Death Wish


“Sir? Are you all right?”

He turned with distant surprise toward the sympathetic woman’s voice that had spoken, but couldn’t at first get his eyes to focus on her.

“You’ve been standing there packing those for five minutes,” she explained.

Saitou’s hands paused in the middle of said motion, which he hadn’t realized he’d been doing for so long. Once he’d made the transition from one action to another, it was with automatic if jerky movements that he opened the package, extracted a cigarette, brought it to his lips, and searched for his lighter.

The woman, whom he eventually hazily identified as a member of the janitorial staff cleaning out the ash trays here on the smoking deck, looked at him pityingly, especially at his arms onto which some of the blood must have soaked through his jacket before he’d removed it. After a moment she offered her own lighter, seeing he was absently continuing the search despite his inability to find his (it was in his jacket). “Waiting for someone in surgery?” she guessed quietly.

Dumbly he nodded. The smoke worked to clear his head a little, but not enough for him to attempt a verbal response.

She glanced again at his uniform. “Partner?”

He nodded again, not up to the task of differentiating between types of partners.

“I hope everything goes OK,” she said as she wheeled her cleaning cart around to face the door back inside. “Keep the lighter.”

Saitou was left alone, watching the ambulances come and go but not really seeing them, nor hearing their wailing sirens rising up from below. Presently he tossed what remained of the cigarette into the ash tray and started another.

They hadn’t come in an ambulance. He hadn’t wanted to wait for one when he had a car with a siren right there. It was a breach of protocol, but he didn’t give a damn. That wasn’t the only thing he’d done wrong… a shooting, and he hadn’t pursued… had opened fire in a public parking lot… had barely been coherent enough to relay information to someone in the vicinity…

Justice was one thing. Revenge was one thing. Prevention of further crime was one thing. Saving someone’s life was something entirely above and beyond.

He gave a short, sarcastic laugh as he started his fourth cigarette. Above and beyond justice? Above and beyond the only ideal that had mattered to him his entire life? Guns are loaded with truth, the saying went. He’d never liked it. He still didn’t like it. At least now he’d found an applicable situation, though. The truth here was that the police were coming up very short in this city if somebody in the company of an officer couldn’t cross a parking lot without getting shot.

His hand, he found, was clenched with vicious tightness around the lighter, and he forced it to loosen. Whose lighter was this, anyway? He’d just bought a new one, along with the cigarettes, at the store, before… Well, that one had been black, and this was red.

In the midst of lighting his sixth stick, his hand clenched again inadvertently, and he growled, bending his will to pry it open and reignite the lighter. He sucked hard on the cigarette, but found its soothing quality inferior to some he’d enjoyed in the past.

The idiot had a death wish. That was the only explanation. Wasn’t there some psychologist somewhere with a theory about beautiful people being more reckless? Typically stupid. Somebody beautiful shouldn’t care if some moron he didn’t even know called him a faggot, shouldn’t have to respond to everything said to him, shouldn’t have to turn everything into a confrontation, then a fight… then a shooting… but Saitou should know better by now — much better — than to associate, even indirectly, charm with sense. Because it should have been obvious to anyone familiar with the streets, not to mention that particular neighborhood, cop or otherwise, that those guys were trouble. There were visible bullet holes in their car, for god’s sake.

He accidentally snapped the eighth cigarette between fingers that shouldn’t have been quite so unsteady. Irritated, he pulled out another one.

How absurd, to go through life assuming you were invincible! Though perhaps that attitude was only present in the company of a cop? Saitou thought it was more likely a permanent thing. He took a long, angry drag on the tenth cigarette. What kind of cop was he, anyway, letting someone get shot right in front of him? True, he’d put a few more holes into that wreck of a car as they’d peeled out, but he’d been intending to hit their tires. He couldn’t remember when his aim had been so off.

His aim was still off, and he had to bend and retrieve the half-spent cigarette from wet concrete to deposit it in the ash tray. Then the lighter blew out twice and it was several moments before he got the twelfth one lit.

And what kind of timing was this? It was like some cosmic sense of irony had decided to make a joke of him, of both of them, or like something out of a bad tear-jerker ‘romance’ movie. Did everyone suffer similarly disastrous consequences of important admissions? Or had it only happened here because he’d been so stubborn for so long? He flicked ash from the fourteenth cigarette and it unexpectedly blew right back into his face. Representative of anything? Possibly. But it was a cruel form of punishment for one‘s obstinacy to let the other get shot.

Or maybe it was just a message from the great beyond. He’d given in because he had a weakness for pretty, stupid, adorable people, but maybe he should have held out. Perhaps this was the universe’s way of telling him that, of taking the choice he’d handled badly out of his hands. Except that would have to mean…

The thought was so unexpectedly chilling, the resultant shiver so intense and unexpected, he nearly dropped both the lighter and his sixteenth cigarette. Fumbling just to keep them in his hands, it was a while before he got the thing lit. He didn’t know why that idea was affecting him so much; he didn’t believe in destiny and being guided by the hands of fate. It had been an unfortunate and ironically timed coincidence, nothing more.

“Hey, Saitou…”

Even his own name could hardly gain his attention.

“You’ve been out here the whole time, haven’t you? You’re soaking wet! If you catch a cold or something, Sano’ll be pissed at both of us.”

The name, not to mention the accompanying implication, was enough to bring him ten steps closer to reality. He suddenly recognized just how cold he really was, as well as the sight of the young man standing in front of him, and the fact that by now… by now it must be over. A little more aware of the real cause of his shaking hands, he was able to control them much better than he had before as he stubbed out his cigarette in the ash tray.

“He’s going to be fine,” the long-haired man said as Saitou straightened and looked at him again. “At least, he’s out of immediate danger, and they don’t expect complications.”

“With him there are always complications.” He was surprised at how dark and harsh his voice sounded. Unfamiliar, somehow, as if he hadn’t heard himself speak for a very long time.

