Chapter 11: Gods Do Not Love (Oh Darling, Whoever Told You That?)
If you asked her, Kyouka would say that she wasn't surprised by the revelation that Chuuya-san had a little sister.
She might've only been in the mafia for 2 years, but as mind-numbing as it was blindly murdering enemies to the Port Mafia, there had been a few bright spots as well. One of those bright spots were Kouyou-san and Chuuya-san's kindness. Kouyou-san was a small refuge in the middle of a bloodbath, offering comfort and shelter and guidance, as well as – she hated to say it, but – a mother figure that she latched on to, after the shock of her parents' deaths.
On the other hand, Chuuya-san was an older sibling that she'd never had, gently coaxing her to enjoy her downtime by exploring Yokohama. Sure, Atsushi had done that as well, when she'd first met him, but Chuuya-san was the first one who took her to the shops and introduced her to her favourite tofu. He had been the encouraging presence that had toned down Akutagawa-san's efforts to break her into a living doll, and when it came to relations to the Port Mafia after her defect, he was one of the few who kept up good terms with her.
So when it came down to the infiltration mission to rescue Chuuya-san, Kyouka had been the one to raise the issue of saving his sister.
True, there was no telling how Chuuya-san's sister was like, but Kyouka knew enough of the elder Nakahara to say that he'd want to save her if they'd switched places. Besides, who was she to deny another second chance?
She chanced a glance over to Atsushi, where he fidgeted against the leather seat of the van they were in. They were on their way to the hidden facility, nearly a week and a half since Chuuya-san's disappearance. Dazai-san had visibly balked against waiting so long to rescue Chuuya-san, but it spoke of his resilience when he just gritted his teeth and focused on hashing out the plans to extract the Nakaharas from the facility. It had been decided that a mixed group of detectives and mafioso would go to retrieve the duo, with a small, trusted delegation of government officers ready to step in and deal with the aftermath.
Kyouka dropped her gaze back to the cellphone on her lap, cradling the rabbit charm. 'Kaa-san, if you're listening, please, watch over us,' she prayed quietly.
The van trundled on.
Chuuya was pretty sure that he was going mad.
He stared at the far wall of the cell, fervently ignoring the shifting mist of red that danced around him. Next to him, Chizue slept, breath hitching every now and then, even as he distracted himself by carding gentle fingers through her hair.
In front of him, his fucking alter-ego smiled.
"Well? Still think that I'll disappear?" The monster tilted his head to the side, watching him gleefully. The mist swirled even stronger at that, and Chuuya had to move his hand away from his sister's hair before – before he did anything. The alter leaned forward, red eyes lighting up with mischief. "Wanna see how solid I can get? I think I can touch another person now," a smoky hand reached towards Chizue, before Chuuya kicked out a leg at him.
"Don't you fucking-!" He cut himself off, darting a wary glance at his sister, who thankfully didn't stir at his raised voice, then continued in a softer hiss. "Don't you fucking dare touch my sister, you goddamned monster."
The alter raised his hands in mock surrender. "I yield, I yield. Anyway, I wouldn't want to play with someone marked with that god's powers, anyway."
Chuuya's heart squeezed painfully at that, and he looked down at Chizue with a grimace on his lips. Shit, he was tired, goddammit. Tired of dealing with his malfunctioning Ability, tired of being in pain, tired of having to worry over not only himself but also for a newly uncovered sister; aching to go back, back to his home and his friends and his people. Ane-san must be worried out of her mind. Mori-san would've sent someone after him already. He could imagine it.
Question was, could they last that long? Chuuya wasn't sure – he was flagging already, and his sister had confirmed that the experiments had amped up in intensity compared to her previous sessions. It would only be a matter of time before the scientists decided they had enough data to proceed with the transfer. And then what? Would it work? Would Chizue live through it? Would he live through the backlash? Arahabaki had been certain of the effects, eyes serious when Chuuya had asked in his sleep – the Ability-cancelling cuffs could prevent him from surviving it. And Chizue – his little sister would be left alone again, perhaps without her memory, at the mercy of the people who wanted to control her. He didn't want history to repeat – but damn it, time was running out.
Something jostled his elbow, and he looked down – blue eyes blinked open as Chizue sat up, yawning. Chuuya couldn't help it; he ruffled the copper-red locks, inciting a sound of protest from the younger even as a smile tugged at his lips.
"Had a good nap?" He let his hand fall to his side as the girl pouted at him.
"…Yeah." Her eyes travelled away to look around the cell. "Who were you talking to?"
Chuuya stiffened. Across from him the alter-ego smiled, then dissolved into the red mist, which faded.
"…No one." At a hard glare, he relented. "To the alter-ego."
A frown made its way onto Chizue's face. He'd told her about his Ability's side-effects when she'd asked about the scientists' observations, coupled with his own lapse in lucidity against the alter-ego.
"It's gotten worse, hasn't it?"
Chuuya nodded. His sister released a harsh breath through her nose, biting her lip.
