Chapter 8 Reunited
Carli-san ripped into the hospital parking lot. Usually the one to discourage the abuse of the Konatoya family fame for personal conveniences, it came as a surprise that she pulled right up to the ambulance entrance and tossed her keys to the nearest intern to park for them. This was an emergency and she was going to take advantage of Masami-kun's privileges. The three adults rushed in the door, dragging Nori and Masami behind in confusion and reluctance, and leaving the med-student in a daze just outside it.
The lady at the desk tried to give them a hard time about visitation, pointing out that Konatoya, Ayumu-san was important and thus could not be seen by just anybody. Atsushi lifted Masami into the air just enough to be seen to grant them immediate access, and then led the group to the older brother's room. Considering his normally apathetic attitude toward most things, the bodyguard seemed to be particularly upset by the unfortunate happening. It didn't help one bit that, upon busting into the hospital room, they found the older brother unconscious. Even Masami finally understood.
A brown haired girl looked up as they came in, taking the cut by her ear away from the doctor who was trying to stitch it up because of her curiosity. She lifted a pack of ice from a swollen eye to see better and smiled at the visitors before turning her attention back to her doctor.
Also in the room was a man in his late twenties, dressed in nice casual with artificial color spiked through his hair. He was completely frazzled and immediately stopped pacing to greet the new arrivals.
"Oh, thank goodness you guys are finally here. I don't think my nerves could last much longer on my own. Every journal and news station it seems already has heard, and they all keep calling to ask if the story they heard is true. Three of them wanted to interview with Konatoya-san immediately, and she hasn't even seen her son yet. When I called her about it, she said she 'might make it over later,' but all she was really concerned with was whether or not it was bad enough to need plastic surgery. She insisted I call her beauty experts, and the boy is still unconscious. Unconscious! If his condition was even the least bit unstable, I think I would have died by now. Hospitals make me feel faint."
"Aren't those all the same things you do everyday, Kaoru-san," Masami pointed out, unimpressed. "You're our agent. That's what you do."
Carli was angry with him for the unsympathetic remark, but the family agent responded before she could get any scolding out. "True, but it is never quite the same in emergency situations, in the hospital. You really don't want to be bothered then."
Accepting the reproof as enough, Carli returned to the original question she planned on asking. "'Might come'? Seriously, what could she possibly be doing that is more important?"
"Honestly…I think she had dinner plans with that one actress."
"The lead in that new film?"
"Yes, that one. She's been talking about it all week. As far as I know, she still plans on going. Maybe she is trying to play down the seriousness of the situation by pretending she isn't worried."
"No, she's just found a way to justify the promoting of her career as more important for her progeny than actually being there for them," Atsushi noted cynically.
"And what about the father? Have you talked to him?" The nanny curiously inquired.
The agent shook his head. "He's out of town. It's probably better that way."
Nori had long grown tired of the conversation about actresses, dinners, and careers. It was all quite boring, but the machines in the corner were tempting his curiosity. He wandered away from the group, unable to resist. Noticing the doctor was finished with the girl's stitches, he tugged on the bottom of her white jacket. The doctor was perfectly happy to answer all the young boy's questions about how things worked.
She wasn't sure how to respond, however, when Nori asked, "Will he wake up if we call him?"
She struggled for words a long time but was eventually able to reply, "You can try if you want. I don't know if he will hear you, though."
"Is he deaf?" Nori demanded in shock, having instantly assumed that.
"No," the doctor assured. "No, it's just that sometimes people are sleeping so deep that they don't wake up when you call them."
"Then how do you wake them up?"
"You just keep trying, and when they're ready to wake up, they'll hear you."
Understanding now, the young boy nodded. After a short while, he began trying to rouse the unconscious celebrity. "Masami-kun's brother, wake up. It's time to get up…Get up Konatoya-san. Konatoya-san?" Hopefully, the six-year-old continued to repeat the name: Konatoya-san.
Over and over he called out quietly until it began to reach. Suddenly, Konatoya-san echoed softly through the darkness of his mind. He yearned for it, the first sign of life, and he sought to rejoin the conscious realm. But to return to the present, he had to pass by the past. Images of dark alleys, blood splatter, his phone dropping, and Hikari running flashed through his mind. The innocent calling of his name was replaced with a horrified screech of terror. He felt as if he was choking again. Then two eyes appeared above him, peering down.
It wasn't until his screaming lungs forced out a gasp that Ayumu realized he was awake. The darkness cleared away enough that he could make out the innocent child's face around the eyes and the accompanying voice announcing that he had been awoken. Taking a deep breath, he was for a moment able to relax, and then the pain began seeping back into his body. He stared at the ceiling only half alert, slightly wondering who the boy was, but mostly thinking of nothing.
