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Meeting of Families
After weeks of searching, Kiyohito was convinced that Haruto fled Japan. The family extended him the opportunity to find the one that was blamed for a very public blight against their family, but if Kiyohito didn’t track down his little brother in time, only his own blood would satiate the wrong.

He never imagined himself in Moscow. Yet as the car let him off at the entrance to a hotel in the downtown business district, he realized just how far from Tokyo he was. He’d never left Japan before.

The hotel had his data before he even stepped foot inside the lobby. The man who owned the building had ties to their organization, but the biometric scanners at the door weren’t lost to Kiyo’s gaze either.

Except for the odd guest in the hotel bar, Kiyohito was a guest that kept to himself. His meetings were always short, long enough to share sake and formalities. He was careful with his probing, finding that the family in which he belonged did not rule in Moscow. Finally, he arranged to meet with representatives from the Edenokōji clan whose foothold in Moscow was unrivaled. 

The bar was in a neighborhood he hadn’t seen before. It had something of a reputation, he’d been told, of trouble. Rumor said that a bloody fight once took place in the parking lot among strained Yakuza and Russian relations. Kiyohito was alone when he entered, and he certainly felt alone when more than one tight pair of eyes looked up. He tugged on the sleeves of his suit and showed himself to a table along the wall and ordered a bottle of Japanese beer if they had it.
Kōta’s gokudō connections bought them favour with this particular rest point. He had insisted Moscow would be the place they would finally set down roots, yet it was already the second of their accommodations in the short months since their arrival. Fortunately Eido had no roots waiting to set down, and she suffered no particular disappointment at the move. The rooms above the bar were small for two people (not least with the small menagerie that sometimes travelled with them), but the landlord here was prepared to turn a blind eye to the manner of Kōta’s work. So far he had, but it always changed eventually.

Legitimate employment was difficult to come by without a CID, which left Eido herself at a familiar impasse in a new city. With so little to her name, oftentimes the only available, no questions kind of work on offer required the selling of flesh or charm, neither of which she had to give. Still, she dutifully combed the city for opportunity during the day. Paused when it grew too fruitless a search, seeking little pockets of solitary peace from the frustrations of her ghostly existence instead. Amidst the bustle of ordinary life she missed home with a deep and abiding ache; pain that afflicted worse, not better, as the years had worn on. This she did not confide in her brother. Nor how sometimes her hand pressed to where the kaiken was strapped to her person.

But there was no honour in a death forestalled for so long.

In the evenings, when her brother was absent, she made herself useful where she could. She did not work the bar, and Gus did not ever ask her. In fact, though she sometimes sensed the weight of his gaze like she were a puzzle he could not begin to fathom, he did not speak to her much at all. But there was a small kitchen out back, for preparing greasy western food when the customers called for it, and there was always something that needed cleaning there. It wasn’t necessary work; they paid, perhaps extortionately, for the space upstairs. But it kept her busy. Silence settled a burden around her shoulders no one usually disturbed, perhaps under the assumption that she did not speak much English. Or perhaps because she simply never looked up.

When Gus plodded in from the bar beyond, wringing tattooed hands on a cloth and grumbling to himself about fucking Japanese beer and the lost virtues of vodka, she did not pay any heed. His tongue was habitually uncouth, his customers always considered nuisances to some degree or other. She found it a strange attitude, but such vitriol seemed both undisguised and unremarkable in this part of the world, and insults flew without meaning or recourse. Cigarette smoke wafted as he passed, only to permeate as his boots abruptly stopped. She felt his attention linger on the sparse scratches half-healed on her forearm as she scrubbed the counters. It was not the first time he had taken silent note of her injuries, seldom though they were. But Gus knew what Kōta dealt in, and he knew it was nothing so innocent as kitten claws that marked her.

“I’ll fetch it,” she said. He had not been about to ask her, but she understood in the shift of his weight that he had been about to reach out. Reflexes saw her smoothly around whatever action he had intended; kindness or curiosity, she had no use for either.

Gus grunted, and it sounded more annoyed than it did grateful, but he also retreated back the way he had come, the cloth whipped over his shoulder. Alone again, Eido closed her eyes. The thought of the avoided touch made her feel briefly sick; that no matter how crude she perceived him to be, he still did not deserve the abomination he had unknowingly welcomed under his roof.

She knew enough of where things were kept, though they had only been staying here a short while. When she emerged a short time later with the crate, she did not look about to see who was in the bar, and least of all who might be drinking the asahi; in fact her eyes remained downcast, muted expression shadowed by the straight curtains of hair either side of her cheekbones. She placed one bottle on the bar, a little to Gus’s left, and then turned to stack the rest away without prompting. He did not thank her, but she was content with the anonymity.
[Image: cherry-blosson.png]
• ChihiroKōta/Reaver
There were only four drinks the Yakuza allowed to be consumed during business. Upon finding out that the bar indeed stocked ashai Kiyohito had no need to order his second choice. Whiskey always got him drunk, and he preferred to keep his wits for a while at least.

