Chapter 9:

Snake in the Grass


Oue opens his eyes and all he sees is white. The ceiling is white; the walls are white; the open curtains fluttering in the cold autumn breeze are also white. His head throbs sharply, and he nurses it immediately, wincing in pain.Bookmark here

As he sits up, he realizes he’d been tucked into a small bed, and what he feels around his head isn't his usual, red headband, but bandages.Bookmark here

“What is this place…? A hospital?”Bookmark here

Oue likes hospitals. They’re pristine. Getting beat up often means he’s quite familiar with them, but this time he couldn’t remember how he ended up here.Bookmark here

Forcing himself to think, he slowly recalls the last thing he saw before losing consciousness: Cooking Pan kicking him into a filthy wall. He shudders. Another memory quickly flashes through his mind: a brief moment in which he'd regained consciousness and looked up to see Romeo, carrying Oue against his warm body bridal style as he walked. He gasps.Bookmark here

Considering they were already behind a hospital, he starts piecing the jumbled pieces of his memory back together; an effort quickly interrupted when someone answers his question.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” responds a deep voice next to him.Bookmark here

Oue slowly turns to look at the source of the voice. His eyes go wide in absolute fear.Bookmark here

R-R-Raging Fist Endo!?Bookmark here

He scrambles back in such a panic he falls off the bed with a loud thud, yelping.Bookmark here

“...Raging what now?”Bookmark here

Trembling, Oue clings to the side of the bed, barely lifting his head enough to peek over the edge at the other boy. Bookmark here

Right in front of him, on the bed next to his own, sat the leader of the largest gang in the city, idly browsing his phone. He looks as terrifying as always, save for the bandages around his head. With the curtain between their beds open, there's nothing to separate the two of them. Oue gulps.Bookmark here

“Y-You are Endo, aren’t you? So this is where you were…”Bookmark here

Endo clicks his tongue. “You’re damn loud. Do I know you?”Bookmark here

“Probably… not? Though I’d be honored if you did…”Bookmark here

Oue’s eyes shift towards Endo’s head and the bloody bandages around it. Like everyone else in Makai, he knows that Romeo was responsible for putting Endo out of commission, but there’s a certain code of honor between delinquents to not mess with hospitalized enemies. He points at his own head.Bookmark here

“That must have hurt, huh.”Bookmark here

“...Dunno.”Bookmark here

“—Eh?”Bookmark here

Oue raises himself up, climbing back onto his bed and kneels on top of it, facing Endo. Instead of responding, Endo continues flipping through phone apps. Bookmark here

“How can you not know if it hurt or not? It obviously did, right?”Bookmark here

Endo doesn’t turn his head, instead glaring at him from the corner of his eye. Oue jolts up. Endo turns his gaze back to his phone before responding.Bookmark here

“I guess so, but I can’t remember shit.”Bookmark here

“...Oh.” Oue leans forward again, tilting his head to the side as he regains some courage. “You don’t remember anything? Nothing at all?”Bookmark here

“Why the hell do you care? How do you know me?”Bookmark here

Oue looks at him in silence for a long time, incredulous. Part of him is scared of this strange development, but another quickly picks up on what happened, and it’s that part of him that guffaws immediately after it dawns on him.Bookmark here

“...Hah. Hahaha...”Bookmark here

Endo slams his phone face down on the night table by his side and Oue yelps again, covering his mouth.Bookmark here

“You little shit, did you do this to me!?”Bookmark here

Oue waves his hands in front of him and shakes his head quickly.Bookmark here

“No way! I could never!Bookmark here

“But you know something, don’t ya!? Tell me now or I’ll strangle you in your sleep!”Bookmark here

“Why in my sleep!? Can’t you do it while I’m awake!?”Bookmark here

“—What!?”Bookmark here

“Ah, I mean… It wasn’t me, but… I do know you, yeah…”Bookmark here

The vein on Endo’s forehead looks like it’s about to pop out, and Oue’s heart begins to race. Despite his anger, Endo has an unmistakable look of confusion in his face, and Oue thinks he hit the jackpot. Bookmark here

“Tell me who the hell you are, weirdo.”Bookmark here

“I’m Pain Ki— ...I’m Oue. I’m a delinquent from this side of town.”Bookmark here

“A delinqu—? ...UghBookmark here

Endo holds his head in pain again. Oue tries very hard to keep himself from letting his excitement show. Leaning forward on both his hands, he presses on, disregarding Endo's obvious suffering.Bookmark here

“Tell me, Endo. What do you remember about yourself?”Bookmark here

Endo keeps holding his head while he responds.Bookmark here

“...Huh? Everything, I guess? Name, address, family… I just don’t remember who the hell did this to me. Apparently, I got attacked, or something like that.”Bookmark here

Oue can tell something doesn’t add up. He leans forward even more, lowering his voice.Bookmark here

“Endo… do you remember the Kappore gang?”Bookmark here

“The what?”Bookmark here

“.......Haha.”Bookmark here

CRASH!!Bookmark here

Endo hurls a flower vase at Oue, and it crashes into the wall just behind him. It's terrifying enough to startle Oue into yanking the blanket over his head— trembling, but unharmed.Bookmark here

“If you have something to say, come out with it already. I won’t miss next time.”Bookmark here

“S-Sorry, sorry!” Oue whines again while slowly lowering the blanket so it's just below his eyes. “This is just… kind of unexpected, that's all.”Bookmark here

A nurse comes running into their room after hearing the crash, asking if everything is okay. Endo and Oue are the only ones in there, and because the pieces of the vase are on Oue’s side, Oue quickly tells her he knocked it over by accident. The nurse, relieved, reassures them she'll call for someone to clean up the mess as she leaves.Bookmark here

Endo watches Oue skillfully deceive the nurse with a straight face, and waits until he can’t hear her steps anymore to address Oue again.Bookmark here

“You’re a snake in the grass, aren't you.”Bookmark here

Oue laughs, settling back down on his bed to rest, his own injury throbbing again. It wasn’t the first time he’s heard that, after all. He shrugs.Bookmark here

“I just saw no point in getting her involved. Unlike the Kappore gang, we Makai folk don’t like to get civilians tangled up in our business.”Bookmark here

Endo holds his head again and winces, as if the mere mention of those names caused him immediate pain. Oue looks at him and sighs with zero sympathy.Bookmark here

“Your assault isn’t the only thing you can’t remember, huh. It seems you can’t remember a certain other side of you, either. Your terrible, vicious other side.”Bookmark here

“......”Bookmark here

Endo’s silence is all the answer Oue needs. He grins and shifts on his side, leaning his weight on his palm.Bookmark here

“I can tell you everything you want to know about yourself, Endo. About you and the Kappore gang—”Bookmark here

Endo finally looks at Oue— a surprising but small glint of hope in his eyes. Oue bites his lip to keep his excitement from overflowing. He no longer just liked hospitals— he loved them.Bookmark here

“...But you have to do something for me in exchange.”Bookmark here

“Like hell I will.”Bookmark here

“Aw, you haven’t even heard what I want yet!”Bookmark here

Ugh. What is it!?”Bookmark here

Oue flashes him a smile of questionable sincerity.Bookmark here

“I want you to be my friend.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.