Chapter 21:

True Value Is Found Through Loss

X = Y

The city — a densely populated area amplified by the noise of people scurrying about the day. The unknown made those who despised interaction fearful. Lurking in the shadows, hidden by the world that governed their lives, were abnormalities that rarely trickled to the surface. The mind neglected living nightmares that could destroy the essence which gifted people a life. Deceitful in plain sight, blind to the eye, abominable menaces walked the streets casually.Bookmark here

Parked near the pavement, an unmarked car that was part of a police department disguised itself from its enemies. Inside sat Rei and Kei, deliberating about the events that unfolded like paper submerged in water. The street lights were on, indicating that night had come to pass.Bookmark here

"Where do Kanda and Meya even live?" Rei spoke inquisitively.Bookmark here

"I don't know. Now get out of the car, Rei." Kei retorted.Bookmark here

"I wasn't expecting you to be nice. I wasn't expecting to bump into you either. It'd be better if we never spoke to each other again. We'd only be extra baggage to carry." Rei said with a sense of distrust.Bookmark here

He exited the car and watched Kei driving off. With the rain pelting his jacket, he walked down the street with this hood up and his hands cosy in his pocket.Bookmark here

"He's completely changed, but Rei's still in there. Now I need to call a unit to protect all of our friends. There's sufficient evidence that I could bring forward to get that done. Even after finding the hackers, and the bodies of dead gang members, I still have no leads! Tatashi Industrial. I'll interview them and see what I can find." Kei thought to himself.Bookmark here

With the torrential rain increasing, Rei found a commercialised street. There, he recognised a supermarket by the large sign above the store entrance. It had 'Kyotu' in white letters against a green neon backdrop. Blinded by the lights after the automatic doors opened, his eyes adjusted, and with his head down, he began walking inside to look for food. It was late, and he was starving.Bookmark here

"I haven't eaten anything since I left Master Kirihoshin and Nagai. How many days has it been? Three? I didn't think you could survive that long without food." Kei thought to himself with hunger pans that grew viciously.Bookmark here

Abruptly, he bumped into someone. From their hand, an orange soft drink can fell to the floor. Looking at it curiously, Rei picked it up. The women he crashed into stood there staring at him. She was wearing knee-high boots, stockings, and a skirt that went past her knees. She also wore a blue long-sleeved jacket on top of a pink t-shirt that went up to her elbows.Bookmark here

"Sorry...Um.." The woman said apologetically with a hint of panic.Bookmark here

Vivid images flew through Rei's mind, which formed after he stared at the can intensely. The colour triggered a series of kindreds flashbacks that were analogous to fire. Hesitant and ponderous, but now mobilised with anger, Rei squashed the can, causing the drink to spew onto his fingers and the floor. His head was down, and the woman couldn't recognise him.Bookmark here

"What was that for!" The woman exclaimed, trying only to get his attention and not the attention of the other customers.Bookmark here

"Sorry. Here..." Rei said with sadness.Bookmark here

Returning to reality, Rei realised what he had done. Not wanting to feel the repercussions of his actions, he put his hand into his pocket and grabbed out a 1,000 yen note. He handed it over to here.Bookmark here

"No, it's fine. I didn't buy that here..." the woman responded and stopped.Bookmark here

Upon lifting his face, the woman became dazed. Her eyes met with Rei's eyes, and her expression drastically altered to one of severe disbelief. Connected by their past, she realised who he was. As a blatant indication of his surprise, Rei dropped the note in his hand, but his overwhelming sadness dictated his poor attitude, rendering his surprise void.Bookmark here

"Rei? Is that you..." the woman spoke sympathetically, with mystery.Bookmark here

"You're...Abe Arisu." Rei responded with shock. "How did you know I was Rei and not Kei."Bookmark here

"You don't look like Kei. You act very differently from him. Even when you were at school." she said with a smile. "What are you doing here? If you were still alive, why didn't you tell us? Meya was so worried for you! I couldn't get her to concentrate when we were acting!" she exclaimed.Bookmark here

