Fool's mate


"And with that... checkmate."

"Haaa...! I guess it really is! Hihihi~"

Laughing unconcernedly, Amakusa Juuza reclined lazily in his chair, hands behind his back. There was a smug grin on his face, regardless of the fact he had just lost completely, humiliatingly, and in only a handful (even less than that) of moves.

"Damn, you're good at this, old man!"

"Heh. Beating you at this game was so easy it hardly deserves praise," said Okonogi smoothly; ever the polite gentleman, even though, without the gloss to coat his words, his statement equated to the far less grandiose 'you're stupid'. "Don't look so amazed, Juuza; it's making me worry whether you are truly the right man for this job or not."

"Hihi, so cruel," was Amakusa's flippant reply, accompanied by a roll of his eyes, a toss of his head. "Don't worry so much~ Playing chess and taking care of that bad-tempered little lady are two completely different things, you know?"

Okonogi smirked, pressing the tips of his fingers together, elbows resting on his desk.

"Is that so?"

"Yeah, it's so. I'm good at my job, you know? Isn't that why you hired me?"

"Mm... It's more like, I hired you because nobody else would be willing to do something so dangerous. Ushiromiya Ange has made far more enemies than allies in her life, you know. By becoming her bodyguard, you run the risk of incurring the anger of Miss Sumadera- who desperately want to see that sweet little girl tied up in their underground 'tea room', force fed some lovely 'matcha'... ahaha~"

Amakusa couldn't help but laugh at that. Okonogi's words were so transparent, it was obvious even to a self-proclaimed idiot like Amakusa what he meant by his rather sinisterly chosen words.

"Aaah, I see old Lady Sumadera is as hospitable as ever, then?"

"Even more so than usual. The lengths she is prepared to go to, when it comes to arranging a meeting with her 'cute niece', really are quite frightening. I can't help but ponder, if you offer to defend Ange from that charming woman, you could end up beside the little lady in the Sumadera's underground tea house drinking matcha, too..."

Although Okonogi's words held some very dark, rather disturbing connotations, it wasn't enough to make Amakusa worry. In fact, it only made the rash young man snort instead; eyes sparkling with the thought of a challenge, and arms folded at his front.

"Hihihi~ Well, I happen to like forceful women- so something like that doesn't sound so bad, you see? Besides, Lady Sumadera is pretty hot. 'Least, she would be, if she didn't pull so many weird faces… Hihihi."

Another toss of his silver head- and, aah, Amakusa had such a strong urge to rest his feet on Okonogi's desk- but he doubted the older man would appreciate such a thing.

"…Then again," Amakusa reconsidered, after a pause, "the little lady herself is pretty cold and aloof, too... ... ..." Sigh. "Aaah, the only thing I'm worrying about is the night life available to me on this adventure. I can't imagine the little lady is going to do anything- she's waaaay to prim and proper, hihihi~ Not to mention, she's always calling me an idiot…"

"Hm. I always found Ange to be a very astute girl. If she could have seen your earlier performance during our chess match, maybe she would have found some comfort in the knowledge she was right all along…"

Amakusa didn't bother to reply to such a comment. Instead, he just stuck out his tongue instead; prompting Okonogi to smile. Even though Okonogi was his boss, Amakusa was never particularly respectful towards anybody- and, indeed, Okonogi seemed to find his somewhat childish nature refreshing.

Heh. Being stuck in boring business meetings, not to mention trying to push Eva's money around properly and handling the irritable Kasumi, it was no wonder the old man looked so tense all the time. Maybe he was the one who was in real need of some female company.

If they had more time to spare, Amakusa might even have offered the old man a back rub- just out of curiosity, to see whether he'd take him up on the matter.

"Aaah… Well, I'm starting to get a little antsy," said Amakusa; drawing his mind away from thoughts over Okonogi's love life, and back over to his. "I can't stick around with that hot little lady for weeks on end without getting any action at all- I'll go mad."

"Some restraint might actually be healthy for you. Learn to control yourself."

