The Missing Painting
* * *It was somewhere around two in the morning, when Rikuou was stirred out of his sleep, after he felt someone’s arm hugging his middle as he slept. He opened his eyes, but of course, the room was pitch dark and he couldn’t really see anything.
But what he could see was a head nestled near his chest.
“Tsukiko…” he said softly as he held this person closer to him. But just then, he remembered the blood stained room he found on the day Tsukiko went missing. So that would mean that the owner of the arm and the head must be…
Rikuou [Man! What is he doing here? Got into the wrong bed again?]
That couldn’t be, he thought, they went to sleep at almost the same time. After all, they were doing inventories most of the day at the store, and the person who was exceptionally tired was the idiot sleeping next to him.
“Sigh…did you have a bad dream?” he asked the sleeping Kazahaya.
Rikuou’s eyes were slowly coming to focus in the dark and he could see the outline of Kazahaya’s angelic sleeping face.
Rikuou [He sure look’s like a cute girl when he’s asleep like this.]
But, he thought, having Kazahaya like this in his bed wasn’t such a good idea. Rikuou, woke up and stretched over Kazahaya to turn on the lamp on his bedside table. This, however, didn’t wake Kazahaya up at all.
“As usual, fool, you sleep like a log.”
Rikuou, crossed carefully over the smaller boy to the other side of his bed and stood up.
Rikuou [And you wonder why I always wake you up the hard way…]
He carried Kazahaya by gently lifting him from his shoulders and then hooking his other arm under Kazahaya’s legs.
“Are you really a guy? You’re so light,” Rikuou, smiled amusingly as he walked over to the gap in the curtains made apparently by Kazahaya crossing over into his room. “If you were awake, you’ve would probably tried to hit me by now.”
Rikuou carried Kazahaya right up until his bed, and stood there looking at the sleeping Kazahaya in his arms.
“You sure look like a cute girl when you’re asleep.” And with that, Rikuou drops Kazahaya unceremoniously onto his bed, waking up the sleeping boy up with a fright.
“GYAAAAH!” Kazahaya shouted.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!!!”
“Heh!” Rikuou laughed and turned around saying, “next time you have a nightmare, sleep in your own bed,” then added “fool,” and walked back into his room and closed the curtain.
“Wha…” said Kazahaya
“Was I…did I…wonder into his bed again? What…no way…” Kazahaya fell back into his bed and turned to the side thinking how he wondered into Rikuou’s bed. In a short while, he drifted off into slumber again as Rikuou stayed awake wondering about the feelings he had experienced just now. Before he dropped Kazahaya so rudely, he had the temptation to kiss the other boy. That feeling haunted him till the morning in which he awoke from a dreamless sleep. Rikuou knew that he had developed these feelings during the jar incident. But he doesn’t think that Kazahaya has the same feelings for him.
Rikuou [Time to wake the fool up...]
He went into Kazahaya’s room, (he was still fast asleep) sighed, tried the normal method, doesn’t work, sighs and then pulls the blanket in Kazahaya’s grip, twirling the sleeping boy awake with a fright.
“ARSEHOLE! Can’t you for once wake me up properly!” Kazahaya shouted.
“This is the proper way, for you,” Rikuou answered walking out of Kazahaya’s room.
Kazahaya [Just you wait! One day I’ll get you…]
He gets up and sits at the edge of his bed.
Kazahaya [That really happened, right, last night…I somehow…got into his bed…why did I?]
“Hey!” said Rikuou popping his head into the room.
“What?” said Kazahaya looking up and then blushing.
“Hurry up, or we’ll be late,” Rikuou answered.
“Late?” He then looks over at the alarm clock on his bedside table.
“GYAAHH! It’s already this late!” Kazahaya jumps up and quickly undresses and gets into his work clothes, hurrying to the bathroom he yells at Rikuou, “Hey! Why is it this late? You usually wake me up at 7 o’clock, it’s almost 7: 45, what happen?”
“It’s because you came into my bed, remember?” said Rikuou with his attention to the frying pan, which was a good thing for Kazahaya, because his face had turned the exact color of ripe strawberries.
