Author's Note: Another new story. This one will be a little different. One of my favorite two-part episodes from the anime that was not based of the manga was Goodbye Hard-boiled City (episodes 100 and 101 or Atomic Blackmail for some of my French readers :D ). And yet, as much as I enjoyed the episodes, I always found myself wanting more and with some questions about what might have been going on "off-screen" or in the minds of our favorite characters. Thus, I decided to write a fic that addresses all of those things. Think of it as a "re-imagining" or "expansion" of the episode itself. I hope my readers enjoy the experiment. :)
I do not own City Hunter or any of its characters.
Thank you to everyone who reads/follows/reviews this. It is always appreciated.
-Ippatsu: Ryo's unique counter word for a single round of mokkori. :)
The day had started in a prosaic enough way for Kaori Makimura. After getting up early and making breakfast for herself and Ryo, she was ready to start her normal routine of getting him eat and then looking for work with the ever present possibility of having to hand out flyers.
Today though, as she went through the motions of cooking, Kaori felt oddly out of sorts. Instead of feeling like parts of a comfortable routine, everything from making breakfast to setting the table felt like pieces of an inescapable prison. Each motion seemed to only add to the oppressive feel of the situation. It took a tremendous amount of effort to actually finish the food and put it on the table. Once she was done, however, she was faced with the task of getting Ryo out of bed, and today that was something else that she did not look forward to doing.
Kaori headed off toward Ryo's room, pausing once she reached the door. Truthfully, she didn't want to walk into his room with a bitter or angry attitude and she decided to take a moment to figure out what was bothering her.
As she searched for a reason for her mood, her mind drifted back to a conversation she had had with her old high school friend, Chiemi yesterday.
"Hey Kaori," Chiemi's voice chimed over the phone. "How are you? Are you still working with Saeba-san?"
"I'm fine," Kaori smiled. "And yes, I am still working with Ryo. Where are you these days?"
"I'm back in Paris," Cheimi said. "And I have to tell you the news: I'm getting married."
"What? Really?" Kaori asked, shock filling her voice. "When did this happen? Who is he?"
"Do you remember Shunichi Azuki?" Cheimi replied. "From our class?"
"Who could forget him?" Kaori laughed. "Just about all the girls wanted to date him."
"It turns out that his father has a business that has offices both here and in Tokyo," Cheimi said. "I met Shunichi here when I had a couple days off from one of my international flights. Kaori, he is such a gentleman now. So mature, so worldly…and still so handsome. I ended up taking a vacation with him and three months later, he asked me to marry him."
"Congratulations," Kaori said. "I'm very happy for you."
"Thank you, Kaori," she said. "We plan to have the wedding in Paris and then we are going to have a honeymoon along the coast of France before moving back to Japan. It's like a dream come true."
Kaori let out a long sigh. She was happy for Chiemi, and yet she still felt twinges of jealousy and regret twist at her heart. It seemed as if all her old friends from high school were getting married and building families while she remained alone with no prospects in her future.
'Chiemi is the same age as me and she had so many boyfriends before finally settling down,' she thought to herself. 'Whereas I haven't even had one.'
'What's wrong with me? Chiemi found it so easy to love while I find it so difficult. Not that I've had a bunch of opportunities to find out about dating and love anyway.'
'Is this how the rest of my life is going to go: alone with no understanding of what it means to love someone?'
Kaori let out another sigh and tried to smile. Whenever she had thoughts like these, she tried to remind herself that they were not practical. Working in the underground made things like dating and romance problematic at best.
'Even if I were to try to date someone, how would I explain my work to them? Even worse, how could I explain my living arrangement with Ryo, Japan's number one pervert?'
Kaori let out a short laugh and reached for the doorknob. The more she thought about it, the more she tried to convince herself of the ridiculousness of her romantic longings. The experiences she had had with men over the past few years, and with Ryo in particular, should have been enough to permanently put her off to the idea of romance.
But while Kaori was certain that she could cast these ideas out of her mind, but she wasn't so sure about purging them from her heart.
Despite all of her concerns and worries, she forced herself to smile and flung the door. She was greeted by loud snoring and the sight of Ryo groping his own pillows with a smile on his face.
'I don't want to know what he is dreaming about,' Kaori thought to herself, putting a hand over her own face. 'Well, at least he has some clothes on for a change.'
"Ryo! Time to get up," Kaori said, yanking the blankets away from him. "Stop trying to sleep the day away." Ryo blinked his eyes open and scowled at her.
"Kaori, give it a rest," he muttered. "Why won't you ever let me sleep in?"
"Because we haven't had any good paying jobs for a while now and you keep going out and spending money like we have it to burn," she replied, her voice getting progressively louder. "We need to rebuild our savings and until we do, you are getting up at a decent hour and looking for work with me."
Kaori clenched her hands and walked toward the door way.
"So get up and eat your breakfast," she said as she walked out. "And don't think for one second that you're getting out handing out flyers if I can't find anything on the board today."
