Coup D'Etat

Coup D'Etat

Ch. 1

'This shift of's becoming a lot more prominent. Funny, only I seem to notice it. Not even Sanae...then again, it's my job to notice these things. And how can I deny what's becoming so painfully obvious? Perhaps a ... hiatus is in order, as Sanae much as I hate to admit it, he's probably right. Getting out of the limelight for awhile may be the best move on the chessboard right now.'

Pushing all his disgruntled thoughts aside, the lanky silveret continued down the quiet backstreet of Shibuya. He had remembered, vaguely, where his destination was from prior discussions, but he had seriously doubted he would ever need to go there. 'Things change, I suppose. Oh well '.

The teenage-looking male continued walking, feet dragging slowly along the sidewalk. Pale violet hues stared ahead at the setting sun and then towards a small brown house nestled against grey ones. Equally pale lips curled up into a grin as his pace hurried slightly, towards the prior-stated building.

The male trekked up the small stoop and lingered at the front door. Calculating eyes swarmed over it before, with a poised smirk, he reached out and knocked twice, willing himself to remain as nonchalant as ever.

Neku had been in the middle of undressing for bed when the knocking sounded. Frowning, he glanced at the digital clock perched on his small bedside table and reconfirmed the time as far too late at night for visitors. He almost dismissed the knocking as his imagination but an eerie prickling on the back of his neck gave him the feeling that he would regret it if he neglected to answer the door.

But that didn't mean he wouldn't take this time. Sluggishly, he finished buttoning up his pajama top and trudged downstairs, flicking on the lights in the hall as he muffled a yawn. His father was, as usual, irresponsibly absent. Neku then unlocked the front door and swung it open.

It was only after that his eyes adjusted to the sudden darkness and took in the familiar visage of his (much hated) former partner, haloed by the neon glow of Shibuya, did he regret not having checked who his guest was.

He slammed the door shut.

Joshua had barely the chance to part his lips to offer a snide greeting before his vision of Neku was lost. Smirking lips fell instantly into a frown. His eyebrows knitted together as the Composer childishly folded his arms to his chest, eying the door with much disdain. "My my, you haven't changed a bit," he called out, absently licking his lips.

On the other side, Neku's heart was beating like a drum. The entire situation was far too surreal. It had been weeks after the final Game and there had been no hint of Joshua ever popping up again and he had began to repress his memory of him, trying to forget how he looked or sounded like.

Neku almost convinced himself that he had fallen asleep while changing and the pale figment of his imagination behind his door was just that, a figment of his imagination. But that was just wishful thinking. He called back furiously, stubbornly not wanting to talk face to face just yet, "and unfortunately, neither have you! You can't just barge in people's houses whenever you feel like it!"

Joshua inwardly, and outwardly, smirked widely at that. "So rude, Neku. Slamming the door in a guest's face and then hollering at them? Have you no manners, still?"

The silveret sighed and glanced over his shoulder back at the darkening streets of Shibuya. His gaze traveled up and down the deserted streets, body tensing slightly. It was unsafe and unwise for him to be out and alone on the streets after what had happened the night prior. With a determined scoff under his breath, Joshua turned back to the door. "Neku, stop being a brat and open this door before I kindly open it myself. And I don't think you'd like to see your front door busted, would you?"

Neku was tempted to just leave the Composer out on the cold streets, but he wouldn't put it pass him to throw a tantrum and demolish the entire street, let alone the poor front door. He propped it back open and stood squarely in front of the other boy, arms crossed at his chest and not budging an inch. "Well, what do you want?" he asked, affecting a bored tone, "Spit it out so I can go back to bed. Like any other sane person at this hour."

"Sane? When have you ever been sane?" Joshua questioned amusedly as he brought his hand through his hair, gaze never leaving the other. "Well, aren't you going to invite me in?" he wondered, avoiding the question as to what he wanted entirely. "It's common courtesy, after all."

Neku's body language practically radiated inhospitality. "Just tell me what you want and go away," he demanded and made as if he was going to shut the door if Joshua's reply was not to his liking. "I'm not in the mood for one of your games, Joshua!"

