Their family was already starting before they knew it.
But they wouldn't let it happen.
The Blue Flame and his offspring were growing far too difficult to handle. With the death of Magnum and Vincent, by the hands of Tarble, they realized that they needed to stop Don's kid from reproducing and any further building be halted. Rumors of Akari and Noel's wedding was far spread, due to how Don's men were gossiping about it and those outside of the base were invited to it. Their friends and family were preparing for it, the two of them having learned at such an early age that they were meant for each other. And the child growing and attached to Akari's energy only spurred that further along.
But just like that it was all torn apart. As the raven haired demon was making his way down the aisle and all eyes were upon him, both men could only stare at one another. A future was in both of their eyes and they couldn't wait to see where it led them. There had been plans of moving in together and figuring out their lives together with what they wanted to do. With how Noel would live while at Akari's side. They had everything figured out, so there weren't any regrets or second thoughts as Akari made it up by the podium, Don handing his son off to Noel without even an ounce of hesitation on his end. This was the man that even Don could appreciate and allow into his family without any distrust in mind.
The vows were being said, Noel growing flustered as he spoke his feelings aloud, something he never really did unless in front of his friends or Akari. Being mushy wasn't normal for them, but it was all pouring out as Noel declared his love for Akari, how much he meant to him. That during all their hardships, Noel just knew that in his heart, he only wanted to keep Akari safe and love him the way that he deserved to be. And as tears shed from the demon's eyes, a loud crack rang out as a bullet whizzed by. It was aimed right for Akari, threatening to rip a hole through his skull and end his life in a split second.
It was Noel who had moved first, sheltering Akari with arms wound tight around his body and the bullet found his head as Akari's was nestled right into his chest. And they dropped to the ground together, screams echoing throughout the room and anger engulfed them all. But more than that, never had more tears been shed as an unbelievable amount of sorrow enveloped Akari's entire being. After being kidnapped, raped and tortured... he was finally getting back to a normal mentality. His face was nearly done being mended, if not for a bit of teeth still sticking past his skin and gums, Noel having healed him from the inside out when it came to mental and physical scars.
But now, Noel's heartbeat vanished in that mere moment, leaving Akari utterly and completely alone.
How could someone comfort someone with such a great loss? Especially when the trauma was so great that the baby that the two of them shared had been lost due to the sheer amount of stress and depression that followed? How could his parents make it all better? They tried there best, but there was only so much they could do. How could his friends tell him it would be okay? When everyone still had their partner and he was the odd one out in gatherings? All he could think about was Noel and the baby they lost as time rolled on. It had to go on.
As the weeks turned into months and shortly a few years, Akari had found himself growing distant from his friends and family alike. He still spoke to them and came out to see them when requested, but he never spoke much. His face was covered with a mask, hiding his physical scars much like before and that shine in his teal eyes had dulled out to nothingness. After the loss of his belated love, he worked hard, training under Tarble until it was time to work more with his father. Now as he grew up, he looked almost identical to his father, their structures more alike than before, with broad shoulders and tall height. He was his father's spitting image now, having grown out of his baby face he had gotten from Akito.
Now the man stood tall at his father's side as don, the two of them working together. Akari was made head of another division: The Ember Division beneath the Flame Division. While Akari no longer smiled or showed joy, there was a hint of closeness between them now that they worked together. As if the connection he was having with his dad meant more to him than either of them really realized. Having such a strong father figure helped him continue on and push past the pain and weakness he had before. He was finally able to put those bottles of pills down that once numbed the pain.
Akari stood before the people lined up before him, a division made just for himself. People that would refer to him as don. He was their leader, not his father. Men and women alike looked to him, showing respect as he stepped out in front of them. A black suit lined his body, a dark grey button up nestled beneath the coat that laid over his shoulders. But most identifying to him was the black mask that covered his face, covering up the scarred tissue of his face that hadn't finished healing, due to Noel's death. The man's lips parted open from beneath his mask, his voice now coming out almost like a thunderous boom that demanded attention. Though his voice came off dominant, there was also a hint of honey to his tone, a slight accent covered by the presence he commanded in those in the room.
"Those of you here today have been handpicked and chosen for the Ember Division. A lot of you are capable fighters and brave intellectuals that I plan to use to the fullest of your potential. From this day forth, we will move forward with our operations. You've been briefed of our enemy, the rival dons that have taken up a stance against us." The very same men that plotted Noel's death and the ones that would be killed by his own hands. Revenge had fueled him, that rage fluttering in his stomach, yet controlled, just like his master had taught him. "I look forward to seeing what all you can do. A small squad will be made up for field assignments, you'll be working closely with me. Make sure if you're interested, you put your name out there. Prove to me you're worth taking along with me. You are dismissed." He heard the cries of 'yes sir' ring out as he stepped down from the stage and moved past a few of his close men that had once worked with his father and now were trusted with him.
Time was of the essence, he had to find the ones responsible for the pain he had to endure.
That was what really mattered to the man at the end of the day: upholding his end of the deal. It would do no good to the mighty name of the Karlan Trade if he were to under perform in his role. His role to serve this dull ember.. he would do his best not to disappoint, so to speak. So when it was called upon for being interested in doing this dirty work, he felt that he was called by name, essentially. Ash was the only one fit for the job, so to speak. So when the ember found himself weaving past his men, Ash stood in his way.
"Don," he began frankly. It was his title and he would be addressed as such. "It is an honor to serve you on the Ember Division. I don't believe we've been formally introduced, my codename is Ash." Just as Don worked in alias, so did Silverash. "I do not know if you've gone over my accolades much. I will repeat a couple here, if only for context behind my interruption here." His arms began to fold behind him as he spoke.
"West City, 1998. There was an outbreak from a science lab, monstrosities said to be unholy machinations of test tubes. You never heard of it." His eyes glanced to the Don. "I wiped it from existence before it could become an event." Then he began to pace to the side. "Central City, 2005. I was part of a small militia that stormed the streets whenever there was an underground drug ring that my employer wanted snuffed out. No survivors.. no conspirators." He then paced to the other side. "Paprikatown, 2013. I was sent alone as a set up to have me killed. I was surrounded by thirty men with firearms aimed for my head." He looked to Don, pausing his pacing.
"I assume you can already see the results of such folly." He then turned his front fully to Don. "I give my loyalty to those who would give me loyalty.. and wrath to those who seek my blood. So to that end, if you seek to give me refuge and money, I seek to destroy what you want me to destroy." His eyes narrowed slightly as he looked into the Don's eyes. "And.. you indeed seek to destroy."
The rival dons that have taken a stance against this man. That was the goal and he was merely the blade that would carve a way forward for the don. "I would love to aim my blade for the throats of the men that have wronged you. Even if the battle may be meaningless, if you find meaning, I will not question." He needed someone cold and ruthless, did he not? Ash had fallen under such a category as well. So he kept his stare firmly on Don with a small smile. "Might we discuss the mission's inner workings a bit more.. intimately?"
Akari hadn't truly expected to be stopped so abruptly after the speech, but he was surprisingly happy to see it happen. The don stopped in place, arms weaving over his own chest as he let those teal eyes watch the man that stopped him and placed his own arms behind his back. It was a sign of respect and openness, something that the demon didn't really expect to receive from new employers so soon. The man of vanilla hair named himself, or rather, gave his codename. "Ash," the don repeated. "Go on." He allowed the man to speak, even though he was certain that Ash wouldn't exactly give him a choice in the matter, until he was at least heard.
A few mentions and dates were given, events that went on in the works of dark cells of the city and things that Akari wouldn't even know about. Not only because of his age, but because they were dealt with before they reached public ears. The man's prowess was displayed on the table and ended with a mark of betrayal, to some extent. A mission given to him which ultimately was set up to be his final one. But as Akari could see, the man made it out alive. A faint smile lifted beneath the mask on the don's face, finding interest in it all.
And when their eyes met, Ash discovered the treacherous intentions lurking behind his gaze. The pain and crave for revenge. Many had already assumed it and known, but never spoke of the matter, if only to not anger the don. Because his rage had been a mighty one, hidden in the depths of his broken soul. Despite knowing that the path that Akari was walking towards would be filled with blood at his feet and dragged back by his heels, Ash offered his services - no, his loyalty for any sort of goal he had. So long as he was paid at the end of the day, he'd have this expert at his side to make sure his dream was realized.
"Even knowing what sort of path I walk on... you offer your service." Not many could read Akari, while they knew he wanted revenge, they didn't understand at what lengths he would go to make it a reality. He had a list of those that had been working to conspire in his and his father's death for some time now. Magnum, Vincent -- they were taken care of, but there were more heads that needed to roll. The ones solely responsible for Noel's death. Ash followed up that he wouldn't even question any sort of orders, he'd blindly follow on this path meant for the wicked and then offered for them to discuss the mission in privacy.
It had been a while since someone spoke to him like that. Not that he took it as flirting, no, but everyone had been walking on eggshells around Akari ever since his wedding that became a funeral. They hadn't known how to approach him, let alone speak in such a manner to him. And surprisingly, Akari didn't mind it. "Yes, we'll talk more in my office. I think you're just the man I'm looking for." The demon rose a single hand, a signal for the men at his side to leave them before he led Ash down the hall he had been making his way toward before he had been stopped.
The door opened before them, a lavish room awaiting them. His gothic interest since high school had followed him into adulthood, a black and dark azure theme awaiting them. With a soft sigh, the don collapsed onto the sofa nearby, a bottle of alcohol and a few glasses already lined up on the table for them. He poured himself a glass, the red whine filling itself to the brim before he rose those teals toward the man who stood at the ready. "Care for a glass?" He offered and followed up with the action if he had accepted, otherwise he leaned back on the sofa afterward.
A single leg crossed over the other as he leaned back with a sigh and let the liquid vigor fuel him as he let his eyes drift to a close. "I plan to take out many famous heads of the underworld, powerful ones that have escaped various radars in the past." Lifting an arm, he pushed a folder across the table for the man to take a look at. "Many have been after my father's head, but this folder... are the ones after mine." And surprisingly enough, Akari's folder was stacked with more papers of those after him than his own father's.
The next generation was strong indeed, thanks to Tarble.
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Ash had gotten the man's attention. A strong first impression, that was the goal and he had achieved it handily. Within seconds, he was being invited to the man's office and walking in with a smile. He began to sit across from the Don, giving a gentle, respectful nod. "That'd be quite nice," he answered as he finally sat down, wine glass now in hand thanks to the kindness of this new Don. Then he began to reveal he was going to take out the famous heads of the underworld.. specifically the ones that were after his head.
His eye twitched at the folder that was so.. thick. He knew of men that had enemies, but considering how many enemies this kid had and he was still left standing. No, that face of his told tales, there was no doubt about it. This wasn't just some rich kid, he had some real enemies. "I see. If I may?" His finger tips graced the top of the folder, sliding it further his way and bringing the folder to an open. He began to look through some of the files. There were files on a man named 'Magnum' and another man named 'Vincent', but they had crimson 'X's put over their faces.
It didn't take a genius to put two and two together. They were dead, taken out by someone else that worked for this Don. Then he brought his attention to the first living target. He was a man known as 'Carbine'. There was quite the lengthy history behind this man.. slave trafficking, drug rings, and plenty of murders. It was the usual scumbag shit, but.. there were sources that said they had information of the Don's true identity and did things to sabotage his close loved ones?
Ash had to wonder about this one, so he tapped his finger on the portrait. "This one." He slid the paper to Don, showing the man he meant. "What do you plan to do with him? It seems like he has some evidence of who you are.. he comes across as fairly dangerous. What should we do with him?" He asked it so matter-of-factly, truth be told. It only showed just how unquestionable his loyalty was. It didn't matter what the Don was willing to do, Ash was going to follow his orders no matter what they may be.
"When faced with this kind of situation, I think acting sooner rather than later may be key to snuffing this threat out. Even if they haven't managed to take any lives, it may be in your best interest to beat him to the punch and kill him right here and now." Immediate murder with no questions asked, it was just the best way to keep his client alive. He began to flip out a cigarette, about to light it up.. only to realize he didn't even bring his lighter in here. "You happen to have a light, Don?"
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When asked if he could take a closer look, a small wave of the hand was made in a gesture, to allow his new partner to take a look at those they'd be after. The files were flipped through and Akari continued to drink from his glass, though he had ensured that Ash had been sitting on the other side of him: where his flesh had still been kept in place. The scars were hidden in Ash's blind spot and it was something he apparently wanted to keep that way, as he pulled the mask back on when looking back towards the man when directed to a specific portrait.
Teal eyes roamed over the image and brief information, Carbine's name coming across in vivid letters. He nodded his head and leaned back in the sofa once again, letting a small sigh exhale from past his nose. "He's the highest priority, yes. With him knowing my true identity and with everything that had happened a year ago..." He trailed off, a clear anger hidden there, but he didn't seem to bring much up to the surface. "I need to make sure no further information is found or leaked, so that another tragedy doesn't occur." Surprisingly, he didn't show worry about his own life, but rather, those that had obviously been close to him: people that were never even seen around him.
It became abundantly clear that he was holding them at arms length for the sake of their own safety.
"Killing him before he can do a thing, yes, that's what I believe we should do." Their minds had been alike on the options on the table, that there had only been a single clear one that should have been made. The man knew too much and that was always something that came with a price of one's life. A cigarette was soon lifted and placed between Ash's lips, only for the man to seem to realize that he hadn't brought the most important essential for it - a lighter. A low chuckle rumbled in the demon's throat as he leaned forward after being asked for a light and he brought his arms forward.
One of his hands cupped around one of Ash's, as if protecting the cigarette from any breeze that would rush by, while his other rose toward the tip of the cancer stick and this thumb slid across his middle finger in a single 'snap'. An azure flame grew to lift at the tip of this thumb, fluttering faintly under the ceiling fan that spun above them. The flame burned at the tip of the cigarette before letting it burn to red as it lit and brought the cigarette to life. "There." Despite the closeness, his tone had come off somewhat of a whisper, as if the moment had been far more sensitive than it needed to be. As he leaned back, he pulled out a miniature communicator and punched in a few buttons, watching as the screen lit up with coordinates and information gathered from those in intel.
"It appears Carbine has finally stopped movements after his most recent drug ring and laid low due to police getting a whiff of his involvement. Looks like he'll be a lot easier to find."
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His hand was cupped by Akari's slightly, protecting the cigarette's tip from any sort of breeze before the ember lit his own finger ablaze, letting it burn at the tip of his cigarette. Ash inhaled slightly, letting it burn properly before he pulled away. He pulled the cancer stick from between his lips, letting smoke waft through the air as he smiled at the man. "My thanks." Then he began to look down at the file again while Akari went through his communicator. This guy.. he had done some pretty dreadful fucking things, hadn't he? A real scumbag, he was.
Don was quick to mention that Carbine had stopped his movements due to the police getting an idea of where he might be. It was better that they got to Carbine before the police managed to step in-- Ash wasn't keen on allowing their mark to simply get away or anything. So he began to take a puff of his cigarette again before speaking. "So we go in. We go to the place Carbine's at right now, we storm his little shindig, we take his head and we make it roll. In and out job if we can make everything go smoothly."
This Don had a lot of enemies and managed to come out on the other side alive. Maybe not well, but he was alive. That counted for a lot and it made Ash confident that he was putting his faith somewhere proper. Once everything was said and done, Ash cracked his neck. "Do you have any idea where he might be right now? If we have a beat on him, we should do a few preparations for armor and gear then head out as soon as we can. Who knows when we'll get a chance like this again."
This was yet another facet of Ash's personality: he didn't bullshit around. If there was a task that needed to be completed and he had the necessary tools to bear fruit on such a thing, that was exactly what he was going to do. So with that, he offered a smile. "But.. even this Carbine is small potatoes, is he not? The folder is pretty thick. He's just the tip of the iceburg, but we'll send a message out to the other dons with this little snap back." The tip of the creature's fingernail began to dig into the face of the don on the paper.
"Carbine shall merely be the first to fall. Any target you send me after, I will kill without hesitation. I want you to understand that." He felt like it was something he had to make clear with his clients. Most would hesitate of giving him big missions at first because they wanted the man to prove himself. He wouldn't be alive if he couldn't handle the big jobs though, that was a given every single time he went into battle. "Shall I go alone or will you be accompanying me on this little milk run?"
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Ash found interest in getting this errand done, to go in and take the head of the don to send a message and get out. Akari had to admit that he liked the sort of work he gave, even with wanting to get it done right away, if his location was known. "I like you," the demon admitted aloud and let his gaze wander to the indent made on Carbine's photo. "I'm a man that likes to get shit done." With a few more clicks to the communicator, he sat it down on the table for Ash's eyes to see. "I have another, so feel free to use this one. On it is data of each don, where their past hideouts have been and where they've last been seen. We have him pinpointed here." His knuckles gently tapped against the screen before retracting his hand.
Because it had been a drug ring, he was held up in an abandoned warehouse. And while it often came off as cliché, those sorts of places were often used for drugs or kidnapping before they were moved elsewhere. He was then asked if he'd be coming along, to which the demon nodded his head. "I'll be coming along with every mission, if anything... I want you to always be at my side." It must have been strange for a don to not hold much security over who he allowed close to him, but in the same breath, Akari already felt like a dead man.
His life, it held no meaning but bringing these men down, all so his soul could rest with Noel's. And if he was cut down early or back stabbed -- he'd just make it at his side early.
"I'm looking for someone." While he knew a lot of them had been interconnected and worked together on bringing the plan to fruition, he also knew that only a single one of them made the order and sat back in his office while it happened for him. Someone had been pointing their finger and he wanted to tear it off himself. "I need information from our targets to find them... but this one may be a bit tricky." His index finger tapped against the folder filled with papers as his eyes found Ash's once more. "I want every single one of them dead." There had been a deeper meaning behind it, not just because they were targeting Akari's head, but because of what they had taken from him.
"I want them dead and I want to be there to see the life drain from their eyes." Teal eyes slowly began to burn brightly, a spark seeming to return that had been lost for so long now.
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So this Don was someone who liked to get his hand dirty, liked to put himself directly into the fray. Ash didn't quite mind that either, it showed a bit of that reverse loyalty that he really enjoyed. Being able to fight side by side with the person that you're working with, being able to feel the effort that they put in right alongside you.. that was the kind of stuff that he really loved. It definitely made him feel like he was playing for the right team right now. So he was going to be at the man's side.
"If that is what you wish, Don." Then it came out that he was looking for someone, that he was going to need information from the targets that they had in this folder to get that information, but in the end.. they were all going to die. There was a tale of revenge in those eyes, but like all very good secrets, it was wrapped behind chains and locks that he could not hope to get the key to at the present moment. All he could do was follow him in this fiery path to revenge and hope that he didn't get burned.
"Then it seems we have our game plan." He grabbed at the communicator that he was given, pocketing it for the moment to analyze the data that he was given later. "Then our goal will be that abandoned warehouse off the edge of the city. Fine by me." With that, Ash finished off his cigarette and threw the bud away in the trashcan, having burnt out all that he could. "Just say the word and we can head out whenever you'd like. I'm ready to crack some skulls open."
Once again, he was no bullshit on this front. He was ready to commit some real atrocities in the name of his new Don. So as they headed out of the room, he brought his gaze down to Don. "So.. you want it done slowly." THat was part of what he was getting out of this particular conversation. He wanted to see the life slowly drain away from the eyes of the victims that they were going to rack up. "How do you want it done? Shall I slit their throats and let you see the blood pool? Or perhaps keep them in a chokehold as you talk, allow you to get your illest thoughts out against them as they struggle for breath?"
Psychotic? Maybe to some, but for Ash, it was just another day on the job. He did not stutter, he did not skip a beat, he barely even flinched as he kept moving forward against what all of anyone's human instincts would be screaming. Ash was killing intent incarnate when it came to a man he was loyal to, so wherever Carbine was, in whatever corner of that abandoned warehouse that he was skulking about in, he better watch his back. Don and Ash were about to be on their way, and if their conversation was any indication...
... it wasn't going to be pretty.
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Everything that Akari wished for, he was going to be granted. Not that Ash held position over him, but he could have easily walked away after hearing everything that he had planned. Could have decided that he didn't want to walk on his blood soaked path with him and give up before there wasn't any turning back. But rather, Ash was prepared to get started now. So he rose from his seat alongside the other, moving out of the room and through the halls of the underground hideout that had been in separate quarters from his parents'. He was living on his own now, with his own hideout to live in and while he was often lonely after the loss of those most important to him, he was starting to find his footing again.
Not for the sake of moving on, but to find revenge and finally rest in his own grave. He was tired, far too tired.
A question reached his ears about how he wanted it done, either with a slash to the throat and watch their blood pool or to be held in a choke hold while Akari let off some sort of speech to get off his chest. "I want him to see the face of the man... who's life he ruined before he dies." It was the same for every other that they were going to be facing. He wanted them to know that they had fucked with the wrong person and that they were now paying for it. Their footsteps echoed down the hall before they reached the elevator, which took them to the top level, or rather ground level within a bustling bar.
A scanner had been there, suggesting that only those with the right key could be allowed inside, let alone to see the elevator, because the moment they stepped off, the elevator closed into the wall itself and disappeared. "I don't care how they die... so long as they suffer and know it's my face they'll see last." Little did he know that the person he wanted revenge for the most, was likely watching on in sorrow over what had become of Akari. The world he had fallen into and the darkness that grasped hold of his heart and mind.
He was broken and he just wanted everyone else to disappear with him at the end of the day.
The warehouse soon came into sight, the night sky hanging overhead and giving them cover as they moved throughout the shadows. A few voices were heard around the corner of the building, a few grunts working as guards to ensure that nobody snaked inside. But for Akari, he wasn't exactly planning on leaving any survivors. The demon skulked forward with Ash in tow, his hands closing in around the sides of one of their heads before twisting in a single motion and snapping their neck. Without hesitation, he thrust the body into the neighboring brush and dusted his hands off, as if they had been covered in filth by what he had touched, all while Ash dealt with the second guard.
A dim light was seen within the higher risen windows of the building and a low growl rumbled in his throat at the mere scent that he caught from within. "He's there." He murmured, his canine senses taking over as he basically sniffed out his prey.
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Ash had followed his Don into the elevator as they rose up to a bustling bar. He followed silently, letting the man gather his thoughts as he spoke. He finally stated that he didn't care much on how they actually died, but rather that they should suffer and that the last face that they ever get to see would be Akari's. That was what mattered in the end, which caused Ash to nod. "As you wish, so it shall be." It was as simple as that for the man, after all. Akari wanted this to be done a certain way, so it was going to be done.
As they began to make their way toward the warehouse with the night sky serving as slight cover, they began to move. Much like shadows without a body prancing in the dark, they moved swiftly and soundlessly, not bothering to leave any noises in their wake as they approached some guards. Don was quick to snap of of their necks without hesitation, Ash quickly appearing behind one of the guards and snapping his neck as well. It wasn't a matter of copying Don, but rather it being the cleanest method of killing the bastards without a mess.
Once they got the bodies into the bushes, Don began to state that he was in there. Ash nodded. "Then he is yours." He began to move to the door of the warehouse, letting out a sigh as he tried to keep his composure. It had been a good while since he got to do this kind of work, so was it bad that he was a bit excited about this? With a swift movement, the sole of his boot smashed against the door and broke it off of its hinges, only for his firearm to come up and aim for the first head he saw. "Don't move!" But of course, they moved.
Guns were instantly aimed for Ash as bullets began to fire, prompting Ash to take cover behind the door way. Now Akari and Ash were on either side of the doorway, waiting for some kind of lull in the gunfire. While they waited, Ash looked to his Don. "They have to reload sometime.. and it sounds like they're getting through their bullets pretty damn fast. Once the gunfire lulls, I'll go in first in case they're trying to fake us out."
Immediately, he was ready to take a bullet. "But if they are truly reloading, I got a glance. The guy in your picture is in the middle behind the sofa in the warehouse. There is a guard on each side of him-- we take out the guards first with ease and then we can overwhelm Carbine with numbers. Does that sound good to you or do you have a different plan in mind?" The gunfire was immediately making it a little hard to think, but he had to believe that most of the information that he was putting out was on track so far at least.
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The two of them made it to the front doors, Ash taking a moment to breathe before the door was slammed into by his boot and broken into with relative ease. Bullets started to fly, the two men sliding across the floor and behind some of their wares on either side of the door. Ash on the left and Akari on the right. The don's back pressed to the boxes as he glanced towards Ash and the rain of bullets that pelted past them, as if by some miracle they'd be hit. A plan was hatched, that the moment that the bullets stopped for a time to reload, he'd go first, just to make sure that it wasn't some sort of false sense of security. Ash was prepared to take a bullet for him already, causing the demon's eyes to widen at the sound of it.
"So long as you follow one simple order from now on," Akari began, his eyes holding a seriousness in them. "Don't die." Anything else that Ash did, he wouldn't truly mind. Any other order was meaningless, other than killing the targets and staying alive by the end of it. The man that Akari was after was behind a sofa in the back, two bodyguards on either side of him. They'd just need to rush in and take them out and soon overwhelm Carbine with their number and power. A nod of the head was made and while it seemed like a rush job, it wasn't one that Akari minded.
"I'll trust your judgement, Ash." While Ash showed his loyalty to Akari, he was going to show the trust that he had in return.
Akari's back slowly pressed against the boxes as he eased himself into a kneeling position, preparing himself to rush out when Ash gave the signal. And they'd start to hear it, the rush of bullets pelting by starting to wain and soon a few soft clicks echoing, which suggested they were starting to reload. It wasn't all at the same time, but the firepower was weakening, suggesting that they were all in the midst of reloading within the few seconds of each other. Akari nodded to Ash and slowly inched his way to the corner, ready to rush out in case something went wrong and also in preparation to storm Carbine.
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He was supposed to follow one simple order: Don't die.
It went against what Ash was meant to believe, what he was raised up to believe. He was one who was considered a martyr, that if he were loyal to someone, he would damn near die for them if it came down to it. But this man, this Don, was actively telling him not to die. To not try and put his life on the line, or rather, cherish it as more of an asset. Just who was this new man that he was serving.. and where the hell did he come from?