"I can't say. I came here to find Meya and Kanda. Kazunori's dead. That's why I'm here. I know this is abrupt, but you're not safe. No one from our school is." he added.Bookmark here

"Is that so?" she spoke sceptically. "I heard about that on the news. Are you hungry? I could buy you something to eat." Abe said kindly.Bookmark here

They exited the store, and Rei followed her to her apartment. Whilst they walked carefully under the dark sky pouring with rain, Abe became curious about his circumstances. Rei was holding all the bags from her grocery trip.Bookmark here

"Please don't tell anyone about me. The fewer people know, the better." Rei added seriously.Bookmark here

"Why? Everyone would be happy to see you, wouldn't they?" Abe responded.Bookmark here

"It's better if people think I'm dead. Look, I can't explain to you anything that I've done or I want to do. Getting involved will only make it worse." Rei said earnestly.Bookmark here

"Fine then! I won't!" Abe spoke with frustration whilst pouting her lips. "You try to be nice, and this is what you get," Abe added.Bookmark here

Abe entered the apartment building, and there was a receptionist at the front. She smiled at the two who were walking by, up the stairs and into her room. However, there was a short, slim man with black shades wearing the uniform of a guard. Behind him was a corridor, and at the end was the janitor's closet, with the body of a person laying there, dead.Bookmark here

Abe's apartment consisted of a small living room with a television and sofa connected to a kitchen, a bathroom with a toilet, and a bedroom. After Abe unlocked the door, they entered. Rei placed the bags on her kitchen table. He inspected her house and then walked up to a window to survey the area. He remained vigilant.Bookmark here

"Do you like this place? I chose it myself! I'm at the Magaki University of Performing Arts with Meya, Risa and some other girls!" Abe spoke with pride, trying to impress Rei.Bookmark here

"'s a nice place. This is just a hotel room..." Rei spoke without thinking, diverting his attention to something else. He talked with an absence of passion, which annoyed Abe.Bookmark here

"Hmph. Fine!" Abe exclaimed, pouting her lips.Bookmark here

Whilst Rei was looking around the area, she went into her pantry to grab some ingredients, and she filled a glass with water up to the lip. He entered her bedroom and began looking out the window. Regular people passed by, but he noticed that stagnant figures lurked behind large objects, but they suddenly disappeared. Feeling exhausted and disgruntled, he sat near the pillows of her bed, waiting for something to happen.Bookmark here

"Who were those guys? That's not normal. Completely blacked out in darkness so no one can see you. That guy at the front was also weird." Rei thought to himself in deep self-study.Bookmark here

Abe peered into her bedroom with a mindful state. "Oh, Rei. You're here," she said.Bookmark here

Abe walked in and placed the pile of sandwiches and water on the bedside drawers next to Rei. Perplexed, he watched her sit down on top of the bed, with her legs crossed.Bookmark here

"You look hungry. Eat as much as you want! I made those for you." Abe said with a smile.Bookmark here

Rei was staring at her, wondering if it was okay for him to eat. He took a sandwich and devoured it. He continued devouring the sandwiches, and whilst he was eating, she took off his hood. Insouciant towards Abe, Rei continued to eat until he finished them all.Bookmark here

"You have so much hair for a boy! I think you have more than me." Abe spoke in a playful sense with wonder. "I bet you didn't even cut it in years!"Bookmark here

Rei felt something sinister at work. He grabbed his glass of water, fixated on the waves of movement created from his shaking hands. He drank quickly and slammed the glass back on the desk. He stood up and looked at Abe, pulling his hood up in the process.Bookmark here

"It's not safe. Something's coming for us." Rei said.Bookmark here

Rei ran towards the window, peering out, smudging his figures against the glass. Noticing that a man, undiscernible to his eyes, stood there, his head geared towards the apartment, portended malice and wickedness coming their way. Startled, Abe stood up, but as she did, Rei grabbed her arm, and he shut the door to her bedroom. He stood with his back to the wall beside the door, and he swung Abe behind himself.Bookmark here