* * *Running down the stairs, the boys quickly ran towards the front of the drugstore, tying their aprons as they went, out of the blue as usual, Saiga caught Kazahaya by his middle, and pulled poor the poor boy close to him saying, “A little tardy today, aren’t we boys?”
“We’re not tardy, yet!” said Kazahaya trying to wiggle out of Saiga’s grip.
“Look’s like Kakei’s gonna dock both of your pays today,” said Saiga tilting Kazahaya’s head up to his.
“Okay, you had enough fun teasing the boy, let him go,” came Kakei’s voice from behind Rikuou.
Kazahaya sighed with relive to hear Kakei’s voice, helping him out, as usual, however, Rikuou stared at him with abhorrence.
“I’m not going to dock anyone’s pay yet, come on, into the shop both of you, I’ve got a lot of things for you to do today,” said Kakei smiling while Saiga let his grip go on Kazahaya. Saiga stared at the expression on Rikuou’s face and then smiled as he passed the taller boy.
“What’s wrong, Rikuou?” Kazahaya asks worriedly as Saiga and Kakei went into the store before the two.
“Why do you always let him do that?” Rikuou asks almost angrily.
“Do what?” Kazahaya asks quite innocently.
“That! That every morning? Or do you actually like it?” He spoke crossly turning around but Kazahaya’s voice made him stop because it sounded like he was in pain.
“Do you actually think I enjoy that sort of thing? I don’t! I never can tell when he’s behind me until he’s got his arm around me! I don’t enjoy it at all!” Kazahaya looked as if he was going to cry, he really didn’t enjoy it when ever Saiga grabbed him, and Rikuou felt ashamed for saying that he had.
“Look I…I’m sorry, lets go,” said Rikuou walking straight into the shop.
Kazahaya [He actually apologized…what’s wrong with him? He’s acting strange.]
* * *In the afternoon, Kakei came up to the two teens and asked, “You boys not busy are you?”
“Busy?” said Kazahaya inquiringly, and then he started to stack the bottles of Ginseng shampoo at hyper speed onto the shelves. “Yeah! Really busy!”
“Oh~h, well…I guess you’re too busy to do a job that’s just come in,” said Kakei sounding rather disappointed as he turned his back on the two teens and sighed.
“Ooh! I’ll do it, I’m not busy.” Said Kazahaya eagerly waving his hand like a bubbly school girl wanting to answer a question.
“I see…splendid, then if the both of you will follow me,” said Kakei who walked to his office.
“Heh-heh” Rikuou gave a small laugh as he walked pass Kazahaya.
“Hey! Did you just laugh at me?” he asked snappily.
“Of course I did, you looked silly waving your hand like a small kid,” Rikuou answered.
Kazahaya [I really hate this guy]
They followed Kakei to his office where they uncomfortably saw Saiga, spread on the couch, fast asleep.
“Don’t mind the beached whale, take a seat,” said Kakei, that was his usual line when ever they came into his office and saw Saiga asleep.
“Now,” said Kakei, “About this job, as usual, I’ve text message the locations to your cell phones, but here is what you’ll have to do.” Said Kakei who took out a picture and gave it to Rikuou. “You two will need to find this missing painting.”
“Did someone steal it?” Kazahaya asks after glancing at the picture in Rikuou’s hand.
“No…it would be easier if it was stolen, but no, it has gone missing in the home of it’s owner,” Kakei explained.
“Huh?” said Kazahaya.
“The painting has gone missing at its home, after it’s master said that he wanted to sell it.” Said Kakei.
“So all we have to do is too to find this missing painting?” Kazahaya asks sounding simple.
“Yes,” Kakei answers.
“Maybe someone hid it,” said Kazahaya standing up.
“Maybe,” said Kakei smiling. “The both of you may leave early for the place as it’s outside the city. Rikuou could you stay for awhile,” Kazahaya went out of the office but Rikuou stayed and looked quite gloomily at Kakei.
“No, if you’re wondering, I don’t have any news about Tsukiko-san, but, this is about, Kudo-kun.” Said Kakei sounding somber.
