The Detective — that’s what mister Holmes is, right? That’s what he understood, at least — pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket, a photo.
Seeing what’s displayed in it makes the world stop. Makes Ryuunosuke feel like one second he’s standing on trembling but solid ground, and the next, he’s falling; the air leaving his lungs as he crashes into a sea raging by a storm. He struggles to stay afloat with no avail, and he sinks, and sinks, and sinks.
Up until now, he didn’t really think that Asougi— no, Kazuma, but… no, he has no right to call him that — was dead.
It was easy to, when there was no concrete, absolute proof, of his demise. The outline of a body made with cut up ribbon, the way the entire room was in disarray, pieces of glass scattered around, books knocked down and thrown around — something that Ryuunosuke knows Asougi would never allow, he is… was always prim and proper. He liked order and his belongings, hell, the way he had packed what he needed for the journey and even the way he presented himself to the world proved as much —, his sword , Japan’s heart, thrown across the room, completely uncared for… These were things that were easy to ignore.
It was easy to kid himself into thinking that Asougi just had a bad morning, enough for him to have knocked down a plate, to forget his sword as he walked outside the room to take a walk. It was easy to explain the books and broken glass and spilled ink with the ship shaking a little too much a little too hard, easy to think that the ominous message on the floor was nothing but a playful joke, meant to make Ryuunosuke think too hard, propose countless of meanings about it until Asougi shook his head, a laugh pulling the edges of his lips upwards and making crinkles appear in the corner of his beautiful eyes. All the while looking at Ryuunosuke in a way that made him want to spill every secret of the universe to his best friend.
But he knows that Asougi didn’t have a bad morning. He’d always be in the room when Ryuunosuke woke up, in fact, most of the time it would be him who’d wake him, gently shaking his shoulder, always careful not to move him in a way that would hurt him or make him more uncomfortable. (Sleeping in a wardrobe wasn’t precisely fun, but he’d rather take that over bothering his best friend by sharing a bed). Ryuunosuke would open his eyes to be greeted with a warm smile that—
Isn’t present in the photograph.
Asougi looks pained. Teeth clenched, brows furrowed, eyes closed in an expression that he… he has never seen before in his best friend’s face. It makes him think that he probably spent his last moments, his last intake of air before everything stopped, in absolute misery. And that hurts him .
What hurts more is knowing that he had been sleeping as his best friend was murdered; as the only person who had never doubted him, who believed in him much more than himself and anyone else would, was completely stripped of his life.
It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s just not… no. Why Asougi? Why the man who had so much to live for? Someone whose future was set for success, a bright outlook in which he kept up with his studies, being the best because it was natural for him, had a time in which he experienced the way the law system worked in a different country and fulfilled every single dream that he had. A future that Asougi had invited him to see, and now it was just… gone.
He can feel something deep inside of him take a hold of his lungs, his heart, squeezing down on them until there’s a noticeable enough pressure. Something that makes his torso ache and his breathing ragged because he’s struggling to take more than a few gulps of air, makes him dizzy and disoriented.
Mister Holmes says that the message written in the ground means wardrobe, and Ryuunosuke can feel his entire world crashing over him.
He doesn’t understand, he doesn’t want to understand, he doesn’t — But he thinks about it anyway. Thinks about Asougi, completely miserable, brows furrowing as he stares upwards from the ground, towards the looming closet in which he knew Ryuunosuke was. He wonders if his best friend felt betrayed when nobody came out of it to help him, to call someone… or at the very least, to make him feel less alone as he drifted into the unknown— thinks that he prefers that, some kind of anger, much more than the idea that Asougi remained faithful to believing the best about him when there was no best in this scenario. He imagines him reaching out towards the wardrobe, finding out in some sort of despair… or perhaps resignation that he’s not strong enough to move anymore. Deciding instead to use the last of his strength to leave a message behind. The purpose of it he doesn’t know yet, but...
It pains Ryuunosuke to think that it might have been because Asougi wanted to make sure that someone would get him out, that they’d find him, because he was the only one who knew that his room actually hosted two people — because otherwise, Ryuunosuke might have never gotten out of said closet. A part of him wishes that he hadn’t, actually.
The hold in his chest grows stronger, and if he turns his upwards to look at the ceiling, willing the tears that have gathered around his eyes to go away… and if one or two of them actually slip down his cheeks… and if mister Holmes and Susato remain silent for a moment while they watch him gather himself… then nobody else has to know.
He doesn’t know how he did it. Doesn’t know how he spent the day gathering clues, interrogating people, finding out what really happened until the true culprit was apprehended, but he did it.
He avenged Asougi Kazuma. Avenged his best friend, made sure that his killer… well, hopefully, receives the punishment that they deserve as soon as they get to solid ground.
(But he can’t be sure of that, can he? Jezail Brett didn’t face the justice she deserved because of the system. How can he rely on that now? How is he sure it’ll actually come to be this time?)
Achieving revenge is the only positive that Ryuunosuke can take out of the situation as Susato removes the heavy cuffs from his hands, as she gives him a look that expresses more than he can understand right now, as she hesitates, lips parting to say something before they close and she shakes her head. She makes her way towards the door, turns back to give him another look, before she exists and closes the door behind her.
And so Ryuunosuke Naruhodo is left alone with his thoughts, no longer being able to push forward and think about things in an objective, logical way as he looks for evidence. He’s left staring at a sword that leans comfortably against the wall by the bed in the room. Staring at the hachimaki wrapped around the hilt of it, something that used to rest on the forehead of his— of his—
He can’t do this.
He’s sitting down on the bed, holding the katana with both hands before he even notices. A drop of water splashes against the hilt, then another, and another— His body shakes with uncontrollable sobs that he grits his teeth to keep inside of him, but he can’t stop the way tears flow freely down his cheeks.
He thinks that the pain that runs across his body, leaving him with the desperate desire to stop feeling everything at all, can’t compare to… Ryuunosuke brings the katana, the only thing he has left of Asougi that means something, closer to him as he lets himself collapse on the bed. There’s no one around that might take a look at him and pity him, or maybe doubt him and the authenticity of everything, even if his innocence was proved— but he presses his face immediately to a pillow, to keep it hidden... and in an effort to keep his pain from overflowing.
Asougi Kazuma was more than his best friend. He was someone who believed in him, supported him always, who Ryuunosuke was completely comfortable sharing everything and anything about himself with, someone who knew the way he behaved and who was able to know exactly what he was thinking without him having to say it outloud. Asougi was someone with big dreams, great beliefs, and with enough ambition and drive to make said things happen.
He was change incarnate. He was the sun, setting a course that people around him would follow simply because they all believed in him, believed in what he could bring. Asougi was… everything Ryuunosuke admired.
Distantly, as he gasps for breath, he thinks that everything Asougi wanted shouldn’t be lost, he thinks that someone should do something about it. And just maybe… this person could be him, because—
Ryuunosuke was Asougi’s… something. The man had gone through the entire trouble of smuggling him inside a boat headed towards his dreams, and before, he had complete faith in the way that he had handled his own trial, had even gone so far as to compliment his skills when it ended and they emerged victorious. Something that he was not afraid to admit had relieved him, not because it meant he wouldn’t go to prison, but more because Asougi’s journey wouldn’t have ended before it even started.
(How ironic. For it to end as it started).
Perhaps this... being something is enough. Ryuunosuke still doesn’t know why Asougi needed him to come on this trip. He also doesn’t know what awaits him the next day, or the day after that, but whatever it is, he’ll try his hardest to make sure that his best friend’s dreams are accomplished. Because—
Asougi Kazuma was his pride and joy.
But he was also more than that.