"I have a few conditions."
It was the following day and Izaya had summoned Shizuo to his apartment.
"I won't reveal my sources or any of my methods. Anything specific about my job, including my finances, is off limits."
Shizuo smiled as if he was amused. Izaya did not at all care for that attitude. This interview had just begun but already he felt a bit ill at ease. Shizuo acted as if there had never been any doubt that Izaya would accept the unlikely request and he seemed to full expect these conditions. Izaya wanted Shizuo to be surprised instead of taking everything for granted.
"Fine by me."
"Also, I can't tell for sure that I'll answer your every question."
Shizuo scratched his head.
"Yeah, and you'll lie a lot too. I'm prepared for that."
Izaya flinched inwardly.
"If you know that then what exactly is the point of this?"
"I can usually tell when you're lying. Dunno how, I just know. So lie if you want, lies will tell me plenty."
While Izaya did not believe in this ability of Shizuo's, this reading the truth behind fabrication was the kind of reasoning that Izaya pursued. Instinctively Izaya disliked this but at the heels of it came the realization that Shizuo had just revealed part of his game. Perhaps he had overestimated Shizuo.
"How do you want to do this, Heiwajima-san?"
"Simple, I ask you stuff and you answer."
"And that's it?"
Izaya moved over to the sofa and motioned him to sit. He was excited against all odds. Intuition told him that this would be fun. His ego supported this supposition as well.
"Shall I fix us some tea?"
"I'm not drinking anything you make."
Izaya burst out laughing.
"Implying that I'd poison you? I'll drink some myself."
"No thanks. You're probably immune to poison. As in, taking small doses does that."
Izaya was silent for a while.
"Indeed. Do ask away."
But Izaya still fixed some green tea in Shizuo's presence. The sound of boiling water filled the air. Izaya was taking a thoughtful sip when Shizuo began.
"What's the first thing you remember?"
"How Freudian of you. Fishing for some childhood trauma?"
Shizuo did not bother with a reply. Izaya settled more comfortably on the sofa. All of his furniture was sleek, modern, made of stylish lines and absurdly expensive. Izaya tried to remember.
"The view from my old bedroom. I lived on a 20th floor so it overlooked rooftops all around and there were still taller buildings. Just how is this relevant?"
Shizuo was gazing at the large window. On the other side of the glass the eclectic glitter of Shinjuku's lights invaded the night.
"Well, you live on a penthouse, don't you? And you receive people there."
He cocked a thumb in the direction of the desk. Izaya regretted ever letting Shizuo into his apartment.
"And you see a connection there?"
"Dunno. Do you?"
Izaya shrugged. Making light of it. It was a personal dogma of his that there was nothing to Orihara Izaya that Orihara Izaya did not know. Humanity at large was of course full of contradictions and the individuals that comprised it were blind to the many layers of subconscious that so determined their very existence; but Orihara Izaya was above all this. He was above the collective blindness that he skillfully exploited. Orihara Izaya approached his fellow man with the full knowledge that he was a creature set apart in self-awareness. The gift of vision elected him, placed him on top of the masses, made him more than human.
"I call it a coincidence. What is your first memory? A vending machine? It would explain so much."
Izaya chuckled and emptied his cup.
"We're not talking about me."
"Have you ever been in love?"
Izaya was in the process of refilling and nearly spilled the tea. He crossed a leg over a knee and held the cup with two hands as one bemused.
"Now that was very random. Let's see, I lost my virginity when I was fifteen-"
"That's not what I asked."
"Right. Are all your questions going to be about the past?"
"Not really. I mean, it's about your whole life including the present. And you haven't answered it."
Izaya considered dismissing the question altogether. But that would entail that he was afraid.
"I'm afraid I was never 'in love', no."
Annoyance seethed in contact with Shizuo's matter of fact response.
"Unless I am lying."
"Oh really. Do enlighten me as to how you reach that conclusion."
"It was kinda obvious but I wanted to hear it from you."
"For all you know I am absolutely head over heels with some girl and am ever so passionate about her."
"If you actually were you wouldn't make fun of it."
Izaya laced his hands behind his head.