The unpleasantness of the whole scenario increased when the group reacted to Nori's announcement. Instantly, he was crowded, and his pounding head throbbed even more when the questions started. He didn't really mean it, but twice he wished to be unconscious still. Had he possessed the strength, he would have sent them all away.
A relief passed over him when he heard Hikari's voice join the chorus because she was answering the questions. When Carli inquired as to what had actually happened, she explained, "I was over at Konatoya-san's apartment to study for a test, and I stayed too long. He offered to walk me home, but on the way this group of people in hoods just attacked us. They got him more, though."
"You were with him?" Carli reiterated just because she hadn't realized before. "Do you know why? Did it seem to have anything to do with who he is?"
Hikari shrugged. "I don't think so. They didn't mention it. It seemed to be just random."
"See boy," Atsushi commented, "this is why I said you should keep a bodyguard when you live on your own."
Ayumu moved a little, winced, and moaned, "I fought back, but there were too many."
Atsushi simply repeated, "That's what a bodyguard is for."
"I'm tired of being followed," the boy mumbled.
"Followed, killed, your choice."
Changing the subject, the victim inquired, "Is Okaasan here?"
"I'm sure she wanted to be," Carli answered as indirectly as possible.
"Figures," Ayumu muttered, "who knows why I even asked. Where is she? A photo shoot?"
"Dinner party," Kaoru informed once more. "But the police called. They should be here any time to question you."
"Are you going to want to talk for me?"
"If I talk to the police," the agent revealed, "I will likely tell them something that will get us arrested. I think I'd better not."
"You're rather worked up," the boy noted, amused by the frazzled fluttering the otherwise composed agent had reverted to.
"Yeah," Masami added, "aren't you supposed to be good at talking to people?"
"Yes, but police intimidate me, and hospitals make me feel woozy. I lose all my words and start blabbering nonsensically. It is so stressful on me."
Patting her fellow employee on the back, Carli agreed, "You really are just starting to spurt things out. You need to calm down. Maybe you should sit." She took him to the other side of the room where a chair awaited them, and Ayumu once more turned his attention to the first face he saw on coming out of unconsciousness.
"Who is that?" He asked the general public about Nori. "Is that your brother Hikari-san?"
"No," the girl replied, "my brother is about twice his age, and my family is stuck in traffic. He came with your family…or people."
Masami knew then he would have to answer, but he still didn't want to seem closer to his companion than he really was. "It's Kyoko-kun," he responded very formally. "He's from my school."
"But you brought him here, so you must have brought him home, which makes him a friend right?" The older brother deduced.
"Not really," the younger countered slowly and unsurely.
"Yet," Nori corrected, "not yet. But we did eat lunch together, and cook dessert together, and watch anime…"
And the annoying boy was already attached to him, the celebrity child moaned to himself. He should have known better than to start a fake friendship with someone destined to take it seriously. He had known better, but now Nori was convinced they were friends and was eternally devoted. It was the nature of his personality, attached.
That characteristic annoyed Masami, who considered it babyish and dependant. Everyone one else loved him, though. Carli had from the start. The other injured girl obviously thought he was cute. Even Ayumu seemed happier to talk to him. If his whole family already loved Nori, how was he ever going to keep it superficial and uninvolved?
It was a dark alley with puddles of water left over from some recent rain. The neighborhood was frightening making it seem strange that anyone would have been walking there at night. Yet Saburou was somehow responding to a double assault on two young people. He climbed out of his vehicle and ducked beneath the Crime Scene tape toward his partner Yamada He took a moment to glance around the site but had hardly taken anything in when Yamada came over.
"Kyoko-san," he began, "I think I've got this under control. There's not much evidence here, and the police have it secured. The thing is, the victims were in pretty bad shape, so they were rushed to the hospital before I got the chance to question them. If you could handle that, it would be great."
Shoved off on some other task yet again, Saburou unknowingly headed to the very place his son had unintentionally ended up. It was not hard to reach the hospital, and his badge served the same purpose as Masami's face had not too long before. A few moments later, he met a pair of officers waiting for him. They informed him what room they were going to and then dared to brave the mob of reporters outside the victim's door.
Carli, as concerned as she was with the successful maturing of her charge and any who might befriend him, could not help but ask Nori, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
The young visitor instantly felt the pressure of being the only one asked and sheepishly replied, "I dunno."
"Oh come on," Hikari urged, just as interested as the nanny in the response, "you have to have some sort of dream job."
