Knowledge

Chapter 4

Sunday nights were sushi nights. Izaya did not feel much in the mood for it but he was not about to let anything interfere with his routine in the slightest. It did not occur to him that enforcing this policy was admitting the pressure on him. But this habit fulfilled a minimum quota of a weekly incursion into Ikebukuro. Directly disobeying Shizuo's prohibition.

"Orihara-san, good evening."

"I'm taking a private room tonight."

Russia Sushi was filling with the usual bustle. Izaya passed the half-filled counter seats, silently doing a roll call on the several habitués. A few weird confections oozed cheese on tiny platters. Izaya hurried past these. Simon's idea of original cuisine did not match with anyone else's. Which meant that his culinary creations were a direct spin off of his personality. Normally Izaya would take a few minutes to ponder this but now he rushed upstairs. He stopped in front of a sliding door and removed his shoes. A low table and chair furnished the otherwise empty room. Izaya hummed a popular tune under his breath and in no time Simon was serving him a generous array of sushi bits. Such a large man handling tiny pieces of food delicacies was a spectacle well worth of Izaya's attention. Simon gave him preferential treatment out of instinctive distrust.

"This ootoro looks tasty."

"Fresh from the sea, Orihara-san. Please enjoy it."

Izaya waited until Simon was just out of the room to stop him on his tracks. Just as Simon thought he had dodged the bullet.

"By the way, has Shizu-chan dropped by recently?"

"Heiwajima-san? Haven't seen him, long time."

He could see Simon's cogs turning, considering how likely his establishment was to suffer from an open conflict between Izaya and Shizuo. It could degenerate into senseless strife and Simon had seen far too much of that.

"Is that so. When was the last time you did see him? Roughly speaking."

Izaya took a sip of tea.

"Two weeks."

"Do let me know if he appears."

Simon hesitated. He truly wished that people would just get along. Simon opted for a nod, he could always call Izaya after Shizuo left the premises. Izaya smiled with all the candor in the world.

"И у нас никогда не было этого разговора." [And we've never had this talk.]

Simon nodded again and slid the door closed behind, sighing as soon as he found himself in the corridor. There was something highly creepy about Izaya's command of the Russian language. At first Simon had thought that it might be fun to have someone to speak his mother tongue with, but soon enough he realized that Izaya was insidiously letting him know that he couldn't at all hide from him. As to how exactly and why Izaya had learned Russian, Simon did not know but he could not shake the feeling that it was just another spying measure and one that uncovered Simon's past. More than once it had occurred to him that Orihara Izaya would be right at home with the KGB.

Izaya was thoughtfully chewing on a nigiri when a knock on the door interrupted his musings.

"Who is it?"

"Hi there, it's me, Kadota."

"Dotachin! Do come in. Allow me to offer you some food."

For this reason he had ordered a pair of extra chopsticks. Just in case.

"Thanks."

Kadota joined him but did not begin eating immediately. Clearly something was on his mind. Izaya did not press him for it. The best thing about Kadota was that he always ended up spilling the beans without so much as a prompt. Unfortunately his information strayed far and wide from the mark. Initially Izaya had wondered if Kadota was not very gifted in the intellectual department. Even with limited resources it was possible to figure out large pieces of the big picture. But Izaya had come to see that Kadota was intelligent, he just so happened to lack what it took to be in the information trade. Whether he failed to see the right connections or whether he simply did not have the instinct for knowing which leads to pursue and which ones to drop. As a result he was useful as a sort of rumor repository, absorbing a lot of information without processing it properly.

"Try some of the salmon, it's great."

"Thanks…Izaya, do you know what's going on with Shizuo?"

Izaya tilted his head to the side.

"With Shizu-chan? I can hardly say. As you know we're not exactly on friendly terms."

"But you keep tabs on him."

"It comes with the territory. Wasabi?"

"No thanks. Don't you think Shizuo's been acting strange as of late?"

Izaya knew that the man in question was skipping the habit of dining at Simon's. In a creature of habits it could entail something.

"How so?"

"I mean, he's been so quiet."

Izaya poured soy sauce into a bowl of rice and affected indifference.

"That's a wonderful thing. I could do with a break from Ikebukuro's yeti."

"But why do you think he's been that way?"

"I have no idea."

Kadota ignored the food.

"I've been thinking…maybe he has a girlfriend?"

Izaya could have laughed but smiled instead. As ever Kadota was sharp enough to spot a pattern and clueless enough to rush into unsupported conclusions. A perfect combination for Izaya to toy with.

