Status: ongoing!! // title subject to change

Red String



Kunikida does not sleep.

He remains awake until dawn, thinking about nothing important. His back aches from laying in one position for too long and his head aches because he's stressed, he's always stressed, he's never calm.

He wonders briefly how Nakahara-san is doing and how Dazai-san could ever leave someone so bloody and battered on their own. There's a history between the two of them that Kunikida does not and may never know, a long and tiring one that he isn't sure he has the capacity to take, anyway. There's a level of trust between them that must have taken years to build, despite how much they seem to despise each other.

Kunikida does not understand. He is not sure he wants to.

His alarm sounds off as he rolls over for the first time in what he believes to be three hours. The mattress groans for him. He probably should have slept, shouldn't he?

Sunlight tears through his paper-thin curtains, nearly blinding him as he lays facing the rays. If the sky is this bright, that means it's well beyond time for Kunikida to get up. God. He definitely should have slept.

Slowly, he forces himself into a sitting position, more slouched than he ever should be. His hair hangs listless over his slumped shoulders, dull and tired, much like himself. There's no time for a shower, considering how high in the sky the sun is. A quick wash-up will suffice; he'll be dirty again by sundown, anyway.

Again, he briefly wonders about Nakahara. He's heard rumors of what sort of damage Nakahara's full Ability can cause and, if they hold any weight at all, then he should be out of commission today. The thought of not shadowing Nakahara today is both relaxing and worrying.

If not Nakahara, then Dazai?

Kunikida washes his face quicker with this in his mind, sweeping his blond hair into a low ponytail. It's a little dry, but that's alright. He'll probably be washing it tonight. Dazai has an odd habit of playing with his hair when they talk, but surely he won't notice something so small.

There is no time for breakfast. He's not really up to eating, anyway. He's not afraid of Dazai, per se, but he's never been left on his own with the elder before and he can't say he's looking forward to it. His stomach is twisting so much that even tea sounds like an awful decision.

So he leaves.

He isn't in the right mind to drive, he doesn't think, but he's not in the mood for a meaningless chat in a cab and he isn't far enough to justify any other mode of public transportation. So unless he's willing to walk all the way, he should probably start his car now.

Kunikida drops his keys twice in his attempt to move his morning along. He had no idea his hands were so unsteady; perhaps he should have forced down a bit of food, regardless of whether he wanted it or not. He probably would have been able to hold it down if he tried. Even so, it's too late for that now. He has to deal with it.

The notebook necessary for activating his Ability scratches against his hip as he shuffles around. It's partially tucked into the waistband of his slacks and he considers using it to summon a cup of tea or something, but quickly decides against it. He can't waste pages for something so silly. Maybe Dazai will take pity on him and his restless night and provide him with some sort of something. Maybe not. Does pity even fit a man like Dazai?

He needs to drive.


Kunikida parks as far away from one of the Port Mafia's warehouses as he's willing to walk (which, honestly, isn't that far at all).

Dazai is already outside, his back turned to Kunikida and his car. How the elder knew Kunikida would arrive at this warehouse, let alone park right here, is beyond him, but he knows asking will only grant him some convoluted (and probably untrue) explanation about peering into the stars and studying Kunikida's movements for ninety days. It isn't worth it, not really.

"Dazai-san," he starts. He's unsure what to finish with, so he gets quiet. Dazai, however, is more than willing to pick up where he left off.

"Kunikida-kun! Good morning." Dazai's cheerful grin feels a bit out of place on a face so heavily bandaged. His right eye's been covered as long as Kunikida has known him and there's a new patch on his cheek that was not there the other day. His arms (or what can be seen of them under his coat) follow suit, wrapped tight in stark white right to the edge of his wrist. He's always been this way. To see anything different would be odd. "You're here pretty early."

"It is my normal time."

Dazai's eyebrow raises just a bit at that. "You have a set time to work? This is no office, you know?" He doesn't seem interested in hearing Kunikida's response - not that Kunikida really had one ready, anyway - because he's already making a move to head inside the warehouse. "I'm sure you were expecting Chuuya."