"Got it," he stated bluntly as he began to close his eyes and listen. There was a lull in the gunfire, rather there were some that began to reload while others were still firing down. They were beginning to reload within seconds of one another, so they were just going to have to take their shot shortly here. So once the gunfire lulled down just a tiny bit more, Ash was the first to rush in. "I said don't move!" It was boldly declared as his pistol came up to the first guard who had finished reloading, an aim sent out to try and kill him on the spot.
However, Ash was just a smidge quicker and pulled on the trigger, letting the bullet rip through the air and pierce straight through the guard's skull without a second thought. Blood and viscera began to splatter across the wall behind the guard as his limp body fell to the ground, completely lifeless now. Ash was ready to bring it down on Carbine, but before he could aim the gun at the Don, a bullet rang out and aimed for his heart. Ash had superior reaction time, getting his arm in the way.
The bullet dug its way into his flesh, causing him to let out a wince. It caused him to hesitate slightly as the other guard finally began to reload his own gun, Carbine aiming down his sights toward Ash. "I don't know who the hell you are, but you sure as hell chose the wrong guy to fuck with, that's for sure." A shrill laugh could be heard from the base of the man's throat as he readied himself to put a bullet in Ash's skull, sending the mercenary down into an early grave in an instant.
401 / 2,918
The lull in gunfire slowly became evident and Ash finally had the right reaction time to leap out of his hiding spot and rush right for Carbine and his guards. Akari waited briefly before he began to make his way out of hiding and toward where Ash had taken off. As he neared the scene, he started to notice everything happening as it moved in slow motion before his very eyes. The bullet was aimed for Ash's heart, the man quickly moving away, but with that small ounce of hesitation, a gun was pointed right for his head in preparation of killing him.
Teal eyes widened briefly and shook in place, a small torment of the past echoing in his head. That gunshot and Noel covering him with the entirety of his body. His nearly made husband's brain staining the floor as they collapsed into it in one another's arms. The flash disappeared from his mind, but Akari's teeth grit almost immediately as he heard those words about fucking with the wrong person.
A loud splatter would soon echo throughout the room and the eyes of the don and his guards would lower to the entryway, where bodies of his men were now glittered across the floor. Their bodies had been mulled, as if torn apart by some sort of creature, yet the person responsible couldn't be seen. That's when a low voice echoed near Carbine's ear as a single voice spoke. "I believe that's my line." And within an instant, his claw arm ripped clean through Carbine's back, piercing past his stomach until his innards and entrails began to splatter to the ground. Akari watched as those fingers twitched on the trigger of the gun that was aimed for Ash's head and the demon parted open his lips, a single cloud of smoke exiting from his mouth.
And soon the guard was engulfed in sapphire flames, the metal of the gun melting almost instantaneously as he dropped to the ground. The body of the don dropped to the ground and Akari's boot kicked into him as he forced the man to sprawl across his back and stare up at the face of the man who was now glaring down at him. "Remember me?" Blue flames burned brightly behind him, fluttering wildly in the wind that rushed in from outside and the metal doors slammed into the walls in the foreground. The demonic claw at his side twitched, Carbine's blood dribbling down his arm and fingertips as it splattered to the ground at his feet.
"Your corpse will be the mere signal fire, a warning that I'm here." The demon's arm slowly lifted, his index finger pointing for his head before a beam of ki shot out and cut through his skull and brain -- killing him instantly. Slowly, teal eyes turned towards Ash, who was likely wondering why his services were even required, so he decided to speak. "My power.. increases the angrier I am." He lifted a hand, his fist tapping against the man's chest. "Don't get yourself killed and maybe you'll have some fun next time." It wasn't disappointment in his tone, but a playful jest, something that he hadn't done in quite a while.
538 / 4,517
It had happened all at once for the creature.
He had seen many things. He, himself, was demonic by nature after all. He'd be a fool to believe the members of the Karlan Trade were the only ones in existence, and yet when he was staring one in the face, it was fairly difficult to hide away all of his shock. A clawed hand rended Carbine's body and tore him asunder, causing the body of the men to hit the ground in multiple pieces. Ash's eyes were widened ever so slightly at the sight of it, thrown off, confused..
Yet respectful. Carbine groaned out in pain as he tried to get his innards back inside of him, trying to cling onto a small sliver of life that he had left. Yet those words were not lost on him. THis was a warning that he was here. Then suddenly, a beam shot right through his skull, sending him to his hellish afterlife. Ash stared at his Don for a moment, getting himself an explanation of the power that was tied to the emotion of anger. He was showing that he wanted Ash to have some actual fun next time.
"Oh man.." Part of the man had to wonder what exactly he got himself into with this one, but another part of him was lucky to have such a don on his side. He had the sinking feeling that being sent out to target this one might have easily been his last assignment had luck not been on his side. But luck was indeed on his side in more ways than one, leaving the warehouse behind them along with the bodies. As they began to make their way back to the hideout, Ash looked to the sky.
"That.. was a bit too easy, don't you think?" He had to tease a little bit here. "Here I was thinking that I was going to have to baby sit some rich kid, but instead, I'm being protected by someone who already has plenty of a good head on his shoulders. I have to admit, I really like that feeling for some reason." It was nice. It was warm. So by the time they were making it back to the hideout, it felt like they could relax just a little bit. "But.. I also think I have a slight grasp on you. That man, Carbine, was not meant for me."
They began to make it into the hideout as he spoke. "There are bigger marks.. fish to try, so to speak. This was just an appetizer, you haven't even begun to show me the other courses to this meal that you've so feverishly prepared for me. Am I about right on that one?" They didn't get any information, they just stopped someone who happened to have information on him. Was it related to the case or was it just a mark that needed to be taken down before he squealed? It didn't matter, what was done was done.
"So now what?"
506 / 3,424
Akari had made his way down the stairs with Ash, who was surprised by the don he was handpicked to serve. He wasn't just some run of the mill rich kid that needed babysat. He was a man that could take care of himself, but wasn't afraid to ask for help when he knew it was needed. But despite that, Ash seemed happy in knowing that his expectations had been risen. "I'm glad, because we haven't even started yet." As they traversed back to the hideout, Ash began to question if Carbine was even for him, that perhaps it was just the appetizer to something much greater.
An amused smile found itself on Akari's face from beneath his mask, his eyes closing a brief moment as he spoke. "Yes. You see.. every single person in that folder is connected. They've all wronged me and brought about a tragedy. They all worked together, but there was only one mastermind. Carbine... was the cowardice shit that gathered information and shared it, all while hiding away in hopes that he wouldn't be found out." The two of them crossed into the bar, the sound of their boots hitting against the wooden planks as they passed by the patrons and bartender. Many looked there way, considering they had also worked for Akari, making this place appear normal and protecting it.
As they descended back into the hideout, he was asked what happened now and the demon turned to face the man. "Do you naturally heal?" Gloved fingers of the don closed around the man's arm, lifting it as he looked over the wound that bled out across the overcoat of Ash. Gently, those sapphire flames began to lick at the skin of the feline, closing up the wound with relative ease, so even if it naturally would heal, it was speeding up the process in the long run.
Teal eyes slowly lifted, gazing into silver that were looking back at him. "Your living quarters was set up while we were out. Feel free to get some rest, or get a drink up above if you'd rather. Get some rest, I'll have our agenda set up in the morning. Next time we head out, we may not be back here for a while and will likely need to find other places to rest for nights. We have a journey ahead of us." A hidden smile was given behind that mask before he released the man's arm and began to move forward.
He had a lot of paperwork to get done and everything would be listed out: the don's names, their crimes and latest locations. Along with being ranked from weakest to strongest. "Get some rest, Ash." At least one of them needed to anyway. Akari didn't sleep, not much anymore at least.
467 / 4,984
He had to admit that he really enjoyed the thought of this not being over with one shot. Something about that put some genuine excitement in his step, put some energy behind his actions. He had all but forgotten the pain that was throbbing dully in his arm, Don asking if he healed naturally. He allowed the Don to look at it, but he smiled. "Yes, my people.. the Karlan Trade. Our bodies--" He cut himself off for a moment, then spoke again. "We have a healing factor that allows us to be able to come back from near death. So don't worry, I wasn't just taking the bullet to shield you.. I could shrug it off too."
Yet with what he was seeing, it looked like the Don would have been able to do the same thing. His flames were gentle enough to lick at his wound, closing it with extreme ease. Don then gave him the go ahead to get some rest. Ash decided to nod along. "As you say. See you tomorrow then, Don." He gave a respectful bow, beginning to head over to his living quarters. He opened the door, shedding the dark overcoat that he normally wore to give way to a white button up and slacks. He was about to peel off his dress shoes, but..
.. he could feel there was something in the air. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but it didn't feel like an enemy. Rather, there was something wrong. So he decided to hold off on going to sleep, at least for the moment, as he began to move toward the door again. He headed for it, opening the door to his living quarters and getting back out into the hallway again. "Tch.."
Maybe he was just loyal to a fault, but it was very much not like him to rest when the weary went without. So he made his way down the hallway and knocked on the door of the office that Don resided in. Once he was welcomed in again, Ash laughed a bit. "That offer for a drink still on?" He walked in, fixing himself a glass as he sat down on the sofa off to the side within his quarters. "My apologies.. it's not my style to sleep while my Don works."
Once again, it was faults. Even if Don insisted that he go to get some rest for the night, Ash simply shook his head. "It's not really in my blood to get more sleep than you. You are my leader, the one that saved my life in the warehouse. I will not reap luxury where you cannot." He sipped gently at the wine glass in his hand. "So it looks like you're stuck with me until you decide it's time to get some sleep, Don." A smile came across Ash's lips, showing that he was not only serious about this, but extremely calm about this gesture that he was pushing onto Don. He wanted to make sure he was okay.
Even if it meant losing a couple winks.
517 / 3,941
When Ash headed off to his quarters, Akari rounded back to his office. He was nestled on the sofa, his tie undone and resting over his slightly unbuttoned top. His jacket had long since been sprawled over the sofa as his dress shoes laid adorn on the floor and that mask on his face... was resting on the table. Teal eyes looked over a few documents, marking everything down to make things go faster tomorrow without any setbacks. The typing of his keyboard was made as he jotted everything down onto a document on his laptop, all while a cigarette hung loosely in his lips. A knocking could soon be heard from the door and the demon felt himself hesitating a moment, before calling out. "Enter." It was a simple command and the door opened.
Ash was on the other side and Akari hadn't bothered returning his mask to his face -- or rather he had forgotten. The deep scarred tissue on the side of his face was evident now, suggesting it was still healing from something. The don's gaze lifted to the man, who asked if drinks were still up for grabs, causing a small chuckle to rumble in the base of his throat. "Of course, help yourself." As the man poured himself a drink, Ash made it known that he wasn't going to get any rest if he wasn't. Just as he began to protest, so did Ash, holding up a firm belief that he wanted to stay by his side for some outlandish reason.
A gentle sigh left him as he brought his gaze back to his computer. "Suit yourself, but I don't really sleep anymore, Ash. Haven't for a few months now." It may have seemed strange, but he found ways to push past it, likely due to his demonic blood. Ash still didn't seem keen on resting, especially if he wasn't, so he decided to fill the air for a moment. "The files you saw.. there were two people already crossed out." After a few clicks, he added Carbine to the list as he returned to the newer marks. "Magnum was the father of a dear friend of mine... but he used our friendship to get to me, after realizing who my father was. He captured me, tortured me... and tried to strangle me to death. I managed to escape and we fled after he did, but... this man," he pointed to the next portrait. "Vincent, was Magnum's brother."
He waited a moment, letting information sink in before continuing. "Magnum had found my father's hideout, our home... and Vincent sent men in to take me. He kidnapped me and Magnum's son, who was trying to save me. Instead, we were captured with a collar around our throats that drained our abilities and strength..." His finger twitched on the key before he clicked on the next file, idly doing work as he spoke. "I was tortured and raped, on various accounts and had this side of my face completely mutilated." His index finger ran down along the side of his face, against the scars that had been visible.
"There wasn't any skin left, my jaw was unhinged, my tongue hanging out and teeth caked in blood as it broke past any flesh in the way.." Typing up a brief location on the fourth target, he paused to let out a breath. "This all happened when I was 17 years old." He was but a mere child, someone that was strong, but not enough to save himself completely. "I had someone precious to me... Noel," he didn't really care if anyone judged him for being gay at this rate, it had been many years, so people could fuck off with that. "We were engaged and he did his best to heal my wounds... inside and out." Again, his finger stopped at the base of his jawline, where a lasting mark had been there.
As he finished up the reports, he leaned back in his seat and turned his gaze towards Ash. "On the day of our wedding... all of these men, who once worked for Magnum and Vincent, organized to assassinate me. But instead, Noel, he... got in the way of it." There was a hint of sadness in his tone, but it was obvious that the hard shell that was often seen had a small crack in it at the moment. "When he died, I had realized... we were expecting a child. Bearing children was only possible because of a magical spell cast onto my da, who in return was granted to me as I got older." There was a brief pause, but he continued. "We were going to call him Sébastien Mercier." Akari was going to take on Noel's last name that day, but it never happened. "And he didn't make it either."
The demon's index and middle finger closed around the burning cigarette between his lips, retracting it from his mouth as a steam of smoke wafted up into the air. "I haven't exactly slept after that, the nightmares don't allow for it." His arm dangled across his lap, the cigarette dangling in his fingertips hanging loosely between his digits. "You're a loyal man from what I've seen, Ash. You wouldn't question why I'm after these men, but I felt you also deserved to know why these men are all connected." The demon's cold and calculating glare had softened a bit as they shifted to the side of the room. "I'm tired, unbelievably so... I want to finish this, so I can finally rest." It was hard to tell if he meant to finally get some sleep, or actually pass on to the afterlife... but it had been the ladder.
956 / 5,940
A few months?
It felt like a fairly long time to have a shit sleeping schedule, but there was more to the statement than met the eye. And there most certainly was a lot that met the eye when it came to this man. The first portion of news came in the form of an explanation behind the first two Xs, the first two marks that had already met the end of their fate at the hands of Akari and his cohorts. Magnum was the father of one of his deasr friends and that bond was taken advantage of, tried to strange the child to death before he got away.
The next man was Vincent, the bastard's brother. He had stolen Akari away, made it to where he couldn't use any of his abilities or conjure any of his normal strength..then tortured, raped and harmed on so many levels until suddenly, they mutilated him as well. The mask was tugged down ever so slightly to reveal scarring along the man's face, they were more than visible.. it was like you could nearly see the teeth through some of the scarred flesh. It all happened whenever he was seventeen years old too.
Ash simply frowned, a bit upset that this could happen to someone at such a young age without some kind of proper mercy kill. But then to make it all worse, he had someone precious to him known as Noel. Ash didn't bat an eyelash at the gender, for he did not care much about such things. However, it was.. revealed they were expecting a kid on the way by some kind of power, and when Noel was killed by assassins that worked for Marnum and Vincent, the kid died too.
It was a tragedy all around. Ash.. simply let out a sigh and shook his head. "I see.. so revenge is what's going to help you sleep at night." His words gave a deeper meaning, as if his Don was looking for some kind of sweet release. As if he had wanted to die at the end of this. If that was what he wanted, then Ash would oblige whenever all the work was done. But until then, until the work was done.. he would be here.
"I shall get comfortable then. Might be better if I turn this wine into some coffee." He rose up from the sofa and looked toward the Don. "To never rest until the work is done.. it's a bit on the unhealthy side, but who am I judge you after everything you went through? The best thing I can do is support you all the way. Now we're going to give it our all.. and finish the war that they started." He didn't know who this Noel was, but he was a lucky guy to have such a loyal mad on his arm.
Ash was lucky too.
485 / 4,426
Ash seemed to understand, that revenge was the only way to set his soul free and allow him slumber, even if it meant leaving this world behind. The man had risen from the sofa, ready to exchange the wine for some coffee, if he was going to be with him throughout the night. For some reason, Akari couldn't understand why he'd want to stay, even knowing that he wouldn't even give into sleep. But.. he wasn't going to turn him away either. He was told that working without rest was unhealthy, causing a small chuckle to release as he ducked his head down. They were familiar words he had heard from Lysander and his father as of lately and Akari knew it to be true, but... "I've tried sleeping, but it doesn't last long." The nightmares would taunt and wake him, until he couldn't bare to close his eyes ever again.
Despite this, Ash was prepared to help Akari finish this, to give it their all in order to end the war that these dons had started. Teal eyes widened a fraction, before softening once again. "I'm glad to have you at my side, Ash." As the feline headed towards the kitchen, Akari went back to his work, the sound of coffee being made traveling into the room with the dripping of water. Two mugs laid before them on the table and Akari took one, letting his lips close around the dark cup before letting the hot liquid soak down his throat. "I'll have everything ready by morning, so there won't be anymore need to stop and prepare for the next one." It would also help them move things along just a bit faster.
The minutes passed and soon hours rolled by until the soft breathing was heard at his side. Teal eyes turned toward the feline that was curled up on the sofa beside him, his chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. The don's arm reached back, grasping onto the blanket that was draped over the back of the sofa and pulled it down, letting it nestle over the man's body. Akari watched him for a few moments, his eyes slowly blinking before he turned away again and finished up the documents. Each don was listed out by name, last located and further information of what they were famous for. Soon or later, Akari would find the main guy responsible for the torment he had undergone.
And they'd pay.
Morning soon arrived and when Ash awoke, he'd be graced with the same situation as before. Akari was sitting beside him, though he had been fully dressed in new attire, a fresh brew of coffee lined up at the table in front of them. A small smile graced the don's lips as he turned to face the feline, scooting a clean mug his way. "Morning. Breakfast just finished, shall we?" He waited for the man to wake up before he led the way out, their mugs in hand. As they passed a few halls that eventually led to a dining room, where only a few selective people were inside. An aged man, who appeared to be a butler greed them with a smile as he finished preparing the plates across the table.
Nearby, a pair with duo colored hair were seated, yellow and black with striking green eyes: Kintaro and Rika. They offered the man a smile and wave. Across from them was an empty seat, where Wataru used to take up residence until most recently. With Noel's death, he found himself leaving, not to forsake and abandon Akari, but he couldn't handle or deal with the loss of a friend and needed Hiroto's comfort. Akari took up a seat beside Wataru's old one and gave a small nod towards Ash, suggesting that he follow.
"A new friend, young master? Glad to see it." The demon found his eyes widening a bit as he lowered his cup down to the table. "Alford--" He began, but before he could really deny that they were friends, another voice piped up. "Only people he considers family eat here with him. You must be a lucky one." Rika winked at Ash before cutting into her pancakes, just as her father bopped her playfully over the head. Akari let out a small snort before giving a nod of thanks to Alford as his plate was set before him. Resting between them, were the newly edited documents of their missions planned out for the day.
752 / 6,692
The familiar howls of the wolves within the forest rang out true. The frigid chill of winter bit at the creature's pale flesh, groping hands trying to find his target. Claw marks were across his eyes, temporarily blinded. He couldn't see. The only sound that he could perceive at the moment was his ragged breathing. "Where are you?! Cour! Cour!" He screamed out for his brother, trying to get a yell back, but there was nothing. Nothing but his breathing. Nothing but him. "Please, no, no, come back.."
... You let me...
His eyes shot open to the sight of Akari staring at him. He was told that breakfast was finished, so they should go and grab some. He had to admit that he was a little bit thrown off by the offer, but Ash did make his way back onto his feet. He followed after Akari and met up with.. another pair of people. Kintaro and Rika were their names. Ash slowly seated himself down at the table, only for the butler to make a comment about a 'new friend'. Ash let out a small chuckle, shaking his head.
"So I'm a friend now. I suppose I've been promoted from bodyguard," Ash chose to tease just a little bit here. But he didn't mind it. As he sipped at his coffee, he grabbed at the folder filled with new documents of their missions for the day. In particular, they had the first mission of infiltrating a hideout to start figuring out how far the network within South City goes. There were quite a few places that they were going to have to hit up at the end of the day.. to start mapping out districts. "Looks like we got our work cut out for us."
He nibbled on his food as he kept looking over the documents. From the looks of the documents, there were quite a few districts to take over. It was almost feeling more like a game of taking over territory in South City away from this man. "So.. you're thinking that we gather information on these districts, take this man's entire empire away from him and make it our own, force him out and then take him down?" Ash liked the idea of it. But he also knew that it was going to be quite an undertaking, most certainly something that wasn't going to happen over night.
It was a lot of work to do. But someone had to do it, so he drank the rest of his coffee. "In that case, I'll be ready whenever you are, friend." He teased a little bit at that title. He was called plenty of things over the years, not all of those titles were very positive either considering he had done plenty of murdering for the right money. But friend? Well, part of him couldn't really believe in that right away, but he simply let it happen. He was loyal to his don and would kill for him. That was what mattered at the moment.
516 / 4,942
Akari felt slightly flustered at the idea of being called 'friend', considering their current relationship and lack of interactions. So with a huff, the demon went about finishing his breakfast while Ash did the same and looked over the documents. The feline commented on his idea of taking over the districts around the guy in South City, taking it one step at a time until his entire empire was overtaken. A nod was given in response to this, teal eyes glancing to the documents open on the table."If we don't, we could be ambushed on various sides, I'd rather things not get... too messy." A small grin found him, despite these words.
Soon, their breakfast was finished and their plates taken away along with their mugs. Ash stated that he was ready when he was and the tag of 'friend' followed, causing the demon to let out a gentle sigh. "Yeah, yeah.." An amused expression befell the don before he stood to his feet, pulling his black coat around his shoulders once more. ""Kintaro, take care of things while I'm away." He was given a salute in response, though a few worried looks were soon thrown at him once the demon's back turned to face them.
Taking the files with them, Akari led the way through the hideout, passing by a few men that were scurrying around with their own work. "First step is their outer ring networks. If we head to the slave trade hidden underground, we should find more information. A lot of filth tend to wander around there." As they rose from the underground of the hideout, a cigarette soon found itself between Akari's lips, lighting it with a flick of his thumb before letting the smoke rise with a huff from his lips.
""After that we'll worry about their drug trade, where more of their intel should be found. We should find someone related to it at the auction." It was clear that he had his own network within other cities, despite residing solely within East City. A car had awaited them, the limosuine's door wide open as the driver held it open for them. Akari slipped inside, folding one leg over the other. ]I'm counting on you, Ash. Things are going to get more difficult from here on out." With another huff of smoke from his lips, he tipped his head back and let his gaze wander out the tinted window as the car took off.
412 / 7,104
Ash gave a quick nod to the concept of not letting things get too messy. It made sense, getting their hands too dirty with this sort of thing could prove to be fatal to the operation. less bodies piled up on them, the better this will go, but Ash was used to a pile of bodies at the end of the day. "Don't worry, I'll make sure we're in and out with what we need. For this first raid, if I can just get past the first layer of security, I should be able to get everything that we're going to need."
He had to a hunch that he was going to be able to find a good bit on this little hunt that they were going on. Once they made their way out of the kitchen, Akari explained that they were going to be targeting the outer ring networks. Heading to the slave trade would lead to more information, then they could worry about the drug trades. They were going to take it down from the bottom of the filth on up, which caused Ash to grin. "As you say, Don." He gave a nod and they began to head for the limo, slipping inside.
As the limo began to make its way to the first warehouse that they needed to visit, Ash let off a small laugh. "Yeah, don't worry about it. We'll have this one down pat." For some reason, he seemed to excude a special kind of confidence. Did he have something in mind for their tactics that would help them for this particular day? Who could tell? They made their way up to the warehouse, hopping out of the limo a couple blocks away to not bring up any sort of suspicion. Then he looked down at Don.
"Mind if I take the lead? I have a hunch." Upon getting permission to do so, Ash began to take point on the operation. As they neared the warehouse, he began to form a small, tiny sphere in the palm of his hand. He tossed it over to the guards in front of the building. They looked at the orb, only for it to detonate and release smoke that overwhelmed the area. One of them hastily began to speak into his communicator. "Sir--" But before anything else could be said, Ash smashed his fist across the guard's jaw, sending his skull into the ground.
Letting the Don take care of the other body, Ash could hear there was a voice on the other line. "Recruit? Recruit, answer me!" That was when Ash lifted the communicator to his lips. "Sorry sir, just shaky reception here. Nothing to report." He kept clicking the communicator on and off, trying to utilize the rapid power sequence to throw off the person on the other end of the line and to give his voice some natural camouflage. There was a small pause, then an answer of "Ah, I keep telling the boss to spring for better communicators.. carry on, recruit."
A smile tugged at the corner of Ash's lips as he heard the sound off. Good, now he would be able to carry on with this without much delay. He took the communicator and crushed it underneath his boot. "We still have the element of surprise. We can get deeper into the warehouse without them knowing, so let's use that to our advantage, shall we?" He began to walk forward, prompting Akari to do the same thing. Ash's fingers began to grasp the front door's knob, slowly turning it and pressing his shoulder against it to creep inside.
It was a poorly lit room.. if the blueprints were to be believed, this was simply an in-between from the outside to three different rooms. The one on the left was one of the leader's main offices, the one in the middle was for recruits to sleep while they guarded documents and the one on the right was for information storage. Ash was interested in the one on the right, so that was exactly what he went for. "Come on." He pressed his back up against the wall to the right of them, slithering along it as he slowly neared the door.
Ash pressed his ear against the door to try and listen in for anyone in there. There were two distinct voices talking to one another about some sort of mundane topic. "So how's the wife?" A sigh. "She's been a bit freaky lately. We were driving yesterday and she swears up and down she saw some guy hop into a car that was driving by itself. I didn't see it while I was driving, but I think she's nuts." A small chuckle came from the other man. "You messed with her about it?" Another laugh. "Maybe a little bit, but I love her."
