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And In The Darkness, I Found You

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His name was Kaneki Ken.

And he was a half-ghoul just like Saiko.

Or, more accurately, just like Saiko’s Maman, but the girl doesn’t mention that.

Kaneki Ken, according to Tsukiyama, had been the bearer of a tragic fate - something Saiko understood only after he tells her his story. Kaneki had been turned into a ghoul against his will, and his entire life after that had consisted of nothing but hurdles. Saiko doesn’t quite believe Tsukiyama when he tells her that Kaneki’s hair actually turned from black to pure white in a matter of days (that could only happen in fiction!) but the ghoul assures that he tells no lies. Kaneki Ken, after being forced to undergo something utterly traumatic and live through it, had changed from the shy, helpless university student he’d started out as to a hardhearted half-ghoul who’d insisted on pushing himself to his limits even when he doesn’t need to. He fought for others even when Tsukiyama personally saw no necessity for it.

Saiko doesn’t get to hear the remaining of the tale thanks to a particularly loud grumble her stomach decided to produce - and at the best part, too. She thought Tsukiyama would simply ignore her and go on at first, but it seems that the ghoul really had started taking a liking to her because he sends for his servants the moment Saiko admits to be starving.

He would’ve probably ordered them to bring her human meat too if she hadn’t made the split-second decision to admit that she wasn’t a half-ghoul; not exactly.

“Not exactly a half-ghoul?” Tsukiyama inquires once his servants left to search for the appropriate food for his guest, studying Saiko with renewed interest. Compared to forty-five minutes ago, he seems almost like a completely different man. Saiko finally spots a spark in those initially lifeless eyes, and she could tell that he appreciated her attention when he talked of his friend who was never coming back. Oddly enough, Saiko feels a little proud of herself for this little achievement. “Won’t you tell me more, little rabbit?”

Saiko hesitates, wondering if she really should. Then again, she realizes, the existence of the Quinx isn’t exactly a deep dark secret the CCG is keeping. Not with how they’re allowed to use their kagune when they participate in missions. It should be alright.

So she tells him, how she in fact has a modified Quinque implanted into her body instead of a kakuhou by itself. Though that’s all she knows about the matter, it seems to be enough to pique Tsukiyama’s curiosity.

“No wonder your blood tastes so.. peu commun,” he mutters, covering his mouth in thought. “It has such a human flavor, yet there’s still the slightest tang of a ghoul’s in it. It’s a different composition from Kaneki-kun’s entirely.”

“Uhuh,” Saiko agrees despite having absolutely no idea what the guy just said. She tries not to cringe when the ghoul trains his gaze on her, feeling the ease she’d initially felt around him slowly fading away with the way he’s staring at her.

“A-Anyway, Tsukiyama-san,” Saiko speaks before Tsukiyama could, hoping to divert his attention once more. She doesn’t like that unexpectedly intense look in his eyes; almost like an excited child’s at a toy store. “Where were you? In Kaneki-san’s story, I mean.”

“Ah, yes, that.” The gloominess that had temporarily gone away for the past few minutes returns to Tsukiyama’s features at the mention of Kaneki’s name. Saiko couldn’t help wondering what exactly is his connection with the guy; seeing how one single name is able to change his mood so drastically. A good friend maybe? Life-long bros? Someone he considered family?

The notion lingers in Saiko’s thoughts as she listens on to the ghoul’s recollection of this mysterious yet oddly fascinating person. Her inquisitiveness grows when Tsukiyama progressively gets more and more personal in his descriptions; mentioning odd things and minute details that one would normally seldom notice about another unless they pay lots of attention to them. And when she says lots of attention, she means lots of attention. Perhaps to an unhealthy level, even.

At any rate, Kaneki Ken had, under the circumstances that had been forced upon him, resulted to cannibalism in his pursuit to grow stronger (Tsukiyama’s very words). And though cannibalism among ghouls does make one immensely more powerful by turning them into a kakuja, the price is heavy.

Kaneki’s mental health had suffered in exchange for the strength he gained.

