Knowledge

Chapter 9

They made an odd pair. Walking along the foaming water's edge, a big man shuffling on the sand followed by a much smaller figure that dragged his feet slowly. Shizuo was not used to ambling on shifting ground. He kept losing purchase and had the distinct feeling that he was not so much walking as avoiding an incoming fall. Izaya had no problems with the terrain but he lagged behind. There was too much weighing on his mind. Shizuo managed to get to steady ground on the wet fringe of sand while Izaya kept on walking without noticing. Before him was the knowledge that he might not have a territory to go back to.

"-swim, right? Izaya?"

"What?"

"I said, you can swim, right?"

"Of course I can."

"Good."

With this settled Shizuo could safely pick him up and carry him into the tame surf.

"What do you think you're doing?!"

"It's kinda obvious."

Izaya floundered a bit but got used to the warm water and lulling motion of small waves. The sounds of the sea mixed with a lot of blue. It was a sensory overdose that razed his mind flat. Schools of tiny silvery fish swam around them.

"Hmm…this is nice. Should've brought a floating mattress."

"You can float just fine."

"Ah, but it's not the same."

Izaya stayed in the shallow water, feeling weightless.

"You think there are sharks around?"

Shizuo scanned the azure line of the horizon. He did not seem particularly worried about it.

"I doubt it but if there are I'm sure you can punch them into submission. And at least Shark Boy isn't around."

"What's up with you and animal people?"

"My love is for humanity."

Izaya ducked underwater and returned to the surface to find Shizuo staring unwaveringly at him.

Unnerving.

"I've heard you say that a bunch of times, guess I don't count as part of humanity?"

He splashed about to create some distance. Drifting to deeper waters.

"You're a case apart."

"Why?"

Izaya considered how to answer. And settled for the truth.

"It's a mistake to divide people into 'good' and 'bad', it could be even be said to be a category mistake: ethics is not the standard by which to evaluate humans. What makes them tick is what matters, assessing what that is essentially what I do. But you piss me off on a personal level apart from all analysis."

"Oh look, shark."

"Where?"

Izaya followed Shizuo's gaze, already geared to swim away as fast as he could. Arms locked around him before the adrenaline rush died on him.

"Tricked you. Easier than I thought."

Izaya had a terrible moment in which he was sure he was about to get drowned but he realized that Shizuo could keep him afloat, apparently just as easily as he could trick him. Annoyance flared up as he swallowed some salt water which caused him to cough and thus destroy a pointed remark that he had all ready.

"Shit- let go of me already!"

To Izaya's profound relief the hold on him relaxed but he could not bask for long. Suddenly the world became water and the pressure of lips on his was the way of grasping for breathable air- in a flash he remembered that he was literally surrounded by oxygen but human that he was he could not take into his lungs without panic signs surging through his body. Izaya went into survival model. Instinct alone dominated him. He clung to Shizuo without for once being aware of any hatred, breathing through him. Any semblance of a kiss was utterly lost on him and only knew himself as the muffled sounds of water pounding on his ears and his heartbeat beating madly subsided. His eyes were sewn shut. He blinked a few times until he could fully open them to find himself panting at the beach. Shizuo towered above him so that Izaya could only see his legs from where he sat. Izaya took a few deep breaths. He gathered his resolve. Then pulled down Shizuo's swimming trunks and hopped to the safety of dry sand, shrieking all the way.

"Oh no! It's a naked man!"

Izaya made sure to sound mortified. Already a group of people was gathering and pointing.

"How old are you again? And it's like the kettle calling the pot black, really."

In his distress and warped desire for revenge Izaya had somehow managed to miss the rather important point that in the commotion his speedo was missing and that he too stood in naked glory.

A most definite disadvantage. Shizuo saw him falter for a millisecond. Izaya turned around and spread his arms widely, his best smile on. And nothing else.

"Everyone! Today is 'nakedness' awareness day! We are celebrating the human body!"

'We' was not precisely correct since Shizuo lost no time pulling up his trunks. But Izaya did not seem at all bothered, after all there was such a thing as the majestic plural. Linguistic nuances existed for a reason. Izaya noticed a few mothers covering their children's eyes.

"Kids shouldn't be taught to be ashamed of their own bodies. After all, we're all born unclothed. And this beautiful Okinawa beach is a pure Eden!"

Shizuo shook his head. There was a limit to how much a yarn a person could spin but apparently not so much for Izaya. A couple of foreigners, armed with cameras, approached Izaya timidly and asked him in English if this was some sort of Japanese costume. Izaya beamed.

"Nihon e, yokoso! I'm sure you have heard of the Japanese public bath, this is in the same spirit! You could say it's part of the cultural experience."

Shizuo wondered what Izaya was blabbering about in English and much more so when the foreigners suddenly up and got naked themselves. Izaya switched languages and addressed the crowd.

"Everyone, let's not let our visitors from overseas feel out of place. Let us show them our legendary courtesy and undress as well."

He had changed the story many times but fortunately people in general were not too great at identifying inconsistency. And this applied tenfold to people in a strange situation. As it turned out, quite a few of the onlookers got naked and somewhere along the line, when the attention had quite shifted from him, Izaya skipped away. All the way to their towel where he had an extra speedo. Unfortunately this was in Shizuo's possession. Shizuo pointed at him.

"'Eeek, it's a naked man!'"

"Very funny, Heiwajima-san. Hand it to me."

Shizuo looked him up and down. Slowly. Izaya gave up and simply wrapped himself in the towel.

"Thought you were celebrating the human body or something like that."

"Thought you were drowning me back there or something like that."

"Nah, just stealing a kiss."

"How rude of you."

