Chapter 2

They arrived at the combat point on time. A fight ensued. Under a flurry of fire, the bandits began to retreat from the kishlak (a village in Central Asia) into the mountains, getting there under fire from their armored personnel carriers.

The plan was worked out tactically correctly: the bandits were driven out of their positions, some of them went into the mountains; at the same time, almost no one of their own was injured, only a few received minor injuries.

After completing the task, they returned to the garrison. And immediately they were summoned to the colonel for a report.

Kai was sitting at the table and spinning his helmet in his hand. The strange Japanese Toyami did not lose his mind. He did not expect to meet this here. He had such a piercing look.

“Why was he looking at me so strangely?”

“Kai, let’s go,” Bartholomew had already got up from the table, returning him to reality. “That’s all, you can go, and the meeting is over! What are you thinking about?”

He didn’t answer, just waved his hand. They went out in silence and got into the car.

“Tired, or what?” Bartholomew has already begun to worry about Kai’s strange behavior.

“Give me a ride to the gangsters, I’ve promised Sebastian to come.”

Bartholomew wanted to object that maybe it was not necessary immediately after the assignment, maybe first it was necessary to come to his senses, but after looking at Kai, he decided to let him go. He was also worried about Frol’s behavior, these constant assaults on Kai. He saw: Kai was sincere in his words about friendship with Frol, but this infuriated him even more. The morning skirmish did not get out of his head. He understood that it was better for him not to be in their tent now.

Bartholomew took him to the gangsters’ barracks, dropped him off at the checkpoint, where Sebastian’s guards were stationed.

Kai arrived just in time for dinner. Appearing in the living room in full uniform, with a scarf around his neck, he looked like an action hero.

Not noticing the admiring glances, he greeted everyone and sat down at the table in the space vacated for him.

“What? Did you go to shoot?” Sher asked, examining his combat appearance.

“Yes, I did. The jihadis were driven from the village. On the way, the Japs were freed – the bandits fired at their cars, and here we are in three armored personnel carriers. The bandits’ cars were swept into the cliff by armored personnel carriers, the rest were shot. Well, and then we drove the jihadis from the village to the mountains. In general, it was fun,” Kai said sadly, untangling the scarf around his neck and undoing the top buttons of the camouflage.

“Eat,” one of the guys put a plate of food in front of Kai.

Kai, as usual, automatically took a fork and began to poke around on his plate.

“What happened there with Frol? Does he use his fists?” Sebastian stared at Kai.

“Nothing serious just drank a little too much, it happens.”

“Now it often “happens” with Frol,” said Sher angrily. “It’s time to explain something to him.”

Kai put down his fork and looked at Sher – he didn’t like Sher’s tone of voice. This was not a threat to Frol – it was a decision made towards him.

“What have you decided?” Kai left the table.

“Why are you so worried about him? He takes a dig at you all the time, today he has begun to fight at all and behaved disrespectfully with us – we have not forgotten his statements,” Sher spoke evil, in him rage grew with every word. “Maybe you think we forgave and forgot?”

Sher also left the table and was now standing opposite Kai.

“I’m leaving,” Kai stepped to the exit, realizing that now he needed to return to Bartholomew to warn them about the gangsters’ decision. Although his decision was not voiced out loud, everything was clear anyway. They wouldn’t leave Frol!

Sher and three of his henchmen blocked his way.

“Do you want to warn or hinder us?” Sher smiled cynically as he looked at Kai.

“Let me through.”

“But the fact that?” there was a sneer in Sher’s voice. The superiority in forces was clearly not in favor of Kai.

Kai stepped forward, and three guys moved towards him, whom he scattered in the corners with several precise movements. Sher was the last to fly off. But the entire living room separated Kai from the door.

Everyone in it stood up and froze, preparing to engage him in battle.

A pistol flashed in Kai’s hand.

“Do not move. I’m leaving.”

“I ask you to stay,” Sebastian got up from the table where he had been sitting all this time, silently watching what was happening. He began to slowly approach Kai.

Kai, pistol in hand, began to retreat to the wall.

“Will you shoot?” Sebastian asked calmly, looking into his eyes.

“Let me go, please!”

“Will you shoot ?!” Sebastian continued to approach.

“In you – never,” Kai said quietly, feeling that his back had already rested against the wall – there was nowhere to retreat.

Sebastian came close to him, slowly raised his hand, and took the pistol from his hand. Then he snapped the handcuff bracelet on Kai’s arm.

“Give me your other hand,” Sebastian said.

