It had been a vicious practice. Okada was displeased with the national team after a horrendous practice on Tuesday, and they had paid the price today. Nakatsu mopped his brow with a towel, leaning back in his locker. Around him everyone was dragging their feet. The last practice they had worked so hard was following their loss to Bahrain in March. Because a few teammates had complained of being tired, Okada was worried that his team was getting complacent. As payment they had run the field more times than ever would be necessary in a game, and then done their long weights routine. Nakatsu wasn't sure he would ever move again.
It didn't make it easier that for the passed few days he had been trying to help Mizuki. On Monday he had spent his day off from practice running around picking things up and dropping off paper work. The Japanese government liked keeping track of people on work visas, and would not be pleased to find she had moved without informing them. The one thing that seemed to be keeping her stable was the job.
On Tuesday he had joined her and a student at the noodle shop. Mizuki had taken to eating there because it wasn't far from her apartment, and more importantly, she could afford it. The girl had been sweet, and somewhat awestruck to meet him. It wasn't everyday she met someone who was in the tabloids. Nakatsu thought that was probably a good thing.
Today he had promised he would run a few more errands for her, but as he tried to push himself up from his bench, he found he still couldn't move. Leaning back again he yawned. He didn't realize how tired he had been all day. Taking a long breath, he forced himself up. His teammates marveled at his energy.
Gradually he changed into street clothes. He placed everything neatly in his locker, not wanting to anger Okada into another vicious practice. While everyone else was still trying to coax themselves into moving, Nakatsu was headed out of the stadium.
He slumped his shoulders upon arriving at the bus stop. The bus he needed was half an hour away, and the subway would be about the same amount of time with walk included. The walk was really the deciding factor. He wouldn't get to his destination any faster, and one method meant he could sit for an extended period. Sitting had to win today. He sat on the bench between an elderly woman, and a group of teenage girls chattering. None of them seemed to recognize him, which he attributed to disinterest in sports and the bags under his eyes. He pulled out his headphones and turned on his music, leaning his head against the cool glass, and resting his eyes.
The middle of June meant the summer heat was in full swing, and just sitting he could feel a bead of sweat collecting on his brow. The beat thumped through his brain, and he could feel an energy filling him. He was angry. Nakatsu was very angry. His eyes popped open as it coursed through his veins. It was hot and red, and he launched up, startling the women around him.
He looked at the bus map, adjusting his planned trajectory. Seeing that this stop would not take him to his new destination, he stomped along the sidewalk toward the subway station.
During their conversations, Mizuki had let slip where Kagurazaka's place was, and Nakatsu had taken a mental note of it. He wasn't sure exactly what he would do, but he knew he had to do something. She had cried on his shoulder for almost 15 minutes before she composed herself again the first day he had visited.
The anger was propelling him forward, and getting to the subway took less time than he had expected. The pain from the movements only served as fuel. Nakatsu was on a mission. He hunted for the train that would take him into Kagurazaka's neighborhood. Believing that sitting would affect his motivation, he paced along the platform waiting for it to arrive.
The platform echoed with the arriving train, and after the majority of the passengers had shuffled off, he followed those shuffling on. Standing close to the door, he draped his arm through a strap hanging from the ceiling. The train lurched and the walls began passing by in a blur.
Nakatsu thumbed at his phone as the music played, keeping some kind of agitated movement. His glare kept everyone clear of him, until the train was packed, but even then he noticed people weren't pushing against him as much as they usually did. He switched to a second subway about halfway through, and those surrounding him became distinctly refined. The women and men were either in business attire or were more fashionable than anyone had a right to be. Nakatsu felt slightly out of place in his jeans and t-shirt.
They rolled to a stop in the underground, and Nakatsu was the first off the train, despite not being the closest to the doors. He didn't often visit Roppongi, but the few occasions had led him once before to his current destination: the Izumi Garden Tower, and it's neighboring residence. It was somehow not surprising that Kagurazaka called this high-rise home.
It was painful to imagine how expensive the place was. Kagurazaka had clearly earned far too much money from his endorsements. Nakatsu stared at the high-rise apartment building, and felt a little bit of vertigo. He certainly hoped they weren't at the very top.
He glanced at the sign and it struck him that this Izumi was the same character in Sano's. How perfect this place must be for him. Nakatsu puffed in irritation as he headed into the lobby. Inside he sought out the concierge, hoping they might tell him which was Kagurazaka's apartment. As he strode to the desk, he pulled his headphones off his ears.
