DISCLAIMER: Gravitation and its associated characters are the property of Maki Murakami, etc. This is meant as a work of fanfiction, to venerate rather than offend.
“Sun. Sun. SUN. Fucking sun.”
It wasn’t that Aizawa Taki hated the sun. Nothing of the sort. Contrary to popular belief, Taki liked many normal things. He didn’t kick puppies, and in fact liked it when dogs wagged their tails. Taki liked receiving mail from relatives, sticks of dango bought at festivals, and new car smell. He also liked girls who wore their purse straps across their chests (thus accentuating their breasts), fur-lined collars on coats, and the sound of his building’s elevator as it dinged off each floor to the penthouse. Aizawa Taki was a normal guy in many respects, but this week, he hated the sun.
“Sunny all fucking week.” Taki lobbed the newspaper at the recording room’s trashcan. “Fucking weather.”
Ma-kun looked up from his magazine. “Did you say something, Taki?”
Ken-chan just shook his head. He knew exactly what was going to happen next. Taki would yell at Ma-kun for not listening, and Ma-kun would patiently take it, while glancing down at his magazine whenever Taki wasn’t looking. He decided to break it up before it even started. “Could we, maybe, do some work, or something?”
Taki flopped down into a chair, all melodrama, all prima donna, deflated by reason. He looked at the ceiling mournfully, his lips tightening and relaxing, again and again. He didn’t get to yell, Ken-chan figured, but his mouth still had to work the impulse out of its system.
“Ma-kun? Work?” Ken-chan poked him in the back of the head with one outstretched finger, a finger which Ma-kun swatted without looking. He hated people touching his hair. “What are you reading, anyway?”
“He’s reading those damn horoscopes,” Taki muttered. “Superstitious freak.”
Ma-kun winced and straightened the pages of the magazine. “It’s not superstition. Maybe if you’d pay more attention to the metaphysical world instead of thinking everything revolves around you…”
“But, everything does revolve around me,” Taki interjected with a sigh. His fingers drummed on the table in rhythm with the song in his mind. A song about rain, endless rain, rain that swept in from the sea and drenched legions of happy fools. Weren’t there tribes of bloodthirsty natives, somewhere, who sang and danced like madmen under empty skies to implore animalistic deities for rain? Surely, there were. Strong aboriginal folk, the kind that skinned their hunt with bone knives, and ate the still-beating hearts of their enemies. Taki didn’t believe in horoscopes, but you just couldn’t deny the traditions of societies renowned for cruel slaughter.
Maybe he’d try a rain dance…soon.
Ma-kun sat up a little straighter, and used his most authoritative tone, the one he usually used when he was proving Taki wrong. “Zazara-sama says that when you ignore the movements of unseen events, you’re just asking to get slammed in the face with bad luck.”
“Zazara-sama?” Ken-chan asked.
Taki only scowled. The last thing he had ever wanted in life was to be slammed in the face with Bad Luck. But, he doubted the appearance of that screeching harpy, Shuichi, and his lame band had anything to do with flighty psychic crap. Nonetheless, Taki listened to the conversation, all the while pretending to fiddle with his limited edition ASK iPod.
“My psychic advisor,” Ma-kun said, “I visit her every month. She’s got this crazy shop down on the outskirts of Akihabara. Zazara-sama gives me advice on everything. Remember that time I was going to buy that sports car, but I didn’t? And it turned out that particular model tended to explode during fender benders? Yeah, that was Zazara-sama’s advice.”
Ken-chan looked a little wary, but tried to hide it behind a shaky, “I…see.” Taki rolled his eyes. Ma-kun could tell Ken-chan that Zazara-sama had given the guitarist an extra dick, and Ken-chan would go along with it. Ken-chan wasn’t one to make waves.
Ma-kun added, “And every season, I go in to have my chakra misaligned.”
Taki had to speak up on that one. “Don’t you mean re-aligned?”
Ma-kun gave Taki an exasperated look. “No. I meant misaligned. Zazara-sama says that my spiritual energy is too powerful. It needs to be dampened in order for it to not overwhelm our music.”
Before Ken-chan could mutter some phrase of comprehension and appreciation, Taki interrupted. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. How much do you pay for that nonsense?”
