Chapter 12

When Ryuichi entered his kitchen, Tohma was waiting for him. There was a small piece of business the singer needed to have out with his bandmate.

"So you ignored me," Seguchi said. "Even after I told you yesterday about that trucker, Sanjiro Tanaka." Only someone who knew Tohma well could have detected the fight in those smooth tones. Ryuichi heard it.

"I remember every ugly little word you said," the singer replied. "Now, go to hell."

Tohma blinked once. It was quite a reaction for him, though.

"You said the boy sold himself, but I know you don't always speak the truth. So I double-checked with K. You seem to think the whole thing was Tatsuha's fault. It wasn't. The real criminal was that Tanaka monster. Do you have anything else to say?"

"He's below legal age and you could be staring at iron bars for a long time, Ryu."

"It all depends on our discretion and Tatsuha sure won't put me there," Ryuichi replied hotly. "And he won't be under eighteen forever. This is none of your business, anymore."

"It IS my business if it affects our band and NG!"

Ryuichi did not reply. He poured himself a cup of coffee, sugared it well, and took a drink. "Do you remember," he mused, staring out a window, "that time a few years ago when NG was in all those financial difficulties and you sold most of your NG stock to me to pay off the debts?"

Seguchi tensed.

"I know you really like your job as head of NG. It would be a shame if the majority shareholder voted to replace you at the next board meeting. That would be so unpleasant."

Tohma, in a show of bravado, poured himself a cup of coffee as well. "That would make personal relations in the band quite difficult," Seguchi agreed.

"True. I can't have Nittle Grasper rent apart by quarrels, so I would also have to hire a new keyboard player."

Tohma took a long drink of his black coffee. "All right," he said after a moment. A peculiar smile crossed his face, tinged with sourness. "You get your way, as usual."

Ryuichi put an arm around his bandmate's shoulder. "You're my friend, Tohma. I don't want anything interfering with that."

"Just trying to do what's best for you."

"Most of the time," Ryuichi corrected. "Now go away, Tohma," he added lightly, as if flicking a speck of dust off Kumagoro.

"My wife is going to murder you if you hurt him."

"I know that. I'll look after him."

"But the media--"

"Who cares? I haven't told them the truth for years."

Tohma exhaled hard. "You still have to talk to Mika about him."

"I do?" asked Ryuichi, his eyes widening.


"Didn't she sort of get it when she saw him in my bed?"

Seguchi smiled coldly. "Yes, but you still have to explain that you're going to be a good husband to her little brother. Responsibility, Ryu, responsibility."

"Oh," said the singer. He had the feeling this would be difficult.

While Tatsuha waited in the bedroom, Eiri came back in. He shut the door on the crowd behind him and lit a cigarette.

"I'm trying to unravel the mystery here," said the writer. "First, you come to Tokyo but don't even drop by to see me or Shuichi. Second, K calls this morning asking for your whereabouts. Third, Mika calls, asking for your whereabouts, and saying you wiped out on a wine glass last night. Fourth, Tohma Seguchi, the important Shacho of NG Records, says he's driving you, an ordinary teenage boy, to Kyoto this morning. He also asks me for your whereabouts. Fifth, I find you in bed with Ryuichi." The writer waited for a reply, but received none. "If you'd hurt the palm of your hand like Mika said, the bandages wouldn't be on the back of it."

"Sounds like you should be writing mysteries instead of romances, Aniki."

"Thank you. Care to explain?"

"Not really."

"All right. I'll let you off now, but don't expect me to rescue you from Mika. Want a cigarette, brat? It might fortify your nerves before you go out to face her."

"No, thanks. Second-hand smoke will hurt Ryu's voice, so I'm giving up smoking."

"God!" The writer shook his head in wonder.

When Ryuichi entered the living room with Tatsuha to face the crowd, he yelled in pain. Mika had caught him by the hair and was jerking his head back.

"Aneki, knock it off, you're hurting him!"

"I ought to scalp this FILTH alive. Do you want to end your career as a heartthrob with your face rammed down a toilet?"

"Hey! I'm the one who seduced him, so leave him alone. I'm of age to do this in America."

"But not in Japan," said Tohma.

"Then we'll move to America!" Tatsuha shouted back angrily as he tried to pry his sister's fingers off Ryuichi.

Mika glared at her brother. "I knew you'd be unreasonable. All right, Sakuma." She let go, then did something that startled everybody. She snatched K's gun from his holster and clicked the safety off. Then she raised the gun.

"What do you think you're doing?" K demanded.

"Mika!" Tohma exclaimed.

His wife was sighting down her arms, both fists gripping the gun. "All right, Sakuma. Take your choice. Live or die." She was aiming right at the singer's face.

"No!" Tatsuha shrieked. He threw himself around his lover.

Ryuichi narrowed his eyes. "Die," he said.

For a moment Mika looked perturbed. "Hey, you idiot, you aren't supposed to say that."

"If you shoot him, I'll shoot you next!" Tatsuha yelled at his sister.

In the doorway, Eiri shook his head in disapproval. He lit another cigarette.

"Uh, Yuki?" Shuichi asked, trying to get his boyfriend to do something.

"Stop grandstanding," the writer said to Mika. "At the very least, Ryuichi's fans would lynch you."

"But I'd be saving my brother's honor!" she retorted.

Eiri only lifted his eyebrows. "Honor? Are we discussing our little brother?"

"Yuki," Shuichi said in a pleading tone. "K?"

But the American was only standing by, watching with crossed arms. "Sorry, Shuichi. I stay out of things like this."

Mika was eyeing her brother. Tatsuha was trying to shield the singer with his body. "Would you really shoot me?" she asked him.

Eiri rolled his eyes. "You're not the one on all his posters, Aneki. Of course he'd blow you away. He's been insane for years. He could probably even get off on an insanity defense."

Mika was still staring at her brother. Tears were beginning to flow down Tatsuha's cheeks as he clutched Ryuichi.

In that moment, the gun barrel dropped. "All right," she said. She gave Ryuichi a venomous look. The singer's eyes replied with an evil glitter. Mika gave him a curt nod, like a duelist forced to be courteous to a foe in a drawing-room.

"Why aren't you trying to take this gun away from me!" she yelled at K. "Make yourself useful! Quit standing around!"

K shrugged, and casually removed the gun from her hand. "It's not loaded," K said. "I'd taken the bullets out earlier while cleaning it."

Tatsuha loosened his clench in relief, and gave Ryuichi a sudden, devouring kiss.

"You shouldn't have scared everybody like that, Mika-san," Tohma chided.

"DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THOSE GODDAMMED BULLETS!" she yelled. Uesugi pride, when mortified, could be an awesome thing.

"Of course. I saw him removing them."

"So did I," Eiri added.

"You SWINE. Don't any of you CARE that Ryuichi Sakuma is sleeping with our little brother!"

"I do," Ryuichi piped up.

A livid red crossed Mika's face.

"And I really liked it, Aneki," Tatsuha added.

Mika covered her ears. "Put a bullet in, Winchester, I'm ready to commit suicide. God! Would you two shut up?"

And with that, she left.

After a moment, Tohma said, "I guess you won."

"I guess we did," Ryuichi replied, as he and Tatsuha gazed softly at each other.

The End