“What about him?” Rikuou asks sounding displeased.
“This job will require large amount of his powers and he might be in danger this time.”
“He’s always in mortal danger,” said Rikuou in a this isn’t new tone.
“Yes, but this time the danger might be from within,” said Kakei sounding terrifyingly serious.
Coming out of the office, Rikuou overhears Saiga’s voice saying to Kakei, “Why didn’t you just tell the boys that the painting is alive?”
Rikuou [Huh? The painting is alive?]
He walks away not wanting to be caught eavesdropping of Kakei and Saiga, however, he did hear something vital to their ‘job’ later.
“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” said Kakei who leaned over Saiga who was actually awake the whole time.
“Yeah? So what punishment will you bestow on me, my favorite sadist?” Saiga asks while reaching up and caressing Kakei’s soft hair with his hand.
“I’ll enjoy that later, but I think, that things are going to get interesting from now on for our two young borders,”
* * *Around 7 o’clock in the evening, Rikuou and Kazahaya actually found them selves standing outside a humongous mansion.
“So this is where Mr. Katsuchioki lives…wow!” said Kazahaya all overwhelmed.
Rikuou proceeded to press the button on the intercom, out of it came a voice of an elderly man, “May we help you?”
“Yes,” Rikuou replied, “Himura Rikuou and Kudo Kazahaya to see Katsuchioki Jin-san.”
“Ah, I see…it’s Kakei-san associates,” said the voice, “You may enter.”
The large elaborate gates opened automatically and Rikuou and Kazahaya entered, only to shut close when they were on the other side. “Feels like we’re being caged in,” said Kazahaya looking back at the towering front gates. They walked all the way to the front door where they were met by a man in a suit.
“Good Evening, gentlemen, I am Nagaoka Genma, head butler to the Katsuchioki household. Katsuchioki Jin-sama will see you in his study, please follow me.”
“Thank you,” Kazahaya replied but it seemed apparent that Mr. Nagaoka didn’t hear him. They followed Mr. Nagaoka into the large mansion and then up the grand marble staircase and into the first floor hallway. He leads them to the second room where a tall man who seemed to be around 30, sat behind a wide oak desk.
“Please, seat.” Said the man.
They sat down into a very comfortable three seater leather couch. “I am Katsuchioki Jin, and the both of you must be from Kakei-san, am I right?” he asked very politely.
“Yes,” Rikuou answered, “I am Himura Rikuou and this is,”
“I’m Kudo Kazahaya, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Katsuchioki-san,” spoke Kazahaya very pleasantly.
“Like-wise,” Mr. Katsuchioki replied slightly coldly. “Kakei-san said that only you two will be able to find the painting, which is hidden somewhere in this house. Nagaoka-san will guide you and provide you with anything the both of you need, you may go.” Mr. Katsuchioki went back to his work while the boys stepped out of the room.
Kazahaya [Gee…what a cold guy]
“I guess we should see the place where the picture was last at?” Rikuou asked Kazahaya, who closed the doors.
“Sure, we can start from there,” he answered, “Say, Nagaoka-san, where was this painting last hung?” Kazahaya asked pulling out the picture from his pocket and showing it to the butler.
“Oh, the ‘Domina in Pictura’ I see…the last time that painting was seen was in it’s usual spot, hanging in the east wing.”
Mr. Nagaoka took them straight to the east wing, where the painting was last hanging, it was quite oblivious that the painting was hanging there for a long time, because they could see it’s imprint on the wall, suddenly they heard an old man’s voice coming from behind them saying, “I wish you wouldn’t find that painting…” Rikuou and Kazahaya turned and saw an old man who stared at the spot where the painting used to hang.
“Oh, Katsuchioki-sama…” said Mr. Nagaoka bowing, “I didn’t notice you were there, sir,” Mr. Nagaoka apologized earnestly.
“Wait a minute, you’re Katsuchioki-sama?” Rikuou asked and the older man who continued his sentence, “father, so technically I am Katsuchioki-sama, even if my son is the one in charge now,” the old man spoke warmly unlike his son.