"And we don't have a way to stop it, not without getting out of here." She tilted her head. "Or, if I got Izanami's power…"
"No." His voice cut through hers, even as he gripped her shoulders firmly. "We don't know what the side-effects of the transfer are, and it's too much of a risk to even consider it. We just need to wait for the reinforcements to get here–"
"But we're running out of time, nii-san!" Chizue snapped back as she pulled away from him, brow furrowed and arms crossed. "The schedule's picked up its pace – Chisaki's experiments have been more focused, less broad; that means they've found a direction to focus their efforts, and there's no telling when they'll decide to go ahead with the transfer. Your reinforcements might not get here in time, and, and…" She trailed off, face blanching white.
Chuuya followed her gaze, and ice ran through his veins.
Black mist. Only appearing around his little sister. The only reason why they would need only her and not him would be – the transfer.
"No. No. It's too soon – they can't be–" He looked up at Chizue, who was shaking.
"Nii-san, I'm scared." Her panicked eyes met his own, and he grabbed for her, only for his hand to go through the mist. His heartbeat spiked.
"Chizue, I promise I'll come for you; just, just hold on, okay?" He forced a confident smile onto his face, and she matched it hesitantly.
"Good." He tried reaching out again, this time managing to cradle her face in his hands. He pressed a kiss onto her forehead. "Be brave for me, alright? Nii-san will protect you, imouto." Unshed tears glimmered in Chizue's eyes.
"Love you too, nii-sa–"
The darkness swallowed her.
The unfinished sentence echoed into the cell.
Chuuya roared. A red tint overtook his vision.
The restraints around his wrists cracked.
At the perimeter of the compound, two guards stood idly, scanning the surrounding forest. A moment later, they crumpled to the ground, two gunshot wounds on their foreheads.
The murmur of another pair of guards approaching cut off in a startled yell as they caught sight of the downed bodies – one of them reached for the comms, only to choke on their blood as a blade sunk through their neck. The other managed to send off a signal before their body twisted and broke.
The mafia moved onwards.
Burning gold eyes watched as the sedated subject was suspended in fluid in the container, before turning to signal to the waiting scientist. Chisaki Kai grinned under his mask.
As the procedure started, the steady beeps from one of the machines started slowing down. He ignored it at first, eyes locked greedily on the subject. Then one of the scientists exclaimed, and he looked over in irritation.
A5159's heartbeats were dropping below normal rate, and they didn't seem to be picking up anytime soon. Even as he watched, the heartbeats stuttered for a moment, before slowing down at a greater rate.
"No. No. NO!" Chisaki panicked. "Keep the subject alive!"
A flurry of activity descended upon the scientists, people dashing about as tubes were inserted beside tubes, switches flipped and dials spun, while Chisaki pressed shaking hands against the glass separating him from the subject. They couldn't fail now, not when they were so close! He watched the line on the heart monitor frantically.
The line pulsed once. Twice. Three times, fluttering.
Then it flatlined.
In a space that was everywhere and nowhere all at once, in a time that was in the past and the present and the future, a child and a god stood against the not-light.
Keep my brother safe, the child whispered, begged, asked, demanded.
WHY SHOULD I, the god asked. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO OFFER ME?
The child faltered. The god pressed on, unrelenting.
FIRE NEEDS FUEL. WATER IS PUSH AND PULL. EARTH DOES NOT YIELD. AIR WAITS FOR NONE. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO OFFER IN RETURN FOR YOUR REQUEST?
The child trembled. Then they pushed their offerings forward.
A promise made twice and broken once. The smile of a brother. The taste of freedom cut short. The kiss of sun on skin. The skills of an assassin. The sensation of flesh parting under steel. The thrill of wind whipping at clothes. The gaping darkness of the void. The first breath of winter. Leaves turning red and gold in the fall. Cherry blossoms blooming. The laughter of a child.
Is this enough, the child asked, hoped.
The god looked at them. THIS IS A SINGLE DROP IN THE OCEAN, CHILD. WHAT ARE A HANDFUL OF MEMORIES IN THE FACE OF A GOD WHO HAS BEEN HERE SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME?
The child cried. What more can a mortal whose life has been defined by pain and death and murder offer to a god who was found trapped in a book?
A JUST QUESTION, LITTLE ONE. The god allowed, mouth smiling wide. Rows of teeth gleamed. I AM IN NEED OF A VESSEL. WILL YOU GIVE ME YOUR BODY, LITTLE MORTAL?
Only if you swear on yourself that you will keep my brother safe and sound, the child demanded.
VERY WELL, NAKAHARA CHIZUE. The god rumbled, growing more solid, more intense. I, IZANAMI, DO SWEAR TO KEEP YOUR BROTHER, NAKAHARA CHUUYA, SAFE AND SOUND.
And I, Nakahara Chizue, do swear to give you my life and my body, in return. Thank you, the child whispered, fading. Don't tell him about this, please?
DON'T WORRY, the god smiled even wider, face splitting into half as the world collapsed around them. I WON'T SAY A SINGLE WORD.
Nakahara Chizue exhaled her last breath.
Izanami took her first breath in hundreds of millennia and opened her stolentakengiven eyes.