The young man — Katsu, that’s who he was, the roommate — smiled, wry and weary. “I don’t understand any of this.” Saitou found himself struggling to hear the words over the pounding in his chest, which sound even overrode the very close-by noise of the lighter striking and flaring up. “You seem like a complete asshole, and that’s basically how Sano’s described you… but he’s been totally obsessed with you since he met you.”

The officer nodded, accepting the unflattering assessment of his personality as well as confirming the history.

“But you wouldn’t have him for the longest time,” continued Katsu, “until you just randomly changed your mind tonight when you ran into him at a gas station on your way home from work… and then — just then — there just happens to be some trigger-happy homophobe waiting outside to shoot him. Am I right so far?”

Saitou nodded again, not bothering to explain that there had been physical involvement for quite some time, and tonight had merely been the first expression of emotional involvement. It came to the same thing — Sano had finally gotten what he wanted, and then this…

“So first I get a string of texts from Sano I can barely read because he’s so happy and excited about you… and then you call me up, cool as cucumber, asking does Sano have medical insurance and can I meet you at the hospital! Almost give me a heart attack, and you’re just calm and disinterested, and then disappear the moment he goes into surgery.”

Saitou wasn’t aware he came across as so very indifferent, but neither was he surprised. He had nothing to say in his own defense.

“And finally.” Katsu shook his head, smiling faintly. “I find you out here, where I guess you’ve been the whole time, still pretending to be a stoic asshole.”

“Pretending?” Saitou echoed, vaguely startled.

“I don’t really know you at all, but it seems to me that getting hypothermia pacing in an ice storm and not even noticing means you’re pretty damn distracted.”

Saitou looked around at the heavy sleet, realizing for the first time it was there. “I would hardly call this an ice storm…”

“Have it your way,” Katsu shrugged. “My point is, you like him enough to worry yourself sick over him, so I just wonder what took you so long.”

Still filled with the same unfocused surprise, Saitou again had no answer.

“He’s in room 354,” Katsu said with a snort that might have been amused and might have been exasperated. “It’s two floors up from here. Be there when he wakes up.”

Saitou thought he nodded, but he didn’t even see Katsu there anymore — only hallways and elevators, and the only thing in his head was a number.

And there in the bed was his stupid boy. There was nothing else — no small and painfully white room with ceiling, walls, and floor; no potted plants to add cheer to the scene; no curtained window providing the slap of frozen rain from outside; no TV near the ceiling to keep the patient from insanity; no worn and comfortable chairs for family members to worry their hearts out in; no IV or heart monitor or folded tray table or even sterile sheets or breathing tubes or anything else at all in the entire world but Sanosuke lying there pale, asleep, alive.

Saitou didn’t think he’d ever remained so utterly still, nor stared at something with such profound fixedness. He felt like he stood in the eye of a huge storm; here there was agonized calm and quiet, but around him everything was spinning and chaotic, and nothing would ever be the same again. How such a simple thing as a sleeping face could have such an effect on him, he was not and would probably never be sure.

Eventually, after how long he could not even begin to guess, he found his way to one of the chairs and continued his intense study of Sano’s visage from there. He felt inexplicably weary, as if he had been the one shot, as if he’d done anything tonight other than pacing. It was illogical and troublesome, and for a while he fought the onslaught of sleep with irritated vigor. Sano’s tranquility was contagious, however, and after a while Saitou gave in.

When he awoke, the young man still lay silent, his breathing as shallow as before. Saitou stretched, rearranged himself in the chair, and started watching once again, almost as if he had never been interrupted. The light had changed, the storm outside had evidently passed during the night, but everything else remained the same.

After an indeterminate while — a clock ticked somewhere in the room, but Saitou’s eyes had never left Sano’s form to locate it — a nurse entered. “Oh, you’re awake,” said she. “We let you stay because you looked so tired, and because the roommate mentioned that Sanosuke would want to talk to you as soon as possible, but normally we only allow family members to sit in the room all night — especially no police officers, because patients don’t need to be questioned right after–”

“I’m not going to question him,” Saitou broke in. “I’m his–” he forced himself not to stumble over the word– “boyfriend.”

“Oh!” The nurse looked surprised and sympathetic. “Well, of course you can stay, then.” She added as she went about whatever business she’d come in to do, “He’s going to be just fine.”

Saitou nodded silently and continued watching Sano, barely noticing when the woman left.

Not long after that (he thought), Sano’s lids finally opened. Despite not seeming to see much more than he had with them closed, at least at first, just this tiny motion on Sano’s part caused Saitou’s deliriously spinning world to come down so abruptly it left him shaking. He was beside the bed before the brown eyes could even come into a half-focused state.

“Oh,” Sano said blearily. “You really are here.”

“Yes,” Saitou replied.

Sano gave a vague smile. “I thought I heard you talking… thought I heard you said you’re my boyfriend.”

“I did.”

The smile, which was remarkably childlike, widened. “Gotta get shot more often, then. Every day. Did I get shot?”

“Yes.”

Sano’s hand emerged slowly from under the blanket and found Saitou’s. “I don’t feel it,” he murmured. The smile turned almost into a grin. “Don’t really feel anything.”

“You will,” Saitou assured him. “It’ll hurt sooner than you want it to.”

“You should kiss me,” Sano mumbled.

Normally Saitou would have refused to kiss someone with a plastic tube up his nose, but at this point he couldn’t deny Sano anything. Still, it was a very brief, gentle kiss.

“Smell like so many cigarettes,” was Sano’s faint statement. “You been chain-smoking again?”

Saitou lifted the mostly crushed package that was still in his other hand and glanced at it. One cigarette remained, and he was surprised it wasn’t crushed as well. Yes, he supposed, he had been chain-smoking. He hadn’t noticed.

“That’s the pack you just bought!” Sano protested with a little more energy. Saitou made no attempt to stop him as he reached out and took it in loose fingers, then threw it weakly across the room. Whether he’d awakened at some point earlier and looked around or by coincidence, it landed somewhat near a small trash can. “You have a death wish, I swear,” he chastised as his hand fell limply to his side and his eyes drifted closed.