"You were the one speechifying in the nude. Got to say, you're one smart bastard. Just very afraid of sharks."

Izaya turned an instinctive glare into nonchalance.

"In evolutionary terms a response to perceived danger is preferable to not acting at all. It has a greater survival value. Our species reached absolute dominance on this planet because our ancestors assumed that the snake-like branch on their path was indeed a snake."

"'Absolute dominance', huh. Sounds very…you, I guess."

"Humans are the undisputed leaders of- get it out, get it out!"

Izaya jumped around frantically. Shizuo brushed a tiny crab from Izaya's leg.

"You were saying? Something about 'undisputed leaders'. Little crab is interested."

Red eyes narrowed briefly. Izaya turned around.

"I'm going back. Too much sun isn't good for me."

"You forgot the sunscreen."

"Why don't you go mingle with the natives while I-"

"No can do. You promised me two weeks together. And that's what I'm getting."

Izaya bought a Hawaiian printed shirt that was absolutely horrendous in its bright orange pattern and purple blossoms. But his informant senses were tingling anew. Standing out from the environment was an impediment to garnering information. He wondered if people on holidays were more likely to give things away. The fact that there was no data of actual interest on this island did not mean that Izaya did not enjoy the process of extracting it.

"Your new clothes are real different."

"Same goes for you, finally not wearing a bartender's outfit."

Shizuo wore a simple unbuttoned white shirt. They were at a beach café, Izaya sipping iced tea and Shizuo with coconut milk to which he added a dose of sugar. Izaya wrinkled his nose.

"Do you sweeten everything?"

"Sea water is bitter, I swallowed some of it from your mouth."

"I am ever so sorry for you, Heiwajima-san."

"Have you ever felt sorry for anyone?"

Izaya gazed into the distance. The mood changed.

"For my sisters. But I won't go into it. Threaten me all you want, I won't betray their privacy."

"I understand. I never had anything against Kururi or Mairu. I hope you know that. I've hated you plenty but never them."

Izaya chuckled.

"I know that full well. Rest assured you would not be alive if I had any doubts."

It was ironic that it was just when Izaya was overtly menacing that Shizuo sympathized with him.

"You like them a lot, don't you. Why do you pretend not to care?"

Izaya was silent for a while.

"What better way to assure their safety? If Orihara Izaya cares for his sisters then people may take them as hostages or otherwise harm them. But if Orihara Izaya does not care much then no one will bother."

Shizuo wished that he could look him in the eyes but presently the glass cubes in the glasses seemed to fascinate Izaya.

"Your job keeps you from being close to them."

Izaya shrugged and stretched. Too offhand to be offhand.

"Oh well, they're hardly defenseless maidens that need nii-chan to save them."

"Yeah…but I'm sure they miss you. I mean-"

"Don't be too sure about that."

Shizuo got up.

"We're going shopping."

Shizuo's idea of shopping was rather peculiar. Apparently it involved going to souvenir shops. Izaya looked at the rows and rows of postcards. Shizuo picked one.

"Neat, pretty sunset shot. What are you getting?"

"Nothing. I don't send postcards."

"That's too bad."

Izaya watched Shizuo slowly fill the empty space on his chosen postcard. Stroke after stroke.

"'Watashi'? So formal. Who are you writing to?"

"Kasuka. 'Watashi' [私] is easier to write."

"Ah, the law of least effort."

Izaya sauntered to the colorful racks of 2D landscape images and selected two.

"Thought you didn't send postcards."

"My sisters like receiving them, though."

With this said Izaya did not know at all what to write. Shizuo was hoping that Izaya would take this step.

"Better send one to Tom as well."

"Just don't mention me."

"Should I send one to Kadota too."

Izaya chuckled.

"Ask him if he's removed the high heel shoe from up his ass."

"He really rubbed you the wrong way, huh."

Izaya still had nothing on his postcards while Shizuo was already signing his.

"Your name is a perfect example of cosmic irony. Did you know that there is some speculation about the character [平] 'hei'? Scholars think that it has some affinity with scales holding weights. But this theory is not held by the majority that believe that it originally represented 'twisting water reed' and 'small', the reasoning being that the weed flattens out across the surface of the water and thus the meaning 'flat'."

"Ah…"

"And [和] 'wa' includes the characters for rice plant and mouth. The rice plant symbolizes 'pliancy' and 'softness', with the mouth character [口] it becomes 'pliant in speech', which is to say, 'accommodating and harmonious'. And of course, [島] 'shima', 'island'."

"Ah…"

"Heh, I rest my case!"

Izaya swung his legs merrily.

"But that's just the family name. It kinda describes Kasuka."

"Oh yes, I'd say Kasuka is very peaceful. But your given name is equally off and on point, if you analyze it. 'Quiet, calm': [静] 'shizu', originally 'beautiful green color'; [雄] here read as 'o', 'male', 'powerful'. The first half is a joke, the second is spot on."

Shizuo frowned. It brought his eyebrows together in a knot.

"You know stuff about everyone's name."

"Pretty much."

"Use it to pick up chicks?"

Izaya giggled.

"You'd be amazed how well it works. You should give it a go and see. Speaking of which, you talk about me but as far as I know you've never had a girlfriend either. Unless Dotachin is right and we all know that the universe would implode if that were to happen."

"You done writing?"

Changing the subject. Izaya had not even written as much as a greeting.

"I can't think of anything to say."

"Now that's new. Maybe the sun got to your head."

"What did you write?"

"Stuff about this place."

Izaya sighed. He had no interest in Okinawa's many attractions.

"I'll think up something later."

A strange superstitious thought occurred to him and he decided to deliver these postcards in hand.


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