Chapter 19:


VISUAL SHOCK - sometimes you have to promise not to fall in love~



Timing is of the essence.

I must be patient.

Charge my attack.




I missed it. I held out too long.

A miscalculation was all it took.

My shot wasted.

Thankfully, it was only practice…

Bidding on the lowest value items I can find, at the very last second, to see how close to zero I can snipe.

I must hone my skills to defeat my nemesis…


After seeing Kaori go into that love hotel with those guys…. I’ve been burying my head in anything I can find.

I manage to win a few items I’ve had my eye on, like some gakuran jackets that will be perfect for an angura outfit I have planned. It was all plain sailing for a while, until later in the evening THEY show up.


My mood ruined yet again as item after item I have been watching for days are picked off one by one.

Either their bid slips in just after mine or they dump such a high reserve I can’t possibly compete.

Then I do my best to push their upper limit. Adding incremental bids to force them to pay the highest possible price.

I know it’s petty, but when I’m losing out on relics I’ve been seeking for over a decade…


…I’m coming for you!



Just as the timer hits 1 second remaining, I manage to fire off a bid, complete the confirmation step, and win before 0.

No one else was bidding on a ¥1… what even is that? A used eraser? So there was no lag from multiple people accessing the page at the same time.

But if there are lots of watchers and several bidders… things can get dicey.

There can be a delay.

I usually bid with as little as 5 seconds left on the clock, but sometimes that still isn’t enough. Sometimes you could go higher, shoot later. Sometimes, if you just had an extra second, you could make that final winning bid. Sometimes…



My wrinkled eyes, drought encrusted from staring at a screen all night, ache with tiredness and strain, as the first rays of day filter through my blinds.

“I should sleep…”







Everything I’ve been bidding on, they’ve blitzed through my reserve!

Bid after bid after bid…



I start firing back.

The bidding war continues.

A battle for the ages; two great warriors fighting over the same prize!


I will defeat you!





I have nothing left.

No more money to call upon as reinforcements… and no pride remains.

I won in the end, but at what cost?

Too high!

Too much...

I crawl into bed, exhausted, miserable, even after fending them off.

Winning what I want doesn’t feel right when I’m playing so dirty, paying double, triple what things are worth.

Just so they don’t win.


I hate you.


Waking to a gloomy afternoon, my head foggy and feelings numb, no sounds come to me from her room.

“She’s not home yet…”

I’d hoped to get some time with Kaori, at least late in the weekend, but it’s not looking likely.

There’s nothing in to eat, but I do have some Uranium C, that’ll perk me up… at least energy wise.

I check YooHoo Auctions and see a couple more items have been taken from me while I slept.

“Who are you?!.”

With nothing else to do, I sit down to research my enemy.

If I know them, I can beat them!

Unfortunately, kei002 doesn’t have much of an online footprint. At least not under that username.

A few hours of social media stalking gets me a reasonable shortlist of variations across every major site: They could be anywhere from a 52-year-old businessman called Keita [kei000] who lives in Sendai, to a 10-year-old Kei-chan [kei222] from somewhere in Saga.

No likely suspects, though. Everyone is too normal.

No hint of interest in visual kei bands or brands anywhere…

“Oh, hello…”


“…a model? Huh!”

That makes sense.

Lots of outfits on show. No face in any of their photos. No personal details anywhere. Very limited information other than the photographs themselves, the photographers tagged in them, and…


It can’t be…

“Is that…”

A FansOnly!

Do I click it? Do I dare?

The source of my enemy’s power!

How much do they earn from their shoots - and whatever else they do - to fund their war against me?!.

My cursor hovers over the link.

I gulp…


I slam the laptop shut.

“Wh… who is it?”

Well, that didn’t sound suspicious.

“It’s me. I brought dinner.”


I mean, of course Kaori, who else would it be?

“On… one sec!”

Real inconspicuous.

Putting my laptop on the desk, I straighten things out a bit, and open a window.

When did I last wash?!.


I splash some water on my face in the sink, catch a glimpse of how haggard I look in the mirror, and answer the door while suppressing a self-abasing grimace.

Kaori looks as exhausted as I do.

“I managed to get away early, so I thought I would treat you for a change.”

She slips past, in a completely different outfit to what she was wearing yesterday, the scent of sleep deprivation and hotel shower gel accompanying her.

Her hair too, no longer all backcombed and hair sprayed into place, the classic quaff tamed into her regular sleek style… if not a little more messed and tussled than usual.



She quickly busies herself in the kitchenette with a giant bag of HattaMatta… she just seems happy to be back, in need of some downtime, like normal after work.

I want to ask, but know the answer.
It would be unfair to bother her.


She deserves to relax right now.
But I need to know what she was doing.

“…did you get us?”

Kaori gives me a warm smile and proudly displays her offerings.

“There are a lot of options to choose from, so I got a couple for each of us. We should have leftovers.”

There are six set meals all told - hot and ready to eat - the usual rice bowl with meat, sauce, and sides combos. Just pick your favourite protein and preparation!

I opt for a gyudon, the extra iron from some beef might make me feel better, and Kaori eventually settles on a fried pork cutlet.

Her logic, completely sound, that it won’t be as crisp and delicious reheated.

We eat in silence for a bit until she breaks it.

The banter and back and forth is fun, but it feels forced, like we’re both aware of something and are skirting around it.

“Tai, you look tired. What have you been doing?”

Her tone cuts me like that of a mother condescending to her child.

“Says you? You must have really been run ragged by tho-”

I bite my tongue.

Her eyes narrow with suspicion.

That was spiteful.

She doesn’t know you saw her. Change the topic. Tell her about your bidding battles.

“I’ve got a bit of turf war going on.”

Kaori’s expression lightens into one of playful goading.

“I knew that angry face wasn’t just for show!”

Kaori levels her chopstick at me.

“So are you Russian or Italian Mafia? Hmm… Jeffries is not a very authentic name either way. You must be deep undercover.”

She’s having too much fun with this already.

“Italian. Family name used to be Giuseppe, but we anglicised.”

Complete lies, but I’m not dropping the charade first.



Kaori pauses for a second - not sure whether I almost had her there - then a cruel smile creeps across her lips.

“Bello saccente…”

She leans across the table and takes the last pickle right out of my tray.

I feel the crisp crack between my own teeth as she crunches on it with intentional luxuriation.

“I didn’t know you could speak Italian too?”

She smiles with the last of the pickle between her teeth like the stub of a cigarette.

“I cannot. I have just seen a lot of mafia movies. One of my father’s few family bonding activities was sharing his favourite films with me once I was old enough. Apparently, they use them in some businesses to determine who has what role during meetings and based on your personality. Like horoscopes for boys, childish… speaking of which, your turf war?”

“Oh! Yeah, so, I have a nemesis on YooHoo Auctions.”

Her expression is telling.

“No, I’m not being childish! Everything time I find something rare, something I’ve been pining for since I was in single digits, the same user keeps bidding against me.”

Kaori shifts in her seat with agitated curiosity.

“Show me.”

Her tone more serious than expected.

Has kei002 attacked her too?

I open my computer…

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