Even so, he remained heart-wrenchingly kind to the people important to him even after throwing his humanity away and stepping into a world of blood and violence, Tsukiyama insists. Even though he’s ruthless towards those he considers his enemies, he’d never intentionally hurt his friends. Never. And it’s this kindness of his that ultimately caused his downfall and got him killed in a raid by the CCG several years ago.

“I forbid him from going,” Tsukiyama finishes hoarsely, fingers curling into the material of his blanket at the memory. “I tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen. He just wouldn’t listen.”

Saiko takes a bite out of her soggy sandwich, nodding in silence. Kaneki Ken was indeed a fellow with a life worthy of a fictional character’s, and Saiko figures she’d no doubt want to claim him as one of her sons and metaphorically wrap him up in blankets and protect him from all harm if he seriously was one. She still does, actually, and it’s crazy because Saiko doesn’t even know him, but knowing that he’d gone through so much just to die in the end really saddens her. Was death his only salvation after all? Was it really his fate to live a tragedy till the end?

“I can’t believe I actually just told you all that, Saiko-san,” Tsukiyama says after a short while of wordlessness to pull himself together, laughing a short, empty laugh. “You know, I originally thought of him as nothing but an extremely rare ingredient for the perhaps greatest recipe of all time. I thought I would let his taste develop and devour him later.”

“And?” Saiko couldn’t help prompting the moment he trails off because his feelings had obviously changed over time. No one could be so utterly distressed over the loss of what they merely consider food, no matter how much they’d anticipated it. Not even Tsukiyama could be that melodramatic, could he? It doesn’t seem likely.

“I.. don’t know,” Tsukiyama admits, averting his gaze. “I don’t even know why I’ve felt so.. listless ever since that day.”

“Maybe it’s because you thought of him as someone who’s more than just food to you?” Saiko suggests, noticing for the first time that perhaps this ghoul before her is a little slow in the relationship department. “Maybe the time you’d spent with him made you see him as an actual friend and not just a meal?”

“Friend, you say?” Tsukiyama muses, almost to himself. “What exactly makes a person my ‘friend’?”

Ah. Saiko was dreading this question; mainly because it’s not something that’s commonly needed to be explained and she honestly has no idea where to start. She fiddles with her fingers and spends a minute to contemplate over how she should answer.

“Friends.. are basically people who understand you and stick with you through all kinds of situations,” she begins haltingly, careful to make it as understandable as she can. “You’ll care for each other, and you’ll always help each other out even though you might get into fights at times. You might sometimes even feel fiercely protective over one another, and basically friends are people who accept you for who you are and make you feel comfortable when you’re with them.”

Okay, so she might have messed up the last part, but it seems to be good enough; with the way Tsukiyama’s reflecting over her words.

“That’s.. all?” Tsukiyama sounds taken aback at the simplicity of the concept. Tentatively, Saiko nods, silently congratulating herself for (mostly) nailing the explanation. She should’ve learnt something from reading all those sports manga. She shoots Tsukiyama a questioning look when the ghoul meets her gaze again.

“Is Saiko-san my friend, then?” he inquires, absolutely earnest despite his childlike question.

“Does Tsukiyama-san want Saiko to be your friend?” Saiko asks in return, realizing a moment later that she’d actually meant it; that she isn’t simply thinking of her own escape when she says this. Tsukiyama’s wordless for a few seconds more, and then he smiles.

“If you’re willing,” he says, and Saiko feels herself responding with a grin of her own.

“Okay,” she replies, and her regret is almost immediate thanks the next thing Tsukiyama asks of her.

“Well then,” the ghoul says, giving Saiko the very same look that had put her on guard earlier as he speaks. “Could you, perhaps, as my friend, allow me to have another taste of your blood?”

xXx

They somehow manage to arrange a meet-up with Hori Chie in a family restaurant in the 2nd Ward that very evening.

Hide would’ve preferred to hold their discussion in a place that offers them more privacy, but since that seems to be against Hori’s personal policies, they don’t have much of a choice. Being somewhat of an informant himself once, Hide understands her rationale. Information is something many parties will do anything to obtain. Hori Chie can’t afford to be any less wary than she is, not if she wants to thrive in this line of work.

