Knowledge

Chapter 14

"Neat thing, this hotel even has an infirmary."

"Heiwajima-san, I can't afford not to take into account new information."

"Yeah…?"

"Did someone hire you to keep me alive?"

Shizuo blinked a few times.

"No one hired me, I've told you that already."

"I thought that someone had hired you to kill me. By Occam's razor it explains much apart of course from the fact that you have not killed me. Yet. However, it flies in the face of what you just did."

"Can't ask you questions if you die on me."

Izaya took a step in his direction.

"That doesn't cut it. No matter how much you may like to throw your silly questions at me there is no rational explanation for risking your life for my sake. Even if you were hired. So what is going on?"

It annoyed Izaya to no end how Shizuo slowly lit up a cigarette and proceeded to blow rings of smoke.

"For the time being, we should stay away from windows. This typhoon is the real deal."

"Forget that! Answer me already!"

Shizuo smoked in silence, aware that with each second Izaya was closer to snap.

"You know, you're all about, how would you put it, 'dismantling human behavior'? Yeah, sounds like something you'd say-"

"Get. To. The. Point."

"'kay, getting to it. Why do people save others from dangers?"

Izaya sighed deeply. He felt uncomfortable in a brand new way that he disliked immensely.

"All sorts of reasons, I don't care for general reasons at the moment. I want to know why you acted the way you did."

Shizuo nodded as if he was pleased.

"Looks like you're beginning to get it. Maybe. But you still haven't answered it."

Izaya counted to ten in his mind. They retreated to a lounge screened from the window by a wall. By the time they sat down on a plush sofa of a jarring peach color Izaya was on an encyclopedic mode. Trying to fill up his gap with knowledge with information even if it did not cover it.

"Humans often act apparently selflessly. However, the keyword here is 'apparently'. All those stories of mothers going into burning buildings to rescue their children, that is only apparently a selfless act. In fact they were simply ensuring that their genes got carried by assuring the survival of offspring. This can be broadened to wider circles of interaction so that it goes beyond kin, villagers often act apparently counter-actively to their security to rescue other villagers. Ever wondered why such a thing hardly ever happens in big cities?"

"Bet you're going to tell me."

"Indeed I am. The reason why you look the other way if you see some poor bastard being literally kicked to the curb is because you don't need that poor bastard for anything in your life. Imagine he works at the Family Mart you usually go to but that because thugs get to him he ends up dying. How does that affect your life? It doesn't. You won't even notice it. They'll just get someone else to replace him and you'll buy your cigarettes as if some poor bastard had not met some untimely end. In villages there are still some vestigial traces of the times when human groups needed everyone just to get by. If you let the poor bastard that works with you at the fields die in a fire then guess what, your work load will suddenly double."

"Makes sense. Not too sure what that has to do with this."

Izaya glared at him.

"It has everything to do with it. What reasons could you possibly have for risking yourself for my sake?"

Shizuo blinked again.

"You think too much, you know. You're complicating stuff."

Izaya slammed his hands on the low table before him.

"No, I am not. Empathy has developed along the evolutionary process-"

Shizuo tossed away the cigarette when Izaya began to ramble and made sure that he never reached any brilliant conclusion with a kiss.

"You sure take a lot of time to get to the point yourself."

"Don't go kissing me without my permission."

Izaya was aware that he was irrationally upset. That only added to the feeling of being off kilter.

"You're kinda missing the point."

"What point? What do you know that I don't! And how can you know it!"

"How do you know your emotions?"

"Through neurological receptors of chemical reactions in the brain- why am I even answering this!"

"'Cause you got in the habit."

Izaya sank back into his seat, having leaped to his feet mid rant.

"I give up. I just…give up."

Shizuo let him wallow in despair for a while longer.

"I know my emotions-"

"Of course you do, self-awareness is the default position of all knowledge. Cogito ergo sum."

"Ah…like I was saying, it's simpler than you think. I saved you because I like you."

Izaya started. Then narrowed his eyes.

