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Yuta Hayashi
[Image: kiyo-injury.jpg][Image: russian-apartments.jpg][Image: r.png?strip=info&w=547]

A knock at the door pulled Kiyohito’s attention away from the open screens before him. He minimized all of them save for Japanese baseball, which fell to silence as a result. Answering the door revealed the same disfigured face from the night on the bridge. For a few moments, the two men stared at each other, and Kiyo felt the visitor’s eyes roam the bruises of his face. Finally, he murmured a half-hearted greetings that only barely passed as polite and invited Ryker inside.

The flat was barely two rooms. The larger of the two held only what furniture came with the rental, which meant a brown couch and wooden tables. A single floor lamp occupied a corner. There was a kitchenette with an electric cook top sitting on the counter, and a small table shoved against the wall. In the darkness beyond a shadowy doorway was a bedroom. There were curtains dangling around the edges of a window that looked out onto the street below. They were five levels up, without an elevator, but Kiyohito didn’t mind the stairs. He didn’t intend on staying here long.

Ryker followed him inside, and together they sat on the opposite ends of the couch. The silent baseball game was projected onto the wall in front of them.

After about a minute of silence, Kiyo shifted his weight.
“Do you want a beer?” he asked.

“Abso-fucking-lutely,” Ryker responded, throwing one arm along the back of the couch as he got himself comfortable.

The hope for polite decline fading, Kiyo retrieved two bottles of Ashai from the fridge. Ryker glared flatly at the Japanese brand, but drank it without complaint.

Kiyo sank back into the seat afterward, tilting the bottle back in silence as well. They watched an entire inning like that before Ryker left the empty bottle on the table and rose.

“Time to go,” Ryker announced.

Kiyohito’s bottle was only half empty, so he left it alone on the table and followed.
“Fine,” he said. His expression did not betray a cringe when he shrugged on a suit jacket, dark gray, over his usual black button down, if that it was donned a little more slowly than before. Soreness rippled around his ribs even now. He straightened the Korii-Kai pin fixed to the lapel and indicated he was ready.

Ryker drove.
Suravye ninto manshima taishite
Kiyohito +
Beowulf + Arjuna +
[Image: kiyo-injury.jpg][Image: Edenokoji-gumi-house-1024x682.jpg?strip=...2000&ssl=1][Image: r.png?strip=info&w=547]

The neighborhood they entered was residential in appearance. Upper class, certainly, but not the opulent sprawling mansions of the Russian aristocracy that Kiyohito glimpsed online. The curb was empty all the way down the block, but they parked on the street down the road from their destination. Walls too high to climb loomed above the sidewalk in the interim. Despite the fortified exterior, Kiyohito felt strangely at home as they stopped at the gate.

Ryker identified himself on the security system. As soon as the gate slid open, two men in black suits stepped out to greet them. Kiyohito didn’t expect to recognize either except to say they were Japanese. Both wore Edenokōji-gumi symbols. Ryker dutifully held out his arms and allowed himself to be pat down. They found a pocket knife, but upon clearing his throat, it was returned to his possession after a brief examination; a relinquishing that Kiyohito found odd. There were no such weapons on himself to confiscate.

The interior of the grounds was starkly different from the street. The house was modern with a long, flat roof and multiple levels. The door rolled open from the inside, and Ryker ducked in like a welcome guest.

They were shown upstairs. Faces blank of emotion glanced as they passed. Kiyo frowned and put his hands in his pockets so to not be tempted to wring them with nerves. The members of different clans occasionally met for parlay or negotiations. When Kiyohito was witness to such meetings, it was either to serve drinks or stand watch at the door. He never imagined he would be meeting with the oyabun of the Moscow yakuza, let alone to make a deal with him. It was tantamount to treason. 

Ryker plopped onto one of the low chairs. Kiyo noted that none of them removed their shoes when passing the threshold, and he wondered just how much the Edenokōji had assimilated into foreign habits. He thought about as much as he wandered to the window to peer upon the grounds. There he waited.
Suravye ninto manshima taishite
Kiyohito +
Beowulf + Arjuna +
[Image: kiyo-injury.jpg][Image: Ryker-1-2.png?strip=info&w=306][Image: Yuta.jpg?strip=info&w=600&ssl=1]

They waited a long time.