Ash sighed out. He didn't know why, but it felt like some outside force was screaming out for him to kill these men. He shrugged it off, just believing that it was his loyal senses telling him that they stood in the way of his goal rather than an entity wishing for these men to perish for laughing about such a thing. "On three." Ash got out his silenced pistol. This was an infiltration mission, so the less noise they generated, the better. Ash brought his hand up.
Three fingers. Two. One.
The door flew open, Ash aiming for the head of one of the guards. Before he could scream out, a bullet flew the air, the explosion of the barrel muffled by the silencer. It ripped through the human's skull and sent his body to the ground, and soon enough, the other body followed suit. Easy. "Good, now let's see.." Ash slowly and gently closed the door behind him. He began to head deeper inside, probing the desk in the middle of the room for any sort of information that they could pilfer from this place.
He broke the lock to one of the drawers, leading him to a drawer nearly filled to the brim with folders. "This might be it." He took the folders out, laying them across the table. Ash picked one up and began to read it. It was titled 'Cheese Pizza'. It was a very peculiar title, so he began to look inside of the folder.. and nearly wretched. "Shit.." It was heavy. Far too heavy, but he pressed on. There were depictions of abused teenagers on every page, each of them with a price tag-- an asking price as the documents put it.
There were locations to the trades with dates in the future, seemingly every Tuesday from the looks of it taking place in different districts. It felt a little weird to always have it on Tuesdays, but it would make the trail a bit easier to follow. "So.. slave trade on Tuesday then." Weird to say out loud too. He began to look into another one of the folders titled 'Magic'. As he looked inside, it wasn't quite as gruesome. It was files on the types of substances that they were looking into gathering or creating for some kind of monetary gain.
The drug trades took place on Thursdays in the various districts. "This is everything we'll need to take their operation down. This has everything on their meetings, locations and even dates of when they'll happen. It's basically a cheat sheet!" He smiled, beginning to get the folders into a proper capsule. But as he thought on such a thing, he looked to Don. "I can still feel other powers here as well.. do you want us to try and take care of them, or do you think this information is enough of a prize?" He didn't care how it went either way.. but he'd follow his Don's orders.
1,310 / 6,252
Ash had asked to take lead for this one, to which Akari nodded along and allowed. If he felt that confident, he wouldn't make the man stop, especially if he had been there as backup. He followed after the feline as they made their way toward the guards, only for an orb to float towards them and set off. Just as Ash made his way towards one of them, Akari went for the other, his hand closing around his mouth and the other gripping to the side of the head before giving a harsh snap. His neck broke upon impact and his gaze shifted to Ash who spoke into the communicator in order to play along with being the rookie.
From what they could tell, the stunt was believed and they made it towards the door. As it swung open, they were greeted with emptiness and silence, their attention moving to the right room after researching the blueprints of the place. They heard a conversation inside, two men talking about one of their wives and apparently how crazy she was. Akari raised a brow, his gaze moving towards Ash who seemed to be just as confused and giving him a shrug.
Part of him actually wanted to kill these men too, as if they had deserved it. At least, one of them did. The door soon opened, Ash moving in and Akari following as he leapt over the desk and toward the one who had just finished speaking. As Ash fired off a bullet with his silenced pistol, Akari let a sapphire bolt of ki fly past his fingertips and rip through the man's cranium, killing him instantly on impact. Strange, he felt a certain satisfaction from that, as if his revenge had been sated. That didn't make sense, he wasn't the one in charge. He let the idea of that roll of his back as Ash went about pulling everything out from the drawers and pocketing them into capsules.
The files were read aloud before put away, that the two trades would be done on Tuesday and Thursday, something that Akari kept in mind. "Looks like we have the days and places. I hope you don't mind a rescue mission alongside the murder." When looked at or questioned about it, he let out a gentle sigh. "My da..." Ash knew that he didn't mean his father Don, considering how he often separated them by these titles. "He... was captured in the sex slave trade. Luckily, my father found him before anything too bad could be done. But ever since, my father and I have been doing what we can to free who we can." He knew that there were risks, considering how many dons ended up murdering the rescued slaves, but he would have Ash with him this time.
So he had to at least try.
Ash soon mentioned that there were more in this building and asked if they should take care of them or consider this a victory by taking the documents. "As much as I'd like to take their lives..." He let out a gentle exhale and shook his head. "They'll know something's up if we take out the entire base. We should continue on, so their sales aren't canceled." Though he said this, he found a sour taste in his mouth. "Unfortunate we have to wait." A tug to his gloves were made over his hands, pulling them further along his wrists before he began to make his way out of the room and back into the main lobby. Teal eyes glanced around momentarily, sensing out the energies inside the building and their locations before turning and making his way back outside.
Their stride took them towards the limousine again, the doors closing behind them as the driver began their journey back toward East City. Akari pressed his fist against the side of his head, letting his gaze wander back towards Ash. "It looks like we have another day of wait before we can really act... so you have a free day. Is there anything you'd like to do with it?" The gentle rumble of the car was made as the vehicle moved, setting them back on the path home. The mention of coffee was brought up, causing a small chuckle to rise from Akari as he tilted his head at the man. "A bit of a coffee fanatic? Reminds me of myself when I was a teenager." He gave a gentle tap to the back window, the driver lowering it slightly as Akari called out to him. "Make a stop at the usual place.
It had been a while since he went there, but the driver seemed slightly amused by it and nodded. They'd soon arrive at the local cafe on the edge of East City, where Akari often used to drag Noel and his friends to. Slipping out, Akari made his way to the front with the feline, his hand gently gliding along the man's back as he ushered him slightly ahead of him. "Feel free to order whatever you like." Once their coffee and pastries were ordered, they made their way to an outdoor table, where Akari would sit down across from the other man.
"This is rather... nostalgic." It was hard to tell if that was a good thing or not. But considering how lonely he had been since Noel's death -- perhaps it was good to think on the good times again.
912 / 8,016
The Don seemed to be keen on something else alongside the breaking of these little parties.. a rescue mission. His 'da' was captured in the sex slave trade, but his father managed to find him before things got too terrible. It made a special precedent in their family to try their best to free slaves from the lives that they could eventually lead. Ash smiled softly and gave a nod. "As you wish, so it shall be, Don." Doing a little good in the sea of murders they committed wasn't too bad of an idea on their part anyway, if he was honest.
Once they got back into the limo, they were understanding that there was a free day before they were actually going to have to do anything. It was.. interesting to actually have some downtime for once. More often than not, they'd end up in a position where they were either constantly doing work or he would be let go for the day whenever his work was done. However, this one.. he wanted to do something together, did he? Ash looked out the window for a moment, only to smile. "Perhaps.. coffee? At a proper cafe instead of me doing a shitty brew?"
Don seemed to take the idea pretty easily and they made their way over to the 'usual place'. They went to the edge of East City into a small cafe, a mom and pop called 'Jihishi'. Ash had never been-- yes, he had liked his coffee but usually stuck to his own cafe near his home. Ah.. home. He had nearly lost himself in a memory before Don brought him back to reality, feeling the man's hand against his back before they made their way to a table.
As they sat down to enjoy their drinks, Ash went for a coffee and a cherry danish, his usual combo of things. They were then left in silence for a moment, only for Akari to mention that this was 'nostalgic'. Ash gave him a gentle smile, looking at him for a moment. But instead of Akari, he could see his little brother laughing softly, enjoying the sights of the outside world. He had.. not seen much of the world, had he? That kid only knew about one thing at the end of the day.. The feline let out a soft sigh as he smiled over at the Don.
"Nostalgic, is it? You.." Then his smile faded to a neutral expression. Right, they were just talking about this last night, weren't they? This was a place that the man he was going to marry once frequented with him. Usual place, nostalgia-- he'd have to be dense as bricks to not pick up on the context clues for this one. Ash didn't mind it thought. "It's a good place. I'm sure they loved it." He smiled once again, trying to bring some sort of comfort to his Don's heart, no matter how small it might be.
As the waiter came back with their food and drinks for their little relaxation session, the feline brought the hot liquid to his lips. He blew on it before taking a small sip, then refocused his gaze on the man across from him. "Whenever I'd go out on missions for remote employers, I'd go to a little shop on the corner of my block. It was ran by a really nice old man." He chuckled softly, as if he was getting sucked into his own memories all of a sudden. Was he really letting his guard down around a client?
"I'd go and get a dark coffee, no sugar or cream, and a cherry danish. I know most cafes usually buy theirs in bulk, take them out of the wrappers and heat them.. but he'd make them by hand. I would watch him make them sometimes when I really had time to kill. He'd tell me stories of how his wife had actually fallen in love with him because of his baking skills, even when the kids he went to school with him picked on him for having a 'girly' passion." Another chuckle from the memories he basked in.
He sighed out. "He never tried to charge me, but I paid him every time.. then another man came along. A man had found me when I never gave my personal information out-- a client that I had just finished doing work for. I was confused, but the client explained that my work was not done, that I didn't finish the job. He said he would make me pay if I didn't do as I was told. I asked him what to do.. and he said to kill the owner of the cafe. Just to prove that he could order me around."
Then the feline rolled his shoulders. "So I snapped the client's neck." Ash then sipped at his drink again as if it were the most natural thing to roll off of his tongue. "You see, loyalty is a very big deal to me. It's in my.. baser instincts to be attracted to such a thing. A client like that didn't care to pay me nor did he care to treat me as a mortal being. He simply wanted to have power over someone. So I taught him.. I am to be directed." He brought his gaze to Don's.
"But I won't be controlled."
901 / 7,153
Akari had begun to listen now, his fingers tinting against the cup he had been given. His hot coffee wafted upward, leaving a cloud of smoke behind it, while his pastry laid on the table in its wrapper. Ash mentioned that 'they' must have loved it here as well, causing a small smile to grace over his face. It was a rare gesture, but such a gentle expression had begun to form over his face at the idea of his friends all gathered here together again. His thoughts vanished a moment as he let his teal gaze land on Ash as he began to speak about himself.
There had once been a coffee shop that Ash frequented. He spoke of the owner so fondly, along with the family he had. But a client had found him, despite never giving out any information and ordered the man killed to know of his loyalty and he did so. As Ash finished off with not being controlled, Akari gave a small nod in response. "If I can speak frankly..." A sip of his coffee and then his cup touched back down to the table. "I wasn't always like this. I don't know if you like the kind of person I am or care, since I'm merely a client, however," he paused to close his eyes.
"My friends... they used to call me a hero. A great man that was going to follow in my teacher's footsteps. Someone they could rely on and follow. And I wanted that too." That smile had still remained on his face, though his eyes had a sad expression to them that was trying to hide away. "I never wanted to take people's lives for the thrill of it. It was only if it had been deserved or just in my eyes." Teal eyes rose once again, meeting with silver.
He gave a small shake of his head. "I don't judge what you've done, because... I like knowing that you're that type of person. To be loyal to a fault and yet still follow your own principals and what you believe in." Raising his cup, he took another long sip, the brew rich and freshly made and sending a light chill through him. As he let his cup touch back down to the table, he let out a gentle sigh. "I want you to know that you aren't here to be controlled, Ash. While what I want is... selfish and dangerous, I'd still take anything you had to say against it to consideration." Even if it hurt to think about stopping this endeavor, he wasn't going to ignore what someone felt on the matter.
"I'm very fortunate to have a man like you at my side, Ash. So I give my word that you won't be taken for granted." The demon's head lowered a bit, raven bangs falling over his eyes as he let his cranium turn in order to gaze off to the side. Eye contact had been broken due to slight embarrassment over his words, considering his true self was starting to dig its way to the surface again. "The path I walk... is filled with bloodshed. But it's one I chose to walk, so that nobody else I care for have to suffer." Another small pause as he began to whisper now, "So I don't ruin another person's life." Like he had ruined Noel's; there had been regret.
572 / 8,588
Don felt obligated, for some unknown reason, to explain himself. To speak of the man that he used to be, the man who didn't have the puppet strings of revenge tied around his limbs. It was not within Ash's obligations to listen or to even care, yet his body language showed he was interested. He leaned in slightly, lending his ear to the man that he showed loyalty to. Don, he used to be called a hero. A man that was going to follow in the footsteps of his teacher. Someone that they could rely on.. yet it was something that all shattered.
Ash was not someone to be controlled and Don seemed to understand that more than anyone. Even with Don's desires on the table, the desire for revenge rumbling through every fiber of the man's being, he still allowed Ash to have some sense of.. himself. That he could say things and they would actually be considered. Ash's eyes fell to half-lids, smiling softly. It was.. interesting to hear such a thing. Such words had graced his ears before, but they were coated in blood.
"I believe you," he stated at the statement of not being taken for granted. He had already more than proven his worth as far as he was concerned, perhaps it was a flaw to put so much stock in himself, yet that was exactly what he did at the end of the day. He didn't want anyone to suffer.. and didn't want to ruin another person's life. His eyes widened back to full at the sound of that last statement. But.. "Noel, correct?" He was bold to say the dead man's name on this, an occasion when the two of them were supposed to be relaxing. But he felt the need to state his thoughts.
"You keep saying that you ruined a man's life, but.. I just don't see it that way." The feline leaned back in his chair slightly, slowly beginning to unwrap the danish that he had ordered. "You see, I've seen tragedy. I've seen what it's like to rip a man's life away, especially one that didn't deserve it. The face that someone makes before they die.. it shows their inner most feelings. The emotions they feel before their life is torn away. Some people would cower in fear, wishing up and down that their sins were going to be forgiven in their afterlife."
He took a bite of the danish, chewing before swallowing. "Then some would simply close their eyes and accept it, knowing that the deepest pits of Hell awaited them. However, there were some that would throw themselves in front of others to try and facilitate some sort of escape. 'Brave' men and women that would sacrifice themselves to try and buy time for those that they loved to get away. And do you know what I saw on their faces?" He gave pause, letting his danish grace the plate again.
"A smile. A smile on each of their faces because they died knowing that they protected their loved one.. or at least, they believed they did so. They didn't die sad because of what they lost, they weren't thinking their time on this planet was over. All they thought about.. was making sure the person they loved was safe." Now Ash brought his eyes up to Don. "So I'll ask this. What kind of look did Noel give you when he got in front of that bullet? Was he scared he was going to die and lose you.. or was he happy that he was able to give the man he loved so dearly another chance at life? On his wedding day?"
616 / 7,769
Akari had been startled out of those thoughts, teal eyes widening a fraction at the sound of Noel's name being said aloud. "Yeah," he spoke back in a hushed voice. He had been so used to people walking on eggshells with him over the topic, that having someone be upfront and bold with him wasn't used to. Ash began to explain the different faces he had seen in his line of work, of people dying and what they held in their hearts written in their eyes. Regret, sadness, fear and bravery. Each explanation had been given and the demon's head lowered, raven tresses falling over his features as he merely listened.
Each word struck at his heart, his hands curling into tight fists against his knees as he thought over every second of that beautiful day that had turned to a blood massacre. The screams that echoed through his mind, those arms weaving around his body to protect himself and their unborn child. And the look on his face, it was -- the warm smile he had been so used to. That comforting expression as he was embraced tightly in those arms and a bullet lodging through his skull that had been meant for Akari's head.
And when Ash asked what sort of look had been on Noel's face, the soft patter of tears would be seen splashing down against his tightened fists on his lap. They stained the black leather of his knuckles as his shoulders rose and shook, all while his tan face grew red and glowed against freckled skin. "He," he choked out, trying to keep his composure "was smiling..." That burning sensation in his chest rose as he sucked in his teeth, trying to stop the flow of tears that were staining his cheeks and dripping into his lap. But no matter how much he tried, he couldn't turn that faucet back off, even though he was so sure he couldn't cry anymore in these past few months.
Yet despite Noel being able to smile in those final moments, to be able to protect and keep Akari safe, he couldn't find himself to truly smile again. The pain in his heart was never ending and wouldn't cease to let up as those days passed by, where he'd always wake up alone. Where the only reminder of Noel having once been there, were the clothes that were lined in his closet and the pirate's favorite shirt draped over the chair in their bedroom. The demon soon rose to his feet, his arm having lifted to cover his face with the back of his sleeve. "Sorry, excuse me." His voice was hushed, yet it wavered as he rounded the table and attempted to flee in order to regain his composure.
In order to find that icy mask he had been wearing for so long now, because it had all but slipped off his face.
486 / 9,074
Ash hadn't expected such a visceral reaction. Seeing the man shift from a serious face, someone who was stoic and barely ever broke out of such a stupor to.. someone who looked like they were on the verge of a breakdown? It was more than jarring for the feline to witness. When he heard that Noel was indeed smiling, Ash gave a small nod, as if he had expected such an answer from a man who was willing to marry such a loyal being as Don. He could see the tears beginning to flow down his cheeks, and suddenly, he was trying to get up to be excused.
What Ash felt like he should do was let this happen. It was natural to be overwhelmed with emotions and, in this case, it had been a pretty long time since Don had allowed himself to feel anything resembling emotions. Yet, at the end of the day, it wasn't in his nature to leave well enough alone. So as Don tried to leave him, he began to rise up from his seat and grabbed onto the man's wrist gently. He didn't speak immediately, but rather let the action settled in for a moment.
"So that's why you've been wearing that mask." And he most certainly wasn't talking about the one on his face. "You've been blaming yourself for Noel's death, believing you ruined his life.. without ever even realizing that he did it because he wanted to protect you." He let the words wriggle about in the air for a moment, an uncomfortable but necessary silence growing between them. There was a lot of emotions flowing inside of Don's mind right now and some of them could very well be volatile. But.. Ash began to carefully choose his words and went forward with speaking.
"Revenge is.. hard. Even when all is said and done, when you've finally taken away their lives from this world, the joy of having them not be alive is temporary. The pain of loss will be there, and when the high of revenge wears off, you'll simply be left with the all of the pain you've been hiding away and none of the adrenaline behind the hunt. You've been running on emotional fumes chasing after the thrill of killing those that are responsible for your pain without even trying to work on yourself."
It was a mouthful of details, yet he felt like it all rang true at the end of the day. He couldn't simply leave it alone, he couldn't shut up and let his client do what he wanted. "You're crying because you're finally realizing.. you didn't ruin anyone's life. You're blaming yourself for something that this man would have done thousands of times over every single time because he loved you, Don. Now you ought to do the same to yourself.. then we'll be in the best mindset to hunt these men down." Revenge wasn't off the table, but.. with this mindset, Don was on the path to destroy himself at the end.
And for some reason, Ash didn't want that to be his future.
520 / 8,289
Just as he had rounded the table and began to take off, he noticed the sudden shift of the man beside him as Ash jumped to his own feet. The sensation of fingers closed around his wrist, stopping him dead in his tracks and causing teal eyes to widen. A silence had fallen between them as he was held in place by the wrist, though the grip had been gentle. With his other hand balled into a tight fist and pressing against his eyes as if to hide them from the world, he heard the feline's voice as he mentioned that's why he had been wearing a mask. Not the physical one, but the reason he had come off so emotionless and numb, despite how his true personality was.
All this time, he had been blaming himself for Noel's death. Because if he hadn't asked Noel to be his all those years ago, to give him a try despite his crush on Koichi, he could very well be alive today. They wouldn't have dated and just remained best friends, but that natural distance would have formed between them, like it had with the others. Noel could have been off living his best life, carefree and with that smile on his face that he often wore. But because they were preparing a life together, his life had come to an end and no amount of change in their relationship blossoming into romance would have stopped it.
A choked sob released from the demon's mouth, his head falling forward to hide his expression as he gritted his teeth together tightly. Revenge is hard, reached his ears. Even after he killed everyone responsible for his sorrows, he'd still be left there with those bottled emotions now able to run rampant. That loss would come to the surface and he wouldn't have a new way to channel it. That thrill of the chase and kill made him forget to work on himself. But Ash didn't stop, no, he said that he was most likely crying because he realized that he hadn't ruined Noel's life. He was merely blaming himself for the act, the action that Noel would have done each and every time without a hint of regret, because he was loved. A shiver ran through his body as a small noise akin to a whimper left him then, his hand cupping his mouth now instead.
The don's mouth parted open to speak, despite how his lips began to tremble with the emotion that was rushing through him. "I don't... know how." How could he ease the sorrow so that it wouldn't envelope him? How could he stop blaming himself, despite knowing the truth? "Ash," his voice broke, but he pushed on. "I wanted to die at the end of all this." Ash would feel his wrist twitch, his fingers slowly curling inward. "After all the torture, the.... rape. I didn't know how to handle those emotions, I didn't know how to heal from it. So he helped do it for me.. but then he was ripped away from me." The demon's head slowly turned to let his wet and shaky eyes look towards silver that were gazing back at him.
"Even as I grew older, I didn't know how to ease the pain. I was taught... to hold onto my rage, my pain and unleash it and let it fuel me as power." Saying it out loud sounded unhealthy by a wide margin, but it's what he had learned for a long time. "But at the same time, I was told to not let it consume me..." A few more tears slowly ran down past his eyes, a light shuddered breath leaving him. "...but it did and I don't know how to stop it."
His brows knitted together, the hand that was once on his mouth having lowered to press firmly against his own chest. "They didn't mean to, but.. they left me all alone. There were six of us and I was left on the wayside. It's so hard..."
677 / 9,751
He simply had no idea how to do so.
He was emotionally broken because he had no idea how to even try moving on at the end of the day. That even though he knew in his heart of hearts that Noel was actually sacrificing himself with a smile on his face to make sure that the demon managed to stay alive.. he was still unsure of exactly how he was going to be able to cope with all of this. His usual coping mechanism was actually to get this revenge. To make matters worse, he was taught something dangerous.
Don purposely hung on to all of his anger, clinging to the issues in the hopes that it might make him strong. He was never familiar with any sort of emotional energy theory, so to him, he was just.. shocked by the revelation. Freaking out internally at the thought that someone was going through a tempest of such emotions. Noel was the one that helped him through all of that stress, Noel was the one that was his rock. He helped him function after it all, then all of a sudden, Noel was ripped away from this world.
Now his rage was consuming him and he had no idea how to stop this downward spiral that he was one. The six man group that they once were had splintered apart and Don was left all alone. Ash.. had to admit that he wasn't figuring that much information was going to be dumped all on him. Well, dumped wasn't even the correct term, but he simply did not realize that this was going to be everything that he got. Ash stared at the demon, trying to make sense of the information that he had to play with now.
So he carefully began to choose his words. "You.." But he found that he couldn't exactly figure out what to say. So finally, he just wrapped his arms around the demon. He didn't know if this was right, appropriate or what have you, but.. it was as if his feelings were getting the best of him. He couldn't hold it back. "I know it's easy to blame yourself and cling to that rage, but.. you can't let this control you." He tried to cling to the demon, not letting the man's emotions run wild or anything. He just wanted to keep him calm.
"I know.. I know it's hard. Sometimes, it's all that you want to do. Sometimes, it's all you're ever going to think about. But if you let it consume you, you'd probably be better off as a dead man." He kept hugging onto the demon. "But don't think for even a moment that you're alone in this world.. I'm sure if you talk to them, if you talk to those people that left.. maybe explain to them the pain you feel and how stuck you are. You can try to overcome this. And I'll help you too, Don." He grinned down at him.
"I'll do my best to help you."
510 / 8,799
The silence that followed was filled with the soft labored breathing of the demon as he sucked in a few breaths of air, trying to calm down the blubbering mess he had become. He hadn't even meant to spill everything, but it all came tumbling out the moment that his emotional mask had fallen and he thought about Noel again. Ash began to speak, but he found himself stopping, as if struggling with how to respond with something to harsh. Teal eyes closed tightly, feeling a few tears streaking down his wet face that was matted with raven strands sticking to his skin. The sensation of arms winding around him was felt as he was pulled in, a choked sound leaving him as he felt the warmth that suddenly enveloped him.
He was told that he couldn't let this control him, to bottle it all inside until there was nothing left. Despite it being hard, if he continued down this path, he'd be no better than a dead man. And while apart of him wanted that, he also knew that another part of him didn't want to die. There was still so much that needed done, people that were still relying on him. The demon's arms slowly lifted, fingers moving to curl onto the fabric of the feline's coat, gripping onto his back tightly as he let his eyes slam shut once more.
He was told that he shouldn't for even a second believe that he was truly alone. Because if he reached out to those people right there and then with an explanation, they'd likely come running. But it wasn't just that, Ash would help him too. That smile could be heard in the tone of the man's voice, something that made his grip tighten just a fraction more onto his back. "Thank you..." It had been so long since he felt such comfort, in both words and action. To be held like this... he hadn't felt that since his father embraced him after the death of both Noel and their baby. After that, everything just grew cold and dark, as if all color had been drained from his world.
But now, he was finding it easier to believe the words being said to him. For some reason, the things that Ash said he could firmly feel actually sinking in. "I'll try," he found himself whispering into the man's chest. He'd try to ease that tension in his chest, to not hold it all in to the point that he kept blaming himself. It was going to be hard, but... he wasn't alone anymore, was he? Even if their relationship should have been nothing but client and hiree, he could feel something a bit deeper there. What, he wasn't certain, but this was a good first step at recovery, he could feel it.
Slowly, he pulled his head back from the man's chest, his grip somewhat loosening on his coat, yet his arms never unwound from his middle. Instead he rose his head, letting his wet eyes blink up towards silver that were gazing back down at him with such sincerity. The expression was familiar and warm and he felt his lips starting to twitch at the corners into a small smile. "Tomorrow, we'll look at our mission ahead with a fresh set of eyes." While he couldn't promise it, because someone's emotions couldn't change overnight, he could at least try, especially now that he had someone to rely on.
581 / 10,332
A statement of thanks.
It wasn't quite what he expected. At the end of the day, he firmly believed that his work and feelings needed to be separate entities. That was why, even when his client came up to him and asked him to kill a man that he enjoyed the company of, he killed his client. He wasn't going to let his work seep into his feelings nor let the reverse happen. And yet here he was, hugging onto his client and trying to deliver some sort of genuine happiness into his life. It was.. an oddity.