Urie had given them a description of the information broker during his phone call to Haise (Hide’s still weirded out by that, but whatever) and Hide scans his eyes across the place in search for a match now; a child-like appearance, short auburn hair, carries a pink camera. It’s still a little early for dinner under normal circumstances, so the restaurant is not yet as crowded as Hide expects, and he and Haise soon finds the girl seated behind a table by the window at the back of the shop, enjoying a parfait as she studies the images in her camera.

“Excuse me,” Hide speaks up once they approach her, just to make sure they’d gotten the right person. “Are you Hori Chie-san, by any chance?”

At the sound of his voice, the girl looks up to regard them. “I am. And you guys must be Sasaki-kun and Nagachika-kun?”

“Yes,” Haise affirms before accepting Hori’s gestural  invitation for them to settle down across her. “Do you mind if we go straight to the point?”

“Unless you’d like to order something to eat,” Hori says, tucking her camera back into its case. Hide could already tell from her manner that despite her appearance, Hori’s experienced in this line of work. They could try tricking or threatening her only to end up failing. She’ll only be giving them whatever information they can afford.

Hide’s not quite sure how much their budget is, exactly, but he decides not to worry about that yet.

“I think we’ll pass, thank you,” Haise replies politely, reaching into his bag to retrieve his tablet. He boots it up and taps across its surface a few times before placing it on the table and pushing it towards the girl. “We’d like to know if you’ve got any data on this person?”

Hide studies Hori’s face as she stares at the clearest magnified picture of Purpleman they’d managed to obtain. After spending so much time with Kaneki, Hide has learnt how to understand expressions and body language quite well - if he could say so himself. He knows the usual habits of a liar and the  common mannerism of a person who’s hiding something; the way their eyes shift, their hands move, their voices sound.

But he finds that he could not read this girl in front of him. At all. Hori’s facade and demeanor betrays absolutely nothing. Hide couldn’t decide whether to feel more wary or impressed. This skill of hers is no doubt useful to her as an informant, but it might be a tad bit troublesome for them as her clients. There are always possibilities of her withholding information, even though she should be reliable enough since Urie used her services before.

“2.5 million,” Hori states after a moment, and Hide really hopes that number’s not what he thinks it is. “For 2.5 million yen, I’ll tell you everything you want to know about him.”

So she does know who the ghoul is. But 2.5 million - Hide knows it’s an impossible fee for them to afford even with their combined efforts. They just don’t have that kind of money. Haise must be thinking of the exact same thing, judging by the bleakness written all over his face when Hide catches a glimpse of him from the corner of his eye.

“Is there any other way we can pay for the information?” Haise asks, sounding almost pleading. There has to be something else they can recompense with. They can’t just leave when what they want and need is literally right there before them! There has to be something else Hori wants.

We can barter,” Hide mutters when the idea abruptly comes to him. He sits a little straighter and continues in a clearer voice, “We’ll do an exchange - information for information.”

That seems to have caught Hori’s interest; or at least Hide thinks it did from the way she quirked an eyebrow at his proposal. “What have you got to offer, Nagachika-kun?” she asks as she leans a little forward, her smile turning slightly guarded.

“The CCG’s connections, secret projects, database records - you name it,” Hide says, promptly earning himself a worried glance from Haise. He stops him with a small shake of his head the moment he sees him open his mouth to protest. It’s alright. He’ll take full responsibility for his decisions. Besides, he trusts Hori Chie’s principles as an informant to not give him away. “But I can only tell you all that after this discussion. Specifically when we’re alone in a place with more confidentiality.”

Hori purses her lips and taps her finger against the base of her glass as she reconsiders his terms. Hide silently begs for her to risk this one exception. She should identify with his reasons, perhaps even better than how he understands hers. The less people aware of a certain knowledge, the more valuable it is. Also, Hide wants to keep Haise out of this. He’ll be the only one punished if his role in causing the leak of data is discovered by any chance, and he’s perfectly fine with that.

