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Business as Usual

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It's been a long time. It reminds Fukuzawa that how old he has gotten. And Mori, that his old routines were rendered useless a long time ago.

 

It would be easy if they could start afresh, new beginnings, as people say, but there's too much unresolved history behind them. With Fukuzawa's latest recruit Dazai, Mori regrets not adopting him back then, and not really because now he's Fukuzawa's problem, the tension is thick in the air. Not that it wouldn't be if Dazai matter didn't exist but Mori loves to focus on tangible aspects of the tension. Not the feelings he didn't dare to go over for years and hoped they'd rot. Maybe because they are rotten enough that he can't ignore the bothering feeling he has now.

 

This is literally coal business but Fukuzawa hates it more because raking over the coals kind of feels literally. Still the metaphorical meaning weights on him more. Using Dazai kun as a bargaining chip feels low, and it makes Mori smile. A sight he despises and loves at the same time. And it's irrelevant of the fact that he spent years yearning. Yearning what? He doesn't have the anwer yet. Maybe he never will because this is Mori sensei.

 

Again, since this is Mori sensei, the peaceful tense silence only lasts for three seconds. "How nice it is to see you again, Fukuzawa dono." He mocks, still ever confident. Still that accusing sharpness in his eyes and smooth words with an intent to cut. What is there to cut though? The thing between them or their connection with the rest of the world? Noone knows, not even Mori sensei.

 

"Don't act like you didn't expect that, Mori sensei." Fukuzawa's accusations hang in the air, next to Mori's daggers disguised as words. "You haven't changed at all." Mori laughs, as if he didn't have a care in the world, which both of them knows to be a carefully disguised deception. There are countless instances that Fukuzawa clashed with Mori's desire to turn the page. In exchange, he pays back with keeping the status quo between them and giving no rest to Fukuzawa due to the anxiety of Mori always having another opportunity planned to one up him. So much that Fukuzawa sometimes thinks that if it weren't for himself, Mori sensei wouldn't be so adept at conspiring against the others. Or maybe it's a wishful thinking that he wants to consider himself that important to him.

 

"I am here for business." Fukuzawa cuts it short, and tells that mostly to remind it to himself, at least this is what Mori thinks. Mori hates being unable to read the emotion in his eyes and it's his only consolation that Fukuzawa dono doesn't seem to be aware of what it is either. He doesn't dare hope that he isn't really aware of its existence though.

 

"Disagreement over coal usage, look what fate has thrown into our faces?" Mori mocks, because he knows that any of them feel like they have woken up from a nightmare. Where they all won the war but lost too many battles, along with a part of themselves that they had to allow it to perish. It feels so distant that he wonders if it wasn't really a terribly realistic nightmare.

 

"Are you going to keep blaming me for what happened? Or are we going to talk about business?" Fukuzawa threatens and it finally dawns on him that Dazai left there at some point. It's probably a scheme from Mori but he can guess what has been offered to Dazai. He can't find it in himself to blame Dazai. In his youth, they were the same too.

 

"Business as not really usual, but let's not dwell in the past." Mori offers, not really meaning any of it. "It doesn't matter much." Fukuzawa concludes, wishing it to be over rather quick. Just like anything else with Mori sensei, or he'll have more to think and it'll keep him up all night when he's alone. Not that this much isn't enough to do that but he wants to keep his hopes up anyway.

 

After the book business ended, it all took their abilities. All abilities were apparently stemmed from the book and took a shape according to the personality of its owner. And the book was too dangerous not to be destroyed, so they had to. It didn't make the impact any less powerful or painful. After all they all had to change their lives significantly. Mori took Dazai back, but Dazai found a loophole that Mori wasn't operating Port Mafia anymore, so that he quitted. It was true, because Mori decided that being a businessman suited him more, now that the city didn't need mafia. And being an owner of a multinational company gave him more power along with more ways to hide his shady business. To the point that he was less morally questionable in his mafia days. Survival in the business world was something else. Too bad that he had to make peaceful agreements with Fitzgerald. It almost made him feel like he was the better person out of two. Which was a blow to his ego. Almost. That was the key.

 

From the perspective of Fukuzawa, he never got any breaks after the ability business went down. He had capable personnel but that made things even more complicated. The compensation agency got for mistreatment and possibly saving the world, got him into business sector now that he coldn't keep agency going. Ranpo and Kunikida suggested information processing and he went along with it. And somehow in a short span of time, he ended up with a company. Or more like he ended up as a CEO that made his workload double. And he had to deal with Mori sensei personally. What has he done to deserve that? Other than killing in the name of government for so many years? And maybe seldom blaming the guy for the things he hadn't had a choice over? Seldom, that is the emphasis.