He sat patiently for about twenty minutes before a waitress returned. A single bottle occupied her tray, which she placed before him with a clunk of glass on the table. She was short with yellow hair that curled around her ears. She wore a black dress cut so low that her bosom seemed about to fall out.
“Do you want anything to eat?” she asked.

Kiyohito shook his head. “No, but I do want you to answer a question,” he said.
She leaned closer, hand on her chin.

Kiyohito knew she was flirting with him. On another day he might have gone for it, but he was focused on business. Maybe if she was still around when the bar closed…
“Do you get many Japanese in here?”
“Japanese? Or ya-ku-za?” she smiled.

Her flippant use of the word, within earshot of the nearest tables, left him speechless.

She went on. “Yes, they come in from time to time.” Her gaze flicked to the bar where a reserved Japanese woman was putting away additional bottles of Ashai. Women could be yakuza, although historically they were rare. He doubted that was who the waitress was referencing.

Kiyohito pulled out his wallet and showed her a picture of Haruto. “Do you ever see this man with them?”

She folded her arms, which made it seem like her breasts were about to be pushed out from her dress. “That sounds like an unfriendly question,” her teasing continued.

Kiyo hated this kind of back and forth. He was never any good at it. Haruto was always the talker. Kiyo was much better at getting information the old-fashioned way. Usually just staring at people got them to talk.

The waitress left him alone. Meanwhile, Kiyo took a drink straight from the bottle and began to search the internet for the next possible bar. Between drinks, he kept tabs on the Japanese woman. 

After about an hour, Kiyohito paid the tab and left the bar proper. There was indeed a parking lot outside and he had to wonder about the story of the bloody brawl. There were a few posts casting pools of light, but the exterior was otherwise dark. A locked gate separated the service entrance from the street, but Kiyohito scaled the fence easily by way of a dumpster. He landed on the other side with a soft thud, but took the time to straighten his jacket as he prowled the back. 

A kitchen door was open. From within wafted western music and the scent of food fried in old oil. From the shadow of a trashcan, the orange light of a vape illuminated his face briefly while he waited to see who would come out first.
When she was done she returned without a word to the kitchen, where she kept herself busy until service began to pick up, and her bubble of isolation became too much of a nuisance to maintain. She was about to slip back upstairs when a quiet thud outside drew her attention instead to the open door. Amidst the general noise and music no one around her noticed, but Eido paused to listen for more. The weight had not been the delicate padfoot of an alley cat, and the area beyond was locked and secured; not somewhere a drunk or vagrant might easily settle for the night. There were a few creatures she could think of that might prey in such a prowling way, but the surrounding light and bustle made it an unlikely prospect, and there was no apparent lure – just patient silence. After a moment of scrutiny, faint spider-silk traces of vapour made it clear the trespasser outside must be human. Everything was still after that, like nothing but a figment of overwrought imagination had stirred her to attention. The kitchen continued on its routines, oblivious.

Beyond her kaiken, she had no weapon to defend herself or others, and the knife was hardly meant for that. She felt some small relief. It ought to be Gus’s problem now; it was his bar to protect, and his staff who might later lean out into the darkness for a smoke break or breath of air. Eido could forewarn him, and leave it at that. But she could suddenly feel her heart pounding in her chest, and it held her in stillness. Its rhythm was not fast with fear, but loud and heavy, each beat stolen from a death six years ago, and a flagrant reminder that she had no right to be here. She had no reason to suspect a hunter after all this time, but the heavy yoke of guilt around her neck prickled her skin with both trepidation and yearning. Because it was possible, and it was a duty that called her even from the mire of her own dishonour.

She went without hesitation, slow and deliberate. For a moment she stood in the doorway, limned by the light, the shadows beyond deepened and sooty to her nightblind eyes. If her sin was ever to be balanced, she was not sure she wanted to see the hand which took what she could not, and least of all the look in her deliverer’s eye before the act, whether it be mercy, or pity, or disgust. For a veil of last sight she would rather see the stars, but there were none above when she looked, just the stain of city lights. Home was so very far away.

“Why are you out here?” Her gaze did not seek to fathom the outline of whoever waited, or where they might hide, though it did return from the heavens down to the earth – lower, if that were possible. If they emerged, she would only see their feet. She finally stepped out, pulling the door close behind her, until the triangle of light from inside squeezed to a sliver. Her English was only dusted with accent, her tone soft and absent the demand the words might suggest. She didn’t stray far into the darkness. Her hands folded softly at her waist.
[Image: cherry-blosson.png]
• ChihiroKōta/Reaver

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