When Seiichi stepped on the threshold leading to his shared apartment, the sky was already a dark cobalt. It had been a difficult day for every one of them at the office – the first days of a month always were, as a matter of fact. Even as he left the building, stacks of paper coded with different colors still piled up on his desk like little bonsai mountains, promising a tomorrow just as long and hard as today. He had fallen asleep on the subway and would have sorely missed his station had it not been for a kind old lady who looked worn out like himself or any other passenger. He longed for a hot bath and a delicious meal that was not one of the varieties of instant ramen they had in boxes at their apartment. That was just wishful thinking really: the day his lazy, undisciplined roommate prepared a proper meal for them would also be the day his parsimonious manager gave him a decent raise, which was unlikely this year or the next. How many a time he had thought of quitting his current stagnant job and decided against it in the next minute; finding a decent job in this economy climate was not so different from the Gold Rush in the previous century: few chances and risks galore. And Tanaka Seiichi had never been in Lady Luck’s favor: a mistake in judgment could end up in weeks if not months of living off unemployment benefits.
“Tadaima,” he said aloud, announcing his presence to no one in particular. The place was dark, illuminated only by the yellow light from the street lamp outside the window. Shidou must be dozing off again, that lazy ass. Muttering a curse under his breath, Seiichi took off his shoes, placed them neatly in their place in the shoe cabinet and put on his fluffy bunny slippers (his roommate’s birthday present – never ask) which muffed the sound of his feet as he passed the short corridor in a few quick strides. The room at the end was pitch-back.
“Holy shit, Shidou,” cried Seiichi once he turned on the lights. He was very alarmed when his slippered feet made sloppy sounds as if he was stepping on a puddle after the rain. It turned out his analogy was not very far from reality – he had indeed stepped on a puddle at the door of the room. If he were in another time, when he was less exhausted and in a better mood for literature and romance, perhaps he might describe it as having the color of old red wine or withered Manjusakas. But no, the truth was he was dead on his feet so he would say it as it was, no unnecessary fluff: it was a puddle of congealed blood that lied on the floor, not far from which were the severed torso and limbs of a male body, whose remains of clothes looked too dauntingly familiar for him not to recognize. The blood was dark, almost brown, which suggested this unsightly deed must have been committed at least an hour or two.
And on the faded sofa laid the slumbering culprit of this ugly crime: the amateur mangaka on his way to become professional who was also his irresponsible and messy roommate for five years and a half: Miura Shidou. Seeing the young man curling up on the sofa like Shironeko on his daily routine caused a surge of anger to rise in the salary man. Seiichi went on tiptoe to avoid the scattered body parts and carefully made his way to the sofa. He gave the younger man a good kick, startling and sending him sprawled on the floor.
“The fuck, Sei-kun?” Shidou groaned, running his spidery fingers through his shoulder-length bleached-white hair.
Crossing his arms, Seiichi tapped his foot on the wooden floor.
“Oh right, that,” said Shidou in voice still heavy with sleep. “My bad, Sei-kun. I didn’t mean to. You needn’t kick me though.” He peeled himself off the floor and moved languidly to the table, where he sat down and poured himself a glass of water.
“Mean to what?” Seiichi’s tone was as cool as the first breath of winter that began to spread through the city. “I got home after a hard day’s work, dog-tired, and was warmly welcomed by a puddle of blood and a dismembered body in our room which is very likely my roommate’s newest masterpiece. I think I deserve having not just one kick.”
“I got a bad day too,” whined Shidou. “The tight-ass editor turned me down and this geezer just couldn’t shut up about how we are late for the rent, how we should keep our home a little tidier – my fault, you keep everything in order and I mess things up. I was having a monstrous headache and I told him to fucking leave me alone but he just kept on ranting. Blah blah blah…”
“He liked talking to you. You knew that already.”
Shidou’s hands flung in the air dramatically, the silver bracelets and bangles on his wrists clanging jovially. Pointing a finger at the torso near the door, he said through clenched teeth, “That’s entirely the point. Normally I can deal with his tasteless shitty flirts but today I was fed up with them. I couldn’t help myself.”
“How many times in this year you ‘couldn’t help yourself’?” Seiichi cocked an eyebrow and calmly asked. His tea-colored eyes behind his glasses stared into the younger man’s face. Shidou tried to avoid his penetrating gaze at first by turning his head sideway but even by doing so, he still felt the pricking sensation at the back of his head. This was not the first time he wondered why Sei-kun had not applied to the police institution: with his stare alone the man could put any suspect, no matter how toughened they were, into submission and spill out all their secrets. What a real shame. Defeated just like any other times, he held his hands above his head. “All right, five. I know I have the ugliest temper but this old pig went way over the top. He really asked for it…”
“Asked to be killed and torn apart?”
Shidou let out a exasperated huff. “Can we just move to another place?”
“Some place with a landlord who doesn’t let his dick do the thinking and harasses his tenant every time he gets a chance,” Shidou scoffed.
“Because this landlord,” Seiichi stressed, pointing at said landlord’s remaining body, “let his dick do the thinking that we were able to have the cheapest rent in the whole city! Let’s talk about moving again when you have a regular-paid job, Shidou-san. Until then do keep your complaints to minimum and your temper in check.”
“All right, all right. But you’ll help me this time, right, just like other times.”
He stalked closer to his friend until they were close enough to feel each other’s breath. “O-ne-gai, Sei-kun,” he purred.
There it went again, the puppy-eyed dork face Shidou was so fond of using on Seiich every time he wanted the older man to yield to his whims. With an annoyed grunt Seiichi pushed Shidou’s face aside. “Like I have another choice. It would be me they question if the police arrived.”
Shidou’s forming pout turned into a feral grin and even the formidable difference in their heights could not prevent him from leaping up and hugging his roommate’s neck. “You’re my best Healer, Sei-kun. But you’ll be even better…”
“Your only Healer,” Seiichi cut him short, “and no, I won’t leave his memory of this insane act of yours. Not even a hint of it.”
Shidou made an audible groan. “Oh, c’mon, Sei-kun, he’ll be hitting on me again. At least leave him some hint that he should leave us alone as long as we pay the rent.”
“So that he’ll become paranoid and throw us out on the street?” Seiichi shook his head and spoke in firm voice. “No. Try to deal with your temper like other Killers who have no Healers.”
“But I have you…”
“No buts. Next time I come home and see a corpse in our apartment, you can find yourself another Healer…”
Shidou looked as if he wanted to open his mouth but Seiichi promptly shut him up before words came out. “End of discussion.”
“All right,” he murmured. “Anything you say, boss.”
Seiichi’s eyes scanned the place. “Put the head and whatever missing parts back and wipe your mess. I want the floor clean as new and blood-free. You have half an hour.”
“I’m going for a bath first. I want things done when I come out. Got it?”
Seiichi was about to head for the bathroom when Shidou caught his arm. Scratching his messy white head, he smiled awkwardly. “A small problem, Sei-kun. I think the head and other parts are in the bathroom. In the bathtub to be more precise. So maybe we will get him back first and you can have your bath… later.” He defensively took a few steps back.
Blue veins throbbed beneath the salary man’s temples. “Tell me one good reason why I shouldn’t kick the shit out of you, Shidou-san.”
*Tadaima: I’m home