Was it because of Akari's attitude? Perhaps his loyalty, unwavering and majestic, had allowed Ash to unconsciously lower some of his barriers. Allowed him to believe that he was in a safe place, to forget that he was actually working for the Don. Maybe. Maybe. But regardless of what kind of mental poison was flowing through his veins, regardless of the drug that possessed him to do such a thing in the first place, he couldn't lose himself to the feeling. He reeled himself back in, even as the man stated that he would try and that they would look at the mission ahead with a fresh set of eyes.
Ash nodded. "I'd like that," he said. He'd be a fool to believe that this change was going to come easily. In fact, he'd be a fool for believing that any change was going to come out of this. Considering the amount of false empathy others tried to place upon him with their dying breath, this could simply be the dying gasp of the last emotions Akari had in the tank and give birth to a true emotionless beast. Yet whatever the result would be, he didn't care.
He was here to serve.
Ash stayed in that embrace with the demon for a few more minutes, basking in the warmth that they shared before he finally began to break it off. "We should head our way back to the hideout. Being in the public eye too much like this might get people talking." Back to work mode he began to shift, but it was mostly out of concern for Akari. There were enemies far and wide.. and it'd be very easy to ruin this moment if they were not careful.
So Ash began to call for the limo to come, and within minutes, the vehicle had arrived. He helped his Don into the back seat and climbed in behind him, unconscious trying to shield the man from any sort of bullets that might threaten to rain down. He was a bit scared about losing a man as loyal as Akari was, but at the same time, he understood that this was simply the reality he was going to have to accept at this point. Akari was his Don, he was the man that he was going to devote his life to for the next while.. and to see that there might be a glimmer of a good person in there.
Well, it made him want to chip away at it.
The scene changed. Droplets of sweat sprinkled onto the ground as a man grunted with effort, throwing punches in the midst of three hundred times normal gravity. His body began to flip around the chamber, a topless and scarred frame slamming back down onto the ground with tons of pressure on his body. Yet he did not relent nor did he bend. He had long grown used to such pressure. He was about to throw another punch after landing, but someone stopped him. His pilot.
"What is it?" He began to approach the one area not affected by gravity, a place where others would be able to visit him during his training if they desired. "It's about your students.. Elena and Melody are still on Kelioux learning under Adel like you instructed. They're getting a bit bored with his lessons, but they're at least improving. But.. Akari." Tarble's eyes flickered a bit wider as he heard that kid's name again. Akari.. "He made a move on Earth according to Akito's cameras built within our ship. He killed someone." Tarble's eyes then narrowed.
"Show me." The two of them began to move down the hall and made their way to the control room, an enhanced photo taken of the inside of the warehouse. Within was Akari wearing his mask alongside another larger silver-haired man.. and on the inside of the warehouse was another man. A man that the Saiyan did not recognize. "Do you think he's gone off the deep end since.. that happened?" Tarble shook his head slowly. "This.. is another part of his training." Bea's expression distorted to that of concern for the young man, all things considered.
"I know I said I wouldn't dictate how you trained the kids, but don't you think you're being a bit extreme with Akari? Can't you just start training him again?" Tarble shook his head rapidly. "No, he's not going to train under me until he gets it under control. Right now, he's letting his anger dictate his actions. I've imparted all the wisdom I can give him right now-- he's just looking for an excuse to release it at this point." The Saiyan admittedly felt a little bit angry from the tone of his voice, but it was just because he cared about the boy so much.
"The next step lies with him.. he needs to find his friends again if he's going to get through this. Just like Yamato, Asami and everyone reeled me back from the depths of anger, he needs his family to help him. Not me." Could he save Akari? Maybe temporarily, but it would not be a true rescue. It wouldn't be a permanent solution, just another way to ignore what was going on in the man's life. Tarble wasn't going to let it happen, not to another person.
Akari had to find his way out of this dark hole.
Dull music played out of headphones as dress shoes clacked against the stone floor beneath. His crimson eyes looked about at an empty mansion. Ever since his mother and father left the estate to him, it had felt so.. dreadfully empty. He thought back on the memories of the world before. The world where they were all together. He felt a tap on his shoulder, being brought back to reality by Koichi. He pulled one of his headphones out, smiling. "Yeah, I know.. just remembering the old days." When Akari and Noel were here.. when they were all together.
A young man was feeding a phoenix forged from ice, the creature pecking gently at his hand, carefully going for each bite of food. The idol smiled, a hug from behind coming in the form of Hiroto. Ever since they moved away from the city and went to the outskirts to get their own farmland to raise Wataru's animals, they couldn't have been happier. Yet.. there was something nagging at the back of his head. As if there was something completely unfinished. There was something else that needed to be finished.
Their thoughts seemed to all coincide at once with the new Don as they reached the hideout, Ash helping him out of the limo and into their own hideout. The world was beginning to change in a brand new way. It felt like the pieces of glass that had hit the ground once Noel was shot.. were slowly trying to crawl their way back together. Maybe they wouldn't be whole again, maybe they wouldn't even be very stable, but there was a want to try and become a whole glass again.
They had to go for it. They had to try it. And perhaps.. they just needed one more push.
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Their embrace was tight and lingering, as if part of their minds didn't want to let go. Yet they knew that they needed to, because eyes had always been on Akari. They'd always be on him. They were watching, looking for a weakness and this could very well be one for them. As they pulled back and Ash spoke of the same thing, the don gave a gentle nod of the head as they gathered their things and waited for their limousine. The vehicle pulled up and Ash was quick to open the door and help the don inside, only to slip in afterward. Ash was protecting him, even at that very moment, considering how out in the open they had been. Once the door closed behind them, the driver began to lead them back to the hideout, where they'd be safe once more.
From every corner of the world, everyone was enjoying their lives together. Koichi had been sailing the vast oceans, but always had a home to come back to, the mansion Lysander had gotten from his parents. The hybrid had been living with him, the two of them already married and living a comfortable life. Yet... something else felt like it had been missing. There was an empty place in their hearts. Even as he clung to Lysander with a bright smile and Hiroto held onto Wataru from behind on their ranch, they could all feel it...
It was like they had forgotten something very important. As if they had left something behind -- someone dear.
As the don and Ash made their way back to the hideout, Akari nodded to the driver who pulled the car into park and the two of the slipped into the bar. They descended into the safety of the home, a few greetings thrown their way before everyone went about their business. Those tears had long since dried up, though his cheeks were slightly red, nobody batted an eyelash. And their day carried on together, the two of them staying up again, Ash falling asleep at his don's side, while Akari looked after the feline by covering him.
When the morning rose once again, Akari had gently shaken Ash awake, telling him that fresh coffee was made and that he'd be off getting ready. The don made his way into his bedroom, digging through his clothes before hopping into his shower, getting the grime off as he got prepared for the day. He dressed in his suit and tie, adjusting it as he stared at himself in the mirror. The images of his friends flashed before his eyes, his dull and calculating eyes that had returned to him. The demon made his way out of the room and toward the dining room, where Ash was getting himself ready for the day.
Akari took a glass of coffee, sipping at the hot liquid as he let his gaze roam towards the other man. "According to the papers, they'll be open in about an hour. We'll make it just in time." Finishing off his drink, he set it back down again and led the way back out towards the limo that was already waiting for them. He slipped inside, the driver already taking off once they were situated. "The top priority is making sure our target doesn't get away, he'll have valuable information that we'll need for Thursday." He paused a moment as he brought one of his legs to fold over the other. "But we should still try and free as many people as we can and avoid them getting killed in the crossfire." It was a lot to ask for, but that's why there was a top priority set in place to fall back on.
The demon then glanced to his communicator, noticing that he had a few messages from his parents, who had caught wind of what he was up to and where he was likely headed. He clicked off it and set his gaze out the window with a gentle sigh as leaned his head against the glass of the window.
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Another night passed.
It felt like nothing super substantial had changed. It was yet another sleepless night in the world of the Don while Ash had fallen to the sweet embrace of sleep long before Don could ever wish of doing so. He was rustled awake, silently cursing himself for falling prey to it yet again. "Damn it.." he muttered to himself as he began to get his body off of the sofa and work his way to the dining room. He was getting ready for the day.. it was Tuesday. That meant they had some pretty heavy work to do.
As he got himself all set up, Don mentioned that they were going to be open in an hour, just in time to arrive. Their target was going to have information that they needed for Thursday, but another priority was to make sure as many people could get out without getting themselves killed. Ash thought on it for a moment. Right.. this was also a rescue mission. How did the Don expect them to juggle so much so easily? Or perhaps he could appreciate how truly difficult it might actually be and he just didn't know.
Regardless, they made their way to the limo and got on their way regardless of what was said. Even as Don's phone seemingly blown up a bit, he seemed to click onto it and ignore it. This was bad behavior, but it was not his place to question what was right or wrong. It was merely his place to do his best to protect the man. "We'll be okay," Ash said, trying to convince them both of this fact. They may have been going knee deep into some of the grimiest shit known to man, but..
They were going to be standing by one another's side in the end of all of this. They had to believe, somehow, someway, they were going to come out on the other side of this okay. So when the limo began to pull up in front of the location, they both slowly began to walk out. They seemed to blend in a bit with the crowd, considering that they were also people within this mafia, but.. eyes were glaring toward them. Immediately, it was all of them against the two people arriving for the first time. It was difficult for Ash to ignore the stares, so he didn't bother doing so.
After all, he was the bodyguard.
He stuck close to Don's side, as if in silent protest of breaking away from him. Anyone who dared to mess with his Don would get his fangs in their throat first. They broke through the crowd of people trying to make their way into the building, and soon enough, they were breaking through into the building. Another set of eyes, another set of intimidation to come. "Come on," he stated to Don to try and get him to focus on the mission, just in case he fell prey to taunts or grew angry at the sight of anyone.
He had known some angry men in his life and they tended to get tunnel vision in this instance. It was like.. they could fall prey to just about anything. So he began to moved Don down the stairs. As if that trial wasn't enough, they were now going to be moving into the deep shit. This was the place where lives were literally sold to the highest bidder like cattle, so could anyone really blame one another for growing angry at the sight of it?
They got into the main room. There was another bar set up in this underground area with a stage already set for displaying the cages with men and women inside. It looked like things were just about to begin. Ash used his unfamiliar face to keep Don a bit more shrouded, try to break off familiar sights and prevent anyone from recognizing him too much. After all, this was supposed to be a targeted mission. "Do you see him?" Ash muttered softly, trying to figure out where he was in the crowd, though Don would likely have a better beat on such a thing..
Or he hoped he did.
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Akari heard the soft words beside him, that they'll be okay. Teal eyes widened a fraction before softening, a small smile forming beneath his mask. "Of course we will," came a soft reply, he hadn't lost his edge after all. He could understand his parents' worry, considering this was something his father had often gotten himself into. But in the same breath, he new that he had to do this. While revenge wasn't the best answer for most, there was an alternative reasoning for it: to ensure that this never happened again.
It became clear that when they stepped out of the limo, all eyes had fallen to them, the most nasty looks gracing their faces. A soft laugh escaped the demon as he began to move forward, allowing Ash to take control of their movements. Ash wanted to play bodyguard and he wasn't going to make it difficult for him. He could feel the stares on their backs and even feel a few targets being placed there from guns pointed from higher up. But they were spared as they entered inside, where even more glances were sent his way. It was apparent just how well known and hated he and his father were in this type of world.
As he was told to come, he followed, his gaze still in a neutral state, much like the rest of his appearance. "I'm used to this Ash, it's alright." He didn't want Ash to think that he was pissed or getting lost to his rage. The two of them soon stepped downstairs, where cages were lined up with people enslaved within. A bar was seen and the both of them made their way over, as if to have an easy location to come back to should something happen. The demon sat down, letting out a gentle sigh as he leaned his elbows back onto the counter.
Teal eyes found Ash then, his head tilting as he noticed the man somewhat tense as he questioned if he had seen their target. "I see him, Ash." His hand lifted, gently tugging on the man's coat as he ushered him to sit at his side. "We'll be okay." He repeated the feline's words from before. "There," he let his eyes move towards the man, for Ash to follow. The man was standing in the midst of a crowd, the lot of them mingling like this had been some sort of social event. The way people looked at him and tried to schmooze him up told a lot about his status here.
"A whiskey and whatever my partner would like." A bit of zeni was sat down onto the counter, where the bartender took it and began to make their drinks. Once his glass was given, Akari lifted it to his lips and let the liquid enter his mouth. He swished the alcohol around, getting a feel for it before swallowing. It was a trick that Kintaro had once taught him, to ensure that his drink wasn't drugged. His gaze wandered from the target and towards those that were enslaved and he tilted his head to rest his cranium against his fist.
He recalled the story his father told him last time and parted open his mouth to speak, his voice hushed for only Ash to hear. "My father told me that when he came here with his bodyguard, Kintaro... they went about it as if they were buying a single person to save. As they were about to exit... they shot the young girl in the head before they could free her." He let this sink in before he continued. "But he also told me... that when he brought my uncle Yamato to a place like this, they made a scene. They literally fought and freed all the slaves and escaped with them unharmed. And my father realized... sometimes you can't play by the books, you have to fight for what you really want."
Lazily his gaze shifted to Ash, a smile hidden behind his mask. "Would you agree?"
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He was used to this. Sure, he could say that, but why did he doubt that it made this hurt any less? Ash would have been fairly annoyed with the kind of stares that they were getting, but he had to remind himself that he was out here on work at the end of the day. So once they got down to pointing it out, Ash's eyes analyzed the man's face, his body, clothes, demeanor. This was a social event to these disgusting fools and this man was playing the wining and dining as if it were his chosen career path.
As they sat down for a drink, Ash said: 'a bourbon' and went on with it. He watched as Don swished the alcohol around for a moment in his mouth. So he was smart-- had Ash been a bit quicker on the draw, he might have tried it for himself on Don's drink, but he seemed to be confident enough to do it on his own. Ash did the same, testing for any sort of drugs that might have been put into the mix before swallowing it with a soft sigh. Then Don spoke on it.
This was where they went to rescue a slave, his father and the bodyguard known as Kintaro. But before they could even get out, the woman was shot right in the head. A miscalculation on Don's part that they were simply going to let him get out with property in their eyes, even if his intentions were known to the world. But then they went to a different world, brought Yamato there and that man caused a scene, managing to get all of them out. That was when his father realized they couldn't always play by the rules to get what their end result was.
Ash looked over at Don for a moment as he asked if he was in agreement. To which Ash nodded. "Sometimes, going outside of the constraints of what you believe are 'within the lines' is necessary to assure victory." He brought his eyes over to Don in that moment. He looked into that lazy gaze. "Which tells me you must have some sort of crazy plan that involves putting us in a grotesque amount of danger and might not even result in us coming out of this unscathed." He gave pause, only to sip at his drink again.
"I'm in. Just explain what you want and I'll commit it." He had no hesitation in his tone, but that was just because this was what he was used to. Most of his clients weren't exactly much in the way of strategists either, so he had to come up with his own plans half the damn time. He was used to being the one that did this sort of thing, the one who would have to come up with the plan of attack when it come to assaults on an enemy base. But this time.
"What's your game plan?"
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Ash was in agreement, knowing full well that sometimes they had to work outside of the box in order to get what they wanted. The don nodded and the feline sent him a glance, telling him that he was in when it came to doing something dangerous. Even if they didn't get out of it unscathed, don knew that they wouldn't be dying here. He was asked what his plan was, a grin forming on his face as he folded one leg over the other. "We saw our advantage the moment we arrived... All eyes are on me, Ash. The moment I make myself known, it'll return to me. He will be all over me. He'll try and threaten me, they'll all surround me... and they won't even notice you there." His gaze turned back toward the other now, giving his head a small tilt.
"You're an unfamiliar face, you can slip around without being easily noticed. You can free them while everyone's attention is on me. They'll know I'm here to free the captured people and they'll do whatever they can do stop me." He knew that the plan may have worried Ash, considering he was supposed to be playing bodyguard, so he nodded in his direction. "How does that sound to you? We should come up with something soon, before they start." His gaze wandered to the enslaved, as they looked on with fear in their eyes, the kindled flame of hope having been snuffed out a long time ago.
And Akari wanted to be that hope, to bring it back to them.
"He'll give us the information we need and we'll fight our way out of here... together." He wanted to reassure Ash that he wasn't going to let his story end. Even if part of him wanted to die at the end of this entire ordeal, he would keep pushing on. As he finished his whiskey, he sat the empty glass down and rose to his feet, letting his long black coat fall down around his body as it swayed along his figure. "Shall we get to work?" Once all concerns were made, Akari made his way forward, where eyes had begun to find him once more.
The son of the Blue Flame, the man who often meddled in the slave trade.
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So that was his game.
He was going to try and use himself as a distraction while a new face did his best to free the slaves. He closed his eyes, trying to figure out if that was a good plan. Actually, now that he really thought on it, it sounded good on paper. But whow as to say that it was going to turn out that simple whenever they actually put the plan into motion. Yet Don seemed to have a lot of faith in the idea, so he let out a gentle sigh and sipped at his bourbon one more time, finishing the shot off.
"Why do I feel like, even if I told you no, you'd still go for it?" He smiled over at the Don. "My job is not to question, it's to serve. So if that's what you want to do, I'll begin to get into proper position." So that was what he did. He rose up from the barside and began to weave his way through the crowd. He gave a couple 'hellos' to people that bothered to greet him. With his attire, some had believed him to be a neighboring mafia boss passing by. Others had believed him to be an intimidating bodyguard.
But none the wiser they indeed were.
As he slipped his way through the crowd, the other portion of it had their eyes firmly on the son of the Blue Flame. Even with the mask, it was easy to tell by those piercing eyes. As the son tried to make his way forward, one of the men pushed himself directly in the demon's path with a wide grin. "My boy, it has been too long! It's about time you've come around to joining us down here." He almost seemed.. welcoming from the looks of it.
"I hope you're going to see the light here, more than your father ever did." He made the comment without even caring if it hurt or not. "He tried to free so many people on this planet, but the one time he got close, he got the bitch shot. So please do remember.. don't bid. Just watch this time around and learn the ropes." He smiled down at the demon, trying to make this picture very clear. He wasn't leaving with anyone today.. whether he bought one or not. So he might as well save his money and watch the show unfold.
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Akari made his way through the people while Ash went into position to save the slaves that had been imprisoned. All eyes had fallen onto Akari just like planned, a few whispers ringing out as they watched him move. They found it bold that he traveled alone and Kintaro nowhere in sight. The demon was halted in his tracks as a figure stepped in the way. Those eyes stared right through him, mocking and judging him. He was greeted with familiarity and kindness, though it had been faked by any standard. He was all but threatened not to get in the way and bid, to just sit back and enjoy the show, like his father couldn't.
A gentle frown had made it to his face, but it was covered and no other signs of discomfort could be seen on his person. "I didn't come here to bid, I can rest assure." Another figure made his way up from behind, as if to corner him between the both of them. "Maybe he's come around since he became a widower, he must be so lonely." The tone in voice was mocking, causing the demon's hands to curl into tight fists at his sides. "Even after the attention Vincent's men gave him?" Another person whispered, a few laughs ringing out around him. It felt like he was being bullied in high school all over again, but he didn't dare budge from where he stood.
His eyes glared forward, watching as the eyes of that man locked onto him. The one he was meaning to see all this time. The one that would help give information about Thursday. "Maybe he's come to offer himself up for sale, like his whore of a father." That's when Akari's fingertips twitched at his sides, trying his best not to blow the entire building up from where he stood. Instead, a gentle sigh left him and he closed his eyes momentarily. "You all are as welcoming as ever... and here I was hoping to lend some money to help sponsor the place." A lie, but he knew that they were lacking with investments since the deaths of Magnum and Vincent.
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Ash got himself into position with ease, getting behind the curtains of the stage without making so much as a peep. Though as he got to the back, he quickly realized there was no turning back. A pair of guards were beginning to patrol the area as they usually did, prompting Ash to hide away behind the curtains. This wasn't the first one they were going to have to hit, so it might be better to stay as anonymous as he possibly could. He waited for the two of them to finally reach close enough, then suddenly, he came out.
One of them tried to scream, but he was quick to snap the guard's neck and send him onto the ground. The other was about to call for help on his radio, but Ash grabbed his mouth and forcibly closed it. "If you wish to live, tell me where the slaves are." The man was struck to his core with his fear, shakily beginning to point to the left of them. Further backstage where the cages were. Ash nodded. "Good boy." He didn't let go of his jaw before delivering a knife to the underneath portion of his jaw, digging it right through to the top of the man's skull.
As the mention of sponsoring them came up, a laugh erupted from the back. Specifically, this was from the target that they were trying to get a hold of, the man that had information on the drug deal going down on Thursday. He began to approach now, cracking his neck. "Is that right? What a gracious man-- becoming the benefactor of the sex trade. He truly isn't like his old man after all, even if he's got threats to make and 'deals' he wants to go back on.";
But he brought a finger up, leaving it just an inch away from poking into Don's chest. "Listen up, kid. Your dad may have been a piece of shit, but at least he had the moxie not to do half-promises. When he came, he came to be a little fucking thief. He didn't come being a little shit who wants to run his fucking mouth about whether or not he's going to donate. Like I'll be insulted by some little whiny puke wanting to act like he's all high, mighty and superior." Then he spit right on Don's face.
"Don't waste my fucking time, you sex slave spawn."
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Akari just needed to buy time, but it was going to get hard, especially with laughter rang out as the ring leader himself made his way over. A finger aimed to poke at his chest, as he was told that his father at least didn't make half-promises, but at the same token was a thief. Each insult about him and his father was making his blood boil, it took everything to not just snap this man's neck as those in the room talked down on him and laughed at the tortures he had been through. He was mocked and looked at with disgust and he almost felt the need to vomit from it all nearly being too much.
Before he could part open his lips to speak, to retort at the insults of being high and mighty, spit splattered against the mask on his face. Teal eyes widened at the gesture, only to be called the spawn of a sex slave. And he saw red flash before his eyes, a low growl rumbling in his chest as his fingers flexed in and out. Fingers slowly lifted, gripping onto the black fabric of the mask before yanking it down, letting those scars on his face be seen to public eye. The torn skin that was still attempting to mend and the small bits of teeth that poked out ever so slightly.
The murmurs grew in volume and Akari finally parted open his lips to speak. "You're right. After what all of you fuckers did to me... I should probably just kill you all where you stand, shouldn't I?" The air in the room shifted as the demon's eyes narrowed, the burning sensation of rage spreading throughout his chest. "I'm not like my dad, after all... I shouldn't hold back from the slaughter like he often has to." The 'superiority' in his tone was dropped, these were just words of truth spilling now.
His arm shot forward, fingers curling onto the suit of the don as he yanked him in, their faces inches close as he decided to speak in a lower volume. "And here I thought we could sit and talk like normal people, Carlo." He spoke the man's name, his research already done and pristine.
The air in the room did indeed shift after the Don made it clear that maybe he should just kill them all. He wasn't like his father, so why bother holding back? But their eyes did not widen at this point, even as Carlo was yanked in and his name was spoken into the air. "... so you know of a rat in my midst." Without hesitation, Don would feel a knife digging right into his chest. "Well, that just made you a problem." If he had known the man's real name, what else did he know?
"Have you ever heard the phrase 'don't dip your hand before you play it'? Kid, you have a shit poker face." His eyes narrowed. "I bet you ain't even here for the fuckin' slaves. You're here because of me." He let the knife dig just a bit deeper into the demon's chest, twisting it slightly. "You're right. You're nothing like your old man.. he was smarter. He was faster. Hell, I'll bet a pretty penny he was stronger too, but now I won't know that." And he ripped the knife out of the demon's chest.
"Because you're dead."
He said it simply. There was no sort of heavy weight on his conscience due to killing a kid-- or rather, a young adult. He simply didn't care. The scent of the Blue Flame was all that it took to piss him off and he just fucking reeked of it. The Don in question turned his back on Don, not caring for whether he was going to struggle on the ground while bleeding or not. He simply wanted to get down to the festivities. But there were murmurs. Murmurs as if.. not all was going according to plan for some reason. Carlo slowly began to turn back to look at Don..
Ash was unlocking some of the cages with a blade of energy that he forged from his fingertip. "S-Sir, you could get in big trouble doing this.." The feline shook his head. "And I care why? We're getting all of you out of here, orders of the Azure Ember." He came up with his own little 'codename' for the Don. Calling him the Blue Flame would have been a little too on the nose, so he wanted to go for something else. And he cut the cage open, some of the humans beginning to walk out cautiously.
"Come on, we got to get out of here."
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Carlo soon came to realize that a rat had been in his midst and almost immediately a blade was felt piercing into his chest. Teal eyes widened a fraction, feeling the burning sensation spreading through his chest. The don slowly dropped to a single knee, feeling how his heart beat rang a last time before it stopped. Blood spat up from his mouth, overflowing down his chin as he felt his eyes come to a close. But just as that heart gave its last beat of life, another began to pump the blood through his veins and take over for the dead one that had laid within.
The murmuring returned as Carlo turned his back to him and slowly faced him again and he'd watch as the don rose to his feet once again. Blood stained his suit, a hole clearly made in his chest as blood also coated the tan skin around his mouth. Yet, a grin slowly rose over his face as he released a breathy chuckle. "You know, I'm glad you think so highly of my father, Carlo. Makes me proud to be his son and all, but... You really shouldn't underestimate me." The demon's eyes darkened, his arm thrusting forward as his fist cracked right into the side of the man's face.
Akari watched as the man fell to the ground on impact, his gaze lifting to those around them that almost feared acting in response to this. A few droplets of blood dribbled to the floor at his feet, creating a small pool before he took a single step forward. The crimson trail followed him as he moved to stand above the don who was just running his mouth. Sapphire flames began to crackle to life around them, creating a ring around both Akari and Carlo and separating anyone from getting too near. This also meant that nobody else could hear what was being said either.
Ash's energy was felt as he began to exit the back entrance with the slaves and he knew it was time to get the information he craved. The demon stopped just in front of Carlo, his boot pushing down between the man's legs, until he felt a painful bolt of electricity travel up his manhood. "Give me information on what you have planned for Thursday, Carlo," He could already hear the insults being thrown his way and so he pushed his boot downward, until he felt the man's 'goods' practically pop under his slight heel.
