruel enough to take this from him, too.

 

 

.

 

 

Kanra: Oops, didn’t mean to kill the chat!

 

Kanra: In fact, I have an idea to restart

 

Kanra: How about we play a game!

 

 

.

 

 

 

VI.

 

 

You wrap up the last of the Yellow Scarves three weeks into term and snuff the Blue Squares out before they have a chance at a second wind.

 

It’s easier than you thought it would be. You only have to leak four names on the Dollars site and start one private chat. You don’t even touch the group email.

 

Izaya comes to you a week later.

 

Orihara says, not under his screen name or across the line, or running through the city as much as he does away from it: “You’re faster than I thought you’d be.”



And it’s both a compliment and slap when the impact stems from the same amount of force on either side.

 

But you have the keys to all the chat rooms you’ve ever spawned and a backdoor lock to Izaya’s network with the only person to know it staring you in the face.

 

And when the smile rises small across your face before you think to stop it, Masaomi’s Mikado, you’re smiling echoes across your skin.

 

You don’t roll your shoulders. Don’t tilt your head or shadow your eyes like the near mirror image across. You don’t play into the tricks the light provides when they’re already strung up out in front of you.

 

You meet his eyes when you say, “I’m not usually what people think I’d be.”



When Izaya’s grin catches the light like a blade, it’s not an unwelcome sight.

 

 

 

 

VII.

 

 

 

You know about Icarus. 

 

You aren’t so arrogant as to think it couldn't happen to you— the wings, the fire, the fall. The difference of what gets left dependent on the victim. 

 

The scars around Masaomi’s knuckles he always seems to draw back to and what that could mean for you. 

 

And maybe that’s what seals it, for you. That nothing here is a definite. 

 

The strings of possibilities tied around your fingers. The things you could do to make them stay.

 

And you are still learning this, the line between kind and cruel. The motion of space between Izaya’s knife and the cuts across Masaomi’s fingers.

 

What it takes to blur a person into silver. 

 

 

 

.

 

 

Setton: A game? Like ‘would you rather’ or something?

 

Kanra: Sort of! It is like a game of choice, but with higher stakes.

 

Taro: Oh that sounds interesting. I’ll try it.

 

Setton: I guess I’ll try too.

 

Kanra: You’re just full of surprises tonight, Setton.

 

Kanra: So it’s settled then

 

Taro: How do we play?

 

Kanra: That’s easy. The questioner presents two choices, both with drastic consequences, and the chooser has to try and pick the least destructive. It’s simple.

 

Kanra: Pure calculated chance

 

Kanra: I’ll ask first!

 

 

.

 

 

 

IIX.

 

 

This is what Masaomi misses, between Izaya’s blade and Shizuo’s fists and the city run down by the black rider:

 

You have always been enchanted by the thought of blood in your teeth. 

 

So when Masaomi says, a month in and two gangs under your thumb, after school and sun tired and Masaomi bloody knuckled after breaking up a poorly hidden fight in an alley: “Damn, sometimes I swear all this city does is involve trouble.”

 

You aren’t ignorant enough to ask how much of it he’s been the cause of. 

 

You bite your tongue and rip off a piece of your undershirt to wrap his hands in. 

 

He hisses when you start to press on the material but it’s no more than a few scratches so you don’t have trouble leaving, two unconscious robbers behind you and a set of ID’s burning in your pocket.

 

Masaomi doesn’t call the cops and you don’t ask him to. And maybe that’s more telling than you should allow. But you have forums, for this, and five full files for Ikebukuro’s biggest players locked under three different passwords on your computer.

 

When you cross the street you catch the red shadowing your makeshift bandage and say, lightly: “It makes me wonder if we can even keep up.” 

 

And neither of you flinch away like the people you’re both pretending to be should.

 

Masaomi just cracks a smile. 

 

You thought Izaya was the one who knew the city’s siren song best, but even you should know better than to trust a single source.

