Knowledge

Chapter 18

At precisely ten pm Izaya was summoned to a plush room. Shiki was alone and waiting.

"Take a seat. Sake?"

"I'll pass, thank you."

"You look better than last time I saw you."

Izaya chuckled and waved dismissively.

"Thank you very much."

Shiki was a bit surprised at the lilting tone. It struck him as vaguely mocking.

"Have you found out something?"

"Not thanks to you."

"I see."

"I still have some questions. Namely regarding your involvement."

"You think that I am involved in some way?"

Izaya crossed a leg over a knee.

"My question is whether you knew who was behind it the whole time."

"So you know who that is?"

"Not thanks to you."

Izaya had to reafirm it more for himself than for Shiki's sake.

"It was never up to me to do your job."

"But of course. Informants are expected to find information. But I cannot help but feel that this was a test."

"How so?"

"Everything you've done points in that direction. As does your timing."

"So, what can you tell me?"

"At times it's simply a question of looking in the right quarter. The moment I did that and applied myself to some investigation it was easy enough to find out. All it took was for the suspicion to be there."

"And what will you do when you get back to Tokyo? Or will you give orders from here?"

Izaya smiled widely.

"I will do absolutely nothing. Other than address the person in question and talk about it."

Shiki was silent for a while.

"That's quite a turnaround."

"A wrong choice, you think?"

"It depends on what was your reasoning."

"And here I was, thinking that it was the yakuza way to kill anyone who looks at you funny."

"It's a bit more complicated than that."

Izaya nodded. There were many words flowing between them, a silent undertow running beneath expressed meanings.

"What is to 'know' someone, I wonder."

"It seems like you're finding out."

"Maybe. Maybe I am."

Shiki got up as if to conclude this brief interview. Izaya timed his next reply.

"You knew that it was Saki behind this, didn't you?"

Shiki favored him with a rare smile.

"I wanted to know what you'd do about it. If you were willing to kill someone who is truly loyal to you then you'd be a lost case."

Very casually Shiki produced a gun neatly tucked inside an inner pocket of the sleek white jacket. Izaya chuckled.

"So you'd kill me if I chose to take revenge. Interesting. May I ask why?"

"Loyalty is not something that comes by easily. To betray it is unforgiving."

"And of course she did not betray it first. I am amazed that you knew her motivations."

"Call it an educated guess."

Izaya felt the need to talk about it.

"There was no attempt on my life to start with. She knew I was in Okinawa and could not possible be harmed. The point was to deliver me someone to take the fall, namely Aoba, that she would cleverly frame. The result? My eternal gratitude. I have to say, it is quite brilliant."

"Unless she was found out."

"There's no real brilliance without some risk. Of course, the loss of my material goods is regrettable but I can live with it."

"You've changed."

"In a good way, I hope."

"Good for yourself but perhaps not for me."

Izaya blinked rapidly.

"Meaning?"

"You're growing up."

"Also, the money I was trying to trace. I could not find its source because the source just so happens to be…you, Shiki-sama. Neh?"

Shiki emptied a cup of warm sake.

"I was wondering how long it would take you to find out."

"Once I pieced it all together it made sense. Shizuo must have demanded some sort of compensation over the framing incident. And that money was it. Am I right?"

"Congratulations, Orihara."

"What I do not understand is why the amount was so exorbitant."

Shiki considered the young man before him as if for the first time. He too had exercises in mental agility, they did not include overly complicated puzzles as Izaya's, but were just as effective. Perceiving people as if anew was one of these.

"That Heiwajima Shizuo is really something. He dropped by the office, unarmed. Asking for retribution, yes. Over the stunt you pulled. So I offered him to get my men to take you out and or money. I was rather impressed that he did not want revenge so I decided to give him an unlimited credit line."

Izaya's game play was to act as if no revelation could impress him but he was still caught utterly by surprise.

"Ah. I don't suppose you were ever impressed by me. No matter. By the looks of it I have been played with all this time. It's a bit…painful."

"Just handle it."

Izaya smiled almost shyly. Then sighed deeply and flung himself back in the plush seat.