"He used his full Ability last night, didn't he?" Dazai's smirk says yes. "I figured he would be resting."

"He didn't use that much of it, he's fine. He's just lazy and using Corruption as an excuse to stay in bed." He's walking and talking and it takes a second too long for Kunikida to realize that he is expected to follow. He hastily shuffles forward, looming over Dazai like a shadow. "Anyway, sorry to say you won't be with me very long, Kunikida-kun. A shame, too, because that slug sure has been hogging you lately."

That slug. Nakahara?

How in the world are they able to work together?

"What will I be doing?" He hopes his tone isn't as apprehensive as he feels. He knows that Dazai will latch onto the slightest hint of weakness and pull. He cannot give the man that opportunity.

There's a hitch in the conversation as Dazai steps aside, allowing Kunikida to head in first. "Combat training," Dazai says as Kunikida takes the lead. He sounds considerably less chirpy. Now he is the shadow. It's unsettling, to say the least.

"Combat..." The words die on his tongue as Kunikida comes face to face (face to back, rather) with what he can only describe as a monster.

Their coat is a darker black than even Dazai's, jagged edges brushing across the back of their ankles. Their thin frame is weighed down by heavy, dark clothing; the only thing that stops them from being a complete inky mass are the white ruffles poking from beneath the sleeves, pale hands, and what Kunikida believes to be white tips at the front of their hair. He’s only seen them once, though, and from quite far away, so he cannot be sure until they turn.

"You're incredibly skilled in martial arts, aren't you, Kunikida-kun?" Dazai's hand is on his shoulder. How long has it been there? Can Dazai feel the ice in his blood? His neck is stiff. He has no idea if he is even nodding. "That's good. Akutagawa-kun needs an opponent like you."

At the sound of his name, the demon turns. His face is void of any emotion, his mouth drawn straight and his thin eyebrows just slightly narrowed. Slowly, very slowly, Akutagawa's lip curls back over his teeth in what is either a strained sneer or an awful smile. Kunikida's stomach fills with lead regardless.

He's pathetic, he knows, for allowing fear to shake him like this. He has no place in the Port Mafia if this is how he is going to be. He doesn't belong here. And if not here, then where?

"You yourself need help in long-range fights. You can't exactly flip someone over your head if they're attacking you from far away, can you?" Dazai's voice is cool, curling around Kunikida's throat and rendering him incapable of speech. "You'll be alright," he partially whispers. "Akutagawa doesn't have as much stamina as you." His fingers are hooked in Kunikida's ponytail. "Hold out."

And then he's gone. Where he goes, Kunikida is unsure. It's as if he's melted into the shadows with the way he's vanished from sight. There's still a spot of warmth on Kunikida's shoulder.

A sharp cough pulls him away from thoughts of Dazai. It's followed by another, then another and another. They're so rough that his own lungs ache. His eyes trail up Akutagawa's now-sagging form and he tries incredibly hard to keep his gaze sharp. For some reason, Dazai's disappearance helps him stand a little straighter. Perhaps it is the absence of pressure. He wonders for a moment if this means that Akutagawa isn't too much of a threat if they can be left alone like this. If he'll be fine.

And then there's a growl - "Rashomon!" - that snuffs out any thought of this being okay, followed by something ripping through the air, barreling towards him in such a rush that he can just barely jump to the left and avoid it. It catches him just a bit, tearing at his pants leg and causing blood to well up but not much else.

There's a searing rut torn through the floor of the warehouse now. There could very well have been one torn through Kunikida, too, if he was a moment too slow.

So this is Akutagawa's Rashomon.

It figures that the subordinate of someone like Dazai would have an Ability so monstrous.

So much for being fine.

A large snake-like creature hovers over Akutagawa's head, jet black and glittering with red sparks. It seems to be spawning from the back of Akutagawa's coat, but when it moves, its master remains stationary. Akutagawa is not jerked around by Rashomon even the slightest bit; there is no doubt in the world that he does not have a leash on his pet.