Kai felt the tension of the last minutes went away. His strength was running out. He stood limp and looked at Sebastian.

Sebastian himself took his second hand and snapped the handcuff, and then abruptly turned away and, returning to his seat, said:

“Take him to the cell. Just search first.”

“Sebastian, listen, I ask, leave Frol!” the guys recently scattered by him now roughly ransacked his pockets. They pulled out a weapon, a knife and a mobile phone, laid them on the table in front of Sebastian, then grabbed Kai by the arms and dragged him to the exit from the living room.

“Don’t take the handcuffs off him,” Sebastian said dryly, looking the other way.

“Listen to me! Frol … leave Frol, we are together in the war … he is a comrade in arms, we fought so much together! Sebastian!” Kai stammered.

He was pushed out the door and dragged down the corridor to the side where the cameras were located.

“And he’s good! He scattered my threesome and me like skittles! I did not expect,” Sher did not even take offense at such an act of Kai. “Were you sure he wouldn’t shoot you?” he asked Sebastian.

“Yes, I was sure. This is the only person on earth I’m sure of,” Sebastian said thoughtfully.

“He will not forgive you for this,” said Irtysh, who observed the whole performance, but did not consider it necessary to interfere. “You will now lose your friend because of some filth Frol.”

“We live by our own concepts, Frol has violated them – therefore, he needs to be taught a lesson,” Sebastian’s voice could be heard with a note of doubt.

“Kai will not forgive you. You want to touch his comrade-in-arms – that’s too much! What should he do? You put him between the choices: you or this one. It’s Stupid! Do not do this, do not put him in front of such a choice. He made it long ago – you are his friend! He is ready to catch a bullet for you,” Irtysh spoke in a calm, reasonable voice. “I, it’s possible to say, have already lived my life, but I haven’t met such a friend,” he said sadly.

Sebastian turned away, took out his cigarettes, and lit a cigarette. His soul was dreary. He understood that the Irtysh was right. But what could he do? He was now between two fires – Kai and his friendship and the mob and their principles.

“Well, when are we going to kill Frol?” Sher was impatient – he loved to mock people.

“When I tell you, then you’ll go,” Sebastian said in a harsh voice. “Let yours watch him.”

“Got it.”

Sher called his team aside to assign roles in spying on Frol.

***

Kai was pushed into a cell.

The cells were equipped in a separate building. They were always in demand. Those who were “re-educated” were kept here. It was a small room with a lattice on a small window, in the corner there was a bed, on the side – a close-stool – that’s all the amenities.

He was pushed inside, the door closed with a grinding noise.

He walked to the window, but it was high enough it was impossible to look through.

Feeling that fatigue fell on him, Kai slid down the wall and sat on the floor. He looked at his handcuffed hands. How he hates it, the state of helplessness, complete helplessness!

The swarm of thoughts haunted:

“Everything has become very difficult! Frol! No, I’m not offended by him. Well, he has sent a blow – it’s a trifle! We fought so much together, but I will tear anyone for him. Of course, it comes over him – a desire to find fault with me; perhaps he even hates me, however, he is not alone.”

He knew many people hate him because the authorities treat him differently, not like everyone else.

“But if only they knew! If you only knew why I am here, and why such an attitude towards me!”

Being here is his curse, his fate, his sentence, his life sentence. And deliverance is death! And if it were not for his faith, he would have taken a step and broke this vicious circle. But he can’t. This is his cross, and he must carry it to the end.

“How hard, how painful it is when people perceive everything so flat and one-sided, considering me privileged and hating for it. I don’t even have friends here. I am alone, all alone all these years. And it’s so hard to be alone!”

Kai remembered Sebastian. Of course, Sebastian is his friend. But he is not a military man, he is a prisoner serving his term here in a penal battalion. However, from the penal battalion, he made a state within a state and put himself in charge of all – well, well done, honor, and praise to him.

“Sebastian is great. He’s put things in order. It’s tough, of course, but there’s no other way. People obey unquestioningly only when they are afraid of their leader, knowing that for insubordination they face death. Yes, Sebastian is my friend. It’s good that I can come to him and have a rest like that, although today the rest is clearly not a success. I understand Sebastian why he’s closed me here. I don’t even take offense at him. “

It is difficult for Sebastian to maintain power here, among people who have long had nothing to lose. This is a penal battalion, and they are sent to the front line when they know there is no chance of survival. What can subdue these people? Only a cruel leader!