"I've been had, haven't I. You were conspiring with Shizuo. The hand that moves the pieces is always playing against someone else. As to who makes the rules…well, 'God's in his heaven-"

"'-All's right with the world.'"

"I'm glad that you didn't try to kill me."

"I didn't have to. Yet."

"Heh, I see. Yes, if I screw up you'll readily kill me."

Shiki filled another cup and dipped his lips in sake. With moderation. Taking his own time. Aware that Izaya had never been this honest with him before.

"Readily but not gladly. You have at least that."

Izaya bowed.

"And that's what I'll take."

With slow and deliberate gestures, for yakuza were very much like wild animals in that one did not act suddenly around them lest they attack, Izaya reached for the recently filled cup and drank from it.

"Can I call you 'aniki' now?"

"Members of the board wanted to get rid of you since you caused a lot of trouble. I had to smooth things over. So consider my duties as your 'aniki' fully fulfilled."

"That is bittersweet. It means that you won't help me again."

"It means that I thought you worth helping."

Izaya closed his eyes. He suddenly felt close to tears and it would not at all do.

"Thank you. Can I ask you something?"

"You can ask and I can answer or not."

"Fair enough. In my shoes, would you just talk to Saki?"

"There's already too much blood spilling in my profession as it is for me to kill someone who is truly loyal. So yes, I would talk. And 'just' makes it seem as if talking is easy. It isn't."

Izaya nodded in agreement.

"So you don't think I'm loyal to you."

"Because you're not. And you never were. In fact, if you were then you wouldn't be Orihara Izaya."

"You may be right about that. I'm glad that I got to drink from the same cup as you. I've been dying to do that for ages now."

"And now that you have, you can go on your way."

Izaya expected it fully but he still felt a vague tug at his heart.

"So you're cutting off ties of…I suppose 'intimacy' is not accurate a word but 'break up' does not cover it either."

"Call it what you want, it's the same to me. Either way, the one doing the severing is actually you. Isn't that why you agreed to meeting me here tonight?"

Izaya blinked.

"Yes. I suppose that's true."

Shiki seemed to have nothing further to add. But Izaya would not have it.

"I have something for you."

Izaya slid a postcard across the low table.

"[死気], 'Shiki'?"

"I thought you could do with a change to your name. [四木] is far too prosaic. [四] 'shi' with the kanji for 'four' and [木] 'ki' with the kanji for 'tree'. It lacks impact. Change it to [死気] and you'll strike fear into the hearts of men every time you hand a business card. I'm sure that's very useful in your line of work."

"[死] 'shi' for 'death' and [気] 'ki' for 'spirit'."

"It's much more fitting, isn't it?"

"You're a funny kid."

"Why thanks. No one seems to think so but you."

Izaya got up. Shiki smiled bemusedly as he read the postcard.

"Take care, Orihara."

"You too. By the way, what is your given name? Wait, don't tell me. I'm an informant so I'll find by myself."

"Good luck with that."

Izaya already had his hand on the doorknob. He spoke without looking back at Shiki.

"Odds are you know this already but you were the first man I was ever with."

"Very respectful language from you."

"I don't want to cheapen it. After all, you were probably my first crush. Goodbye, Shiki-san."

Izaya left without looking back and before Shiki could reply. He walked away rapidly. It annoyed him considerably that he found Shizuo casually smoking next to a luxurious fern plant. There was something insulting in the calm attitude, perhaps because it clashed so much with a confusion of feelings in him. Izaya opened his mouth, not to voice any of this as much as to complain about something else entirely, but Shizuo cut him off by suddenly holding him close.

"Let go of me, you've been lying to me all this time-"

"I love you."

Izaya started, wrapped in Shizuo's firm but sheltering arms.

"Fuck you. Like I believe that."

"You know it's true."

Izaya chuckled bitterly.

"No I don't. It's just as I first thought, you want revenge. I did try to get rid of you by framing you and involved Shiki-san in the process so you used that to negotiate with him and ruin me."

"Have I ruined you?"

Shizuo let go of him, slowly, looking deeply into Izaya's eyes.

