Part 26: House of Sweets ~un petit nid~ (26)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
When Kase woke up, he was in a hospital bed. Agi and the others immediately came forward to the bed, but the anesthesia from the surgery was still in his system, and Kase wasn’t quite conscious.
Agi looked terribly haggard. He was still in the familiar uniform of the bakery, but the normally neat ribbon tie was unraveled and dangling to one side.
Kase unconsciously reached his hand out, and a dull pain ran through his shoulder and stole his breath. And this was with the effects of anesthesia. It would no doubt hurt a lot more once it wore off.
Rio came out from behind Chise. He seemed to have been crying because his eyes were red and swollen.
“Kase-kun, it’s thanks to you and Mutou-san protecting him that Rio doesn’t have a single scratch on him.”
Next to Chise, Rio stood there with tears welling up in his widened eyes.
“Hiro-kun, does it hurt? I’m sorry you got hurt because of me. Thank you for saving me.”
There was a sniffling of tears in his voice. He repeated, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” as his little warm hand touched Kase’s cheek.
“…I’m glad,” Kase muttered in a daze. “…I didn’t throw them… in a hearth…”
He thought about that terrifying nightmare where he wanted the house made of sweets and threw Chise and Rio into a hearth. What if he were to really do that to them one day? The thought scared him. However, his hands weren’t something that just hurt others. He had been able to protect Rio. Just knowing that fact was enough—
Rio peered over at Kase with his little face twisted up in tears. Kase wanted to pat his head, but he couldn’t lift his hand. And he was horribly drowsy. In a half-awake and half-asleep state, he gave a small smile and drifted off to sleep again.
It was the next day when he properly regained consciousness. The doctor explained to him that he had been shot in the left shoulder, but had it been lower, it could have been life threatening. He would have to be hospitalized for three weeks, and the police would come to interview him at a later date.
After the doctor left, Kase turned on the TV. The news was airing, and it reported on yesterday’s incident. It had been a shooting between members within a criminal organization. The suspects had fled by car, and there was one employee from an eatery at the site of the shooting who had been caught up as collateral damage and was severely injured. As of this morning, one man had turned himself in, and the police were in the process of questioning him.
Kase had been present at the scene of the shooting, but somehow it didn’t feel real to him. He watched the news like he was an unrelated viewer, and then there was a knock at the door. The door opened, and it was Mutou who came into the room.
“How are you feeling?”
“In pain,” Kase answered expressionlessly, and Mutou knit his brows in a frown.
The door opened again, and two men came in carrying a gigantic flower arrangement of roses. It was too big for the table, so they left it on the floor and gave a silent bow to Mutou before leaving the room. A flowery scent filled the space that didn’t suit the hospital room.
“I’m sorry that I got you involved in such a dangerous situation.”
Kase was bewildered at the deep bow of apology that Mutou gave him. It hurt to move his head because it affected his shoulder, so Kase turned only his eyes to Mutou. Now that he looked at him, there was a black and blue bruise at the corner of his mouth.
“It’s just a little something from Agi…”
Mutou noticed Kase’s gaze and brought his hand to the bruise.
“He told me if anything happened to your life that he would beat me to death for it. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him that enraged. He’s been hiding that part of himself away since what happened with Yuzuru.”
That was when another knock sounded at the door, and Agi appeared.
“Hey, you’re awake. I brought a change of clothes for you.” Agi lifted the paper bag in his hand as he walked into the room. He gave a quick glance at Mutou, and then his gaze landed on the gigantic basket of roses on the floor and he frowned.
“What the hell is this? It’s so damn huge, it’s like a funeral wreath or flowers to celebrate the grand opening of a pachinko parlor. You’re the only one thoughtless enough to bring something like this to a hospital room.”
“Women would be happy about it.”
“Where are the women in the room?” Agi looked around the hospital room and halted his gaze on Kase.
“How are you feeling?”
Kase nodded. “Fine now. Much better than yesterday.”
Mutou muttered under his breath, “…What’s with the huge difference in attitude.”
“You look a little better too.”
Rugged fingers touched Kase’s cheek. Kase unconsciously half closed his eyes at the rough sensation.
“It’s a private room, so take your time to relax and recover here. Mutou will take care of all the medical expenses.”