Kunikida grits his teeth and shoots forward as Rashomon comes for him again. It's aiming low, presumably looking to incapacitate him. He cannot let that happen.

Shadowy jaws clamp down just a breath away from his ankle, falling short of rendering Kunikida helpless. The gust of wind that follows Rashomon slamming shut is just another reminder pounding into his head: do not get caught.

Akutagawa is following him much too easily, turning and pushing forward quicker than he would like. At this rate, it may be impossible to activate his own Ability; Akutagawa isn't even giving him time to breathe, let alone summon a weapon. Still, he has to try, or Rashomon will be the death of him. Though it’s not like he'd be the first, he’d rather not die today.

He hears Akutagawa give his monster another command - something threatening, Kunikida is sure - and he nearly drops the notebook he just retrieved in a panic. He's not one to lose his head so easily. Besides, Akutagawa is the last one he wants to see him in such a state. Surely the boy already despises him for receiving monumentally different treatment from Dazai, with Kunikida as an acquaintance and Akutagawa as more of a dog. Seeing Kunikida's fear might send him over the edge; why does Dazai-san acknowledge someone so weak?

When he glances up, he sees that Rashomon is no longer one creature, but thousands (or so it feels). The thing has split into at least eight different beings, all with incredible fangs ready to tear him apart. They all start towards him at once, propelling Kunikida's mind into action before his body even has a grip on what to do.

He jerks backwards, tearing a page out of his notebook and holding it close to his chest for fear of dropping it. Akutagawa looks smug, though his face appears blank. He's controlling his Ability with little to no emotion, but there's something in his dark eyes that makes it clear that he thinks he's won.

He might have.

Kunikida has practically been running in circles in a sad attempt to avoid Rashomon's vicious attacks, exhausting himself and looking positively pathetic while doing it. He has to do something. He has to fight back.

The moment he seems to get a bit of a reprieve, he makes a shout of his own. The cry of, "Handgun!" causes Akutagawa to stiffen, and the sudden green glow in Kunikida's hand causes him to push on with his assault in a rush. There's no way he missed the piece of paper in Kunikida's hand be replaced with a handgun. He's determined to end this now.

One of the many monsters spawning from Akutagawa's back finally latches onto Kunikida, clamping down incredibly hard on his left arm. He holds back from shouting, refusing to give Akutagawa the satisfaction, but it's so damned hard when it feels as though the fangs are scratching at bone. He shoots one, two, three times at Rashomon's sparking black body, and to be quite honest, it's unsurprising when bullets fail to deter it. The useless things clatter to the floor as Rashomon rips away, pulling flesh and blood with it. The injury it leaves behind is deep, but not so awful cosmetically (why that even matters right now is beyond him).

Kunikida forces himself to ignore the pain; focusing on it will just give Akutagawa more opportunities to attack. The barrel of his gun turns from the length of the beast to its stationary master. There are jaws tight around his side now, another of Rashomon’s heads latching onto the leg he’s putting most of his weight on. Its teeth are digging far beyond the skin and the pain is spreading like fire, but that doesn’t matter, because now, Kunikida can attack.

He’s finally realized that Akutagawa is stuck, glued to his spot on the warehouse floor as Rashomon whips around. He can play with his pet and turn any way he wants, but he can’t dodge a bullet. A shame he didn’t let it sink in when he noticed it earlier, but he supposes it’s better late than never.

It seems as though Akutagawa notices that Kunikida has had a revelation and widens his eyes just a touch, a smirk just barely poking at his pale cheek. ”Show me,” it feels like he’s saying, ”what someone who’s earned Dazai-san’s favor can do.”

While he’s sure his shooting is not very impressive, it does the job perfectly fine. Unlike Kunikida, Akutagawa has no problem crying out, letting out a strangled noise from the back of his throat as he staggers just slightly. He’s been shot in his stomach, so it looks, and he’s howling and it’s haunting, the noise burrowing into Kunikida’s mind. It will not leave him for weeks. It shouldn’t rattle him like this, should it?