"Tsk tsk, getting mad at me already?" Joshua teased as he promptly glanced down at his nail, inspecting a nonexistent piece of dust beneath it. After a moment, he dully looked back up to Neku. "I'll tell you once I get comfortable. You owe me that much, my proxy," he stated coolly.

The orange-haired boy could only flinch at the unpleasant connotations that word had brought up. "...fine," he acquiesced with reluctance. Glaring hard at the unwelcome intrusion into his normal life, Neku opened the door a little wider and stepped to the side and bit down hard on his teeth to avoid taking back the invitation.

Joshua grinned complacently as he entered the house, doing a quick, inaudible scan. "Hm...Looks decent enough," he mused out loud to himself before turning back to look at Neku. "Where's your living room? Do you have one?"

Neku slammed the door shut in response, and looked disappointed that Joshua had entered too fast for him to catch him with it. He took a steadying breath and silently led the way down the hall, not trusting himself enough to speak with civility.

Joshua giggled quietly, and rather fondly, behind his hand as he followed the other, his free hand nestled deep in his pocket. "Did I catch you in the middle of something, Neku? You seem awfully distracted," he wondered, words trailing off as if he really didn't care about the answer.

"What part of, 'so I can go back to bed', don't you understand?" Neku groused out. He entered a darkened room and groped blindly at the wall before flicking on the light switch, almost tripping over a stool that he had forgotten he had left tipped over. Fatigued from a long day, he directed all his remaining energy into a ferocious glare. "Ok. Talk. The sooner you're done the sooner you can get the hell out of my life again."

Joshua snickered at the other teen's behavior before casually taking a seat on the couch. He relaxed, letting his tense arm slacken a bit. His left fingers came across his body to gently rub at the sore muscles on the right, and then fell away when his gaze redirected itself back to his 'host'.

"Need a place to...relax for a few days. A Composer's work is never done, but I feel the need to go on a small sabbatical, ease my woes, to say the least. And who else can I come to? You'll always be my proxy" the silveret explained, the last bit being sarcastic and pathetically cheesy.

Neku raised a skeptical eyebrow and raked a hand through his bangs. "Right," he scoffed, "after what was it... almost half a year without a word from you and then you just pop up one night for a vacation? Forgive me if I don't fucking believe you." He scrutinized the boy who was making himself at home with assessing eyes, and noticed a strange stiffness that the Composer was holding himself with. Something that was deeply at odds with the careless grace that he remembered.

Joshua swiftly rolled his eyes and rested his head back against the couch. "What could I gain from lying to you in the RG, Neku?" he asked politely and stared up at the ceilings, silver bangs framing his refined facial features in the dim light.

Neku huffed, arms once again crossed. His legs were beginning to get tired but he preferred to stay standing in case he had to make a run for it. "Unless you're still holding back some of my memory, I remember that you never do anything without a motive," he said, deadpan. "So, are you going to tell me what the hell's wrong with your arm?" It appeared that three weeks in the Game had done much for his observational skills.

Joshua paused, noticeably frigid for a moment. His calculating gaze flickered to something distant, human, and then reverted back to that empty and sarcastic stare he was used to giving.

"My arm? It's still attached, isn't it? That means it isn't that big of a deal, hm?" the Composer responded calmly, though there was an undertone of gloominess beneath the pile of insouciance.

The former Player narrowed his eyes at the obvious attempt at diversion. He detected that Joshua's already pale complexion was bordering on unhealthiness. "Cut the crap," he insisted, "what are you doing here? You're obviously injured."

"I told you, Neku," Joshua reiterated and waved his good hand offhandedly, eyes absently looking to the right. "It's nothing too severe. I just came here to see if I could find a place away from the game for a bit."

Neku refused to give him an inch, slightly relishing that he had for once gained the upper hand in the argument. "I thought that if the Composer left the UG, it'll fall apart," he pointed out ruthlessly, "and the last time you came into the RG, you were playing a game to destroy it! Not to mention you killed me. I seriously doubt it's 'nothing too severe'."

