Disclaimer: not mine
A/N: This is sort of a sequel to Akai Tonbo, but this story can be read without reading Akai Tonbo (you just won't know who Harumi is) I had just watched Sweet Rain Shinigami no Seido a.k.a. Accuracy of Death, and this is inspired by that. Enjoy! (BTW, Takeshi Kaneshiro is mecha handsome!! XD You all should watch!)
A tall, slim, dark-skinned man clad in grey slacks, white shirt and suede suit stood in front of a café, the rain beating on the umbrella he was holding. Strands of black hair fell to his eyes as he was observing one man who was sitting inside a café nearby, sipping his coffee.
'Your target is a man,' a slender dog with long curly black fur spoke to him via telepathy, 'Kanmuri Shigeru, 27, panshokunin (a bread artisan).'
The grim reaper responded with a non-committal noise.
'Shall we…proceed?' the dog turned to look at the man.
"No," The man said as he started walking towards the café, "The judgment starts now."
The dog sighed. 'Anyway, in the end, you'll make him proceed.'
The man paused, before folding his umbrella and stuffing it into one of the plastics provided. "Ma ne (probably)," he finally said, and opened the door of the café.
The café was bustling with people, friends who were hanging out and chatting, people looking for shelter from the rain, students trying to study for their upcoming exams, and many more. The man bought an espresso, and looked around. There was no empty seat. Just as well. He could make a contact with the target now. "Sumimasen(excuse me)," he said.
The pink-haired young man looked up from the book he was reading, and stared at the grim reaper with startling violet eyes. "Hai?"
His target had unusual colouring, the grim reaper thought, as he gestured at the empty seat in front of the pink-haired young man. "May I sit here? There is no empty seat anywhere else…"
"Douzo(please)!" his target replied, his eyes returning to the pages in the book. The grim reaper sat down, and pretended to sip his coffee, before casually asking. "What's that about?" he gestured at the book.
"This?" The paler man closed his book and showed the cover to the other man. "It's a recipe book for breads. I'm a bread artisan."
"Hmm," The man responded, "They must be delicious," he said, referring to the picture of breads in the cover.
"You think so? I think some of the recipes here have serious flaws," he opinionated, before gasping. "I believe we haven't been introduced. I'm Kanmuri Shigeru." He smiled.
"I'm Chiba," the man gave his target his alias name.
"Hajime mashite ne (Nice to meet you)," Kanmuri smiled wider, "Sheltering from the rain?"
"Well, yes," Chiba shrugged.
"It's been raining almost everyday lately," Kanmuri remarked, and reached for his latte.
"It's been raining almost every time for me," the grim reaper muttered in melancholy, "Do you dislike rain?"
"Not really," Kanmuri shook his head. "Ame wa, Taiyo to onaji, watashitachi ni totte daisetsu desu kara (rain is, like the Sun, important to us)."
For a moment, Chiba was transported back to his last few moments with Fujiki Kazue, when he finally got to see blue sky. It was a memory he treasured. "Really?"
"Of course," Kanmuri sounded a bit surprised, "Without rain, the earth will be one huge desert. We won't be able to live"
Chiba had never thought about it that way before. This young man made him learn something new.
"Are you sheltering from the rain too?"
"Yes and no," Kanmuri put his elbows on the table and leaned on his hands, "I'm waiting for my lover."
"Ooh," Chiba raised an eyebrow, "a date?"
Kanmuri chuckled. "You can say so. We're going to watch a performance by my ex-fiancée."
"You're still in good relations with her? That's rare," Chiba commented as he raised his cup of coffee to his lips.
"We were betrothed since we were babies. Our families arranged it for us. We were best friends, but we never loved each other that way."
Chiba's eyebrow rose higher. "Arranged marriage, for that young an age? That's really, really rare." He leaned away from Kanmuri, "Are you by any chance blue-blooded, an aristocrat, or incredulously wealthy?"
"Masa ka (how can it be)?" The pink-haired man laughed, "My father used to be the boss of Hashiguchi Yakuza group before he retired. And I used to be involved in Yakuza activities as well."
Chiba nearly spluttered his coffee. "Wow…is that true?"
"Why would I lie to you? I can show you my tattoo, if it's not such a public place," Kanmuri said and passed his companion a piece of tissue paper, which Chiba took to dab his mouth. "Wow," he repeated, "Looking at you now, I can't tell that you were a yakuza. You're so…slender."
"Apparently, I used to be scary when I lost my temper," Kanmuri smiled, "Like Medusa, as quoted by my assistant."
Again, Chiba was forced to remember about the incident with Fujita, a true yakuza whose whole life he'd put on the line, a man who survived a gunfight against 5 people but had to die from car accident. The grim reaper didn't know why but his current assignment made him nostalgic. "How did you become a baker, then?"
