He’s never been the sort to believe in something like fate or destiny. The world exists in things that can be explained by logic, fragments that can be linked together by meticulous plans. Events that cannot be explained are merely events that can be explained at a later date once more information is available.
And yet, there’s something that compels him to alter his routine just for tonight. His schedule usually has him catnapping through the day and being present for several meetings at night. Crime thrives in the shadows and as the Boss seated at the top seat of the Port Mafia, he also thrives under the cover provided by nighttime. There’s only one meeting scheduled for midnight, and it’s for a small-time group of thugs that he doesn’t have any plans of taking seriously.
He pushes back on it, allows Hirotsu-san to thread the proper delicate diplomacies in order to stitch their mouths shut against possible complaints. With that appointment swept away from his schedule, the rest of his day is freed up for whatever criminals do on their free time. He’s the type to spend it on personal interests such as sleeping, trying out new suicide methods, playing games, drinking expensive whiskeys.
Tonight, he actually leaves the office out of his own volition, ordering the Akutagawa siblings to stop shadowing him. It’s not that he’s something boring like a workaholic. It’s just that everything that his body requires to survive is provided for within that space. None of his plans require him to step out of the building, for information is delivered straight to his fingertips, and plans flow out of his mind like mountain spring.
The older Akutagawa bristles at the possibility of him leaving his back open, but Gin is more sensible, holding her brother down. None of the other Executives even dare to lift their heads and contradict his orders. It’s more than fine, which is boring in its own way.
The ones who know of his identity are also the ones who are careful enough to not settle for hastily assassinating him. They’re aware of how much influence he holds over the city’s pulse, and toppling over kings are reserved for endgames instead of opening moves. The ones who’d be careless enough to want to gun him down the moment he steps out of the headquarters are ones who don’t even know anything about the Port Mafia’s Boss aside from the shades of terror he leaves on his wake.
No thrill in leaving his back unprotected. Quite disappointing, but also within expectations.
The overcoat that hangs over his shoulders flap lightly along with his steps. The moon is a fingernail scratch on the sky, but Yokohama is a busy port city filled with shimmering lights. The streets are punctuated with long dashes of streetlights, chasing the shadows to the alleys and the underground. Even on a weekday night, there are salarymen buzzing like hummingbirds from one izakaya to another. Students bow in submission towards whatever is displayed in their phones as they link arms towards the nearest karaoke or bowling center.
The city is so alive, bustling with activity.
He’s almost a wraith swishing past all these bundles of people. Soundless steps even if nobody is around to hear him anyway, with the way everyone is walking in all directions.
Japan is infamous for having so many vending machines selling all sorts of things. A similar kind of infamy for having so many convenience stores, at least one within quick walking distance. It’s been a long time since he’s last had the pleasure of entering a Lawson without plans of gunning it down.
He finds his footsteps stalling in front of one. There are vending machines to the side of the sliding door entrance, gacha toy machines on the other. He’s never been the sort to hesitate—taking time to decide is being prudent, instead of hesitant—but he considers whether he should enter this one. There are security cameras, of course, but if he times his movements well, they shouldn’t manage to capture his face.
The neon lights of the vending machine are almost inviting him to press all the buttons and let a bunch of canned drinks flow out. He steps forward so he can satisfy that urge to freely run his fingers all over the options. Before he can put his plan to fruition, someone else beats him to it, pressing on the button for root beer.
He raises an eyebrow. “Ne, I was going to order one,” he says, even though he really isn’t.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” comes the quick retort. A pleasant-sounding voice even if there’s an unpleasant twist to his lips and an even more unpleasant hat resting on top of his head. “You were thinking of pressing everything and then fucking it up, weren’t you?”
Bull’s eye, but Dazai refuses to be accused by anyone, even if they’re right. The government wouldn’t even lay their hands on him, and yet this height-padding-with-a-hat chibi is doing it? Unacceptable. Even if he possesses such a colorful pair of eyes that could easily outshine the sapphires that they’ve just acquired after a great trade earlier today.
“Only a child would think of something like that,” he says with a pointed look at the other, measuring their height difference with a sweep of his gaze. Then, with the snootiest tone he can muster, “It’s not good to project on adults, okay?”
Blue eyes flash at him, holding their own against the neon lights reflecting on that petite face. “Oi, bastard. Are you calling me a child?!” Aggressiveness that looks like a volcano about to erupt, as one hand points at him accusingly. “You are, aren’t you?!”
“Well, you certainly are not the adult in this situation.”
A glare hot enough to sear through steel. “You always this rude to strangers?”
“I’m not the one who barreled into someone just so they can rush to buy a can of rootbeer.” The can that remains forgotten at the bottom of the vending machine, as the two of them square their shoulders at each other. “Or perhaps you were deliberately trying to get my attention?”
