Chapter 2: Turning Saints Into the Sea
For many years the Tokeisou-gumi had been known as yakuza in little more than name only. Handed down from father to son though six generations, the group had almost too easily weathered world wars and tough economic times, never seeming to grow, to change or to branch out, yet somehow failing to fall into obsolescence as well.
Tragedy seemed only to have struck the group twice, first with the untimely death of their fifth leader, Ichijouji Masaru, and then, with the death of his eldest son, Ichijouji Osamu. Both deaths were later ruled accidental, the former occurring during a family vacation with his two sons and the latter, tragically, as the oyabun of less than a year was trying to protect none other than the current head of the family, his younger brother Ichijouji Ken.
The rule of Ichijouji Ken, while clouded with sadness, had nevertheless brought the family to as of yet unseen glory. With an almost military like disposition, the youngest Ichijouji to have ever taken power schooled what had been the recently lackadaisical group into cold perfection. Aided by an equally young group of preternaturally skilled allies, Ichijouji Ken began to grow the Tokeisou-gumi into an organization not only recognized by the die-hard scholars of yakuza history but by law enforcement and other yakuza as well. It was with a sense of pride in a job well done, as well as concern for the newest competition, that fellow yakuza groups watched the formerly sleeping family erupt on to the scene with an almost supernaturally aided speed.
What such groups failed to see; failed, in Ken’s mind, to ever really understand was that the growth of the Tokeisou-gumi was more than some momentary burst, soon the peter out into little more than a semi-translucent cloud of what-could-have-beens left to drift across the darkening night sky. No, rather, Ken was building on five previous generations of foundation, carefully, almost too carefully, laid out in what he had determined to be an all but eerie prediction of his coming. There was a heretofore untapped genius woven into each and every stratum of the still smallish organization, quietly waiting for the time when someone with the true ability to lead would find himself at the helm.
It was only those in who Ken was convinced he saw this inherent talent, in those whom he believed were capable of understanding, to the fullest extent that their less than perfect little minds could fathom anyway, just what it was that he intended to accomplish, that Ken allowed into his inner circle. Thus this group was necessarily small; it’s only weakness: that in so short a chain, one bad link could easily spell destruction for them all. And so it was with relentless drive that Ken continued to nip, trim, graft and, most importantly, cull.
To excel in the Tokeisou-gumi was a mark of distinction.
To falter was to die.
It was with this inner circle that Ken now sat, amused, as he was, by their quite reticence. His eyes rounded the carefully silent room. There was the head of his west-Tokyo operations, Akiyama Ryo, as well as the two women who collectively oversaw his Shinjuku shops, Tachikawa Mimi and Takenouchi Sora. Sitting ram-rod strait against the far wall was his best enforcer and perhaps youngest member to date of the inner circle, Hida Iori. The most recent addition, a young man with long dark hair he kept pulled into a tight ponytail, sat a little away from the other members, his concentration focused on some point just beyond the center of the room, his mind clearly mulling a topic he believed to be of some importance. Ken allowed himself a small moment of pleasure at having had the sense to pull the boy, Minamoto Koji, from the streets. He had been fast proving himself to be one of the most intelligent and through members of the recently re-aligned group.
Ken’s eyes broke from Minamoto, his face settling into a scowl as his thoughts were unexpectedly disrupted by the sound of the room’s door sliding open. Framed in by the now empty space where the door had been, stood Inoue Miyako, who announced her presence with a small cough and a carefully toned assertion. Ken traced her line of sight to the still empty cushion next to his chair with an even more pronounced frown and an almost inaudible sigh. Almost. It seemed that for a second, all eyes in the room suddenly focused on that single spot, and then, just as quickly, turned away.
Whatever tension may have been growing however was soon broken as the empty space Miyako had just vacated was almost immediately occupied. Motomiya Daisuke gave a barely perceptible bow with his quiet announcement of presence before carefully securing the heavy door and hurrying over to his usual place beside Ken. He lowered himself carefully into seiza before looking up at Ken and repeating, again, his subdued statement.
