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49 In the Middle of Nowhere

They had been escaping the train scene for hours without pause for breath, determined to garner a distance and find somewhere safe to hide.

It was Tama who caused the men to pause for breath when she managed to wiggle free from the jerky wicker basket bag, Kei had been lugging about at his run.

She sprinted ahead and disappeared into the thick of woods. Eiji's heart skipped a beat when he felt sure this time she wasn't coming back. Where she chose to be, he hoped would make her safe and happy.

He skidded to a stop, kicking up dirt and fallen leaves around his boots.


He sighed when he saw her tiny head sniffing around an old maple; its branches holding up weathered red leaves (size of a child's hand) the best it could amongst a canopy of tall evergreen tree neighbours that created a dense formation around it, causing a resistance to its access to the sun.

A fierce wind slapped their faces, stirring an overpowering hit of wet soil and bitter-sweet foliage to their noses. There was also a stillness and the lulling peace akin to a pause before a storm hit.
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"Let's rest. My legs are almost numb." Sean panted as he came up next to Eiji.

He called Tyne and Kei over to them.

"I think we're safe for the time being," Tyne said as he quickly scouted their surrounds of quiet nature.

Once their plight had time for pause, Eiji's mind was flooded with questions.

Was the kenpeitai the ones that caused their flat?

What had his father done?

Why did they think he was part of his father's scheme?

Why did they mistake him as someone else?

It almost seemed that, although there was a connection to his father (and whatever his diabolic scheme was), they didn't factor the connection that he was his son. Rather, they mistook him as being a trusted employee gone rogue.

"Hey, Tyne, about those forged papers and my identity. Where'd they come from?" Eiji stoically asked.

"Kei, where did you source them?" Tyne diverted the question to Kei who let out a heavy sigh.

"What does it matter where I f'cking got them? You asked for papers, I got them!" Kei brushed off the question.

"Kei, darling. An answer to a simple question is polite manners." Sean cosied up to Kei and punished the man with a forced kiss.

"What the f'ck you, freaking faggot!" Kei scrambled out of Sean's deadly hold and to a safe distance, feeling shaken that his lips had touched another man's.

"Answer the question or face brutality that rhymes with grape. I'm not a pretty face when it comes to sadism." Sean coldly demanded with an unnerving tone of voice that even made Eiji's spine feel the shivers.

Kei paused, weighing up his options and the truth of Sean's threats. His eyes lingered on the man's experienced gun hands. Those gloved hands had effortless shot down a carriage of kenpeitai.

"I made a deal with one of the Harigawa, a family of Nishigawa-gumi. Did some favours for their Kaikei in return for the papers." Kei sighed. "They were able to forge the foreign brutes since, well, they're foreigners. No trace. Not many have seen them."

Kei carefully approached Eiji. "You were a challenge. How many Eiji Takaki's weren't fighting or dead? Forged papers of our kind aren't easy to pass off to the trained spotters. The answer came when one of my friend's informants was dead in the pool of his own blood. A victim to a Harigawa transaction. His name was your own."

Eiji groaned. "I'm not going to even ask why the informant died."

"Since he's dead, meant he probably double dealt with the Family and whoever."

"What the f'ck were you thinking?!" Tyne threatened Kei by the collar. "I asked for low key papers. This is what you give me? Now we have the military police on our backs!"

"YOU ASKED FOR PAPERS! I got them. You don't get to be f'cking choosy when war's on!" Kei shouted angrily.

Tyne released him, suddenly worn down.

"You spout your bullshit, go about being good soldiers, patriotism and shit. You guys are what's wrong with this f'cking world!" Kei turned his voice to Eiji.

"A cockroach or a bird. Not going to tell you which one will still be doing its f'cking business after the war's totalled everything!"

Eiji sighed, feeling a headache to his temples. "So, I hold the identity of a double agent who has earned the wrath of the kenpeitai. Just f'cking great!"

"This places a damper to our orders." Sean calmly noted. "The fact that we were being tailed for another reason is the positive to this."

"It also means we're being scrutinised everywhere we go now." Tyne sighed.

"Ditch this git. You've got your orders. You don't need him." Kei offered his solution to the matter.

"You think you can ditch me. You'll find yourself ditched first." Eiji threatened Kei.

"I didn't mean to put a bullet to your head, faggot-brains. I meant, you go and let those f'cking power hungry police chase you."

"Oh! A diversion to throw off the scent." Sean mused. His chirpy self returned to peck Kei on the cheek.

"I was being nice!" Kei begged, pulling away to a safe distance whilst vigorously rubbing Sean's cooties off his face.

"Won't work after the train situation. No, we continue with our current plans." Tyne finalised the situation.

"Then, we need to be extra careful. Firstly, need to know where we are." Sean glanced about the thick forest surrounding them.

"Hey, Kei, can I have a cigarette?" Eiji coolly asked.

Kei grumbled and groaned. He fished out his Lucky Strike packet, handed a stick to the man and lit it whilst it was propped between Eiji's lips. He soon found himself lighting up one for everyone this way. His version of a truce to bury hatchets.

The four men leaned against the trunk of the maple where Tama slept, calmly, in a ball amongst sturdy tree roots. They assumed a relaxed moment of strategic thought amongst cigarette smoke and nature.