Joshua chuckled emptily and shook his head, hunching his shoulders indifferently, though it was quite obvious something was irritating him. "My temporary Conductor has the UG under control, as well as Mr. H, so don't worry. Besides," his gaze fixated itself onto the other, "of what concern is it to you that I am injured? Shouldn't you be elated that your killer might possibly be suffering?" His brow quirked expectantly.

For some reason, the implication that Neku would delight in Joshua's suffering bothered him. "Don't confuse yourself with me," he scowled. There was a big difference in wanting to punch the smug bastard's face in and truly wanting to see him in distress. Though, he pondered as he carefully looked over Joshua's appearance once, it seemed like the smugness had evaporated. A bit of guilt poked at his insides and Neku sighed, taking a seat next to the Composer as a gesture of goodwill. Though he was careful to put a large gap between them. "...your temporary Conductor?"

Joshua closed his eyes by this point, humming a soft tune under his breath as he twirled a strand of hair around on his finger. "Yes, I managed to convince Kariya to take the job until I can find a suitable one," he answered plainly.

Neku remembered the orange-haired Reaper with an oral fixation almost all too well. "Lollipop, huh? Why isn't he your permanent Conductor?" With a slight pang, he recalled what he had done to Shades. Him and Joshua must have been friends. Another yawn threatened to rise to the surface and his eyes had begun to droop. He rubbed them, irritated.

Joshua shook his head. "He's strong and talented, that I can agree with Sanae on. But he isn't cut out to be a Conductor. A Gamemaster, probably. Definitely more than what he was before." He shrugged and kept his eyes closed.

"Oh. I wonder how Pinky's taking it," Neku said, halfheartedly, glancing at the clock with more and more frequency. It was really way too late for this. Shifting his eyes back to Joshua, he inferred that the other probably agreed. He stood up. "Fine, I'm not going to kick you out tonight. You can," here he paused to cover a yawn, "sleep on the couch." He stumbled to the door in search for extra blankets, ingrained politeness not allowing him to do otherwise.

Joshua cracked open an eye and stared at him. A smirk reappeared on his previously stoic lips. "You're too sweet, Neku," he hummed and shifted so that he could lay lengthwise on the couch, head propped up on the armrest with a satisfied noise.

Neku muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath at the endearment and left the room. He reemerged a few minutes later from the storage room with slightly dusty blankets rolled under his arm. "Here," he offered, as he shoved the bundle onto the reclining boy's stomach. He turned to leave. "Keep in mind that if you're still here in the morning, you're going to give me answers."

Joshua shifted some on the couch, wrapping the blankets around his exhausted body. His gaze followed the orangey brunet, shimmering furtively all the while. "If that's the case, then I do suggest you prepare yourself tonight for those answers."

Neku paused, one hand on the doorframe. He looked back one more time at the most confusing person he had ever known. "Good night," he said, and turned off the lights, casting the room in shadows once again.


Joshua had slept many places in both his afterlife and actual life, but none had been quite like this. Neku's couch say the least, uncomfortable. The material was scratchy, the blankets were anything but comforting, and that annoying clock in the corner of the room that kept ticking loudly was getting on his last nerve. Of course, even with the annoyances, Joshua had managed to pass out for the night and get a good eight hours in before he stirred awake the next morning, pulling the bothersome blankets over his head. Damn sun. The couch just had to face the windows. It just had to.

"This is no way for the Composer to be treated," he remarked drowsily under his breath, groaning in frustration as he shifted to turn his back to the sun, nose brushing against the back of the couch.

His arm was still sore, to which was no real surprise. The silveret sighed fretfully again and remained laying there, knowing full well that sleep would not overtake him again until the next night.

All of a sudden, the loud sound of a door being forced open filled the room, closely followed by heavy footsteps that echoed increasingly loudly in the hallway.

Joshua groaned. "Neku, can you be a bit quieter? Normal people are trying to sleep in here," he muttered groggily, even more irritable than usual.

