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[[continued from Failed Duties. Datsuzoku means a deviation from routine.]]

When she told him what she had agreed to, at first Kōta had blinked at her in surprise. But he found equilibrium quickly enough, processing quietly for several moments in which Eido sipped her tea and watched him across the table. After a moment he used his hashi to rudely point between mouthfuls. “Not what I meant by “living”, little sister.” But he grinned and shrugged after, and barraged her with his questions. Eido was circumspect with connecting the bridge between Zephyr and Kōta; at least until they could be sure that the trust was rightly placed. But otherwise she answered truthfully, and he accepted her judgement and the risk it posed, as she had been sure he would. Afterwards she asked some questions of her own, about the Syndicate and the man who had travelled from Singapore to lay claim to it here. Kōta answered readily enough with what he knew, and cautioned neutrality whilst the waves were churning up Moscow’s underworld. He gave her a look. But neither mentioned Kiyohito or his quest.

“I remember when you were a child, Hiro-chan. Small and delicate as a button, and too fearless for your own good. You followed wherever I went, whenever you could.” When he’d finished eating he moved away his bowl and leaned across the small space. Beneath the darkness of his close-cut beard a smile tweaked his lips. “But if I blinked and miraculously discovered you missing, it was always with the animals I knew to find you. Especially when there were babies.” He laughed a little and pushed himself to his feet, pausing to tousle her hair with his palm until it wisped like gossamer across her face. Eido gave him a withering look beneath it, but afterwards looked away and smiled quietly to herself at the annoying affection as she pushed the strands from her eyes.

“My name is Eidolon,” she corrected evenly, beginning to clear the table of their breakfast. “You picked it for me. You should use it.”

He only rumbled laughter. It was a well-worn argument between them, for he never used it when they were alone, and Eido never failed to insist. In her peripheral she heard him head towards the bathroom, stifling a yawn and rolling the shoulder joint of his injured arm. “I always wondered if you made your oaths because it was what you wanted, or if you were too busy setting your footsteps in mine you never even considered a different path. Just promise me you are looking where you are going now, Chihiro.”

Mornings were habitually spent alone. While Kōta slept, Eido roamed. Often it was work she searched for, but sometimes she only explored the city’s vast history. Many galleries and museums were free, and there was always something new to see, something new to feel. But today it was a library she visited, ensconced at a private desk with a table full of neatly stacked books. After consideration of what she might need she sent the list Zephyr had asked for, and agreed to share her birth name with a preference for meeting in person to do it. She could not say if it was the right decision, but the balance of scales in her soul saw no other recourse. For now she set aside exactly what she had agreed to make of herself, and the fear and disgust it tightened in her stomach. Instead she focused on why she had agreed to it. The books piled around were all from the maternity section, for what Eido chose to pledge of herself would not be by half-measures, and the life she owed to the woman who spared it when duty bade them both otherwise would be spent to the full. Eido knew plenty about whelping animals but little about assisting pregnancy or babies. She’d known since she was nineteen that she could have no children of her own, nor even nieces or nephews. The research made her melancholy, yet it set in her deep and determined roots too. It was the latter she focused upon.

Hours of quiet study followed. When one of the librarians passed by Eido naturally skirted her eyes from contact, but acknowledged the silent addition made to her book pile with a nod. When she later opened the offered volume, tucked discreetly into the cover was a pamphlet on a women’s refuge. For the graze on her cheek, or the startled wince when she’d reached for the shelves perhaps; neither of which Eido had considered might be observed. The concern made her uncomfortable. She was used to being invisible.

She tidied up soon after.

By now her brother would probably be awake. She could go back to the bar, wait for Zephyr to reply. But she found herself sitting on a park bench instead, collar pulled up against the changing weather, watching the lives stream obliviously around her.

In some ways it felt like waiting for the gallows.

Kōta’s words resonated, but only because there was no other path but their current purgatory. She did not know what shape her life might now take, or if she would feel safe enough to allow herself the freedoms she currently used to soothe her purposeless life. Perhaps duty would erode what little was left. It was a fair trade if some good came of it, she reasoned. Though as she watched the scenery around her, it wasn’t what she was thinking about now.

If Kōta had known anything he would have told her, and he had only shrugged when she’d asked if he believed Zixin Kao was a man of honour. Even the Yakuza are different here, Hiro, he’d warned her, and Eido had asked no more questions on the topic. It was where their lives diverged, and she did not wish to know about the criminal line her brother strode and where he drew his own moral lines. It was possible that Kiyohito and Haruto were both halfway back to Tokyo by now, and she considered whether she could just force herself to believe it. Kiyohito politely declined any further help. It was none of her business. But reason didn’t abate the pit in her stomach.

She distracted herself collecting groceries and perusing the open-air markets. As well as food, she replenished their low medical supplies, desiring to be prepared. Zephyr would probably have access to other resources, but Eido was accustomed to looking after both herself and her brother, and she enjoyed the mindless rhythm of the routine; to feel a part of the world’s flow, even if only for a moment. Amidst her wandering she was surprised to find a well-used, translated copy of Ningen Shikkaku on one of the stalls, and stared at it in her hands a long while before relenting to handing over the coins. It had been a long time since she had read it, a post-war classic back home. It would resonate differently now.