"The drug trade, don't play dumb now, you were so keen to run your mouth before." Teal eyes glowed faintly as the flames rose higher, making it nearly impossible to reach them. Their voices could barely even be heard over the crackling fire and so Akari knelt down, sitting on the man's leg as he let a grin rise over his face. "You know... my father taught me a lot in the ways of torture, Carlo. It's best to start talking."
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As he turned back, he would be met with the sight of Don, who was very much still standing on his feet. His eyes widened. Was.. he seriously able to survive a stab to the heart like that?! Before he could mentally question it any further, he felt a punch cracking right across his jaw. His body flew right onto the ground, a few beginning to stand back and let the scene play out. While their mob mentality was more than happy to jump in and abuse Don when they had him on the backfoot..
.. They ain't fuckin' with someone that can survive a stab to the heart.
Within seconds, the power dynamic had changed. Don had the man on the ground, creating a ring of sapphire flames that surged around them. He wanted his space, Carlo glaring up at Don and ready to try and attack the two of them. Yet as he was about to cock back and attack, he was stopped in his tracks. A boot pushed down between his legs, his body jolting wildly with pain. He screamed out, but he didn't care.
"I ain't gonna tell you shit, you little fuck! Get the fuck out of here before you embarrass yourself further!" But then he felt a pop. A scream erupted from the base of his throat, followed by his turning his head to the right and vomiting onto the ground. Tears flowed down from his eyelids, trying to cope with the absolute massive pain that was overwhelming his body at this point. "F-Fuck, fuck..!" As he attempted to get his bearings about him, the pain of his balls literally being busted and the intense heat around him caused him to crack.
"God damn it, it's on the corner of 6th and Birch Street in South City.. we're doing the deal around 3 PM!" He tried his best to not groan at the end of the sentence, feeling a warmth down there. A mixture of piss and blood, unable to stop himself at this point due to the pain. This man.. no, this Don. He was the spitting image of his father-- no, it went even farther than that, didn't it? This guy was even worse than Don, he was completely ready to kill..
Ash was beginning to help the weakened slaves into the limo. "Why are you.." The feline shook his head. "Don't worry about the 'why'. We're going to get you all out of here so you can live proper lives. I promise." He offered a gentle smile to them, trying to bring them some sort of comfort in all of this fear that gripped them by the throat. And speaking of fear, Ash could feel energies fluctuating inside of the building. Just what the hell was taking Don so long to get back to the limo?
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Akari stared down at the man that began to vomit to the floor, tears having spilled from past his eyes. It almost felt nice seeing someone like this, someone that was the cause of his own trauma looking the way he had once before. The information spilled about the place and time and the don removed his boot from the man's crotch. "Good, thank you for the information." His hand lifted, index finger pointed for the man's head before a bolt of energy flew from his fingertip and pierced into his skull. The man's head fell back to the carpet, blood oozing from his cranium as he died at his feet.
The demon stood tall once again, those flames dying down as he let his gaze wander about the room. Eyes glued onto them in horror, realizing that their don had just been killed. But others realized it had been a don fight, considering Carlo made the first move to murder Akari, so the son of the Blue Flame technically was retaliating in self defense. The demon pushed past them, moving through the front doors as he let out a quiet grunt of effort all while he felt the world around him beginning to spin.
He had been posturing and holding himself high in order to hide the pain, but he couldn't deny the agony that was rushing through his system. The limo soon came into view, but the look on Ash's face told him all he needed to know. Blood leaked out of the hole in his chest, staining his suit. And blood caked around his mouth and chin and he could already see the look of worry on his partner's face. Akari attempted to hold his own as he neared, only to stumble slightly with a light whine as he nearly hit the concrete.
Yet before he could hit the ground, he felt arms moving around him, preventing him from hitting the cement with the entire weight of his body. A light cough echoed as blood splattered past his lips, his hand lifting to cover it as he winced an eye closed. "They... pushed a few buttons. Laughed and brought up... things." Ash would realize all that he meant, considering the story he was told. "I lost my composure, so I know... never again. I won't go it alone again." His hand gently clung to the feline's coat as he was helped back to his feet, a light sigh leaving him as he closed his eyes.
"I got the information for Thursday, we can go."
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Ash had expected plenty of things. Perhaps a bit more blood to be coating his jacket from the others around him, but what he did not expect was for his Don to be walking out with a wound of his own. Ash's eyes widened at the sight of the man, immediately rushing up to him and capturing the demon in his arms. He held the demon close, slowly dragging him to the limo and helping him inside. He was told that they pushed a few buttons and the man lost his composure. He knew this was never gonna happen again.
"... You're damn right it won't." Ash wasn't the type to defy orders when he was given them, yet this man put so much faith in him, tried to push so much power in the palm of his hand.. that he couldn't deny that he wanted to selfishly abuse it just a little bit. "But I'm glad you're safe." As safe as a man could be with a hole in his chest, but he was not going to let him go solo on these missions anymore, his face be damned. They could find another way to get this taken care of.
The slaves that were seated in the back with them staring at Ash and Don, smiling softly. "We're.. very thankful for what you did." One of the men spoke up for them, trying to give some sort of thanks. "W-We don't have money. I'm sorry, but we're not going to be able to pay you for saving us." Ash shook his head. "I have a feeling my Don won't be asking for any sort of payment. He.. seems to have a very firm belief that everyone has a right to their own destiny. And if today was any indication, he'd almost kill himself to defend that."
Ash patted Akari's back lightly, teasing bopping his head once. "But you will not be doing anything that fucking reckless again, do you hear me? You're living for more than yourself at this point. What would these people have done without you, what would I have done if I lost you?" He said the words without even skipping a beat, folding one of his arms over his own chest. It was easy to tell he was a bit frustrated at the result of the mission, even if it did have some success at the end of the day.
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Akari was helped into the back of the limo, the door closing behind them and giving the driver the right cue to drive off. He was told that Ash was glad that he was safe, causing those teal eyes to part back open again to gaze toward the feline. That's when a voice spoke up, thanks for saving them, but apologies for not having any money. Ash spoke up that he was certain that his don wasn't requiring payment and that he nearly gave his life for his beliefs in these people being freed. A small flush found the demon's face as he was bopped playfully by the feline and lifted his gaze to those in the back with him.
His eyes scanned them over, his scarred face not even making them flinch. With a gentle sigh, he spoke up now. "My mother was forced into the sex slavery." He called his da 'mother' for the sake of not making things too difficult to explain. "If they hadn't been rescued from it by my father, I likely wouldn't have been born. So, to that end... it's become my mission to put a stop to these needless rings." That ferocity was seen in his eyes, the passion for what he believed in brought to the surface. "You'll be brought somewhere safe, clothed and helped into a better environment or returned to your families."
A boop to his head was soon made, his eyes widening as he turned to face Ash, who told him that he wasn't going to be reckless like that again. That he was living for more than just himself now. When asked what these people that he had just saved would have done without him, he nearly began to say 'they'd still have you', until Ash asked what he would do if he lost him. The demon's mouth closed then, gazing to silver eyes with a small head tilt. "You... feel that way about me?" It may have come off slightly startling to hear such a thing. But it wasn't meant as an insult, but more.. having not known that he meant so much to another person.
He had been living on his own for so long since Noel's death. Akari had barely even seen his parents, living alone in his hideout and barely responding. Then with his friends so far away and out of touch, he had nearly forgotten that he was cared for, until told otherwise the other day at the cafe. And now-- Ash cared so much? A small sound found his lips then, his head slowly falling to lay over the feline's shoulder as he rest his eyes. He spent his time like that until they arrived back at the hideout, the doors opening and allowing the captured people out and into the underground parking lot.
A few of Akari's men had already been waiting for them, some women moving forward to try and sooth the captured with a mother's touch. As they were being cared for, a gentle sigh escaped from the demon as he slipped back to his feet, his balance nearly lost to him as he reground himself. "3pm Thursday... we have some time to recuperate."
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Ash had to admit that he was ever so slightly confused by the sudden mention of a mother, but he supposed that it was something to make it easier for the slaves to understand exactly what he was getting at with his explanation. The slaves stared at the man, starry eyed a bit at how.. how heroic he was acting all of a sudden. Then attention was brought over to Ash as Don asked if he felt that way about the man. He gave pause as the limo began to move to the front of the hideout.
Once the vehicle stopped and the slaves began to mend slightly, Ash mentioned they had time to recuperate. So Ash nodded. "Yeah.. and of course you mean that much to me." He thought back on how his feelings had gotten him into hot water before. After all, defending the old man back home.. it resulted in so much more heartache than was needed. All because work and feelings got twisted. Yet old habits seemed to die so hard. "I haven't met a man so coated in sin, yet with such bold and genuine intentions. You want to kill, to get revenge, and yet.."
One of the men came up to Don, smiling softly at him. "Hey, man. Uhh.. the others aren't very good at expressing their thanks, so let me do it on their behalf. Thank you so much for what you did. We can.. go back to our families. We can get our lives back on track, and all of that is possible because of you." A smile tugged at the slave's lips. "Excuse me for being cheesy, but you're.. sort of our hero." That last word was emphasized. Even in the midst of all this, Don had the capability to be a hero to some people.
Ash nodded, chuckling a bit. "And yet you're a hero to some people from the looks of it. It might not be much, but overall, you did some good for the world. You might be getting revenge, but you seem to be doing everything you can to make the world a better place at the same time. Every step is coming with some kind of positive outcome, at sacrifice of your own betterment or health. It's admirable. It's loyal. It's.. everything I love in a person, if I'm honest." Oh. Did he... say too much on that front?
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The two of them had exited the limo, everyone gathered together as Akari's men went about helping people get clothed better, fed and then returned to their families. Ash stated that he did feel that way about him, that he meant that much, causing that smile to return. It was an old feeling returning to the surface, of how his friends used to make him feel. Ash had never met a man so coated in sin, nearly dark and twisted and yet... The words halted as one of the slaves made his way over, excusing himself from interrupting. The others weren't as good as expressing gratitude, he said, to which the don gently shook his head. "It's understandable, after everything you've been through." But that hadn't been all, he was viewed as a sort of hero to them. Because of him, they were able to go back to their lives that were so easily ripped away from them.
"I..." He felt a little startled, but he watched as the man went back to his group and Ash nodded along with a soft laugh. Even if he was a man drenched in blood and sought after revenge, people could see the deeds that he's done and look at what a hero he was. People still viewed him in that light despite it all. Ash went on, saying that it was admirable, loyal... and generally everything he loved in a person. A flush slowly flew over the demon's face, his tan skin glowing a faint red as those teal eyes lifted to the feline at his side.
The demon took some time to let it all sink in, before he parted open his lips to speak. "I didn't realize... I could still be viewed that way." His voice had been at a whisper in a lame attempt to hide his embarrassment. "I'm glad I can be... a kind of person that you can find love in." When everything had felt so dark and empty, there always seemed to be a ray of light awaiting him to pull him back out again. It had always been Noel, but perhaps... he was also finding it in Ash as well.
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And it all seemed to come back to him. Don didn't even realize that people could still viewe him in this kind light, that people could still view him as someone who was so damn.. heroic. It was nice that these strangers were able to give him that distinct feeling once again after all of this time, it worked well with the details he was trying to instill here. Then Don confessed that he was happy to be the kind of person that he could find love in. Ash's cheeks ignited slightly at the statement, scratching at the back of his head.
"Y-Yeah.." He didn't quite know what else he could realistically say in that moment. How could he react to such a statement aside from 'yeah'? It wasn't like.. he was in love with the man. Right? Then again, the loyalty that he showed off, how he was so self-sacrificial for even the smallest man. They were such admirable traits that, perhaps if Ash would allow more of his feelings to leak into his work.. maybe. Just maybe. But he wasn't going to confess such things just yet, he had to let things develop. They had time to burn now.
"You know.. if these strangers could see you as a hero, it might be worth the time to get your people back." Since they were talking about feelings flowing about between them, he might as well speak freely on that particular one. "I figure.. if you're beginning to finally open up and realize that you don't need to blame yourself over things, you can reconnect with the other people that you've lost." He was trying to encourage this because it was obvious to Ash that this man lamented the loss of his comrades. Lamented the loss of the people he loved.
"But if you want to do something else today, I am at your mercy, for lack of a better term." The feline let out a small laugh at the sound of his own statement. If it came down to it, it was just going to be something to think about at the end of the day. There was a light at the end of this tunnel. "I doubt another conversation over coffee is how you'd want to spend your time.. any suggestions?"
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A soft laughter had formed from the demon at the embarrassed response that was given back at him. It was a little silly, how they both seemed to shy away. But at the same time, Akari didn't really think much of it. Not because of a lack of interest, but he wasn't exactly expecting someone to feel those sort of ways about him. A mention of his friends were brought up, suggesting that maybe now was the best time to rekindle what had been once lost. The don thought on it a moment, his gaze lingering on the pavement at their feet as he let the idea of it run through his mind. While he wanted to desperately be close again, another part of him feared it. He feared that they could be ripped away from him, with the rival dons still watching him.
Ash also suggested just the two of them doing something together again, for the feline to be at his mercy. Teal eyes widened a small fraction, only for another laugh to escape him. "At my mercy, he says..." A playful grin found his face, those sharp canines poking out in a jest. "Perhaps I'll call them soon... but for now, let's just relax for a while, shall we?" Ash then teased at the idea of sitting around drinking coffee again may be a but dull to do again, making the demon's grin widen a small fraction. "What to do indeed." The demon's gaze lowered to his chest, watching as the hole there had began to close, which made his weakened state begin to return to normal again.
Now that he was able to fend for himself, they could do just about anything until the day was over with. "I have an idea. How would you like to go on an adventure with me?" A wolfish expression befell the demon as he looked toward the feline, a suggestion that was filled with mischievousness behind it. No matter the man's initial reaction, the demon found amusement in it all the same as he tilted his head. "Right. Let's get changed into something more casual, so we cannot be spotted as easily. I wouldn't want someone to ruin our time out." The demon led the way back into the hideout, where he'd change out of his bloodied suit and wear something more comfortable.
A black turtleneck sweater with dark slacks and while his hair was still a bit messy after the day out, he combed it down before heading back out again. Once he met up with Ash, he'd take them to a private car, one that was more of his own personal vehicle rather than a limo and slipped into the drivers seat. With Ash following after him, they took off down the streets of East City, the cool breeze from outside lightly thudding against the car as they drove on.
Akari soon found a parking spot, which almost appeared to be random for anyone else that wouldn't know the location. The demon slipped out, locking up the car after they both closed their doors and led the way forward. With evening settling in, the orange hues of the sky began to settle in, the lamp posts burning bright around them as the bustling people in the streets passed from shop to other local business. In the midst of the square, music was playing and oddly enough, it had been of an old idol group -- one that Akari had once been apart of. The group had disbanded, yet their songs still rang out through the streets in merriment.
A few food stalls were open, people calling out for any customers, along with drink stands and slushy carts. A water fountain lit up as the jets shot the cool liquid up into the air and back down into a miniature pool it had created in the middle of the park. Children laughed in the distance as they played sports together, tackling the other down in their football match. Akari gazed forward, hands shoving into his pockets before he let a single eye glance back towards Ash. "I used to come here a lot, I figure I can show you a side of myself... that you don't know yet."
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He didn't want to call on his friends just yet-- right now, he was more wanting to make sure that they had some time to relax after all the shit that they were made to go through. It was what Don wanted to do, so that was what was going to happen at the end of the day. As they went inside of the hideout, Don suggested that they go on an.. adventure? The feline's eyebrow cocked up slightly at the sound of it. "An adventure, huh..?" Part of him was a little bit hesitant, considering the plans his Don would usually come up with.
But much like any loyal man would have done at this point, he simply went with the flow of this and nodded. "Sounds like a lot of fun." And with that, they began to get dressed in something just a little bit more casual. Though.. even Ash's usual casual attire was something dressy. He had a white button up shirt and dark slacks with dress shoes. It was a layer less than he was used to wearing, but he didn't exactly mind that part either. He was just happy to be out.
They went out into the streets of East City with Don as the driver for once, amusing Ash ever so slightly. He had actually believed he didn't even know how to drive, but that much was fine. He kinda liked it, it just added to the mystery of just how much this Don was capable of in the first place. They got parked in a proper spot and headed out of the car, making their way out to the local square.. where festivities were already getting underway. Once again Ash's brows rose up slightly at the view he was being given. This was.. interesting.
"You came here, huh..?" Somehow, he could picture it. Akari here with a group of friends. While he couldn't exactly get appearances down due to not meeting them, there was one thing he could definitely see. Akari without the scars and smiling, being a normal teenager. It was quite the sight too. "I see. Then I suppose.. nostalgia should be our drug tonight." He used to bring his little brother out to places like this, after all. It was.. He shook his head free of his own memories that were beginning to cloud him. He had to stay focused on the night!
"Let's grab some food before we get started then." He brought them over to one of the food carts, going for a nice, juicy hamburger. Something that didn't actually match up with his usual regal appearance, but man, was a life without burgers truly worth living? Once he got his food and Don went for his own, he moved them over to a bench and began to chow down. He looked over to Don. "So you came here before.. what was it like back then?" He asked, wanting to stoke at the flames of memories within the Don's mind.
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Ash seemed a little stunned by how Akari had seemingly changed, but it also appeared to be a good thing. He was led towards the food carts, where the sweet smelling aromas hit their nostrils. While Ash went for more American food, Akari went with the Japanese stall, ordering himself some Yakisoba, which were basically fried spicy noodles with meat cooked into it. He took the plastic bowl in hand and carried it to a bench alongside Ash. As the two sat down, Akari took his chopsticks and began to lift his noodles up, blowing on them before shoveling the first bit into his mouth. He chewed happily, a content noise following shortly after as their gazes lingered around the park.
He was asked what it was like back then when he came here and a small smile began to find his face. "The six of us came here a lot... and it was the hot spot for festivals and carnivals to come into town. But this is how it's like on a normal day.. a lot to do with close friends. We came here for the food a lot, you may not believe it... but I was a bit of a glutton. The way to my heart was through my stomach." A soft bit of laughter found him as he leaned back onto the bench as he twirled a bit of meat around with the noodles and slurped it into his mouth.
"Lysander, Noel, Wataru, Hiroto and my cousin Koichi. We were inseparable. We'd run around after a full stomach, wrestle together, joke and laugh. Then we'd either go roller blade on the rinks they have set up further back there," he nodded his head in the direction "or make up our own fun, until the stars came out." A fond expression had found him then, feeling how that ice on his heart was beginning to chip away. "I'm the youngest, if you can believe it. I was the baby of the group and yet I acted like I was an adult, always trying to protect them." His smile had turned into a bit of laughter, amused by his own words since they were the truth.
His gaze had found Ash then as he tilted his head back a bit, almost as if the real him was beginning to break through to the surface. "I can still remember the days... where people called me Akari instead of Don."
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Ash took another proper bite out of his burger as Don went on about how his friends and him would come out and enjoy their time with the festivities. They would eat food, ride rides.. and they were inseparable. Yet here they were now, doing the same thing. Then it came out that Don was actually the youngest of their group, yet the most emotionally mature-- perhaps due to trauma or to his upbringing from the Blue Flame. Whatever it was, this was the dynamic they had.
Then a name drop. Akari. He was not Don, but Akari. His eyes widened at the sound of it, unable to.. process it for just a moment. Did he seriously just learn the demon's name? Did he.. really? So he spoke up. "Silverash." A simple, possibly very unfamiliar word. He took another bite of his burger as he stared forward. "Revealing your name to someone, even an ally, is.. a bit bad. I could easily use it against you, hold your identity ransom in return for money or something. So that's my name. Silverash." He had nothing but trust for the man he was sitting beside, even if he was simply being logical with his words.
"I.. took my younger brother here. Not 'here' in particular, but to places like this back in my homeland. He was a really big fan of japanese foods, it was foreign where we were. He'd always spring for it and I'd have to foot the bill.." He let out a small, weak laugh. It'd be a bit different from his usual demeanor.. he was dropping his guard. "Courier. He was a great kid and a great man. He grew up with me watching over him and eventually became quite the warrior. He.. came on missions with me to help pay for our family's medical bills."
Was he oversharing? Perhaps a little. "He.. was a good kid." Was. It was still a bit hard to talk about out loud, but with his sisters back at the homeland, it was a bit hard to keep himself so closed off. It was a bad habit of his. "I'm sorry, I.. sort of lost myself for a second there. We're not trying to be depressed tonight, right?" Ash didn't like being the one to drop his guard, that's what he was trying to do for Akari, after all. "What else did you like to do here?"
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After a moment of silence between them, a name was given back to him in return. Silverash. It was very different, but he could already tell that Ash was from another land altogether. Much like Lysander was living in Japan, despite lacking the roots of those that lived here and Noel, who was clearly of French origin, living in Japan aboard the Van Eltia before. He didn't question the name, merely smiled upon hearing it. Though he was told that what he had just done was dangerous, even if they were allies, because Silverash could have easily went around and used it against him with betrayal. "I suppose I trust you more than I should." He mused aloud.
However, the man decided to speak a bit further, that he used to bring his little brother to places like this before. At hearing that his brother was much like Akari when he was younger, rushing off and begging for food to where his brother would need to foot the bill, it made the demon let out a quiet laugh of his own. Though he recognized that word added in there, was. Their laughter died down shortly as he learned that his brother, Courier, was joining Silverash on missions to help pay for their family's medical bills.
Upon the revaluation that Courier wasn't here anymore and the twist created on Silverash's face, the demon slowly reached his hand over, letting it gently grip to the man's sleeve. There was an apology, for not making things depressing, but Akari slowly shook his head from this. "I'm happy to know more about you. You've learned of my sorrows, I don't mind hearing about your happy and sad times. They're just words, but, every detail of it is safe with me." The topic shortly changed, asking about more things he had liked doing here, so he gave a small nod of the head as he looked forward again.
His mind wandered to the things they used to do together and decided to spill a bit more. "We often went to the arcade together after school... a usual hangout. We played games, earned tickets, won each other prizes.. We wanted to spend every second with each other, because we knew that once high school was over with, our lives would split. Not purposely, but things would get busy." Which had been true for the most part, considering their split after Noel's death. After a few more fluttering thoughts, he continued. "I liked... sitting by the water and looking up at the stars. It was what... Noel and I often did. He was.. a pirate," he let out a small laugh, knowing how that always confused people at first. "I'd visit their ship and lay up on the deck for hours." A small smile found him and surprisingly... he didn't feel that agonizing pain in his chest at recalling these memories.
Teal eyes slowly lowered to the wedding band that had laid over the black fabric of his shirt, hanging by a chain necklace. "When my father started to train me to become his heir, I... wanted to do more with my life before that day came. I wanted to find out who I was, who I could be... I realized that I was really into music and went into the spotlight, despite how many targets could be on my back." Leaning back on the bench, he let out a gentle sigh. "I don't regret it either." As he finished his food, he let it fall into the bin beside their bench, tossing it and then laying his hands back into his own lap. "What sort of things did you like doing, Silva?" It was like the nickname instantly rolled off his tongue, an old habit he did with his friends before.
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His words had reached Akari without much incident-- it'd be difficult to not feel like hugging after sharing such emotional stories, after all. But Akari, even with everything that Ash was already revealing, said that he didn't mind hearing about the times that he had in the past, whether they were happy or sad. It was a good sentiment to have, so he kept it in mind. Then he listened to the demon's words further about how they would always spend time together, that things were going to get busy after high school. Noel was a pirate by nature, so they often visited the ship.
Then Akari mentioned that he was interested in music and went into the spotlight for a while, which prompted an interesting little thought from him. "Ah.. so you're that Akari? The idol? Wow." He let out a soft laugh. "Err, my little brother actually really liked your music is all. We didn't often listen to japanese music, but he insisted." It was a little tease, if only because it was true. Then he was asked what kind of things he liked to do. He thought on it, leaning back on the bench they sat upon.
He looked at Akari. "Well.. I really liked hiking. Where I'm from, we didn't have a whole lot of developed cities. It was more wildland and big mountains, so we'd go hiking from time to time to get more in touch with nature. My little sisters would stay behind most of the time, so it was Courier and I that went out to get food for our family when our mother was sick." He thought back on those times. Hiking through frigid conditions, barely able to see ahead.. but the thrill of the hunt kept them alive, kept them sharp. It was a great feeling.
"Hiking, hunting for food, it was the simple things that kept my time occupied whenever I wasn't working for a client. At the end of the day, it was what kept us going. But.. after my brother died, I had to provide for my sisters. Hunting alone wasn't covering everything we needed, so I threw myself into my work. Even now, I'm doing so to try and provide for the two of them." Cliffheart, Primanix.. he hoped that the two of them would be safe until he got back to give them some money.
But he looked up to the stars. "I'd.. give anything in the world to make sure those two managed to live good lives. Our clan is dying off. I'm the only male left, they the only two women. So I want to give them the best lives so that they can find good men to continue our bloodline with." And that meant breaking his back to make sure they could. He had never even considered trying to find love for himself, so he still wasn't even sure what it meant to him. He looked down at Akari.
"Sorry, I suppose that was a bit more than you asked for.."
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A small flush found the demon's cheeks now at the mention of being that Akari, as if he had been recognized. Silverash's little brother, Courier, often listened to the group he was in. He felt a little embarrassed, but smiled regardless. "Yeah, that was me." The feline continued, speaking about things he enjoyed doing. Hiking and hunting were usually what they did, it was to get by, but it was something he often did with his little brother. It was done when their mother was sick and his two little sisters stayed at home. He took note of this, his lips curling into a gentle frown as he leaned forward and listened intently.
He wanted to take care of his sisters now, to provide for them. He was the last male and they were the two last women. They had to grow up well and find people to be with, so that their family didn't die out completely. That sort of thing rang familiar to him. "It's okay," he reassured at Ash's apology for possibly oversharing. "My family was much the same, you know? My family.. they were born wolf demons. There were five males and one female, my da being among them. She... wasn't able to reproduce due to things that happened to her. And the family was cursed and hunted down. They were the last ones left alive..."