"Perhaps. At any rate, 'love' is a mere byproduct of our evolutionary history. Sexual drive promotes the propagation of the species and civilization adds a veneer under the guise of 'love'. Social cohesion between kin and later larger groups also benefit from the 'love' notion."
"Sounds like you have it all figured out."
"I am just an educated individual. Should I forward you some reading material on the subject?"
A snickering bite just underneath his words. Izaya regained territory. Looking down at Shizuo from the vantage point of well-articulated knowledge.
Izaya made a clicking noise with his noise.
"Speaking of which, shouldn't you be taking notes? I seem to remember that your memory was not particularly impressive at school."
Izaya's grades were always at the top and Shizuo's dragged at the bottom, they were the extremes between which gradients developed.
"No need for that. And all your fancy talking wasn't needed either. The air quoting pretty expressed what you meant much better."
Izaya's eyes became slits. Then he relaxed into a shrug.
"Or it could be that you just didn't understand a word of it."
Shizuo seemed to consider this. Izaya beamed, afloat in triumph.
"If I'm an idiot why don't you break it down for me? Why go throwing your smart talk at me like that, when you know I won't get it?"
A single eyebrow twitched as a snappy remark occurred to Izaya only to be discarded.
"My, my, 'idiot' is such a harsh term with such a pejorative connotation. I have not said that you were an idiot."
"You don't have to say it. Just like you don't say that water is wet. Too obvious to even bother. You think I'm about as close to mentally retarded as it gets."
Despite his resolve Izaya had to repress inch his way out of the sofa and then out the door. Shizuo might attack at any point. Izaya took a very deep breath.
"In my defense I tend to think that of most people."
Shizuo nodded as if this too was nothing new.
"You don't have to worry about me hitting you."
"I am ever so thankful for your kindness, Heiwajima-san."
Shizuo ignored the pointed sarcasm together.
"Do you keep a file on me?"
"Job related so I won't answer."
"That means 'yes'."
Izaya recoiled into himself by becoming perfectly still. It occurred to him that he had not so much overestimated as underestimated his opponent. And he was all too aware how deadly a mistake that could be.
"My, look at the time. I'm afraid it's getting rather late so I must ask you to call it a night."
Izaya hoped that Shizuo did not have further questions but he thought it unlikely.
"Alright. I'll call you tomorrow."
"No can do. I have important business to attend to tomorrow."
Izaya wanted to call out the entire thing altogether. It was madness. But admitting that it at all affected him was already too grave a loss.
"I'll see what can arrange in my schedule."
Izaya had no actual need for personal files on his object of study. His memory was prodigious and more than capable of keeping track of the minutest details about those people unfortunate enough to capture his interest. But it was a world of fun to turn to the neat folders on his computer and go over accurate descriptions that he could compare at length. He tended to do so in the dead hours that preceded dawn, humming some tune or other, and amusing himself at finding small connections in between the most disparate of individuals: say, that Yagiri Namie just so happened to like the same soda flavor as Ryugamine Mikado. And of course there was one such file dedicated to Heiwajima Shizuo.
He now accessed it with a double click.
Everyone else was properly tagged with a picture but not Shizuo, Izaya disliked having to look at his face. Instead there was only an empty square. In fact, there was a lot of emptiness in the text boxes. Apart from the biographical facts there was precious little about Shizuo. And Shizuo had a point, such things were not particularly important. Izaya was impartial in his treatment of the human material that he so gleefully dissected.
He had a professional approach that went above likes or dislikes.
Shizuo was a sole exception. Still, the reason why there was so much blank silence around him had nothing to do with Izaya's feelings. Rather, Izaya simply did not have enough information to add to the file. There were only a few tentative notes. To make for this gap Izaya had even created a subfolder on Kasuka but this too did not contain much. Izaya had also attached a clinical article on the effects of rage on the structures of the brain and its impact on neurochemistry.
It hurt his pride as an informant that he had more information on Celty than he did on Shizuo and she was not even human. Not even the time he had been forced to spend with Shizuo had provided sufficient inklings into his character.