"You knew that Shiki-san had nothing to do with the explosion but you led me on. You wanted me to suspect him."

"Of course. He's my rival. All's fair in war and love."

"That you can say that with a straight face is absolutely incredible."

Shizuo stroked his cheek.

"Letting you meet him on your own was one of the most difficult things I ever did in my life."

Izaya glanced at the ashtray. Cigarettes littered it completely, some had tumbled to the floor and there were piles of ash strewn all over. Shizuo's brand.

"Oh really. Why did you do it, then?"

"I had to. I can't make you reject him, that's something you had to do yourself."

Izaya's eyes widened slightly.

"You really are serious about this…"

"Took you forever to realize, Izaya. Do you have any idea how it's been for me to wait here while you went off to 'chat' with your idol or whatever? It fucking hurt."

A vein throbbed above Shizuo's eyebrow.

"You might want to drop by Shinra's and have your blood pressure checked. On second thought he's a quack so you'd better off going to a real doctor."

"And you care?"

"Maybe."

Shizuo smiled and hugged him again, inhaling deeply.

"I'm glad. No one's been touching you."

"Oh gee, you have a heightened sense of smell? It figures, given how animal-like you are."

Shizuo kissed his mouth slowly, as if sampling him. Izaya tasted cigarettes and wrinkled his nose.

"Sake? You were drinking?"

"Argh, disgusting tobacco. Were you eating the cigarettes or something?"

"What's with the sake?"

"A parting drink. And how about we enrage Tuna-san some more? I'm in the mood for some fresh tuna fish."

"Sure."


"One thing I don't get. How did you find out it was this Saki girl?"

Izaya served him a juicy nigiri.

"She called me with 'evidence' that Aoba was behind it. That made me wonder. How come she knew that but Kida did not? Had she informed me via Kida I might have bought it. Of course, she is capable of gathering information but it was a bit too neat. The typhoon worked to her disadvantage, it must have messed her timing. Once the suspicion was there I could easily find that she had purchased explosives that just so happened to match the ones used in the incident."

The yakuza had special channels when it came to illegal weapons and explosives, it allowed Shiki to pinpoint the culprit.

"In a way, it's a bit like being in love. Suspecting, I mean. Once you start wondering if you're in love…then you are in love."

"So deep."

"It's true, though. Haven't you wondered every now and then, 'how do I feel about Shizuo'?"

"According to your logic if I have then I must be in love with you?"

"You're not answering again."

Izaya shrugged.

"Alright, fine. The thought has crossed my mind. By the way, are you still interested in Long Cat?"

"Of course. Do you have a lead?"

"I have a theory. And let me do that for you."

Izaya dipped the fish in soy sauce, delicately, lest it overpowered the natural flavor.

"A theory?"

"I believe that it is likely that the feline is from Hiroshima or Nagasaki."

"Why?"

"Because of its extraordinary length. Radiation causes genetic abnormalities many generations after it is introduced."

"Hey, that may be it."

Izaya nodded then leaned over, his eyes glittering. He was having fun.

"More, if Long Cat is long enough he may be from Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

"That's really long."

"For sure!"

"Ever been to Hiroshima or Nagasaki?"

"I hardly leave Tokyo. But I've been to Hiroshima once. For the memorial ceremonies."

"Really? Didn't think you'd care for that kind of thing."

"And I don't. But history matters. Who we are is always a reaction to what we were. Japan would not be so obsessed with peace at all cost if not for the insanity of our involvement in the War. And yet, as awful as that was, I can't help but wonder if our development as a country did not depend greatly on the War. The irony is great but rather bitter. Even I do not like the thought that my prosperity required the sacrifice of so many fellow human beings."

Shizuo smiled.

"See? Being human is more than enough."

"I've got to hand it over to you…walking into Shiki-san's office and demanding compensation is gutsy. It's also crazy."

"It worked. I also used some of the money I'd been saving. When you get fired a lot you end up saving."

Izaya laughed.

"I bet."

"What happened to Kadota?"

"Ah, I should give Namie a call to let him go."

With that said Izaya did not seem in a hurry.



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