Ayumu agreed, "Yeah, Hikari-san plans on working in a torture chamber for human experimentation." He shot her a glare to show he was still upset.
She quickly retorted, "And you're going to be a professional video game tester, right?"
"Not true. If I could be whatever I wanted, I would be a secret agent, like James Bond."
Instantly, his classmate broke out in laughter. "James Bond? You're hardly smart enough."
"And you're not near good enough at beating people up," Masami added mockingly. The harsh comment—particularly in the circumstances—was immediately repaid when the older bodyguard sent a glare to Atsushi who slapped the boy on the side of his head. The young celebrity began to complain, and the older bodyguard turned to scold his inconsiderateness.
Carli, hardly older that Ayumu herself, thought it necessary to reform the elder Konatoya boy. "Stop playing around like that Ayumu-kun. You're not setting a good example for your brother. You know he copies everything you do."
"Do not," Masami countered, showing he had not been listening to his own lecture. "I would never want to be a spy. It would be much neater to be an arms dealer."
That was also rewarded by a growing lump behind his ear as Atsushi reminded the celebrity why it was not a good idea to sell weapons to terrorists. Nori soon grew lost in thought as he seriously pondered the benefits of one profession over the other.
Just as soon as the bodyguard had convinced Masami to stop arguing, Nori chipped in, "But at least arms dealers get to stay with the hot ladies. Spies always have to find new ones."
There wasn't a single person there who could have expected that to come from the six year old's mouth. Masami and his brother just stared in shock. Atsushi, offended by all aspects of the suggestion, decided to punish also his charge's friend. Quickly stopping his descending fist, Carli nodded toward three newcomers in the room. Two were police, not exactly the best people to catch you beating other people's kids.
Having heard the boy's comment, the third calmly noted, "That is, until they get thrown in prison with no girls at all, Nori-kun."
The young boy responded in shock at the voice, "Chichi!"
The rest of the people seemed stunned as well that this man was the boy's father, or that he was the father of that boy. Curiously, the police turned and asked about it.
Embarrassed, Saburou admitted to the blood relation and then added, "Though I hardly expected to see him here. Where's Ichirou, Nori?"
"Ichirou-san?" Nori repeated curiously. "I haven't seen him."
"He didn't come get you? He said he would."
Nori blinked a few times in slight confusion before answering, "No." But his bewildered look quickly faded away as he inquired, "Why are you here, Chichi? Did the police bring you here?"
"That does seem very coincidental," Carli noted under her breath.
"Did they arrest you for assaulting my big brother?" Masami demanded, trying to sound all big and bad.
The question didn't exactly register with Nori's father. After all, he was also being bombarded with inquiries from his two partners. How had he gotten the Konatoya family to baby-sit for him? How did they even know the Konatoya family? Saburou was hearing all the questions, but none of them could reach him. He was currently coming to the shocking realization that he had completely forgotten about his son, that this could be constituted as neglect, and that he should be arrested for not picking his kid up from school.
Suddenly horrified by himself, the man stared at Nori, watching as the boy didn't seem to see any problem with the way his day had turned out. He hadn't seen the wrong in it either. No, not until now. A parent should never be surprised to see their child, and yet he had no clue he would meet Nori here.
As he wasn't speaking up for himself, Ayumu decided to go along with his brother's joke, adding, "No, it was a group that attacked me…but then, they were hooded, so he could be one of them."
"You hear that, Kyoko-san?" Murata continued teasing. "He identified you as a suspect."
"Hmm?" The man in question returned distantly. Reality dawning on him, Saburou turned to his son and answered, "No, I work with the police."
Nori pondered this only for a second before pointing out, "Then why don't you have the uniform and a badge like all police?"
"Because," the father responded, unsure of what to say, "I'm a special police who doesn't do the same things."
After everyone took a couple seconds to consider Saburou's vague, childish explanation and ways they could mock it, the other officer commented, "There'll be time for family reunions later. We need to ask you kids some questions about the attack."
Carli quickly gathered everyone and took them away, leaving only Kaoru with Ayumu, Hikari, and the police. Of course, Kaoru didn't want to be there, clear as he frantically picked at things that ought to be left alone, but he was supposed to be there for support. Reluctantly, he stayed seated. The victimized boy rolled his eyes. He knew the questions would be coming, but it was still so bothersome. Without being asked, and before Saburou could get out his notebook, Ayumu started the story.
It was a dark alley. Both stood just outside the entrance thinking traveling alone at night they would never take the shortcut, but together was different. Maybe they felt a little indestructible as a pair. Mostly, thought they just thought it necessary to prove their courage.
"Maybe we shouldn't," Hikari-san had suggested, taking the very words from Ayumu's lips.