He paused briefly, his fingers closing around his cup of hot cocoa as he gazed ahead. "It's why they found help from this woman.. who enabled the men to reproduce. It wasn't... physically, obviously, that's impossible. But it happened almost spiritually.. they were created in this space, where both parents energies fed into them." With a small smile, he turned back towards him. "My little sister and I were a product of that." He shook his head as he continued. "What I'm trying to say is... I understand. There's a lot of pressure behind it all." But he came to realize what Ash was doing here, the work he threw himself into to try and pay for his sisters...
He must have wanted to get back home so badly. "Don't worry. After Thursday, we'll get things going a lot faster. You'll be paid handsomely for everything you've done for me." It wasn't just because he felt like he needed to help Ash out with his family, but because he truly appreciated having the man at his side and helping him get things done. He wouldn't have been able to do it alone, he likely would have been swallowed by his grief a while ago now. Teal eyes slowly gazed back up towards silver, offering a small smile under the stare. "I know I don't owe you anything, but if you ever need help with something, anything at all," the hand which had been laying on the feline's arm slowly moved away, letting it drape over his own knee once more. "You let me know." Even if it was just giving him more work to be paid for, he'd do it in a heart beat.
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Love with a male wasn't okay.
The idea of that had been drilled into his mind by his own hand, by the design of his family. If his sisters were to perish, that meant Silverash would have to find love with a woman in hopes of continuing his bloodline on his own. For the sake of his clan, of his everything, he had to make sure that he managed to find a woman properly for keeping his blood alive. Yet now here he stood with a man who said he faced the same issue due to a group of hunters.
When the hunters came and killed off more of his da's clans, a woman somehow gave them the ability to reproduce. It wasn't through pregnancy, but rather through spiritual tethers that combined their DNA and gave way to actual children forged from their bodies. It was a surprise, something that Ash had never even thought of before. It was something he couldn't even believe, yet supposedly Akari was supposed to be the living proof of the opposite. Ash tilted his head toward Akari as he mentioned that he was going to be paid handsomely for what he was doing.
He didn't figure he would have to worry about payment at this point, all things considered. They had grown to have a little bit of trust for one another at this point, so he doubted he would be shorted on a payment. Akari stated that he didn't owe Ash anything, but if he needed help.. just to let him know. Ash let out a sigh, nodding with a smile. "Yeah.. I'll keep it in mind, Akari." He spoke his real name now. And the rest of the night went along without a hitch. The two of them had enjoyed each other's company as they went do a few more things to try and have some fun.
Once they finished up, they headed back to the hideout. Ash knew the drill at this point, he went to the office and set himself up on the sofa, readying to watch Akari do his work until he eventually ended up passing out. At this point, it was more of a ritual than anything else. But as he was readying himself up to rest on the sofa for the night, he got a different vibe. Akari actually mentioned he wanted to try getting some proper sleep for once.
Ash didn't know if he was actually wearing the man down or not in terms of emotions, but this had to be some kind of progress. A smile tugged at the corner of Ash's lips as he nodded. "Then I'll be in the room across from yours." He stood up and made his way over to the room that he had been given to sleep in. His bed was still made perfectly, as if it was never slept in. Well, because it wasn't. He had been watching over Akari since he got here.. comfortable sleep incoming, perhaps.
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The sound of his real name hit his ears, it had felt so long now since he had heard it. It brought a smile to the don's face and the two of them stood and began to actually do things together, until the stars appeared stretched overhead and they couldn't stay out any longer. They had returned to the hideout, where Ash seemed prepared to head into the study to pass out at his don's side, but the man smiled. "I think... I'll try and get some proper sleep tonight." He had been tired, so tired for so long. Mentally, emotionally and without sleeping for the past few months unless maybe an hour at a time, well... it was affecting him.
They both headed to the hallway that led to their two rooms, across from one another, since Ash had chosen to become a bodyguard of sorts during his time working here. "Goodnight, Silva." A slight tease in his tone was made before he slipped into his room and closed the door. The familiar scent soon hit his nose, the nostalgia nearly suffocating him. He could hear Noel's soft laughter ringing out, hear the sheets rustling as they cuddled together after waking up in the morning. The faint talking and then a loud bang echoed as if to shatter the illusions that he was witnessing.
Teal eyes closed tightly as he shook his head and pressed forward, peeling his clothing off and setting it in the laundry basket and dressing himself for bed. As he pulled himself under the covers, he laid staring up at the ceiling, the overwhelming amount of sensations beginning to spread to his chest. He hated trying to sleep, because then the noise all came to a standstill. His fingers weren't tapping at keys and a pen wasn't scribbling on paper to distract him from the voices that taunted him. A gentle and shuddered sigh escaped him before he forced his eyes to close and attempt to sleep.
And sleep came almost immediately, considering he hadn't experienced it in so long.
When it felt like his eyes had reopened, he was gazing into emerald hues. Noel was smiling down at him, their hands laced together as they stood at the alter. It felt like a dream... well, maybe it was. "Noel, I..." He began, hearing his own voice choked on the words. "Shh, I know." A gentle laugh had left the pirate, tears already welling in his own eyes from such an emotional moment. They were about to exchange rings, vows already said with their promises of being together forever. And then that gunshot rang out.
Blood splattered across Akari's face as those arms weaved around him, the both of them colliding to the ground with the sound of screams echoing throughout the room. Everyone had jumped to their feet and rushed over, while Tarble and some of the other adults hurried after the shooter who had mysteriously vanished. Noel's body was slowly pulled off of him by Lysander, a choked sob escaping from Akari as he attempted to reach for his soon to be husband -- they were so close to being official. "Akari, don't move!" Lysander's hands pressed down onto his stomach, the blood oozing out and spreading across the pavement. A second bullet had been fired alongside the first.
And as his gaze lowered, he noticed the unborn fetus laying in the space between himself and Noel.
Sébastien and Noel, were taken away from him.
The demon shot up from bed, beads of sweat rolling down his face as quick and heavy breaths of air passed by his lips. It was like the panic and adrenaline had come back to him and it wasn't calming down on its own. His hand lifted to his chest, a pain surging through it and toward his shoulder as bile slowly began to rise in his throat. Akari's hand shot out to his communicator, knocking things off the nightstand as he fumbled with it and pulled it open. He was blindly clicking through the contacts, until Noel's face and name came to view in that group chat they were still in. The chat was dead, the last messages from about a year ago, but he clicked the call button on reflex, needing to hear Noel's voice.
A few rings came from the end and Akari felt his chest tighten as a choked noise of pain escaped him. Tears had been soaking his face, raven strands sticking to his skin as he practically hyperventilated until someone picked up. Four people answered the call at once, Lysander, Koichi, Wataru and Hiroto. Noel's end continued to buzz, nothing coming through on his end. "Akari!?" Koichi's voice rang out, hearing the heavy breathing on the receiver that sounded pained.
"I... I can't..." His hand clutched tighter to his chest, eyes squeezing shut as he felt the bottled up rage and sorrow coming to the surface all at once. "I need help, it's... consuming me..." A grunt of pain rang out shortly afterward and even Hiroto felt his hand squeezing tighter to his communicator. He could hear his name being called out, panic coming through on his friends' end. And then he realized what he was doing, asking people to come running back to him. They had moved on with their lives, finished mourning over Noel and were trying to carry about their peaceful days. And here he was... trying to reel them back into the mayhem that he had been boiling in.
"Sorry...I realize I'm being selfish, asking you all to drop everything all of a sudden. Please... forget I said anything." A click and his line dropped, despite the cries that were cut short. The demon collided onto his side on the bed, his eyes squeezing tighter shut as he felt the panic in his heart thundering faster and harder... Little did he realize, he was having a heart attack.
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Lysander's hand was quick on the dial, as was Koichi's. Both of their communicators ringing out at the same time in the middle of the night-- well, who else would have been responsible for such a ring in the first place? As they grabbed them, they saw the name responsible for the call: Akari. Lysander got onto the line, speaking quickly. "Akari? Are you okay?" His tone was still a bit tired, but then Akari spoke out a small 'I can't'. His eyes widened at the sound of such words, only for another person to join in the call.
"Are you okay?!" Wataru. He was in on this call as well all of a sudden, but that was only natural. They were all showing serious concern. Akari hadn't been in touch with them since the incident.. none of them were able to take the grief, and without thinking, they had all went their separate ways. But at the same time, it was a realization that each of them had someone to lean on in this tough time. They each had a loved one that they could rely on to hug them through the tears. Akari, he didn't have that.
So when he said that it was consuming him, they were each suddenly feeling that panic. That feeling that they made a gruesome mistake. Then he seemed to come back to his 'senses', he said he realized he was being selfish in asking them to drop everything, so he wanted them to forget everything that he said. Then he clicked it off. Lysander looked at Koichi, Wataru looked at Hiroto. They were all suddenly in agreement on it. "Tomorrow.. we need to go see him."
And with that, they spoke on their plans.
Meanwhile, Ash was about to finally be lulled to the sweet release of sleep, but then he heard a bump. A bump from across the hall. There was barely any time to react before Ash was up on his feet and at Akari's door, making his way inside. He could see that Akari was on the ground, trying to clutch at his own body. He was in tears, looking like he was in intense pain. "Shit, Akari!" He dashed for his don, grabbing at the man's body. He could see the signs, he was having an attack.
So Ash began to press a hand against the man's chest, putting slight pressure there as he tried his best to calm his heart beat. His other hand slipped around his waist, wrapping around the demon and bringing him close to Ash's chest. "Shh, it's going to be okay, calm down.." He did his best to try and calm him. This was key in dealing with this kind of issue, but it brought up the concept of exactly why. Why was he feeling this way, what was going on? He.. decided to try and distract the man's thoughts.
"When my brother and I would go hiking, sometimes he would ask me why we kill the animals. I told him 'so we can live and keep our energy high to protect our family.' He asked me why others had to suffer for our gain. He was a good kid, a good heart of gold.. he never liked hurting anyone, even if they were just animals. But eventually, he learned that sacrifice was necessary for the world to keep spinning. People couldn't just stop eating, animals did the same thing, after all. It was a circle of life.." He wanted to tell a small story. "But that sacrifice.. sometimes leads to good things in the future. And I know in my heart of hearts good will come."
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The demon was lifted off the floor, his head falling back almost limply at the sudden sensation of being lightheaded. He could feel his hand being pushed away from his chest, another coming down on top of it and adding more pressure to his rapidly beating heart. With an arm snaking around his waist, he was pulled in close to the man's chest, so his hand that had now been freed reached up to clutch onto the man's shirt. Those heavy breaths of air huffed out into the man's collar, the cold sweat beading down his face as his eyes squeezed tightly shut.
He was hushed and told that it was going to be okay. And he wanted to desperately believe that. The hand on his chest pushed a little more firmly against him, his heart beat thundering against the palm. Ash began to speak, mentioning his brother again and what they often did when hunting or hiking. His brother questioned why they had to kill animals, because he was a rather pure soul. Why should they have to suffer just so someone else could gain from it. But shortly afterward, Courier began to understand the mindset. He had adapted to it.
All the sacrifices ever having to be made, could sometimes bring good to it. And in his heart, Ash truly believed that good was coming. The demon's breathing came out in shorter puffs of air and while the pain was still there, he could feel his heart rate beginning to slow back down again. His brows furrowed in pain, his lips parting open to speak, but in turn only a small whine left him. That whine held more emotion in it than he meant, it came off as a cry. A cry he hadn't let out since that day he was brought back home from his kidnapping.
That whine turned into a soft sob, his body shaking near violently as his face burrowed more to the crook of the man's neck. But despite the pain, both physically and emotionally, he nodded. He nodded because he could understand what Ash was trying to get at from his story. The palm of his free hand moved, pressing to the back of Ash's hand that was nestled on his chest. The pain was still throbbing, but it was steadily dulling.
Good... would surely come.
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And good would surely come.
As the morning came, Ash woke up earlier than he usually would. This time, he was the one who would wake Akari up with a cup of coffee. "Come on. I need you awake." The look on his face was a little bit seriously, but that was because he was dealing with an active situation. Once he got Akari up, he walked with him. "There's currently a situation we're dealing with on the surface. There are a group of people, four of them, that are looking for you by name. Akari. I need you to come up and tell me if you recognize them.. and if you don't, I'll take care of them right then and there."
It was a bit of a grim thing to say out loud, but considering what happened last night, he hated the idea of something trying to mess with this man now. He was already emotionally scarred and messed up, so to even have the slight idea that someone was trying to fuck with him.. he wasn't going to let anyone mess with this demon anymore. So as they began to make their way up, Ash began to mentally prepare himself to hurt someone.
Once they were within the building on the surface, four sets of eyes found them. Ash looked to Akari.. and saw the expression in his eyes. "Akari!" Wataru couldn't help but rush the demon and throw his arms around the man in a tight hug. "There you are, you rat bastard!" The vampire let out a laugh as he joined in on the hug, both of them embracing the demon. Everyone else got joined in on the hug at well, trying to show as much sudden affection to the man as possible. How long had it been since they were all together like this?
Once they finished up with the hugging, Ash's brows went up. This.. was his group of friends, wasn't it? "We got your call last night.. and we heard you were in a pretty bad way. We couldn't just stand off to the side anymore." Lysander nodded along. "We've already been pretty bad friends to you so far, so we're not going to do that anymore. We're here for you, Akari. We all cleared our schedules. Today, we want to spend time with you." Today, their group came together for the sake of one man:
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Akari had fallen into slumber in the feline's arms, but this time... he didn't wake again. Even as the sun rose, he was curled up in his blankets, snuggling them close as sleep finally claimed his mind. He was awoken with a gentle shake to his shoulder, teal eyes lifting to the cup of coffee offered to him. He quickly dressed and headed out of the room, sipping the hot liquid down as they began to move through the halls of the hideout. Ash seemed to be acting rather serious, so he listened to the situation at hand. In the bar above the hideout, four men were looking for him and even asking by name. The demon's eyes narrowed at this, curious as to who it could be.
Nobody knew about where his hideout was except for his parents.
As they stepped above ground, he nodded to Ash, who seemed prepared to take out anyone there that he hadn't recognized. And due to it being the early morning, the bar was dead, only the barkeep washing glasses behind the counter as he looked between them. It was clear that he worked for Akari to allow something like this to transpire. Teal eyes were met with four figures standing a little away and he felt his eyes widening at the sight of them. Everyone had grown so much, hadn't they?
His name was called and Wataru came rushing over first, arms winding around his body tightly. It was true... Wataru knew where his hideout was, considering they had lived together for a while before he moved out to be with Hiroto. "Wataru-san..." He found his voice as he gently sat his cup down on the counter beside them. Another pair of footfalls followed, along with being called a rat bastard, but it was clear it had been in a teasing manner. More arms wrapped around him and he felt his breath hitch in his throat a moment.
Hiroto and Koichi had hurried over, the vanilla haired man tackling the rest of them as he squeezed onto them tightly. Wataru mentioned the call last night and how he was in a pretty bad way, so... everyone had decided that they couldn't just leave it alone anymore. Lysander admitted to them being pretty bad friends so far and Akari shook his head on reflex to those words. "No, it's..." But it was cut off by Hiroto, who chimed in almost like a parent would confront their child. "It's not okay. We left you alone, when you needed us most." Akari closed his mouth at this and he was then told that their schedules had been cleared for the day.
They wanted to see him, to spend time with him.
As everyone began to pull back, if only slightly, Akari felt himself at a loss for words. He hadn't really expected this sort of predicament. Koichi couldn't help but to smile, however. "Wow... you look a lot like your dad, Akari." It was a genuine compliment and him being at awe with how much time passed and changed them all. "It... just so happens that my schedule is clear for today as well." His gaze then turned towards Ash, who seemed to realize what was happening, but he filled him in regardless. "Ash, these... are the friends I told you about." All eyes had moved to Ash then, realizing a new face had been in the mix of things.
So, Koichi piped up again, a soft smile befalling his face. "Thanks for looking after Akari for us."
Ash was quickly clicking in to exactly what was going on here. From the sounds of it, a little distress signal was sent out to his friend group and they seemed to want to jump on it as soon as they knew. Ash.. well, quite frankly, he was very thankful that things were able to go down this way. If it just came down to Akari wanting to truly go out and reach for them, it might have taken a while. At the same time, it would have taken a while to just wait on his friends to come up and approach him as well.
This was the best path.
Koichi spoke and stated some thanks for looking after Akari for them. Ash simply let out a low chuckle, offering a nod. "It's my job," he said plainly. It was indeed what he was being paid for, after all. Wataru nodded along. "Well, it sounds like your schedule's free, like you said. Why don't you and Mr. Bodyguard here come and hang out with us at the arcade?" Though it wouldn't be said out loud, it was almost like the entire friend group could hear the words trail off at the end of the sentence: 'just like old times'.
Lysander smiled. "That sounds like a lot of fun!" So they didn't even hesitate in tugging Akari along, trying to force him out of that frozen stupor that he might have been in. It had been a long time since he had a lot of positive reinforcement, so it was only natural that he'd probably be hesitant in trying to act like a friend to them or something along those lines. But in reality, they were ready to give the demon as much as comfort as possible.
As they pushed Akari to the front and began to chat him up, Ash trailed behind. His job was to watch over the Don, so he did his best to sort of keep to himself. This was his time to spend with his friends, far be it from him to try and interfere in such matters. Though, that self-imposed isolation was only going to last so long as Koichi began to lean back a bit. He soon slowed down until Ash and Koichi were walking side by side. So Ash broke the ice. "Ash. I'm Don-- Akari's bodyguard." It felt weird to say the man's name to a civilian, but they knew the man before Don.
Wait.. right, they knew the man before Don. "I.. have a personal question. If that's quite alright with you, at least," he started. "I've been working with my Don for a few weeks now. I know his real name and of his friend group, but despite that level of intimacy, I never got to know.. what kind of man he was before the death of his beloved." The death of Noel was a very touchy subject, or at least, that was what Ash could assume at the moment.
"I do my best not to bring it up for his sake. It hurts him, I know it does. But when we work together, I can see glimmers of the man that he used to be before that trauma gripped him. Tell me.. more about the man that I work for. Tell me of the way he was before all of this," he asked. He honestly wanted to know more about Don, the way he operated and thought on things. Perhaps it would grant him better insight as to how to help him.
Or perhaps.. he was just concerned for the man's well-being. Feelings mixing with work again.
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The idea of going to the arcade was offered, something they often did when they were teenagers. Would it be weird to do it now as adults? Without being able to really think on it, he was dragged by the arm, making his eyes widen and blink rapidly as they trailed out of the bar together. Ash had followed behind them, keeping his eye on his don's back as he kept to himself. But Koichi began to lag a bit behind, both of his hands clasped together and cupping the back of his head. It didn't feel right leaving someone out, even if they felt like they should be; at least in his eyes.
Akari let out a soft bit of laughter, a small smile finding him as his friends began to talk his ear off. He was learning what all he had missed as time passed them by. How Hiroto and Wataru were caring for the animals on a ranch, the two of them preparing to tie the knot rather soon. Lysander and Koichi were already married and expecting children, something that made that smile on the demon's face stretch a bit wider. They were things he'd never get to experience again, but he felt joy for his friends, that they had found their happiness.
Koichi tilted his head back as he gazed up at the other vanilla haired man, listening to him finding curiosity in... Don? No, Akari. He found amusement in the nickname, it was a title Akari's father had often went by after all. But during the short time spent with Akari, they had a bit of a close relationship, something that went beyond bodyguard, because he knew of his real name, plus some details about Noel and his other friends. After Noel's death, Akari was a different person, Koichi noticed that much when they saw him. That smile was gone, the light in his eyes faded...
And Ash wanted to know about how Akari was before Noel's death.
A small and gentle smile found the hybrid at the mention of the pirate's name, but it almost appeared fond, as if that sorrow had shifted to something different for him. "Akari's my cousin. And Noel... lived aboard the same ship as me. My da was his Captain. Because of that, the three of us hung out together a lot as kids. He was the youngest in the family... but he acted so much more mature than us." An amused smile found him as his heterochromia gaze wandered towards his friends' backside. "Every time someone was in trouble, he was the first one to act without even hesitation. Like when Noel fell overboard and into the ocean... everyone else froze in fear, but Akari... he dove right in without skipping a beat."
Arms had swung around Akari's shoulders as they moved together, it looked very much like old times as they grew engrossed in their own conversations. "When high school came around... we met the other three up there." He nodded towards Lysander, Hiroto and Wataru specifically. "Akari... felt like he was never good enough for anyone." He admitted aloud, his gaze softening a bit. "He felt like he was only involved in our little group... because everyone had gathered together 'because of me'." Despite these words, a gentle sigh left him and another smile came forth. "He was.. distant and aloof at first. But eventually.. he came into his own. He was fun, loving and acted like a big brother to everyone." After a beat passed them, he continued while they crossed the street.
"When he realized he had feelings for Noel... he was terrified. He was going to become don one day and drag someone into a dark and twisted world... He felt like nobody deserved that. He thought... he deserved to be alone." The hybrid's lips fell into a small frown. "But when he told Noel, he was surprised to hear... that he felt the same way." His gaze moved to look back towards Ash. "He had someone precious that he wanted to protect even more. But that.. was also his weakness. He wanted to protect everyone and in doing so... he got himself hurt a lot." His index finger moved to grace along the side of his own face, as if to silently suggest the scar on Akari's face. The torture he had endured.
"He feared losing people, letting them get hurt... and we made a mantra among us all. Never again. Never again would we let someone be taken away like Akari was that day..." Duo colored eyes found Akari's back once more as they began to enter the arcade. "So... when the day came that he 'did fail'," he made quotations in the air "...it shattered him." In that moment, as their gazes lifted, Akari began to turn back towards both Koichi and Ash as they stopped in the middle of the arcade. A small smile had found its way on the demon's face, his eyes squinting at them a bit.
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Ash dutifully listened to every word of the story that was relayed to him. Koichi was actually a direct cousin of Akari, and Noel lived on the same ship as the man he was speaking to. Noel's Captain was Koichi's father.. so it gave them direct bonds from childhood that made them want to hang out a lot. Ash had to think back for a moment, wondering what kind of friendships he really had. Aside from trying to care for his sisters and teach his brother the lay of the land, had he really made relationships with people like this?
Akari was the one who acted more mature than them all despite being the youngest. When someone was in trouble, he was the first to throw himself into danger without ever freezing up. It was something that he had always done, a trait that had most certainly not been lost on Ash through their interactions either. once they grew up and went to high school, the rest of their friend group had latched on and while Akari was indeed distant, he finally came into his own. He was terrified of his own feelings, but in the end, they ended up together. Yet.. when it came to his will to protect, it was also his downfall most of the time.
That was how he got those scars.
The mantra 'Never again' was brought among them and they told themselves they would never fail like that again. That no one was going to be ripped away from their friend group without all of them giving it their all. But that was exactly what happened in the end, wasn't it? It ended on the death of Noel, a tragedy that still wasn't fully recovered from with the people around him. It shattered the demon, and it was only now that the pieces were finally beginning to come together.
Ash was primed up to respond with something, but then Akari brought attention to the both of them and asked if they were ready to go in, essentially. The smile on his face was enough to make Ash smile, forgetting about all the worries that were gnawing at the back of his skull. This was the time to enjoy a good time with friends, they didn't need to worry themselves so much over the past. So that was exactly what Ash decided to throw himself into with this one.
The group of friends and their bodyguard entered the arcade, Lysander immediately looking around. "Man, when is that old man gonna change out some of these machines?! Hasn't it been, like, years since we've walked in here?" Wataru chuckled softly to himself as he looked about himself. "I have to admit, the games they have here aren't exactly brand new.. it's like he only ordered one or two new games." Of course, it merely meant that the arcade just was not as popular as it used to be. Probably for good reason too, considering they were the reason it was once a pretty hot spot.
A beautiful idol, a pair of vampires, son of the Blue Flame, and a pair of Van Eltia boys? The place was a magnet for people, both good and bad. Not only that, but they were fairly good at the video games that they played too. It bred competition for better or for worse, but there was one game that they could not be beaten at. Wataru nudged Akari. "There's one thing I know didn't get old." He began to lead the group further back in the arcade, only to find the machine already playing music. A dancing machine where you were meant to tap your feet on arrows in time with the rhythm of the song.
Wataru smiled over at Akari. "You haven't died on me, have you, old man? Show me those feet still have some fire in them." Ash's brow shot up a bit, looking over at Akari. "You danced? This I have to see." There was a lot that Ash was able to infer from Akari with the meetings that they've had, the things he's learned about the man. But dancing. Well, he did sing, but dancing was something he had never quite witnessed before. Regardless, he crossed his arms and readied himself for the show.
The azure-haired idol gave a smirk and began to tug Akari onto the other play area with a smile. "Pft, forget the doubters. Hit the usual song, Akari. Let's show 'em we still got it." Wataru had fallen out of the idol scene to take some time for his health after Noel's death. But he was still pretty confident that he could bust a move with the best of them when push came to shove. Now the real question was.. Akari. Was he up to the challenge of getting the groove back in his body?
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The group soon entered the arcade and were welcomed with the same old machines as usual. Maybe only a few new ones had come in over the years, but otherwise it was much the same. And... it was a lot quieter than back in those days. But that much made sense, they hadn't been here in a long time. As they stepped inside and commented on what had happened to their favorite hang out, Akari let his gaze wander from machine to machine. He recalled all the games they had raced to and competitively played together. He and Noel were the top players and the others were always climbing to the top after them, looking to overthrow the 'Kings'.
A small scoff of a laugh escaped the demon at these memories, only to feel fingers curling around his waist as they all ran forward. As they made it further back into the building, that familiar machine was still lighting up. Music was playing and a list of songs was listed for them to dance to. At Ash's comment about Akari dancing, the demon flushed a bit, but turned to glance back at the feline. "You asked if I was that Akari, right? We did more than just sing." A startled sound soon left the man then as he was yanked up on stage by Wataru and he felt deja vu flooding over him.
