“Ryuichi!” Suoh slammed open the office door. Bending over while trying to catch his breath, “Emergency. Team three.”
“What?!” Jerking up partway from his chair in shock, “Where?!”
“The Rainbow Bridge. I’ve mobilized all other available teams to the location. They're holding for now, but running low on ammunition. Estimates are ten more assailants. People are panicking from the gunfire and making the situation worse. ETA two minutes. Our inside police and fire informants are helping block roads to get them through.”
Yanking open his desk drawer, he grabbed his CZ75 while Suoh punched in the code to unlock the hidden safe. They both retrieved an assault rifle. Kirishima grabbed a third while holding their vests in his other arm.
He cursed the elevator. It dinged open to reveal a confused office staff member who shrieked in shock at the sight of the weapons. Their combined bulk flattened the poor man to the back of the car.
Kirishima jammed his key into the fireman hold slot and pressed the parking garage button, beginning their nonstop trip.
“One word and I blow your head off,” Suoh growled, shoving it under the man's chin.
The acrid scent of urine filled the air. “I swear! I swear! I read the contract I signed! I swear!” the man babbled.
Suoh paled as information flowed into his ear. “There's an accident blocking the end of the bridge. Teams can’t get through. They're abandoning the vehicles to make their way to Akihito-san’s car. People are running past them, slowing them down. They can also hear the gunfire.”
“Check on Akihito!”
Suoh flipped a switch on his earpiece. “Hayashida, status.” He then yanked the earpiece from his ear, flinching from the gunshots sounding straight into his ear canal.
They all heard a shout of “Not good! The glass is about to give!”
Even bulletproof glass shattered if you hit it long and hard enough.
They piled into the big, black, reinforced SUV while Kirishima started the engine and pulled off before the doors were even fully closed. Slamming the gas, Kirishima brought his driving skills to the fore. Suoh switched the built-in computer system to the channel linked to Hayashida's earpiece.
Each gunshot and holler from the speakers sent stabs of ice through his system.
Intersections blocked by police cars and fire vehicles cleared their way. Oddly, the cars they were moving past seemed to be driving in slow motion and backward until he blinked hard.
Get a grip, Ryuichi! Focus!
“Bakeneko-sama! Are you all right?! Were you hit?” Shiro's panicked voice sent a fresh wave of rage through him.
Not Bakeneko, too!
“Shit! We're sitting ducks in here. Run!”
“I’m sorry, Ryuichi. Whoever it is, they were too prepared. The accident was on purpose to slow us down. They didn't stand a chance of escape.”
“Lock it down. The airport, docks, roads. Everything. Get them closed. Now!”
Akihito! Where are you?
He shook violently with his emotions.
~R&A~ ~R&A~ ~R&A~
“Bakeneko! Where are you?! I need you right now! Bakeneko! Do you hear me? If you’re listening, find Akihito. Find him and bring him to me!”
Dead silence. No voice. Nothing.
His head dropped forward between the arms bracing him against the top of his desk.
“Did they take you, too?” he whispered softly into the void.
~R&A~ ~R&A~ ~R&A~
“Ryuichi, maybe you shouldn't watch this.” Kirishima shifted uneasily beside him.
“I need to know…” He pushed play.
His laptop went flying as he silently seethed. Everything on the surface of the desk, swept off. Suoh and Kirishima skillfully dodged the objects. A volcano with nowhere to erupt. He felt helpless. Afraid. Lost.
Where are you, kitten?
“Did Takato find anything?”
“He's trying. He's never seen some of these encryptions before. He's seeking outside help from some of his past hacker friends.”
The apartment was quiet as a cemetary. His dinner uneaten and cold on the coffee table. The television silent instead of blaring the sounds of zombie moans and screaming teenagers. No video game sound effects, battle cries, or background score. No swearing. No humming or clattering from the kitchen. No off-key lyrics from the bathroom.
He stared out the balcony doors, but the view was blurred and hazy like an out of focus picture. The whiskey forgotten in his hand watered down and unpalatable.
Somewhere out there Akihito was bleeding. In pain. Away from his side. Away from him.
He could do nothing. Just wait.
He spun around wildly, searching, but no one was there.
Furious, he threw the tumbler and watched as it shattered against the wall. Liquid dripped like blood down the wall, slowly gaining a reddish hue.
The sky outside began to weep violently as the building shook. The earthquake rattled Akihito's framed pictures against the walls. Cracks slowly climbed up the drywall. Furniture slid across the floor as the ground bucked and heaved.
Staggering, his drunken limbs couldn't keep up with the violent spasming of his world.
~R&A~ ~R&A~ ~R&A~
Kirishima was yelling at him to wait. His men were breaking into rooms down the seemingly infinite hallway. Sounds of gunfire and shouting.
Calls of “All clear.”
He couldn't breathe as he ran for the next door.
Please. Please. Please.