"It's possible."

"I wonder who she is."

Trust Kadota to run away with the wrong idea. Izaya's smile grew wider as he imagined what Kadota would do if he knew that Shizuo and he had been spending so much time together deep in conversation. Most likely think that Izaya was the mystery 'girlfriend'.

"Who knows."

"Don't you know?"

"I'm afraid not. Then again, I never knew Shizu-chan to have a girlfriend."

"Yeah, now that I think about it…and same goes for you."

Kadota had never put these two facts together.

"Heh, true. But if I did have one, I very doubt you'd know about it."

Every now and then Dotachin needed be reminded that he was, well, Dotachin.

"Has he been treating you any different? I figured a girl would mellow him. Maybe she wants you guys to become friends again."

Izaya considered introducing Kadota to Occam's razor. On second thought letting him flounder was so much more enjoyable.

"'Again'? I was never friends with Heiwajima Shizuo."

"You know what I mean."

Without lifting a finger Izaya had uncovered plenty about Shizuo. He was not spending his money out, otherwise he would be dining at Russia Sushi and his behavior had changed enough for Kadota to notice. More, Shizuo had not told either Tom or Kadota about their agreement. Desirable secrecy.

"We just can't get along."

"I've always wondered why."

Izaya did not clash with Kadota at any time and it amused him that Kadota had some thoughts on the Shizuo/Izaya feud.

"Who knows. By the way, Dotachin. I came across this bill."

He handed him one straight from Shizuo's stash.

"Is it counterfeit?"

"Maybe. Why don't you check it and let me know?"

Kadota held the thin slip of paper against the light.

"Sure. This city is really becoming dangerous."

Izaya laughed, he was greatly responsible for that state of affairs. The money was legit but he enjoyed having Kadota running completely useless errands. Izaya paid the dinner with Shizuo's bills. Spending this payment sealed the contract between informant and employer.


Everything in this odd assignment led Izaya to expect the next session to start with a bang.
"Do you have a best friend?"
They sat side by side at a department store rooftop converted into an amusement park. Izaya's pick served a double purpose, it showed how smooth he was in high places and it was also one of the many places out of which Shizuo had been fired. A public setting displaced the uncomfortable feeling developing between them that Izaya could not help resent. More variables on the board, less disturbances. Izaya drew a neat borderline mathematical inference.
"I do have a best friend. Someone who is always there for me, who I can trust completely and who I will never part from. And I of course mean-"
"Orihara Izaya."
Red eyes narrowed briefly. Izaya did not appreciate having his thunder stolen. He shrugged.
"Heiwajima-san, this won't do. You can't be answering yourself or else I'll be forced to return your money."
"So you don't have friends. Thought so."
"Did I say that? You must be aware that I enjoy human company and vice versa."
Shizuo nodded. The perennial vest and shirt looked exceedingly out of place. In the background some goofy wrestlers pranced for the glee of riotous children.
"'kay, I'll give you that. But say you wanted to throw a hot pot party. Who would you invite?"
Izaya opened his mouth to answer and closed it again. He opted for a dismissive shrug and smile.
"And why would I do that exactly?"
"Dunno. But suppose you wanted to. Is there anyone you'd want to invite?"
Izaya grew silent. Red balloons floated on tethers of rope.
"My sisters."
"Assuming they'd come."
For the very first time Shizuo caught a glimpse of pain in Izaya. It was very brief, a mere flash.Izaya chuckled quietly.
"Indeed. They are obviously free to do as they see fit. But you didn't ask who would attend this hypothetical party, you asked who I would invite to said hypothetical party."
Shizuo tucked a cigarette between his lips then remembered that smoking was forbidden. The entire city was becoming overly sanitized. That's why Shizuo preferred the backstreets where there was less of a façade even if there were a lot of dirty corners. It was impossible to have everything and the price of reality was not exactly pretty. Izaya's hands rested on his lap, his eyes far away in the distance. For once truly oblivious of Shizuo's presence.
What Shizuo saw was a pale skinny young man lost in a wealth of loneliness. Then Izaya produced a phone from a pocket and flicked it open.
"Heiwajima-san, here's the receipt. I expect full payment."
Izaya bounced to his feet and aimed at the phone at Shizuo.

"Sure. What are you doing?"

"These gadgets have all sorts of extra functions. I'm taking a picture of you. So drop the shades and say 'cheese'."

Shizuo removed his sunglasses. Half-hidden by technology, Izaya took a step back from the situation.