“My son, Jin wants to sell the painting, which so far, has been in this family for three generations. I wanted to hide it away from him, but it was already missing,” said the old man who shuffled slowly with his cane to the front.
“So the painting was already gone before you could hide, uncle?” said Kazahaya who stood next to the elderly man.
“Yes, so I’m hoping that you won’t find it, because then my son can’t really sell it,” said the old man who smiled warmly at Kazahaya.
Kazahaya looked towards Rikuou, who motioned his head towards the spot the painting was on. “You know we have no choice, we are being paid to find the painting…and…what do you think Kakei will do to us if we came back without trying to look for it?”
“He’ll kill us,” said Kazahaya in a faint whisper, remembering the time Kakei explained to him what would happen if he backed out on a job he had already accepted. That thought sent shivers down his back.
“Sorry, uncle…but…” said Kazahaya, however, the old man smiled and said, “I understand, this is your job so please go on,” he said while shuffling to where Mr. Nagaoka stood.
“Look,” said Rikuou who came and stood near to Kazahaya, “We’ve got a job to do…you know the consequences right?” Kazahaya nodded his head, “So…do your thing.”
Kazahaya, placed his hand on the spot where the painting was, and immediately, he lost consciousness and was caught right away by Rikuou.
Rikuou [What a fine time for you to faint on me]
“Himura-san!” Mr. Nagaoka shouted pointing to Kazahaya’s hand which was still to the wall, to the spot where the painting use to hang.
“What the…” said Rikuou.
Meanwhile, Kazahaya saw brief images of people, one of a beautiful foreign lady handing a painting to a Japanese man, and then of a couple kissing in front of the missing painting, and then a number of flashes of children playing in front of the painting, then one of Jin-san saying I’m going to sell you, then he heard a woman’s voice screaming, “DON’T SELL ME!” He woke up in Rikuou’s arms with the old man and Mr. Nagaoka looking down worriedly at him. “What happened?” Kazahaya asked sitting up.
“You fainted again, fool,” Rikuou answered in a ‘that so obilivious’ tone.
“WHO ARE YOU CALLING A FOOL?” Kazahaya shouted at Rikuou.
“I guess he’s alright,” said Mr. Nagaoka relived.
“That young man sure is spirited,” said the elder Mr. Katsuchioki. “But, young man, you said something weird before you got up, do you remember?”
“Huh? Did I say something,” Kazahaya asked while he got off the floor.
“Yeah,” Rikuou replied, “You said don’t sell me.”
“What? Wasn’t that the lady?” Kazahaya asks.
“Lady? There’s no lady here,” Rikuou answered and then something clicked in his brain.
“What, but, I heard a lady’s voice shouting, ‘don’t sell me’ before I woke up, I remember,” said Kazahaya who was worried.
“It must have been the painting,” said Rikuou.
“The painting?” said Kazahaya and Mr. Nagaoka in unison.
“It could be…” said Kazahaya realizing something. “I saw snapshots of what I guess are the painting’s memories.”
“What did you see?” Rikuou asked.
“I saw a…I guess an English lady in a gown giving the painting to a man in a Kimono and…wait a minute,” said Kazahaya remembering something about that lady, “That lady looked a lot like the…”
“She was the lady in the picture,” old Mr. Katsuchioki added.
“Huh?” said Kazahaya while Rikuou said, “what?”
“The ‘Domina in Pictura’ is a portrait of a woman who fell in love with my grandfather, of course, both families were against the match and she was sent back to her home in England, but, before she left Japan she gave my grandfather a painting of her self, so he would always remember her.” The old man spoke sadly.
“I see…” said Kazahaya unhappily and then noticed that his heart was so full of sorrow, like he was dreading to be parted from someone…someone important.
They searched for the painting with the butler leading them around the mansion. It was past midnight, and they had searched the whole of the east wing without even turning up a clue. “This is getting us no where! Are you sure you can’t sense anything?” Rikuou asked Kazahaya as they left the last room. “No…all I can feel is just sadness…that’s all,” said Kazahaya miserably.
“Some lousy power you have…” said Rikuou with a sigh.