Using all of his body weight, he slammed into it, tearing it from its hinges. His entire world crashed to the floor with the door.
Stumbling into the room, “No. No. Nonononono. Ki-kitten.”
Blood. Fresh blood. Handprints pressed to the walls in a gruesome tableau around the words “Too late.” Dripping slowly off the steel table, making a soft sound as it splashed into the growing puddle.
What little hope he had left disintegrated as he reached him.
Opened from his neck down with surgical precision, Akihito's body cavity was empty. His organs harvested and likely already sold on the black market. His fierce hazel eyes missing, leaving only an empty black void staring up at Asami.
On the metal, a crimson smeared lopsided heart made by now still fingers.
Collapsing like a puppet that’s strings had been cut, not feeling the shock of hitting the floor, “Too late. I’m too late.”
Failure. Pain. Heartbreak. Sorrow. Rage. Loss. Grief. Anguish. Numbness.
Someone shook him. “Ryuichi.”
~R&A~ ~R&A~ ~R&A~
“Ryuichi, wake up.”
“Leave me alone.”
Kirishima stood by the bed with a somber expression. “You need closure. To put him to rest.”
Opening his eyes to look at the bedside clock, he blinked in confusion as the time clicked slowly backward.
It must be broken. Just like me.
He stared. It was Akihito, but something was off. His skin tone was slightly too orange from layers of makeup concealing the trauma he had endured. Stitches hidden under cloth. His hair combed in a style that he would have never worn.
They put him in a suit. He hated wearing those. Why?
“When wake up, mama? Unka Asmi wake up. Unka Aki, too.” Hiroto stood next to a weeping Minako, innocently confused and unaware.
The stabbing pain in his chest sent him spinning away from the casket and heading toward the nearest exit.
He stumbled as his stomach lurched, but had nothing to expel. His vision tunneled.
A figure stepped into his path before he could escape. He should have expected the slap. His face stung.
Akihito's mother sobbed in front of him, her hand still shaking. “You said…”
“I know I did. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn't… I…” The ground tilted dangerously beneath him and he barely kept his footing as reality hit him yet again. He had failed to protect his greatest treasure.
“My baby boy…”
Never, Hiroto. Never.
Escaping from her fury and sorrow, he slammed out through the parlor doors. The landscape blurred by as he ran. Ran until his leg gave out.
Rolling onto his back, a blue cloudless sky stared back at him as his lungs and limbs ached.
The first drop landed on his forehead. The next found his upturned palm.
A sunshower slowly drenched him from head to foot, yet he didn't move.
Akihito. Kitten. Even the sky cries for you.
~R&A~ ~R&A~ ~R&A~
Kuroda had stood by helplessly as he calmly accepted the restraints. A long list of sins was being read to him by an official. News cameras lined the walkway to capture video of the fallen man.
He slumped in the back of the squad car.
He deserved this.
Kou had carried through with his threat.
~R&A~ ~R&A~ ~R&A~
Bars and grey walls. A rusty sink. A built-in toilet. Baggy blue prison scrubs. A lumpy mat. A sunken barely recognizable face reflected in the cracked mirror. His hair falling out in clumps that swirled across the floor, dancing in an unseen current.
No television. No tablet. No books. Nothing except his own mind that kept spinning visions of events that would never come true. Conversations they would never have. Apologies he couldn't deliver.
Insanity saved him from death row, but forever locked away. Forever alone with Akihito's ghost haunting the edge of his vision. His golden eyes chasing it around the cell, but never quite catching it.
Kei and Kazumi looking at him with pity and sadness as he demanded they find Akihito, until even they stopped visiting.
Hoping one day to discover his food poisoned, or a shank to find him so he could leave this life. Suicide watch around the clock after he had tried to rip his wrist open with his teeth and nails.
No voices. No Bakeneko to keep him company. He begged him to end his life, but there was no answer. No gleaming claws or Cheshire grin. Who would serve a fallen master?
“Hey! Wake up!”
“You have a package.”
Rolling over, he watched as a long box was slid through the opening at the bottom of the door.
A foul and sickly smell filled the small cell.
What the fuck?
The guards loved making his life miserable. He deserved every second of it. One had even offered a knife to end his suffering before yanking it back with a cruel laugh.
The smell grew horrible. He gagged.
Knowing they wouldn't remove it until he opened it for their enjoyment, he stood up and knelt next to the box.
Milky hazel eyes stared up at him on top of the intestines and other rotting organs. The fire he loved forever extinguished. Now fodder for his final destruction.
Jerking away, crawling and scrambling backward, Asami Ryuichi finally learned how to scream.
Pain exploded across his chest. Burning. Heat.
He jerked up, gasping and clutching, then yelped in shock as his forehead collided with the one hovering above his. A lit candle burned his vision, still tilted from dripping melted scalding wax. Blinking rapidly and wincing as another drop landed on his skin.
“Ow! That fucking hurt, bastard!”
Fiery hazel eyes.