Rashomon seems to sense Akutagawa’s pain and recoils for the moment, spitting Kunikida out and leaving him to curl in on his bloody self. He doesn’t allow himself to have that luxury, though, pushing himself to his feet and taking aim once more. He can already see Akutagawa raring up for another go, and all he can do is the same.

He fires as Akutagawa growls his monster’s name again, just barely cutting himself off with another harsh cough. Rashomon’s mouth (mouths?) open impossibly wide the moment Kunikida fires again; it’s so wide, in fact, that its face seems to be gone, its body taking the form of a red and black forcefield. Will this deflect bullets as well?

He has no choice. He has to try.

He fires only twice, not willing to waste bullets on what may possibly be an incredible shield. The moment the bullets are supposed to connect with it, however, the shield dissipates, leaving a suddenly-vulnerable Akutagawa to the breeze. Could his defense have failed?

It must have. There is no more Rashomon.

Akutagawa’s body jerks with each shot: one in his left shoulder and one in his left hand. That horrid yell is pulled from him once more, his clean hand hovering over each injury with hesitance. He doesn’t know where to start, fingers brushing against the blood on his coat before touching his palm and finally his collarbone, too afraid to even dare make contact with his shoulder. His gray eyes, wide with horror, can’t choose between staring at his blood on the floor or the guy who shot him.

He settles on Kunikida eventually.

It’s Kunikida’s gun clattering to the floor - when did he drop it? - that cements his decision. His gaze fixes and hardens on Kunikida, any signs of fear melting away to be replaced with intense, burning rage. There’s something inhumane about his glare, something animalistic about the way it rakes over Kunikida’s injuries before landing on his face and narrowing. There’s no way he’s going to attack again, is there?

There is. There is nothing in the world that can make Akutagawa stop an assault, not even three goddamn bullet wounds. Kunikida grits his teeth and scrambles for his gun, wrapping a hand around it just as he catches Rashomon’s head (just one this time?) raise above Akutagawa’s.

“Alright! That’s enough.”

And then it’s over.

Dazai’s voice breaks through the heavy silence. It isn’t comforting in the slightest.

He sounds colder than before, his visible eye half-lidded and his face completely expressionless. It seems he shed his coat during their so-called training, making him look a bit smaller but not any less intimidating. He’s got his heel on the barrel of Kunikida’s gun and he doesn’t even flinch when the weapon disappears in a flash of blue.

Dazai reaches for Akutagawa without a single care, grabbing the sleeve of the younger’s bloodstained coat and actually frowning when he agitates Akutagawa’s wounds. Rashomon, much like the gun, explodes in blue light, leaving nothing behind, and Kunikida’s heart begins to beat normally once more.

“You’re supposed to use your Ability for defense,” murmurs Dazai, staring down at Akutagawa with a horribly empty glare. “You were to use Rashomon to deflect those bullets.”

“I can’t.”

“Oh?” The two share an extremely tense silence for what Kunikida is sure is an eternity or more. Dazai reaches behind his back slowly, as if he’s preparing to pull out his own gun and test Akutagawa’s words himself. His hand lingers in the air just long enough to strike more fear into Akutagawa before he scoffs very faintly and turns to Kunikida.

“You were slow,” he says. He doesn’t sound any more pleasant than when he spoke to Akutagawa, but his gaze has softened just the slightest bit. Why is that? Why is he always someone different when Kunikida is involved? “The only reason your injuries aren’t more severe is because Akutagawa-kun was too emotional.”

“I—!” Akutagawa is silenced by a look that freezes his blood.

“You can’t waste time running away from attacks. It’s just as exhausting as it is embarrassing.”

Kunikida is sitting on one knee, unconsciously pressing down on his wounded leg with his weight. He knows he should be listening, but the injuries and the blood and the fact that he did not sleep at all, it’s all combining into a force too strong to fight against. The words are blending together, as is the world around him. It’s all one blur of dark colors and a long, low hum for what feels like an eternity before he is, quite literally, pulled back to Earth. Dazai is the culprit, tugging on his collar. It isn’t hard enough to pull him to his feet, or pull him at all, really, but it’s enough to jostle him around.