Teal eyes stared at the machine as he recalled the day where he first met Wataru, Noel having been the one to throw them together right away. This was when they joined up to be idols together after all. Koichi smiled from his place in the back, arms weaving together behind his back. Hiroto was looking on in amusement, considering they were a bunch of old men now. Well, not old, but... definitely older. "They danced to this song when they first met. Akari was undefeated... and Wataru became his rival, they always tied." Hiroto explained aloud, so that Ash could get a gist of the history that was unfolding.
Koichi smiled as he glanced up at the feline with a toothy grin. "This was actually one of their songs too!" And with that, Akari let out a gentle sigh as he shrugged his shoulders, letting the overcoat of his suit come off his shoulders. Folding it, he let it drape over the railing behind him and set his gaze toward Wataru who was challenging him for old times. Pushing the button, that song began to play, the one that they first ever listened to together. One that Akari sang with Wataru to... the song that made Wataru an official person to their group -- their... family.
As the beat began to play, arrows began to slowly make their way down the screen and Akari let his gaze focus on them. And the two ex-idols started to move, their feet tapping onto the arrows on the floor in timing, as if in perfect sync even after all these years. Those memories were flooding his mind and he could swear he saw their younger selves staring back at them in the reflection of the screen, those cocky smiles on their faces as they playfully trash talked the other. The demon spun in place, finding the dance moves coming back to him as the tip of his shoe pressed down onto the arrow in perfect rhythm.
It felt like he had gotten lost in it all, as if this had all been just a dream.
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More context was given to the actions that were being taken right in front of him. Akari used to sing alongside Wataru for one, and for two, this was actually the song they played each other when they first met. They were just idol and citizen during that meeting, but who could predict just how much they truly had in common with one another. Both of them had hearts tainted by the depths of the underground, but one was trying to rise above and leave the past behind.. while the other was groomed for it, and eventually made to have his own place in it by his own volition.
It was revealed that this was actually one their songs as they began to slide clothes off and ready themselves for a proper dance. Ash looked on with more interest than amusement as they began to dance on their play areas. Wataru's feet tapped the arrows perfectly in time with Akari's, both of them even, neck and neck. It was no shock, the both of them had rehearsed together so many times that this sort of thing was pretty much like muscle memory, even years removed from their last practice.
But Ash was the most surprised. He watched as the demon put his own flair on the dance moves, spinning about and enjoying himself in this moment. It was like he was a completely different person, as if the walls that had been erected around the man for so long were finally being torn down and a new man was being born. An older, rugged.. but fun-loving Akari. Ash was finally getting the firsthand glimpse at what that was, what it entailed.. and what he had the potential to be. Then the song finally came to an end, that magical experience ending with it.
Wataru let out a few pants, laughing a bit. "Man, I really am not the dancer I used to be! I used to be able to go all day with this sort of thing, but I'm already getting kind of winded." He grasped Akari gently on the shoulder. "I have to admit, I was thinking that you might not actually be able to keep up with me on the dancing front, but you're just about as sharp as ever! Have you been practicing in secret behind my back?" Wataru gave a tease, causing everyone to laugh a little at the joke.
Ash smiled at the sight of their laughter. He could get a glimpse of the friend group they once had, all of them slightly younger than they are with another man in the mix, laughing just as loud as the rest of them. However, it suddenly shifted to the sight of his sisters huddled around Ash's bent over frame. Holding the body of his brother in his arms, bloodied and broken. His sister's cries of how this couldn't be, about how they needed to get the person that did this.
And the stain of revenge in Ash's eyes.
Then all at once, he was brought back to reality by a bump on his shoulder, specifically from Lysander. "You keep him safe, huh..? He's really important to us. We.. all kind of drifted apart after everything happened, but he was always in our thoughts. I think we all just needed the right push to get back together after all this time. It's like we never even left.." He sighed out, looking up at Ash. "We can see he means a lot to you too. The way you look at him and all," Lysander confessed, causing Ash's cheeks to ignite a bit.
"What are you insinuating..?"
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When the song came to an end, Akari found himself almost startled at how it seemed to fly by. At how the memories seemed to make this moment last like a life time and yet remain only a few minutes. A hand found his shoulder along with laughter, insinuating that he was practicing behind his back. "Nah~." That grin had found his face, a sharp toothy grin like he often used to sport when he was younger and he gently slapped Wataru's hand away in that teasing gesture he often did. It felt like the moment that he was surrounded by everyone again that all of the bad feelings began to melt away. Or maybe it was his thoughts preoccupied that kept him in the moment of things.
Koichi had sent his gaze toward Lysander and Ash, tilting his head at their conversation and offering a smile. "He called us last night.. we don't know what happened, but we're just glad he's alright and that you were there for him." That smile softened as he closed his eyes, truly grateful for whatever relationship they had together. As Akari and Wataru made it down from the stage, they rounded back up with the others, who all seemed to be of like mind when it came to being together again. It felt like.. nothing had changed and they were picking up where they left off again.
Yet, Akari kept glancing to an empty space nearby, as if someone else should still be there.
"Same rules apply. Whoever wins the most tickets gets to pick the place to eat at! The one with the less has to stiff the bill." Koichi pulled the underside of his eye downward and stuck out his tongue as he blew a raspberry. Akari's eyes widened as everyone began to run their separate ways and to their machines. The demon reached out then, gently grasping onto Ash's arm as he looked up at him. "C'mon, we're not losing!" While he wasn't someone that was a worrywart about money or stingy like his father was, there was one thing he hated. Losing. That competitive side of him was coming right back out again.
Akari led himself and Ash toward one of the machines and slipped into one of the driver seats. He looked up toward the feline, who was staring at him in confusion and he nearly pouted up at him. "Come on, get in! I'll teach you." Soft laughter followed as he waited for Ash to finally settle into the seat beside him. His hand reached over, gripping onto the man's wheel for him as he let his other hand push down onto one of his knees so his foot pressed onto the gas pedal. "It's just like driving, you'll do fine." Teal eyes lifted toward silver as he grinned, waiting until the countdown for their race to commence would set them off.
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Ash had to admit that he was just simply happy that people were finally starting to get along after all this time. It was nice that they were finally getting back together after all time, that their world was beginning to piece back together. Much like how Noel had did his best to keep the peace, to keep all these pieces clung together.. it felt like Ash was beginning to get into that position himself. Before he could go too far into that particular train of thought, the rules of the game began to change up a little bit.
Now it wasn't about getting the highest score on a dancing game, but rather a competition for these things called 'tickets'. He had never really been one to go into arcades so he was extremely unfamiliar with how it all worked. How arcades even began to operate. So when he heard that the goal was to make sure to get as many tickets as possible, he was unsure of how to even begin the competition. Yet Ash was fully ready to be thrown into the mix, considering that Akari was tugging on his sleeve and ready to win this shindig.
Ash was a bit more confused whenever Akari was hopping into the driver's seat of one of the race cars. It threw him off more than a bit, considering he had never even played in arcades up until now. Yet despite this, Akari was more than willing to try and tug him into this game. So he did so, settling into the seat beside him. Then he felt the wheel being gripped, his knee guided to a gas pedal. It was just like driving, huh? He supposed that he could do his best with this sort of thing then.
The races began to get off to a rousing start, rushing his way into 2nd place almost immediately. Akari would see as Ash began to lean in. His eyes were shrunken slightly, The feline actually seemed to be getting into this, but only because he was completely unfamiliar with video games as a whole. This was new to him, therefore he was getting sucked into a whole new world all of a sudden. It was like he was in a different realm. So when he drove, he drove seriously. He began to weave in and out of the way of cards, doing his best to wriggle his way into the lead.
But he was still playing a game and there were mechanics that he just was not very familiar with as well. So while he drove, suddenly he was being passed up soon after the first lap that he had taken. Little did he know, he was actually being passed because others in the game knew how to utilize the turbo function. He didn't quite understand what was going on, frowning a bit. He felt like he was doing a good job with driving, so why was he suddenly losing like this?
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Akari found amusement in how Ash was getting into what he was doing. How he leaned forward, scrunched up his nose and squinted his eyes at the screen. A gentle laugh left from the demon as he watched him a moment and as he did, he felt a sudden beat in his heart ring out. It was louder than the others and he felt his eyes widening a fraction. Shaking his head, he turned back to the screen as he continued, passing by a few cars as he found himself in the higher ranks until he hit first place. He noticed how Ash was continuing to dwindle down to last place and he reached over to grip onto the man's knee. "Gotta hit turbo speed!" He patted his leg before gripping onto his own wheel again, waiting for Ash to glance over.
He hit his own turbo to show how it was done, and they'd see Akari's car do another lap as he carried into first place even still. Akari watched as Ash began to use the drive and start to get into higher rankings. A gentle grin spread over the demon's face as he poked his tongue out past his lips, his eyes squinting at the screen. "That's how 'ya do it. Now give me a challenge~." His shoulder bumped into the feline playfully as he turned back to the game.
As the game came to an end, it was announced that Akari was first place and the demon leaned back to take the tickets out of the machine that came whizzing out. "Awh, right. Now we gotta win another, we can't fall behind."
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Ash was honestly feeling a little disheartened by suddenly dwindling down to the very last place in the race. It was as if everyone was in on a special mechanic to their vehicles that he didn't. Why didn't he bother to read the manual to this game so he could understand the ins and outs of it before a race to the finish? Before he could mentally curse his own ignorance any further, Akari seemed keen on helping him out with rising up to the challenge. Turbo speed. He looked over at the demon's controls, watching as he began to do it.
As he began to kick on his own turbo boost, Ash was quite amazed with how well he was suddenly able to do. It almost felt like he was cheating at this point! But before he could enjoy the elation that came from the boost, the race was already over. Even when Akari asked for a challenge, the best that Ash was able to handle was sixth place. It was due to the fact that he wasn't able to maximize the distance of his boost the first time.. he swore that next time, he would conquer the hell out of this racing game!
Akari harvested their tickets and he mentioned they had to win another. So Ash began to work on hunting down the next game that they were going to try and conquer.. only to settle down on something that involved them rolling a ball down an alleyway, then shooting it into a hole based on momentum and spin. Skiball. So he walked up to the machine and the balls came down, grasping at one and staring down the alley. "Hrm.." He slowly began to roll down down the lane, trying his best not to overshoot it, but it ended up in the bottom hole. He frowned.
"These games.. are more difficult than I imagined."
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Ash chose their next game, skiball, to which the demon held mild amusement in. From someone who wasn't used to playing these games, he liked seeing that drove seemed to be calling to him. The demon made his way to the spot beside Ash, ready to turn on his own machine, before Ash seemed to begin and show mild frustration in not understanding how it worked. A gentle smile found the demon as he let out a soft chuckle against the back of his hand. "Here, let me help. I want you to have fun with what you're doing after all." Akari moved so that he stood just beside the feline, his body pressing slightly to his backside while gripping onto the man's wrist. "Let me guide you," he murmured as he waited for the man to take another ball in hand.
His fingertips slid over the man's wrist before he closed them around the back of his hand, as if their appendages had been one in the same. The demon's eyes looked towards the highest hole and let out a murmur towards the other man's ear. "Keep your eye on the prize," slowly he moved back, taking Ash with him as their arms gave a gentle swing backward. And with a forward motion, their motions swiftly moved and the ball flicked past their fingertips and rolled up the machine. It landed in the second highest hole, and Akari found himself smiling.
The grip on the man's hand loosened as he took a step back, his head tilting to the side at the feline. "Think you got it?" While he didn't seem phrased by what he had done, a gentle beat of his own heart had rung out from that closeness. Something he had longed for and craved for such a long time. Of course, he also didn't notice the glances sent their way by his friends, who seemed to be interested in what they were seeing. And perhaps devising a plan for after the arcade.
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As soon as he began to complain a little bit about the difficulty of these games, Akari was quick on the draw to helping him just a little bit. He felt the demon's body going flush to his backside while gripping onto his wrist. That was when the first heart beat came. By no means did Ash consider himself to have a frozen heart, but he had admittedly not thought about romance in a very long time. Those feelings, that part of his mind, were long dead to him after all that he had struggled through. He had a debt to repay to his family.
Yet whenever Akari touched him so, when he graced his flesh with those slender, gentle fingers that looked like they couldn't even bring harm to a fly.. he felt something. A small spark surging throughout his body, thoughts beginning to turn, gears finally moving in tandem with one another. He was realizing some things. This man.. through some kind of blessing through this woman, this angel of life so to speak, he was able to bear children through a spiritual tether. So who was to say.. Ash couldn't try to start a family of his own with this man?
As soon as that thought process started, he halted it. No, he couldn't allow himself to be lulled into this concept, he had to keep protecting his sisters and making sure they ended up with good men. He couldn't just.. let them fall to the wayside because of his own feelings. Yet he could not deny his fastened heartbeat, even as the ball landed in the second highest hole. Once asked if he had it, he quickly nodded along. As he began to roll the next ball, the group was always hatching schemes for their plan.
They knew it had been a long time since Akari had even looked at another man this way, yet he seemed to so naturally touch Ash in ways that other people would have taken as the biggest flirt of their lives. It screamed that feelings were just under the surface, begging to be released. So as Ash began to expertly roll the balls down the lane, Lysander smiled at the two of them. "Well, aren't you two busy being all cute together?" Ash was so thrown off by the comment that he suddenly threw the ball into a different lane entirely, scoring points for someone else. And a lot.
He was thanked by the person he scored for, but he scowled at Lysander. "Oi.."
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When Ash nodded his head quickly and began rolling the ball up into his lane, the demon offered a gentle smile as he watched a moment. He just took in this man in all his entirety as he started to play the game a lot easier than he was before. Yet as those feelings started to blossom, he felt a gentle pang in his heart, as if it was wrong. With Noel gone, was it right to still move on? Should he even? He deserved to be alone, didn't he? A gentle sigh left him as he felt himself becoming tormented by his own thoughts, so he let the sound of that skiball rolling up the ramp distract his mind.
That's when Lysander made his way over, mentioning how cute they were being. A flush spread over the demon's darkened skin and freckled covered cheeks. That ignite sparked something else, especially when that skiball flew out of Ash's hand and went flying into another lane altogether until it scored points for someone else. A loud 'thanks' resounded and Akari cleared his throat with a fist pressing to his own mouth. Ash stuttered out a feign annoyed response and the demon merely moved to his own lane as he began to roll a ball up.
"Shouldn't you be helping Koichi win?" Despite his tone of voice, the demon turned his head and stuck out his tongue playfully at the vampire. "Don't try and distract us." He was trying to brush off the comment, so things could just stay how they were. They had to stay how they were... right? A few more points racked up and Akari snatched the tickets from his machine to add to the collection. "Alright! Times up. How many tickets you guys got?" Koichi had rushed over with a fist full of tickets, waving them around in the air.
Akari began to count his and then glanced to Ash, considering they were considered 'together', much like the other four were matched with one another. "How much you got, Ash?" He wanted to respect the feline's name being hidden and went with his codename rather than nickname.
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Akari gave him a few teases about how he should have been helping Koichi win, causing Lysander to let out a small laugh. "Uh huh, don't worry, I'll let you two have your time." He teased a little bit more, but Ash was doing his best to push it all down. For now, this was okay. The relationship that the two of them shared was perfectly enough, he had to keep convincing himself of such a thing. Right? As they snatched up the rest of the tickets, time was considered to be up and the three pairs began to gather in the middle of the arcade.
Once everything was properly tallied, Akari asked Ash just how many he managed to get. Ash let out a sigh, showing just a small handful of tickets. "I have failed you." He said it with such seriousness that one could easily believe that he had completely fucked up a mission for his Don and had caused lives to be lost. But in reality, thanks to the way that Akari had basically owned all of them in most of the games around the arcade, it made up for Ash's poor performance.
In the end, the rankings went as such:
Koichi & Lysander
Akari & Ash
Wataru & Hiroto
It made sense-- neither Wataru nor Hiroto spent a lot of their free time playing video games while Koichi and Lysander had the kind of upbringings where they could indulge in such things. Meanwhile, Akari was a damn expert at it all so they couldn't even hope to compare. "Hell yeah! I vote we go to Eizen's usual place, Barnaby's! It's been ages since we all went there." Lysander knew that it might be a bit of a sensitive place to visit, but.. Akari needed this.
They could all see the way that Akari and Ash were looking at one another, even if they didn't quite realize it themselves. They needed to be pushed together just a bit more. Wataru didn't mind footing the bill since he already had pretty deep pockets thanks to his inheritance, so he just took it in stride for now. As they all began to head down the sidewalk and make their way to Barnaby's, Wataru spoke up a bit. "I gotta admit, the mature look really suits you, Don Akari. You're the spittin' image of your dad."
Wataru would have known that better than anyone, considering they had lived together for some time during his estrangement from his father. Ash couldn't help but listen to the conversation unfolding, but Lysander seemed keen on dragging Ash right in. "I know I'd count myself lucky to be working under such a hunk~." Then the feline's cheeks went bright red, looking off to the side.. and showing off quite the tsundere side that never really came out during his work. "Don't make assumptions that I work under just anyone that looks handsome." But in that very same breath, he did indeed admit that Akari was handsome to him.
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When Ash showed the amount of tickets he had and then admitted defeat, the demon couldn't help but to laugh softly. He patted the man's arm as he gave him a gentle shake. "It's fine, it's fine!" Though his competitive side took a shot, at least they weren't last place. So Lysander picked the place to eat, Barnaby's a place that Eizen often recommended. A place that they usually went as friends and on dates with their specific partners. It was a sensitive place, one that worried Akari about stepping foot inside of. He often went there with his parents and then later with Noel...
Could he handle it? The looks people would send him because they remembered him and noticed that man was no longer hanging on his arm.
The demon followed everyone out, both hands shoving into his dress pants as his overcoat hung lazily over his shoulder. While he would have normally put it back on after the dance off, they could take some time to relax. He wasn't don today, even if it would always be his title. Today, he was trying to just be Akari. Though, part of him worried if he slacked off too much that it could put someone in danger.
Wataru spoke up then, stating that the mature look actually suited him and how he looked a lot like his father. That flush returned to the demon's cheeks, one of his hands lifting as he began to scratch at the side of his face. "Ah, well... thank you. I really admire my dad, so I take that as a big compliment." But the moment that he said this, Lysander called him a 'hunk' and that anyone would be lucky to work under him. Koichi snorted into his hand as he peeked up at the embarrassed expression on both Ash and Akari's faces.
While Ash seemed to stutter about it not just being about his employer being handsome, Akari found himself cupping his face with his hand. He was trying to hide that blush that had only brightened. "I mean, I'm not really..." He tried to downplay his own appearance, but that came with how he never really saw himself as a great person before. Hiroto on the other hand couldn't help but to chuckle and send a glance towards Ash. "Why so defensive? Nobody was calling you out specifically... do you have a guilty conscious?" He teased at the feline, finding amusement in what they were seeing.
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Ash wanted to follow up with something considering that Ash was stating that he really wasn't all that handsome, but before he could, he was cut off by a comment about how he was so defensive.. and perhaps he even had a guilty conscience. He snarled a bit. "Mind your tongue!" He shook his head free of those feelings beginning to grip at his skull. He was being drawn into their rhythm so easily, it was almost like he was part of their friend group. He didn't even really mind that either, it felt.. nice to be included in something for once.
Soon enough, they managed to find themselves in front of Barnaby's. Lysander took the lead of getting them seats-- it was an interesting change of pace, but.. he also wanted to be the one dictating seating arrangements for the six of them. Once he finished talking up the hostess, they began to be led over to their booths. Then the couples began to sit in their proper booths: Lysander and Koichi, then Hiroto and Wataru. Which left one more booth.. for Ash and Akari. Ash didn't think anything of it and began to slip into his seat with a gentle sigh.
Lysander smiled to himself. "We have to make sure those two get pushed together. 'Kari hasn't even let another man touch his hand, let alone be as close as those two are.. we owe it to ourselves, as his friends, to do this for him." With that, he sent a gaze back at Ash and Akari. Ash was staring at the menu, his eyebrow twitching slightly. He.. didn't recognize a whole lot of things on this menu. He wasn't used to this kind of cuisine-- it was his brother that had a favor for the Japanese, not him.
So when he finally set his menu down, he looked across the table at Akari. "Erm.. what would you suggest for a meal? I'm new to this establishment and all.." He was still a bit flushed, but this time, it was more out of embarrassment for his lack of preparations. Usually he was better than this, but he wasn't able to do any pre-mission information gathering to any extent. Instead, he was just left to flounder upon the dock like a fish who hadn't quite been released to the ocean yet. Would Akari release him into the ocean of knowledge and bestow upon him a meal choice?
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As everyone began to get into their proper seats, Akari and Ash were left sitting with one another. Of course, Akari didn't really notice anything amiss about it, considering how often they had gone out together as it was. Koichi and Hiroto leaned over alongside of Wataru as Lysander spoke, about wanting to help them get closer together. Akari hadn't touched or looked at another man since Noel, barely gave people the time of day. So they felt like they should owe it to themselves to help this. To help Akari try and move on or at least find comfort in someone that he's been needing for far too long. A few nods were given at this as they tried to think of some way to help push things along....
But it appeared that it was almost happening naturally as they watched Ash's brows knit in confusion and ask about the food here.
Akari had naturally moved to lean over the table a bit and shift the menu to the side so that they could both see it properly. "Well, do you prefer meat? Fish? Are you vegetarian?" When told what his preference was, he offered a gentle smile and opened the menu another few pages. When told that he liked meat and fish, the demon pointed across the two pages that looked back at them. "Let's see.. they have some sushi that we can share to start off with. The tempura here are sliced meat and fish with vegetables, it's crispy too. There's tonkatsu, which is deep fried breaded pork cutlet, which usually comes with shredded cabbage or a bowl of rice." His gaze lifted to Ash as he let out a soft laugh. "Try whatever you want, but if you'd rather something you're familiar with, there's also hamburgers and steaks here. You don't have to try anything you aren't comfortable with."
For some reason, Koichi found himself smiling from his booth behind them as he cupped his chin in the palm of his hand. "They're really sweet with each other, aren't they? For just being a bodyguard and don.. I think a lot has happened between them, don't you think?" He smiled at his husband lovingly from across the table.
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Akari was immediate in asking the correct questions, trying to gauge out exactly what Ash was looking for out of food. Ash thought for a moment, letting out a low chuckle. "I'm.. a bit of a carnivore. I actually really enjoy meat and fish, so those would be some good starts." He gave Akari a bit more time to hunt down exactly what he was looking for, then before long, they decided on something. Some sushi to share, then some tempura and tonkatsu. All of them seemed like some really good choices, and Ash did have to admit that he was starting to get a little hungry.
"What we could do is go for a bit of it all. How about we go with some sushi to share as our appetizer, then go half and half on some tempura and tonkatsu?" Ash was a bit of the adventurous type when it came to restaurants, even if he didn't know what was good. But it was just another layer of the trust that he held for Akari. If this man said that it was a good meal, then it definitely had to be such, right? He smiled at the demon.
As they began to get the logistics of their order out of the way, Ash smiled up at Akari. "You know.. I'm really proud of you. It takes a lot for a man to.. do something like this. To be able to break out of his shell, even if it's just for a little bit." His eyes fell to half lids as he stared at the demon. "I'm.. happy for you." It was an emotion that he truly did feel, if only because he was scared that Akari would have been filled with vengeful thoughts for the rest of his days.
As they spoke, Lysander smiled over at his husband as he mentioned such things. "Sometimes, it's those things that people go through that bring them closer. Harsh events.. probably pushed them even closer together than the two of them had imagined." They might not have even realized it either, but they were more than right about such a thing. The life-threatening situations each of them went through, the strife they had witnessed and their talks over their family lives.
They were intertwined, whether they liked it or not.
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Ash seemed fine with the first options and thinking that they could get some sushi to start off with and then go half and half with the other two meals. They could each have some of the others food, basically. A gentle grin found the demon then as he nodded and leaned back in his seat. "Sounds like a plan then." He folded his menu back up and slid it to the corner of the table, so the waiter or waitress would know that they were ready. A small sigh escaped the demon then as he leaned back in his seat, feeling his heart ringing out a light beat. Going out like this was somewhat difficult, but he was pushing past it to try and be better.
The feline even began to comment on it, stating that he was proud of Akari. That smile on the demon's face fell, only to be replaced by slight confusion as he tilted his head to the side. To be able to go out and lower his barriers like this, even for even a moment, was a good thing. It was something Ash was both proud of and happy for. It was a light flush that hit those tan cheeks again, but he parted open his lips to speak. "I'm... trying." A breathy chuckle left him then, his fingers curling into small fists on his lap.
When teal eyes met with silver, he felt that gentle beat pass them, as if their hearts had rung out at the exact same time for each other. "I.. wouldn't have been able to do it without you," he admitted aloud. But he continued, knowing it would have confused Ash. "If you decided to stay back at the hideout, it would be the five of us. I'd be in this booth alone or... a third wheel with one of the others. It's.. a reason why I hadn't reached out to them sooner. A person was missing, making the group uneven and.. I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about him." His voice had been at a whisper as he spoke this, but soon enough that smile slowly returned.
"Surprisingly with you here... I feel like I can get through it easier. Being at all these familiar places that hold so many memories. And.. I think Noel is smiling down at us right now because of it." The hurt in his heart spread at his own words, but it was a little more dulled than before, as if it was slowly but steadily healing. When the waitress came over, the familiar face lit up at the sight of Akari and the demon offered a gentle grin in response. "Hey, Sarah. Yeah, we're ready." He had almost expected to be fussed at for keeping his parents at such a length, but she seemed more happy to see him out and about than anything.
So the demon ordered their meal and drinks, just as the others had.
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He was trying.
At the end of the day, that was essentially all that they could do, wasn't it? Try their best and hope that they would be able to overcome whatever was ailing them. In Akari's case, he was actually slamming it down. However, Ash did not expect the follow up of it only being possible with his help. A flush actually met his cheeks a bit flushed. He didn't quite see how he fit into this, how his puzzle piece helped to complete the puzzle. But then Akari explained it, that their group was fairly uneven without someone else to help get the dynamic right.