"Welcome to Izumi Tower, how may I help you?" The man standing at the counter was clearly from the United States, but his Japanese was nearly flawless except for the accent. He was like Mizuki. He also looked over Nakatsu with a judgmental eye, displeased with his apperance. Much less like Mizuki.
"I'm trying to find my friend, who is staying with a resident here." The concierge's face only became more displeased as Nakatsu finished. "His name is Izumi Sano, and he's staying with…" It was an inconvenient moment to realize he didn't remember Kagurazaka's first name. "Kagurazaka, but his first name has slipped my memory."
Mr. Judgey turned to his computer as he swiftly typed in the last name. Nakatsu was thankful that Kagurazaka was not a common last name. "What is the password?"
"Password?" Nakatsu gaped.
"Any person requesting information related to Kagurazaka must go through a password check." He laced his hands together in front of his waist, clearly expecting to dismiss this vagrant within moments.
"Nakatsu?" Sano emerged from the elevator a few feet away, brow furrowed.
His head swiveled toward the source. "Sano." He lifted his hand in a friendly hello. "Well it looks like I don't need your password do I?" He turned away from the concierge with an equal amount of attitude received.
"What are you doing here?" Sano got the impression he asked that question too often when it came to Nakatsu. He hobbled toward him, his ankle stationary inside a boot.
"I need to talk to you Sano." That sounded serious. He supposed that was good, since it was serious.
It was nearly impossible not to frown. "Does it have to be right now? I have somewhere to be." He was actually just headed to a restaurant, but he knew this was going to be a displeasing conversation, and Sano was getting tired of accommodating Nakatsu whenever he happened to appear.
"Yes, it has to be now." The errands Nakatsu had left to run for Mizuki were glaring down at him.
Of course it did. Just get it over with. "Sure then, can we talk over there?" He motioned toward a set of empty chairs looking out onto a terrace. It was also probably a good idea not to show Nakatsu where he was staying. Nakatsu nodded and they sat down in silence. When he had waited about a minute, Sano finally asked, "What do you need to talk to me so urgently about?"
Nakatsu took a deep breath. "What's going on with you and Mizuki?" He met Sano dead in the eyes.
Sano was visibly taken aback. It took him a minute to formulate a sentence. "You know what's going on Nakatsu, not that it's any of your business."
That visibly upset Nakatsu. "It's my business because you're both my friends, and if you haven't noticed, I'm the one who cleans your messes when it come to her." He pointed at Sano's chest insistently.
"And I wonder why that is." He edged forward so that Nakatsu's finger was touching a button on his shirt.
"Because I care whether or not she's happy, BUT since you don't seem to remember, I stepped aside for you Sano. The only thing between us is friendship." That stung a bit to say, but it was true, and Nakatsu refused to be responsible for any tear between the two of them.
Sano leaned back in the chair, lacing his fingers together in the same fashion the concierge had. "Is that all you needed to say."
Red flashed through his eyes. "No, it isn't. Whatever this is Sano, stop playing around with her. You act like you're so selfless and you're lying to yourself." Nakatsu was having difficulty not yelling. "When you found out her secret all those years ago, rather than tell people, you kept it, so that you could keep her to yourself. And don't you dare say you were protecting her. It nearly tore her from her family to stay."
Sano braced the chair, guarding against the barrage. Nakatsu launched out of his chair, and he couldn't hold back the yelling anymore. "So whatever it is you think she did to deserve how you're treating her, why don't you think about what she has SACRIFICED so be with you."
The fury was tempting him to punch his old friend, but he restrained himself and rather stomped off. The entire lobby area was staring as Nakatsu disappeared out the door he had come in. Sano sat in slight shock, not entirely sure what had just happened.
On the street Nakatsu could still feel the rage. He marched down the sidewalk for a few blocks, and when his muscles started to ache again he forced himself to sit on a bench. His legs bounced, slowly spending the excess energy.
Nakatsu was unsure if he could justify still considering Sano a friend. They had really not spent any time together in years, partially due to his absence from Japan and Nakatsu soccer schedule. However there seemed some deeper strain. Sano never looked particularly happy to see him anymore, and Nakatsu had been trying to ignore it.
Sitting quietly he looked up. The remaining irritation drained away and he just sat staring at the sky. He couldn't make the decision yet. It meant saying goodbye to the last of his high school friends. But the choice was coming, whether or not he liked it.
Finally feeling he could accomplish errands Mizuki had asked of him, Nakatsu pushed himself up. Not wanting to tempt another rage filled tirade, he chose a much more soothing genre, and slid his headphones on. Placing his hands into his pockets, Nakatsu headed back to Shinjuku.