"Will you at least not insult my intelligence?"

Shizuo shrugged.

"See, this is why I didn't tell you right away. I knew you wouldn't believe me."

"'Like', you say! As if I'd buy that. I may be going through something of a crisis-"

"More like spinning your wheels madly."

"-but I have not suddenly become obtuse."

"You should be able to see that I'm telling the truth."

"I'm not the one with the mystical powers, that's you."

"But you're an informant. Finding out that kind of stuff is what you do best."

"This is preposterous."

Shizuo took off his shades and detained Izaya who was about to leave.

"Let go of me. Right now."

"Not until you give it a try."

"Give what a try?"

"Reading me, I guess. I like you. Look into my eyes and see that I'm not lying."

Izaya fretted, scanning every corner of the louge where Shizuo was not. He did not appreciate being pinned down by a demanding stare.

"Ah, you 'like me', huh. So what, you went from hating my guts to 'liking me', just like that? That you expect me to believe that is actually offensive. It hurts, Heiwajima-san. You're supposed to have more respect for your sworn enemy than that."

"Nah, I knew you wouldn't believe me. It's not 'just like that'. There's a lot to hate in you but I can't go on really hating anyone that goes out like a lamp after sex and cuddles into my arms. It's too cute, I guess."

Izaya had to close his mouth.

"Too cute…? Did your brain just die on you completely?"

"I don't think so. It's like you said, you have to take into account 'new information'. So yeah, this is new information."

Izaya had a snarky reply fully ready but a sudden bang had him seek refuge under the table. Shizuo barely saw him, Izaya moved with lightening speed.

"No wonder you've got such parkour skills, you sure can be fast. But you can come out, it's just the wind."

"Go away. Consider our contract over."

"Why?"

"Why? There's a limit to how much fun you can have at my expense."

Shizuo sat on the floor because he felt a bit silly cranking his neck to look underneath the table. But not as silly he thought Izaya looked. For Izaya held his knees to his chin, arms wrapped around them, his eyes emanating red anger. It reminded Shizuo of some frightened animal tucked deep into his lair for fear of big mean predators that it could only hope to scare away by being all prickly.

"So you don't trust me at all. Not even one bit?"

"No."

"I don't think so. You wouldn't fall asleep next to me if you didn't at all trust me."

"Whatever."

"Hey, you can play go, right?"

"What, the board game?"

"Yeah. Want to play go for a while? There's not much to do as it is."

Izaya studied him for a long time before crawling out from the under the table, his gait as gracefully smooth as circumstances allowed.

"And if I lose there's some penalty?"

"Not really. Just thought it'd be fun."

"Tell you what. If I win you'll leave me alone."

"You mean 'when' you win."

"Either way."

"'kay. If you win I'll let you alone for a day."

"Deal."

Izaya glowed as if he had regained lost ground.

"You got to explain the rules too."

"But of course."

Shizuo let him happily lay down the rules, long fingers going through the pieces in what Shizuo assumed was a mannerism of sorts.

"Sounds complicated."

"Let's just give you a handicap. I am a generous person."

Shizuo had to repress a smile and to pretend to be very serious. Izaya was in his element and nearly singing under his breath.

"Yeah, thanks."

Shizuo did not even bother to make an attempt at mastering the game. He knew that there were more important things to life than winning.

"Izaya, remember your chess talk?"

"That's an unusual way of putting it. Of course I remember. A bad player is still always above any and all pieces on the board."

Shizuo gave Izaya more than enough time to make a few brilliantly unnecessary moves.

"Aren't you missing something?"

"Such as?"

"For you to become a player, as in someone who moves the pieces, don't you need another player to play against?"

Izaya shrugged, nonchalantly.

"It's just a metaphor. Don't take it too literally."

"Still, if you're the only player you'll end up bored in no time."

Izaya stretched and yawned.

"Whatever. Anyway, I just won. Don't follow me."

"I won't. Just watch out for those windows-"

"I know that."

