Nagi's first impression of Schuldich was that he was a misplaced neon sign, a bright and gaudy thing that had wandered off its post onto the crowded sidewalks of Osaka. This illusion shattered shortly after Schuldich first opened his mouth, because neon signs had no vocal chords and Schuldich was only ever happy when listening to himself speak. It was overblown pride in having mastered Japanese, no doubt, because he rarely had anything important to say and he didn't even have that pleasant a voice to listen to. Even still, neon signs and loud foreigners had their uses, in that one could point out a way to escape and the other was likely to have a rice fetish if he'd come to spend his money in Japan. Nagi had seen enough that he felt safe making such a judgment call, and, sticking to it, he was content to follow the glowing orange hair for the two blocks it took the taller man to notice he was being tailed.
The second their eyes met, blue on blue as different as the ocean and the sky, Nagi knew he was right. The stare down lasted for all of ten seconds and when Nagi tilted his head to one side in an invitation and started off down a side road away from the main strip, he was followed. There was a pachinko parlor on the corner, obnoxiously loud and bright and horrendous, and it was perfect. The sliding doors muffled the sounds a bit but they were opening and shutting enough that no one would hear anything from the corridor between it and the closed sushi shop next door.
The bricked corridor remembered him from past games as he slipped inside, and he waited a few feet inside for the foreigner to catch up. Nagi smiled for him the smile he'd perfected from years of survival and moved backwards, away from the spots where the pachinko lights could still catch them, slipping back to where night hugged the back corners.
"You speak Japanese?" he asked.
"I know enough to ask 'how much'," came the drawled response. The other man didn't hesitate to follow him back into the darkness, but with Nagi taking up most of the shadows, there was still enough faint light from the street to set his hair on fire. It had to be fake and atrociously so, and Nagi decided the man was a tourist simply because he couldn't exist here like that. Foreigners stood out enough as it was and none of the reputable companies would hire him if he looked like that.
"That depends on what you want," Nagi answered.
Lips parted on a smile and hatefully perfect teeth glinted at him. "You're a bit of a rude fucker, aren't you?" he asked, and he reached out. Nagi let the hand touch him, let the fingers curve along his cheek. His head was tilted from this side to that, examined just the same as this stupid hand must have examined shirts in the souvenir shops surrounding the Osaka train station. Degrading, but it didn't last. It couldn't. His smile was still in place when the man let go.
"How much?" the stranger asked again.
"How much do you have?" Nagi wanted to know.
"A hell of a lot more than I'm going to give a scrawny rice cracker like you," was the easy retort, and the fingers were back, pushing at his lips. Fingernails poked past to slide along a line of teeth and Nagi knew from the look in his eyes what he wanted. He let his eyes fall half closed, opening his mouth to let the fingers in, and pressed his tongue against warm fingertips to pin them to the roof of his mouth. He'd treat himself to a soda today for sure. He hated the stuff and the way it burned but it was safer than drinking peroxide and hopefully it would be enough to get the germs out of his mouth. He didn't even know what the man had been touching today.
"Japanese pussies," the man answered. "I say again, you're a bit rude and I'd think a whore-wannabe wouldn't have so many particulars."
"I want the money," Nagi told him. "Up front."
"You'll get it when we're done so I know I give you what you're worth."
Nagi lifted his shoulders in a slight shrug and bit down, hard. He was expecting the hand that came up against the side of his head and he let it throw him, bringing up an arm to take the impact for him as he hit the wall. He heard a harsh curse above the thud of his body against unyielding brick. It wasn't Japanese but it didn't matter. Obscenities were the same in any language; it was only the speaker that added any bit of worthwhile flair to them.
"You stupid little midget," the foreigner sent at him, lifting his hand above his head to try and get some light on his fingers. "If I catch a disease from your deformed teeth-"
The light was enough- Nagi saw what he needed to see. Blood dotted the fingers from where his teeth had broken the skin and Nagi felt his gift twist up in response. So scant he could hardly taste it, the molecules were still there and that was all his power needed to latch onto. It found the DNA in his mouth and when he reached out, it was ready. The foreigner was already turning on him but the move was aborted as Nagi's will flattened him against the brick. His skull made a thick sound as it hit the wall and Nagi listened to the sound of his breath getting crushed from his lungs. A mouth opened to gasp for breath and Nagi shut it easily, forcing him to find air again through his noise.
"You're a dumb fucking foreigner," he told the orange-haired man, and he pushed away from the wall. He could hear when the older man caught his breath back but ignored the sounds of outrage and bewilderment that got stuck somewhere between his throat and the mouth he couldn't open. He helped himself to the man's pockets, turning them inside out as he searched for a wallet, and at last he found it in a pants pocket. Blue eyes were glittering even in the dark as the older man glowered at him and Nagi took a few steps back to rest against the opposite wall.