A quick smile touched Ken’s lips before his face was once more schooled into a stern mask. He cleared his throat quickly before standing from his chair.
After looking about the room, studying each face in turn and daring, as it were anyone to look away, he suddenly turned his back to the group, his eyes resting entirely on Daisuke.
“We have been offered a unique opportunity…” he announced, he voice clear enough to be heard by Hida at the far end of the room, but not so loud as to carry any further. “Yes,” he continued turning around to once more address the larger group, “A very… interesting opportunity.” He paused, amused at the way their eyes seemed to follow him.
“It would seem that we have caught the eye of the National Public Safety Commission,” he announced casually, offering a cool smile to Tachikawa, the only one to react to his announcement in any noticeable way, “Or rather, I should say, one of the NPSC’s would-be officers.” Ken paused a moment to allow the information he had just given them time to sink in before motioning for Minamoto to open the small closet beside where he sat. A hushed murmur ran throughout the room as the group noticed the bound and gagged blond lying on his side in the tight space.
Once again Ken turned to study Daisuke, pausing only as long as he dared before striding back to his seat and instructing Minamoto to bring the man forward. Minamoto did exactly as requested, sparing Yamato no kindness as he dragged him forward towards the middle of the room, and deposited him in an awkward pile. Daisuke watched as the man struggled to find his knees, Minamoto sitting next to him calmly, awaiting Ken’s next request. It was not long in coming.
Yamato had barely settled into what might, had one not looked too closely, been considered a comfortable position when with a wave of his hand, Ken instructed Minamoto to remove the gag. The dark haired boy made deft work of the knotted fabric, making sure however, to wrench Yamato’s head in what seemed to Daisuke to be a very painful manner. His mouth now free to draw in the gasping breaths his body had been demanding, Yamato was finally able to gather enough of his wits about himself to look about the room. This was not what he had been expecting to see. For starters, he had heard that the newest head of the Tokeisou-gumi was the youngest ever, but the man sitting on the raised dais at the head of the room could not possibly be more than a year or so older than his brother, Takeru. And sitting at that man’s right hand was none other than the curly headed boy he had first seen at the bar. Of the other members gathered about the room, one or two may have been his age, but the rest were years younger. Yamato’s face gathered into a small amused smile. If this gang was supposed to be the rising star of the yakuza then he didn’t know why the governmental lackeys had their panties in such a twist.
Ken watched as Yamato began to take in his surroundings, the man’s confidence visibly growing as he cast his eyes about the room, pausing every few seconds to mentally note each member of the Tokeisou-gumi’s inner circle. Ken’s amusement was quickly tampered, however, by Daisuke’s presumably unwitting fidgeting at his side. The restless movement only increased as Yamato’s eyes moved to capture Daisuke, the younger man’s eyes riveted to the blond, nervous, or so it would seem, at what so quick a study might reveal. Without thinking, Ken reached down to lay a hand on the agitated head, only to recoil sharply as his fingers met damply dusty curls. That movement at least seemed to pull Daisuke’s attention away from the center of the room and back to Ken’s less than happy face.
Daisuke flinched at the slight tremor of disgust that seemed to run the length of the thin man’s body. “Sorry,” Daisuke spoke softly before realizing that some things are best left unsaid, “I was cleaning the room and I lost track of the…” he trailed off as Ken pointedly looked away. After only a second however, Ken’s eyes spun back around to the center of the room, and this time it was Daisuke could not help looking away as he realized that Ken was purposefully keeping his body angled away.
“Well now,” Ken’s voice burst forth suddenly, “that wasn’t a very nice welcome, was it?” At Ken’s words, Minamoto immediately moved back to his previous location. “I hope you will be forgiving,” Ken continued in a voice that left no question as to whether or not he really cared, “But we did have our reasons.” With this, Ken gave an all-too-conspicuous glance in Daisuke’s direction along with a small smile. “It would seem that not everyone is quite ready to trust you.”
Yamato cleared his throat roughly, but otherwise remained silent.