Eventually all her purchases were packed away neatly into cloth bags, both hanging over the hook of an arm. She was not overladen but felt the drag against her healing wound nonetheless when she adjusted to retrieve her phone and tap a message of her whereabouts to Kōta. She rarely took the metro, and wouldn’t today either. It wasn’t a short walk back, but it was not like Eido lacked time at her disposal. But it wasn’t the bar her feet took her first. Promise me you’re looking where you are going, Kōta had said to her. Yet sometimes it was easier to put one foot ahead of the other with eyes closed. And this was only a detour. A necessary closure.

The apartment block was dilapidated from outside, its walls flecked with rust and peeling flyers. The Korii-Kai owned Tokyo. They would not send one of their sons to Moscow so poorly furnished unless it was a task of disgrace, yet Kiyohito himself had seemed the furthest thing from the kind of dishonour she imagined the Yakuza might mete punishment for. Eido did not pull the card from her pocket as she climbed the five flights up. Her brother had already been gently snoring when she examined it at the kitchen counter this morning. The debt was insignificant, undeserved. Yet she did not like the feeling of scales left unbalanced.

If the stars aligned, he would not be here. He would have taken his brother home, whatever sins had first led them both to Moscow atoned for. Or the beginning step made at least. She knocked, and waited.
[Image: cherry-blosson.png]
• ChihiroKōta •
MalaikaKwan Yin • Diana
Kiyohito was at the sink, replacing recently cleaned dishes into the cabinet overhead. Behind him the television was on scenes of baseball, but the sound was directed into a bud propped in his ear. He almost didn’t hear the knock but that he kept one ear free for that very purpose. Now that he was a Edenokōji-gumi man, he half-expected it to be a messenger, or worse.

Since meeting Yuta Hayashi and making his deal with the Edenokōji-gumi oyabun, Kiyohito spent the whole night preparing for his first task. It wasn’t so different than what he did for Korii-kai except that he felt dirty. Like his loyalty was washed away. He was here to find Haruto and take him back to Tokyo for justice. This was the exact opposite charge, and yet, he wondered if his father meant for all this to happen. By all accounts, he should have paid in blood already. Was it all a ruse to let the two sons escape? Reform their lives far away from the dishonor strewn through their family? Kiyohito almost hoped it wasn’t true for how easily they were set adrift. He’d rather die cast by the chains of loyalty than live in dismissal. Yet neither was he hurrying home to make good on his oath.

He flung the towel he'd been using on the dishes over his shoulder. His shirt sleeves were rolled past the elbow for the work, and while the collar at the neck was open, no water drops darkened the flat front of the button-down.

He left the ear bud on the counter and cautiously opened the door. As soon as he realized who was on the threshold, he pulled it wide.

“Eidolon,” his gaze roamed her face unsure if he was pleased to see her or not. “Are you okay?” he glanced at the stairwell behind her, but finding nothing but shadows and muffled apartment sounds, he stepped aside to invite her in, curious over the goods that laden her.

“Please?” he said and offered to unburden their weight.
Suravye ninto manshima taishite
Kiyohito +
Beowulf + Arjuna +
The door began to open, and Eido felt her stomach sink into a trap of her own making. If Kiyohito was still in Moscow it could be no good thing. She considered her words to him carefully, only for shock to flare her expression and knock them clean from her head the moment she looked up. Bruises shadowed a riot of disturbing colour across his face. When he glanced at the hall behind her she took a moment to gather composure. Then he offered to take her bags. Tattoos wrapped to his wrist on one arm, but it was his hands she looked at. His knuckles were not split or bruised, which meant he had not been fighting. A knot clenched in her gut. She knew it for anger, but was not sure to whom it was angled; herself, for her blindness; Kiyohito, for his; or Zixin Kao for his cruelty in guise of honour.

“Thank you,” was all she said, allowing him to relieve her of the burden of shopping bags. It was probably the vestiges of surprise that made her unresistant to the gesture, for it pressed him into the kind of polite service she was uncomfortable to receive.

Bad men were not the same as monsters. This was a world in which she had no right to interfere, and clearly Kiyohito had submitted himself to this beating for a reason. He was unlikely to tell her why even if she asked. Eido distracted herself by removing her shoes. Western dwellings were not designed for such rituals so she only left them inside the door as she entered. Her gaze took in the tiny apartment, but she waited for the direction of her host before venturing further.

It was difficult not to look at him though. Her promises to Zephyr weakened a threshold, and despite far better judgement she searched inside herself for an echo of the power that might have been able to help. But there was nothing to find. The relief she felt was no longer as pure as it should have been.

“Arnica is good for bruising, Korii-san. Though it may be too late to help much if you are not using it already.” Perhaps it was rude to comment, but she decided it was worth the risk of his chide. With his open collar, sleeves to the elbow, and a dishcloth balanced on his shoulder, he was far removed from the severe figure she had met in the shadows of the bar. Regrettably it also gave her too much insight into how badly he had been hurt. She couldn’t ignore it.
[Image: cherry-blosson.png]
• ChihiroKōta •
MalaikaKwan Yin • Diana

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