Chapter I – Part 2

A long shower, that’s what he needs. It will all be better when today’s grime, sweat and tears are washed away. At least that’s what Isaac though. A long, hot shower usually helps, in these situations, right?
He even had a nice enough host too, gave him a towel and everything, let him use his own body-wash and shampoo – sea salt and mint, he liked that – and even had a room ready for him to sleep in. He was lucky right?

He didn’t feel lucky sitting on the guestroom’s bed, in a faded t-shirt that he used as sleepwear. He dug up his suitcase for it, somehow glad that heat least had his bare essentials.

It was fine up until he had to be alone. Well not alone per say, he heard the shower running and a happy humming from the shared bathroom. Looking around the room there was not much character to it. Aiji said his sister stayed here – She must not visit that often, there are no personal items anywhere. The bed was freshly made, no dust covered the surfaces of the desk in the corner. He probably has a maid that cleans from time to time, judging from the expensive things in the whole penthouse he surely can afford one. The whole penthouse gave little clue what Aiji was like. Downstairs everything seemed like a showhome, not homey at all. It looked good, but it looked like anyone could live here. A bachelor penthouse – the thought crossed his mind. Maybe that was it, maybe this was just a home for show.

In the silence Isaac listened to the tune that was muffled by the door and slowly it became familiar. Too familiar. Honey-brown eyes widened as the tune flowed into his ears, bringing up the memory of one of his all-time favorite band’s song. It was not popular back in the days, in fact, most people didn’t seem to like it, for it being a slower paced and more “depressing” piece. It stood out like a sore thumb from the album too. There was no way, this was a coincidence. This would be too much for today and way too creepy and he didn’t liked creepy. How did this man know?

Moving quietly and quickly, Isaac reached for his bag and got out his laptop. The first thing on his mind was that somehow this man came to know things about him, that other’s didn’t and the only way that was possible was access to his private computer. Or being a mind-reader, after today, that was pretty much plausible too. The tattoos on him flashed up in his mind. The energy they radiated. Surly those are not powerful enough to just read people.
He started typing quickly on his device, checking if anything was amiss, but came back with nothing. Then a thought hit him. Quickly bringing up a search bar, he typed in the song. He knew who wrote it, but just the nickname, he needed a real name. An overwhelming feeling to know came over him, the familiarity, the ever smirking mouth and dark blue eyes.

Just as the results loaded in, there was a knocking at his open door. – Hey, I know it’s been a long night for you, but care to eat something? – Aiji stood in his doorway – When did he finish showering? – hair hanging down wet, damping his shirt, grey sweatpants and the strange pendant and tag necklace.
– I suppose… – As on cue, his stomach rumbled – Yes, I think I could eat. – Isaac looked up at Aiji who gave him a genuine smile and gestured with his head to follow him. He was reluctant, desperate to be alone for one more minute, but it seemed Aiji was waiting for him to move. He swore to check after dinner.

***

To say Isaac was taken aback by all the food that lay before them on the living area’s coffee table was an understatement. When they got down from the second floor, Aiji made way to the kitchen, opening the refrigerator and pulling out containers upon containers of what seemed like leftover home made meals. He lay out a fine feast in no time and instead of using the multiply dining surfaces, he opted for the coffee table, Isaac sitting on the couch, Aiji making himself comfortable on the floor, sitting across him.
– Please enjoy as much as you like – he invited the younger boy then his eyes traveled lower, almost bending down looking under the couch where Isaac was sitting. – You can come out too hun, bet you’re eager to meet our guest.
Before Isaac could question Aiji’s sanity to talking to the dust under the seating, he heard a small “Meow” and tiny, puffy feet making their way out to the open.
A gray cat.
– Oh! Hello there! – Exclaimed Isaac, earning a look from the cat that seemed more then just an animal. It’s blue and yellow eyes held much more than a normal cat’s should. A low purr was all he got before said cat bolted under the table and came up in to Aiji’s lap, meowing and purring loudly as the man pet it’s small head. – Good girl, I bet you missed me. – As if on cue, another small meow. – This is Isao~
– Isaac – The boy corrected.
– Isao had a rough first meeting today with some dark elves, so he’ll stay a bit. – Aiji looked up at the blonde, while lowering his voice, almost whispering in the cat’s ear. – He’s a seeker.