The footsteps paused, directly in front of the living room. The doorknob was juggled before the door swung open. But the person who entered was most decidedly, not Neku. Middle-aged and wearing a rumpled grey suit, unfamiliar, narrow blue eyes blinked at him in perplexity. "... who are you?" he demanded.

Joshua jolted up, clutching the blankets around him in a similar fashion to a female who had just been caught sleeping with another man. His pale eyes adjusted to the brightness and the shock after a moment and returned to their normal ambiguous luster. Father, perhaps...?

"Yoshiya Kiryu, sir," he answered at once, silver hair messier than usual.

"Yoshiya Kiryu...?" Neku's father rolled the unfamiliar name around his tongue as if testing how it sounded. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure...? You must be one of Neku's friends, correct? Though I don't remember him ever mentioning you..." The man set down his briefcase, still looking like the world had turned on its axis without him realizing.

"...I prefer him and others to call me, Joshua, sir," the silveret added on, inspecting the man rather curiously. "And...yes, you could say that I'm a 'friend' of his."

The man was looked to be in his mid to late forties. His hair, which Neku hadn't inherited, was a darker color and nearly as messy as Joshua's currently was. He was wearing a polite, if not friendly, smile that was just the slightest bit tinged in astonishment and overall, looked like he had fallen asleep in the office and had rushed home in a hurry.

"Then you must be a very good friend of his since Neku never invites his friends for sleepovers!" he chuckled. Then, as if something had just dawned on him, the humor evaporated and he stared at Joshua severely. "So," he said, eyes obscured by an ominous glint of his glasses, "Joshua, you slept all night on that couch, did you?"

Joshua bit his bottom lip, rather surprised at this man's change of moods. Wow, he was worse than Neku, that was a first. "Er...yes, sir. I apologize if I intruded," he stated, apprehensively still chewing on the inside of his lip.

The man's face betrayed none of his thoughts. "I... see," he intoned, in a way that seemed to promise doom.

Joshua gulped and averted his gaze. "Is Neku awake, do you know?"

The Composer's answer brought a slight maniacal grin onto the strange man's face. "Oh no, Neku doesn't usually wake until much later," he answered. "Why don't I go get him for you?"

"If he's asleep, that's fine," Joshua mused and ran his fingers through his knotted hair with a frown.

"No, no," laughed the man, but this time not with any joviality. "I'll go wake him right now!" Then he swiftly turned on his heel and exited.

Silence reigned, broken only by heavy stomping.


There was a loud, strangled scream, followed by a thump. It appeared Neku had finally woken up.

Joshua frowned at the array of noises that resounded throughout the Sakuraba residence. The frown grew deeper as he remained on the couch, blankets pooled around his waist. 'I suppose I know why he is the way he is…'


Neku grumpily crammed a piece of toast into his mouth, looking thoroughly chastised. His ear still tingled from where his father had dragged him down the stairs by to apologize to his "saint-like friend who was forced to put up with his rudeness". He gave said 'friend' a rueful glare of misery, feeling utterly disgraced. The only redeeming feature of the morning was that his father had to leave again for an early meeting and had only returned home for a change of clothes.

"Your father is...such the pleasant man, Neku," Joshua stated from across the table once the man had departed, looking to the orangey brunet with a frown. He wasn't really all that hungry and instead settled upon watching Neku eat.

Neku twitched at that. "Sure," he mumbled around his toast. "...'m glad he's not around all that much." He washed his meal with a cup of water, preferring to eat simply in the morning. He proceeded to half-heartedly question the other boy, having slightly deflated from his horrible awakening.

"So," he coughed, "you said you were going to tell me what's happening."

"Do you really want to know, Neku?" Joshua questioned, leaning back against the chair, careful not to further agitate his sore arm.

A scowl. "Of course I would want to know!" Then quieter, almost meekly, Neku added, "You don't have to do everything alone."

Joshua fell silent for a moment and then quickly regained his composure. "To put it simply, Neku, I've...seem to have attracted another crazy person who is intent on wrenching my position from me."