"Did you have some important photos in your old phone?"

Izaya bought himself a mint ice cream cone.

"That would be work-related but no, nothing relevant."

Shizuo watched him. Izaya's misunderstanding, a rare thing, was highly telling. Shizuo did not mean anything about compromising evidence related to shady information dealings. His point had to do with personal pictures but Izaya did not seem to consider such a possibility. Shizuo kept his silence on this.

As public a location as this was, Izaya doubted that anyone would recognize them. He was very glad because presently he did not feel like himself. It called for a shift in the conversation. Away from his person.

"You know, people are saying that you have a girlfriend."

"What people?"

"'Anon'."

Shizuo blinked.

"Anon what?"

"'Knowledge is free. We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.'"

Izaya had delved deeper online and found that Kadota was not alone in his misguided ideas but the quoted resounded with a gloomy undertone that had nothing in particular to do with it. The context dropped suddenly, collapsing into an ugly reality.

"Who said that?"

"No one did. Everyone did. Anon did."

Somebody should let a certain Ryugamine Mikado know just how horrible anonymous truly was. But Izaya was not given to didactic virtues.

"Internet stuff."

"Yes. It's wrong, though. Knowledge isn't free. At all. It's about as expensive a commodity as it gets. One always pays."

"And you don't mean with money."

"Speaking of that, it seems that you have become rich overnight."

Izaya tried to return to his investigation. Safer territory all around.

"I didn't steal, if that's what you're implying."

"Everyone steals from someone else. It's called 'society'."

Shizuo frowned.

"Bet you wouldn't be saying that if someone broke into your place."

"Good point. But it would only prove that I'm right."

Izaya bit into the crunchy part of the ice cream.

"Do you keep a file on yourself? And don't go all 'job-related', you said that informants don't use personal stuff."

Izaya smiled.

"Not their own personal stuff, at any rate. And no, there is no 'Orihara Izaya' folder. Shame, all you'd had to do was hack into my computer and read it if it existed."

"Nah, not interested. You'd just lie."

"Is that much different from what we're doing here?"

Shizuo watched a group of kindergarteners running around for a while. He tried to imagine Izaya that age and failed altogether.

"You've been lying to me a lot, yeah. I knew you'd do that. But if you did that kind of folder, you'd be lying to yourself."

Izaya thought about it. His entire existence was predicated on the axiom that Orihara Izaya had complete knowledge of Orihara Izaya. That he could be mistaken, that he could give a distorted inner view to himself, were life-altering errors. Izaya was not ready to come to terms with such a possibility.

"Ah. And let us not forget the advantages of dialectics that you pointed out so wisely."

"Lose the fancy wording."

"I mean dialoguing."

Izaya was a master communicator. But surprisingly he spun his wheels when confronted with Shizuo's blunt honesty. Perhaps because Shizuo knew nothing about euphemism or the insidious allure of jaded sarcasm. No beating around the bush and no half-words. Limiting Izaya's scope of action, pushing it into a fringe. Easily disarming him.

"Talking to you is the only way of getting to understand you."

"I might have forgotten to mention but you're paying for my ice cream as well."

Shizuo frowned. He could understand the phone to some extent but not this.

"What do you think this is, a date?"

Izaya blinked. Once. Twice. Then he burst into a fit of giggles.

"Oh my, there's some humor to you! Who would've thought! But ice cream counts as work expenses and you must cover them as my employer."

"I bet you're making that up."

"It is proper procedure. And since your financial situation has taken a remarkable turn for the better, dare I say a miraculous one, I do not see the problem."

"I ain't paying."

Izaya shrugged.

"Oh well."

"Does anyone actually laugh at your jokes?"

Izaya chuckled.

"Actually, no. Apart from myself, that is. But that's fine by me."

"Looks like you do plenty of stuff on your own, huh."

"You know what they say, laugh with the world and all that."

"More like laugh at the world in your case."

Izaya nodded. He had refined humor into a sleek weapon without stripping it of genuine glee.

"There is never shortage of comedy if you know where to find it."

"What do you find funny, then?"

"People. Not so much comedies and the like, but everyday people going about their everyday lives."

Shizuo craved some nicotine right about now. A non-smoking sign loudly proclaimed that it was not to be.

"Examples?"

Izaya leaned closer to him.

"There are two country boys in this city. Best friends for life. Bosom buddies through and through. Yet they have no idea of who the other really is. You see, each one believes that the other must not find out about how wicked people can be. What they don't know is that such scruples are long overdue. Every day they lie to each other. Very soon they'll be on opposite sides of a war, not as the poor victims that they think their friend to be, but as leading forces. Ah yes, friendship is absolutely grand."

