A High Price

Chapter 14

By Lizard


Ko Kaki Rou, a fancy restaurant to the uninformed, and a playground to politicians. This was Oriya's domain, a swordsman of quite incomparable skill, and Muraki's only real friend. This made him the only candidate for Tatsumi's questioning.

The secretary, as always, had finished after all the other Shinigami left, so no one bothered to query why he was leaving some 20 minutes after his allotted hours were up. He'd been decidedly content the entire afternoon, even lenient with his colleagues. Watari's latest lab catastrophe was on the whole, ignored, Terazuma's late arrival from his lunch break had been overlooked, and he had even promised Tsuzuki that he would speak to Konoe on his behalf to try and arrange for missions to resume as normal. Afterall, with Muraki gone, it would be safe for the withdrawn Shinigami to leave Meifu again. Everyone was too relieved to see him come out of his gloomy spell to bother wondering just what had brought about the sudden change of heart.

Now he stood across from the brothel, lurking in the very shadows he controlled, the sun low on the horizon. His hands thrust deep into the pockets of his raincoat, he watched as sleek black limousines crept along the streets like stalking panthers, depositing their passengers outside the open front doors. It was hard to believe that such respectable looking men would frequent such a place, but then again, appearances should never be taken at face value. Waiting for a lull in the constant flow of cars, Tatsumi could barely restrain himself from stalking across and forcing his way in, but he couldn't afford to be seen by anyone at this point. He needed to do this as stealthily as possible, because afterall, if anyone found out the owner of the establishment were being attacked, there would be panic, and his chance at coaxing any information from the swordsman would be ruined.

The cessation of traffic finally came, and the secretary wandered casually across the street, the women who awaited the arrival of the guests filing inside quietly and paying him no heed. Perfect. A moment later and he had vaulted the wall into the gardens at the rear of the premises. Shrewd, cerulean eyes scanned the area, wary, should Oriya have been lurking out here, but there was no sign of him, and Tatsumi was too impatient to wait any longer. He rose from his crouch, moving furtively enough so that none of the guests within the restaurant should notice his silhouette through the open windows, and made his way towards a private stairway which lead to a set of rooms adjoining the main building, but not accessible through it. Oriya would not lower himself to staying in the rooms of the brothel.

5 minutes later, the secretary gave up on his fruitless search. The private rooms were empty, not even the smallest clue as to where Oriya might have strayed apparent. Frustrated to extremes, Tatsumi was about to descend the steps to the lower floor, when he heard movement at their foot, weary footfalls bringing someone towards him. At last!

Tatsumi pressed himself flat against the wall on one side of the sliding door, straining to keep his breathing calm as the person drew nearer. A tall figure entered the room, carrying only a single candle, and at this point, the shadows struck.

A startled cry flew from the throat of the dark figure, limbs ensnared and bruised by the sheer grip of the power that Tatsumi controlled. The candle fell from a shaking hand, and would have set the entire building up in flames, had not the secretary stamped it out before it had time to set anything alight.

"Please don't hurt me!" A voice, rough and trembling with age gasped out desperately, the figure still flailing desperately to try and break free. Tatsumi realised his mistake at that moment. Oriya was no dithering old man; he had caught the wrong person. Still, he thought, cunning mind hard at work as ever, that didn't mean he couldn't be of use.

"Oriya, where is he?" Tatsumi purposefully distorted his voice, looming over the terrified man, no more than a shadow himself in the dark.

"I don't know!" There was tension in those words that the secretary did not fail to miss.

"You're lying."

"I told you I don't know, I don't know anything!" The man was whimpering at this point, but Tatsumi could be utterly ruthless when he wanted to be, and he was determined to choke the truth out of the old man. The shadows tightened their grip, shaking him mercilessly.

"If you don't tell me, I'll go through his employees one by one until I find someone that IS willing to divulge the information."

"Please! Sto-Urk!" The old man was trying to tear at the shadows latched around his throat, but Tatsumi manipulated the shadows so that they pinned them firmly against his sides again. "All right I tell you!" Heavy breaths were taken as the grip relaxed a little. Tatsumi was relieved. He doubted he'd have been able to bring himself to kill or maim the old man, and now he wouldn't have to waste time questioning others.

