Chapter 38:

An Eternal Story Incessantly Recovered

X = Y

Returning to his home at Hasaka's fits, Eien, in despair, noticed that the store became barren and ransacked while he was absent. His triumphant grin, attained from killing the police force, vanished. Running frantically, expressing disarray, with his hood on, he entered the store, noticing all the tailoring equipment thrown onto the floor.

"NO! NO! WHO DID THIS!" Eien thought, desperate to save Iroha Hasaka.

At that moment, he felt powerless, waving his head and hands around to find a clue somewhere in the store. Whilst rummaging, he found a note scribed poorly, nearly illegible.

"Eternal Ruler. She will die if you do not come and save her."

Eien stared at the note longingly, riddled with angst and grief, slowly comprehending the heinous crime they committed against his will, on his life.

"NO! HOW DO THEY KNOW I EXIST?" Eien thought to himself, expressing more hatred than dread.

Eien flipped the note around, but it had nothing on it. Rampaging around the store, he went upstairs into his apartment. Searching trepidly through all his drawers, his closet, under his bed, and even behind his curtains, the only item they left was that note.

The seed of anguish, planted into his heart, began to germinate, rising towards the sun, being brought into the light of day. However, hesitation never crossed his mind, and he remained composed, but his aggrieved mind trembled at the thought of loss.

Sprinting outside the store, he grabbed his phone from his pocket and made a phone call. It was ringing, and his incandescent heartbeat ruptured his thought process, beating furiously, that it was incomprehensible to his mind. A broad disconnect between his cognisance and psyche grew prevalent, and that crack ingrained itself into his demeanour, still insignificant at this time.

The person on the other side picked up, and Eien, running aimlessly, stopped, twisting his head around for clues, as futile it may be.

"Come and pick me up!" Eien exclaimed, speaking with a deep, exasperated tone.

"Why? I'm at work. I can't leave my shift now." Osugitachi explained, working at an office firm.

"Yeah! You use a fake identity because of Yasaburo, but another gang is after us. They're weak, and I'll crush them for taking her!" Eien exclaimed. "The fire will get them..."

"I'll try after my shift. Nothing we do should be conspicous, my liege." Osugitachi responded calmly.

"Fine! I'll find them." Eien spoke quietly.

"Do you know where they are?" Osugitachi inquired.

"No...but the fire will lead me to them...or I'll get there attention by leading them..." Eien remarked portentously, hanging up the phone curtly.

A frivolous wanderer, only time incurring on him, Eien's resolve was faultless, and he aimed to find Iroha, neglectful of the meagre knowledge granted to him, as the only clue in the form of a note. Indomitable pressure laying ruin to his mind, and the ever-increasing thought of Iroha's death submerging his resilient nature, crept up to him callously, denoting a specious end to his life.

In a hospital near the Akugawa branch Police Department, Rei awoke, finding another patient lying in another bed beside him, who had received urgent medical care. The curtains kept to one side revealed the man. Rei, who was dormant and unhinged, regained consciousness, and the pain intensified, rendering his body frail. Rei, holding his palm against his forehead, malign imagery sauntering around his dreams, looked at the man, feeling an auspicious presence, immersed in it, coveted by iniquitousness.

"Who is this guy? What happened to him?" Rei mused.

The nurse, adorned with a profound smile, inviting and warm, tender and loving, wandered in, checking on the man. Noticing faint traces of life in Rei's eyes, she walked up to him.

"Is everything okay?!" she exclaimed, smiling.

"Yeah...I think so...What happened to the others who get sent here?" Kei questioned, his head pulsing viciously.

"Some of them are dead, and some of them are alive, but all of them are in a coma." she replied, somewhat saddened. "Would you like something to eat?" she added.

"Yeah...and after that, I want to call someone and leave. Who's the guy beside me? What time is it? Noon?" Rei bombarded the nurse with questions.

"Ah, yes! You can call someone using the phones on this floor. This person here, do you know him? I have to tell you for your safety, but he's Yasaburo Toyoda. The police are here, keeping an eye on him. Now let me give you something to eat." the nurse said, walking away.

Rei stood up, devastated by the altercation yesterday, though it began diminishing by the afterthought of the investigation he was a part of and the death of Kunio. Following behind the nurse, Rei, trudging through the corridors, arrived at the public phone. Dialling a number he was familiar with, that person redirected him to another of great importance.

"Hello? Who is this?" the voice answered warily, gale and wind brushing against the microphone, making the audio static-like.

"Kei. What happened while I was asleep..." Rei responded.

"Rei?! You're awake! Should I come and pick you up?" Kei exclaimed, his excitement fluctuating.