"You make it sound like you had nothing to do with it."

"It's very easy to pin the blame on me for pretty much everything that goes awry. Nowadays people are exceedingly eager to evade responsibility. It's so comforting to simply think, 'It's that Izaya bastard again, if it wasn't for him I'd have the girl of my dreams, a well-paid but laid back job and a dozen houses.' Instead of, 'I screw up because I'm not up to par'."

Silence for a while.

"That might be how others put it but in my case I have plenty of reasons for blaming you for shit in my life. You framed me. Don't think I'll ever forget."

There was no resentment but a cool-headed assertion.

"You cannot prove it in a court of law. So technically it did not happen-"

"Cut the crap. Right now."

Izaya almost squirmed away. A thousand thoughts rushed through his mind.

"Alright. I admit it. But it was a case of self-defense."

"It's not self-defense if you enjoy it."

"I think you mean 'it's not rape if you enjoy it'."

"Want to find out for sure, Izaya-kun?"

Izaya opened and closed his mouth a few times. Processing cryptic information in dawning dismay.

"Whatever do you mean? Oh, I see. Today you seem to be in a mood for parody. But I'm afraid I missed the point entirely-"

"Want me to make it very clear to you?"

Izaya got up.

"This meeting is over."

"Don't go deciding that on your own."

Shizuo detained him by locking a hand around Izaya's wrist. Almost holding hands, in fact. Izaya narrowed his eyes and tensed in anticipation. The security of crowds was illusory. In large groups humans borrowed from one another's collective perspective and as a result became very blind on an individual level. That is why one could stab someone to death in a crowded subway platform and get away with it.

"Heiwajima-san, you are going to let go of me right now-"

Shizuo dragged him to a nearby booth.

"Two cones, one vanilla and the other mint."

"What are you doing?"

"Buying you ice cream like you wanted."

"I just had some…"

"You're having more."

Armed with the desserts, Shizuo dragged him some more all the way to a bench running along a fence beyond which spread the city in a twinkling grid of concrete and glass.

"Thanks…?"

"You're welcome."

Izaya felt that a storm had just passed him over. It was odd and made him uncertain of where he stood.

"You know, you can tell a lot about someone by what they eat. I'd never figure a big man such as yourself would have a sweet tooth. And why, you ask? Because it is more or less agreed that sweets are more befitting for children, girls and effeminate men. It sounds random, doesn't it?"

Shizuo shrugged.

"Don't really care. I like what I like and that's that. Want some of my cone?"

Izaya smirked.

"Are you making fun of me again, Heiwajima-san?"

"More for me, I guess."

And indeed Shizuo returned to grimly licking his ice cream. Izaya did not know quite what to do but he supposed that keeping a conversational tone was crucial. Shizuo seemed to be thinking the same even if he gobbled some sweet stuff in silence for a while.

"You're always eating expensive fatty tuna."

"Decadent classy food is my favorite. But of course I must watch my calories."

Shizuo poked him, causing Izaya to jump.

"You're skin and bones."

"You mean 'elegant and sophisticated'."

"I mean what I said. Skin and bones."

Shizuo looked him up and down as if to take in the slimness. Izaya thoughtfully scooped some ice cream.

"Ootoro is an aphrodisiac."

"Huh? You need that kind of thing?"

Izaya did not exactly know how they had drifted to this topic. A trickle of ice cream melted over his hand.

"Heh, no, I don't. But I love ootoro, it's a perfect marriage of flavor and texture."

"It looks like raw meat to me."

Izaya laughed.

"Have you ever tried it?"

"Nah. I'm fine with sushi but not that."

"Ootoro is a sushi delicacy. It's to sushi as diamonds are to jewels, minus the exploiting of human misery."

Shizuo finished the vanilla ice cream and grabbed Izaya's hand, bringing it to eye level.

"What's up with the rings? I could never figure it out."

"Fashion statement."

Izaya removed a silver ring and handed it to Shizuo, who turned it over curiously. The tiny piece of metal caught a bit of sun and then broke in two in Shizuo's hand.

"Shit. Sorry."

"All good, all good. I have loads of them."

Shizuo held the broken pieces.

"Guess I'll have to buy you a new one."

It did not at all follow, in fact it ran counter to the situation. Izaya grasped this immediately.

"Guess you will have to, Heiwajima-san."



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