The automobile thrummed like a beast, letting out an inaudible growl as it streamed through the streets, bobbing and weaving around lesser vehicles. Though auto-pilot still required a human driver to keep an eye on everything, pressing the brakes when approaching a red light and all, they were on the freeway, looping around the outskirts of Tenoroshi. Off in the distance, the scintillating lights of the Central District merged into a mass of light, but all around them, only the fluorescent hi-beams of the sleek car pierced through the darkness. The mountains made for nice, scenic drives during the day, but at night, it was foreboding instead, a crushing blackness that swallowed everything whole.
Neither occupant of the vehicle were concerned by that, however. A youth in over-sized clothing, the haute couture of the streets, reclined on his seat, kicking his feet up, while the sharply-dressed man was relaxed as well, his eyes free to wander even when each shadow within the mountains could have hid a monster. The radio played a sappy ballad, guitar strings in the minor scale.“Long day?”
Were the man’s words, once even the city lights were hidden by the terrain around them.
The youth shook his head. “Naw, car rides just make me sleepy. You? Don’tcha have something to deal with right now?”“Got some others looking into it.”
A sharp laugh. “Right, that’s your whole deal, ain’t it. Pretty sure it’d be dealt with plenty fast if you just hired Ghost again.”“The yakuza have their pride. And they’ll work for free. Not as if you enjoyed accruing her payment either.”
He held his hands up in surrender. “True, true. Kicked my pet project hella off schedule with that, y’know?”
A shrug, and he popped open the mini-fridge for a bottle. “Well, we’re even with this anyhow, yeah?”
The man tapped the car’s roof, an unseen compartment opening up to reveal a piece of paper. Black script scrolled chaotically all over the page, and the material itself seemed to glow softly in the darkness. “You’d like to do the honors?”
A hidden grin was the response. “Gladly.”
With swift motions, the contract was shredded, reduced to naught but narrow strips that burnt away without a trace. “And here you are, friend.”
A glass container was put into the man’s outstretched hand. He brought close, inspecting the contents that swam in formaldehyde. An eye, dark brown, spinning slowly in response to the car’s own movements. It was an eye just like any other eye when divorced from a face, but still, the contract would not have been broken if it were not the genuine article. He grimaced, shook his head.“Sup? Don’t tell me she wanted the right eye?”“No, it’s good.”
A simple smile belied cold words. “Still confounds me, why Ghost collects things like this.”“Well, it’s what it is.”
A pause, and the youth’s eyes crinkled mischievously. “By the way, I heard Firefly visited?”
The man’s smile remained in place. “No, it was simply a kitchen accident.”
The Southwestern District was at full swing this time of night, hostesses and hosts preying on the gullible and the lonely, their voices bright and cheerful even though this would be their third ‘date’ of the night. Neon lights blinded the bleary-eyed drunkards, while taxis patrolled the district, looking for intoxicated passengers to scam. Though the streets could never be considered ‘heavily populated’, a constant stream of humanity passed by, the unloved insomniacs of Tenoroshi here to fill the gaps in their heart. It was primetime for the gigolos, and Kento was working full-swing in Galahad’s, one side of his face totally sore from all the winking he had to do, his liver practically shot to death by all the shots he took. But work was work, and he made more in one night than most salarymen did in a whole year. Shame that most of his clientele were tryhard fuglies, but, well…
If they were paying for a dream rather than living it, that’s probably the type of people they were.“Kenshin!”
called the newbie, some nerd at the bar counter who still blushed when older women flirted with him (poor kid wasn’t going to last long here). “Table seven.”“Thanks!”
was his spirited response back, a kiss blown towards his current partner before he wheeled off to the latest. Jealousy was the best way into a woman’s wallet, after all. The champagne calls may be murder to his kidneys, but that was just what he had to deal with. With a confident gait that accentuated the sway of his hips and his tight ass, the yellow-eyed ikemen put on his most charming smile and said, “Good evening, darling. I was wondering when a real beauty would sh-”
Red eyes, broad shoulders, and hair like a lion’s mane, slicked backwards in scarlet curls. Her tone was curt, sharp. “Cut the crap, Kento. I’m here for business.”
Kento did cut his crap, and sighed. Turning over his shoulder to mark down where his boss was, the host quickly sat down. “Geez, Suzume, couldn’t you at least pretend you’re in-”
“Fine, fine. Whatever you say, princess. But at least buy a dri-”
“I’ll have ice water.”
A pause, and she allowed the smallest fragment of sympathy. “And I’ll order a green tea for you.”