"What?!" Neku had steeled himself for bad news, like another ridiculous bet, but this was something that he hadn't seen coming. "Couldn't you just... zap him with your Composer powers or something?" he blurted out, only to wish he could take it back. It was obvious that if it were possible, Joshua would have already done so. The severity of the situation hit him and he frowned at the floor in contemplative silence. "Who is it this time?"

Joshua began idly messing with his hair again, pretending not to be paying that much attention. "Haven't had the chance to meet him yet, actually. Attacked me while I was inspecting Shibuya in the RG two days ago," he stated slowly.

"You were attacked," repeated Neku slowly and was now sitting at rapt attention, "That explains your arm. What happened? You didn't see him? Some details would be nice."

Joshua snickered to himself. "Aw, you concerned about me, Neku? How kind of you..." He trailed off and decided to continue regardless. "He used a high level psych. Caught me off guard--Players aren't supposed to be able to attack anyone in the RG."

The new information was troubling. "He used a psych. In the RG? Then... then it couldn't have been a Reaper too could it? When Pi-Face followed you here, he had to use a gun, right?"

Joshua inhaled deeply, closing his eyes. He appeared rather troubled. "Psychs were not meant to be used in the RG. That's why you don't see people running around, killing off each other with spells. There are... a few rare cases where someone can use Psychs outside of the game...a modern day magician."

Neku rubbed at his temples tiredly and it was only morning. Well, he thought to himself, he did ask for this, didn't he? The beginning of a horrid migraine was developing. "So," he resigned himself to another completely unwanted adventure, "how am I going to help you?"

"I wasn't asking for your help, Neku," Joshua pointed out rather sing-songy. He opened his eyes and observed the other, violet hues twinkling. "I just needed to put myself out of the UG--the danger-zone, if you will, until Sanae can contact me and explain further what's going on."

Neku twitched, his headache suddenly getting a lot worse. "Forget I asked then!" he snarled. He abruptly pushed away from the table and began to stalk away. "You can stay here, but I'm leaving!"

Joshua blinked in utter surprise. "I thought you'd be rather...glad that I wasn't involving you in the UG again, Neku."

Neku stopped short, suddenly wondering why he was angry. That was what he wanted right? To live a normal life with Shiki, Beat and Rhyme and not having to worry about being killed by mutant elephants. "...the two of us," he started then stopped. He sighed again. "We were partners, right?" Neku flushed at the sappy words that were escaping his mouth.

Joshua gracefully stood from the table and glided over to where Neku was, footsteps barely being heard. "Then I appreciate your concern," the silveret stated smoothly and surveyed the other's face for a moment. "I'm not sure how you can help yet, but I assure you the reassurance is more than enough for now."

"Y-Yeah, ok." Neku swallowed thickly. He looked over the Composer again and noted that he was looking a bit better than he had yesterday. "We should look at your arm."

"The injury isn't on the visible level," the Composer explained and shrugged indifferently. "There are some aspects of it that are similar to a RG injury, but for the most part..." He licked his lips uneasily and proceeded to state uncaringly, "it's been cursed. The only way to fully lift off its negative effects is a psych. Which one, I'm not sure yet."

Oh. OH. Neku blinked rapidly. Cursed? Great, why couldn't things ever be simple? "Cursed?" he asked uneasily. "Cursed how?"

"Surely you saw a psych similar during your three weeks," Joshua reasoned and sat back down, resting in the chair. "The psych inflicts a negative effect onto whoever receives it. Usually, in UG terms, the effect fades. However, considering this was used in the only assumption is that the cure would be a healing psych."

Neku absorbed the information carefully. Joshua's arm must really be bothering him as he wasn't able to hide his discomfiture. "Okay," he said, "I guess now we should lay low for now and wait for Mr. H." Then he frowned. "Should you... you know, be able to heal it yourself?"

Joshua didn't answer right away, eyes shutting. He then chuckled faintly, almost pathetically. "I would have already done such. I'm not one to enjoy pain and suffering. It was a powerful psych."

