"I admit it, you're an informant who knows almost everything. So, I want some information about a man. A man I really want to understand."
Izaya leaned back on the swivel chair and smiled. He was deliberately smooth and unfazed. Carrying his professional charisma was something he did wherever he went but even more so in the inner circle of his territory. And into this, parked on the other side of a large desk, was a most unlikely costumer. Already he was running through his mind all the possible candidates.
"I'm flattered that you finally need me. But, to think that a mere man could make you need me like this... Who could it be, Shizu-chan?"
Izaya was considerably interested.
This gave him pause. It lasted but a split second but Izaya was sure that Shizuo had not missed it. After all Shizuo stood with his eyes firmly fastened on him, his intent a mystery. Izaya covered the momentary lapse with some spinning. His attention was fully engaged.
"I'm afraid I cost more than you can afford."
He might as well do away with caution and proceed with the bare facts of business. Shizuo placed a thick pack of bills on the desk. They made a muffled sound.
"Money's not a problem. There's more where that came from."
Izaya cast a glance. The top bills were fresh out the press but the bottom ones were crumpled and probably much older. This told him much.
"May I ask what brought this request about?"
"None of your business. It's your job to give information, not ask for it."
Izaya sauntered to the large window and peered into the light punctuated darkness of the cityscape. Afloat in acidic neon. Turning his back to such a hostile colossus was a calibrated display of power but Izaya was still trying to grasp at meanings.
"You're talking as if I'd already accepted."
The matter of fact tone annoyed Izaya. He returned to his desk.
"Your offer covers my honoraria but I don't take all offers. You see, I'm a very busy man, Heiwajima-san."
Izaya's smile was keyed to be neutral. He tossed the change of denomination as a test. Shizuo kept a somber gravity that Izaya knew stood for his being in earnest.
"You don't seem to be doing anything at the moment."
"Not quite. I am considering your proposal."
"You'll take it."
"It looks like you know me very well already."
Shizuo shook his head. Standing so close made Izaya very aware of the sheer difference of size between them. Shizuo's superhuman strength was a permanent hindrance to Izaya's schemes. The times favored someone as Izaya whose intellectual supremacy could become a means of conquering the world but there was something disturbing about overpowering physical dominance. Izaya was reminded that his highly sophisticated mind would be smashed apart along with his brain if Shizuo punched him in the head. If there was one thing that Izaya hated, it was a conflict that he could not win.
"I don't understand you. No one does."
"Why should I help you?"
Shizuo rubbed his chin. After a day of work his bartender outfit smelled heavily of tobacco.
"It's not like you'll do it for my sake, it's more like you can't help it."
Izaya lifted an eyebrow.
"I must say, this sounds like a setup. Divulging personal information is not something an informant would do."
Izaya folded his arms.
"What do you want to know, exactly?"
"Orihara Izaya, 23 years old, born in Tokyo, resident of-"
"Not that kind of stuff. I mean the important things."
By now Izaya was considerably puzzled. Shizuo did not strike him as calculating but there was an agenda of sorts involved here. Izaya could sense it.
"'Everything' is terribly vague. So, what are the important things, as you put it?"
Shizuo took a step forward and Izaya almost bolted out of instinct. Fear flickered through Izaya.
"Why, I share my humble opinions with everyone and even free of charge."
"That doesn't count. It's just acting. I want to know your real thoughts."
Izaya hesitated slightly. He felt thrown off.
"That is highly unconventional. I thought you hated my guts and could hardly wait to kill me."
"This isn't about me."
Izaya had doubts about this. A request of such a personal nature involved the person behind it by default.
"Even if it is so, I have plenty of enemies that can use such data against me."
"I won't tell anyone."
"Ah. One of the things that make humans human is that they lie all the time. It makes my job rather difficult."
"I don't lie."
Izaya sat on the desk and swung his legs. It was important to assume a carefree attitude.
"If you were going to disclose my personal information to third parties then you would not admit it to me beforehand, now would you?"
Shizuo shrugged dismissively.
"Why are you asking, then?"
"It's a rhetorical question."
Izaya had a moment to enjoy a high of victory but it was far too short lived. Shizuo remained silent and clearly waiting. At length Izaya picked up the thread.
"So let me see if I got this straight. You want me to write a report-"
"No report. I want you talk to me, face to face. No computer chat stuff either."
"That would be rather time consuming."
"Fine by me."
Izaya suspected that Shizuo was not exactly in touch with the wonders of information technology, or any technology for that matter, but there was more to this. He always saw Shizuo as a relic of a bygone past from the dim ages when mankind was still flighty on the ground and eager to make it back to the trees at any sign of alarm. The best to describe it would be to say that Shizuo represented all that was primal. Civilization merely brushed him without altering his essence.
"I see. That is very demanding. May I ask why?"
Another pack of bills joined the first.
"None of that is real."
"What is real, then?"
A scheme was hatching and Izaya felt a tingle of excitement at it.
"I mean real life. This city, you and me, people."
Shizuo had rare moments of what Izaya called idiot savant philosophy. This was one of these. There was a point here. Izaya jumped from his seat, a miniscule figure standing next to a giant.
"I can't give you an answer now. I'll give it some thought."
"You have until tomorrow."
"You're giving me a deadline?"
"I'm your employer, that's what employers do."
Izaya narrowed his eyes.
"Potential employer, Heiwajima-san."
"Same thing. You'll take the job. I'll call you tomorrow."
The balance of control was in danger of shifting if Shizuo left at this point. Izaya would never let that happen.
"Heiwajima-san, I will call you. Have a nice night."
And with this Izaya was content in having the last word.
As soon as the door closed behind Shizuo, Izaya returned to the swivel chair and slowly spun around. City lights and the vast polished interior of his living room turned in a sliding motion as if Izaya was the axis of the universe around which all things gravitated. He was deep in thought. Izaya decided to indeed take the odd proposal for reasons that delighted him.
Dialoguing gave Izaya the advantage and it seemed to be what Shizuo wanted as well. Izaya knew that a dialectical exchange allowed him to ferret information even as he pretended to provide it. He could afford to reveal vague principles about the way in which he perceived life, the universe and everything else. It could not harm him or be used against him. Izaya knew that he could learn a lot just from the questions alone. Whatever Shizuo picked as a topic would already shed light on Shizuo himself.
There was still a gambling element to this trade but Izaya thrived on risk. As long as it was risk that he could manage. And Izaya had been interested in Shizuo for longer than he thought possible. People at large were boringly rational, they could be reduced to categories with motivations more or less easily traced to some explanation or another. Heiwajima Shizuo broke the rules by being apparently unpredictable. Here was the finest proof of that.
Izaya let the momentum spin him around a few more times and smiled. Dizziness skirted at his consciousness but it was not uncomfortable. A feeling of budding euphoria was upon him.