“Yes,” Saitou said softly. “We’re a matching pair of suicidal idiots.”

With a dim smile, Sano whispered, “OK, sleep now.”

Saitou kissed Sano’s forehead and stepped away from the bed. He turned and went to the fallen cigarette package, bending and retrieving it. Silently he returned to the chair and sat down to continue his vigil, after decisively tossing the package into the garbage.



This was originally going to be called Twenty Cigarettes, but I liked the “matching pair of suicidal idiots” theme better. I’ve rated this story .

I commissioned Candra to draw a picture for this fic, and I don’t have words for how much I love it:

This story is included in the Saitou & Sano Collection ebook (.zip file contains .pdf, .mobi, and .epub formats).


RKAIM

You have just entered room “Kaoru’s Chat Room.”

Now see how many conversations you can follow at once.




Sexy Fox Bitch – Instant Message
Kenjutsu Komachi: Megumi-san!!!
Sexy Fox Bitch: What’s up, girl?

Kenjutsu Komachi:
same as always

Sexy Fox Bitch:
You mean Ken-san isn’t paying attention to you?

Kenjutsu Komachi:
:O

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Shut up

Sexy Fox Bitch:
ho ho ho

Kenjutsu Komachi:
you’re in Aizu so you it’s not like he’s paying attention to you either

Sexy Fox Bitch:
*sighs* You’re right :

Sexy Fox Bitch:
But it’s OK, because I may be hooking up with a guy here

Kenjutsu Komachi:
That’s great! *hugs*

Sexy Fox Bitch:
He’s a friend of the family. He IS a little older than me, but I don’t mind…

Kenjutsu Komachi:
awesome!! older guys are the best!!!

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!! – Instant Message
Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
*glomps*

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
Kaoru-san!!!!!

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Hold on, let me start a chat

Chat Room – Kaoru’s Chat Room

You have just entered room “Kaoru’s Chat Room”
Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!! has entered the room
Sexy Fox Bitch has entered the room


Kenjutsu Komachi:
Now we’re all together!

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
*waves* HI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sexy Fox Bitch:
How are you, Misao-chan?

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
Great!! How are you?

Kenjutsu Komachi:
:D I’m eating leftover rice-balls that Kenshin made!!

Sexy Fox Bitch:
Fine… Kaoru-san, it’s no surprise that you’d prefer even a leftover rice-ball Kenshin made to one of your own

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
lol, Sexy!!

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Well, at least he makes rice-balls for ME

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
Ouch!!

Sexy Fox Bitch:
Let’s invite him to chat

Kenjutsu Komachi:
what he’s on? oh he is!

Sexy Fox Bitch:
…inviting…

Kenjutsu Komachi:
No, I will!

Sexy Fox Bitch:
Too late

Rurouni has entered the room


Kenjutsu Komachi:
Kenshin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sexy Fox Bitch:
Ken-san!

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
*glomps* Himura!!!!!!

Rurouni:
My… I seem to be very popular here!

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-snuggles Rurouni- Of course you are! You’re the only mane we know with red hair!

Sexy Fox Bitch:
*man

Kenjutsu Komachi:
*pulls out shinai* hey, bitch…!

Rurouni:
Umm… I’m inviting Sano in, OK?

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-readies scalpel- What is it, Komachi dear?

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!!!:
Yay, Kenkaya!!!

Kenjutsu Komachi:
*laughs at scalpel* I jsut wanted you to come over here

Kenkaya Zanza has entered the room


Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
*glomps Zanza* Hi!!!!!!!!!!

Kenkaya Zanza:
feeling outnumbered by women, rurouni?

Kenkaya Zanza:
hi aoshi’s girl

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-holds onto Rurouni- I’d rather sta yover here, thanks

Sexy Fox Bitch:
*stay over

Rurouni:
Yes, Sano, I was

Rurouni:
Oro?!

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Misao-chan, can I borrow your kunai?

Super Samurai 94783 has entered the room


Kenkaya Zanza:
i’m afraid to get online cause some sycopath is stalking me

Super Samurai 94783:
Hi, everyone

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
lol *hands Komachi kunai*

Rurouni:
Who’s stalking you, Sano?

Kenjutsu Komachi:
*holds up kunai* well, Bitch, you can stay there if you want…

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
There’s nothing wrong with stalking people online!!!!!

Kenkaya Zanza:
i dont know if he’s relaly stalking me, but i see him everywher and he’s so rude

Kenkaya Zanza:
yes there is aoshi’s girl what the hell are you talking about?????????

Sexy Fox Bitch:
Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho, you can’t throw those!

Rurouni:
But who is this stalker, Sano? Maybe I know him.

Amber Wolf has entered the room


Kenkaya Zanza:
WHAT THE FUCK THAT’S HIM WHO THE HELL INVITED HIM??????????

Kenjutsu Komachi:
what do you mean, I can’t throw them? Sano, get over it!

Super Samurai 94783:
This is my friend Amber Wolf, Kaoru you don’mind do you?

Super Samurai 94783:
don’t

Amber Wolf:
I do seem to know how to make an entrance… thank you for the all-caps greeting, Zanza

Rurouni:
Oro? Zanza, this is your stalker?

Sexy Fox Bitch:
You’re such a terrible shot, Komachi, you’ll hit Rurouni if you throw those!

Kenkaya Zanza:
YES

Super Samurai 94783:
Wolf, are you stalking Zanza?

Rurouni:
Please don’t throw kunai at me….

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
I’m an online stalker too!!! Good to meet you, Amber Wolf!!! ^.^

Amber Wolf:
Stalking, is it?

Kenjutsu Komachi:
this is a chat room, so my aim is improved like you won’t believe!

Kenkaya Zanza:
amber wolf, i think u must be gay

Rurouni:
Aoshi’s Girl, I think you are maybe too hyper to be a real stalker.

Super Samurai 94783:
Speaking of gay…

Amber Wolf:
Zanza, I think you must be mentally retarded.

