“Papa, papa!” The young girl’s shrieks greeted Katsuo Tanaka as he opened the door. With a weary smile on his face, the detective knelt down to grab his daughter in a hug.
“Looks like someone’s happy today,” he said, lifting his daughter high into the air. “Are you happy to see your papa?” The girl giggled and shrieked, “Papa, look! I’m flying!” Katsuo couldn’t help but laugh and kiss his daughter’s nose. “Yes you are, sweetie.”
Letting his daughter down lightly, the detective embraced his wife in a warm embrace and a kiss. “You look like you had a rough day,” she said, while she looked over him with some concern.
“New case, Jun. Don’t worry about it..” Katsuo blearily rubbed his face as his wife turned on the TV. The local news anchor was in the middle of a story.
“…several deaths of police officials and students in a violent shooting at an apartment…” the anchor reported as images flashed across the screen. “The Fukuoka Metropolitan police has pledged a full investigation, and the Criminal Investigations Bureau is already searching for more evidence.”
Jun’s eyes widened. “Is this what you’re doing?”
Katsuo’s eyes avoided those of his wife. “I said, don’t worry about it.”
Before Jun could begin a rebuke, the doorbell rang. She gave her husband a glare that spoke louder than a scream. Then, she got up, and answered the door.
Katsuo closed his eyes and sighed. He heard loud sounds of conversation and happy chatter from the door. Getting up from his seat, he went to the door. At the door, his wife stood chattering away with the visitor. Katsuo’s face broke into a wide grin that was matched with an equally broad smile from his closest friend.
“I’m glad that you could make it, Hisashi,” Katsuo said as he shook hands with his guest. “I believe that dinner was just finished.” He glanced at his wife, who gave a discreet nod back to him.
Trading his shoes for a pair of sandals, Hisashi Goto laughed. “Miss a dinner with an old friend and colleague? Not likely!” The handsome man knelt down as Katsuo’s daughter peeked out from behind a door. “Oh? Is this little Michiko that I see? She doesn’t look so little to me anymore!”
Michiko giggled as she ran out to greet Hisashi. “Uncle Hii-san!” Goto patted her on the head. “You’re getting pretty big, aren’t you?” Michiko nodded eagerly.
“Michiko, that’s not very polite.” Jun scolded. “What do you say to your elders?” Michiko nodded even more eagerly and bowed politely. “Hello, uncle.”
Hisashi laughed. “So serious and polite! What a smart girl.” He returned a deep bow to the tiny girl, who eagerly looked up at her mother, who couldn’t help but smile.
After dinner ended, Katsuo and Hisashi sat in Katsuo’s office, drinking and talking.
“…and so I tackled the guy when he tried to run. Never even saw the rest of the police coming, the whole time he stood there.” Hisashi laughed as he took another drink.
Katsuo chuckled as well. He set his bottle on the table, and turned to face Hisashi. The jovial man seemed to notice the change in mood, and set his bottle down. “So, I’m guessing that this has to do with why you really invited me over, huh?”
Katsuo nodded. “I wanted to ask you some things about a case. We think that the Dojin-kai are involved. You were the first person that I thought to ask.” The detective handed Hisashi a file. Frowning, the man accepted the file and started reading. After a few moments, he closed the file, still frowning.
“This doesn’t make any sense.” Hisashi said after a moment. “The Dojin-kai have nothing to gain from a drug like this. It doesn’t fit with their methods at all. Way too flashy, even for yakuza.”
“So, you think that it might not be them?”
“Or perhaps there’s some instability in the gang itself. In all of my time spent investigating these guys, I’ve never heard of anything quite so dramatic.”
Katsuo looked out the window, deep in thought.
The sword edge flashed through the air, cutting a deadly arc.
Naoki Koga parried the cut and responded with one of his own. Launching into a flurry of lightning fast slashes, Naoki drove his opponent backwards step by step, as the furious onslaught forced his opponent on the defensive.
Koga continued to lay down precise blows onto his opponent, with the finesse of a true master. As he sensed his opponent beginning to wear out, he feinted a downwards cut. His opponent took the bait, as Naoki quickly reversed direction and attacked from the right. The sword slammed into his opponent’s head, knocking him over with the force of the blow.
