rainbows in their eyes
The Narumi Detective Agency was such a mish-mash of color that Shotaro wondered if the boss had ever found his soulmate.
The walls in the reception area were green. The dresser by his bed was mostly white, with some of the drawers painted a pair of bright colors that Shotaro rather liked until he found out they were pink and purple. The walls in the office area were black-and-white-checkered. No one color dominated, and there was no real harmony.
Shotaro didn’t realize until Philip pointed it out that he had an unconscious aversion to the red sofa. From then on he made a point of sitting there whenever he could just to prove that he didn’t have a problem with it.
Anyway, it was better than sitting in the chair behind the desk—his desk now, he supposed, but it would always be the boss’s desk in his mind. He’d often tried to sit there when Sokichi hadn’t been looking only to be reprimanded because he hadn’t earned the right. But now he couldn’t bring himself to even approach it. The boss was dead because of him. How was he supposed to just sit at that desk, plunk a fedora down on his head, and pretend he deserved to call himself a detective?
Besides, life with his new soulmate proved to be hectic enough that he wouldn’t spend much time sitting in one place at all.
Shotaro emerged from the bathroom one afternoon to find Philip digging around in the dresser drawers. One by one he pulled out various shirts and vests, held them up to his torso, and frowned down at them.
“...what are you doing?” Shotaro asked.
Philip turned. He tossed a vest aside, paying no mind as it landed on the boss’s desk and knocked over a pair of bookends. “Ah, Shotaro. I decided that I need some new clothing.”
That made sense. Philip was still wearing those white pajamas he’d had on four days ago when they’d met. “Oh. Pick something, I guess.”
“Your clothes are boring.” Philip turned back to the dresser. He pawed at the shirts inside. “Even the ones that aren’t black, white, or grey are very dull in color.” He picked up one shirt and eyed it with disdain. It was dark blue with black pinstripes. “Don’t you have anything more interesting?”
“Well, no.” Shotaro gingerly picked his vest up off the desk, making sure not to touch anything else. “I couldn’t see in color until I met you so it never really mattered.”
Philip dropped the shirt he was holding. Without making any move to pick up the other clothes he’d scattered on the floor and bed, he moved out to the front of the office, where he picked up a magazine from the table. “Let’s fix that. Look at this.”
“Hold on, hold on.” Shotaro sighed and dropped the clothes he’d begun half-heartedly scooping up to join Philip. “Windscale catalog? You have good taste, I see. As expected of my—”
“See?” Philip opened up to a random page and Shotaro instantly regretted his words. Were those pants? They were so baggy that for a moment Shotaro thought they were some kind of pant-skirt hybrid. And those colors were practically neon. “Something like this, for example. Or this!” Philip flipped to another page, where there were striped shirts in colors just as glaring.
“Huh?!” Shotaro grabbed the catalog out of Philip’s hands. Since when did Windscale even have stuff like this? They were supposed to be way more hard-boiled than that. But sure enough, further along in the catalog there were clothes more like he expected of the brand: Button-down shirts, vests, slacks, fedoras. This was definitely Windscale.
He sucked in a deep breath and glanced over at the white fedora hanging on the door to the garage that Philip had claimed as his room. If he was going to do this detective thing, he’d need a hat of his own. He couldn’t wear that one.
“Let’s go shopping,” Shotaro said. He tossed the magazine down onto the table.
Philip’s eyes lit up.
“Put on some of my clothes for now.” He gestured to the back of the office. “Just until we pick something out for you.”
Maybe he could steer Philip away from some of the more ostentatious pieces of clothing he’d taken a liking to. Then again... Shotaro sighed and shook his head. Philip had his own life to lead, now, and his own choices to make. And if that meant becoming a fashion disaster, then so be it.
(He still couldn’t understand how this kid was supposed to be his soulmate.)
“She doesn’t even love you, you know.” Wakana folded her arms over her chest with a sneer.
Kirihiko glanced over at his sister-in-law in surprise. “Why would you say that?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” She clicked her tongue against her teeth. “Besides, you tell me. Do you even have...” She waved her hand in front of her face. “Soulmate vision?”
He laughed. “Wakana, my dear, I’ve had ‘soulmate vision’ since I was in kindergarten.”
“When I first set foot on the observation deck at Fuuto Tower and gazed out over this beautiful city.”
“No way! You’re lying,” Wakana exclaimed.
“That’s quite rude of you, dear sister.” Still limping, Kirihiko climbed the steps that led away from the fountain. “Thank you for your help.”
“...where are you going?”
He didn’t respond. He had a city to protect.
“Why do you say you can never see your daughter again? Don’t be so melodramatic, Sokichi.”
He pulled up the sleeve of his shirt. Spider’s brand was still clearly visible.
Fumine’s sunglasses and bandages revealed no trace of emotion, but he knew her well enough to interpret her hesitation as surprise. “If anybody is in danger from Spider, I would think it would be me.”