It was with an effort that Izaya walked away without casting at least a glance back. He tried to get some extra computer batteries and was again turned down. With a sigh he shuffled to a lobby where he found a newspaper that he read from top to bottom. As usual there was not anything worth knowing in standard sources of information. Izaya preferred to investigate shady rumors and not always for professional reasons. It was a hobby of his, to disentangle word of mouth from the facts, it any, underneath it.

He was left to wander from vast room to vast room, aimlessly. As large as the hotel was there was something stifling about being confined. He could sense a feeling of cabin fever brewing in the guests who gathered about as if afraid of staying in their rooms. Izaya did not blame them. He found a nook under a sweeping stairway and settled there to reread the Art of War.

Izaya emerged from complicated considerations much refreshed. Following intellectual twists and turns made him feel reassured of his competence. And Izaya was in great need of reassurance. He bought some condoms from a vending machine and considered his options. Maybe what he needed was some proper sex. Which was to say, without Shizuo. As soon as the idea occurred to him he rejected it.

Currently the hotel was sealed tight on a group of stressed out people. The crazy weather outside that forced them to remain indoors added to the built up tension. It was hardly the environment to select a random partner for highly casual sex. Izaya was very aware that sexual behavior was directly connected to surrounding elements and that it could very well have disastrous effects under pressure.

He decided to try the somewhat famous baths. Partially because these were underground and also because he wanted to enjoy this lease on time alone as well as possible. There was no one in the showers and that suited Izaya just fine. The place was semi traditional and luxurious. He was ready to step into the large opal colored pool in no time. Izaya tried the water with the tip of a toe first and only then did he happily enter. Steam hovered uncertainly so it took him a while for him to notice the shape amidst tendrils rising from the surface.

"Didn't you say you'd leave me alone?"

Shizuo shrugged.

"I was here first."

Izaya considered leaving but he was very comfortable in the warm water and more importantly he could not afford to allow Shizuo to have the last word.

"Fine. Just don't come any closer."

"This is neat, it's like there's no storm going on."

"'Neat'? Who uses 'neat' nowadays. What century are you in, exactly?"

"Twenty first. Are you running out of things to bitch about?"

Izaya humphed and splashed around some.

"How come no one's here but us?"

"I gave some money to the guys running this place to keep people out."

Izaya lifted an eyebrow.

"How come they let me in, then?"

"I told them that if this cute skinny guy with short hair and a bunch of rings came round to let him in."

"Gee, so you wanted to have this place all to yourself?"

"People stare at me too much. I don't like that."

"Well of course they do. You're absurdly huge. How come you have no problems going to the beach, though?"

"It's not the same. Not naked there. Unless you're around and decide to, what was it called again, 'celebrate the human body' by prancing about in the nude."

Izaya smirked.

"It's called damage control. And I'm amazed you handled it so well."

"I was too busy checking you out to be embarrassed. How come they have pictures of Fuji-san around?"

Izaya glanced at the mosaic on the wall. Glad that attention was shifting from him for once.

"Because it's a national symbol. The question is, what is up with the weird tropical landscape on the picture."

"Yeah, must be because it's Okinawa."

Water pouring from an elaborate fountain like contraception was all that disturbed the silence for a while.

"Are you sure you should be taking a bath? Won't your wounds get worse?"

"You're worried?"

"No. I just don't want you bleeding all over the place and ruining this wonderful experience."

"So, does 'this wonderful experience' include me? And it's fine, shallow wounds heal easily anyway. I'm used to it."

Izaya remained huddled at one end of the pool but he now decided to splash around.

"The water is so nice that not even you can make it bad. That's what I meant. By the way…thanks."

"What for?"

"You know what for."

"The phone booth thing? Of course I'd save someone I like."

"Not that again."

"Isn't it a good thing for you? It means I'll keep you safe."

"Yeah, right. What is this 'like' of yours supposed to be anyway?"

"Like is like."

Izaya latched an unwavering gaze on Shizuo.

"That is a circular definition."