Rainbow Scythe has entered the room


Sexy Fox Bitch:
-laughs- Will you risi it, though?

Sexy Fox Bitch:
*risk

Rainbow Scythe:
Hi, all!! :: glomps Super Samurai ::

Rurouni:
I can see why you don’t like this ‘stalker,’ Zanza!

Kenjutsu Komachi:
hi, Rainbow! you’re Yahiko’s friend, aren’t you?

Kenkaya Zanza:
amber wolf is such a bastard

Rainbow Scythe:
:: smiles seductively at Super Samurai :: Oh, I’m much more than just his friend!

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Bitch, I have a new idea. *grabs Zanza’s sword* now I can reach you from here without throwing anything!

Super Samurai 94783:
What?! Rainbow, you’re going to make these poeple think I’m as gay as you are!

Kenkaya Zanza:
what, kenjutsu, you’re grabbing my sword? i thought it was rurouni you liked!

Super Samurai 94783:
people

Amber Wolf:
Super Samurai, do you mean to say that you *aren’t* gay?

Sexy Fox Bitch:
Oh ho ho ho!

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
lol, Amber Wolf!

Rurouni:
Oro??

Super Samurai 94783:
What?!?!?

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
roflol, Zanza!

Rainbow Scythe:
:: pouts :: Well, do you mind if I invite my REAL boyfriend in, then?

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Zanza, you’re an idiot! Rainbow, I don’t mind.

King Of Hell has entered the room


Kenjutsu Komachi:
Bitch, let me rephrase. *grabs Zanza’s ZANBATOU*

Queen Of Hell has entered the room


King Of Hell:
I found you guys again! Did you think you could have a chat without me?

Kenkaya Zanza:
who the HELL r u 2?

Sexy Fox Bitch:
You don’t scary me with that thing… you can barely lift it!

Rainbow Scythe:
:: glomps King of Hell, kisses ::

Sexy Fox Bitch:
*scare

Super Samurai 94783:
LOL, Zanza!

Queen Of Hell:
Don’t talk to him like that! Rainbow Scythe, get off him!!!!

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Zanza, have you never meet the King and Queen of Hell before?

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
I wish Aoshi-sama would get online…

Kenkaya Zanza:
what kinds of names is King of Hell and Quen of Hell?

Rainbow Scythe:
:: laughs at Queen of Hell :: Your dress is falling off, hon.

Kenjutsu Komachi:
well, it IS a stupid kind of sword, but it’s the only heavy weapon in the room!

King Of Hell:
What kind of a name is “Zanza?”

Kenkaya Zanza:
a fucking cool one!!! kenjutsu, are you inslting my zanbatou???

Rainbow Scythe:
:: laughs again and tosses Kenjutsu his scythe :: Look out for the ball-and-chain!

King Of Hell:
And if I’m really the king of hell?

Kenkaya Zanza:
why would u call yourself what u really r? kinda goes against the point of being online

Amber Wolf:
Yes, we couldn’t do that…. then Zanza would be “Complete Idiot.”

Kenjutsu Komachi:
*catches the scythe* wait, are you Kamatari?

Queen Of Hell:
Amber Wolf, LMAO!

Kenkaya Zanza:
shut the fuck up, wolf

Amber Wolf:
Or perhaps “Constantly Intoxicated.” And Kenjutsu seems remarkably quick at picking up on things.

Rainbow Scythe:
:: blows kiss, winks :: Of course I am!

King Of Hell:
Wolf, good call.

Kenjutsu Komachi:
hey! how was I supposed to know?

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-snuggles Rurouni-

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
*whines* I wonder where he is….!

Kenkaya Zanza:
then wolf would be ‘ugly bastard.

Amber Wolf:
“Unable to Type” …Kenjutsu, I think “Rainbow Scythe” was somewhat of a giveaway.

Rurouni:
Oro?

King Of Hell:
roflol

Rainbow Scythe:
Good idea, Sexy…. :: snuggles King of Hell ::

Super Samurai 94783:
LOL! Stop picjing on Zanza!

Super Samurai 94783:
pickin

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Samurai, he deserves it. Who do you think is paying for his internet connection? Besides, Amber’s picking on me too. Bitch, don’t make me come over there!

Super Samurai 94783:
picking

Queen Of Hell:
*glowers at Rainbow Scythe* You’ve got three seconds to get off my man, you queer pervert!

Amber Wolf:
“Cognitively Defunct”

Kenkaya Zanza:
for your information, i’m at katsu’s place

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-beckons, hugs Rurouni tighter- Come right over, tanuki-girl!

King Of Hell:
Amber Wolf, I like the way you think.

Rainbow Scythe:
:: grins, feels up King of Hell ::

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Zanza, mooching off of HIS connection? *runs, attacks Bitch with scythe*

Queen Of Hell:
*counts:* THREE Hey, Constantly Intoxicated…

Kenkaya Zanza:
DON’T CALL ME ANY OF THAT CRAP

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-ducks behind Rurouni, starts mixing chemicals-

Rurouni:
Oro??? Don’t attack me, Kenjutsu Komachi!

Super Samurai 94783:
Aoshi’s Girl Forever, do you have Aoshi’s other address?

Kenjutsu Komachi:
*ducks around Rurouni to find Sexy Fox Bitch* don’t try to hide!

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
OTHER ADDRESS??!?!?!?!?!??!?!??!?!??!?!??!?!?!??!?!

Kenkaya Zanza:
heh, I can balance the mouse on one finger

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-throws acid in Kejutsu’s face-

Amber Wolf:
Thank you, your majesty. *bows* And Zanza, you never cease to fail to amaze me.

Rainbow Scythe:
:: kisses King of Hell repeatedly ::

King Of Hell:
Amber Wolf, you don’t have to mock me like that… I really AM the king of hell… *is losing patience with Rainbow Scythe*

Queen Of Hell:
*counts:* TWO

Kenkaya Zanza:
wolf, can U balance the mouse on one finger, huh? huh?