"I felt that I didn't suit being a yakuza. A yakuza relies on reflexes, not the brain. But me, I rely mostly on my brain. So I left," his violet eyes had a faraway look in them. "But my father, who wanted me to become his successor, fought against it. It was a long and hard struggle…"
That was how Kanmuri ended up telling his life story to the stranger he had just met: the Newcomer's Battle, the Monaco Cup, Yakitate 25, till what he was doing currently. After he finished his long, long soliloquy, he gasped. "I'm sorry! I don't know what came into me," he blushed and bowed profusely, "I'm normally not this…chatty." He seemed horrified by himself.
But Chiba only laughed, heartily. "It's okay," he managed between bouts of laughter, "Your life is interesting, really. I didn't mind listening to you." His merry expression was suddenly replaced by a serious one. "What do you think about death?"
Surprised by the switch, Kanmuri frowned. "Death?"
Chiba nodded. "Do you fear it?"
Kanmuri paused to ponder about it, before answering, "Definitely," he put his hands around his cup, "I mean, I know everyone dies eventually -"
'Precisely my sentiment,' Chiba agreed inwardly.
"But I don't want to die now. Not yet," the pink-haired man chewed his bottom lip, "Not when I'm…at the peak of my life, when I have someone who loves me and whom I love, and a job I'm good at which is also one I like. You might think that I have fulfilled my purpose in life, but the thing is I haven't." When he looked up, his eyes shone with passion, his expression bright, "My dream – well it was my lover's dream, but it became my own as well – is to create a bread the Japanese proudly call a national bread, Ja-pan."
"Ja-pan?" Chiba repeated.
"See, there are English bread, French bread, and German bread, but there is no Ja-pan. Oh, I'm sure there are dorayaki, anpan, melon-pan, etc, but they're not delicious and unique enough to represent the country."
"So you want to invent the Japanese bread?"
"Yes!" His target seemed so excited. "Talking about Ja-pans…" he suddenly rummaged through his bag and conjured a brown paper bag, which he pushed towards Chiba. "My lover and I invented this some time ago. It's one of our Ja-pan experiments. Would you like to try?"
Chiba nodded. "Thank you," he opened the bag, took out one of the breads, and put it in his mouth.
Normally, Chiba couldn't tell good food from bad food. He hadn't eaten enough food from the human world to acquire that sense, but he could definitely tell, from the way the insides of the bread melted on his tongue, softened by the filling spreading warmth in his mouth, that the bread was a high-quality food. "Umai!" He exclaimed, and finished the bread slowly, savoring each bite. "It's really delicious!"
"Hontou?" A proud smile spread on the young boy's pale face. "Ureshii nara yokata (I'm glad that you're happy with it)."
Chiba froze, as though he had been struck with an epiphany. His target's purpose in life…
"SHIGERU!" a tanned man with large caramel eyes barged into the café and screeched to a halt next to their table. His shoulder-length brown hair was wet, water dripping to his face. "I'm sorry I'm late," he gasped as he bent down to regain his breath.
"It's okay. We can still watch the performance," Kanmuri stood up and placed his hand on the man's face, wiping the water off his fringe tenderly, "I know your habit, so I purposely told you a timing that's 2 hours earlier than the supposed time."
"Shigeru!" the brunet pouted, "Don't you trust me?"
"Well," the pink-haired man tilted his head and pretended to ponder the question. "I don't," he finally said with a smile, "You're always late."
"Hidoi (cruel)," the brunet murmured, and placed his forehead on Kanmuri's shoulder, "I'm hurt," he cried mockingly.
"Ssh," Kanmuri played along and patted the man's back, "If you want me to trust you, you can start by always being on time."
Chiba stood up awkwardly. "Ano…"
The brunet noticed him and extracted himself from Kanmuri. "Shigeru, who's this man? Are you cheating on me?" He exclaimed, aghast.
"Chigau desu yo (It can't be)!" Kanmuri whacked him in the head before turning to the grim reaper. "Chiba-san, let me introduce to you my lover, Azuma Kazuma. Kazuma, this is Chiba-san. I met him when I was waiting for you. He was sheltering from the rain and there was no other empty table in the café."
"Oh!" Azuma turned to the Shinigami and grinned, "Azuma Kazuma ja! Hajimemashite!"
Chiba was surprised. "Your lover is…a man?"
In an instance, there was a guarded expression on Kanmuri's face. "Is that a problem to you?"
"No…" Chiba shook his head. "The era really changes so fast," he muttered to himself.
"I almost forgot!" Azuma said suddenly and turned to his boyfriend. "Tsukino phoned me just now. She is unable to watch the performance. There are extra preparations to be made for the launching of the new bread."
"Really?" Kanmuri sighed and took out thee tickets from the pocket on his white shirt. "Zannen desu ne (That's a pity)…now we have 1 extra ticket…"
Unexpectedly, Azuma turned to Chiba. "Would you like to watch the performance instead?"
Both Kanmuri and Chiba were surprised. "Me?" the grim reaper repeated, confused, while Kanmuri murmured, "I see." He turned to Chiba as well. "It's a famous musical. May be you've heard it before…The Phantom of the Opera."
Chiba's ears perked up at the word. "Music?" he asked.
The pale baker nodded.
"I like music," Chiba's lips curled up; the grin was so large it split his face to two. "Okay, then, I'll go."