Sokichi leaned against the grating she had installed in his garage. “What Matsu said was, ‘When the person marked with that spider touches the one they love most, that person will explode.’” He pulled his hat from his head and looked down at it. “He didn’t say anything about soulmates. You flatter yourself, Fumine.”
“I told you, my name is—”
“You wouldn’t take that risk with Raito.”
A tired smirk crossed Sokichi’s face as he pulled his sleeve back down over his wrist. Either way, he wasn’t going to inflict himself on Akiko. Not the way he’d become.
The door to the Narumi Detective Agency opened and a man dressed all in leather stepped through.
“Ah, a client?” Akiko shuffled out from the kitchen.
She and the client locked eyes. A long silence passed between them, during which Shotaro glanced from one of them to the other from where he was sitting at the kitchen table.
The client turned on his heel and walked back out of the office.
Akiko shrieked and ran after him. “Hey, come back here!”
“Wait, Akiko, what are—”
She shouted over her shoulder in response, “Don’t stop me, Shotaro! He’s the one!”
Shinkuro Isaka had never seen a Dopant like Taboo.
Her form was lithe—svelte, even. Her proportions drew the eye like no other.
But what really caught his eye was the color. The red-and-black body; the pink of her arms and her face; the yellow tendrils snaking up from her head. Never before had he seen a Dopant—or anything else—in more than greyscale. Taboo truly was amazing.
From the look Saeko Sonozaki gave him when the examination concluded, he could only conclude that she felt the same about him. Isaka grinned and licked his lips.
If meeting Philip had allowed Shotaro to see in color, transforming into CycloneJokerXtreme was something beyond that. His entire world sparkled in a way it never had before. Even once they’d separated, Shotaro’s senses remained heightened for quite a while.
He could see subtle differences in hues that he’d never been able to pick up before. Everything was vibrant, even the hard-boiled monotone of the walls in the back of the office. His entire world had become tinted with rainbows.
It faded, eventually, but it came back the next time they used Xtreme. This, Shotaro thought, was something he could get used to.
Saeko’s vision returned to its previous state at the hands of Ryu Terui. By all rights, she should have been used to the same dull black-and-white she had seen for the first thirty years of her life.
But she wasn’t.
How could she go back to this after what she’d had?
She would make them pay for this.
“It’s obviously a trap!” Akiko exclaimed. “Wakana is one of the Sonozakis. She’s just trying to get at you!”
“And besides, Shotaro’s your soulmate, isn’t he? How can you even think of leaving him?”
“Akiko,” Shotaro called from his desk. “This is Philip’s decision. We can’t make it for him.”
Philip sighed with relief. He sank down onto the bed and picked at his lip in frustration. Everything Akiko was saying was the truth—Wakana’s family ran the syndicate that was still undoubtedly eager to reclaim their precious tool.
And Shotaro was his soulmate. Meeting Shotaro had made Philip’s world blossom into color in more ways than one. How could he even dream of leaving him behind now? And it wasn’t just him; Akiko had become like a precious family member to him as well.
And yet thinking about Wakana in such obvious distress made his chest ache. How could he leave her behind in her time of need?
Philip groaned and flopped onto his back. “I just can’t make up my mind...”
Akiko sighed dramatically. “Why, you...”
Shotaro stood up. “Why don’t we head to the train station anyway? It’s getting late. You don’t have to decide right now, Philip.” He held a hand out toward Philip.
Philip looked up at his partner. His other half.
He took Shotaro’s hand and stood.
“This is goodbye, then.” Philip placed his hand on the right-hand side of the Double Driver.
Shotaro grabbed his wrist before he could close it. “Wait.”
Thanks to Xtreme, the two of them were one in every way possible. Shotaro could feel Philip’s confusion as keenly as though it were his own.
“Let me be the one to do it,” Shotaro choked out. “With my hand.”
Philip would have smiled if they weren’t transformed. His hand slipped out of Shotaro’s and rested at their side. “I’m in your hands, then, partner.” When Shotaro didn’t immediately make a move, Philip added, “It’s all right. Even once I’m gone, we’ll still be partners for as long as the Earth exists.”
There was a lump in Shotaro’s throat. But as much as he couldn’t stand to face what was about to happen, he had to be strong. He could feel the pain his partner felt, even if Philip was trying to hide it. What kind of a partner would he be if he made Philip kill himself?
His eyes watered, and Philip laughed gently. “Are you crying, Shotaro?”
“I’m closing this thing,” Shotaro responded. He tried to sound aloof. He failed.
He could feel his partner’s fondness washing over him. “Goodbye, Shotaro.”
The vivid world he saw through the eyes of Xtreme faded to a dull, muddy grey.
It was just as well. Bright colors would have only reminded him of Philip; of those ridiculous clothes he wore and of the time they’d spent together.
This was how it had to be for a hard-boiled detective like Shotaro.
There were times when he would almost swear he could see flashes of green at the edges of his vision, fleeting, always gone when he turned to look.