"Listen to me. Who is Yasaburo Toyoda? What happened while I was asleep?" Rei repeated, becoming agitated.

"Yasaburo...Toyoda? He's in the same hospital as you...?" Kei spoke perturbatively. "Wait...don't do anything to him. He's our evidence. You don't know about him, but he killed Kanda yesterday. Rei...I'm sorry. I couldn't do anything..." Kei added, speaking calmly, slowly, angrily, as the line cut curtly.

"Hey, Rei! Don't do anything stupid! You probably won't but come on!" Kei exclaimed into the dead flatline racket of the phone droning in his eardrums.

Approaching his room ominously, stumbling laboriously with an inert gaze perpetuating his irises, his pupils exhibiting resolve, Rei glared at Yasaburo's languid body. With each conscious step he took, closer and closer to it, the thought of revenge grew sweeter, more desirable. Like a ripened fruit, his life was ready to pick apart. Closing in on him, Rei placed his hands closer to his throat.

"You...killed Kanda...The last thing I said to him...I didn't even speak to him properly!" Rei thought as his ideas grew more sinister and portentous. He clenched his fists tightly.

"He thought I was Kei! He didn't even know it was me! Why did I do that? Why was I so afraid to tell my friend that it was me! That wasn't was cowardice. I wanted to protect him! But why did I not let him feel the joy of meeting me again!" Rei's tempestuous thoughts created an unnerving storm within his mindscape.

His hands, guillotines that would extinguish his life, clamped down on his throat but ostensibly gently.

"I could destroy you...but why would I? If I ended your life, then wouldn't you be free from this cursed world and never feel pain again? If I didn't end your life, then would you be free in this world and continue to live but be tormented by your past? Or be sent to jail and live your life in misery? What would cause you more pain? What is the right thing to do?" Rei, enthralled in his thought, contemplated the severity of his actions.

Moving his hands away from his Yasaburo, he stood there, glaring menacingly at him, ruing his life had not ended here.

"You...If someone more immoral than me was here, then they would kill you without hesitation. Vengeance isn't the answer. I know that from the teachings of the Masters...from Master Kirihoshin. I know the good and bad of life. I've seen it and loved it, but hated it too. How many people have I killed, who you blackmailed into fighting me? All those men were innocent for all I know, yet I can't kill the mastermind, which I assume you are...Just know that I am the one who let you live. You're life was in my hands, and I choose to let you see the wonders of life again." Rei thought.

Rei sat on his bed, sulking yet happy to be alive. The nurse came back with a tray of food, handing it to Rei.

"There you go! If you want anymore food, then ask!" she exclaimed, waking away happily.

The blue tray had a sandwich, a plastic cup with water, juice, and a dessert. Rei began eating leisurely, savouring the food this time, appreciating his life, acknowledging his power that he kept a person alive. It spurred a notion of fulfilment within him, easing his heart and mind.

"After this, it's time to get back at them. I'm coming for you, Eien Shihaisha." Rei deliberated.

Eien Shihaisha, the Eternal Ruler, darting around the city, with people staring at him, bewildered by what he wanted to obtain. His movements were erratic, spontaneously misinterpreted by the people he passed. Dreaming of a world where the fire engulfed everything, the warmth and tenderness it created around him, the non-verbal contract it formed without his consent, and the subtleties introduced into his life were all that he cherished, desiring more. His journey with Iroha Hasaka became prominent, and his memories became evoked, his story with here evinced within his heart.

Five years ago, on the streets of Toshi City, the atmosphere was dismal, the rain pouring down on his face, with hatred imbued into his heart. Eien was walking, his hands in his pockets, looking for no trouble. Passing an alleyway, he witnessed an abhorrent gang attacking a man, killing him. He stepped into the shadows, and they turned around, smiling ravenously, bloated by their power.

Astonished by the silhouettes appearing beyond them, manifesting into more men, he was ready to conquer them with his rule. He grinned eerily, appeased with the proposal of a challenge, and killing all who stood in his way.

Vanquishing all the gang members, bleeding from his body, Eien walked towards the street, far from the alleyway, leaning against the wall and sitting down, blood dripping down his fist. Neglected by the people who passed and the world itself, he sat there, imagining his next move. The gangs, his primary target, would be crushed under his fist. Restless but fatigued, he disregarded the notion of a savour, perceiving it as worthless.

A woman in her thirties walked by with a red umbrella, wearing glasses, trying her utmost to discern the slumped body resting against the wall. Approaching it thoughtfully, neglecting her safety, she wanted to comprehend the face behind the hood and its story that the world shunned. Eien concealed his fist inside his pockets, the blood dripped down, infecting his trousers and staining them, but the rain made it indiscernible.