"Right," said Neku, for lack of anything better to say. He struggled to find something else to talk about, anything to stop the feeling of incredible wrongness at seeing Joshua look so powerless from spreading. "I... nothing's going to happen to you." He faltered slightly, but then corrected in a much stronger voice, "I won't let anything happen to you." His eyes narrowed and burned with determination.

Belatedly, Neku realized that he had sounded quite a bit like a Shounen hero.

Joshua had caught on to how ridiculous that had just sounded. His eyes snapped open and he surveyed his ex-partner for a moment before bursting out in giggles, hand flying up to cover his mouth. "Oh Neku, I always knew you'd be my knight in shining armor. Now, considering we're already in your castle, woo me and have your way with me."

Fuming as he turned beet red, Neku turned away, shaking with embarrassment. "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself, you bastard," he said to his sock-clad feet.

"Hm?" Joshua tilted his head, letting his bangs fall in his face. "Not going to push me against a wall and have your way with me, Neku?"

"Gahh!!" Neku groaned plaintively, gripping his hair in frustration. "I wish you'd stop doing that." Aspirin, aspirin, aspirin.

Joshua sniggered. "Fine, I'll stop," he reasoned and waved his hand dismissively. "Besides, I'd be the one having my way with you, Neku."

"Right," Neku twitched, "whatever." It was just no use arguing with him after all. Times like this was when Neku wondered why he ever bothered to care.

"If you'd come closer, I'd gladly show you how I could achieve such," the silveret added on, eyes flickering mischievously--anything to keep his mind off the imminent danger that loomed over him and Shibuya.

"No, no and no. No thank you," replied Neku who was now rummaging around the cupboards in search for a headache cure. "I want to stay unmolested."

"It wouldn't be molestation. You'd like it. You'd probably blush and gasp in that oh so adorable tone of yours and beg for more," Joshua hummed and traced the grain of the wood of the kitchen table.

"I think I'll pass," Neku dismissed. He popped the pills into his mouth, poured himself a glass of water and downed it. Instant headache relief, his ass. Damn liars.

Joshua sighed histrionically and closed his eyes once more. "Whatever you say, Neku"


Kariya ran a hand distractedly through his hair, but was still mindful enough not to mess it up. It took far too much effort to take care off, he decided. Maybe he should think about trimming it shorter...? He exhaled loudly, the bean paste in his mouth almost falling out. He propped his feet up onto the Conductor's desk in the Death God's Pad, scattering a couple of thick and unimportant stacks of reports penned by some overachieving support Reaper. Really now, this was exactly why he hadn't wanted to get promoted. It was just so tedious.

Inwardly, he sent a brief prayer to the higher ups for the entire mess to be settled so that the Composer could come back and give his temporary job to someone else. And also for poor mislead Uzuki to never have to suffer this ennui.

All seemed to be quiet this particular day, if one wasn't counting the plethora of written reports. At least nothing had been blown up or destroyed yet, and that was exceptional considering the Composer had fled the UG for the time-being. Of course, all good things are short-lived--especially relaxation.

"Yo, Conductor-sir!" a voice boomed through the expansive room as a tall form appeared, Rea per wings outstretched and yellow, spiky hair tussled more than usual. "We've got mega problems out on the field."

Kariya disappointedly removed his feet from the desk, dislodging a couple more reports. "I expected as much." He gestured for the Reaper to come closer. The room was ridiculously big. "What is it, 777? And please don't get into the habit of calling me that. It makes it sound permanent."

777 scratched the back of his neck and stepped forward, wings still out. "The Noise, sir. It's been attacking Reapers at random. Something's off balance. Can even feel it in my music, sir." His eyebrows furrowed. "Something's tampering with Shibuya's soul, and ultimately the music of the town."

The temporary Conductor rubbed circles against his temples. That was certainly a mega problem. Damnit, just when they were so short on staff. "Have all the Reapers including the ones off-duty alerted and mobilized," he commanded, shifting so fast into business-mode that one had to blink. "We need to put Shibuya in lock down. Get the Support Reapers set up walls and close off the Routes."