Eventually Ryo ambled toward the table, plopped down onto a chair, and started to eat while Kaori finished her breakfast. She cleared the table away of her dishes and sat back down across from Ryo.
"Ryo," she said. "Saeko-san called her yesterday while you were out. You're not working with her secretly, are you?"
"No," Ryo replied, exasperation evident in his tone. "I already told you earlier this week that Saeko cheated me out of yet another pair of mokkori points, so I'm not taking on any jobs for her, no matter how many more mokkori points she is offering."
"Just making sure," Kaori said with a huff. "I know how fast Saeko-san can get you to change your mind when she's offering mokkori for compensation."
Ryo frowned and went back to eating his food silently. Kaori, wanting to change the mood, decided to switch topics.
"Say Ryo, I got a call from Chiemi yesterday," she said. "You remember her, don't you? My old friend from high school who worked as a stewardess."
"Of course," Ryo said, finally starting to smile. "Is she flying back into Tokyo soon? Maybe I can finally get that date I was cheated out of before."
"Not likely," Kaori smirked at him. "Chiemi's getting married here soon. She's with her finance, who is rich by the way, in Paris and is all excited about her upcoming wedding."
"Married? Ah what a shame," Ryo said. "And here I never got a chance to mokkori with her. I bet her fan club is going to be disappointed."
"Who cares about them?" Kaori frowned. "And what do you mean a shame? Are you actually saying that it's a shame that she's getting married just because you weren't able to get an ippatsu from her?"
"Of course," Ryo said. "That just puts me one step further away from my dream of having a chance to be with every beautiful woman on the planet. It's why I have to meet with as many women as possible every day. Because you never know when they will stop being available."
"You know, you do live with a woman who is currently available," Kaori retorted. "And yet you don't seem to be in any hurry to fulfill your dream with her."
Kaori swallowed hard as soon as she finished talking. She hadn't been able to stop those words from leaving her mouth and she immediately regretted not holding her tongue.
'What am I saying? I don't want to become this pervert's mokkori conquest, right?' she asked herself.
A bead of sweat rolled off her brow as she waited to see how Ryo would react. Her nervousness quickly became irritation, however, when Ryo put his chopsticks down and put a hand to his forehead.
"A woman? Living here all this time?" he said, incredulous. "Where? Where is she? Where have you been hiding her, Kaori?"
"Ryo," Kaori growled at him, her face growing red.
"Just kidding," Ryo smirked at her. "I know what you meant. But you should know better than that by now, Kaori-kun. I already told you before that you're the only lady friend I have who doesn't make me feel mokkori, so it's a moot point with you. You have nothing to worry about, ok?"
Kaori's face became an even darker shade of red. She couldn't decide if Ryo was trying to be nice to her by assuring her that he wouldn't try to jump on her the way he did most other women or was being especially cruel by pointing out yet again that he didn't consider her a woman.
"Oh hey, I need you to give me an advance on my monthly allowance," he continued. "If I don't pay my bill at Nekomama here soon, they will never let me back in. Then what will become of my mokkori chances with Yoko-chan and Asumi-chan?"
Ryo put his hand to the back of his head and laughed again before digging back into his food.
Meanwhile, Kaori gritted her teeth while her hands balled into fists. It was in that moment that she understood why she was so upset this morning. Her conversation with Chiemi yesterday had reminded her of the happiness she had been denied her entire life and that she continued to deny herself for the sake of this life that she had committed herself to. The current state of their bank account had reminded her of the seemingly futile struggle she continued to have in trying to run City Hunter as an even marginally successful agency and of Ryo's cavalier attitude toward her efforts.
'Ryo…he wouldn't care if things were run into the ground as long as he found a way to get fed and keep having mokkori. He doesn't care about anyone or anything else. And here I keep pouring my heart, soul and time into this and for what? Just so he can call me a transvestite again and drink all our savings away?'
She barely realized it when a hammer appeared in her hands, but the second she noticed its presence, she brought it down on Ryo's head.
"You're not getting any kind of advance until we get a decent job and you cut back on your partying," she yelled at him. "You'll just have to pay your bill out of your regular allowance if you want back into that place so bad."
Ryo rubbed his head and frowned at her again as he slowly got to his feet.
"Hey, I do most of the work on these jobs," he yelled back. "I should get to spend the money the way I want."
"If I were to let you do that, we wouldn't be able to eat or buy supplies," Kaori shot back. "There's no way you can be trusted to manage our funds."
"And by the way, who put you in charge of that in the first place?" Ryo sulked. "I always managed my own money before you came along, and I did just fine."
"A minor miracle, I am sure," Kaori said. "Considering your bad habits."
"Enough," Ryo barked at her. "I am tired of all this. Today I am going to go do what I want and you can feel free to do what you want."
Ryo stormed off to his room and then returned a minute later dressed in his usual attire.