“The grill two streets behind this place has private booths,” Hori finally says after a minute of silence, meeting Hide’s gaze. “You okay with that?”

“Deal,” Hide nods, then gesturing towards the image displayed on Haise’s tablet. “Now tell us where’s this guy from and how we can get there.”

“He’s from the 7th Ward, working as a servant under another ghoul.” Hori begins without even needing to stop to think. Either her memory is excellent, she’d already sorted out everything she wants to tell them, or she’s actually familiar enough with the ghoul to have his specifications at her fingertips. From what Hide understands from Urie, there’s a chance of it being the last one. “He serves the ghoul you investigators call the Gourmet.”

“Gourmet..?” Haise sounds unusually disturbed by the mention of the name, Hide notices again. Despite Haise’s efforts to hide his perplexity earlier that day when they were going through the mentioned ghoul’s records, Hide could tell that he’s troubled by something. It’s a farfetched guess, but maybe he recognized the guy because he knew him before he forgot everything? Maybe this Gourmet guy used to be a friend or simply an acquaintance back when Haise was still Kaneki? Hide doesn’t know, and that worries him. If Gourmet really did have some sort of connection with Kaneki, Hide will have a problem.

“As for how you can get there, I’d recommend using the highway if you’re not a fan of stagnant traffic especially during rush hours,” Hori says as she scoops some partially melted ice cream into her mouth, and Hide needs a double take to let realization dawn him. Wait-

“That’s not what I meant,” he protests, almost standing up in his fit of agitation, and the girl merely shrugs, indifferent. Damn, she’s sharp with small details.

“That’s what you said,” she tells him simply, and Hide’s considering beating himself up for his blunder. He should’ve chosen his words better. “Unless you want to raise the compensation?”

As if they have any other choice. “Tell us his specific location,” Hide says, suppressing a weary sigh. As confident as he is about having enough resources to pay for these information, there are still some things he’s reluctant about sharing. He’ll have to be careful when answering to her questions later. Wouldn’t want to be caught off guard twice.

There’s a short pause before Hori resumes speaking. “You know what, I think I can give you guys that as a bonus,” she says, and Hide spots a certain twinkle in her eyes. He has the worst feeling that she’s plotting something, and he hates the fact that he can’t do anything much about it; not if they want to save Saiko in time. “But only under one condition,” Hori’s expression doesn’t change as she points her spoon at Haise’s direction, “Sasaki Haise-kun will have to be part of the group that goes after him.”

There’s definitely something fishy going on here. Hide’s certain now. Just what is Hori Chie planning?

“You have my word,” Haise promises, looking so resolute that Hide knows he won’t be able to stop him even if he wants to. They’ll just have to deal with whatever happens when the time comes.

“Alright then,” Hori says, her satisfaction evident. She shifts on her seat into a more comfortable position, and continues, “I hope you have a map in your tablet because I have no idea how much will you guys get without any visual aid.”

xXx

Saiko’s surprised at her own willingness to comply to Tsukiyama’s request once the initial shock has passed.

Opening a gash across her forearm just a little away from her wrist is less painful than having a chunk of her flesh bitten off, for one thing. Not to mention a cut is much easier to heal from compared to a missing chunk of meat. Also, shut-in buddies or not, it’s still a matter of survival on Saiko’s part. Tsukiyama’s a ghoul who hasn’t eaten in a while. There’s no telling if he’d get carried away if she does let him have a bite of her.

Saiko fidgets in her chair as she watches Tsukiyama take a sip out of the barely filled glass she handed to him, trying hard not to think about how the dark red liquid inside used to be part of her own body. She’s glad Tsukiyama only wants literally a taste because with her regeneration speed and caution not to make too deep of a cut, simply obtaining a decent amount of blood is a challenge by itself. Just because it hurts less doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt at all. Though Saiko would really prefer it to be the latter. Ah, wishful thinking.

She cringes when Tsukiyama suddenly makes a weird noise while savoring the taste of her blood in his mouth, his eyes squeezed shut and his eyebrows knitted in what she thinks is intense concentration.