"No wa~aay, I'm not old and boring like you! I'm a young, healthy guy! This is going to be torture, I can tell!"

"Well, you do have hands, you know- and a brain, presumably. If you have an imagination, I fail to see what else you need."

"Aaaah! You're so boring! Such an old man," Amakusa retorted; pouting slightly. "Heh. Compared to that, whatever the wonderful Lady Sumadera can do to me will be a piece of cake! She can do her worst, hihihi~"

And, so saying, Amakusa rolled up his sleeves, and gave Okonogi a peace sign; smirking so widely his white teeth seemed to whine under the harsh lighting of Okonogi's office.

At this, Okonogi couldn't help but laugh.

There was something very relaxing about Juuza's company indeed. The young man seemed to be in love with his own voice, and could talk for a long stretch of time on foolish topics- but his babbling was always relaxing.

Amakusa wasn't such a bad person to have around, really.

That was probably why Ange, although she frequently called him 'stupid', liked spending time with him, too.

"Ah... optimistic as always, I see," said Okonogi. "This is why I like you, Juuza. You really will do anything for money, won't you?"

"Ha. Don't say that- I haven't hit the lows of selling myself for sexual favors just yet."

"Just yet…?"

Amakusa shrugged carelessly, that mischievous smile on his face. "It'd be an experience. A pretty face like mine, I'm sure I'd do well for myself, hihi~ Maybe then I wouldn't need to run around like your errand boy all the time. Aah… but, then again, you might get jea~lous~ I wouldn't want thaaaat~"

"Of course, I would miss your sparkling wit and charisma," said Okonogi, voice laden with sarcasm. "But I assure you, you'll earn more money being my errand boy than being a rent boy."

"Hii… Well, maybe~ But, you know… it's not the money I like about this job so much- but that is very nice, obviously. Maybe I'm just a kid at heart, but... heh. Well, what guy doesn't want to go on adventures?" asked Amakusa lightly. "It's way more fun than sitting around in some office all day pushing pawns around to do your dirty work, riiight?~"

Amakusa's gaze was sharp, just like the edges of broken glass- and Okonogi knew this very pointed glare, coupled with the wide, almost feral, smirk, was intended solely for him.

Even so, that couldn't faze the businessman; and neither did it dissolve his calm. Juuza might have made some pretty cutting comments, but Okonogi was still his employer. He still had more power in this relationship.

Amakusa was the rebellious type who didn't enjoy being controlled by others- or being a 'pawn', as he put it; but the kid was too rash to govern himself properly. He needed to be pushed around a little. Okonogi, who had worked with Amakusa for many years now, and regarded the man as something of a... perhaps not 'friend', but a trustworthy acquaintance, knew this better than anyone.

Come to think of it... given Amakusa's restless nature, and his penchant for forming relationships with people and then breaking them off in a manner of weeks, Okonogi probably knew Amakusa better than anyone, full stop. It wasn't like Amakusa had any family or anything.

Maybe he had a bit of a tragic back story, then.

It never seemed to dampen Amakusa's spirits, though. Okonogi couldn't remember ever seeing that easygoing young man with anything less than a smirk or a smile on his face.

Maybe that was why Amakusa was so dangerous, then. He had no friends and no family; literally nothing to cling to. That was why he was the only one of Okonogi's contacts willing to do a job like this. His life was meaningless. He didn't care whether he lived or died. In fact... maybe that reckless man, who was would do just about anything if it entertained him, was so careless about his own life… he actually found the prospect of dying in a glamorous (or, as Amakusa would've put it, cool) way to be attractive.

It wouldn't surprise Okonogi.

"Well, I hope you have a lot of fun on this 'adventure'," said Okonogi. "However, this isn't a novel or a movie, alright? Don't have a heroic death scene until you've completed your job. After that, you can do whatever the hell you want. You can shoot yourself in the head after you shoot her, for all I care, if you want to create a more 'romantic' story. Just make sure you take care of everything. I'm counting on you, Juuza. Don't screw up."