Izaya added, 'more perceptive than what previous observations indicated. Has lately developed an interest in Orihara Izaya for reasons unknown.' He omitted himself from his analysis as much as possible. If he could unravel these 'reasons' then he would win. To Izaya there was no doubt that he was engaged in a conflict and no amount of apparent cordiality would dispel this knowledge. He got online and sampled what word on the virtual world had to say about Heiwajima Shizuo.
"'Ultra strong', 'crazy', 'berserk mode', 'like, totally sexy'. Same old."
Izaya rolled his eyes. None of this was real. That was the entire point, of course. He considering starting some nasty rumor and letting it sizzle across electricity, invading the city of poison. But it would serve no purpose. Shizuo did not care. Reputation meant nothing to him, be it good or bad. And in the half-legal twilight in which he lived values were for the most part inverted. In the tame crowds that formed the bulk of this microcosm Shizuo's blatant violence was a grave misdemeanor but in the underworld it assured him a solid credit.
Either way it did not matter. Shizuo seemed unable to grasp social conventions. Izaya had heard plenty of talk about how Shizuo was a rebel against the system but as far as he could tell Shizuo was just too indifferent to at all care about what others thought. And this made him a veritable foe to Izaya. Slander rebounded off Shizuo. Suddenly, Izaya straightened up on his swivel chair and typed rapidly, 'disregards common sense; asked about Orihara Izaya's love life.'
He glanced at the chatroom. As ever people, conveniently hidden behind screen names, were running away on tangents about Shizuo. A prompt was all they needed to waste the next hour or so going on and on about whatever Izaya threw at them. And one of the recurring topics was of course Shizuo being 'a stud'. Izaya tapped his fingers against the desk. He knew that Shizuo's sex appeal was almost universal. Unlike Izaya's it was unconnected to any particular time period or place. Izaya might be the aesthetics of the future but Shizuo was timeless.
It annoyed Izaya considerably. Human progress had culminated in the production of Orihara Izaya by assuring the proper conditions for him to truly prosper but he was aware of how fragile this dominance could be. If the ongoing economic crisis were to escalate into a complete collapse of industry he would find himself at the very bottom of the food chain. He could only exert his powers and be deemed attractive in a complex society where the high technological level concurred to promote a sensibility in which intelligence wrapped up in a lithe frame was considered sexy. Izaya's forte was in blurring gender distinction, effortlessly sliding into androgyny spiced with an element of perverse kink and mind games.
His choice in partners was limited by default. Normally it did not bother him. In a city of 13 million people there was no shortage of potential lovers. Not to mention that Izaya did not value sex as much as it was believed. Of the many forms of ego trip in which he indulged it was not even the prominent one. This was normality but Izaya found himself chewing at his lower lip.
As for Shizuo, his appeal was raw and basic. It needed no combination of disparate elements. Izaya approached it coolly. Biology alone gave Shizuo the upper hand as far as competition for reproductive resources went. Females would always flock to him without truly realizing that they were handicapped by their very genes to pursue a veritable alpha male. At its most elemental natural selection favored Shizuo but Izaya derived a great amount of satisfaction in the thought that as things stood now Izaya was undoubtedly better adjusted to his environment.
Izaya spun on the chair, a full turn, his fingertips striking the keyboard even before the momentum died off.
'Does not care for sex despite many solicitations. May sublimate with violence.'
Izaya had lost count to all the girls that Shizuo had grunted away and there had been a few guys dumb to hit on him only to become a bloody mess. Shizuo did not really seem to like sex at all.
Then again Izaya did not know just what Shizuo cared for, if anything. He clicked on Kasuka's folder. Ironically enough it was considerably more complete. Izaya had never worked this angle on prying into Shizuo's weaknesses. Siblings were off limits. It was an unspoken law to which Izaya adhered lest Shizuo exacted retribution on his sisters. It was not the best solution but the only possible.
Izaya resumed typing.
The cursor blinked as if questioning. He tried to keep in mind all the many parameters of human beings. Outward appearance inclined Izaya to label Shizuo as a solid 1 in the Kinsey scale but behavior made him wonder if he was not perhaps X, asexual. All this was speculation.
'Sexual orientation: unknown.'
To Izaya the lack of knowledge was a temporary stage to be overcome.