“Point!” Naoki glanced over at the referees, who held up flags to award him with the match-winning point. Unbuckling his heavy kendo mask, Naoki wiped the sweat off his face, before bowing to his opponent for a good match. He heard a buzz from his pocket, and pulled out his phone. He had gotten a text.
Naoki put his phone away, and smoothed his hair back. Then, he went to get changed.
“Good day, Matsumoto-sama.” Koga bowed deeply. “It is an honor to dine with you today.”
Practically prostrate before the Dojin-kai oyabun, Koga paid his respects to the leader of the Dojin-kai clan. Matsumoto-sama inclined his head slightly, which would’ve been a refined gesture had Matsumoto-sama not been a shrunken, ancient old man.
For nearly 50 years, Hayato Matsumoto had ruled over the Dojin-kai with his own unique brand of iron-clad discipline and unwavering loyalty, even among the yakuza. Those who worked for the Dojin-kai were bound in blood and faithful to the death. Matsumoto expected no less from his subordinates.
All of which made Naoki’s job much harder.
“You are looking well, Koga-kun. It is good to see you.” Matsumoto grinned with a mouth full of broken or missing teeth.
Naoki did not move from his prostrate position. “Thank you, sir. It is an honor to be acknowledged this way.” He remained there until Matsumoto grunted his approval. Koga slowly raised himself upward, remaining on his knees.
Koga read the room around him, trying to gauge the emotions of those around him in order to scan for any potential dangers.
To his left sat the ever perspirant Satoru Yoshida, mopping at his face with a handkerchief, eyes twitching back and forth across the room. To Naoki’s right sat a man with whom he was unfamiliar. Naoki glanced down, and noticed that the man sat taut and coiled like a spring, as if he was ready to strike or flee at any moment.
Across the table sat Matsumoto himself, flanked by a bodyguard on his right, and a man with a face of iron-clad intensity to his left, tight-lipped and severe. The man wore his hair close-cropped, with flecks of white beginning to grow in. He was perhaps in his mid 40s, yet he looked youthful and strong enough to take on a man half his age. Naoki noted that the man stood carefully. Unlike the man to Koga’s right, this one stood with the grace of a ballet dancer, perched carefully, yet capable of watching over all that happened.
The man to his right carefully bowed, bringing his head to the ground. He spoke slowly, in a measured tone. “Matsumoto-sama. It is an honor to dine with you.”
Hayato snorted. “Unoriginal as always. Had to steal off someone else, huh Hara-kun?”
Hara noticeably flinched, but grit his teeth. “Of course not, Matsumoto-sama.” He remained bowing.
An uneasy silence crept in, and held for a few moments. Then, Hayato grinned and laughed. “Alright, don’t bang your head on the ground. Let’s have lunch, hmm?”
Servers came in, exquisite dishes delicately prepared by the kitchen’s staff. They worked diligently and carefully, Naoki mused. Well, they were all on the Dojin-kai’s payroll, after all.
Normally an upscale restaurant, the 3rd Avenue Soul was in reality owned by the Dojin-kai and run as a front. Unbeknownst to the wealthy patrons who shelled out exorbitant prices for their fare, behind the scenes, the Dojin-kai ran a local headquarters and conducted their illicit trade in a stranglehold over Fukuoka Prefecture’s underground scene. Koga and company were having lunch in one of the back rooms, soundproofed and watched over by careful bodyguards.
Platters full of food, Western and Japanese alike, along with exotic delicacies filled the table as Naoki carefully ate, making sure to seem reserved. Satoru, on the other hand, stuffed his mouth and loudly talked. Matsumoto similarly laughed and talked loudly. However, Hara, as Koga noted, ate even less than he did. He seemed to watch for a moment before eating anything, as if checking to see what the others would eat first.
Matsumoto took a long drink, then set his cup down. He looked at Koga, and grinned with that unsettling broken grin. “So, Koga-kun. How’s business?”
“Very good, sir. We’re expanding rapidly, and the financial district knows who to respect now.” Koga smiled in return.