“I didn’t quite notice this before, but this-“ Tsukiyama mutters fervently once he’d swallowed, placing his fingers on his lips, “- this spicy tang combined with an unexpected silky smooth texture; the explosion of flavor that leaves my taste buds tingling yet leaves no burn down the throat..!” His gaze flickers towards Saiko, and the girl’s amazed to see that he looks more like an excited puppy than a slightly obsessive ghoul (because of the creepy commentary he’d just made about her blood, come on). “You taste truly exquisite, Saiko-san.”

“Umm, thank you?” Saiko replies, albeit with a little too much awkwardness to her liking. What exactly is she supposed to say to that though, she has no idea. It’s not every day that she gets complimented for how she tastes like. “Anyway, does it help with your appetite, Tsukiyama-san?”

Tsukiyama’s quiet in thought for several seconds. “I suppose I do feel like having a little more.”

Saiko sure hopes he doesn’t mean more from her. “I’m sure Kanae has something prepared that you’d like,” she says, praying for him to not correct her. She isn’t sure if she’d be able to properly convince him that friends do not, under most circumstances, eat each other should the necessity arise.

She almost exhales a loud breath of relief when he nods in agreement to her statement.

“He has always been a dutiful child,” Tsukiyama says, not without a tinge of weary fondness in his voice. Unlike her teammates, Saiko doesn’t harbor any particular grudges or hatred towards ghouls, so her perception towards them has never been limited to what a majority of humans say and believe. They can’t all be vicious and heartless and barbaric. Apart from the fact that they have no choice but to eat human meat, they can’t be that much different from humans. Surely, they have feelings too. Surely, they’re more similar than they think.

And being here, in this household where the master suffers from crippling grief and seeing the lengths his servants are willing to go through in order to make him feel better, Saiko knows that she’s right about them having emotions just like everyone else. Kanae’s how he is because of his love towards his master, because he does not want his master to suffer from starvation and possibly end up dying. And Tsukiyama, though he’s unable to help his lack of urge to eat, genuinely appreciates his efforts with all his heart - Saiko could tell from his voice. Just like humans, ghouls are capable of caring for another. Of experiencing fear, desperation. They aren’t complete monsters.

“But Saiko-san would find it rather unpleasant to witness me eating, wouldn’t you?” Tsukiyama adds after a brief pause, flashing her a small, apologetic smile. Saiko can’t deny; actually watching a ghoul eat is not something she’s certain she’s able to stomach. “How about this: I’ll ask Matsumae to prepare a room for you to rest in at the mean time. You can even take a bath to freshen up.”

“A-A simple room is enough! I wouldn’t want to impose,” Saiko says quickly, waving her hands in front of her for emphasis. As good of an idea a shower sounds, Saiko doesn’t want to feel too relaxed and let her guard down. Not only is there a chance that rescue could be arriving any moment, Saiko still doesn’t know for sure how Tsukiyama’s servants feel towards her closeness towards their master. Kanae might not be the only one who’s distasteful towards her somewhat abrupt change of status from ‘food’ to ‘honored guest’. Saiko’s not exactly appealed by the idea of having to defend herself stark naked if the situation leads to that.

“If that’s what you want, then,” Tsukiyama says before reaching over to press a button on a panel mounted on his nightstand. Saiko thinks she’s able to hear the faintest ringing of a bell somewhere in the manor. “I’ll send for you again later, little rabbit,” Tsukiyama says once he turns to face her again. “There’s still a lot of things I wish you could tell me.”

“Just be careful not to choke or bite your tongue when you eat, Tsukiyama-san,” Saiko tells him, earning herself a light, amused laugh from the ghoul. Yeah, this Tsukiyama definitely beats the gloomy one she’d started out with earlier.

“I will, don’t worry,” he assures, and it’s at that moment that a knock sounds on his door. He voices his permission, and Matsumae steps in. “Matsumae, could you please show our guest to a room where she can have a nice, peaceful break? And please send Kanae to me while you’re at it.”