He shifted the wallet to one hand to dig his lighter out of his pocket with the other, and a thumb flicked the flame into life so he could see what he was getting into. The sight of the thick wad of bills, all seemingly in 10,000 increments, made his eyebrows creep up on his forehead.
"One would think that with so much money, you would have been able to buy both common sense and a sense of fashion," Nagi commented. It was a little odd that the man had no cards on him, no business cards or credit cards or anything. He hadn't found a passport in the man's pockets, which meant the idiot had been wandering around Osaka with no identification at all. He folded the wallet up and slid it into his pocket. "One wonders just how much of this you were going to give me."
He let his lighter click shut and tucked it away again, blinking against the shadows that resettled in his eyes. It was easy to push away from the wall and close the gap between him and the orange haired man, and he curled his fingers in the other's pockets. "Should I give you something for your trouble?" he asked, pressing a kiss to the man's jaw. He could feel muscles tensing against him as the man tried to lash out, but his gift held the foreigner neatly in place. He pushed his hands past the green jacket and pried apart the buttons holding his undershirt closed. Fingernails grazed up hot skin and he relaxed fully against the stranger, pushing one leg forward into the other's groin. "A little something to make it worth it? I think that sounds fair."
He smiled, and it was a far cry from the invitation he'd offered the man at the head of the alley. Slim fingers reached up to catch the foreigner's jaw and a hard grip and a push of his gift forced the other's mouth open. Nagi had to go up on his tiptoes to reach and he worked his lips for a moment before spitting straight onto the older man's tongue.
"Keep your filthy fingers out of my mouth," Nagi warned him, and he shoved away.
He turned to start for the street again when he realized that they weren't alone. A man was standing about five feet in from the entrance, shoulder propped against the wall, as he watched the show. Pachinko lights in dizzying shades of nauseous rainbow blinked and glittered along short, jagged white hair, and as Nagi stared down the alley at him, two cloud-white hands lifted and began to clap. The slow applause somehow penetrated the muffled chaos of the parlor they were standing beside and after five claps, the man straightened and started their way.
The closer he came, the more off he looked. Maybe it was the pachinko lights that still danced across his skin; maybe it was from the way he looked like someone had bled him dry before setting him down on these streets. No doubt his face had something to do with it, seeing as how one eye was covered with a black patch and the other was a bright gold. The man said something Nagi couldn't understand, directing it at the foreigner still pushed up against the bricks, and a smile curved along pale lips as he stopped a few feet in front of the short Japanese boy.
That smile sent a funny little shiver down Nagi's spine. It would be appropriate to say it was fear, but Nagi made a habit of lying to others, not himself.
"Not every man can shut him up," the stranger said then in accented Japanese.
"You know him, then," Nagi decided.
The white-haired man held out his hand. "His wallet," he said.
"His idiocy lost him it," Nagi told him. "It is mine now."
That smile widened and the man drew his hand back. "You are not afraid of me," he noted.
Nagi counted the scars on his face and the bandages down his arms before looking back into that gold eye. The scars meant nothing; the bandages were pointless. They spoke of fights and quarrels, of arguments gone out of control that could have been petty or life-changing. It was the man's eye that screamed death, that said he had purposefully gone looking for those fights and scars. The madness was in the smile. Nagi recognized it and he could feel something clench hungrily in his gut around the familiarity of it.
"I suppose," the man continued, peeling off one black fingerless glove, "that a blood telekinetic feels no need to fear anything."
For one moment, Nagi felt cold. The blatant, unsurprised assessment cut straight through that curling heat and lingering disdain to spike a little icy toothpick into his heart. The stranger didn't seem to notice or care for the reaction to his words and instead lifted his hand to his mouth. Full lips slid against the fleshy meat of his thumb and the man bit down. Nagi heard flesh give way and the hand was held out towards him in an offering. Nagi looked up from the glistening drops of blood to the man's hooded gaze and didn't move.
"Go on," the man encouraged him. "Have a taste."
Nagi reached out at last, curling his fingers around larger white ones. The stranger let him pull his hand forward more into the shadows and Nagi tilted his head down to meet the bloody palm. He sealed his mouth around it, sucking hard at the flesh, and pressed his tongue into the small gashes. There wasn't much there but it was more than what he'd gotten from the other man, and he pushed the hand away as he let his gift assimilate it.