Ma-kun quoted Zazara-sama’s fees to Taki, fees he felt were quite reasonable. Apparently, Taki disagreed. The singer made a disgusted face and stood. “You’re a fool,” Taki said to Ma-kun before pointing at Ken-chan, “And you’re his enabler.”
With that, Aizawa Taki swept out of the recording room. Why he put up with them… Sometimes, even Taki didn’t know. Then again, a band was like a family. Dislike them all you want, you’re still stuck with them.
Ma-kun stared at the recently-slammed door. “What do you think that was all about? All that sun and rain babble earlier?”
“I just don’t know.”
“Think he wants the right ambiance for suicide?”
Ken-chan looked horrified at the thought. “I hope not!”
“Yeah, me too.” Ma-kun shook out his magazine and went back to tracking his horoscope. “I don’t have anything to wear to the funeral.”
Akihabara was truly a geek’s town. Multicolored signs bearing fat characters hung above sidewalks boasting fatter otaku in multicolored clothing. Everything flashed -- electronic marquees, disco strobe lights, the cameras of goofy-looking foreigners. Everything glittered – tinsel hung over manga displays, the glass windows of the shops, the crazy outfits of the wandering cosplayers. You couldn’t look anywhere without seeing a billboard for a new video game, anime, or the hottest new gadget.
Taki hated Akihabara. A fool’s paradise. What sort of dork got his kicks looking at drawings of naked people, when porn was readily available on the internet? Plus, the sweaty and overweight otaku wearing schoolgirl outfits were just frightening. Taki rolled up the window on his sleek black Lexus, so as not to catch the Nerd Plague.
But, past the bustling geekdom, beyond the threat of sweaty palms and clueless losers, Taki found an old neighborhood. Most of the original Akihabara had burned during World War II, but a few areas on the outskirts had survived the blaze. There, among the crowded storefronts and too-narrow side streets, Taki parked his car.
This had once been a bustling community, jam-packed with humanity. But, now the nearby sparkle of Akihabara made the neighborhood look frail and unwanted by comparison. The residents, too, seemed to wear a thin caul of grey over their skin, a protective layer of microscopic aural-ash, the badge of age and history. An old woman swept the sidewalks, slowly, as if moving through syrup, as if she had no desire to ever actually finish the task at hand. Nearby, a man in a grimy apron sat on a makeshift bench outside a barbershop, one that looked like its last customer might have departed before the invention of the compact disc.
Taki tugged and smoothed his black jacket, ran a hand through his hair, and crossed the street. His target was a lonely door set into an alcove sporting faded paintings of bluebirds. For many of the bluebirds, their last days had come. Time and wind had scoured away painted wings, feet, and heads to ghostly traces of azure. Taki grimaced at the sight. He hated decay almost as much as he hated the sorts of people who weren’t interested in keeping their things nice. Surely it would have taken very little effort to either re-paint the bluebirds, or cover them.
The door clanked as Taki opened it, a sound produced by strings of seashells attached to the inner doorknob. The powerful smell of dust, ash, and incense was intense, and might push a more timid right back out the door. A haze hung in the air, thick enough to burn sensitive eyes, sticky enough to immediately smother the “spring fresh” fabric-softener scent on Taki’s jacket.
The room wasn’t large, Taki figured, probably smaller even than the ASK recording studio. But, every square meter contained some strange and mostly unexplainable object. Strings of desiccated roots and mushrooms hung from the ceiling, covered in so much dust that an onlooker could barely discern their original color. Shelves and cases stood cram-packed together, lining the walls and blocking the pathway to what appeared to be the front desk. Taki stood for a moment, mildly disturbed by a shelving unit containing dozens of glass jars. Within them, a murky brine only partially hid the contents – coils and coils of dead snakes, tiny toads in a myriad of colors, baby eels, crows’ feet, and something that might have once been a very small monkey. And those were only the ones he could make out.
“Welcome, please come in. Can I be of assistance today?”