Amakusa's smile didn't falter.

"Hihihi~ You have such little faith me, sir. I'm wounded. I'll be sure to take care of all your dirty work, o~kay?~ I'll think of your smiling face and I'll be sure to come ri~ight back to your side!~"

Okonogi shook his head, a slightly bemused smile on his face. "Isn't that a line a person like you would use on a woman?"

"Well... probably… … but I could never bring myself to care about any certain, single, special women that much, you know," said Amakusa offhandedly. "Besides… even if Ange wasn't so moody… heh. Well, no, I won't even say it. Any relationship with her would be doomed from the start."

"Mm. I did hear Lady Sumadera saying nothing would give her greater pleasure than cutting off Ange's arms and legs and leaving her bleeding, stumped torso to fester and rot inside her tea room... Ahaha...~ Poor girl. She's not very good at making friends. I pity her, somewhat."

"Haa. Well, maybe I pity her too, just a little- but I'm not going to let any silly sentimentalism ruin your plans. I have known you longer than I have known the little lady, after all- and I don't really want to worry you, hihi~ So I'll be fine. I'll come back just to piss you off some more, okay? I've got no other reason to return, but… heh~ Well, since I'm the only one who knows what you're planning, it'd probably be pretty beneficial for you if I kicked the bucket as well, right after I've dispatched all those troublesome people trying to get Lady Eva's money. So, since I know you don't care about me, and you don't want me back… I'll be super, extra careful, just for you, okay?~"

"Hn… What a negative impression you have of me," said Okonogi gently. "Of course, it would be beneficial if you, too, had… an unfortunate accident on Rokkenjima… … but, although you are too free with your speech, and utterly appalling at chess, I know you're not an idiot. I do have some degree of trust in you. It would be a happy story indeed if at least one person made it off Rokkenjima alive."

"Haaa~ Well, if you want me back so much, maybe seeing an uncharacteristically cute look of overjoyed happiness on your face would be worth it, too~ Hihihi~"

"Don't count on it, Juuza. I don't value your company that much."

"Aaah… an instant retort… How cruel!"

"However, your services have been incredibly useful these past few years. It would be… a shame… if I could no longer rely on you. Nobody else will do these jobs for me. Just you."

"Aaaw, and I wouldn't wanna do these jobs for anybody else, either. I'm flattered you like me so much, really- but, hihi... Stop it, old man, I'm going to blush," said Amakusa, voice laden with sarcasm; that usual smirk on his face. "But if I'm so 'invaluable', I better start getting things set up, right?~ Maybe I should stop wasting time with this scintillating conversation and start making plans."

"Very good. I'll be waiting for your safe return, then."

"Hihi, sure. I'll even come back on a friggin' white pony, if you want."

"That will not be necessary."

"Aaah... suit yourself~" Amakusa mimed disappointment; folding his arms, staring up at the ceiling. "Any girl would be overjoyed to hear that from a handsome guy like me, though… You're a lot harder to crack. Haaa~"

And, with a small sigh and a stretch, Amakusa reluctantly pulled himself out of the plush chair in Okonogi's office (far nicer than the chairs in his own shoddy apartment, god damn it. Rich bastard). He raised his hands above his head, cracking his bones that had gone to sleep during such a prolonged stay in such a comfy chair.

Turning away from Okonogi, he stared out at the cityscape that petered away into the distance; visible through the large glass windows in Okonogi's office. Unsurprisingly, given it was so late, it was dark outside; the buildings speckled with squares of light from their boxy windows, with splashes of bright, artificial orange from car headlamps on the busy roads below.

Huh...

Amakusa wasn't one for getting sentimental. Even though she had been dead for ten years, he only ever referred to his mother as 'that bitch'. However… even a person like himself, who rarely dwelled on his past, and only ever thought of the future, couldn't help but feel somewhat pensive.

When viewed from a distance, this city was kind of pretty. Amakusa was no artist, but even he could appreciate, when he was too far away to clearly witness the garbage and the dirt and the drunken fist fights at three in the morning, it had a strange kind of beauty.

