A High Price

Chapter 23

By Lizard


Rain seemed appropriate for a funeral. Heavy grey clouds had boiled up on the horizon no more than an hour before it began, as if timing their arrival exactly. Tatsumi was drenched.

He stood beneath a skeletal tree, the smell of wet grass and decaying leaves thick in the air, grass crumpled underfoot and slick with mud that squelched noisily beneath perfectly polished ebony shoes. He hadn't bothered to bring an umbrella. Not like the crowd that had come for the burial, a collection of weepy nurses and sombre looking men. It seemed sickening that so many had loved him, when he had given so little back. Now things were finished, settled, and the crowd was beginning to move away, some with haste as they hurried to get out of the ceaseless rain, some murmuring quietly in small groups and not seeming to care.

Only one figure remained by the grave, tall, head bowed slightly, long hair tied back in a loose braid. Oriya had arranged it all. Oriya was the one man Tatsumi needed to speak to.

Slowly, the Shinigami left his vantage point, and headed down the slope towards the swordsman, who glanced up as if he had known he was there all along, no shock or surprise registering on his handsome features, in fact there seemed to be nothing but deep apathy. Brown eyes were dull, exhausted, and his arms hung limply at his sides.

"You Shinigami are relentless. No peace, even at a burial." Oriya's voice was monotonal, and he sighed softly, as if he hadn't the energy even to converse.

"You have my condolences, but I cannot claim to be sorry that he has passed on." Tatsumi stopped in front of him, hair dark with rain, specks of water shining upon his glasses.

"I wouldn't expect you to be. Your job will be far easier now I assume, fewer deaths to deal with." Turning away, long hair plastered to the back of his dark clothing, Oriya began to walk towards a black limo, head bowed slightly to keep the rain from his eyes.

"I came for a purpose, not simply to watch." Tatsumi stepped quickly in front of him, one hand on his shoulder to keep him from walking away.

"Whatever could you want from me? He's dead and buried. You people should know that better than anyone else. What else could you possibly want?"

Tatsumi narrowed his eyes slightly, not removing his hand from the other man's shoulder. He liked Oriya. Oriya was an honourable man. Oriya had done nothing to deserve his anger. But that didn't keep him from being suspicious.

"You know very well, Oriya-san."

Oriya stared at him blankly, head lifted slightly, canting to one side, then he brushed Tatsumi's hand away as if he found his touch offensive, beginning to move around him.

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Tatsumi moved to apprehend him, stepping in front of him, and then towards him, forcing him to step backwards. With a jolt, Oriya found himself with his back to a tree.

"Muraki is officially dead. His candle is snuffed, all files are closed." Tatsumi spoke softly. He didn't wish to come across as an intimidating bully, but he had to keep Oriya here long enough to say what was necessary. "But I am no fool. I know there was nothing in that coffin."

The Shinigami watched the swordsman's face, waiting to see if there was any slight flicker of fear or surprise. Either Oriya didn't care, or he was too skilled at maintaining his poker face. Tatsumi could quite easily believe it to be the latter, considering the business Oriya was involved in.

"What would you have me put in it? There was nothing left of his body. The coffin was a gesture of comfort for those that cared for him. It would have caused too much confusion and distress for them to hear what really happened." Oriya's argument was perfectly valid, but he had no firm proof to back up his words.

"Is he really gone?" Tatsumi asked quietly after a long pause, his voice respectful. He had to hear it put simply. He didn't believe that Oriya would lie to him. He noted a faint twinge of distress in the swordsman's eyes as he asked this, saw his head bow. Was that a tear beading in his dark lashes?

"Muraki is no longer here. Whatever occurred in your realm has destroyed him, and I don't wish to hear the details. Spare me any further questions." The tear finally obeyed the laws of gravity and stained Oriya's cheek, soon lost amidst the spattering of rain on his pale skin. Tatsumi couldn't help but feel guilty for pushing for answers, and it frustrated him to see someone so upset over Muraki. "Now let me go. I've stayed here long enough."

Tatsumi remained where he was.

"There is one last thing. I'm sorry to trouble you with it, but I have to. It's about Tsuzuki."

Oriya looked up, the pain that had narrowed his eyes replaced for a moment by curiosity.

"The Shinigami he was obsessed with? The one I met before."

"Yes, that's correct." Tatsumi nodded slightly, pushing his glasses a little further up his narrow nose. "The Doctor's death has been particularly difficult for him. He refuses to believe that he is dead and we're having to keep him sedated to stop him from hurting himself or anyone else."

Oriya shook his head, giving a faintly bitter laugh as he brushed his hair from his face.

"You want me to come and confirm things for you. You think he'll believe it coming from me."


"You have some nerve making such a request after all your questioning, Shinigami. I've a mind to decline and let you deal with the problem yourself. But I won't."

Tatsumi gave a faint sigh of relief, taking a step back to give Oriya some room. The man could have been utterly difficult, and refused, but he was yet again proving himself to be a noble man.

"Tsuzuki is a good man. He loved Muraki, and that's why I'll come. Not for you, or for the others, but for him. He deserves that much." Tatsumi could only nod and watch as the slender man made his way to his limo, looking back over his shoulder. "Take me to him this evening after the sun has set, then let that be the end of things. I'm warning you Shinigami, trouble me no more after tonight."

The car door shut with a resounding slam.





Author's Note: I have no idea what Japanese funerals are like. For that reason I strayed away from describing any kind of ceremony, but it'd be interesting to know if any readers have been to one or seen one and could tell me what they're like.

To Literary Eagle: I read some of your stories a while back, Anabella gave me a link to your site and I really enjoyed it ^^ Do keep writing!

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