Metal hissed and flashed against a stray beam of light from further up the corridor. Nagi had expected an attack but not one that fast. The man came at him as a pale blur and he let go with his gift, only there wasn't anything to push against. He had half a second to realize his gift hadn't touched the other man and then he was slammed up against the wall, crushed between the weight of the other's body and the hard brick. The sharp edge of a blade dug into the underside of his throat, forcing his head back, and Nagi felt his breathing quicken as he stared up into the stranger's face.
"I'll take the wallet back," the man told him.
Nagi reached out with his gift, but it slipped through the other man as if he wasn't there. He could feel warmth curling in his fingertips but it didn't release into anything, and a little part of him snapped. He clawed at the man with his bare fingers instead, only to get a fist in the stomach. He was sure it punched a hole clean through to the wall behind him; lights flashed on his eyelids like fireworks or the damned pachinko parlor and he felt the knife slip away as he fell heavily to his knees.
He choked on his breath as he got it back, only dimly aware of the boots standing a few inches from his head. He had to push his hand against his stomach to make sure it hadn't ruptured, but even that touch wasn't enough to convince him. He didn't bother standing again but tilted his head back to stare up at the pale stranger. The man was tracing his lower lip with his knife tip and he cocked his head to one side.
"The wallet," came the neat reminder, and then he swung out, driving his blade against the bricks beside the captured foreigner's head. The orange-haired man collapsed from the wall as Nagi's gift snapped around him and Nagi could just stare in disbelief.
"What the fuck, Farfarello," the first man demanded, and he spat viciously at Nagi. Nagi didn't even have the presence of mind to wipe the slob off where it caught him in the cheek; his eyes were locked on the man who had just broken his gift. "This is not the idiot that Crawford sent us to find. I refuse to believe it. I'm not taking this mouthy piece of shit back to Tokyo with us."
"Farfarello" leaned over, propping his hands on his knees, to stare Nagi in the face. They were eye to eye now and Nagi couldn't see his reflection in that stare. Maybe it was the darkness. "I won't say it a third time," came the quiet warning, and Nagi pulled the stolen wallet out of his pocket. Farfarello took it without breaking Nagi's stare and thumbed the money out. The bills were tossed back in Nagi's face. "The wallet," Farfarello said. "Not the money."
"That's mine," the neon sign reminded him flatly.
"It was," came the easy response, and the white-haired man held it up in offering. It was snatched away with a muttered curse and shoved deep into one jacket pocket. Nagi looked down at the bills that were scattered around him until a hand in his hair pulled his attention back up where it really belonged: on the pale freak with the knife. "You're coming with us to Tokyo."
Farfarello smiled and Nagi tried to squish his reaction to it. "You can't refuse. You're a telekinetic and we've just bought your services."
"And you're dead if you don't come. Pick the option most appealing to you." Nagi struck out with his gift, but it helped just as little this time as it had the first few times he'd tried. Nagi was about to turn his attention on the obnoxious looking one when Farfarello hit him, slamming his hand into Nagi's face in a slap that had him hanging limp and dazed from Farfarello's grip on his hair. "That is not part of the contract."
Nagi couldn't answer; the world was spinning dizzily around him and his ears were ringing. Farfarello released him, letting him crumple to the ground, and then scooped up the bills he'd tossed down. The wad was folded neatly in half and stuffed into one of Nagi's pockets, and then Farfarello hauled him to his feet as if he was nothing. Nagi couldn't stand on his own, so Farfarello pushed him up against the bricks, and a hand around his throat acted as a bit of support. Nagi wondered where the knife had gone.
"We're not throwing an assload of money at you for you to turn that stupid gift on us," the orange one said, thumbing cigarettes and a lighter out of his partner's pocket. "We've got a big project coming up in Tokyo and Crawford said it would be best to bring in a bit of heavy power. That means you, but he didn't say you were going to be a worthless blood brand. Our dicks are on the line here and he wants us to work with this?"
"Get away from me," Nagi warned them.
Farfarello smiled. "Or what?" His knife came up and Farfarello pressed the tip into Nagi's throat. "How can you refuse? Five hundred thousand yen is enough to get you to Tokyo and hear the offer," a finger tugged at the pocket where Farfarello had stuffed the bills, "and you'll get your share when you accept."
"One million yen," the bright one chipped in, sounding heavily disgruntled, and he blew cigarette smoke into Nagi's face. "You loan us your gift for a month and you walk out with that. The chunk in your pocket isn't part of it; that's incentive to get you to Tokyo."
"You must think I'm stupid," Nagi started.
Farfarello's smile was all teeth. "If you weren't," he said softly, "you wouldn't have pegged Schwarz as your next prospect. Let's go."
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