“I must say though,” something about Ken’s even tone nearly caused Daisuke to jump, “I was surprised when you contacted me Ishida. It’s not often that a man of your,” there was a short pause as Ken considered his wording, “stature considers putting his skills to work for a man of,” Ken smiled all too pleasantly, an amused sort of breath softly escaping, “well,” he shrugged, “mine.” Daisuke frowned, unsure of what, exactly, Ken was getting at, but knowing better than to open his mouth. Not that that really mattered, as barely a second later, Ken spoke again.
“Would you mind terribly telling me why?” Ken requested, the sharp words dripping from the edge of his tongue with cold curiosity.
Yamato stilled momentarily, considering his words carefully before sitting up a little straighter and meeting Ken’s eyes, “As I told your man,” he began calmly, formally, “I have come to disagree with some of the current policies and procedures employed by the NPSC, and I no longer believe them to be…” he paused, much as Ken had done a moment earlier, “worthy of a man of any stature.” Yamato’s eyes seemed to gleam with an uncanny egotism, “Especially my own.” As he finished his seemingly cavalier statement, his eyes dropped to study Daisuke who, despite his earlier glares, suddenly seemed to be refusing to look his way.
Ken allowed himself a mirthless chuckle at the man’s arrogant tone, “And what, pray tell, have we done to convince you of our merit?” Ken smiled as he caught Hida leaning forward to better hear the man’s answer.
A quick toss of his head removed a lock of hair from in front of Yamato’s eyes. He glanced about the room before settling his eyes on Ken with another piercing stare before answering shortly, “Nothing,” he softened the hard statement with a sardonic smile, “as of yet.”
Perhaps he had been distracted when he saw what he believed to be the first true smile since their rather abrupt introduction grace the lips of the man sitting on the dais, but Yamato failed to comprehend the actual meaning behind Ichijouji’s nod towards the back of the room until seconds later when Minamoto was once more at his side, his hand fisted in Yamato’s hair. It was probably because his balance was thrown off with his hands still tied behind his back, but Yamato could not help but wonder at the undue ease with which the young man jerked his head and shoulders back, exposing his throat and sending shooting pains from his ankles up through his knees.
“Stop.” The voice was closer than Yamato was expecting and he strained his eyes downward to catch a glimpse of Ichijouji, standing now, having silently risen and moved toward the center of the room. At Ken’s short command there came the sliding click of a knife closing, no doubt as audibly as possible for Yamato’s sole benefit. And then Ken was standing beside him, hands casually tucked in his pockets, body turned slightly away as he studied something on the far wall. After a long moment, Ken turned to look down on Yamato, now forcibly biting his bottom lip so as not to cry out against the pain in his legs, made worse by the seemingly random jerks and pulls of Minamoto’s hand.
“You’ll find,” Ken smiled, “that I’m not as forgiving as the NPSC.” Ken turned and walked back towards his chair, receding quickly from Yamato’s line of sight. “I do, however, recognize that we all make mistakes,” he sat down, smiling at Daisuke who was watching the scene closely, eyes guarded, “But—and make no mistake here—I will not forgive the same offence twice.” Ken allowed his statement a moment to sink in before nodding in Minamoto’s direction, “Let him go.”
Minamoto was quick to comply, shoving Yamato so far forward that he landed on his chin. Yamato, however, was smart enough not to protest the rough treatment, doing his best to inch himself back into a kneeling position and paying no heed to the scrape on his chin that he was sure was already starting to ooze blood.
The room waited silently for him to regain his seating and his breathing to calm.
“Well then,” Ken continued jovially once things were again as they had been just minutes before, “Any other questions?” He smiled in Yamato’s direction, “Well?”
Any other questions, indeed, Yamato frowned, fighting the urge to grimace as he inadvertently irritated the throbbing scrape on his chin. “Huh,” he began softly, “Sur—“ but then he caught sight of Daisuke. The younger man was sitting ramrod straight, his hands fisted tight on his knees. Daisuke's eyes flashed briefly and in them Yamato could almost hear a pained whisper, begging his silence. Yamato broke off what he had been intending to say with a short shake of his head, his eyes dropping to the tatami matted floor with a frustrated growl.