Kenjutsu Komachi:
*dodges the acid, strikes with scythe* (and you spelled my name wrong)

Super Samurai 94783:
Yeah, it’s Midnight_Okashira@angelfire.com

Amber Wolf:
Is there nothing better to do in Hell than this? Zanza, if I were so pathetic as to attempt to best you in such matters, I certainly wouldn’t admit it in a public chat.

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-dodges the strike, prepares a syringe- (oh, I did… ‘Komachi’ is much easier to type)

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
OMG, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

Rainbow Scythe:
:: starts to disrobe King of Hell ::

Rurouni:
Ladies…. um….

Queen Of Hell:
ALL RIGHT, YOU FAGGOT! I’VE HAD ABOUT ENOUGH OF THIS!!!

King Of Hell:
Kamatari, I think that’s enough.

Kenkaya Zanza:
fuck u, wolf

Super Samurai 94783:
Yeah, he’s got an Angelfire website too, didn’t you know?

Rainbow Scythe:
I guess it’s time to kill Yumi at last! :: looks around for scythe :: (lol, Zanza, yes! you should! yummy!)

Kenjutsu Komachi:
*attacks Bitch again* wait, Rainbow, do you need this back?

Amber Wolf:
Rainbow Scythe, was that an invitation?

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
OMG OMG OMG OMG!!! WHERE IS IT?????

King Of Hell:
*sighs* She’s already dead, you idiot. She can’t fight anyway. *draws sword*

Super Samurai 94783:
http://www.angelfire.com/shinomori/okashira/.

Rainbow Scythe:
:: kisses Amber Wolf :: I was just thinking it would be fun to watch. Kenjutsu, yes, please. King Of Hell… if I can beat you, will you go out with me?

Super Samurai 94783:
Minus the .

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
looking… Thank you so much!!! *glomps Yahiko*

Kenkaya Zanza:
rainbow i can’t believe u just did that!!!

Kenjutsu Komachi:
*returns the scythe to Rainbow*

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-jumps on Komachi while she’s not looking, injects her-

Rurouni:
Oro?

Amber Wolf:
Rainbow Scythe, I did NOT ask you to kiss me.

King Of Hell:
And if I can beat YOU, will you leave me alone?

Super Samurai 94783:
No prob.

Amber Wolf:
King Of Hell, I suggest that if you can defeat him he should transfer his affections to Cognitively Defunct.

Kenjutsu Komachi:
*rips needle out of arm* what the hell was that?

Kenkaya Zanza:
WHAT THE FUCK?!?

Rainbow Scythe:
:: winks at Zanza :: Hey, that’s a good idea! I get a boyfriend either way!

Sexy Fox Bitch:
You just look so tense, Komachi… I thought you could use a sedactive.

King of Hell:
Once again, Amber Wolf, I like the way you think.

Sexy Fox Bitch:
*sedative

Kenjutsu Komachi:
I need a weapon! Somebody give me a weapon!

Kenkaya Zanza:
NO

Rainbow Scythe:
Yay! :: dances ::

Amber Wolf:
I would, Kenjutsu, but I’m afraid you’d accidentally hurt someone important.

Queen of Hell:
For god’s sake, Rainbow, stop dancing.

Super Samurai 94783:
LOL, Wolf

King of Hell:
Amber Wolf, the only important people in here are well-capable of defending themselves.

Rurouni:
Kenjutsu, Fox, why are you two fighting anyway?

Kenkaya Zanza:
I M NOT A PRIZE FOR U RAINBOY SCYTHE

Rainbow Scythe:
All right, here we go! :: attacks King of Hell :: (Rainboy, Zanza? that’s a pretty good name for me!)

Amber Wolf:
You do have a point, your majesty, but she might also accidentally destroy the weapon while she was at it.

King of Hell:
*easily evades Rainbow Scythe’s clumsy attack*

Sexy Fox Bitch:
Rurouni, if you don’t know, I don’t think either of uss will explain it to you. And you know you can call me Sexy, right?

Sexy Fox Bitch:
*us

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Amber, just give me your sword before I kick you out of my chat!!

Queen of Hell:
Kenjutsu, I have a tantou you could use…

Rainbow Scythe:
Ah, but don’t forget that the ball will swing and strike you even if you evade the attack!

Kenkaya Zanza:
she just calle du Amber

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-snuggles Rurouni-

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Thanks, Queen, but not enough range. I want Amber’s sword.

Kenkaya Zanza:
Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber

Amber Wolf:
Zanza, what is so interesting about that word?

King of Hell:
*cuts the ball off Rainbow Scythe’s chain*

Kenjutsu Komachi:
BITCH!

Rurouni:
Oro

Kenkaya Zanza:
cause it’s a girl’s name

Sexy Fox Bitch:
Yes?

Super Samurai 94783:
LOL, Zanza

Rainbow Scythe:
No! Not my ball and chain!! :: attacks King of Hell again ::

Amber Wolf:
Hmm, you’re right.

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
YAHIKO >.<

Kenkaya Zanza:
Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber

Kenjutsu Komachi:
GET

Kenjutsu Komachi:
OFF

King of Hell:
*dodges again, makes sword flame*

Super Samurai 94783:
What, Aoshi’s girl?

Sexy Fox Bitch:
Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!! Do you really mean that, Komachi??

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
WEASELS AND THEIR NATURAL PREDATORS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Kenkaya Zanza:
Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber

Kenjutsu Komachi:
NOT LIKE HTAT

Kenjutsu Komachi:
THAT

Rainbow Scythe:
I knew you were as flaming as I am! Hee! :: attacks ::

Amber Wolf:
That’s getting annoying, Zanza.

Sexy Fox Bitch:
Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!

Kenjutsu Komachi:
Zanza stop that

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
IS THIS A JOKE DO YOU THINK IT’S SO FUNNY TO SEND ME TO A WEBSITE ABOUT THAT WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM YOU LITTLE BRAT *THROWS 999999 KUNAI AT YAHIKO AND BEATS HIM UP*

Queen of Hell:
Not funny, Rainbow.