Noel. That was right, they used to be a friend group of six and due to that death, they were down to five. Even if they weren't meaning to, they would end up splitting off into couples. That used to be a healthy thing for their group when their friends consisted of three couples, but with Noel gone, it would have just been a cruel reminder that Akito was indeed alone in this world. That he no longer had someone that he could hold so dear to his heart. While Ash had thought Akari would be very sad thinking on these things, there was a smile on his face.
He was recounting all of this and he was still happy because Ash was here. Ash was making it easier because despite being in so many familiar places that held memories like this, Noel was smiling down at them because Akari was finally growing past the trauma. Ash.. smiled softly. "I couldn't agree more." Then Sarah came up with a bright smile, serving up the boys. As much as she wanted to fuss at the boy for how worried Don and Akito were about him..
She knew that alienating him from coming out more was only going to make it worse. She would rather relay the good news. "What can I get you boys tonight?" Their orders were quickly made, dutifully jotting down whatever they might order. She gave her usual wink that she gave to male customers, the easy way to tips, but she knew these two would tip handsomely as friends and all that. "Sounds good~. I'll take these to the chef and I'll be back with your drinks in a little bit, mmkay?" She smiled with herself, always keeping that winning smile on as she began to head to the back.
Once she left, Ash looked over at Akari. "I.. don't want to impose, but perhaps I could meet your parents sometime?" He knew it was a little bit bold, but.. "If I make you comfortable enough to hang out with your friends again, maybe it would also be best if I accompanied you to go see your parents again too. It.. sounds like a fun time, doesn't it?" There he was, letting his guard down again like a fucking idiot. But maybe he wanted to be a fucking idiot, you know?
501 / 22,208
Sarah was being her cute self like always, trying to get tips. Yet in the same breath, she knew that they were good for it. She was just doing it because it had become apart of her routine. The demon merely smiled as she went off with their orders and making sure that their drinks got there at a good time. As she left, Akari turned back towards Ash, he asked about going to see his parents next time. Teal eyes widened a fraction at this, but softened again shortly afterward. If he was so comfortable with Ash to allow him around his friends... then what was wrong with letting him see his parents?
He thought about it a moment, walking back in the door to see Alistair, his parents, Zachariah, Kai and Elena... and a smile found his face once more. "I do miss them," Akari found himself admitting. "To me, their the best parents in the world. They left me not wanting for anything, yet didn't spoil me in the same breath. They taught me a lot of valuable lessons, while also being fun and loving." That smile widened a bit as that flush spread across his face. "I think they'd like you too." It was hard for his parents to put trust in people that wanted to befriend them or their children, but had been fine with the friend group he had made, alongside Noel as his husband.
Ash... while he was new and different, there was a certain air about him. It was as if he was always meant to be there with them. "On our next day off, we can plan for it. With how reckless and distant I've been all these months... they'd been worried sick. I'd like to alleviate that." It was clear that he held his parents on a high pedestal, they were the world to him, even after all these years. Especially after last night, when it felt like his heart was about to beat so hard until it stopped... that attack told him that he couldn't leave this world just yet. There were far too many precious people left waiting for him.
As their drinks sat down against the table, Akari nodded in thanks as he took his cup of tea and sipped it. A content sound left him at the taste and he let his gaze flicker back towards Ash again. "When our mission is all said and done, do you think I can learn more about yourself and family?" Apart of him wanting to fix what was ailing them, help them find better living conditions and better jobs... a safer environment. But that would likely come a bit later.
Or... would their ties end when the mission was over?
461 / 23,194
Yesterday at 12:19 AM
Akari admitted to actually missing his parents, that was a really good start to all of this. In fact, it was exactly the kind of progress that they were hoping for here. They had taught him a lot of lessons, didn't spoil him too much.. and then Akari stated that he believed his parents would actually like him too. It was a bit weird to feel this way, yet in that very same moment, he actually believed that it was a really good thing to do. He liked this. He liked that this was able to happen, that he could bring real joy this way.
Then finally, it seemed to break through. Akari was prepared to make them some plans for the next free day they had. Friday. He smiled. "I'm sure they'll really appreciate it, you know?" He smiled at him. As Ash got his drink and began to sip at it, he had gotten a real question. He.. wanted to learn more about himself and his family. A few of his clients had asked with nefarious purposes in mind, trying to hold his whole world hostage if he were to slip up during a mission. But he didn't get that feeling with Akari.
So to that end, he smiled. "You know.. I'm willing to bet that Pramanix and Cliffheart would be absolutely over the moon to meet you, Akari." He had to admit that the girls didn't often go out socializing. It was mostly their own choice. Ever since the death of Cour, they weren't exactly keen on going out and trusting people. Some sun in a different country might actually do the two of them some good, so he was okay with it. "I don't know if they'll take well to being so far from the homeland, but I trust they'll be in good hands."
He knew that with Akari at least. "Cliffheart's a real outspoken one, honestly. She's spunky, as guys would say, but it kind of turns them off to her. She's a wild child. Pramanix, she's a bit more reserved. She likes to make jokes, but her more shy demeanor kind of makes people not want to talk to her all too often." He knew these things because he had tried to set them up with men before.. and it didn't exactly work out the few times that he did that, if only because of their personality types.
404 / 22,612
Yesterday at 12:31 AM
Akari had smiled in learning both of his sister's names and even about their personalities. Many guys were turned off by them, but the demon shook his head in kind. "I think.. they just need more women around them. My aunt Kai, her wife Elena and my little sister Minami? I think if they all met, your sisters will feel more confident in themselves. They don't need to change for men, they just need a better influence and to find the right people. And what right people to help with that... than another woman?" He flashed a playful wink and then soft laughter. While it was in good faith with what Silverash was hoping to do, find them a suitor, it was coming from the eye of another man.
"But, yes, you need not worry. They'll be safe here, as if they were apart of the family." He sat his glass back down on the table as he mulled over a few things. "My aunt Kai, she sounds a lot like your Cliffheart. She's spunky and outspoken, but she know how to flaunt it." A grin found him then as he pressed his fist to the side of his head. "Minami... is a lot like Pramanix. She's shy and soft spoken. Whereas Elena.. she's a bit in between. I think the influence will do them some good."
Their conversation came to a brief pause as food was laid out before them, their sushi arriving. "Thank you." The demon took hold of his chopsticks, sliding them from the package before closing them around one of the balls and tossing it into his mouth. He chewed happily, enjoying the rich flavors before he watched Ash staring at the utensil like a fish out of water again. He nearly choked on his food with a bit of laughter, but reached out for Ash's chopsticks. "Here," he took control of the situation again. He closed the feline's fingers around the chopsticks, his own overlapping as he showed how to grip them before bringing the food to his mouth.
Koichi stared from over Lysander's shoulder, eyes wide and a flush on his cheeks. "Wow, they didn't need our help at all." The hybrid spoke in amusement. Hiroto ducked his head with a soft laugh, cupping his chin in the palm of his hand. "From a man who always said he wasn't the romantic type... he sure is flirtatious without meaning to be."
407 / 23,601
Yesterday at 12:58 AM
Akari was quick to suggest that they might actually do some good by having some more women around them instead. A woman's touch to kind of get their friend group up and help them gain some kind of social confidence. Ash nodded along, understanding the logic that went behind the decision. "Yeah, that does sound like a pretty good idea, honestly. I think that would give them an element that I can't exactly provide." As much as Ash wanted to think of himself as the best brother to these girls, he could definitely not provide the proper female support that they likely needed in their lives.
He listened to the man's advice on who they could hang out with, considering that his sister seemed to hold very similar dynamics with some of the members of the demon's family as well. Ash smiled. "That sounds lovely then." Then their food finally came along. Ash was ready to dig in until he realized the utensils that he was being handed. A pair of.. chopsticks. He didn't quite understand exactly what he was supposed to do with these, but once again, this was the culture gap that was he was trying so desperately to get over.
As he struggled to figure this out, Akari was quick to simply show him how to do so, their hands melding together with ease as the demon shown him what to do. Ash could feel his heart pumping right back to life again as Akari showed him how it was done. This time, it was just a bit harder to ignore, especially as Akari then proceeded to show him how to grip onto food.. by feeding him. Ash did chomp down on the sushi with a grin. "This is.. really good." He swallowed it with a much wider grin.
Lysander let out a small laugh. "So emotionally dense.. it's like he doesn't even realize what he is doing. What a smooth operator." Wataru smiled back at them a bit. "Well, that's just.. something he does, I guess. He's always been that way, especially when it came to Noel. His heart and body are way more honest than his words are. It takes a lot to coax it out of him, doesn't it?" Ash let out a low chuckle. "What did you want to do after this? Just.. head back home and relax for once before work begins again?"
401 / 23,013
Yesterday at 1:09 AM
A soft chuckle left the demon at how Ash commented on the taste of food that he bit into. His fingers pressed into the other's, melding into them and keeping that firm grip on the chopsticks. "Think you've got it?" He practically whispered, an amused smile finding him as he watched the feline going about trying it himself. His hand retracted, taking another bite of his sushi from the plate they shared. He hadn't recognized what he was doing, every little movement just felt natural to make. Little did he realize that he was acting as if he had been out on a date with Noel, rather than out with Ash. But was that really a bad thing? The beating of his heart told him it wasn't bad, but it fluctuated between excitement and pain, as if a bitter reminder told him that he was meant to be alone in that aspect. He couldn't bring another person into the world he was in, he didn't want anyone else to die.
Koichi smiled from his seat, taking a few bites of his food as he listened to the comments of his friends. "I think we did good anyway. You can tell he really needed his friends today." From the moment they all set eyes on each other in the bar to the moment they watched on from their booths, they could see the stark difference of a man who was struggling and slowly coming out of his shell again.
Akari took another bite of his food and then a sip of his drink, only to be asked about what they should do after eating. If they should head back to the hideout and relax for the mission that would come tomorrow. The demon found himself nodding as he mulled this over. "Relaxing... sounds nice." Considering what they had to do tomorrow, maybe laying around for the rest of the day, after the fun they had, was just what they needed.
329 / 23,390
Yesterday at 9:55 PM
Ash had managed to keep his hand perfectly positioned whenever Akari helped to guide him, then he was asked if he had it. He nodded a bit, smiling. "I think I might have the hang of it now, thanks to you." He grinned wide at the demon as he began to bring those chopsticks right back up to his mouth. He managed to get a bite of the sushi on his own, causing him to grin wide. "A-Ahh, this is.. absolutely delicious! How could I have managed to avoid such a dish before?" It was heavenly on the tastebuds.
As he began to eat, Akari mentioned that relaxing actually sounded really nice. It sounded like they knew what they were going to get to for the night, so he nodded along. "Then let's do it." The rest of the night went fairly smoothly as far as their restaurant trip went. As the 'date' came to an end, they all grouped up at the front of Barnaby's. A limo began to pull up as the others were ready to fly home. "You two don't be up too late now~." Ash shook his head. "Whatever, whatever." But he smiled nonetheless.
Wataru looked to Akari. Then he put his hand out for a shake. "Promise me.. if something else happens, don't wait for the panic attack to settle in. Just call us." He wanted to see Akari again, but he didn't want things to get as dire as they did this time around. Once things were set, they all flew away, with Wataru riding on Hiroto's back as they headed back to their homes. Akari and Ash got into the back of the limo, the latter letting off a low sigh. "Whew.. man, that was quite the day, wasn't it?" He almost felt exhausted.
Ash wasn't exactly the type to ever hang out and entertain people for such an ungodly amount of time, so when he was suddenly made to do so for hours, it was definitely putting himself into an element he was unfamiliar with. Yet the smiles that came across Akari's face, the looks of him truly enjoying himself and the activities that he took part in. It made every single bit of this worth it. "As long as you had fun, I'm very, very happy." Next up was the visit with his parents, but their night wasn't quite over yet, was it?
402 / 23,415
Yesterday at 10:04 PM
The rest of the time at the restaurant was calming and talk between the three booths started to cross one another as they got into the rhythm of being together again. They were able to catch up after so long and it almost felt like they had never split apart to begin with. The limousine was called, considering it would be dangerous for himself and Ash to walk back to the hideout alone. Without a crowd around them, they stood out a lot more. The others were preparing to head off and Lysander told them not to stay up too late. As Ash seemed to get playfully defensive, Akari played along almost immediately. "Yes mom." He rolled his eyes in a jest, only for a hand to extend towards him.
Wataru asked him to reach out to them next time, before he had a panic attack. Before things got too harsh, he should know that they'd always be there, to answer his call. A small flush found the demon's face as he nodded, slipping his hand into Wataru's and then pulling the man into a tight hug instead. The bluenette was like a brother to him, considering how long they had lived together, so it was the only proper goodbye he wanted to give. As they waved each other off, the group of four flew away and Akari slipped into the backseat with Ash.
A gentle sigh escaped from the demon as he leaned back in the seat, the door closing behind them as the driver took off back home. When told it was quite a day, a soft smile found the demon's face. "That is was. Things haven't been that lively in quite a while.." He mused aloud, considering his days had always run together with work related things that involved revenge for so long. Spending time like this... was nice. It almost made him forget about how he planned to soak himself in the blood of his enemies the very next day.
Ash stated that so long as Akari enjoyed himself then he was happy, causing the demon to let out a soft laugh as he turned to face the feline. "I did.Thank you, for telling me to reach out to them." It was a few days ago that Ash had suggested it, but it was something he went for. If the feline had never said something, he may have never made that phone call last night. The car began to pull up to the hideout, the demon pulling his jacket over his shoulder once again as he slipped out after Ash.
435 / 23,825
Yesterday at 11:38 PM
Akari had loved every aspect of the day from top to bottom, even thanking the feline for going out of his way toward encouraging him to do all of this. It gave Ash a reason to really smile at the end of the day. It seemed that both on the job and off, he was managing to keep his head held high and able to make good on everything. It made him feel good. So as they made it to the hideout and slipped out the limo, it felt like the day was finally going to come to some kind of calming end.
They headed inside, met with the sight of Alford who had already taken care of arrangements for the office to be set for another long night of paperwork. Ash let out a laugh. "I think we should take the offer. The office is probably the most comfortable place to hang out anyway." The two of them began to make their way to the usual office, closing the door behind them. Ash slipped out of his coat and hung it up, grabbing the usual drinks and pouring them each one. "I guess we should probably stay up a bit tonight. We've still got slight prep to do for tomorrow."
Right, they still had a job to do at the end of the day. Truth be told, Ash wasn't even sure he was still working for this man. It almost didn't feel like he was. He had almost forgotten about work entirely in the midst of them spending time together today.. another way of work and feelings mixing with each other. But then Ash asked a question. "I.. wanted to ask. Your friends, your parents. They're all.. men with men." He looked over at Akari as he sipped at his drink.
"My family, we've.. well no. I've been obsessed with making sure our legacy goes on. Yet there are so many that don't mind this. Excluding the fact that you've been blessed with such extraordinary abilities, how.. do you find happiness in a future that, by design, comes with no legacy?" By no means was Ash a homophobic. In fact, part of him believed that love came as love came. However, that did not solve the inner dilemma that he seemed to be having at the present moment.
It was easy to tell there were a lot of conflicting emotions..
401 / 23,816
Yesterday at 11:52 PM
As they entered inside the hideout, Alford awaited them, announcing that the den was fixed up for another night of paperwork. A low chuckle rumbled in the demon's throat as he nodded to his butler. "Thank you, Alford." He nodded to the older man before making his way alongside Ash, who agreed that it would be more comfortable. Besides that, some prep still needed done before morning arose. The door behind them closed and Akari shrugged his jacket off and placed it on the rack beside the feline's.
Plopping down on the sofa, a gentle sigh escaped him while his eyes lifted to Ash who sat their usual alcoholic beverages for them. He gave a thanks before sipping at his whiskey, pulling open the folder with paperwork that had been waiting for him. With the territories that Akari personally owned, work was never done, so he went about scribbling his insignia on a few pages.
Ash then decided to ask a question about his friends and family, how they had all been men that were... well, together. Teal eyes slowly lifted towards the feline as he spoke, that Ash personally worked toward a legacy for his family at all cost. This suggested that he couldn't fathom being with another man. But at the same time, he was curious how Akari could see a future without a possible legacy, if he excluded the idea of being able to have children like he currently could.
The demon didn't take the question wrong, he was used to being talked down to for always being gay, so he could tell the immediate difference here. He sat his drink down and tinted his fingers together as he let his gaze rise back towards the feline. "I was born from two men and raised by them. But that didn't define what I'd be like when I grew up. I just happened to be attracted to men. As for how we can go through with it... despite there being no guarantee for an offspring, well... there are always ways." With a small tilt of his head, he watched the man carefully. "There's always adoption. And even if there isn't any actual blood running through their veins... they're still yours at the end of the day. I suppose I'm just lucky to have this sort of gift that defies the idea."
Thinking on it a moment, he let out a gentle sigh. "My friends and I... we realized that we weren't interested in each other because we were guys. We were all best friends at first, saw each other as family... but sometimes, you can't help who your heart yearns for. And if at the end of the day, that means you can't have legitimate children with them, you have to ask yourself... are you okay with that? Would you rather risk your possible happiness without them in your life, just because they can't bare your child?" Despite his words, he smiled and gently squinted his eyes at the man. "We're all different and see things in a different light after all."
514 / 24,339
Today at 3:41 AM
He was given answers to his questions, but they weren't exactly what he was expecting. For a man that was born from two men due to the special ability that Asuka had blessed their family with, he didn't get raised up to only enjoy the company of men. Rather, it was just something he ended up wanting. However, he had believed there were other ways of going about it. That there were other ways that they could manage to continue the bloodline. Adoption.. he had never even really considered it. Was it really continuing the bloodline if it wasn't his Karlan blood?
Even then, he said that one could not really help who the heart yearned for.. and then he asked was not having children really the hill he wanted to die on? Was it worth the risk of possible unhappiness for the rest of his days just because of something that he had been believing in for so long. He began to speak softly. "I.. I don't really know." He began to stare at Akari. "For the longest time, I had a firm belief that I had two duties to my family: to protect and to leave behind a legacy. As.. the last male, I am the leader of our clan now."
It put a lot of weight onto his shoulders, especially considering that his father had already long perished. Ash was taking the helm of the family since he was young, he had grown into the role, and yet even with all of that he still felt green when visiting other cultures. "The issue here is that.. I don't know anything else. I've never really considered love with another person, man nor woman. You see, I lived for my clan. I thought nothing else came above them."
Of course, he was speaking in past tense here. "And my problem is that my worldview is starting to change so radically. I don't know how to deal with all of these swirling emotions in my head. Ever since I started working for you, it's like my head has been thrown into a tizzy. I.. never usually let feelings get in the way of my work or even weave into them, but with you, it's come so naturally that it became habitual." He began to stand up and made his way to the desk, right beside Akari.
"I'm.. not sure what I'm feeling right now. I can't tell if it's good or bad, but gods, there's some kind of fire ignited in my chest and I don't know how to put it out." His cheeks were tinted with a slight pink, his chest heaved slightly. He was.. going into a slight heat. Ash had never really reacted to passion before, so the first time was quite the dosage of the hidden drug. He brought his hand under Akari's chin. "I don't know if what I'm doing is good, so please.. just tell me if this is wrong."
And then he brought his head forward, gently pressing his lips into the Don's.
510 / 24,326
Today at 3:53 AM
Ash simply didn't know. He had always believed in doing what was best for his clan and because of that, he didn't even know what love was. And if he did, he couldn't tell when he was even experiencing it. As the last man, he was the leader of it and he needed to prolong it... to help it carry on in legacy. So to that end, he had to find someone to bare his children. When finding that person, however, he never even thought of man or woman, or if he had legitimate feelings for them. None of that mattered, just if they were good enough to carry on their bloodline.
Akari tilted his head as he listened, but despite what Ash was saying, he wasn't judging him. He could understand his confusion and frustration in what he should or shouldn't do. But then he mentioned that since he started working for him, confusing feelings were swirling in his head. He was good at keeping his feelings separate from work, but ever since they came together, spoke for so long and came to understand each other, it was growing more difficult as days passed.
The feline stood and made his way to the demon's desk, causing him to reel back in his chair as he blinked up at the man softly. He couldn't really understand, but maybe that was because he never truly thought someone could love him again. That possibility was never something he even dreamed of, considering he had wanted to die by the end of his mission. Ash couldn't even tell what he was feeling at that very moment, if it was good or bad, but that a fire had erupted in his chest and was burning like wildfire.
Those words caused the demon's cheeks to ignite softly, because the look in the feline's eyes had changed the moment that they locked onto one another. His chin was tilted upward and a warning was given, to tell him if this was wrong or not. But there was no denying the slight hitch in his throat the moment that their lips came together. The soft and warm sensation spread throughout his chest and he felt his eyes flutter to a close as a single hand rose to clutch onto the fabric of his shirt.
It was a shuddered breath that escaped from past his lips as he felt his body lightly shake with the emotions that began to unravel through his body. To be touched after so long, it felt so good and yet he felt a pain in his chest. A worry that... this wasn't good. Not for Ash. "You don't want this..." Came a whisper, teal eyes parting open as he gazed into silver. But despite those words, his fist tightened on the front of the feline's shirt. "Nothing good will come from being with me." They were feelings he had for so long, especially when it came to the regret of not being able to protect those that he cared or loved.
It was a warning... but a feeble one. Especially when a single beat of their hearts rang out at once.
528 / 24,867
Today at 4:19 AM
Their lips meld against one another softly. It was as if they were made for each other, the sickening sensation of two puzzle pieces fitting so snugly with one another. Hiis moisture, it was like a poison that surged through his veins. It made him feel more alive than ever before. As if his heart was finally beating for the very first time. He began to weave an arm around the demon, letting the tips of his fingers gently press up against the lower back of the demon. He wanted to give him everything, to suddenly just lay himself out on the line.
The kiss broke off for a moment as they gazed into one another's eyes. Akari told him that he didn't want this, that nothing good will come from being with him. But.. "Being with you has brought anything that's good of me out." He knew that was a bit of a bold declaration, but that was most definitely how he felt right now. He felt like he was finally making a correct decision for once, especially as Akari kissed back into his lips.
It felt like their hearts were beginning to beat in sync. They were beginning to weave into the very same wavelength, they were able to tell what the other was thinking. In the back of their minds, there was worry and regret settled in. One end came from feeling that Noel's death was his fault, all because of his connections to the mafia and the world that he was made to experience. On the other end, he had always felt like he was forced to never love, only to reproduce for the sake of the clan living on another generation.
They were both committing sins toward their mindsets.
And despite that, they needed to get more of it. Or at the very least, Ash needed to. "I.. understand what you mean. We're both scared, but I think we need to take a chance on this. It's like you said. What's the point of risking your possible happiness without them in your life.. you have to live despite the risks." He sure was good at giving advice, but following it would be another beast entirely, that went for the both of them.
In any case, Ash began to lean more into the demon. He began to press his lips into the Don's yet again, but this time, he was dealing out the passion in spades. He couldn't help it at this point, it was hard to get over an addiction once he finally got into it. And boy, Ash was getting neck deep into this sinful delight. His tongue came out to play, wrapping around with the demon's as he got lost in the passion. However, in the midst of the passion, his mind roamed..
He wondered. Was this really the right thing to do? Perhaps the Don was right. Perhaps this wasn't the best thing for both of them. Sure, they both admitted that life would not be worth it when passing up that obvious happiness, but was this really the path that they were going to take to get to that happiness? It was hard to tell if this was truly the way they were supposed to go. It was hard to tell if anything was a good decision anymore, perhaps another side effect of this passionate drug.
But now he just didn't care. He pushed himself more onto the demon's body, his chest nestling up against the Don's as his arms moved around his waist. He tightened, bringing him flush as the passion only cooked more and more inside of his body. He felt like he was falling into something dangerous, like a pit of toxins that he wasn't going to be able to shake. Ash didn't quite know why he was getting such a feeling nagging at the back of his head, but he just wanted to keep blindly going. He had to. He had to because he owed that happiness to Akari at the end of the day.
He.. needed this.
681 / 25,007
Today at 4:33 AM
Wet irises gazed up towards the man who was now stating that Akari brought anything good out of him entirely. Even while they both felt fear in what they were doing, Ash spoke on, that they both wouldn't truly know unless they took that chance. His words were thrown back at him and he couldn't help but to bite at his lower lip at the thought of it. Passion hadn't been on his brain in the longest time, just sorrow, grief and regret. And yet now, it felt like his heart was coming back to life over the simple touches and sensations brought on by this moment. He hadn't felt so alive in a very long time.
Ash's head dove in again, their lips finding each other again in a fit of that passion that was starting to rise to greater heights. The demon's back arched off from the chair, a quiet noise akin to a mewl echoing into the man's mouth as their lips parted open in that delicate moment. "Silva," came a soft whisper. Their tongue rolled together, pushing against one another, which only drove their bodies to follow in pursuit. Both arms of the demon lifted and wrapped around the feline's shoulders, their chests now flush together against the seat that was pushed back against the edge of the desk.
Each motion felt like electricity coursing through his veins and it only intensified as those arms coiled around his waist and pulled him in. A few soft heated breaths passed by the canine's lips, puffs of air rolling by as his head tilted to deepen that liplock. His tongue began to grow more confident in its movements, sliding around the other muscle and grinding against it with a certain fervor. The don's lips closed around that tongue, suckling it tightly as those teal eyes parted back open again.
The emotions were easily read in his gaze, that he had wanted this just as much as Ash did. Fingertips slid up into the white mane of the feline's hair, nails digging into his scalp as he tugged on those strands in a desperate sort of need. What sort of need, he couldn't really tell. His body had been riding on autopilot as he got high on these feelings that had been unknowingly building up. With a soft gasp, he released Ash's tongue from the prison of his mouth, but as he did, their mouths only clashed together once again, like magnetic ties had been holding them trapped together.