“Yeah, be as extravagant as you want,” Mutou added, and Agi gave him a look of disbelief.
“This is a damn hospital. How extravagant can he get here? Hiroaki, make sure you get consolation money from him too. I plan to make my own demands for all the lost business he caused by putting us on the news.”
Agi jerked his chin over at the TV. It was still talking about the incident.
“The police even grilled me about being a former member. It didn’t leak to the media, so the shop can still stay open somehow, but I was sweating bullets about it.”
The public backlash was harsh for any known association with criminal organizations. If it had been exposed that the owner was a former member of the yakuza, it would be extremely difficult to continue his business as a bakery in a small town.
“So Mutou,” Agi turned to face him directly. “This means that you’re banned from the premises from now on.”
Mutou narrowed his eyes. It was enough to strain the air with a nervous tension.
“…Hmmph. Don’t tell me you’re scared after all this time?” He gave a faint sneer.
Agi accepted the clear provocation from Mutou without any change to his expression.
“Yeah, I’m scared. Someone important to me was about to die before my very eyes. I’d like to see who wouldn’t be scared after something like that. And this is the second time that it’s happened. I was so scared that I thought my heart would stop.”
Someone important to him—
Kase looked up at Agi.
“But Hiroaki’s not the only reason. When I left the family, when I decided that I would protect Chise and Rio—I should have cut off everything from that world, you included. Yuzuru was the one who paid the price for my foolishness last time, and Hiroaki was the one who paid it this time. It’s fucking horrible.” Agi creased his eyebrows.
“What about the promise you made with me to conquer the top one day?”
“I can’t keep it.”
It was a simple short sentence. Mutou scowled at Agi. Agi just simply took it head on.
“I’ve found something I want to protect more than the promise with you.”
The atmosphere was so tense that even Kase found it difficult to breathe. Neither of them would back down, and Kase wondered if they would glare at each other forever like this.
Mutou was the first to look away. He gazed at the view outside the window, but Kase could tell that he wasn’t looking at the view. What was reflected in Mutou’s eyes there? Was it the time that he had spent with Agi and Yuzuru? Or was it the future that he’d have to face from now on? The profile looked terribly defenseless, and it didn’t suit the man.
“…Heh, so in the end I’m all alone,” Mutou mumbled flatly.
Agi landed a hand on the shoulder of the well-tailored suit. “You’ll be fine, Mutou. You can go on even alone.”
“I don’t want to hear that from you.”
Mutou clicked his tongue at Agi, and Agi gave a wry smile as he shrugged.
“…Well, whatever,” Mutou said. “You haven’t been yourself since Yuzuru died anyway. If you’ve found someone who’s important to you, no matter who or what they are, then I won’t bother you about it anymore. I don’t need to hang onto a promise that we made as brats.”
Agi seemed to want to say something after the last words that seemed to cast him away, but he twisted his mouth into a smile instead. A silence fell, and the two of them looked out the same window together.
“…I should get going then,” Mutou muttered. He lifted his chin slightly, and the profile was back to the normal Mutou as always.
Agi changed the tone in his voice. “To the succession announcement?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be attending with this scuffed up face that you punched.”
“Don’t worry, you’re more handsome than usual.”
Mutou snorted in aggravation and turned to the door.
“Mutou, don’t die before you conquer the top. Your funeral is the only one I refuse to attend.”
Mutou waved his hand without turning around and left the hospital room. He didn’t get to see the tearful smile that Agi made on his face. The door closed, and Kase stared up vacantly at Agi.
“What’s wrong? You tired?” Agi sat down on a chair next to the bed.
“…You’re not marrying Chise-san and going back to the family?” Kase asked hesitantly.
Agi made an indescribable expression on his face.
“I heard that from Mutou as well yesterday. I’m the one in question here, and it sure surprised me. How did you even come up with such a thing?”
“…That you gave Chise-san an engagement ring. And before that, I heard Mutou-san say that you should marry Chise-san and come back to the family, that’s why I…”
“You heard that conversation?”
After staring vacantly at Kase, Agi slumped the line of his shoulders.
“What the hell… Is that why you’ve been acting so strange lately?”
Agi leaned deeply against the back of the chair with all his strength drained.