"Come on, Scardy-Cat. It can't be that bad. Besides, it's faster," the boy replied, Hikari-san's thoughts exactly.
Both stood at the edge for a moment longer before actually stepping forward. Like a bad omen, it instantly began to rain. A cat jumped from a trash can to the ground to escape the wet, knocking down its lid, and Hikari-san gasped in fear. Taking advantage of her surprised fear, Ayumu began trying to psyche her out with every little noise.
Within minutes, both were terrified.
Still nothing was actually happening until Hikari-san suddenly shouted the celebrity's name. Thinking she must still be teasing, the boy thought nothing of it, simply claiming he was unafraid and would not fall for it. Then a pale face appeared behind her. Her eyes widened as she stared at the face behind him, and he quickly whirled around, right into a large rock being swung at his head.
Wincing, Ayumu stepped back, reaching a hand to the harsh scrape on his jaw that would have killed him had he waited longer to heed Hikari-san's warning. He tried to take note of the situation before the next attack, but only managed to confirm there were a lot of them.
"Get behind me Hikari-san," he muttered and then the rock came down again.
Ayumu successfully deflected the attack with his left arm and then landed a punch of his own on the attacker's face. This surprised the enemy a bit, getting him to back off, which allowed space for Ayumu to kick him as well. He fell back into his group, and the intended victim returned to his feet ready for the next attack, perhaps cocky from the ease of the first.
However, they were surrounded, and it took not even a second for the next member of the group to launch into attack. And this time, there were three of them with knives. Ayumu put up a decent defense, ducking away from some of their attempted slashes, but soon things just started happening too quickly for him.
He had gotten one knife away from an attacker—quite an accomplishment really. As he jumped back to avoid the next move, the person behind him grabbed his wrist and threw him to the ground where the knife was flung away. A foot dug into his side with a crushing weight that took his breath away.
Others followed, long before he would have gotten the chance to stand. His back also, and head, and ribs, and arms when he raised them to protect himself and…He still felt the pain of them all, but soon he could no longer distinguish one from the next. Voices began to blur together. The world was mostly stopped. Light reflected on the puddles of water disrupted by their boots as a mix of blood and rain dripped down Ayumu's face.
Hikari-san screamed. It reached into his semi-conscious state, pulling him unsteadily to his feet. Two of the hooded gangsters had turned their attention to her. Without a second thought for himself, the young man charged right in after her. One guy easily elbowed Ayumu in the abdomen. Stumbling back from the pain, he fell to his knees, unable to accomplish anything.
Someone else lifted him up by the arm. With such assistance, he could reach out and grab Hikari-san's attacker again, demanding that she be left alone. The man waved Ayumu's hand from his shoulder as if it was nothing more than a small pest. Not considering that an acceptable response, the celebrity punched him in return.
It was at this point that Ayumu realized the person currently holding him up was not helping, but rather an enemy, as he too began punching the outnumbered boy. Now certain they wouldn't get out of this alone, Ayumu backed away a couple steps, pulled out his phone, and discretely began dialing the numbers for the police. A couple steps proved to not be far enough, however, as they were soon upon him again. As he attempted to defend himself from their attacks, the phone was thrown from his hand with only part of the number dialed.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Kaoru noted as he tried to hold back his gag reflex. He had to be there, though, to know what to tell the press later. He had interrupted the recounting of the attack, but no one seemed to mind. Kyoko was behind in his notes anyways.
After waiting a moment to be sure no one else wanted to comment on something, Ayumu continued, "The last thing I remember is being forced against a wall. I could see his face, but I can assure you, I can neither describe nor identify it. He had me by the throat, so I could no longer breathe. Others were closing in too. Maybe they hit me; maybe they didn't. From this point, it's all real fuzzy. I do remember Hikari-san starting to run. And…that's it."
"Thank you, Konatoya-san, that was very detailed," Saburou thanked after finishing his notes. He was appreciative of the thorough story after the last boy he questioned, but still it was missing some essential information. "Are you sure you can't recall anything about the appearance of any of the gang?"
The boy shrugged. "They were all average height. The all wore dark clothes and dark hoods. It was like they went out planning to mob someone."
"Do you think perhaps…because of who you are, they were looking for you?"
"Me?" The celebrity practically laughed. "I had my hat on. They wouldn't recognize me anymore than I could them, especially at night. And with how far I was from my house, I don't think so."
"All right. Thank you, we're done; though, if I have more questions, I may come ask you later." That was how Saburou concluded with the oldest Konatoya son. Then, he brought Hikari back in and said, "Okay, your turn. How did this night go?"