Saiko guesses Matsumae’s too professional to let her astonishment show, but the slight twitch of her fingers is enough to indicate that she couldn’t quite believe her senses. Saiko can’t blame her. There is a pretty drastic change in Tsukiyama’s person in a matter of hours, after all. Even Saiko finds it surprising; how she’s able to improve his mood to this extent by simply listening to him. Maybe that’s what he needed all this while; someone who could understand him. Someone who could decipher his confusion and let him know that his distress is normal and that he isn’t being silly over the mere loss of an easily replaceable meal.

Saiko tries to keep a safe distance between the servant ghoul and herself as she follows her out of Tsukiyama’s bedroom - which, isn’t exactly a difficult feat considering the latter’s walking speed. In fact, Saiko eventually falls so far behind that she has to jog a little just to make sure she doesn’t lose sight of her. Tsukiyama might’ve been interested in her as a ‘friend’, but from the way Matsumae doesn’t even bother checking once to see if she’s still behind her, Saiko figures she still hasn’t acknowledged her as someone beyond the status of livestock. At least not for now.

Which, brings her back to her unstable safety position in this household.

Saiko’s led to a relatively small but posh room on the floor below the master bedroom’s, not receiving a single word from Matsumae even when she moves to close the door once Saiko’s inside. Saiko hears a lock click in place a little later, and though she shouldn’t feel so relieved about being confined again, she is. With luck, it’ll be slightly trickier to get to her from the outside if anything happens. 

Saiko walks over and sits down on the edge of the double bed, turning to look out the large French window. The room must be facing the back of the manor, judging from the view. If she wants to go on with her escape plan from earlier, now would be a good time. The distance from the back of the manor to the wall separating it from the outside world should be much shorter compared to that between the front yard and gates. If Saiko somehow manages to scale the wall and reach the other side, she’ll be free.

But what if Maman and the others are already on the way to get her now? Saiko stands up and heads towards the window to get a better grip on her surroundings. Tsukiyama’s home seems to be quite isolated from the rest of civilization, and Saiko’s chances of simply finding a good place to hide and a phone to use or borrow are slim. If she somehow misses Sasaki (or anyone who’s coming to retrieve her, for that matter) and causes a misunderstanding, Tsukiyama might get hurt. She doesn’t want that.

..That’s right. There’s Tsukiyama to think about. Should Saiko really leave him when she’d just agreed to be his friend? Would it be right for her to leave him just when he’s finally beginning to show signs of cheering up? Didn’t she tell him that friends stick together? If she left now, wouldn’t she be betraying him? Him, who probably had no other friends ever since he lost Kaneki?

Saiko couldn’t believe she’s actually having these thoughts now, but..

..does she really want to leave so soon?

xXx

Haise returns home alone, with Hide insisting on being the only one to stay behind to finish up their part of the deal.

For the umpteenth time, Haise feels frustratingly useless. He’d practically left this whole information-gathering business entirely to Hide, being able to do next to nothing except jotting down the directions to the location Hori Chie told them about. Of course, it’s not entirely his fault that he’s only been kept up to date over the things that concerned him and that Hide probably knows more than what’s good for him - but still. Haise wishes he could do more than just fretting over things he has no power over.

If there’s anything that bothers him more than his inability to contribute more towards Saiko’s rescue, it’s the ghoul ‘Gourmet’s identity. His time alone during his journey back to the chateau had allowed him to delve deep into his thoughts; so much so that he’d almost missed the station he’s supposed to get off on to change trains. The sense of recognition when he saw Gourmet’s picture - it’s almost similar to how Haise had felt when he first met Hide, except perhaps not as intense. And unlike how it’d been with Hide, Haise has the strangest feeling that he’d seen this man somewhere before. 

It’s only when he has left his last stop and continued his way back on foot that it abruptly comes back to him; that mask, appearance. The name ‘Gourmet’. He remembers now. The metallic smell of blood all around him. The cheer of a crowd.  Haise had seen glimpses of him in his dreams before; in the stands of some sort of arena where Haise’s in the first-person perspective of someone being chased by some sort of lumbering monster.