“Excellent, excellent. And you, Hara-kun? How is your business?”
“Fine, sir. We are doing very well.”
“Oh? Even with you skimming off the top?”
The temperature in the room seemed to plummet forty degrees. Satoru froze, food midway to his mouth. Koga tensed, readying himself for a confrontation. Hara turned to absolute ice, his hands on the table. Matsumoto simply continued to eat, as if nothing had happened.
“S-sir?” Hara said, somewhat unsteadily.
“You heard me. They’re doing well even though you’re skimming off some of the profits? Interesting.” Matsumoto said before he took another drink.
“I have no idea what you mean, sir. I would never do such a thing?”
“Don’t bullshit me, Hara. Let’s cut straight to the chase. I know that you’ve been stealing profits off of the Spirit Dust sales for months now. The only question now is whether or not you’re going to admit it. Admit it and give up anyone else involved and I might be a little more lenient. Don’t, and it’ll be much harder for yo-”
Hara interrupted Matsumoto by picking up one of the carving knives on the table and lunging across the table towards the yakuza oyabun. Naoki tried to grab him, but he was moving too quickly.
However, Hara was not moving too quickly for the iron-faced man. Moving like a coiled snake, he intercepted the knife lunge with his left hand, and jammed a knife of his own into Hara’s lower abdomen. Hara collapsed, gasping across the table, a red stain blooming over his shirt.
Matsumoto grunted, and clapped his hands. A few guards opened the door and came inside. Matsumoto gestured in the air and said, “Get him to the doctor. Then, hand him over to the boys in the back room. If there’s anything left, dump it like the rest.”
The guards nodded, evidently familiar with this procedure. They dragged Hara’s moaning body out of the room carefully. The iron-faced man returned to his ballet-dancer poise, and was motionless once more.
“Thank you, Tadashi-kun. Quick as ever, I see.” Matsumoto said.
Tadashi bowed deeply, and returned to his position. Then, Hayato turned to Naoki.
“So, Yoshida-kun tells me that you want to set up your own supply of Spirit Dust to sell.”
“He’s a good guy, Matsumoto-sama. Really good, I tell you.” Satoru insisted. “You’ve heard of all the stuff he’s done.”
“I know what’s he done.” Matsumoto said dismissively while waving his hand. He squinted at Naoki.
“Hmph. I think you’ll be a good seller. Go to Flare. It's a nightclub on fifth street. Ask for Shoji-san. He’ll tell you more.” Matsumoto clapped, and a small army of people came into the room to clear the table. Koga bowed once more with Yoshida, and the two of them stood up to leave.
As they were leaving, Yoshida practically ran to keep up with Naoki’s long strides and fast pace. “Hey, that went well, huh? I told you that I’d put in some good words for you.”
Naoki nodded. “Thank you, Satoru.” His mind was elsewhere though. Matsumoto had made his decision long before Naoki came to lunch. He had been granted permission far before that. And choosing to interrogate Hara was no accident. No, he meant to expose Hara that day, at that moment, in Naoki's presence. It was meant to be a warning.
Hayato Matsumoto dismissed all of his guards except for the ever present Tadashi. Next, he cleared his throat and calmly said, “You may come out now.”
On command, a shimmering patch of air seemed to appear in the back of the room. Then, a hand emerged out of the air and made a tearing motion, shattering the illusion as a tall, refined woman appeared from the spot. Dressed in casual street clothes, she leaned back against the wall with her arms folded.
“The one on the side was barely noticeable. Probably picked up something from the Spirit Dust that he was selling. The other one though….he was somethin’ bigger.” The woman squinted at a small electronic device in her hand. It buzzed and whirred, displaying various numbers and charts on its small screen.
“So, do you think Koga would be suitable for your organization?” Matsumoto asked.
“Maybe. He’s certainly got the aptitude for it, if his reading was accurate. He’s got some serious potential. We’ll take a look. Maybe send him an offer if we like what we see.” The woman smiled, her eyes showing the inky black texture that they normally took when out of a disguise. “You’ve certainly showed us someone that the Insurgency would be…interested in, Matsumoto-sama.”
Hayato grinned. “I thought so.”