Ken watched the entire exchange with a look of quietly contemplative curiosity, his head cocked to the side as he continued to study the curly headed boy whose eyes were focused once again on the tatami before him. “How very interesting…” Ken mused. Daisuke glanced up at the softly whispered statement, fighting the nearly compulsive need to swallow when he saw the way Ken was studying him.
Ken, too, seemed to be fighting some urge, first pursing his lips as if he were about to say something, only to pause with a short release of breath, leaving a vague sense of unfinished business hanging in the air. The other occupants in the room appeared content to allow Ken to wrestle within himself for as long as necessary, but as the seconds stretched into screamingly silent minutes, Yamato began to feel anxious.
It came as a relief then when Ken finally spoke, “You do remind me of someone,” he admitted, turning once more towards Yamato. “Do you see it, too, Daisuke-kun?” The red headed boy did not offer so much as a murmur at being drawn so suddenly into the conversation. “Not so much in looks,” Ken continued blithely without waiting for an answer, “But still... there is something there.” Ken frowned when he saw Takenouchi look away, pained.
Yamato studied Ichijouji carefully, unsure what the thin man was thinking. He failed to notice the look of annoyance on the curly headed boy’s face until after Ichijouji made a special point of leaning down to speak directly to him. “I asked if you can see it too, Daisuke-kun.” Ken inquired again, this time adding a much more insistent edge to his tone.
As if in answer, Daisuke turned his eyes toward Ken, allowing the man as much time as he wished to read what was written there. “He's angry,” Ken concluded softly after a long moment, “Why is that?” Ken turned to face Yamato again, “I think you must also remind him of our old friend.” Ken spun again to speak with Daisuke, “What was his name again?”
“You know his name.” The statement was pinched, spoken in a way that would not allow it to carry beyond Ken’s ears. Still it was impossible to miss the way Ken’s lip seemed to curl, his fingers digging into the armrest of his chair. The moment seemed to pass as quickly as it came, however and Ken was quick to turn his attention back to Yamato, false smile firmly in place.
“Hmm, Takaishi, I want to say,” Ken mused, fighting the urge to laugh at the way Yamato blanched, “Takaishi Takeru, no?” Ken smiled down at Daisuke when he heard the other man clear his throat. “Yes,” he answered his own question with a derisive huff, “I suppose only a great fool would have missed it.” With that Ken stood slowly, languidly, surveying the full breadth of the room once more before motioning for Daisuke to stand and follow him. He walked over to where Yamato sat, using a handkerchief to shield his hand as he lifted the blond man’s chin, though the small scrape had long since begun to clot and dry.
“You will find,” Ken assured his captive audience, his voice a low growl, “that I am no fool.” He released Yamato’s chin, and with it, the handkerchief which fell to the floor with a quiet flutter, “Don’t pretend that just because you have not told me why you are here, that I do not know. Understand, Ishida-kun?” Ken waited only long enough for Yamato gave a short nod of his head. “Good,” Ken praised him, his wan smile hard and cold.
“We’re done here,” Ken announced suddenly, stepping towards the door. “Minamoto,” he paused only long enough to acknowledge the sharp yes that followed, “See to it that he makes it to the west wing,” Ken ordered, flicking his eyes in Yamato’s direction. Again the command was met with an incisive, “Yes.”
Ken smiled. Minamoto really was one of his best decisions to date. The boy was proving to be quite the quick learner. Ken paused at the door to take one last look around the room, allowing himself to bask momentarily in the pleasure of being watched so closely by so many sets of eyes. Some days, it seemed as if the world was little more than a ripe apple, just waiting to fall in his lap. With that thought still ringing pleasantly in his head, he stepped over the doorway and began to make his way down the hall.