 

 

 

IX.

 

 

You say, “The city isn’t what I thought it’d be.” 

 

Testing the words out on your lips until they fit right.

 

Izaya doesn’t have to look at you to understand what you mean. 

 

He doesn’t turn his gaze away from Ikebukuro drowning in orange sunset when he grins, just on the edge of too sharp like you’re both not sitting across the railing of a skyscraper separating you from the city.

 

“Okay,” Izaya says, and you track how many times his fingers tap against the metal railing in tow with yours. “I think you know how to fix that.”

 

 

.

 

 

Kanra: Say you and a friend are both stuck somewhere. Say it's a burning building or locked room or somewhere else with high stakes.

 

Kanra: And here are your options. You could either:



Kanra: 1.) Both try to fight your way through it, with the low chances of one of you escaping 

 

Kanra: Or

 

Kanra: 2.) One of you could have the foresight to prevent the incident in the first place.

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

X.

 

 

Izaya isn’t stupid the same way you aren’t a pawn and you know, by now, how to move the streets to shift the pieces where you want them to fall.

 

So when you meet Shizuo Heiwajima formally for the first time, after Russia Sushi and red eyes and Izaya’s fascination catching, it’s with your shoulder leaning too close to the bartender outfit you see coming. 

 

A growl at the contact leading into a, “Hey, watch where you’re going— ” 

 

That stops short upon seeing you. 

 

It makes something light in your veins, seeing Ikebukuro’s urban legend stare you in the face.

 

You almost believe your apology when you give it. 

 

Heiwajima waves it off quick as it comes.

 

And to someone else, maybe, it would look like a kindness. But you know what you are watching for, and you find it in the poorly restrained twitches in his other hand, like it’s begging to shape a fist in place of a wave until he gives up and shoves them both in his pockets.

 

The city moves beneath your feet, even when you’re standing still against it. And when Heiwajima says: “Watch where you’re going, kid. This city can be nasty.” 

 

You let him catch a short glimpse of your teeth when you laugh, tinge it nervous towards the end to just enough to see his eyes flash in a way that makes trouble run up your spine. It tastes like premonition.

 

You pitch your voice high when you say, “I’m so very sorry! I’ll be more careful.” Nod and bow, make sure you let him see your fingers shaking at their ends. 

 

You let the words hang in the air, before you leave, catching on the shadow of the name breaching between you both.

 

It isn’t Izaya who sends the gangs, this time. But no one else needs to know that.

 

 

 

 

XI.

 

 

You love Ikebukuro more than you should. 

 

Maybe it’s the rational side of your brain telling you this or the part that thinks you can’t win the game you started but either way it’s true.

 

You love the thrill Shizuo Heiwajima gives you when he glances your way, the prick of danger in listening to Izaya Orihara’s voice, the slasher you keep finding, Anri’s poorly hidden scars, Celty when you hear her bike across the flooding streets.



You love this city, and this is what it leaves you— iron bar shaped bruises and your best friend forced to bite the bullets.

 

A blade and bleeding and dreams of Izaya Orihara’s shadowed smirk asking you, “What about it, great leader of the Dollars? What else are you waiting for?”

 

 

.

 

 

Setton: That’s a bit morbid. Even for you, Kanra.

 

Taro: It does seem a little unlikely. What kind of foresight would that even be?  Psychic prediction?

 

Taro: I don’t think one person could even have that much of an influence over an event, even if it was possible.

 

Setton: Yeah, it feels far fetched. How would you even know where to start with that?

 

Kanra: Ah, you’re both probably right. It is statistically improbable, after all!

 

Kanra: But, still, it’s just a game! It makes you wonder, so answer the question! What’ll it be?

 

Kanra: Assuming that, against all odds, someone could

 

 

.

 

 

 

XII.

 




You don’t move. 

 

When you steal your bloody hands in front of you, there’s a shape of silver warning for a blade before you see it, and Izaya’s smile breaking across his face.