The three men exited the café and traveled to the theatre via subway. The whole time, Chiba was observing the interaction between Kanmuri and Azuma; undoubtedly, they loved each other, if the touches and hugs were of any indication. Some of the passerby were looking at them and whispering furiously, but the couple paid them no mind. There was comfort in their gestures, in their smiles; they were two people who had known each other for a long time. Azuma would certainly be devastated if Kanmuri were to…
Afterwards, Chiba watched the musical with all his attention; everything else seemed to cease to exist. One person captured him the most, the Phantom's lover, Catherine. The girl was, like Kazue Fujiki, plain, but with the make-up, the costume, and her golden, breathtaking voice, she was someone else, she was a star, she sang her emotions out loud, presenting the audience with longing, loneliness, desperation, confusion, love.
Call him biased, but if Chiba were ever to judge this actress, he will suspend her straight away.
After the last song was sung, and the actors came out for curtain call, the audience got up to their feet and clapped. Some of them roared, "Encore, encore!" A few screamed, "I love you, Tsutsumi Harumi!" Many threw flowers to the stage.
"Harumi no koe wa hontou ni tsubarashi ja ne (Harumi's voice is really something)," Azuma stated in a daze as all three of them exited the performing hall. Kanmuri assented, "Nan te suteki na Catherine (What a wonderful Catherine)."
"Watashi mo sou omou desu (I agree)," a male voice said, and the three of them turned to find a tall, grey-haired man with pale green eyes in a black suit standing by the railing, a bouquet of flowers in his arms.
"Tsutsumi-san!" Kanmuri said, surprised, and approached the older man, "You're here!"
"I always watch my wife's performances," he replied proudly as he smiled, "each and every one of them."
Next to man, a little girl shuffled her Mary-Jane-clad feet and hid herself behind the man's legs. Kanmuri bent down and observed the girl. "Tsutsumi-san, kanojo wa (she is)…"
Tsutsumi nodded. "Mitsuki-chan, don't hide. Say hello to your uncle." He pulled her to his front.
The girl was about 4 years old, and she was tremendously cute. She had her mother's plump, fair face and black hair, and her father's pale green eyes. "Konnichiwa, Shigeru-nii-san," she said in a small voice, her cheeks blushing.
"Oh, she's so cute!" Azuma commented as he joined his lover, "Hi, Mitsuki-chan! I'm Kazuma-nii-chan!" he grinned and shook the girl's hand.
The girl laughed at Azuma, but there was a wistful expression on Kanmuri's face. "Kodomo…ka (children…eh)?" he whispered.
After a moment of small talks, Tsutsumi and Mitsuki excused themselves to meet Harumi backstage, and Azuma, Kanmuri and Chiba continued walking out of the theatre in silence. "Ne, Shigeru," Azuma said suddenly, "If you want, we can adopt a child."
It was so out of the blue, so unexpected of Azuma Kanmuri was rendered momentarily speechless. "W-what? How did you even get that notion?" he bombarded as soon as he got back his voice, which was on the brink of waving him bon voyage at the horizon, "We are bakers! We need to continue improving our recipes to invent Ja-pan! There is no time for a child!"
"Anything is possible, as long as you will it!" Azuma retorted optimistically, and his hand reached out to stroke Kanmuri's face gently, "Besides, I know you want a child. You've been looking at Monica and Kai's brat with longing in your eyes."
"Kazuma…" Kanmuri breathed softly, his eyes glassy, before mashing their mouths together right there and then, at the lobby of the building. At first it was only lips on lips, but Kanmuri plunged his tongue inside his lover's mouth and the kiss turned into a passionate dance, hands caressing hair and winding around each other's back. It got so heated Chiba, who were blushing, turned his back on them and covered them from the public. "Please carry on," he said awkwardly to a middle-aged woman who stared at the two kissing young men with bulging eyes.
Eventually, as Azuma started sneaking his hand under Kanmuri's shirt, Chiba cleared his throat loudly. The pink-haired man opened his eyes in shock, and jumped out of the embrace. "I'm sorry," he gasped, out of breath, his face pink from both embarrassment and extortion.
"It's okay," Chiba pulled his umbrella out of the plastic holder and opened it up. "Thank you for letting me watch the performance and try the bread. It was really delicious," he said as he stepped onto the road, and smiled to the young couple.
"Thank you for going with us, Chiba-san," Kanmuri smiled back, and Azuma waved, "Please visit our Pantasia store in Southern Tokyo!"
Chiba waved back, before he disappeared in the rain, and eventually, back to the world he was from.
He was walking down the empty railroad in his black suit when the dog finally walked next to him. 'That was a quick decision you made,' it commented, before asking, 'why did you suspend?'
The grim reaper had a small smile on his face. "He has a dream, and a magnificent life."
A life he himself wishes to lead, if it's ever possible.
A/N2: if you still don't get it, Chiba is a Shinigami, who came to judge whether Kanmuri should die soon/proceed, or not/suspend. Normally, Chiba can take up to 7 days before coming to a conclusion.