"Hello? What are you doing sitting here?" she asked kindly.

Eien lifted his head, looking at the women who wished to converse with the darkest entity alive.

"I'm waiting for the fire..." Eien replied stolidly, accompanied by a bland expression.

"Fire? If you're cold, then staying in the rain will make it worse." the woman responded.

Another woman began walking towards the two with a green umbrella. Intrigued by the conversation, she appeared beside her. A familiar face to Eien in the future, this woman intrigued him. The woman had the same sentiment as the previous, but it was more intense. Her conviction radiated from her, enticing him.

"What's going on?" she asked.

"I don't know. He said he's waiting for the fire." the first woman replied, confused.

"The fire? I know a good place for that. Come with me." the second woman spoke kindly, more tenderly, smiling at Eien. "There's no need to be shy. Here, take this." she said, handing the umbrella over to Eien.

"Why are you helping me? All I want is the fire..." Eien questioned, inspired by her mystique aura.

"You remind me of the people I used to know." she said.

"What are you going to do with him?" the first woman asked.

"I don't know, but I'll work it out from here. What's your name?" she responded.

"My name? It is Eien Shihaisha." he responded, standing up, taking the umbrella from her hands.

The first woman, horrified by the dripping blood on his hands, her eyes shaking violently, her legs shaking, stepped backwards.

"Why does he have blood on his fists?" she exclaimed, walking away quickly.

"Yeah...why do you have blood on your hands? I can guess what happened, but lets wash them off." she added. "You said your name was Eien? My name is Iroha. Come with me." Iroha Hasaka responded, smiling, walking into the rain without care.

"Where are we going? Were are you taking me?" Eien responded, perplexed by her superfluous behaviour.

"Come on then!" Iroha turned around, exclaiming, walking through the rain smiling.

Eien walked up to her, holding the umbrella above her to protect them from the rain. All he could do was stare, analysing her happiness, failing to apprehend her giddiness.

"My father wasn't the richest, but he made ends meet. I loved my parents, and we were homeless because the landlord kicked us out, and we were robbed. But now, I own this shop!" she exclaimed.

Having walked a short distance, they arrived at a shop called Hasaka's fits. It was unchanged, identical to how it appeared in the present. Iroha entered, and Eien tried entering with the umbrella up, but the umbrella became interspersed with the door frame. Surprised, Eien began staring at the umbrella, ignorant of how it worked. Iroha began to laugh, taking the umbrella from Eien and closing it.

"Be careful with the door, Eien!" Iroha said, smiling.

Clueless, Eien entered, looking at the unfamiliar equipment that lay there, ready for use. Sharp scissors, sewing machines, garments, and all sorts. There was a fireplace in the corner, and like a fly to the light, he became immersed in its glory, slowly walking towards it. Iroha stared at him, confused by what allured him. He sat in front of it, the shining light glimmering, generous and kind to him, the beholder, who perceived the world in that form. A glorious blaze that would bring him salvation, enveloping the world and leaving him with its compassion, embellished in magnanimity. Iroha, empathising with Eien, sat next to him, adoring the fire like him.

"Eien! Do you have a family to go to, or a home?" she asked.

"A home? No? I came here on business..." Eien responded.

"Business? What, like a job?" Iroha responded?

"Yeah..." Eien responded.

"What exactly do you want?" Iroha responded.

"You said your name was Iroha Hasaka? Can I call you Ms Hasaka?" Eien turned his head in admiration, staring at her stolidly.

"Ms Hasaka? My, my. I'm not that old. If you want to, then go ahead! I have an apartment upstairs with a shower you can use." Iroha responded.

"What do you work as? I want to work like that. I want to take the world because I don't exist, and it will disappear with me." Eien replied eerily.

"The world? You're alone? I'll show you how to tailor! Come with me!" Iroha replied, joyful and jocular.

Eien stood up, watching her use a needle with her hands and the sewing machine. Amazed by her work, he began sifting through her shop, admiring the elegant beauty of her works. The designs, the effort, and the time, he understood it all. Some time passed, and he did not shower but instead gazed at Iroha's magnificence. He found her positivity contagious, yet it failed to empathise with her, nor was he able to reciprocate those feelings. He sat down, and Iroha instructed him to sew.

"Yeah, like that!" Iroha exclaimed, enlivening the atmosphere.

Fascinated, Eien began sewing but lost focus, immersed into the reality he beheld, the delicate movements of the needle, and the item which he breathed life into, but eventually pricking himself with the needle into his finger.

"Ow..." Eien stated, expressing slight pain.