 

Masaomi is somewhere across the city by now. Heiwajima still too many blocks down to sniff you both out, and no one’s waiting at home for you to dress all that red back in.

 

It’s not what you came here for, exactly, but it’s enough to ease yourself into the process instead of away from it.

 

You can’t feel the expression pulling your face when you say, “I didn’t know you could run the city on the inside like this too. It’s amazing the things Shizuo’s willing to overlook.” 

 

And neither of you are glancing at the red dripping across your hands.

 

Izaya laughs and it cracks off the walls, breaks down the city until it’s you and him and the mirrored image caught between. Like you aren’t the one who called him here and he isn’t the one who followed.

 

He says, “I like to explore the possibilities,” and you know he means I can read these streets inside out, and how neither of you have ever had to go looking to find your monsters.

 

You have proof in the form of some long gone goon with van plates you tracked down before arriving in this city and a yellow scarf bleeding through your hands to show it. 

 

The sun catches against your shirt enough to highlight the splattered brown and you still don’t let yourself move.

 

Izaya lilts, “There’s a lot of ways this can go, you know.” 

 

And you can feel the click of a screw sliding into place resonate through your body. It makes the red on your hands worth the stains for the way it laces down your spine.

 

You know he doesn’t mean just this. 

 

Not just you in the alley and the shadow settling his shoulders. Izaya means Kida and gangs, Anri and red eyes, Shizuo and monsters and all the little pawns he thinks he has you stacked with.

 

Two stray pieces of the city folding together.

 

You say, “I know.” And it comes out light.

 

You don’t flinch when he holds out his hand. 

 

You make quick work of handing him the bloody shirt across your back, don’t do anything but wait when he sighs before offering you a new one and sliding the old one into a plastic bag with the scarf.

 

Izaya says, “You leave a lot of possibilities open like this.” Eyes sharp like the outline of the knife you can see in his jacket pocket as you take the bagged shirt back. 

 

And you both hear the underlying sloppy sloppy syruping over the words like arsenic, but you aren’t willing to end this here.

 

Izaya’s smirk shifts and you can see his deck even before he lays down his cards, threats as much as promises wrapped up in a silk that makes you want to bite through the iron slipping through your mouth.

 

“Just think,” Izaya goes on, eyes red as your hands, voice taunt with a warning you don’t take.

 

“You could end up with a gun, if you’re not careful. Or get your friends shot. A trap could spring, or you could ignite it yourself. You could find a monster or make one yourself. There are so many possibilities, really. Humans are so unpredictable like that, you know. I just can’t get enough of it.”

 

You take the bag back after you’ve finished wiping your hands, say: “I’m prepared.” 

 

And make the words as stormy calm as the warning you layed out moments before, blood sinking through your hands like the kind they tried to get from Masaomi months ago.

 

The question is more than just the game you two are playing with the city across your backs, but your hands start to loose the warmth collecting on them when Izaya’s eyes glint with the sun setting outside, and the answer’s still less than you want to give.

 

It’s evolution that keeps the city afloat and you’ll ensure neither of you are left behind.

 

Still, it makes for something satisfying to watch Izaya’s face break from the smirk he’s carrying. 

 

 

 

 

 

XIII.

 

 

 

You know, from Raira rumors and chat rooms and all the tales Masaomi won’t tell you that you have to dig for yourself, that most times the name Izaya Orihara is enough to lull a gang into submission.

 

And it’s fitting, you think, in too many ways to count out. How the prodigy gets to name himself first, before the fear follows. Paves way before striking the ones still standing from it.

 

Really, it just makes it all the sweeter knowing how the city doesn’t have to know your name to fear you.

 

 

 

XIIII.

 

 

 

Masaomi makes a low noise across the hallway when you walk in.

 

You almost don’t know it’s him, at first. You aren’t used to this side of him, the one who plays as a piece instead of playing with them, breath stalling like he’s forgotten to take it in.