"'Like' as in, not exactly 'love' but close."

"Are you suffering from nicotine withdrawal? And don't get any funny ideas. I'm not in the mood for smut."

"But you'd do that kind of thing in a public place?"

Izaya rolled his eyes much to Shizuo's amusement.

"I don't know how you got this idea that I go around screwing in public-"

"People say that about you."

"-okay, so maybe I know how you got that idea but it is erroneous. Just like I am hardly as promiscuous or sexually active as 'word on the street' goes."

"Ah…"

"For your information I've only done that a few times."

It was Shizuo's turn to burst out laughing. It scared Izaya half out of his skin.

"What's so funny?"

"Oh, Izaya, Izaya. Only you. 'A few times', that's one time too many."

"It's an extra kink of sorts. Of course, I take precautions so as not to get caught."

"Yeah…remember when we went to Fuji-san on that school trip? You scared a bunch of girls by going on about dead people swinging from the trees."

Izaya chuckled.

"And Shinra wanted to dissect them."

"He was just talking about that a while ago. Kadota remembers it too."

"Oh? So you all got together?"

"For a nabe party."

Izaya focused on the bubbling water.

"Is that so. Well, good for you."

Shizuo scurried until he was almost touching him, taking advantage of Izaya's standoffish streak.

"Do you know the story about the fox?"

"Which one, there are many of those. And stay at your end of the pool."

"There's plenty of space and I was here first. The story with the fox and the grapes. You know how it goes, the fox couldn't reach these really tasty grapes so he just said, 'No matter, they're green anyway'".

"Yes, I know the story. It's technically a fable. What about it?"

"You're a bit like that."

"Suddenly, you know me ever so well."

"Not 'suddenly', just like I began like you little by little."

"There are a few constants that needs remain stable for the universe to exist as we know it. Such as mathematical relations, pi, etc. One of these is your hatred for my person."

"Oh, pie is pretty good but not sweet enough for my tastes."

"Not that kind of pie!"

Shizuo smirked.

"Heh, fooled you. I knew it was possible."

"Do you even know the value of pi?"

"Sure. 3 point…something. Oh yeah, 3.14."

"Actually, that's an approximation. The number in its totality is considerably longer."

"Longer than Long Cat? Like they say Long Cat is long."

"And annoying Heiwajima Shizuo is annoying. Keep it up and you'll dethrone the Annoying Orange."

"The what? I don't like oranges, too acid. I like coconut better. And mango, strawberry is good too with cream-"

"I don't care. What's with the fruit talk?"

"You brought it up."

Izaya sighed, closed his eyes and drifted.

"Ah, I should have tried this long ago."

"But you got to be careful. It's kinda hot in here and you're real skinny, you may just sweat away."

Izaya chuckled.

"I'm not that slim."

"Sure you are. See?"

To make a point Shizuo proceeded to poke him.

"Will you stop already!"

"This is fun. It gets better each time. Kinda like sex."

"Right…for your information, 'stop' means 'stop'. Just like in sex, what do you know!"

Shizuo laughed.

"You can be pretty funny when you're not trying."

"Wonderful, just wonderful. So now you develop a sense of humor."

"I always had one."

"Let me guess, you like lame puns. The kind that can freeze hell over."

"I like those comedy duos. And when you fall on your face."

"I only fell once, that's because I got seasick. You make it sound like it's a daily thing."

"You're real weak when it comes to boats and get all flustered every now and then."

Izaya sighed anew and slid underwater to relish in the warmth.

"And let me guess…that's 'cute'."

"Yeah. Sure you won't drown doing that?"

"Very funny."

But he was feeling a bit dizzy from the steam. He got out and slipped into a robe. To his annoyance Shizuo was right on his heels.

"Hey, no milk. You're supposed to have a drink after a warm bath."

"Whatever."

It was a small solace that at least he managed to leave the scene without any further developments. Izaya wanted to make sure that he did not lose sight of such victories even when the odds were stacked against him.


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