“It’s all a misunderstanding. Chise still has no eyes for anyone but Yuzuru, and that ring is from Yuzuru too. If he had been alive, this would have been their Sweet Ten, their tenth anniversary.”
“Yeah. Yuzuru managed to win Chise over and even got her to marry him, but it took all that he had to get a new home ready for them and to go on a little honeymoon, and he couldn’t afford to get her an engagement ring. Young underlings at the bottom of the totem pole don’t really make all that much.”
Agi laughed with a distant look in his eyes like he was remembering the past.
“But Yuzuru was head over heels in love with Chise, and he was fixated with the idea of getting a ring for her or he wasn’t a ‘real’ man. Me and Mutou offered to lend him the money to buy one, but he had to be all adult about it and insist that it wouldn’t have the same meaning if he did that.”
In the end, the two of them were married with only plain wedding bands, but whenever Yuzuru got drunk, he would always ramble at Agi and Mutou that he would surprise Chise with a gorgeous diamond ring on their tenth anniversary.
“If Yuzuru had lived, he would have been a great husband to her. Chise and Rio wouldn’t have felt such loneliness like they do now. When I think about all these different things, after all this time, it doesn’t matter what I do, it can never be enough.”
Agi gazed at the large basket of roses on the floor. His voice sounded detached, and there was no particular change in his expression. That was why it seemed all the more transparent that Agi was enduring something.
“…Are you going to leave my place?”
The conversation suddenly went off track, and Kase uttered a question back.
“I opened up your bag because I needed to get your insurance card for the hospital, and I saw the flyers from the real estate agency inside.”
Kase only got them because he thought Agi and Chise were getting married. Now that he knew that it was a misunderstanding, he wondered if he no longer needed to leave now. But it didn’t change the fact that he was imposing on Agi. One day he would have to leave—
“Stay,” Agi murmured.
“Don’t go anywhere. Stay with me.” Agi gazed at Kase without smiling. “That day, I planned to have a proper talk with you when we got back home. I still have Chise and Rio to think about, but I finally realized that I needed to think about you separately from them. But when I got back from the deliveries, it had turned into an awful scene from hell—”
Agi knitted his eyebrows. He looked away and stopped talking. In the silence, Kase could hear the sound of a cart rolling through the hallway from beyond the door.
“…I know that I made you suffer through this horrible experience, and I can’t apologize enough for it, but…”
Agi slowly turned his gaze back to Kase.
“I need you. Please don’t go off somewhere and leave me behind.”
Kase stared at Agi in a daze. Was he dreaming right now? Or maybe he was already dead, and he was in heaven. Something this convenient could never happen to him.
However, Agi’s face and voice were at a complete loss, and it didn’t seem like this was heaven. Kase reached his arm out fearfully. His fingertips touched Agi. He didn’t disappear. It wasn’t a dream.
Kase strengthened his stomach muscles and tried to sit up, but a terrible pain shot through his left shoulder. But that didn’t matter right now. Kase sat up on the bed, and with just his right arm, pulled Agi’s head in for an embrace.
“I’ll be at your side. Forever and ever. I’ll always be with you.”
His voice broke as he expressed his desires, and Agi’s shoulders shook against him.
“I-If you’ve decided that you want to protect Chise-san and Rio, then I’m fine with it. I will take care of them too. I won’t get in your way. You don’t have to live with me if you don’t want to, and you can call me over whenever you feel like it. I’ll drop everything to come to see you.”
“…What stupid things are you saying?”
Agi’s voice sounded oddly emotional.
Kase desperately tried to string his words together. “It’s fine if it’s stupid. I don’t care as long as I can be with you.”
He only needed one thing that was important to him. He didn’t need any other things. He couldn’t hold them all anyway.
He only needed Agi, and that was fine with him. He didn’t need anything else.
“You can do anything you like, and it’s fine with me. I’ll do anything you say.”
It was the first time that someone he loved needed him, and that was enough to make him feel like he could do anything.
Time passed as Kase held Agi close. Suddenly, something warm touched Kase’s arm. It was shaped like Agi’s hand—the shape of the thing that Kase had always wanted.
“…When you get out of the hospital, let’s put your name on the door plate of the apartment.”
Kase listened to the words like it was a dream.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.