Chapter 23

TW: Gore, gun violence, grief, and murder.


Chapter 23 Zero HourKirishima called Suoh.

“Kei!  I’ve been trying to call you and Asami-sama!  The man we killed was a decoy,” said Suoh, “Shirai told us when we tortured him.”

“I know.  We met the real Andou.  Bring a group of men to my condo.  I’ll explain later,” he said keeping his voice quiet.

He hung up the phone.  Asami was still on his knees staring at Jin’s body.  The bullet had exited the back of Jin’s head and his eyes were still open.  Blood and brains were all over the couch.  His open, bloody mouth was at an odd angle from when he fired the revolver and its trajectory had dislocated his jaw.  Kirishima got a glass of water from the bar.  He went to Asami and held it out to him.

“Ryuichi.” He kept his voice quiet but clear.

Asami looked up.  His eyes were dry and unfocused.  He blinked a couple of times then looked at the glass.  He stood up and dipped his fingers into the water.

Asami looked down at Jin’s face then leaned over him.  He took hold of his dislocated jaw and pushed it back into place with a quick movement then he moistened Jin’s lips with his wet fingers.  He looked into Jin’s light brown eyes and closed them for the last time.

Kirishima dipped his own fingers into the water glass and went to Maseo’s body.  He got down on his knees, moistened Maseo’s lips then stood up again.  He felt Asami’s hand on his shoulder.

The two men said nothing.  They stood together in the middle of the living room waiting for the others to arrive.


Kirishima didn’t wait for Asami’s orders.  He took control of the situation and sent Asami out of the country with Taniguchi and some of the other men then he and Suoh set about the task of tracking down the remaining men in Andou’s organization and eliminating them.  They worked day and night, using every contact they could.  To further Asami’s reputation for ruthlessness, they made sure all the killings were publicly known.  Kirishima also worked to strengthen their alliances, reconnect their ties with the police, and streamline the organization.

Asami hadn’t protested when Kirishima informed him that he was sending him away on a long vacation.  Every day Taniguchi reported that Asami was quiet and spent most of his time staring at the sea from his balcony or walking on the beach.  He wasn’t eating much and they knew he wasn’t sleeping.  He refused to speak to anyone unless it was absolutely necessary and he didn’t want any updates as to what he and Suoh were working on.  He didn’t even want to speak to Kirishima.

Kirishima, for his part, was working himself into the ground.  He refused to stop because he knew if he did he wouldn’t be able to function any more.

One night about two weeks after Asami left, he was in Suoh’s office.  They were going over the remaining targets.  It was after 01:30.  His glasses were dirty so he removed them for cleaning but when he did his hands were shaking so much that he dropped them.  He stared down at the glasses and then picked them up.

Suoh was watching him.  “You’re pushing yourself too hard, Kei.”

Kirishima glared at him.  “So what if I am?  We discussed this, Kazumi, whoever was involved, whoever HURT Asami-sama has to be eliminated.”

Suoh sat back in his seat.  “Yes, that’s right, but you need to get some sleep, eat something.  You’re in a bad state.  You should let the other men take care of the executions.  It’s adding to your already high stress level.”

Kirishima picked up the documents they’d been looking at.  “Don’t tell me what I already know.”  Suoh was right.  Whenever it was possible Kirishima had been carrying out the executions himself.  He did it because murdering Andou’s men made him feel numb, if only for a little while.

“Fact is, you’re grieving too, aren’t you?”

Kirishima put the papers down.  He laid his hands slowly on Suoh’s desk and leaned forward.  “Don’t,” he said, then his voice gave out.  He swallowed the lump in his throat and continued in a hoarse voice.  “Don’t you ever mention that again, Kazumi.  Do you hear me?”

Suoh gazed steadily back at him.  “We’re just worried about you, Kei.”

“Worry about all the work we have to do then you can worry about me.”

He barely ate and didn’t sleep.  He couldn’t bear to be at home though he wouldn’t admit it to anyone.  He spent most of his time at the office.

He and Maseo only had four encounters yet he felt like he’d lost a piece of his own soul.  The pain of separation was so intense that it felt like he was being torn apart inside.  It didn’t feel normal, or even human.  It was like nothing he’d ever experienced.  The struggle to keep functioning, to keep living was becoming more difficult as time went on.  He found himself wondering if Maseo’s mother had felt the same way or if perhaps her own pain had been worse.