“Now Sebastian cannot act differently with me, otherwise his power will be shaken. I have also resorted to the only way – I’ve used a pistol. But Sebastian knew I would never shoot him. I’d rather shoot myself!” Kai smiled, remembering their first meeting. It was a long time ago. So many years have passed, but they still have much in common. They have passed through a lot together. Now he doesn’t even have a grudge against him for putting him here in handcuffs.

Then he remembered Frol.

“Bartholomew and guys … What will happen now ?! I didn’t prevent it and I couldn’t warn them!

How confusing everything is. I had to do something. But what? How can I save Frol now?!”

Kai threw back his head and pressed the back of his head against the wall, closed his eyes. From the whirlwind of thoughts and his helplessness in the inevitability of what was happening, a feeling of weakness rolled through the body. He just sat by the wall and waited.

The piercing gray eyes, looking at him so strangely, came to his mind. He remembered this strange Japanese man: black straight hair, the perfect order of which was broken by a light breeze, battle swords on his belt, fluttering kimono flaps…

The scraping of an iron door interrupted his memories. A man entered, and the door closed behind him.

Sebastian saw Kai sitting against the wall with a pale face and closed eyes.

“Are you feeling bad?” Sebastian asked with concern in his voice, bending over him.

“Why did you come?” Kai looked at him angrily.

Bumping into his gaze, Sebastian took a step back and then sat down on the bed.

There was silence. No one spoke first.

“Please take off the handcuffs – it hurts my hands,” Kai looked at Sebastian. “Please. I won’t run away, I promise. I hate it when handcuffs are put on: immediately bad memories roll in,” Kai was no longer angry, his hands really hurt, but the main thing was this disgusting feeling of helplessness.

Sebastian heard a plea for help in Kai’s words. He could not, did not want to torture him either physically or mentally.

He dropped to one knee in front of him and carefully unbuckled the handcuffs.

“Do you want a cigarette?” Sebastian asked and, without waiting for Kai’s answer, lit a cigarette and gave it to him. He lit the second one for himself, and then went back to bed.

There was silence again.

“I can’t do this to you, I don’t want to. Nobody will touch Frol for a while. If he doesn’t run into something more serious, then I won’t be able to promise you anything.”

Kai was looking into Sebastian’s eyes as he was speaking. He felt the sincerity of these words. That was why friendly relations had been established between them. After all, he knew that under the guise of cruelty and imperiousness, Sebastian hid his soul, which had not become stale in this war.

Sebastian walked over to Kai and held out his hand to help him up.

Kai grabbed his palm with his, Got up. They shook hands.

“Come on, you’re free. Will you stay with us today?”

“No, I’ll go. Now my presence here is not desirable: it will infuriate Sher.”

“I’ll walk you to the car.”

Silently going out into the street, where it was already dark, they lit other cigarettes. We started talking. They talked about everything, as always.

So they would have chatted on, but they had to go.

Sebastian told his people to take Kai wherever he said. Shaking hands again, Kai got into the car.

Back in the living room, Sebastian stumbled upon Sher’s glowering gaze.

“Do you let him go?!” he croaked. “What? Is everything canceled for today?! By the way, I do not understand what is happening here. What b*******: Frol humiliates us, but we all endure!”

Sebastian grabbed Sher by the collar of the clothes.

“Now listen to me! I don’t want to lose Kai over a piece of sh*t. He is the only one who supports us, who helps us. Maybe, have you forgotten all this? When you are thrown into the front line, who is protecting you there, who does not allow you to be used as cannon fodder? Who is sitting with you in the trenches? Kai! Who is here to excuse you in front of the authorities, does everything for us? Is Frol worth losing Kai’s affection forever? Is he worth it?! Not! Frol and I will figure it out. But so that Kai does not harbor resentment against us. Now is not the time to touch Frol. It’s not the time …”

Sebastian pushed Sher away from him. He looked around menacingly.

“Does everyone understand everything?!” at such moments he was terrible. He was a leader, a chief, a calculating politician, an intelligent head. He knew what to say to his subordinates so that his power would not only not be shaken, but, on the contrary, strengthened.

They all bowed their heads in silence.

Sebastian’s power was unshakable over all of them.

Irtysh smiled with satisfaction. He had a good student, although he was still young, but he could be proud of him!

***

Kai asked to take him to the apartment. Already at the entrance to it, the road was sharply blocked by another UAZ, from which an officer jumped out and ran to their car.