The hair on the back of Taki’s neck bristled. Sure, nerds were creepy, but this place was downright weird. He stepped away from the shelving unit and looked for the source of the voice. Finding none, he took a few tentative steps towards the front counter, while taking extra care not to bump into a precarious stack of empty birdcages, and a rather hideous statue of a water dragon.
“Hello?” Taki asked. “Is anyone…here?” Taki scowled slightly. What a foolish thing to have asked. He should have just said that he’d come in by mistake and then made a hasty exit. But, on the other hand, it was all for a certain goal, an important goal. And, even though he didn’t believe in all of this hocus pocus…
Wait, why was he here, if he didn’t believe in this stuff?
“Yes. Is there anything I can do for you, young man?”
She was hidden by the shadows, and also by a large red lacquered Buddha statue sitting on the counter. Taki stepped to the side, and tried not to make a disgusted face. The woman was old, really old. The kind of old usually reserved only for gnarled trees and wizened sea turtles. Her hand-knit grey shawl covered most of her torso, and almost exactly matched the hue of her disheveled and seemingly dust-covered hair. But what really made Taki’s stomach turn was the woman’s face. Like wax, like candle wax that had melted into bumpy lines and thick chunks. As if her skin had, over the past few decades, began to curdle. Droopy jowls, and layers of bags under the woman’s eyes… With such a disturbing face, Taki couldn’t even begin to guess at her nation of origin. She looked more like a Hollywood creation for a low-budget zombie movie than a proper Japanese citizen.
“You…are hideous.” Even Taki was astonished at his own rudeness. Nonetheless, he couldn’t keep the words from coming out of his mouth, “Absolutely hideous.”
“You’re very observant, Aizawa-san.” Her voice had a raspy quality, but even more disturbing was the childlike tone beneath it, like a middle-schooler with laryngitis.
Taki could feel his face twitch and his flesh crawl. “How did you know my name?”
“Mmm. I wonder.” The lump of a woman reached her hand beneath the counter. For a moment, Taki was worried she’d bring out a gun. Or worse, some section of a dead animal. But, instead, she pulled out a CD and slid it across the counter to him. An ASK CD. The front bore a picture of all three of the band members. Oh great. Not only was she creepy, but she was a –fan-. “Ma-kun gave it to me. Sweet boy. He’s a really sweet boy. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I don’t own a CD player. You’re the singer, hm?”
“Oh. Yes. I am the vocalist.” So, there wasn’t any strange mystical prestidigitation used to figure out his name. Of course there wasn’t. That sort of thing hailed from the realm of pure nonsense.
“Well, how can Zazara help you today, Aizawa-san?”
Taki drew himself up to his full height, which wasn’t considerable, and straightened the cuff on his left jacket sleeve. He’d come this far, so he might as well ask, he figured. As long as he asked in a businesslike and professional manner, surely his embarrassment would be minimal. This decided, Taki looked Zazara straight in her weary eyes, and asked, “Is it possible to make it rain on a certain day?”
Without missing a beat, Zazara replied, “Yes, if the wish is strong enough.”
“How much is it going to cost me?”
Zazara quoted a rather steep sum, but nothing out of the question for someone as famous as Aizawa Taki. Being fairly shrewd in business, Taki asked, “Do I get a refund if it doesn’t rain?”
Zazara’s head tilted forward until her chin touched her neck, and Taki was momentarily afraid the damn thing might fall off. “Yes.”
Well, what did Taki have to lose, besides an inch of pride? And, even then, the only person who would ever know about this abject foolishness would be Zazara, a person Taki was not likely to ever see again. He dug into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet, and slapped a fat wad of bills down on the counter. “Tell me how.”
Zazara’s wrinkled old hand appeared from nowhere and grabbed Taki’s. Her grip was surprisingly firm, and her nails astonishingly like claws. Taki struggled for a moment to pull away, but the old hag wouldn’t let go.
The world went still, even the wisps of incense floating in the room froze in time as Zazara’s haunted voice pronounced, “If you mean to do evil by this, Aizawa Taki, it will only be revisited upon you.”
Taki squinted behind his designer sunglasses as he looked in the rearview mirror. The bird kept rustling its feathers between squawks. It was an unsettling noise in his otherwise soundless car. He worried, with as flimsy and ancient as the bamboo cage was, that the damn thing might get loose while he was driving. Well, at least it probably couldn’t peck his eyes out. They were very good sunglasses.