"I'm on it, sir!" 777 chirped, almost slipping into his singing voice. He gave a salute and headed back towards the door he came from, but not before turning back around to face his superior. "Oh, right! Uzuki said she wanted to meet you later, at the usual, for the usual." He scratched the back of his head once more. "Whatev' that means." A shrug and then he vanished into the depths of the UG.

Kariya blinked slowly after the Def March singer had disappeared, feeling a sense of dread creep up. "Uzuki... I haven't seen her since I got this job. She's going to be mad, isn't she?"


"Neku, your house is so boring," the Composer complained as he eyed his now exposed arm, cuts, scrapes, and bruises and all. He never would have guessed that his ex-proxy would be so persistent to see the injury. Oh well, perhaps surprises were for the better. Regardless, the silveret reclined on the couch, continuing to eye his arm with a frown. Looked as horrible as it did two days prior.

Though he knew there wasn't anything he could actually do to cure Joshua's injury, Neku couldn't live with his conscience if he didn't at least treat the superficial wounds. With careful fingers, he spread a salve on some of the nastier looking bruises, trying hard not to aggravate the healing scabs. He unfurled a roll of bandages and began the slow process of wrapping up the Composer's arm. "Why didn't you let me look at this yesterday?" he scolded.

Joshua rolled his eyes. "Need I remind you that you were fussy?" the silveret hummed, wincing slightly as the bandage brushed against one of the more sensitive areas. He did well to cover up the wince, though, with a forced snicker.

Neku, feeling another pang of guilt, flinched slightly at the reminder and accidentally pulled a bit too hard. "Shit! ...I'm... Sorry," he sighed, though whether he was apologizing for the previous night or for his roughness he didn't clarify.

Joshua winced again and frowned deeply. "Neku, it's not that hard of a procedure. A Wall Reaper could do it, for heaven's sake," he murmured and relaxed once again, eyes shutting pleasantly

The orange-haired boy continued the bandaging in silence, not feeling up to taking offense. He finished his work, neatly tying the loose ends together and sat back. Hesitantly, he inquired, "Is that better?"

Joshua scrunched his nose slightly and lifted his arm, testing it for a few moments. "Oh, I suppose it'll have to do," he stated calmly and flicked his gaze over to the boy, his eyes shimmering with gratitude.

Neku blinked at the display, not entirely used to being thanked by the other boy with only a little hint at sarcasm. He averted his eyes. "I apologize if you had expected a bang up job. I don't get into the habit of getting myself grievously injured."

Joshua hummed to himself and then paused, looking a bit unnerved. "...Something's happening in the UG," he murmured to himself, his good hand reaching up to rest on his forehead. "Damnit..."

The almost comfortable ambience that had settled in the room dispersed. Neku bit his bottom lip in worry. "Maybe we should go to Wildkat and see Mr. H," he suggested tentatively, "You'll probably be safer there, too." He had tried calling earlier but the line had been infuriatingly busy.

"...I may have to go against his wishes and check up with Kariya in the UG. I shouldn't be able to feel such a strong imbalance in the RG," the Composer grumbled and sat up, still looking worse for wear.

"Wait, you're not planning on going back to the UG now, right?" Neku almost leapt out of his seat. "You know that whoever got you is still out there!"

Joshua arched a brow at Neku's reaction. "Worried about me, Neku?" he teased, reaching out to brush the tips of his fingers along the left side of his host's jaw.

Neku agitatedly brushed the fingers aside, not in the mood for teasing, "Yes! Of course I'm worried! I already said that we were partners." The headache from the morning still hadn't faded. "Besides," he added, "if something's got you so uneasy, it's bound to be bad news for everyone else in Shibuya."

Joshua tapped his own fingers under his chin for a moment, appearing contemplative. "Hm... all right, then. We'll do as you planned: Go see Mr. H and figure out what's going on."

"That's good." Neku visibly relaxed. "Mr. H would definitely know what's going on."

Joshua nodded in subtle agreement before reaching out to take the other boy's wrist. "Lead the way, my guardian."