Iroha immediately grabbed his finger, staring at the severity of the injury. She smiled and leaned over to the other side of the table, taking a plaster from a drawer.

"These things happen, see! It's all part of learning. If you never try, you never will get hurt, but then you never learn. See! I was prepared, Eien!" she exclaimed, wrapping his finger in the bandage.

Shivers flew down Eien's body, and his heartbeat grew louder, deafening him. Adoring Iroha, vitality rushed into his eyes, yet his face was bland, devoid of emotions. Incomprehensible to him was this feeling that the fire gave him, that Iroha managed to reproduce identically.

"Can I stay with you? I don't have a home or a family..." Eien asked, staring at her.

"Yes, you can! Do you like tailoring? It doesn't make a lot of money, but I make do with it." Iroha responded tenderly.

"Yeah, I enjoy it." Eien responded.

"Then you can! Oh, is there anything else you need?" Iroha replied.

" not tell anyone about me, please. There are people after me...but they can't do anything here because of the people...If they come here, I'll protect you." Eien responded uncannily.

"My, my! You already want to protect me? I should be protecting you! It's fine. They won't come after you!" Iroha said, oblivious to his truth.

Time passed, and Eien began sewing more, finding joy and love within the art. Iroha bought him new clothes, including the trademark checkered jacket he chose. Delivering her tailor-made clothing frugally down the streets of Toshi City, Eien integrated into the tailoring business. In the dark of the night, he fought gangs and began working his way up, decimating the bosses and leaders with ease. Frightening, he was an infamous figure, shrouded in mystery, quickly climbing up the ranks.

One day, an inconspicuous person peered into the store window, staring at the clothing on display. Eien began shifting clothing on hangers sat on a coat rail, out of the store and onto the public street, whilst the man glared at him, wearing a suit and tie.

"My liege. You still continue to work here?" the man said.

"Osugitachi? I didn't recognise you. Have you found a job?" Eien replied.

"Yes, my liege. In the year that passed when we got here, Yasaburo is finally an employee at Tatashi Industrial. Soon, we will use that as an information relay, but he is not high enough in their ranking to do so." Osugitachi explained.

"How many gangs do I have left to burn before I am all powerful?" Eien asked.

"Many. Here in Toshi City and back at Machira Town. We may have to go there to destroy the gang leaders and bosses that stand in your way." Osugitachi explained.

"Yeah...that is fine. I will tell Ms Hasaka that I will be gone. Where is Naruki Jin?" Eien questioned.

"He is creating ties with other gangs and commanding all the men under our control. Money does wonders to persuade people. After stealing from people for five years, we came to this city to grow stronger. Thanks to you, my liege. Without your strength, we wouldn't be here." Osugitachi remarked.

"Yeah...they will burn under the guise of fire. Make sure everything goes smoothly, Osugitachi. The generals have enough power to see it through." Eien added dispassionately.

More time passed, and the year was ripe for vengeance. Aspiring to become the strongest, aiming to destroy all the gangs and make them servants, Eien stood outside Hasaka's Fits. Iroha was staring at the sign to the store gleefully, beaming positivity outwards.

"You're really leaving? Where are you going to go, Eien?" Iroha asked, smiling kindly.

"Wherever I need to. Back to my home town. I'll be back, Ms Hasaka." Eien replied, staring at her in admiration.

"Do you have any other friends?" Iroha replied.

"Friends? No. I am alone. I do not exist. No one else should exist. The will disappear into the fire with me." Eien responded.

"You keep on saying that, but nothing happens!" Iroha responded, giggling, using her finger to take the tear of joy away from her eyes. "If it's because you think you don't deserve anything nice, then that's not true. You do exist! You're here, and you made me laugh! There are amazing things you can do, Eien!" Iroha asserted.

"Yeah...the fire and this is nice...I'll see you later, Ms Hasaka." Eien responded with his hands in his pockets, walking away.

"I've spent more time killing people than I have with you...Goodbye..." Eien thought.

He continued walking, and Iroha continued waving until he disappeared from her sight. He took a turn around the corner of a street, looking at his phone for the rendezvous. Looking up, he saw a car that fit the description and driving the vehicle was Osugitachi Ehamame.

Back in present times, Eien, like a headless chicken, was still running around the vast cityscape, his solicitude growing faster and faster. Rei replaced the hospital garments with his clothes inside the hospital, pulling his hood up to cover his face. Taking a packet of tablets out of his pocket, he devoured four pain killers at once and set out searching for the Eternal Ruler. Kei arrived inside of Toshi City, driving speedily down the streets to get to the precinct. The clock was ticking for all three, as the seal to oblivion was slowly destroyed with each step they took.