Zazara had called it a “rainbird”, but to Taki it just looked like a ratty parakeet with the feathers dyed blue. He’d almost asked for his money back when she put the cage on the counter. Still, he’d get a refund anyway, if the results weren’t as expected.
To tell the truth, Ma-kun had better luck than anyone Taki knew. He was always getting out of scrapes that should have left him maimed or dead. What if that asshole did know something when it came to all this spiritual crap? Ugh. Not that Taki would ever admit it to Ma-kun’s face, of course.
“You are one ugly bird, just like your mistress.”
In response, the bird relieved itself with such grand force that a few drops splashed onto the gator-skin interior of Taki’s car.
“You piece of shit!” Taki swerved all over the lane as he tried to drive and simultaneously clean up the mess in the back of his car with an old napkin – one that probably had some fine broad’s number on it. “I’m gonna kill you when I stop this car.”
And that, in fact, is exactly what Zazara had told him to do.
Taki wasn’t big on parks. No, Aizawa Taki was more of a nightclub guy. Nonetheless, not long after leaving the outskirts of Akihabara, Taki found himself in Rikugien Gardens, strolling between the miniaturized scenes of famous poems, and wishing he wasn’t wearing his best shoes. He’d already been stopped twice by ladies heading the other direction -- sentimental idiots who cooed ridiculously over the rising pop star taking his pet bird for a walk. (Taki, however, didn’t let their idiocy keep him from getting phone numbers.)
Taki finally put the birdcage down when he came to an old footbridge over a murky stream of greenish-grey water. Even here, on one of the garden’s less traveled paths, the mossy grasses had been trimmed to perfection, the ferns and ivies arranged with aesthetic care known only to the Japanese. The canopy provided by the trees allowed neither too much shade nor too much light. The bridge lacked hand rails, and consisted only of “n” shaped trusses supporting wooden beams hailing from the 19th century. Over this had been packed a thick layer of dirt, enough to support even more grasses, as well as tiny white flowers.
It was, Taki figured, exactly the sort of place where you could tell a girl you loved her, and no matter how insincere it sounded, she’d believe you.
Taki looked around to make sure the area was deserted. He’d have to do this quickly, or run the risk of some parkgoer accidentally discovering his deeds.
Sure, it was a cold-hearted thing to do, to murder an animal in cold blood. Still, Taki had done it plenty of times as a teenager. Though nowadays nobody knew it, Taki had been the vice-captain of his archery team in high school. And while most of the idiots in the club had practiced by shooting paper targets, Taki honed his skills in the forests near Osaka, terrorizing woodland creatures with his remarkable aim.
But, this time, he didn’t have a bow and arrow. No. He’d have to do it with his hands. Taki took a deep breath, and squatted down next to the cage. Quickly. Quickly so that the bird didn’t fly away. Taki tugged on the cork latch, popped the bamboo door open, and thrust his hand inside…
Only to be bitten.
“Fuck!” It was only the first in a long string of expletives that dropped from Taki’s mouth like ash from a cigarette. The sight of blood dripping from his hand made him wince, more because it might get on the cuffs of his expensive jacket than from the pain. He resisted the urge to withdraw his hand, and instead grabbed the now screeching bird around its scrawny middle. The rainbird thrashed, and tried repeatedly to peck more patches of skin off of Taki’s hand.
When Taki whirled around, the cage went tumbling. Trees spun and pulsed, and all noise, save that of the bird’s manic shrieking, coalesced into the sound of the water gently tumbling beneath the bridge. True fear gripped Taki, but only for a moment, and was soon replaced with the strange sort of peacefulness that a being gets right before they die.
But, Taki wasn’t going to die. Oh no. Just a bird. Just a stupid, ugly, violent bird.
Taki grabbed the bird’s head, and twisted. He didn’t hear any bones snap, but he sure felt it. He hadn’t meant to half-decapitate the thing, but he misjudged how truly fragile the bird was, and ended up tearing a sizeable hole in the bird’s neck. Even more blood joined Taki’s in mingling with the grimy old feathers as the body twitched and convulsed.