Kenkaya Zanza:
Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber Amber

Sexy Fox Bitch:
-kisses Rurouni-

King of Hell:
*slices Rainbow Scythe to pieces*

Super Samurai 94783:
Hey, Aoshi’s girl, I never looked at the site just sent you to it! It’s Aoshi’s damn website, not mine!! *beats Aoshi’s girl with shinai*

Amber Wolf:
*stabs Zanza*

Kenjutsu Komachi:
BITCH I will fight you with my bare hands!!

Kenkaya Zanza:
WHAT u can’t stab me!! i’ll kick your ass with my ZANBATOU

Aoshi’s Girl Forever!!!:
DIE, YAHIKO!!!!!

Kenjutsu Komachi:
*attacks Bitch*

Rainbow Scythe:
Hey!

Amber Wolf:
*kills Zanza*

King of Hell:
*sets fire to Rainbow Scythe’s corpse*

Kenkaya Zanza:
WHAT

Rurouni:
ORO?!

This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down


Originally this was going to be a graphic fic, but it was too much of a pain in the ass to make, so it ended up just prose. The one thing I regret about that is that in the graphic version, you got to see Aoshi’s screen name — “Not Misao’s Man” — on the list of Kaoru’s contacts that weren’t signed on.

Over the years since this was first posted, many people have been under the mistaken impression that this is an actual transcript from a chat where various people were casually role-playing RK characters. While this is flattering to me (sort of), it’s not the case. I wrote this. The typos, stylistic differences, and idiocy are all intentional. If it feels like a real chat, I win.

I’ve rated this story . What do you think of it?

This story is included in the Rurouni Kenshin Collection ebook.



Treasure of the Ancient People

“If I were to reveal to you the hiding place of a great treasure, would you abandon your evil, thieving ways?”

Two thieving sisters stumble upon an ancient secret that will change their lives.


[two girls breathing, crunching footsteps approach; branches swishing aside]

TESCHIA: I swear, this jungle’s thicker every time we come!

URAWHA: And Honor always wonders why we’re in such a bad mood when we get there.

TESCHIA: When she bothers to get there on time.

URAWHA: Ah, ooh, branch in my face! [snap] Ow!

TESCHIA: Serves you right for laughing at me the other day. You almost got me caught!

URAWHA: When?

TESCHIA: When I was grabbing that little kid’s scarf.

URAWHA: [giggle] Oh, yeah. How much do you think we’ll get for that, anyway?

TESCHIA: I dunno. Fifty, maybe more. I wouldn’t give it to my little kid.

URAWHA: Yeah, people around here aren’t so bright. You wouldn’t believe what I [snap] Oops, sorry. You wouldn’t believe what I got from this lady in the middle of the street just before we left.

TESCHIA: What?

URAWHA: [grunts] Let’s see if I can… get it out… dumb pack… yeah, here it is.

[footsteps stop]

TESCHIA: It’s pretty. What is it?

URAWHA: I have no idea. She was wearing it around her neck on this cheap leather band; didn’t even notice me. It looks like gold, doesn’t it?

TESCHIA: Yeah, but it’s no bigger than a coin.

URAWHA: It’ll still bring a price; it’s pretty heavy.

TESCHIA: You know, I’ve seen that twisty design somewhere before.

URAWHA: That’s what I kept thinking, but I don’t know where. C’mon.

[footsteps resume]

TESCHIA: Maybe you should just give it to me instead of selling it.

URAWHA: [laughs] You may be my sister, but I don’t like you that much!

TESCHIA: Hmph. Look, there’s the rock — we’re almost there.

URAWHA: Twenty sols says Honor’s not there yet.

TESCHIA: Honestly, I think she’s afraid of the place unless we’re there.

URAWHA: Well, who wouldn’t be afraid of a ruined city in the middle of the jungle? That’s why it’s the perfect meeting place.

TESCHIA: Yeah, I guess it is kinda weird.

[footsteps stop]

URAWHA: And awing. Every time I look down at this view, I’m amazed. Who the heck built this place anyway?

TESCHIA: Well, if you listen to the dumb legends —

[footsteps restart, on stone this time]

URAWHA: — which I don’t —

TESCHIA: They say some mystic clan of healers used this as a hospital or something.

URAWHA: Well, let’s go sit on the hospital and wait for Honor.

TESCHIA: Like always.

[footsteps]

URAWHA: [grunts] These carvings are getting weathered to the point where we can’t even climb them anymore.

TESCHIA: Here, give me your hand. [grunts] There we go. Eventually we’ll be able to get up just using all these vines, I bet.

URAWHA: What a view!

TESCHIA: Yeah, it’s… oh, my!

URAWHA: What?

TESCHIA: Urawha, look! Look!

URAWHA: What? Where?

TESCHIA: Over there, on that other building?

URAWHA: What, that tall, crumbly one?

TESCHIA: No, the one that’s mostly intact. Look at the door!

URAWHA: Oh, my goodness! Is that the same…? [rustling] It is! It’s the same design as this necklace!

TESCHIA: Quick, let’s go look at it! [feet thud on the ground]

URAWHA: Wait for me! [feet thud, run]

TESCHIA: It really is the same.

URAWHA: What a coincidence! That something I stole would be from the same place we meet our contact to sell all our stolen stuff!

TESCHIA: What do you think is behind this door?

URAWHA: Is it a door?

TESCHIA: Yeah, look at the seams. They’re kinda hidden in this twisty pattern.

URAWHA: Oh, I see. I wonder… What’s this little indentation here?

TESCHIA: It’s about the size of that pendant.

URAWHA: Lessee… [click] It fits! [rumble] Oh, my goodness! [rumbling continues; silence]

TESCHIA: Wow.

URAWHA: Yeah.

TESCHIA: We’re probably the first people to have opened this door for hundreds of years!

URAWHA: Well, what are we standing around for? Let’s see what’s inside!