Kento grinned lop-sidedly. “Well then, guess I can stick around for a bit. Anyways, sup?”
Suzume closed her eyes, as if deciding how much to share, how much was safe. “You hear about any new drugs on the market?”
The ikemen was taken aback by this, a questioning look in his eyes. “Suzume…”
The lioness shook her head. “No, Christ, I’m not looking for a dealer here. Dunno what’s going on, but the Hiritsugi-kai’s recently lost something, and they’ve mobilized hella resources looking for it.”
“Since when were bikers part of the yakuza?”
“That’s the thing. They lost something big enough that they’re enlisting outside help.”
Suzume tapped her finger against the table. “If it’s money, it’d be one thing, but…”
“Hey now, your old man didn’t tell you anything?”
Kento arched a brow.
Suzume stared at him. “If he did, would I be here?”
“Well? Heard anything?”
He mulled over it carefully, considering, before his eyes lit up. Leaning forward onto the table, like a lover whispering sweet nothings, the man dropped his voice to a whisper. “It’s just hearsay and I’ve no idea if there’s any substance to it, but…”
Suzume leaned in as well, her own eyes flickering around in search for eavesdroppers. “Go on.”“…have you ever heard of Angel Fix?”
It took only a glance, and the enforcer said, “She’s not the one.”“Huh?”
Isokaze blinked, bafflement overriding machismo for a moment, before he guffawed. “Oi oi, what are you saying, man? Not trynna play games here, ar-”
The beady-eyed man glared. That was all it took to cow the biker. “You fucked up, kid, taking a civilian.”
He turned, swift strides carrying him out of the warehouse.“W-wait, what are we supposed to do about her? Hey, Rengou!”
The door slammed shut, echoing loudly through the empty space. It had been a stupid plan, taking someone who only looked
like the woman in the picture to appease that black-hearted enforcer, but everyone who looked to dip their toes into Tenoroshi’s underworld knew never to keep the Hiritsugi-kai waiting. The girl had been their back-up, really, in the worst case scenario of none of the bosozoku actually finding anything…but the worst case had come past, and they’d been found out. Four days now. Four days where they had nothing to show for it. And now they had to deal with this
The dozen-odd gang had done racketeering before. Extortion, intimidation, thievery. But for all their bluster, all their threats, none of them was a killer. Schoolgirls disappeared, and no one bats an eye, sure, but that didn’t change the fundamental truth that if they were caught, they were screwed for life. Shit, and none of them had the foresight to have worn masks or blinded that bitch as well. Couldn’t just return
her now, could they? How many biker gangs were there in Tenoroshi? Not enough that they could hide like a tree in a forest.
Fear and paranoia spread virulently, and for the first time, Isokaze truly felt the weight that accompanied being a leader. It had been cool before, being the baddest of them all, being called ‘older brother’, having physically older bikers treat him with the respect that he deserved, but now…“Fuck. Fuck Rengou! Fucking shit!”
The lanky biker griped, stomping the ground, kicking the air. “God fucking damnit, what the hell?! Who even came up with this idea?”“Uh,”
one of the younger members said, “Y-you d-”“DON’T PIN THIS ON ME!”
He howled back, livid. “WE VOTED, RIGHT?! WE ALL DID THIS!”
Manic eyes turned to his compatriots, no, his subordinates, stress bubbling up. No one wanted to point out that it had
been only his idea.
They actively flinched, their own fear fueling his indignant rage. He was still the baddest motherfucker around, the top dog of the pavement, Tenoroshi’s Kamikaze Wheeler. Something, there had to be something he could do still. Just had to find the actual girl, right? Easy enough, short hair, big tits, a dark eyes…hell no, that was literally half the girls in this city!“Shit, shit, SHIT!”
This had to be a setup by Rengou! That damned baldy, giving them an impossible task like that. Literally planned their failure from the get go! Isokaze paled, features drawn tight with fury.
And then, at the height of his frustration and anger, his fear and his despair, a sharp laugh sounded, drawing the attention of all in the warehouse.“Serves you right,”
their abductee smirked, eyes burning between strands of matted black hair, “Daddy not gonna bail you out this time, huh? Better lube up yo-”
A boot swung into her face. The clause of ‘not damaging the head’ no longer applied. Her head snapped to the side, but before she could fall over, the lanky biker grabbed her by the hair, pulling her back up. “What did you fucking say, bitch? You think I’m not a threat? Think I won’t kill you?”
But three days of captivity hadn’t dented her own hatred, and through bloody lips, she grinned. Grinned and spat her broken tooth into his eye.