“WHAT DID you say,” however, Kazahaya didn’t feel so annoyed with Rikuou at the moment, there was just too much sadness around that he couldn’t really feel anything else. Rikuou noticed this and turned around and placed his hand on Kazahaya’s forehead asking, “Hey, are you alright?”
“Yeah! I’m alright!” Kazahaya blushed and yelled into Rikuou’s expressionless face.
“Sheesh…I though you were sick or something,” said Rikuou turning around and walking away.
Kazahaya [What is wrong with that guy!]
“Maybe…” said the butler, “the both of you are just tired, after all, it’s past midnight.”
“What is it that late already?” Rikuou asked the butler.
“Yes it is…” the butler answered graciously.
“Whoa, I didn’t notice it was that late already,” said Kazahaya looking at his watch.
“Hey, Kazahaya, let’s call it a day, we can come back tomorrow and check the west-wing, how about it?” said Rikuou.
“Sure, fine by me,” Kazahaya answered.
“Then let me show you the way out,” said the butler.
* * *On the train back into the city, Kazahaya kept to himself, and spoke not one word to Rikuou at all, and this worried Rikuou quite a bit, Kazahaya wasn’t acting himself at all, ever since he touched the spot where that painting was hanging.
“Kazahaya…what’s wrong, you’re not acting you’re self at all,”
“Wha…what do you mean I’m not acting my self at all,” said Kazahaya being snapped out of his daze.
“I mean, this evening when we were on the way here, you were so excited that you were actually sitting up in your seat with your face glued to the window, like a little kid, and now, we’re all alone, but you are as quiet as a statue.”
“STOP COMPARING ME TO A LITTLE KID!” Kazahaya shouted feeling quite embarrassed.
“heh-heh…You frequently act like a kid, so what you want me to compare you to? A girl?” said Rikuou giving Kazahaya a mischievous smirk.
“SHUT UP! YOU…” Kazahaya shouted angrily.
“My name is Rikuou, not you,”
“OH, JUST SHUT UP!” Kazahaya yelled turning around as his faced burned with annoyance.
Kazahaya [How dare this jerk compare me to a kid!]
Kazahaya turned around and stole a peek at Rikuou seated near him.
Kazahaya [Why do I have this feeling that I really don’t want to be parted from this jerk? Wouldn’t that be a blessing?]
He started to stare longfully at Rikuou, who noticed.
Kazahaya [I really don’t want to leave his side…why is that…I hate him, right…]
“Hey,” said Rikuou snapping Kazahaya back to reality, “Are you checking me out?” Rikuou asked playfully.
“WHO WOULD?!” Kazahaya bellowed angrily.
* * *The next morning, back at the drug store…
“You didn’t manage to locate it?” Kakei asks, quite surprised. “Funny, I thought that you had,” he added smiling at Kazahaya.
“Hmn?” Kazahaya uttered puzzled.
Rikuou [It couldn’t be…]
“Don’t worry,’ said Kakei smiling amusingly at the both of them, “I am sure that you two will be able to locate the painting today. That’s all for now…I have new shipments that need to be stacked.”
“Yes, sir,” both Rikuou and Kazahaya answered together and walked out of Kakei’s office leaving Saiga behind.
“Look’s like you were wrong this time,” said Saiga opening the door and watching Kazahaya and Rikuou walk to the front of the store.
‘Oh…no, I’m never wrong…” said Kakei getting up. “They have already found the painting…they just haven’t realized it, yet,” he answered.
“What…you don’t mean, that…”
“Yes…just like that time with the jar…they have to realize it, that’s all.”
That day, Rikuou watched in worry as they worked; Kazahaya wasn’t acting his cheerful usual self. Once, just to purposely make Kazahaya mad at him, Rikuou called him a ‘Princess’ but Kazahaya didn’t even take notice. He didn’t even have much of a lunch, just eating one sandwich.
“Hey, man…what’s wrong?”
“What…nothing’s wrong…” Kazahaya answered absentmindedly.
“Right…” said Rikuou incredulously, “since when do you eat one sandwich?”