"I'll be back tomorrow," he said. "You can let me know then if we have any job requests…and if you are so concerned about money, maybe you'll consider taking on a female client for a change."
Ryo then walked out without another word, leaving a furious Kaori in his wake.
"Fine," she yelled. "Go chase girls all day. See if I care."
She then wished that she could have clobbered him with another hammer, but let out a giant sigh.
'What's the use? It's not like the hammers teach him much of anything.'
Despite her anger, Kaori found that she did not want to waste the entire day being mad, so she took another deep breath and started the rest of her daily chores, hoping that things might improve by the end of the day.
Unbeknownst to either Ryo or Kaori, a figure dressed in dark clothes was watching their apartment carefully through a pair of binoculars for a while now. The man nodded to himself after watching the scene play out in front of him and the radio strapped to his belt crackled to life.
"Sir, we followed the other woman you mentioned," the voice on the radio said. "The chances of her acquisition are not good. She spends most of her day working in some kind of coffeehouse and she is accompanied at all times by her partner."
"Understood," the man nodded. "Do not worry; I have another option in mind that might work out even better. Continue your surveillance for now though."
"Yes sir." The radio went silent and the man went back to watching Kaori begin her chores.
'Yes, this one might suit our plans even better in the end. There's much I can do with her.'
Later that day, the sun was starting to set, and Ryo was still wandering the city streets.
He had felt bad about the argument he had had with Kaori and had considered several times trying to find some way to apologize to her. Still every time he did it, he was faced with the underlying reason for his forced hostility and tension around her: it was getting progressively harder to suppress his feelings for her and Ryo was getting close to his breaking point.
Ryo put a hand to his head and groaned. After the incident not too long ago with the Silver Fox, Ryo had felt a greater need to maintain some distance between himself and Kaori. For a while, things seemed to go according to plan: Ryo was able to continue working with her and life went on the way it had been before Silver Fox appeared in their lives.
The problem, however, was the fact that the incident had turned out to be a double-edged sword. Not only did it perfectly illustrate the reasons why Ryo refused to commit to any woman, it also forced him to become aware of how much Kaori meant to him and how vital she was to his heart.
Confused and conflicted, Ryo ended up buying some flowers and visiting Makimura's grave.
As he knelt down in front of the headstone and placed the flowers down, he found himself wishing he could talk to his best friend again. Granted, Ryo knew that he would have been subjected to another lecture, but right now, it was one of the few things that sounded good to him.
'I am still trying, Maki-chan,' he spoke silently. 'I am still trying to take care of your precious sister. Of Kaori. I understand now why you doted on her so much, and I know I could never fill the hole your death left in her heart, but I….'
Ryo bowed his head. His promise to Makimura was steadfast presence in his mind and heart. It was never far from the forefront of his thoughts and it guided his actions daily. Still, another part of him continued to wonder, to question: was he wrong? Was his current path what Makimura wanted for Kaori? Had Makimura meant for him to find the chance for a happy life for Kaori away from him and the world he lived in or was it possible…was it even remotely possible…that Makimura had wanted him to be the one to give her that happy life?
'What were you asking of me, Makimura?' Ryo asked him. 'What is it that you wanted for Kaori? I wish you could tell me.'
Ryo stood back up and stared at the ground for several minutes before walking away. He had not found an answer for his questions, but he did feel some comfort having spent some time with his friend. Ryo wasn't sure if he believed in an afterlife, but for some reason, he was convinced that Makimura was still watching over him and Kaori to this day and thus, he always felt a little better after taking the time to acknowledge his continued presence.
After leaving the cemetery, Ryo decided that it was time for a change of mood. He didn't want to brood anymore and was determined to find a way to have some fun this evening and for the rest of the night.
'Tonight is a great night for getting drunk,' he told himself. 'And that's precisely what's going to happen.'
A couple of hours later, it was a drunken Ryo Saeba who was stumbling along the streets, looking for a woman. He was tired of drinking alone and wanted to find someone to help him forget his worries and troubles.
He had lurched into an alley when a young woman ran into him from the other direction.
'She's cute,' Ryo thought to himself. 'She looks like she could be a lot of fun. Just the kind of girl I was looking for.'
He tried asking her to go with him for a drink when a couple of men ran over toward them, intent on grabbing this woman for themselves.
'Ah what pests,' Ryo thought to himself as he watched one of them pull out a knife. 'Why do I have to deal with amateurs like this all the time?'
Ryo grinned to himself as he quickly and deftly took each man down. No matter how much he had drank, the fact was that Ryo Saeba never allowed himself to get so drunk that he couldn't deal with those who foolishly thought that they could catch him off guard.
"Am I strong or what?" he declared proudly after he was finished. He then started to laugh, his own words seeming unbelievably funny to him.
The woman continued to stare at him and Ryo smiled in response. He hoped that she would take him up on his offer to go drinking with him.
Simply because, right now, it seemed like the best way to silence the ache of his heart.