Monochromatic depths of velvet night mask faded colors of the scene. Under a pretense of black and white, everything is so blatantly contrasting that the toneless lighting gives this grungy place the prowess of mystery. Under its guise there is a certain truth revealed: the crevasses pervading Toshima foster the plague of sin and addiction, and with the festering corruption reaping lives at the price of tags, every man with strength in this forsaken place serves only himself.

Akira is alone. He is LOST.

His grey eyes stare blankly ahead, nearly concealed by ashen hair that falls before his expressionless face. Arms crossed above his knees, he sits, hunched, against the skeletal wall of what seems to have once been a restaurant; it stands just on the outskirts of the neutral zone, and from where Akira aimlessly gazes, the light filtering through the hotel futilely attempts to penetrate the tangible darkness of Arbitro's dystopian game board.

How long has he been waiting? He couldn't tell.

The sky here is always a leaden shade – the difference from night and day is barely noticeable as multitudes of monotonous clouds threaten to release the world's sorrows upon Toshima. No time is kept here unless Arbitro has an appointment; the only time that is important is the limited moments left to a man's life. No… Time can be judged by the futile screams of the dying or the emergence of hunger in a battered stomach, only to be satiated with Solid or continue in the slow process of starvation.

Akira's personal hell, his haven, his cage… He is bound to Igura by... him... condemned to this place by false transgressions and chained to that man by suffering for atonement.

Another scream pierces the otherwise silent hiatus between distant thunderclaps. The cry of mutilated agony is cut short with another merciless death dealt by that man's blade. He comes ever closer, each footstep provided by his boots against the weathered ground counting down Akira's moments of solitude like the ticking of a clock.

Run… The thought struck Akira with unsettling perversion. He cannot run from his master, for the punishment of abandonment is far greater than submissive obedience.

Akira had been bought by Shiki after it was discovered that he carried fake tags, which were given to him by the police who sent him to this forsaken place; working for the law in a lawless place seems like an idea that had him condemned from the start. Normally Gunji and Kiriwar would have painted the flesh of an Igura cheater crimson with wounds and incisions until their victim was reduced to a putrid corpse festering in congealing blood, yet Arbitro had taken a fancy to Akira beforehand... As did Shiki.

Akira has a debt to pay back for his life… -With his life, for his master. If it could even be called his life anymore. Besides, Akira's situation is better than Kau's, and he can't help but be grateful that Shiki has less… artistic… interests than Arbitro. To be physically mutilated into something subhuman and cared for lovingly, or to be mentally mutilated into something subhuman and be treated roughly...

"Your eyes are most intriguing, Akira," Shiki calls from across the street, amused arrogance lathered in his silky words. The quiet seems to covet Shiki's words, leaving the last syllable hanging in the heavy atmosphere with subtle malice.

Akira glances at him with indifference, remaining quiet.

Shiki approaches with an egotistical smile. Unsheathing his katana, the fresh scent of blood emanating from it like a strong perfume, Shiki places the blade under Akira's chin and says dauntingly, "It makes me wonder what thoughts are behind that expressionless face of yours." He presses the blade slightly into Akira's skin, forcing the youth to look up at him with those beloved, distant eyes of his that Shiki and Arbitro so covet.

The creeping fear of Akira's thudding heart beating audibly through a wall of flesh sends tremors reverberating throughout his body, yet still he remains silent and stares at Shiki with a detached look.

A faint scoff escaping curled lips, Shiki murmurs, "Let me see you beg for your life just once."

Watching intensely, Akira mutters pointedly, "I don't want to."

An inexplicable expression of content washes over Shiki's arrogant features. "Trash always grovels on the roadside, Akira," he responds eerily, sliding the katana back in its sheath.

Again Akira lets silence speak for him, glancing away to observe a small group of lower level Line addicts harassing their careless victim. Shiki is right: only trash lurks on the roads of Toshima, waiting to be killed senselessly by humans sunken to the state of mundane instincts, yet Akira had the aura of a ghost: empty and untouchable. He could coexist with the broken alleyways marring Japan and their inhabitants, yet never fully exist there… Always seemingly so far away, so impassive and lost…

A glint of annoyance flares up in Shiki's eyes when he notices the gruesome scene Akira preferred to admire over his master. "Come," Shiki hisses while turning on his heel, striding in the opposite direction from the meager lynching.

Noting the peculiar gait in Shiki's step that hints of anger, Akira trails behind at a considerable distance.

Beyond the grungy, smog-laden horizon and into the limitless sky, a break in the infinite clouds reveals a crimson moon; the reddened illumination fixates on Shiki's scarlet eyes as he throws a quick glance over his broad shoulders. The damp street highlights the distance between the two under the moonlight, making Shiki's tried temper compel him to close that distance with a couple brisk strides.

"A dog shouldn't stray from its master," Shiki hissed.

Akira gives a slight nod in recognition of Shiki's words, yet he remains motionless, where he stands, and shifts no closer to the other. This time Akira chooses to stare blankly ahead, watching but not seeing as his master grows aggravated.

"Your life is mine," Shiki continues in a menacing, "You are mine." He clenches his hand into a gloved fist at his waist, flexing the agitated muscles in this fingers and palm.

But you're not mine, Akira wished to say, but he thought better of the idea. Shiki was his master and nothing more, nothing less... Akira couldn't wish for such, nor would it ever turn into something apart from pure ownership. Instead he averts his absent gaze to a broken shop window, feeling too guilty to look Shiki in the eyes.

With a faint grunt, Shiki's clenched fist opens into a hand that grabs Akira's neck like a vice; shoving the ashen youth into the shop wall, grating Akira's back against the brick as he lifts him slightly above the ground, Shiki glares at him with an indescribable fury.

"Why do you wait for me when I'm away, yet when you no longer need to wait you pretend I'm still away?" Shiki asked him, the pain in his voice giving an edgy tone not often present in his normally monotone speech.

Akira manages to say through constrained breaths, "Order… Me."

Shiki scoffs, dropping Akira to the floor. Sighing, he calls over his shoulder as he walks away, "That should be in your basic training, no order needed."

And then there is silence, fragmented by the occasional thunderclap or scream, or even by the muted sobs delicately emanating from Akira's crumpled form, where he would stay until Shiki decides to retrieve him once more.


*To be continued*