“I’m not hungry…” Kazahaya answered and got up but Rikuou pulled him back down.
“You are not acting you’re self,” said Rikuou defensively.
“Wha…and how do I usually act?” Kazahaya snarled but there wasn’t any of his usual spunk in it.
“Haven’t you noticed anything after you touched the wall yesterday!” said Rikuou fiercely holding Kazahaya in front of him.
Kazahaya [What’s with him? But…wait a minute…]
“I feel sorrowful,” said Kazahaya almost tearful as he looked up into Rikuou’s eyes, “sad…like I’m going to go away and I don’t want to…like…”
“You’re going to be sold?” said Rikuou and then a bright light flashed between them and the painting appeared and landed on Kazahaya’s lap.
“It’s the painting!” said Kazahaya feeling like a large load has just been lifted off him.
“It was inside of you all this time…” said Rikuou surprised.
Suddenly, Kakei came in and saw the painting, “Ahh…looks like you’ve finally realized where it was.”
* * *“You mean all this time; the painting was hiding inside my body?” Kazahaya asked surprised and shocked at the same time.
“Exactly,” Kakei answered taking a good look at the painting.
“But…how did it get inside me?”
“I guess,” said Rikuou, “That it might have entered your body when you touched the spot where it used to hang.”
Kazahaya [How did he figure that out?]
“Well, I guess that means a job well done,” said Kakei smiling at the two.
“Alright! That means we’re going to be paid!” said Kazahaya happily punching the air.
“Yes, so now back to work the both of you,” said Kakei holding the door for them. The two stepped out of his office leaving Kakei and Saiga together. “You knew where that painting was, all the time didn’t you,” said Saiga who came up and started to kiss Kakei’s neck.
“Of course…I’m never wrong,” Kakei answered smiling slyly.
Outside the office, Rikuou started to laugh, “Hey, what are you laughing about?” Kazahaya asked sounding slightly annoyed.
“I’m laughing at how big of an idiot you are,” he answered.
“WHAT!” Kazahaya shouted furiously.
“Well, the painting was inside your body the whole time and you, “he pointed at Kazahaya, “didn’t realize that. So, of course I’m going to call you an idiot because you are an idiot!” said Rikuou calmly, making Kazahaya so mad that he grabbed Rikuou by his shirt’s collar.
“Listen you…what are you smiling about?” Kazahaya noticed that Rikuou had started to smile like he was relived about something.
“I’m glad that you’re back to your normal self,” Rikuou answered leaning towards Kazahaya.
Kazahaya [I’m angry but…what is this feeling…it’s that same feeling I had back then on the train…the one where I didn’t want to be parted from him…wasn’t this the painting’s feeling? Or is it mine?]
“What’s wrong?” Rikuou asked in a low toned voice in his ear.
“Why were you so worried about me just now?” he asked making Rikuou stand up, then he smiled and said softly, playing with Kazahaya’s soft brown hair.
“It’s because I was…”Rikuou gazed down into Kazahaya’s eyes looking up at him with such dolefulness that he just wanted to look into those eyes the whole day long.
“worried…that’s all. Is that against the law?”
“No…” Kazahaya answered breathlessly.
Kazahaya [Why is my heart beating like I’ve just ran a marathon?]
“Hey, boys! What’s with all the lovey-dovey looks?” said Saiga, suddenly out of the blue.
“WHO, WHO’S LOVEY-DOVEY!?” Shouted Kazahaya turning red, while Rikuou walked up to the front.
“Hahahaha…always full of energy as usual, little boy!” said Saiga, giving Kazahaya a sharp slap on the back knocking him to the ground.
Kazahaya [I don’t know who I really don’t like…Saiga-san or Ri…Rikuou…]
“Hey, little boy, if your boss see’s you lying down on the job, he’ll reveal his demon face and start to slash that pay check of yours!” said Saiga calling from the front.
“Waaah! I don’t want that to happen!” said Kazahaya getting up hurriedly and running to the front.
“Hahahaha…always full of energy, little boy!”
“DON’T CALL ME LITTLE BOY!” Kazahaya shouted, while Rikuou uttered, “Idiot…”