“Come on,” he says. The hand not on Kunikida’s shirt is closing around his wrist. “You can’t sit here; you need to get patched up.”

After some time, Kunikida manages to balance himself on his own, refusing to lean against Dazai for support. It would just be sad. He can feel Dazai staring at the injuries he sustained and his cheeks burn with shame; what a poor showing.

“Why didn’t you use your Ability the moment the fight began?” Dazai asks. He’s taken the lead once more, guiding Kunikida further within the warehouse. He should probably be wary of where they’re going, but he doesn’t have the energy to care too much. If Dazai is taking him off to die, at least he’ll get some rest in the end. “You didn’t need to run from anything if you were going to stand there and take it in the end. You knew you could withstand it long enough to attack. So why didn’t you?”

“I...never wanted to make contact with Rashomon.” Dazai makes an interested little hum up front and it’s unclear whether or not it’s a sign to keep going. “I wanted to do it without getting hit,” he adds to be safe.

He bumps into his superior’s back after a while; when did Dazai stop moving? He tries to stammer out an apology, one that he hopes sounds wonderfully coherent in spite of his muddled mind, but it’s spoken over courtesy of Dazai’s, “You don’t need to be afraid of your Ability, Kunikida-kun.”

Kunikida gives up on talking all together when the elder tacks on, “You’ll die that way.” He doesn’t bother arguing because, honestly, there is no need. Though Dazai is right, he wouldn’t listen to a word Kunikida had to say if he were wrong. There’s no point in wasting breath when he’s already so tired. “Did you shoot Akutagawa in those areas purposefully?”

Honestly, Kunikida doesn’t think he’ll survive the conversation if Dazai doesn’t start walking again; thankfully, he does. He’s so close to being able to rest. “Yes.”

“What if you’d made a mistake?” There’s a pause in the dialogue, but not in their steps. They do slow down, but it’s more for Kunikida’s sake and not for dramatic effect. “What if he died?”

“I...” There are two responses he can give: the truthful one, or the one an executive of the Port Mafia will want to hear. “It would just be part of my training.”

It’s clear that Dazai doesn’t believe a thing when he goes, “Hm,” his smirk practically audible. Thankfully, he does not push the issue any further, giving Kunikida a moment to himself as they twist and turn around crates both empty and packed. There are a few lowly grunts wandering around, staring at Kunikida with wide eyes as he shuffles past. He’s unsure if they’re staring because of who he’s with or who he’s fought, but to be honest, he cannot bring himself to care.

For the third time today, this time through the haze of blood loss and pain, he wonders how Nakahara-san is doing. Would he be interested to learn that Kunikida was able to hold his own today? Or would he be as unimpressed as Dazai with Akutagawa, regarding him with a cutting glare and a shrug of his shoulders?

In the long run, he figures it doesn’t really matter. He isn’t really all that proud of how he handled things, considering how long it took him to get a handle on how Rashomon and its owner worked. Nothing Nakahara-san might say will be any worse than the knowledge that he could have been quicker, smarter, better.

“Kunikida-kun, are you there?”

At some point, they stopped again. Dazai has fallen behind him, lacing his slender fingers through Kunikida’s ponytail like he so often does. He’s leaning just slightly against the taller of the two despite Kunikida barely being able to support himself. Somehow they don’t tumble over.

“What’s done is done,” he says, the softest he’s ever been. “All I wanted you to do was endure it. You did fine.”

He did fine.

He is not very comforted by those words.
♠ ♠ ♠
i haven’t written an action scene in two years or so..,,.,,.hahaha

i hope my writing wasn’t all over the place during the fight scene!! and as for the abilities, i want to go into detail about them naturally (though i may have to fuzz a detail or two since bsd doesn’t give you all the info) bc it flows better than a wall of text explaining things bit by bit. on that topic, it’s actually very funny writing out the “call out your attack” trope. i kept giggling through it!! it made me happy that kuni and aku have to shout out to activate their abilities. ( ´ ▽ ` )

thanks a lot for reading, love you all!!