Everything was still, utterly silent. Even the wind and trickling water paused for the brief instant that Taki made his wish. Just like this bird, he needed a certain sound to be snuffed out. He needed rain, torrents of rain, rain like Tokyo had never seen. He needed rain to kill the song of a certain bird that he’d come to despise.
Taki dropped the dead bird into the stream. His hands were covered in blood.
Just a stupid bird. Just one more thing that had to be done in order to make sure that ASK remained the most popular band working for NG. Taki knew then that he’d ruin as many lives as it took in order to make that wish a reality.
It wasn’t evil.
It was just good business.
Ma-kun tossed his guitar case onto the table and began to tear his jacket off. “Stupid rain. Look at my hair. Just look at it.”
Ken-chan, who had come into the studio after Ma-kun, peered at his friend’s sopping mess of a hairdo. “It’s not that bad. Surely one of the makeup techs keeps a spare hair-dryer. I’ll go find one.”
Taki, who had been waiting for them, and staring out the window at the rain, watched Ken-chan’s reflection as he patted Ma-kun on the shoulder and left to go find the required styling equipment. Taki snorted with amusement. Ken-chan would run to Sapporo and bring back a ton of snow, if he thought it would keep peace in the band.
“What are you smirking at?” Ma-kun asked, apparently glimpsing Taki’s reflection in the window. “My hair crisis isn’t funny. We’ve got a photoshoot today.”
“It is extremely funny, you vain ignoramus.”
“Ignoramus? Pretty big word there, Taki. Don’t strain yourself.”
Taki just rolled his eyes and went back to watching the rain. It had been going on like this for five days now. The blustery out-of-season storm had taken everyone by surprise, even Taki. He’d hoped for rain, but hadn’t expected a flood.
“Hey Taki, did you hear?” Ma-kun was desperately trying to wring out his hair and talk at the same time. Taki wondered how the idiot managed to do two things at once without falling over.
“Bad Luck’s first outdoor concert got cancelled due to the rain. Fucker was sold out, too. Sucks to be them, huh?”
Taki could only laugh.
When Seguchi Tohma’s hand connected with Taki’s torso, he felt a shock. Not shocked, but an actual electrical shock, as if Seguchi himself were in possession of powers not unlike those of the Emperor from Star Wars. That’s what propelled him backwards into the path of the oncoming car. Not the force of Seguchi’s minimal three-fingered shove.
Taki couldn’t breathe. Time coalesced like drying sap, and sound became crystal clear. With each millimeter that he fell, the noise became louder. Did it sound like the screeching of tires? A little. But, hidden within that screech was something terrible. The keening of a dying bird, wailing from beyond the grave, drove itself into Taki’s ears like nails into styrofoam.
Taki felt certain he’d fall into water, into a stream that would carry him underneath an old bridge in Rikugien Gardens, into a paradox of time and life, all bound up by the mysteries of the metaphysical. But, there was no stream, and no bridge. Taki hit pavement. Hard, gritty, unforgiving pavement, illuminated by the headlights of the stopped car.
And above him, on the sidewalk, stood Seguchi Tohma. Wrapped in that designer coat, collar, cuff, and hem ringed with feathers, blond hair like the plumage of some tropical bird, Seguchi smiled at down at Taki.
Taki trembled. Too much light. Too much fear. Meddling in the affairs of powers greater than his own… The repercussions turned out to be greater than he’d realized. The rainbird’s revenge had been swift and final.
Seguchi Tohma turned on his heel and walked away from his shuddering employee. With gloved hands, he straightened the downy collar of his coat, and smiled benevolently at the world.
Just a little shove. Just one more thing that had to be done in order to make sure that his brother-in-law remained safe and sane. Tohma knew, as he had always known, that he’d ruin as many lives as it took in order to protect his beautiful Eiri.
It wasn’t evil.
It wasn’t even good business.
Cruelty that efficient could never be trumped by mere greed.
For it had been built on love.
Author’s Note: If you enjoyed the story, I am glad. If you hated it, I apologize. It was just a short BLAH of a story to pass the time, and to work on Aja’s rain-related story challenge. Shrug.