“Why isn’t the phone working? You have already been looked long by everyone! There the jihadis broke through the defenses, where the Japanese are. They ask for help. We are leaving in twenty minutes. Go to the headquarters like a bullet out of a gun, everyone is there!” shouting this, the officer jumped into his car and left, apparently, to look for someone else.

“Well, should I take you to headquarters?” asked the possy sitting to the right of the driver.

“Yes, to the headquarters.”

“Do you ever sleep?” he asked almost carefully.

“There it is decent to go to the firing point, so I’ll sleep.”

“In the APC?” after a pause, he answered. “You’ve forgotten your phone. Should I bring it?”

“Let it lie down, otherwise the last one is stitched with a bullet, I did not have time to transfer cool pictures on the computer. It was a pity.”

The guys in the front seat exchanged glances. Kai said it calmly, without heroism, casually. This was his daily life.

The car stopped near the headquarters. Kai said goodbye to them and went inside.

There were many people at the headquarters. The colonel was planning a large-scale action, so he called the main officer corps.

Kai was immediately given a seat at the table, given reports and data on what was happening. He was introduced to the course.

Its essence was as follows. The Takeru camp was set up near the village at the bottom of the gorge.

At the words of Takeru, Kai immediately remembered this tall Japanese man and their meeting on the road. So would he have to save him a second time?

Reinforcements were supposed to come to them, but they were delayed. One of the bandit formations descended from the mountains into the gorge and attacked their camp. The closest help was only their brigade.

The leadership from above was champing with rage since in the current political situation it was necessary to help an ally. After all, it took so long for everyone to sign an agreement on joint actions. Finally, the Russians and the Japanese had united. And this help would strengthen their friendship.

Having planned their actions, they went to the exit, where the APCs were waiting for them.

They didn’t get much sleep on the way. The radio was constantly on, transmitting the latest data of the changing picture of the battle, and they were shaken so that the whole body ached as if it was beaten with sticks.

They drove to the Japanese all night long, and only in the morning, their team was at the place.

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They completed the first part of the task quite easily. Under the pressure of the armored personnel carrier and the infantry walking behind, the Mujahideens retreated into the mountains, but not all of them – some of them remained in the village. They had to leave the APCs and go hunting the village. Both the Russians and the Japanese all rushed into battle.

The kishlak turned out to be large enough. Jihadis were everywhere. Chaotic gunfire was heard from everywhere.

While combing lane after lane, Kai noticed a Japanese warrior fighting; he recognized him – it was Toyami. For some reason, he was alone, without his retinue. Five jihadis were making an attack on him with swords. Toyami managed to keep them at a distance, fighting back with his sword.

Kai, assessing the placement of opponents, wanted to kill two from the machine gun, but realized that he had run out of cartridges. Without hesitating for a second, he rushed to one of the jihadis, thrust a knife into him, at the same time grabbing the sword from his hand. And in the next jump, he was back to back with Toyami. He turned sharply, his eyes widening.

“Here, I am passing by, I see how you are having fun here, and I’ve decided to join. Do not mind?” said Kai in Japanese, simultaneously reflecting the blows of two jihadis.

“I’m glad to see you,” he replied, also reflecting the blows with his sword.

Having quickly finished off the attackers, Kai and Toyami began to move along the streets of the village. They managed to work together surprisingly quickly – one protected, the other shot or chopped, and vice versa. They immediately began to understand each other perfectly. Four pairs of eyes are much better than two. And they both had courage.

Once again, having dealt with five opponents, they sat down behind the wall to reload their weapons and take a breath.

“Let’s have a smoke,” Kai said, taking out his cigarettes and reloading the machine at the same time.

Toyami took the cigarette from him, lit it, and returned it to Kai.

Kai inhaled greedily. His face was smeared with blood, dirt, and grime from the explosions. But that didn’t spoil him. The refined features of the face drew Toyami’s eyes. Perhaps he kept his gaze on him longer than decency allowed.

“Well, let’s continue the fun?” Kai said fervently and winked, then rolled out of hiding, shot two jihadis off on the roof with a machine gun. He noticed their shadow a few seconds ago.

Toyami did not notice the enemy, unlike Kai. He suddenly realized that they would have been killed with a burst of machine-gun fire here, if not for Kai.

“Toyami, on the count of three, on the right,” he heard and realized that the enemy was on the right. After waiting for the signal, he jumped out and caught the jihadi on the edge of his sword – it entered right up to the hilt.

So they fought and advanced through the village until the shooting died down. The enemy was destroyed.

Finally, they reached the gathering place for all the parts.