When he was home, he wandered through the rooms, cleaning the already immaculate furniture and unfolding and refolding his clothes, delaying the inevitable.  When he couldn’t stand it anymore he would stretch out on the place where Maseo had died and bite his hand to keep from weeping, leaving teeth marks and bruises.  He knew everyone noticed but no one mentioned it.  He knew he should sell the condo but he was terrified to it go.  It was one of the few things in his life that had to do with Maseo.  He carried Maseo’s glasses with him everywhere in his jacket pocket, and when he thought no one was watching he would take them out and look at them.

The only time he felt even close to normal was after he’d executed one of Andou’s men.


“We found him, Kei.”

Kirishima looked up from his desk at Suoh.  It was 23:21 about five weeks later.  There were no files, no papers.  He’d reached the point where he couldn’t focus on work anymore and had taken to staying in his office for hours, staring down at his desk or out the window.

“Who?”  Kirishima wiped his streaming, burning eyes.  His hands were trembling from exhaustion.

“Andou’s last man.”  Suoh’s voice was gentle.  He stood in front of Kirishima’s desk, huge and imposing, watching him closely.

“H-he’s mine, Kazumi.”  His voice was almost a hoarse whisper.

“I know.”

Kirishima slowly stood, testing his balance.  He leaned on the desk.  “I’ll drive.”

“No, you won’t.  I’ll drive and we will bring three other men and another five in one of the other cars.”

“I thought you said there was only one man left,” said Kirishima.  He let go of the desk and weaved where he stood but managed to stay standing.  His clothes hung loose on his body.

“I’m being cautious.  Asami-sama would kill me if you were harmed so all of us are coming with you.”

Kirishima took a step and another before stumbling.  Suoh grabbed him by the arm, hauling him up.  Kirishima looked up at his friend.  Suoh’s body felt very warm and he noticed he had a slightly sweet, warm scent.

“Not as warm as—,” Kirishima said out loud.  He stared up at Suoh.  His scent reminded him of something from a long time ago.  “It was when we first met, right?  That’s what you-.”

“Kei, how long has it been since you’ve had some sleep?”

“I don’t know.  Days and days.  Weeks, maybe.”

“You’ve lost at least ten pounds.  I’ve never seen you this thin before.  You look emaciated.”  Suoh had pulled him out of the office and was half walking, half carrying him down the hallway.  The other men were joining them.  Kirishima ignored their worried looks.

“Suoh-san, can’t we just take care of it ourselves?  He needs a doctor,” said Yamada, one of other subordinates.  He had been with the organization for three years.  “Asami-sama would be very upset that we’ve let him go this long without medical treatment.”

Kirishima pulled his gun and pointed it at him.  “I may be in bad shape but…that doesn’t mean I can’t blow your fucking brains out.”  Yamada backed away, looking up at Suoh.

“Kei, put the gun away.  You’ll be using it soon enough.”

He slid his gun back into his shoulder holster with some difficulty and let Suoh take him to the garage.  He was settled in the front passenger seat and watched as Suoh went around to the driver’s side, smoothly sliding his huge bulk into the car.  The door closed.

“Suoh-san, we really should take him to a doctor.  I don’t understand why you’re letting him do this.  Asami-sama–.”

“Don’t question my actions,” said Suoh, turning around in his seat to glare at Yamada.

“I’m just concerned–”

“Shut up.”  Suoh stared hard at Yamada who shrank back in his seat then he turned around and started the car.  No one said anything for the duration of the drive.

They stopped at a large, rundown apartment building. The streets were quiet.  The men got out of the car.  Suoh started to open the door.

“Wait, Kazumi.”  Kirishima cleared his throat so his voice wouldn’t be so hoarse.  “Why are you letting me do this?”

Suoh pulled the door closed and looked down.  “Because you need to finish this task before we can all move on.  Everything is at a standstill until it’s done.”

“It’s nice that you remember that about me.”

“It’s not something I would ever forget, Kei.”  Suoh looked at Kirishima.  “I would do it for you but I know that’s not going to help.”

A tight smile stretched across Kirishima’s gaunt face.  “Spoken like a true subordinate.  You must be very worried about me.  Carrying out executions like this takes a toll on a man’s psyche.”

Suoh glanced out the front window of the car before looking back at him.  “We’re all murderers, Kei.  You’ll be fine.”

He opened the car door and went around to help him out.  They walked into the building with the others, found the right apartment number, and the men kicked down the door.  They found Andou’s last man in the kitchen, frantically trying to load bullets into a shotgun.

Kirishima shrugged off Suoh’s arm and walked forward without faltering.  He aimed his gun, his arm steady and true, and pulled the trigger.

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