Ryker contented himself with a Wallet and leering at a woman that served them drinks in a way that made Kiyohito’s flat stare for his companion linger, but he was accustomed to such things. Men’s pride. Bragging after their exploits. The comments and racisms that infiltrated their world that sometimes made it feel like they lived a hundred years in the past. He’d wondered if it would be different in Moscow. It seemed he was disappointed.

Finally, two men in suits beckoned them to follow. Ryker joined him, speaking as they walked. Their escorts paid no attention. “Ever hear the story of the Buddhist priests who betrayed their order and lived out their punishments as goblins?”

Kiyohito glared up at Ryker like he was annoyed by the absurd question at a time like this. Tengu? Are you trying to scare me with a ghost story, Mister Petroviç?”

He shrugged. “Just promise me you’ll tell me what it’s like when he turns you into his own personal goblin.” His smile was cruel as he nodded at what waited beyond closed doors.

Fear flashed his veins. Certainly not for tengu or goblins, but that he was so far over his head, he would be lucky to come out of this with it still attached. He had barely enough time to compose himself before the door slid open and they were presented.

Within, he bowed, and held his gaze low until addressed. He expected Ryker to be as irreverent as ever, but surprisingly, he came to stand at Kiyohito’s shoulder and was silent.

Yuta Hayashi was a second generation Yakuza who moved his business to Moscow when he was a man in his mid-forties. A decade later, he personally raised the Moscow-based Yakuza from seedlings to a flourishing tree, small still compared to the D-IV societies, but the soil was far rockier here. For that reason, Kiyohito respected him.

The boss grunted, and Kiyohito raised his eyes. Yuta was leaning against his desk, feet crossed at the ankle. He was a lean, athletic-looking man with a hard face from climbing a treacherous mountain with not but his own bare hands. Around them, the office was traditionally decorated. The katana of his rank was perched on a windowsill. Tea had been served nearby. His English was crisp and precise. 

“Ryker, you delivered as you said. I will not mistrust your word again.” Yuta said. To Kiyohito’s surprise, Ryker nodded with something that approximated deference. Just who exactly did this man serve?

It was to Kiyohito that Yuta studied next. The way he stood. Even the bruises on his face were under inspection. Finally, Yuta’s eyes fell to the pin on his lapel. Another one decorated Yuta’s. His own.

“Kiyohito of Korii-kai. I acknowledge you are responsible for stopping a war between the Edenokōji-gumi and the Russians. A war that would have cost a great deal of blood.” And to Kiyohito’s great shock, the man bent his neck in the barest of nods.

The breath rushed from his lungs, and Kiyohito dropped to his knees then and there as though the winds of fate pushed him down. He put his forehead to the floor at Yuta’s shoes.

“Forgive me, Hayashi-san. Forgive me on behalf of my brother for shaming you and your family.”

Yuta uncrossed his feet, standing erect. Kiyohito could only imagine the view of his bared neck prostrate before the Yakuza boss. He could only imagine the sword waiting nearby. The vulnerability of the posture was immense. His life was in this man’s hands.

“A brother loose on the wind. Who will his guns will find next? Will you beg my forgiveness, in my city, for his every disobedience? His every insult!

The crack of his final word rang in his ears. He positioned his face lower. “Yes, forgive me!” He pleaded.

Ryker cleared his throat. “Mister Hayashi, you should know that Zixin Kao has spoken for Korii-Haruto.”

Yuta was silent. All Kiyo could see was the floor as Yuta’s shoes moved to confront Ryker.

“The Syndicate has claimed him?”


He murmured thoughtfully to himself. “Then I will claim his brother until I feel this debt is atoned.”

Kiyohito’s heart sank, but at least it was still beating in his chest.

Following instructions on his first assignment, Kiyohito and Ryker were escorted out. The moment they passed the gate, he pulled out a cigarette. After shaking hands failed to light it, Ryker’s zippo suddenly flared to life in front of his face, cupped by his palms.

He peered over the fresh cigarette up at the man that arranged all of this wondering yet again who exactly it was that Ryker served. He would figure it out eventually.

“Thanks,” he muttered as smoke swirled his lungs.

They returned to the car after that, and Kiyohito fingered the Korii-kai pin that was now in his pocket as they walked.
Suravye ninto manshima taishite
Kiyohito +
Beowulf + Arjuna +

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