That was when it hit him.

If he screwed up his mission… he would never see this city again.

How tragic.

…Aaah well- it wasn't like there was much he could do about that. Amakusa wasn't one to worry about such trivial things. He didn't want to spend his whole life worrying about when he'd die. He just wanted to enjoy himself. That was probably why, even during his mid thirties, he still looked as youthful as a teenager; and had a tendency of acting like one, too. It was something Okonogi, being an old man himself, seemed to find rather intriguing.

Even so…

Amakusa's brief game of chess with Okonogi had made him think.

If he didn't have his wits about him, he could really get hurt.

Maybe he needed to be more attentive.

It was Okonogi's voice that called Amakusa out of his unusual stupor; and Amakusa was ridiculously grateful for the diversion. He didn't like getting sappy or emotional- it was embarrassing, and only ever seemed to end in vague, hazy spells of depression that didn't let up for a few days; just like rain showers on the inside of his own head.

"Juuza- one moment. I'm less worried about you than I am about you failing, but... heh. Don't fuck up, okay? I don't want you to end up with another fool's mate."

Amakusa didn't turn his head- but he did reply, after a small silence. His voice was softer than usual.

"Hn... ahaha... So considerate."

Of course.

As if that old bastard really cared about his wellbeing. Nobody did, really. He was just a hired mercenary after all; and even though Amakusa had known Okonogi for many years, they were still only business partners.

Yet, sadly enough… that old man was probably the closest thing Amakusa had in his life to a 'friend' at all. Although Amakusa always teased the little lady about being too grumpy ('people won't like you if you don't smile!' 'shut up, idiot'), he wasn't all that dissimilar from Ange himself.

Maybe that was why he sympathized with her so much.

Hn... and, maybe this rather melancholy realization, coupled with his own sudden, unusual nostalgia made Amakusa do it.

He wasn't thinking clearly.

Just as he hadn't been thinking clearly in that game of chess earlier (he wasn't really so stupid he would've gotten a fool's mate if he'd been paying more attention), he wasn't thinking clearly now.

And yet, even so…

Thinking was dull. Amakusa had always been a person who valued actions rather than words.

It still felt right to do it.

It felt right to… … take some sort of memento from this city with him, when he went on his journey with the little lady... and, hihi… at least it made the old man's eyes uncharacteristically widen in surprise for just a few seconds.

That was kind of worth it.

Kind of.

Palms pressed against Okonogi's desk, torso leant across it, the chess set from earlier pushed hastily aside by his impatient fingers so the black queen toppled over, taking two pawns with her- it was sudden, hasty, ill thought out (not thought at all) and rather messy; but that was fitting wasn't it, because everything about Amakusa was messy.

And so it was in that manner that Amakusa, his eyelids fluttering closed like something from a god damn TV drama, captured Okonogi's lips with his own.

His kissed him.

Okonogi tasted of cigarette smoke. Not entirely unpleasant, really. Not so different from kissing a woman- and Amakusa had done that so many times in the past he'd lost count.

It wasn't so different- but it was new enough to be somewhat interesting, at least.

When Amakusa drew back slowly, his eyelids fluttering open once more, he was aware his own cheeks were ever so slightly pinker than usual- though it was such a subtle change it was difficult to notice.

The expression on Okonogi's face, meanwhile…

Aah, it was priceless.

Amakusa had never seen him looking so confused before.

"Juuza? What the hell was-"

"Hihihi~ Nothing, nothing..." said Amakusa softly. "I just thought, this one time... ... haa." A self-deprecating laugh. "I thought it would be nice to have something to return home to for once..."

He sighed; though he was still smiling a very small, unusually abashed smile.

"I get pretty lonely sometimes too, you know."


a/n: Ehehe. I don't really ship this pairing- but I have seen a handful of rather nice fanart for it on pixiv, which inspired me to try and write a little something about it. Amakusa is a lot of fun to write, hihihi~ I hope you like it ^^''

~renahhchen xoxo