TESCHIA: Honor’s not here yet… maybe we should leave something so she’ll know where we went.

URAWHA: You sound like you’re worried we’ll never come out of there.

TESCHIA: Well, it is really dark inside. There’s probably a million spiders.

URAWHA: Don’t worry, we’ll light the torches. [rustling] Here’s one for you.

[fire; footsteps resume; all noises get reverb]

TESCHIA: This is steep.

URAWHA: At least it’s dry.

TESCHIA: Honor’s going to freak when she gets here and we’re not there.

URAWHA: And then she’ll be even later next time.

TESCHIA: Uh-oh…

[foosteps stop]

URAWHA: Which way?

TESCHIA: Let’s go back.

URAWHA: Why?

TESCHIA: No matter which of these three we choose, it’s sure to get us lost. They’re all the same width as this passage.

URAWHA: Look, I’ll leave something here. [rustling] See, when we find that cloak across the tunnel we’ll know this is the way we came.

TESCHIA: [sighs] So which way do we go?

URAWHA: Who cares? [footsteps resume]

TESCHIA: Ah, a level passage — much better.

URAWHA: See, this isn’t so bad. No spiders, even.

TESCHIA: I think they like moisture.

URAWHA: That would explain why the jungle’s so full of them.

TESCHIA: Ew.

[footsteps stop]

URAWHA: Oh, and here’s another one.

TESCHIA: Now which way should we go?

URAWHA: Feel the wind from this third passage? Let’s go that way.

TESCHIA: All right; this time I’ll leave my cloak. [rustling; footsteps resume; wind]

URAWHA: Pleasant breeze here.

TESCHIA: Yeah, right. I’m freezing.

URAWHA: Hey, is that light ahead?

TESCHIA: You’re scaring me.

URAWHA: But look! Here, I’ll hold my torch down behind me. See, it’s light!

TESCHIA: It’s probably a door outside, which would explain the wind.

URAWHA: The light looks kinda red.

TESCHIA: You’ve been in the dark too long.

[foosteps, reverb increases]

URAWHA: Wow…

TESCHIA: Well, I guess it’s not a door outside.

URAWHA: What is this room?

TESCHIA: And how can all these torches still be lit after however many years?

URAWHA: It’s so huge…

TESCHIA: It feels so empty…

URAWHA: You’d think it would be dirty or broken down or something.

TESCHIA: What’s that, on the opposite wall? [footsteps run]

URAWHA: It’s… weird.

TESCHIA: Yeah. Who carves a giant face into the wall of a big empty room?

FACE: I might ask who creates this ridiculous humanity to run around being absurd.

[footsteps; gasps]

URAWHA: [softly] All right, there’s a giant stone face talking to us…

TESCHIA: [softly] Yeah, I noticed that…

FACE: In response to your rude question, nobody “carved” me. I grew, just like you did. When the people of this city found me in the jungle, they presumed I was some sort of mystic spirit and brought me here to their temple.

URAWHA: Then what are you really?

FACE: I’m merely myself. I do possess a perception greater than that of humanity, but I am no god.

TESCHIA: You seem to be immortal, though.

FACE: That I do not know.

URAWHA: So, who were the people that lived here?

FACE: They were a hard-working race; they hunted and gathered fruit and built up their great walls. They were very honest.

TESCHIA: [softly] I think that was aimed at us.

URAWHA: So, what?

FACE: If I were to reveal to you the hiding place of a great treasure, would you abandon your evil, thieving ways?

TESCHIA: Sure!

URAWHA: Not so fast… money always runs out eventually.

FACE: If it is used to begin a respectable trade, it can, in a sense, last forever.

TESCHIA: Sounds good to me.

URAWHA: Well, what do we have to do?

FACE: First you must swear.

URAWHA: All right.

FACE: Swear that, once you have gained the treasure of the ancient people, you will never steal again.

TESCHIA: I swear.

URAWHA: I swear.

FACE: Very well. The destruction of the city came about through war, but the leaders were determined that their enemies should never have the city’s treasure that they sought. They hid it in the jungle so that someday it could be found and used for good.

TESCHIA: How did they know someone would ever find it?

URAWHA: Or that their enemies wouldn’t?

FACE: That someone would eventually find it they had no doubt, since they had entrusted to me the duty of revealing its secret. That their enemies would find it they did not fear, as they had placed a severe curse on any who did not seek it in the correct manner.

URAWHA: And why are you willing to give it to us?

FACE: The purpose of the treasure is to do some good. In giving it to you, I am setting you on the path to honesty; that will help both you and the people around you.

URAWHA: Ha! How do you know we won’t just take the treasure and live like we have? [silence] What, why are you looking at me like that?

FACE: I told you that I possess a higher level of perception than humanity. I can see the goodness in your hearts, and the willingness to abandon your path of evil. Otherwise I would not have greeted you at all, despite your sister’s rude remark.

TESCHIA: Sorry.

URAWHA: All right, I get it. So where’s this great treasure?

FACE: It lies beneath a stone hill two miles to the east; it is the hill from which I was born.

TESCHIA: Beneath the hill?

FACE: To retrieve it, you must speak the correct verse. It is inscribed in the wall to my right.

URAWHA: It’s in the old language… read it, Teschia.

TESCHIA: Bala hiero to ute / Meno u niwakawe / Raditama ikori / Ken daima sortei. But I don’t know what it means.

FACE: It is nothing more than a children’s rhyme used in ancient times. The leaders thought that would be cleverest to keep their enemies out.

TESCHIA: I’ll write it down. [rustling pack / paper]

URAWHA: So what else do we need to know?

FACE: Just this: that if you speak the treasure’s location to anyone else — forever more — you will turn instantly to stone.

URAWHA: Harsh! Well, that shouldn’t be too hard. You done, Tesch?

TESCHIA: Yeah.

URAWHA: Well, sir giant face, thanks a lot. You want us to come back and report to you or something when we’re done?

