Akira had asked Ava if he could see her home but she had replied that she was fine, thank you very much. So after all the thorough questions by the police he trudged home, hands in his pockets, tired and still sprinkled with bits of glass.
When he got to his apartment door there was a boy waiting for him. It was the same one who had been loitering outside the cafe the other day.
“Hey.” The kid gave him a wave.
“You that Damian kid they were looking for?”
“Dema, actually. Mind if I come in?”
Akira minded, but they were on name basis now, so he he relented. “Take off your shoes,” he said as he entered.
Dema did so, and he looked around the apartment with some interest. It was quite plain, and small, too. “You live with anyone?”
“My roommates ditched me some time ago, I think. I haven’t seen them in a while. But they’re still paying rent, so that’s nice.” Akira began looking through the fridge and cupboards for what he should prepare for dinner. “What do you want me for?”
“Oh… The man and the woman I’m with said that you’re a pretty powerful ability user. Class B, no?”
Akira scoffed. “Class B isn’t powerful. And what are those people, stalkers?”
But that man had said that he was of the government the other day, and it sounded like he knew a lot about him, even the subway incident…
“They’re nice enough,” Dema said, taking a seat on the couch. “Anyways, you work with that girl, right? What can you tell me about her?”
“Sorry, I’m not telling you anything.”
“Fine, then. What about yourself?”
Akira gave the cupboard door a firm push, and it hit the wooden frame with a loud thunk. “Look, kid, I’m not interested in anything you might have to offer, I already gave you gum, I already have a job, so quit bugging me, for heavens’ sake!”
“You’re not going to have a job,” Dema said, staring at him in a way that made Akira uncomfortable. Scared, almost. “What happened today? That cafe is going to be closed for weeks, until the windows are repaired. And even then, probably for a long while. No customer wants to go back to a place like that. What’s more, the police are going to have to track down all the people that were affected…”
Akira turned to him, and narrowed his eyes. “How did you know what happened today?”
Dema smirked. “I’ll tell you later. But seriously, I have a point, don’t I?”
“Then I’ll just go back to classes again. Beats re-watching lectures at night. And it’s been a while since I’ve gone, anyways.”
“Look, I’ve come to offer you a gig. You’re gonna get money. You can study there, too. You just gotta come with me, okay? And be ready to use your ability.”
“What kind of gig is that?” Akira scoffed. “You’re not gonna even tell me what the job is?”
Dema’s smile never wavered. “Truth is, even I don’t know what the gig is. And I’ve been with them for a couple days now.”
“Then why in the world do you want me to join?”
Dema only stared at him. “You have to join,” he said. “They made me join. And now I have to make you join too.”
“Tch! I don’t have to do anything.” Akira turned back to boil the water for some noodles.
“You know today? That was my doing. I did that.”
Akira froze. “Huh?”
“All those people? I made them attack your cafe. And you didn’t get hurt, but I could have hurt you. I could have killed you and that girl. And what’s more, I can do it again. I can attack your school, I can attack her home, I can - ”
“All right, enough, enough!” Akira slammed his fist on the counter, and was surprised at himself. “Look, kid, you are going to tell me exactly what this gig is, and then I’m going to report you to the police.”
“I could stop you,” Dema said. “I could just make you forget the number for the police. But I can’t make you join. Because they said that you have to come of your own will, not of my ability.”
“Will you please just leave me alone?”
“No, but I can shut up if you give me something to eat.”
And that was how the two of them ended up eating noodles together.
Dema, true to his word, was quiet as he ate. Akira wanted to ask him if he went to school, or where his parents were, but at this point in time friendly conversation was not on his to-do list. He had wanted to spend a quiet night studying or sleeping or playing video games. Not spend an uncomfortable and creepy time with this kid.
Even as he was washing the dishes, he could feel Dema still staring at him. Did this kid not have a phone or something to look at?
Finally, he sat down again. “Okay,” he said. “I’m willing to listen. Tell me why I should join you. And not by threats. Tell me why I should really join you. Why I should want to join you.”
“If you don’t join us, would you want to join that girl and the police officer?” Dema asked.
“Ava?” Akira thought about it for a moment. “They haven’t given me an invite yet. No, why should I want to join you, genuinely?”
“They’ll give you something to do,” Dema said, staring at his fingers. “They’ll give you money, too, when we succeed. The man said that he’d wipe your record, as well.”
Record… Well, his record hadn’t caused him much trouble just yet. So he asked, “How much money?”
“Enough to pay your college tuition.”
Sheesh. That was a lot of money. He could use it…
“Besides bribery. Why should I care about your cause?”
Dema grinned. “If you care about me, you’ll care about the cause.”
“I don’t care about you.”
“I wasn’t expecting you to. Look, seven years ago, what happened back then?”
“I’m not telling you.”
“Fine, then. But don’t you wish that things could have been a little different?”
“Look, if you’re just doing this for money, I don’t know what to say. From what you’ve been saying it sounds like you’re not doing this for some sort of grand objective or goal in mind. Just money. Is that it?”
Dema shrugged. “Who knows. Certainly I don’t. But yes, there is money involved. Why don’t you give it a try?”
“...it’s illegal, isn’t it.”
“Thorn’s in the government. He can help you. Besides, you already have a record. What’s the harm in adding a little to it?”
“Oh, a lot. I could be expelled. I could lose my job. I could end up worse than before.”
“But at the same time…you could end up better.”
“Shut up and let me think about it. Don’t tell me you’re going to sleep here too.”
Dema stood. “No, no. I’m leaving now. Thanks for the food. But if you ever decide… Well, you know where to reach us.”
“Heh. No matter. We’ll find you again.”