The pain was instant, debilitating. Isokaze screeched, stumbling back. Paralyzed by the sudden violence from their once-docile captive, none of the others could move, and in that instant, the bound girl ran, the ropes binding her feet together falling apart. So long, it had taken, to work it loose, and now, she stumbled through the length of the warehouse, each step causing pins and needles to shoot up her legs. Close, so close, she could taste the night air, even as her mouth was filled with her own blood.
Five meters – three meters – two – one!
Someone crashed into her, driving her face-first into the ground. The impact brought stars into her vision, tears into her eyes, but it didn’t stop at one. The second turned her vision red, the third her vision dark. Each was punctuated by a furious exclamation, but by then, her ears couldn’t make out anything. A concussion, that’s what she had. So close. So unlucky. Her mind was ringing. Her body writhed, but couldn’t push the mass pinning her down. And she was so tired.
It was almost disappointing. She had always thought she was tougher than that.
But perhaps that was just the lie she told, to stay strong.
In that blackening world, she felt the ground, vibrating with each step.
In that blackening world, she saw that figure, beneath a black umbrella on a day without rain.
In that blackening world, she heard those words, a curse and an oath spoken with the ferocity of the planet’s core.
“The faithless pray for light.
The hopeless pray for warmth.
But you are neither.
And I am the Fire.”
Bright flame burned away the blackening world, leaving nothing but white ash in its wake.
For once, Tenoroshi Docks operated as normal. Though it was certainly tragic what happened in order for some semblance of peace to befall the area, for the dock workers, it was a worthy tradeoff. None of them particularly cared for some Korean star mucking around their workplace, after all, and shipments came and went smoothly, uninterrupted by pyrotechnics and squealing fangirls. Indeed, attention had instead been shifted onto Tenoroshi Central Hospital, small hordes of supporters placing flowers and written prayers at the front entrance; the tabloids had sniffed out Daehyun's trail quickly enough, but hospitals still garnered respect. The poor custodian who was sent by upper administration to clear out all the decorative garbage was quickly mobbed and verbally chased off, however. Looked as if respect only went for the interior of the building.
Overhead, the sun shone brightly, an oddly cheery day considering the events that had recently transpired. The attack in Galaxy had gained national coverage overnight, tens of thousands of people weighing in with their uneducated opinions. Wilder ones came from people who sought something along the lines of 'martial arts control', with mandatory psychological tests taken by people who sought to learn martial arts (Marina's movements, though savage, were clearly trained in some way), while others saw this as an indication that Japan needed to tighten up their restrictions on allowing non-Asian individuals to cross the border into the island-nation. It was all wild stuff, but with social media fires stoked by sensationalist titles that were more interested in why ex (technically hiatus'd) 8team member MiA was with Daehyun during the fateful incident, the fervor of the fandom seemed poised to bear right down upon the reclusive artist. Some pointed out that she and Daehyun always had a rocky relationship, perhaps one that would culminate in her leading the star into such a sketchy venue to begin with. Others pointed out that she seemed awfully close to that teenager (what was his name again?) who had been caught in the crossfire between psycho-blonde and Daehyun, and that there could totally be some weird cradle-snatching-love-rectangle going on. Regardless of how outlandish it was, the 'tragedy' that was the assault upon Daehyun and the shelving of Father Crime turned into speculative entertainment soon enough. Indeed, as she slept, Miyane became the hottest topic once more, the x-factor in the incident that everyone could latch onto.
Thankfully, at least, the walls of Tamagakahara were inviolable, Taira Asahi and his men stalwart in the face of nosy reporters demanding access. It wasn't the first time that a scandal involving a resident of the holy grounds had incited the hordes to lay seige upon the closed off community, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. With disarming smiles and an unyielding gate, the guards were permanently apologizing and refusing.
Despite the chaos in the Central District, however, the rest of Tenoroshi was subdued, quieter than normal. Loud mufflers no longer terrorized residential roads, and at this time of day, anyone in school or at work would...well, be there. It was quiet and peaceful now, delinquents loitering in quiet, no one wanting to cause any real trouble when the general public demanded that the police work hard to catch the terrible perpetrator behind this. Policemen biked through streets, nodding at pedestrians while their batons slapped against their thighs, while unmarked cars drove slowly through the Southern District, men's eyes peeled for suspicious activity, ready to break up any incident that popped up, and perhaps a few heads as well.
For now, at least Tenoroshi was placed under the illusion of security.
An illusion maintained only because no one dug too deep.