What happened next almost gave Isaac a heart attack. The cat that was in Aiji’s lap was somehow no longer a cat. A small girlish figure sat there, in a blue over sized dress, indicators that the girl was in fact the cat he saw was the still present cat ears on top of her head, gray, like her hair that came down in waves to her chest; and her eyes, the same blue and yellow eyes, with a hint of sparkle. Looking in to them, he felt like a warm blanket fell on them, the noises from the outside were so distant. Somehow he knew, that sitting in front of him was a powerful spirit, but unlike the others, she didn’t felt like a threat.
For a moment he wondered how he could not see through the disguise.
The cat-like girl stood up from her spot, she would barely reach his chest and that’s counting the ears. With soft cat-like steps, on barefoot she was now in front of him, reaching out small hands that ever so slightly touched his face and for a brief moment, Isaac felt like the world was at piece.
Her neutral face then smiled warmly at him.
– Please, call me Chino. – Her voice was small like herself and radiated pure harmony, like nothing he has ever heard.
And just as quickly it came over him, the feeling left, he was back in reality, hearing the traffic outside and feeling that awful fear that still lingered in his soul from today’s attack. It felt like he was blessed by something that he didn’t even knew existed and that was taken away from him the moment he wanted to keep it.
Chino, now again as the furry pet, sat back in Aiji’s lap, purring.
– What…what did she do? – Isaac tried to collect his thoughts.
– It’s okay, it can be overwhelming at first. You see, Chino here is a spirit, much like the ugly ones you see around, only thing is, that those spirits are corrupt, they either were created from the dread and despair of mankind, or were once part of nature and changed due to humans gaining bigger grounds and corrupting them. – Aiji tried to explain in common terms.
– But the ones I saw, they didn’t feel as intense. They felt human almost.
– Many don’t, many don’t even bother with humans in general. Chino however is a bit…stronger than the ones you met. She is one of the forest spirits, at least that’s what we gathered. – Aiji picked up some meat from his plate and held it out for the cat in his lap, she took the bite chewing delighted. It was strange to see her act like a common pet after revealing herself.
– If she’s a forest spirit, shouldn’t she be in a forest?
– Good question, I would love to answer it but I don’t know either. Back when we met, she claimed to be here in the city because she was curious of humans.

*~*~*

Aiji Sato’s life had been anything but perfect at that point. Somehow, at the ripe age of 19, he found himself in a foreign country, trying to restart his life from scratch. Not that he was cut off from everything that he built, so far away from it. He still has the luxury of his siblings. Even if he never used his brother’s help, the possibility was still there and he would jump in and help had he been asked. He was also sure if he would fly back home, his mother would wait for him with open arms, his old band mates would keep him busy. The only reason this was not an option right now, was Aiji himself. He refused all help, trying to prove something, more to himself than to anyone else.
So here he was, in a park, playing some popular tune on his guitar. He wasn’t really playing for tips, he was more like practicing for tonight’s audition, but people started to throw paper bills in his open guitar case. He was not complaining.
Suddenly, instead of loose change or paper bills, he saw fresh white flowers falling in to the mix. The pretty petals came from a small girl, not taller than a child, however having all the features of a grown woman. Her small frame was swaying on her toes back and forth, arms clapped together behind her. She was watching Aiji, expecting something, looking into his dark blue eyes with her light yellow and blue ones.
Aiji reached down and picked up one of the flower offerings and smiled at her, motioning for her to lean closer. The girl did and he places the flower in her unruly gray hair. – Thank you. – He said with a warm smile that seemed to mirror in the girl’s face. As he started to play again the girl sat down beside him enjoying her little mini-concert, humming a tune in sync.

*~*~*

Aiji seemed fond of the memory, as he pet the gray cat in his lap. He talked about Chino as an old friend even thou this only happened 4 years ago, they felt as familiar to each other as if they have known one another their whole life. She was there when Aiji had the worst days, when he started his work with Damian and got home from his first mission, broken in spirit. Chino tended to him, piecing his soul back together and giving life back into his eyes. She said that she will always help him, as long as he does not stray from his path. A path she claimed to see for him.
– Do you have any idea why I was attacked? – Isaac suddenly asked, late in the night when they all had their fill from their late dinner. Chino was already somewhere upstairs, as Aiji said, she likes to live as a cat, it makes things a bit more easy. Specially when he has company over. The two of them were now lounging on the couch talking. Aiji had a feeling the younger boy would have a hard time sleeping tonight so he talked to him to take his mind elsewhere.

– I don’t really. I don’t even know why they were there in the first place. – He said looking in front of him, fingers tapping on his one knee that he bought up to his chest. – The non-human population usually keeps to their own territories. They rarely come out of hiding, specially not without any disguise. – He mused. He would have to report this back to Damian. He looked over to the young blonde; he was tired, he could tell, dark circles forming under his eyes.
– We should call it a night- He was interrupted.
– I’m not really tired! – It came out more desperate than Isaac intended. The thought of being alone now unimaginable.
Aiji eyed his figure for a bit, coming up with a plan to get him to sleep at least for a few hours. He knew the feeling. And even if Chino could sooth him in to sleep, that would not make thing better in the long run. Aiji himself had to go through nightmares upon nightmares till he fell into a routine to wind down from missions. Specially from the gruesome ones.