"Rei! What are you doing to me-"Bookmark here

A massive thud hit her front door. The sound of it breaking off its hinges and falling to the ground made her realise the dire predicament both of them were currently experiencing.Bookmark here

"Stay quiet." He whispered. His heart was pounding progressively faster.Bookmark here

Abe, frightened at this point, was compelled to listen to Rei. Without inklings of understanding, she could only stare at his face, petrified down to her bones. The door suddenly swung open, and a gun peeked out from the door.Bookmark here

Taking protection behind the door, Rei grabbed the gunman, who was wearing all back, by the arm and dragged him inside. Congested with anger, confidence, and resolve, Rei's eyes locked onto his enemy. Before he could pull the trigger, with a single punch, Rei immediately dislocated his jaw, and he passed out.Bookmark here

Bullets, being fired in Abe's apartment, were overheard by them both. Aghast, she put her hand over her mouth to ensure their position remained hidden, and tears began welling up in her eyes. Two more men came in together, and Rei kicked the first gunman in his stomach, stunning him. Then he punched the other gunman in his face, knocking him out. At that moment, he grabbed the head of the first gunman and smashed it against the wall, causing blood to fly from his mouth.Bookmark here

"Come on, Abe!" He exclaimed seriously.Bookmark here

He quickly grabbed her arm, and she followed in terror. They ran out of the bedroom, but a man was standing at the front door wearing all black. He was weaponless but wore black gloves. Immediately after realising, Rei let go of Abe's hand and charged towards the man, noting this man was different to the one that stood outside, glaring at him.Bookmark here

Rei threw a single punch swiftly, but the masked man dodged by moving his head. Trying to counter, he threw a straight punch akin to Rei's punch. However, utilising his elegant footwork and movement, Rei grabbed his stray arm and performed a one-handed shoulder throw. This time Rei used his legs and hips, which had an immense effect.Bookmark here

The masked man was slammed into the ground with such tremendous force that Abe's apartment began to shake. Ossified and crying whilst on the floor, Abe watched the incarnation of her hell unfold. That man lost consciousness, and to ensure he remained that way, Rei knelt, punching his neck.Bookmark here

Rei ran over and picked up Abe, placing his right hand under her knees and his left behind her back. As his life became dependent on it, Rei ran quicker than flames extinguishing, knowing that he had to protect Abe at any cost.Bookmark here

"Rei! Where are you taking us?" Abe exclaimed. Stunned by the assailants who entered her house, she stopped crying.Bookmark here

"This place isn't safe anymore. They're coming after all of us. Risa. Meya. Kanda. Me. Kei. Kazunori." Rei said with a robust look.Bookmark here

Abe could only stare at his determined face. With her gaze growing deeper, her mind wandered off. Inspired by Rei's resoluteness, Abe decided to manifest bravery and courage within herself. The perilous crisis which was now chasing them did not let go that easily.Bookmark here

An explosion occurred within the building, shaking the ground around them. As smoke and fire bellowed out the windows, Rei stopped to turn around, witnessing the disaster unwind. The detonated explosive destroyed the door to the front of Abe's apartment. The receptionist ran out along with the residents. Within a moment of noticing them, Rei turned around and darted away, still holding Abe tightly, his facial expression converted from awe to solemnity.Bookmark here

"Where does Meya live, Abe? I need to get to everyone quickly." Rei said whilst peering directly into her eyes.Bookmark here

"What's happening, Rei? I don't like it...why are they after us? What did I do?" Abe spoke with tears in her eyes. She rubbed them and looked up at him.Bookmark here

Whilst running past civilians, Rei grabbed a black scarf off an unsuspecting woman. In an instant, he removed the arm underneath Abe's knees and snatched it from her, smoothly, before supporting her again. The woman began screaming, but Rei did not stop, nor did he care about theft. Everyone was glaring at him whilst he was running, but no one seemed to follow him.Bookmark here