But why would he appear in his nightmares when Haise wasn’t even aware of his existence until earlier this morning? Rather, what made him stand out in those nightmares? Why would Haise notice him and not some other random spectator? It doesn’t make sense. Unless-

Did you know him? Haise wonders, mostly by accident because he has never tried this before, never actually tried acknowledging the inner him like this, let alone ask him questions regarding the people he was acquainted with. He carries the memories he has so much conflicting feelings over, after all. Asking him would mean that he’s admitting to be even the slightest bit curious, and Haise knows full well that he’d use that as a chance to take advantage of him.

However, contrary to Haise’s expectations, what greets him is utter silence. Either inner him did not hear him, or he’s simply returning the favor by ignoring him. Whatever it is, Haise gladly leaves it as that. He really isn’t sure how he’s going to react if inner him were to answer him with “You’ll know once you accept me” or anything of that sort. No matter how much time has passed since he started hearing his voice, Haise still isn’t too big about the whole ‘accepting inner him’ thing.

Then again, he probably knows the answers to so many of Haise’s questions; answers that he secretly wants so badly. Like why he finds some people he’s sure he’d never met before so familiar and why he’s been having warmer and gentler dreams more often now. Like why he’s been dreaming of a study crammed with books that gives him unexplainable comfort and an apartment that bears the musty scent of old paper. Like why he’s been finding himself in a playground he’d never been to before, accompanied by a person he can barely see.

Like why he’s been seeing blurry images of a blond who took his hand when no one did and showed him a smile that rivaled the sun, who gives him so much warmth in his chest that he feels like crying every time he sees him.

Who, ultimately, reminds him of home.

Haise has had his suspicions with ever since he managed to recall the words he’d heard him say during the auction, and with the recent events, it only made him more certain. Those visions.. maybe they’re more than just dreams. Maybe they aren’t even dreams at all.

And maybe, just maybe, Haise once knew Hide.

xXx

From everything he’d gathered, Hide’s aware that Gourmet is obviously stinking rich, but the size of his residence is still pretty ridiculous.

He has no idea how they’re going to find Saiko in such a huge place - provided she’s still in one piece, which, he prays she is. Otherwise they’ll have every reason to retaliate and begin a two-man mass extermination - something Hide would prefer not to end up doing even if it is an order from the higher-ups. No matter how much faith they have in their combat abilities, it’s still a little too much. With his wealth and status, Gourmet is bound to have at least two or three skilled retainers. Or worse, every servant in the household is crazy strong. Hide wants to avoid a potentially hopeless battle at all costs.

He and Haise had agreed to carry out their mission in the morning when the ghoul’s servants are most likely to be too preoccupied with their daily routine to pay much attention to anything that might seem out of place (like the presence of two ghoul investigators sneaking around, for instance). They’ll knock them out if they happen to encounter them, and killing isn’t an option unless they absolutely have no other choice. The primary motive of their mission isn’t eradication. If all goes well, they only have to find Saiko and get out of there before anyone gets severely hurt.

“You’re worrying again, aren’t you, Haise?” Hide whispers, lips curled into a wry smile upon noticing the set of his companion’s shoulders beside him as they press their backs flat against the wall. Really, he shouldn’t be the one to talk. His one-to-one conversation with Hori Chie the night before had left him with so many things to ponder over that he needs an embarrassing amount of effort just to avert his focus back to his priorities. All he’s certain about is that that girl’s plotting something that involves Haise, and it annoys Hide to no end that he hasn’t the slightest idea over what that something is.

“I just hope Saiko-chan’s still alright,” Haise says, eyebrows slightly drawn together as he stares towards the hidden entrance Hori Chie had informed them about. Hide gets the feeling that there’s more to that, but since now’s not exactly the time to pry, he doesn’t. He adjusts his hold on his briefcase instead, and breathes out a slow exhale.

“Yeah,” he says, then with as much confidence he can muster, he adds; “You ready?”

Haise takes a deep breath of his own, and responds with a firm nod. “Let’s do this.”

And pushing back the foreboding feeling in his gut, Hide detaches himself from the wall, and follows Haise towards the entrance.