 

"Do you think we can enforce more environmentally friendly production methods and lead industries that way?" Mori asks, not really a question. He just wants to know if Fukuzawa would disagree with his enforcement methods if he were to lead the industry just like he lead the mafia. Iron will and iron fist. For the good cause that aims less coal usage in steel processing industry.

 

Business life changed Fukuzawa a lot as well. He couldn't care less about the profits of greedy businessmen over the future of the living beings in the world. Maybe karma hit them in the shape of Mori as well, and somehow he resents the idea of sharing karma with shallow people who don't care anything other than money. Or maybe sharing Mori's attention makes him uneasy for some reason but he wants to leave it as uncharted waters. That territory isn't new to him but that doesn't make it any less dangerous. Still, there's a thrill in the unknown that he doesn't dare breach. He used to get addicted to danger real quick. The best way to avoid that is to avoid it altogether.

 

"As long as you keep it legal, I'll have no objections." He declares, knowing that he set the bar a little too low. His knowledge on the matter that Mori sensei loves to experiment with his own limits, along with the limits of other people awakens something akin to an explosive feeling in his gut; or maybe his heart but he'd rather consider it as a gut feeling regardless of the wrong usage of the phrase, doesn't help much at all. Not that he doesn't trust him. Mori sensei is doing that for the good of the world. And maybe to ruin his business rivals but he has stopped caring about filthy businessmen after he had to become one of them. Grass was greener on the other side back then. And if the industry keeps this up, it won't be green anywhere.

 

"So, you'll use that to your advantage by advertisement strategy that you use the byproducts in other industries meanwhile still reducing its usage in energy sector, giving your rivals a huge disadvantage over the government business offers with the pressure of public opinion." Mori sensei states, yes states but with a mask of thinking aloud, and Fukuzawa marvels at the man who stood at the top of Yokohama with the power of scheming alone. Still he won't lose. "It's not like you won't gain anything, your pharmaceutical companies will get cheaper ingredients with this agreement between us." Fukuzawa offers, and he feels like this might feel like an eternal ceasefire between them.

 

"I can make sure that the agreement doesn't fall into competition enforcement category, and I already started some insider trading in steel industry when I saw your efforts to negotiate with government." He taunts with confidence. So much for keeping it legal. Then again, basing it on a hunch brought risks so it was legal but Fukuzawa still laments being predictable. He really pities the rivals that are on the receiving end of Mori's sharp mind, but then again he remembers the environmental damage, or the workplace harassment, or unpaid overtime work, list goes too long. Almost enough to make Mori sensei a better man in his eyes. Almost. Or maybe he started to become a worse man over the time with this business thing and now they seem closer. Or maybe the distance between them has always been some figment of his imagination.

 

"You know, back then I always loved to take first steps but I appreciate waiting this time so that you came to me" Mori sensei says with a wink. "I already have a few alternative drafts of a possible agreement between us" he declares with pride and Fukuzawa feels like Dazai probably got bribed with something more than he originally thought. And it's a good thing that Mori stands by his side, not against him. For the sake of his business success, nothing else. And he's not in denial, he really enjoyed the rivalry between them for too long. The pang in his heart is probably the lamentation of losing such fine rivalry.

 

Fukuzawa didn't come to where he is now by playing along with others, still. He has to raise the stakes. "This is a one time thing, you just happened to have the most suitable business that doesn't alert competition authorities." He bluffs, knowing full well that there are not many people he can trust to some degree in the world of business. But he's not Fukuzawa if he doesn't leave Mori even if a little bit wondering.

 

"If you wanted to visit, it didn't have to be for taking any steps. An old friend doesn't need any special reasons for coming over." He basks in Mori's inability to reply. He doesn't say Mori is always welcome because that would have felt too much and neither of them is ready for that. But he has a feeling that Mori sensei will find a way to exploit that. So what? It's better for him to exploit his offers than his weaknesses. "I am looking forward to this Fukuzawa dono" Mori sensei closes his eyes, the most honest expression he has seen in his face in years. He looks like a long time burden is removed from his shoulders. And Fukuzawa wonders why he feels lighter too. "Later, then" Fukuzawa says and Mori is sure that Fukuzawa meant it without any other hidden implication this time. Maybe not. But at least there was no hidden biting remark that implied he had to endure it in his tone. For the first time since their real first time, it felt like a good start for both of them.