 

You half-way remember forgetting your original plan to stop on your way home and wipe away the blood, just like how you didn’t think to check the state of your clothes. There’s probably a head injury involved in that case, you think, and make a note that slips as easy out as it does in to text Shinra about it.

 

The room shifts into the loaded stillness moment, the industrial lighting flickering over your apartment and Masaomi paling like he’s seen a ghost in front of him on the other end.

 

You blink and he’s gone, the space across from you emptied for a moment before hands are running down your arms, reaching to cup your face, thumbs brushing over you cheeks checking for bruises.

 

Masaomi says, stumbles down onto his knees as you realize you’re both on the ground now, “What the fuck are you doing, Mikado?” 

 

He breathes the words out strained enough to make them rhetorical, even when it’s all you can do to blink at him, trying to track how close he is. 

 

Masaomi sounds like he’s the one who just spent an hour in an alleyway, all frantic hands and voice pulled low like he’s afraid of how it might break if he lets it run free.

 

The hands on your face ground the moment into the shadow of what it is, and you wonder, fuzzy at the seams of the thought, if Masaomi knows just how easily he translates the words into: Don’t stop coming back to me.

 

 

 

.

 

 

Kanra: Just think, if it were possible.

 

Kanra: If a person could shift something like that-

 

Kanra: Well, it makes one wonder about the lasting impacts on the predictor. What if they still chose wrong? And the event happened anyway, no matter what they did?

 

Kanra: I guess that just leaves the question of how far the other would be willing to go to get them back.

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

XV.

 

 

You run through the possibilities as often as you can weigh them.

 

The cost of Masaomi finding out divided by Izaya’s voice scorching through the city.

 

Shizuo’s strength and unpredictability multiplied by all the things you would do to be able to say like, Surprise! It’s a highschool kid! It’s a highschool kid this city’s been tearing its own teeth out over!

 

Maybe that’s the trick, the bit of the bite you’re supposed to stay away from before he knew it was you controlling it.

 

The Dollars became the city the same way the Yellow Scarves fell to it, and you have the equation now and the theory to hone it to success.

 

When you catch Shizuo and rows and rows of red eyes being swallowed into the night, you think how Izaya awarded the title of monster to the wrong pawn.

 

 

 

XVI.

 

 

When Masaomi asks, soft, between Raira and the train station and dozens of red eyes you can’t seem to pin down, watching you in the way he’s always been able to read you through: “What’s going on, Mikado?”

 

You don’t answer right away. 

 

You want to say, I’m trying to make it better. Or, I’m building this city back up for you. Or, we’ll be urban legends before we’re twenty and some days I can’t seem to scratch it off my skin.

 

Because there are a thousand things you want to tell him, millions of reasons you can bleed through before you run dry, in the same stumbling breath that you know you can’t. 

 

Not while Masaomi is still trying to outrun himself in the length of the city. Not with Orihara still too close to where you want him to be, and the city not yet wrapped up in a tight enough bow to present.

 

So you bite it down and suck it up, and when Masaomi leaves with Orihara in his ear, the city feels like fire for a week.

 

But you both have gotten good at doing what you need to.

 

 

 

 

 

XVII.

 

 

You have more dreams. 

 

It’s not surprising that they’re mostly about him.

 

In some, you’re all three studying in Anri’s apartment and it’s all very domestic. 

 

In others, it’s Masaomi and you and everything you never said, trapped under the weight of the hometown neither of you ever left. 

 

This one has a bare city backdrop and bruises across your chin.

 

You want to say something, anything, but your tongue is on fire in your mouth and your jaw aches from where it must have been hit, and Masaomi backs up quick enough to leave the space between you both too obviously empty after him. 

 

Sometimes, you feel like he’s shifting just enough to make room for the city he’s so afraid you’ll run to.



Here, Masaomi just looks at you. 