FACE: I will know. Only see that you keep your promise. That I will also know.

TESCHIA: We will. Thank you!

FACE: Goodbye.

[footsteps recede; silence]

HONOR: There you are! When I saw that that door was open, I was seriously worried; I shoulda known you guys would do something stupid like going down in there!

URAWHA: How’s it going, Honor?

TESCHIA: How’s life in the big city?

HONOR: Dull, as always. How’s the tiny town?

URAWHA: Interesting, as always. But, we got bad news.

HONOR: What?

URAWHA: We’re going straight.

HONOR: What!?

TESCHIA: We just decided that this whole thief thing isn’t right for us.

HONOR: Whaddya mean? You guys are the best thieves I’ve ever marketed for!

URAWHA: Well… we just decided.

HONOR: That’s going to cut into my business something big. [sigh] Well, what do you have for me today?

URAWHA: Umm…. there’s more bad news. We’re returning all the stuff we’ve stolen since last time.

HONOR: What?!? How can you do this to me?!?

TESCHIA: But we’re going to pay you a cancellation fee!

HONOR: Oh. How much?

URAWHA: We’re not sure yet. Can you wait here for a couple of hours?

HONOR: You’ve got to be kidding me. You guys are just going to run off home and leave me here, right?

TESCHIA: C’mon, Honor, you know us better than that. We’re serious.

HONOR: Oh, whatever! Why should I trust a couple of thieves?

URAWHA: We’re not thieves anymore; I just told you that!

TESCHIA: Besides, why would we fire the flare and come all the way out here to meet you if we were just going to run off?

HONOR: You must think I’m crazy.

URAWHA: Look, either you wait here for us and we bring you the cancellation fee, or you go home unhappy. What will you do?

HONOR: [sigh] I’ll wait for you. Where are you going?

URAWHA: To get your cancellation fee.

HONOR: Whatever. All right. I’ll wait.

[footsteps]

TESCHIA: See ya in a few hours.

[rustling, cracking]

URAWHA: Just what I wanted — another walk through the jungle.

TESCHIA: And you sound so unhappy.

URAWHA: [laughs]

[rustling, cracking]

TESCHIA: Ah, we’ve been walking for an hour! Shouldn’t we be there yet?

URAWHA: Yeah, I think so. We’ve been going straight east.

TESCHIA: Who would ever have thought that we’d be this lucky? I mean, a treasure buried under a giant rock hill just two miles east of a place we go all the time, and all we — [grunts, gasps; crackling]

URAWHA: Oh, my! Teschia! What’s…

[crackling]

TESCHIA: Help me… [chokes]

[crackling]

URAWHA: But… how can this be happening? The face said we’d turn to stone if we told someone where the treasure was hidden! Oh! [cries]

HONOR: I guess that’s my fault, then.

URAWHA: Honor!?

HONOR: I’m sorry. I was so curious about what you guys were up to, I followed you and heard what Teschia said.

URAWHA: It is your fault! What am I going to do?

HONOR: Who is the face?

URAWHA: A strange creature we met inside the building in the city. It told us about the treasure…

HONOR: Then let’s go ask it how to save Teschia!

URAWHA: We can’t just leave her here!

HONOR: Do you want to carry her? She looks like a piece of art… she must weigh a ton!

URAWHA: [sighs] Tesch, I’ll come back, all right? Don’t worry; I’ll save you somehow. Let’s go, Honor.

[footsteps crackling]

HONOR: It’s getting dark.

URAWHA: That happens when you’ve been walking around in the jungle all day. Look, there’s the city ahead. [footsteps on stone] Hurry up. [footsteps run, get reverb, continue; girls pant] Face! Hey, face! Wake up!

FACE: I do not sleep.

URAWHA: How do I get Teschia back from being stone?

FACE: Are you willing to make a sacrifice?

URAWHA: Of course!

HONOR: Urawha, are you crazy?

FACE: City child, you would do as much for someone you love. Urawha, you must smear the statue with your blood, and she will return to life.

URAWHA: H-how much blood?

FACE: That is all I can say.

URAWHA: All right… let’s go back.

[footsteps recede]

FACE: Humans are so intemperate.

[crunching footsteps, swishing branches]

HONOR: Urawha, are you sure about this? [metal ringing] Urawha!

URAWHA: I don’t know if I can do this…

HONOR: But you just said…

URAWHA: I mean, actually cut myself with this dagger. I guess I’ll just think about Tesch… [gasps]

HONOR: Oh, my…

URAWHA: Come on, Tesch… [gasps] Wake up! Ooh…

HONOR: Teschira! You have to wake up!

URAWHA: [gasps] I can’t lose this much blood… Tesch! Tesch! Tesch!

HONOR: Urawha, you’ve got to put something on that… it’s going to kill you!

URAWHA: Teschia! Please! [grunts, falls]

[crackling]

TESCHIA: [gasps, grunts] Oh, I’m covered with… [gasps]

URAWHA: Tesch…

TESCHIA: Urawha! What happened?

HONOR: To rescue you, she cut her wrist. I don’t know…

TESCHIA: Quick, help her sit up. I’ll tie it. [rip] Are you all right?

URAWHA: I… I don’t know… Are you?

TESCHIA: I feel fine.

URAWHA: Then so do I.

TESCHIA: Can you stand?

[rustling]

URAWHA: Yeah… Let’s go get that treasure.

HONOR: This is too weird.

TESCHIA: You’re telling me.

HONOR: It’s enough to make anyone go straight.

URAWHA: Yeah.

TESCHIA: Let’s go.

HONOR: We’ve got to talk about this…


There really isn’t much point to writing radio dramas considering that nobody makes radio dramas anymore. However, I’d read one that someone had posted somewhere, and was totally fascinated by the format’s ability to create a setting through nothing but dialogue and sound effects. That was really the point of this… to see if I could do it… I succeeded fairly well, I think. The only real problem is that when read aloud it’s difficult to figure out who’s who; with an actual cast of distinctive voices, I think it would work, though.