It took a hour and a half, Aiji noted, but it worked. He had them sit in the dark, putting on a movie (a very boring one), waiting silently for Isaac to lull his head, then lay down on the couch. Aiji let out a breath – finally – and he reached for the blanket at the end of the seat, tucking in the boy who was now taking steady breaths. What he did not anticipate when he got up to leave was a hand clutching his shirt for dear life. With a defeated sigh, Aiji sat back down, pulling his legs up and lulling himself off to sleep too, letting the boy cling to him. He woke several times during the night, first to a cramped leg. Then there was Isaac’s whimpers, hands reaching for nothing outside of his dreams. A restless night indeed, but he didn’t wanted to wake him. That would be worse. So he did the only thing he could, at first he just reached out to pet the blonde strand of the boy’s head, then he let him grab his arm, holding on. Finally he lay down next to Isaac, keeping a fair space between them, letting the boy feel that he was not alone but not close enough to be overbearing. The thought of hugging him close to make the nightmares go away did cross his mind, but he held his ground against this instinct. His closeness seemed to work just fine too when he whispered to him reassuringly. – I’m here, I’m not going to let them hurt you. – Eventually he dozed off himself too.

***

Isaac really had no idea how he got into this position. He remembered watching a godawful movie before he had fallen asleep, he was still sitting up at that point. Now, as the sun was shining through the closed curtains, he felt himself tucked in a warm blanket, as a comfortable burrito, mint and sea-salt dancing around his senses, a strong heartbeat in his ears and a strong arm holding him from rolling off the couch. As soon as he started to wake, and he still felt arms around him, is when his own heart picked up and a crimson flush made it’s way to his cheeks. Why was he held like this? Surely even if Aiji wanted to keep an eye on him, he had enough space to himself.
Then he felt it. His hand was gripping at some fabric, Aiji’s shirt. And if he could turn more red, then he would have. His eyes shifted to gaze up, looking at the sleeping features of his host. Even in this calm state he could see a little smirk in the corner of his mouth. Black hair tossed back from his face. Why did he want to run a finger down the side of his face? He is but a stranger to him and yet, Isaac felt like he was so familiar. Suddenly he remembered his abandoned search last night.


After hearing Aiji humm that song, he had a gut feeling, something about him was too close, he felt like he was missing just one piece of the puzzle. He was merely a young teen when he first heard it, but fell so in love with the voice on the recording, that he searched up every little bit of information about the band. He found them to be a Japanese boy band, not really famous, seemed like many didn’t even know them, but locally, they had a fair amount of fan-base. Rightfully so, they seemed to be bringing a more harder edge to the table than most from the eastern region. But the new albums lacked the voice he was searching for. Lacked that presence that he first heard.
That song he first heard, the one he recognized again was part of a special 2nd disc, where all band members got to write their own songs, focusing on them individually. Isaac liked all of them really, these were more personal and gave a little peak inside how the band members individually identified through music. But his favorite was this one. He could recall the lyrics even in his sleep.

*Original Lyrics by David Kushner

Unfortunate for him, this was the last time he heard his voice in the band. He remembered searching all over the internet, trying to figure out what happened. Ayo. The nickname he searched and tried to identify somehow. The last clue was a local blog, he had to try and translate it word by word. That blog entry was the only place he had read this; The band has been though a break, as hardships formed between members, second lead guitarist Ayo had left the company. There were a few images to, but right now, Isaac could not compare the face from his memory, to the one laying beside him. It has been years. Back then all of those in that band had different looks, the one in question rocking a long cut, that was dyed red and white. He didn’t remember any tattoos or scars either, but then again, years passed. Nobody heard anything about him after the departure and since his identity was not public, nobody knew where to look. With all that has happened recently, Isaac really felt like his mind might be just playing tricks on him, and Aiji being a mind-reader or coincidentally knowing that song was way more plausible than him being that lost idol he searched for all those years ago. He couldn’t be, he decided, he was just lonely in an unfamiliar place and his mind was desperately putting together something to comfort him. He could hear the voice now too, the sweet dark tone, holding so much emotion.
He resisted the urge to move, afraid to wake from this haze that hugged them both. And even thou they just met, Isaac felt safe here and that had nothing to do with him being held by strong arms and hearing the strong rhythm of his heart. Thanks to his eyes, (he called him a seeker right?) Isaac was always a good judge of character, and he felt strongly about Aiji being good, despite what happened last night. His stomach turned slightly at the thought. He made a mental note to himself to ask how long has he been doing this. How long did it take to get used to this?