 

It’s the same way he had when he came back the first time. When you met between the city and its passing, the tracks like markings made to show you are somewhere else now. How you’re someone else, now.

 

Masaomi stares and distantly you think this is what he must look like finally seeing you for the first time. 

 

You don’t breach the distance, don’t call him back even with the name leaking iron into your lungs.

 

And maybe, even in the dream, that’s your mistake.

 

 

.

 

 

Setton: Something isn’t adding up here.

 

Kanra: Oh?

 

Taro: Setton’s right. Choosing between options of possibility and impossibility doesn’t make sense.

 

Taro: If one can’t work in the other’s same universe, than they’re both inconsequential. 

 

Kanra: Well isn’t someone quite the philosopher today. Why?

 

Taro: Because that then eliminates the possibility of a choice. It’s an illusion. Because neither wins. 

 

Taro: I don't think you can choose in an illusion.

 

 

.

 

 

XVIII.

 

 

You can argue over all the possible reasons you started what you’ve done how you did, but it doesn’t solve anything more than it fixed the problem before you expanded it.

 

Masaomi provides theories like they’re pieces of grace the one time he messages you, two weeks after leaving, and types them out like he wants them to be true more than how much sense they actually make.

 

The first makes you smile when he says how, maybe, you were bored and it turned you naive and maybe lonely enough to end up in the wrong crowd. Being friends with an ex-gang leader probably didn’t help that. 

 

Because of course he knows you know all of it now, with Izaya not so far behind his every move since the city. It’s obvious bait and it’s low and it’s cheating and you thought Izaya could play better than this. 

 

But humans are still always just humans to him, you guess. 

 

You of all people know there’s no won loyalty there. There’s only one piece Izaya doesn’t move and it’s the same place his preference for knives stems from.

 

The clock says you stare at the message for ten minutes before you’re sending back: I see the bragging never wore off. And play as the mediator in your own crucifixion.

 

The next theory comes too soon after you’ve responded, meaning he either didn’t read yours or he doesn’t care.

 

And it doesn’t matter, anyway, not while you can feel your face slip when the next theory reads: maybe you were lead here, between Ikebukuro and what never really felt like home.

 

When you send back: makes you wonder what made the city feel like that then. You close out of the message before any chance of a response and turn your phone off right after.

 

There’s only one other person in the city who could get close enough to what might be the truth if you ever let yourself think about it.

 

You think about how Izaya’s smirk reached his eyes the third time you met, between the streets and alley ways and email lists, when he said: “It’s remarkable, really, just what the option of control at your fingertips did to this city.”

 

And how you didn’t tell him that it is just as much your city, now, as it is his.

 

 

 

XVIIII.

 

 

 

Here is what it boils down to, between the gang fights you insight and the too many files and laptops neither of you can pry yourselves away from– 

 

When Masaomi left, it was you who couldn't stop it.

 

The city air tastes like dirt after and the news reports, later, how there has been a surprising rise of gang in-fighting lately, even accounting for the already known violences lurking among the streets.

 

It still doesn’t make anything warmer.

 

You don’t have to go looking for Izaya because he finds you first, leaning back against a schoolyard wall, four weeks after Masaomi disappeared and three since you paved a few roads for rumors with names attached.

 

“Oh,” you start, letting your eyes get wide and speaking just loud enough to keep anyone else from coming closer. “I didn’t expect to see you here.” 

 

And coming out of either of your mouths it’s a lie, but Izaya’s grin widens like it’s a pleasantry. 

 

“I have something you might want,” he says, taking a step closer until he’s pushing off of the wall instead of leaning onto it, eyes sharp as the switchblade in his pocket. “If you’re interested, that is.”

 

You can all but see the price attached label.

 

You think of the warnings from Kida and Shizuo and the scars everyone in this city seems to carry on them. The walk aways being screamed at you from every direction like you're not the one who built the fear into the new layout of the city.