A few minutes later, and the old man unconscious, but safe on the floor, Tatsumi left Ko Kaki Rou with another address imprinted on his mind. A small shop in the middle of Kyoto, though the old man hadn't a clue as to what his Master's business was there.

It didn't take long for him to arrive, he knew Kyoto well enough, despite it being the area under Watari's supervision. He eyed the sign above the door. This was the place, and Oriya would be within. There didn't seem anything suspicious about it, though the sleek grey cat lapping at a splattered ice cream in front of the door distinctly reminded him of Muraki. Stepping around the content feline, he slipped inside the shop, antiques safely enclosed in glass cases proudly on display, the smell of expensive beeswax polish strong in the air. If he hadn't been so busy, he would have enjoyed browsing for a while.

"Hello?" Tatsumi called out hesitantly, no one stood behind the counter, and at first it seemed there was going to be no response. Just as he was about to call again, he heard voices coming from further within, slightly raised in playful dispute.

"Stay put mother, I'll go and help the customer." A pleasantly rich, male voice, firm but respectful. "I don't care if Muraki does think your health has improved, you should still take things easy." Tatsumi heard an elderly female voice respond, but could not piece together her words. A moment later and the man stepped into sight behind the counter. "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting,"

Oriya's eyes widened as he recognised the Shinigami before him, though the shock drained from his lean and handsome face almost immediately. Tatsumi stared at the swordsman without speaking, trying to detect whether he was carrying any hidden weapons. Oriya was beautifully dressed as always, his long, rich brown hair hanging loose around his broad shoulders, half obscuring a face that could be utterly serene one moment, and devilishly roguish the next. Briefly, Tatsumi wondered why Muraki couldn't have been satisfied harassing this man, even if he wasn't quite as beautiful as Tsuzuki.

"He's not here."

Tatsumi arched a brow in amusement. He imagined that Oriya must be quite fed up having to deal with some of the messes Muraki left behind

"Where is he?" Tatsumi spoke calmly. For some reason or other, he had respect for this man, despite his rather seedy background.

"I wouldn't know, believe it or not. I don't keep him on a leash, though if I had any sense that might be a wise measure.

"How long ago did he leave?" Tatsumi wasn't entirely sure that Muraki had been there at all today, but judging by the partial conversation he had overheard, and Oriya's presence here, it seemed like a reasonable enough guess.

"You know I won't tell you." The swordsman eyed the shadows that were beginning to mill around the secretary's feet. "And you can save your little displays, Shinigami. They don't intimidate me."

Tatsumi found himself smiling. Oriya might have strange friends, but he was loyal, and no coward. It was a pity he was on the wrong side.

"You are aware, that I could kill you now?" Tatsumi asked quietly, though whether his words were a threat or mere question was anybody's guess.

Oriya shrugged, callused hands resting lightly upon the glass top of the counter.

"You could, but I'm calling your bluff. I do not think you are capable of killing in cold blood. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong."

"You are a good judge of character. I am not like Muraki, killing brings me no pleasure." The shadows dissipated, and Oriya could have sworn the air felt less oppressive.

Tatsumi knew Oriya would provide no answers. He doubted he would have gained any information even if he had resorted to force, and now he felt bitterly despondent. It seemed his simple plan, was far more complicated than he had thought in his muddled state. He inclined his head towards Oriya in way of goodbye, and quietly exited the little shop. Should he have glanced back, he would have seen Oriya slump wearily against the glass cabinet, face hidden behind his palms, wishing for once that he didn't have so much pride in his honour, and that he had abandoned Muraki before all the troubles started.

Hands in his pockets again, the sky darkening rapidly, Tatsumi headed towards the park, head hanging, the spring gone from his step. Little did he know, that 15 minutes prior, an amethyst eyed Shinigami had walked this way in the company of a pale and deadly doctor.





Author's note: Long chapter, not the most enthralling either, but I had to try and come up with some way for Tatsumi to track Muraki down without arousing the suspicions of his colleagues. Thus, Oriya was brought in. I actually really like him, he's damn pretty, but we don't get to see all that much of him in the manga or the anime, so I'm kinda guessing what he'd be like more than anything. The name of his brothel/restaurant I'm not exactly sure of. In the anime, that's what the subtitles state it is, but with the version I saw being fan-subbed I'm not sure how accurate it is. And was I right about Kyoto being Watari's district? Feel free to correct me or reprimand me if there are any horrid mistakes.

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