A sneer so derisive it would have eviscerated a lesser man on the spot. “Don’t be so full of yourself. I only wanted to buy what I wanted before you could fuck up the machine.” A curt dismissal, something that’s only existed as a one-way traffic coming from him.
Not even his staunchest of opposition have looked at him like he’s not even worth a single yen. It only serves to make him feel all the more interested in verbally sparring with this shortstack. He licks his lips, before, “A rootbeer at your age? Isn’t that banned for minors?”
The other man bends down slightly to pick up the can, but he whips to face him immediately. “I’m already twenty-two, damn it!” Yet another round of pointing towards his face. As if the rest of his words only landed now, several slow blinks. “Wait, what do you mean it’s banned for minors? It’s not actually alcoholic, right?”
“It literally has the word beer on it?”
“Ha? I thought—” Face all scrunched, like his worldview has just been shattered.
How interesting. He snickers despite himself. “Of course, I was just joking.”
A leg swipes towards his shins, but he’s quick to dodge. There’s a whoosh of the wind though, a testament to how much force has been packed into that one kick. Ah, truly interesting. What he says though is a teasing, “Ah, scary, scary~”
Redhead stares at him for a moment, looking so openly disgusted it’s almost impressive how it only serves to make his face more vivid. “Geh. You’re that type of person, huh.”
“The one who can’t say a single truth to save his life.”
Of course, honesty in his line of work is tantamount to a suicide that’s neither cheerful nor painless. His lips twitch as he considers, “Well, you’re wrong, chibi.” He pauses, shifting his stance so he looks more relaxed, almost as if he’s a carefree salaryman free from the confines of eternal overtime. “See here, my name is Tsushima Shuuji.”
“A lie,” is the quick response. One gloved hand rises in a ‘stop’ signal. “It could be an old name for all I care, but it’s definitely not the one you’re known for now.”
He raises an eyebrow, intrigued instead of anxious as to what it means for him and the secrets he carries inside his head. “An Ability User that can detect the truth?”
“Nah. You just look like someone who’s too fond of bullshit.”
“And you look even smaller than a bulldog,” he parries swiftly while his mind busies itself with dozens of calculations. More importantly, “Ne. What does ‘someone too fond of bullshit’ look like?” A beat. “Very handsome and sexy?”
Almost as if there’s tacit understanding stitching them together, they both move to the side-alley of the convenience store, Redhead with the can of rootbeer and Dazai with a desire to crack this man open as one would a can. Especially since chibi tells him with a wry smile, “It’s the type of person who’d be wearing bandages all over his body even though there’s no injury that calls for them.”
“Now, now, I’m beginning to think that you’re an admirer who’s stalking me.”
It’d be quite fun if this shortstack is an assassin sent to lop off his head. It’d certainly be an interesting twist to his evening. Perhaps the strange urge from earlier is him picking up Death’s siren calls, as fantastical that may sound.
“See, a liar through and through.”
“Isn’t that just an excuse for you to not say your name?”
“I don’t give my name away to shitheads who can’t be bothered to give their real ones.”
Dazai leads them further inside the alley. He observes the way blue eyes glitter despite the lack of lighting—and they dart around like he’s scouting the place and finding it lacking in terms of danger. Because his peripheral vision is focused on the chibi, it’s clear to him that the other’s not very knowledgeable about the area. Surprise lights up the other’s face when they end up on a small park after traversing the dim alleyway. Part of Yokohama’s initiatives to ensure that nature isn’t completely erased by economic progress, there are a lot of tiny pockets of greenery in the city. This one shouldn’t be a surprising sight, not unless one isn’t from the area.
He looks over him again, better lighting under the lamps that dot the perimeter of the park. There’s a small gazebo at one corner opposite the swings. Redhead immediately goes for the swings like the kid his height proclaims him to be. He doesn’t sit on it; instead, he simply stands by the side and starts prodding at the seat with the tip of his shoe.
The other’s clothes aren’t to his tastes, especially given that he prefers the severe lines that a suit could provide, a warning sign on its own to any of his opponents. But, Redhead could probably be considered as ‘stylish’, if one subscribes to fashion magazines that focus on his age range’s streetwear. Well, minus the hat. It’s so tacky and it’s not doing the other favors since the brim shadows a part of his face. It definitely is there just for some height padding. The gloves are a bit odd, but nothing too jarring. The other’s hands—when they’re not pointing accusingly at him—are kept inside his pockets.
More importantly, the only weapon he can see on the other is that arresting face. Not even an outline of a dagger, absolutely no guns unless one considers the other’s biceps, the sleeves a bit tighter there.