 

How Izaya is standing in front of you sharp and taller than you’ve ever seen him.

 

“I’m always interested,” you say, instead.

 

The sound echoes the electricity through your body when Izaya laughs and laughs and reaches into his coat’s pocket.

 

 

 

.

 

 

Setton: If the choice isn’t real, then what’s that make the scenario?

 

Kanra: Well, that’s the funny thing about hypotheticals, isn’t it?



Kanra: How they can recreate our most impossible realities and somehow still retain their cruelty.

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

XX.

 

 

 

You wonder, sometimes, what it would take to make Masaomi hate you as much as he should.

 

Even that, though, couldn’t be enough to draw him away from the city forever. You don’t pull him back into the city anymore than he ever pulled you toward it in the first place.

 

The peak of your channeled chaos in the city goes down like this: in a warehouse on the outskirts of the city, your name plastered to the tongue of every scattered gang member stupid enough to cross you after peaking at your name in the Dollars, and idiotic enough to think of contacting Orihara for your information.

 

You aren’t Izaya with his switchblade or Masaomi with his fists, and the gun in your pocket glows white when another hit lands against your face, but you still don’t have what you came here for yet, so you wait it out.

 

The blood coating your mouth drips down your chin when one of them says something about a lesson. Another one says, “You can’t play us like a game,” like that isn’t exactly what this has all always been.

 

You start to laugh and a fist cuts on your teeth.

 

You think, so this is what it comes down to, as the doors push open quiet behind the five of you and the creaking metal delivers you what you’ve been waiting for long enough to let your body go slack in your attacker’s grip.

 

Between the four armed amateurs beating your face in, you almost don’t see the crow bar until Masaomi’s bashes one of the kids’ head with it. 

 

Even then, it still feels better than all the nights you spent imagining this combined.

 

The scene breaks itself down into fractured pieces in front of you: 

 

Masaomi with a bat and three armed ex-members. 

 

The blood in your teeth and the length of the city you spent running it through.

 

The physicality of all the chatrooms you sowed with I heard there’s this new gang and some kid named Mikado has been seen with their leader you ensured spread far enough to reach past the city and stepped back to watch what grew up from the in-between.

 

The bruises on your cheek mirror the ones glowing across Masaomi’s forehead when one of them gets a hit in. But he’s still here, bloody and burning and running back for you, and even before the last lackey falls, you can’t stop staring at them. 

 

You almost want to laugh again. 

 

Or, maybe tell him, I waited this time. Or shout louder than the sound of skin scratching against skin and say I played the game. Maybe even, we’re winning. Or, I guess we just keep coming back.

 

The last gang member collapses under fists pressed so tight that, for a moment, you’re sure they’ll burst before they can unwind.

 

But then Masaomi turns to you like he has a thousand times, at the train station, across the alley, after the Dollars rose again, mirroring every dream you've ever had with golden light.

 

You can’t stop the edge of manic in your voice when you point to your forehead.

 

It’s the first motion you can think to make, and even then you aren’t sure if it’s the right one. 

 

It’s different, now, being unsure if the path you’re choosing is the right one. But the ground surrounding Masaomi has never been clear for you, anyway.

 

You say: “We match, now.” And he knows, of course, how you don’t only mean in this.

 

When he crosses the warehouse and grabs your face to pull you closer, you note how little his hands shake. 

 

There are only moments of difference between the kisses of fists that tore apart the warehouse you built so much towards, and him now, with the gentle press of thumbs against your cheek.

 

Masaomi presses hard enough to sting, like he’s trying to find evidence of his own presence in the purple. 

 

Like he’s trying to ground the moment into this: you and him and the city dissolved between you.

 

When Masaomi says: “You’re a fucking idiot.” Your laugh goes high until he pulls you forward and then you’re stumbling into his shoulder, his hands locked across your back and dripping red.

 

It all feels too much like coming home.

 

 

 

.