He ran into an alleyway and stopped to hide. Keeping his eyes on the light at the entrance, Rei ensured that a shadow did not form, guaranteeing no one would ambush him or enter unprecedentedly. After placing Abe back on her feet, he wrapped the black scarf around his face, only allowing his eyes to remain visible.Bookmark here

"Tell me, Rei...what's going on?" Abe spoke in a frightened manner.Bookmark here

"The gang that killed my parents in that fire. They're the ones after us. It may not be the same people exactly, but they're trying to kill us so no evidence of them is left behind. Do you have Kei's number?" Rei spoke confidently and with reassurance.Bookmark here

"Oh, yeah...My phone is in my pocket." Abe said.Bookmark here

She took the phone out of her skirt pocket. It had a large black circle on the back and was a touchscreen device. "I'm glad I used that magnet holder Meya told me to buy." Tapping away at her phone, she put it next to her ear whilst it was ringing.Bookmark here

"Kei, is this you?" Abe questioned.Bookmark here

"Yeah, it's me. What's up?" Kei responded.Bookmark here

"Did you know Rei is back? He wants to talk to you," she said with haste.Bookmark here

"Rei? Yeah, I know. Wait, wants? Is he there with you now?" said Kei.Bookmark here

"Pass me the phone, Abe!" Rei said with annoyance, raising his voice.Bookmark here

"Okay! Here." Abe responded after being scared by Rei.Bookmark here

"Hey, Kei! Call the police and tell them to protect our classmates from Metagawa, now! Abe was nearly killed by hitmen from that gang. I saved her. There was an explosion that blew up at her apartment." Rei exclaimed into the phone. "We don't have much time. Do it now!"Bookmark here

"I already called the police after I left you. They should already be there now." Kei responded. Sirens, becoming increasingly strident in the distance, grew louder, exponentially. "Where are you going to take Abe? What safe place is there, other than the police station?"Bookmark here

"Good idea. Abe, we're going to the police station. You'll be safe there. Trust me please." said Rei with a solemn face.Bookmark here

"I don't know what's going on, but please, save Risa and everyone else. I'll be safe if you take me there, please." Abe said on the brink of tears.Bookmark here

"Kei. Continue your investigation. I'll beat the life out of them. If you find anything, let me know somehow. I have a phone but it died and I haven't charged it either. I don't know what my number is." said Rei.Bookmark here

"A meeting spot? What place is a good meeting spot? Our house. If you need anything, meet me there. It's a place we both know? What about the city?" said Kei.Bookmark here

"Kyotu supermarket. It's on the same street the explosion happened. You can find it easily. We have to go, Kei. See you on the other side, brother." Rei realised what he had said, but he smiled, knowing that it slipped out accidentally.Bookmark here

He hung up the phone quickly and handed it to Abe. She put the phone back into her skirt pocket, and he swept her off her feet immediately after.Bookmark here

"Rei..." said Abe when Rei picked her up abruptly, admiringly staring at him.Bookmark here

He began running out of the alleyway towards the police station.Bookmark here

"Next time you pick me up like that, warn me. You're going the wrong way." Abe said whilst pouting and being upset at Rei.Bookmark here

"Am I? Then tell me where we need to go. Forget about people staring. It's just you and me. I need to get you to safety." said Rei whilst looking ahead.Bookmark here

On the road down the highway, Kei was driving with immense speed.Bookmark here

"Time to turn on the lights. I need to get back fast! That interview with the higher up at Tatashi Industrial may have to wait." Kei thought to himself.Bookmark here

Rei and Kei, brothers who decided to separate through their own volition, realised they had to work together to defeat the threat that ruled the abyss of a world where escape was impossible. In the hands of a pitiless ruler, who threw tantrums and mercilessly recruited to destroy, was an inevitable blade held at the throat of all their classmates. The world's clock was ticking down, and the distance between the thread of life and the sword of death grew closer.Bookmark here

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