“Mr. Takeru, we were looking for you,” his subordinates ran to Toyami.

“Are you okay?” Izoa asked, looking him up and down.

“Izoa, Kai saved me from death. With him today I’ve fought shoulder to shoulder.”

Izoa bowed respectfully to Kai.

“You saved me too, is it worth mention? We worked fine.”

“Do you Want to drink?” Izoa handed Toyami a flask.

He took the flask and gave it to Kai first.

“It’s in time, indeed,” Kai began to drink greedily, then wiped his lips with his sleeve and handed the flask to Toyami, who also raised it to his lips, looking into Kai’s eyes.

“Imagine, I’ve lost my cigarettes,” as if not noticing this gaze on himself, said Kai, rummaging through his pockets.

Toyami took the cigarettes from Izoa and handed them to Kai.

“Will you smoke?” Kai asked Toyami. The other shook his head, “then I will take everything from you, I have to trudge to the garrison, but there is nothing to smoke.”

“Kai, well, where are you, everyone is looking for you, it’s time to go!” Pepper shouted, leaning out of the approaching APC.

Kai, out of habit, extended his hand to Toyami, although it was not accepted by the Japanese. They shook hands, for a split second Toyami held his hand on his own.

The strange warmth from his palm warmed the skin pleasantly.

Then, realizing that his hand was free, Kai, bowing in the Japanese manner, said goodbye to the others and jumped dashingly onto a passing APC.

Toyami watched him go.

He was amazed at it: to fight in such a way! A Russian wields a sword much better than he – this is indisputable. And Kai has saved his life today. He fights fiercely, cuts the enemy without hesitation. Is it cruelty? No, this is the spirit of a warrior. And what a technique of hand-to-hand combat! He knew some of the tricks, but the rest? It’s interesting how many martial arts has he acquired? Kai never ceases to amaze him…

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To amaze?! Nobody has surprised him with anything for a long time. Again this thought has haunted him. To surprise him? Yes, it’s amazing. And besides, he wants to see him. It’s a strange desire for a man like Toyami.

Even now he feels the warmth of his palm, fingers are as thin as those of a musician. A touch. Why is it so clearly imprinted in his memory? Where does this desire to touch him come from?

***

Returning to his headquarters and sorting out the current affairs, Toyami allowed himself to go to lunch.

It’s good that Kodji was in the officers’ mess.

They exchanged bows. Kodji, even though he had already dined, decided to linger at the table, to keep his friend company.

“You look strange,” Kodji noticed the change in his friend, “your eyes are shining, and you’ve come to life straight! They say the Russians have saved you today. Have they impressed you?”

“Yes, they’ve saved us.”

“You’re obviously not telling me something.”

Kodji was five years older than Toyami, but in many ways more sophisticated and more experienced. And now the strange state of his friend did not escape him.

“This is the second time I have met a Russian youth. You’ve probably heard of him too. His name is Kai. He helped the first time my car was attacked on a mountain road, and today he has helped a second time. If not for him, I would not be sitting here with you now.

“I’ve heard of Kai, but I’ve never seen him. Are you saying he’s young?”

“Yes, very young. It struck me too. There are so many legends about him, rumors about his exploits. I have had no idea that he looks like that.

“What does he look like?” Kodji began to guess about something

“He’s handsome! I don’t even have anything more to add … He doesn’t look like a Russian, although I don’t know how Russians should look. He has Such a refined profile, noble features, you know, like European monarchs have, maybe he is of royal blood?” Toyami smiled. “Most of all I am struck by his eyes – huge, sparkling, green, I can’t even describe them plainly. You must see them. By the way, he is short and thin … fragile … the waist is so thin,” Toyami closed his eyes, once again remembering his image.

Kodji leaned back in his chair and laughed softly.

“My friend, you fell in love!”

“Do not be silly!”

“I know you well, too well,” Kodji put his hand on Toyami’s arm, “I was the one who opened the world of love to you, don’t you remember that?”

Toyami slowly pulled his hand out from under Kodji’s arm.

“It was a long time ago, there’s no need to remind about it now,” there was a coldness in his voice, it was clear from the tone of his reply that he was not very pleased with this memory.

“As you wish,” Kodji gazed into Toyami’s eyes, but seeing them as just a cold glint, decided not to bring up the topic of their long-standing relationship anymore. “So what about Kai? How has it finished?”

“The fight is over; he has gone to his place.”

“Is that all?”

“What else could happen?”

“But do you want to see him again?”

“Yes!”

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