…Unless his Ability is incredibly powerful, this person’s almost-careless grace doesn’t match his calculations.
But that’s impossible. Because part of the government’s cooperation with the Port Mafia is to provide them access to the dossier of registered Ability Users. On top of that, Dazai has his ways of hacking most of their documents—save for the highest-tier confidentiality. He’d know if there’s someone in the area who possesses a strong Ability. Even just budding suspicions.
As of this moment, there’s only one variable in the Ability dossier, the leader of the group that he’s just permanently rescheduled the meeting with. He’s not particularly interested in working with a group of thugs relying on one person, even if said person is rumored to be so powerful he’s worth more than an entire special forces army. A person who’s so strong that nobody can provide any clear accounts for his looks or description, as anyone who crosses his path is left a blubbering mess of either terror or admiration.
…The King of Sheep… is probably some monstrous hulking… something. Dazai has no interest in dealing with such pure violence.
Redhead finally lets out a sigh, interrupting his staring. “I’m not giving you any of my rootbeer,” he says with another sigh, providing clear signs of idiocy.
“I wouldn’t want it either. Especially since you’ve already placed your mouth on it.”
“Why are you making it sound like I have some disease or something?!”
“Mm. Isn’t your shrimp-height considered as one, little fairy?”
“Stop dragging my height into this, oi!”
He sits on the second swing, swaying slightly with his legs stretched out in front of him. A visual reminder that his legs are so much longer compared to the other’s. Unfortunately, it’s not appreciated, for he finds his shins kicked. “Ow, ow, you brute. You’re kicking me even though you followed me all the way here?”
“What does that have to do with anything?!”
He raises an eyebrow. “So you’re the type who’d follow any random stranger to some dim alleyways?”
“It’s not like I have anything to fear from someone as lanky as you. I can easily beat you up.” Grumbling under his breath, before adding, “Plus, I’m simply killing some time. I’m supposed to meet someone but that asshole’s canceled at the last minute.”
“Oh, so even beautiful fairies can get jilted, huh.” He blinks, taken aback at the notion that someone would cancel on this person, since he’s such an interesting entertainment. At the very least, he’s a feast to the eyes, so there’s no loss.
Said little fairy gets startled so much that he drops the almost-empty can of rootbeer, mouth gaping at him. “H-H-H-H-Huh?! Beautif—jilted—huh?!”
It’s Dazai’s turn to be bewildered. “So you weren’t dumped?”
“How the hell could that be! I’m not even d-d-d-dating anyone!” Also, in a panicked undertone, “What the hell, he’s not serious, right, urgh…”
“If not on a date, what brings you to Yokohama at this time of the night?”
“My… friends wanted to work together with this one… asshole,” Redhead obviously and awkwardly hedges. “But this asshole cancelled suddenly! I want to punch him in the face so badly! He’s probably ugly as shit, it would be an improvement to have his face rearranged.”
“Why even bother meeting him if you knew he’s an asshole from the get-go?”
“I told Shirase and Yuan! But they insisted that… Urgh.” A kick to the ground. It’s probably just his imagination, but he feels as though there’s been a mini earthquake just now. “I haven’t met that guy but I’ve heard lots of talk and none of them are any good.”
“Oho? What kind of gossip have you heard?”
“He’s apparently slept with a thousand ladies? Or something?”
He perks up. “Oh, that sounds interesting.”
“It sounds like he’s a walking STD, that’s what.”
“He must be pretty handsome then, if he could—” …Wait.
“Handsome?” A click of the tongue. “He’s probably just a filthy liar like you—”
Blue eyes blink at him, before narrowing at him in a frosty glare. “Oi, bastard.” Redhead glows very red. “Are you, by any chance, some asshole who’s the Boss of the Port Mafia, who’s rescheduled the meeting with me… just so you could slack off?”
Dazai remembers the things that he’s thought about the King of Sheep. Someone who can manipulate gravity. Someone who’s has the highest Ability rating according to the government files. The leader of a group of juveniles who do nothing but stay in their tiny island and occasionally steal a bunch of expensive booze.
…Ah. How convenient that the King of Sheep is powerful, interesting and beautiful wrapped in one tiny, angry package.
He’s not the sort to change his mind immediately, but perhaps he’s more interested than ever to work with Sheep. But what he says instead is this: “…Mm, I’m Dazai Osamu. Pardon me for not recognizing you… Fufufu, I didn’t expect the King of Sheep to be this tiny.”
Nakahara Chuuya, the King of Sheep, turns the can of rootbeer to dust with one stomp of his feet, before yelling, “How dare you cancel on me at the last minute?! Are you looking down on me?! I’m going to kick your ass, damn it!”
…It’s the start of the most infamous partnership in Yokohama’s underground history.