Daisuke followed quickly, pausing only long enough at the entryway to turn and toss what he hoped was a vaguely authoritarian, if perhaps too lackadaisical, waive of his hand, indicating the meeting’s abrupt termination before hurrying after Ken’s already receding steps.
Daisuke trailed Ken wordlessly all the way to the opposite end of the compound, only stepping in front of him long enough to slide back the door to Ken’s room and then allowing the taller man to pass before he, too, stepped inside and slid the door shut. Daisuke watched, strangely uneasy as Ken walked to the far end of the room, unbuttoning his jacket as he went and laying it neatly across the western style bed, all without so much as a sound.
Ken stood, his eyes focusing on the Chinese scroll that hung in the alcove against the far wall for several long moments before finally turning back and approaching Daisuke slowly, only to stop a half-step or so away and study him, much as he just had the ancient scroll. Daisuke met the unwavering stare as well as he could given Ken’s close proximity and his added height.
After seconds more scrutiny, Ken reached back and brought his palm down sharply against the side of Daisuke’s face, hard enough to knock Daisuke rearward, against the wooden wall, but not with enough force to actually cause him to fall. Daisuke straightened as quickly as he could, fighting the urge to raise his hand to soothe his throbbing cheek. He knew that such vulnerability would only serve to further anger the Oyabun.
Ken’s lip curled in a half growl, “You disappoint me.” He walked over to a small bar that contained a silver sink. Daisuke watched as Ken quickly washed his hands once, and then once again, being careful the entire time not to splash any extra water on his long shirtsleeves.
Only after washing and rinsing his hands for a third time did Ken reached for a towel hanging on the nearby rack. He patted his hands carefully, seemingly so focused on the motions of the towel that Daisuke was spooked when he finally spoke up, “You will watch Ishida,” Ken commanded harshly, never taking his eyes off the towel in his hands, “and you will tell me everything.”
Ken folded the towel neatly, taking extra time to carefully smooth out the nonexistent wrinkles and square off the four corners before setting it aside and pinning Daisuke with ice-cold eyes, “Do you understand?” He carefully enunciated each and every syllable, staring at Daisuke again, this time not like some interesting piece of artwork, but rather like Daisuke was no more than a piece of worthless rubbish. Ken’s voice left no room for argument with the brusque request, leaving Daisuke alone to fight the involuntary pain he always felt when he saw such cold disdain fill Ken’s eyes.
Daisuke forced himself to nod, answering, “Yes,” surprised at how thick his voice sounded. He did not fail to notice the way Ken’s lip twitched, repulsed, even as he adjusted and readjusted his shirtsleeves, almost neurotic in his quest to get them perfectly aligned. Finally he was able to set them to his preference, unable to hide his almost relieved smile as he crossed the room to where Daisuke still stood.
“Good,” Ken’s long white fingers reached out to toy absently with the goggles hanging loose around Daisuke’s neck momentarily before suddenly becoming aware of his actions and jerking his hand away with a frown, “Because I am sick to death of everyone trying to fuck with me all the time,” Ken ended with a aggravated snarl, giving Daisuke a one final once over with his eyes before demanding coldly, “Get out.”
Ken reached out beside Daisuke to press the small button on the intercom on the wall even as Daisuke slid the door open and turned away in preparation to leave.
“Wait.” Ken’s voice stopped Daisuke where he stood, “I will not tell you again, Daisuke-kun,” Ken reached up to run a finger along the strap across Daisuke’s neck, “Destroy those nasty things.”
Daisuke nodded but otherwise did not respond, his eyes never leaving the floor even as he stepped from the room, reaching to pull the door shut blindly, habit rendering the action easy and thoughtless.
“Daisuke.” This time the request was softer, perhaps even uncertain. The curly headed boy turned, hand still held in the notch of the door, his eyes meeting Ken’s in silent acknowledgement of his having spoken, “You’ll come back tonight.”
It was certainly more statement than request, but still, Daisuke offered the dark headed man a small smile, knowing that the pained edge to Ken’s tone was something very few had ever been allowed to hear. Daisuke only nodded acceptance of Ken’s half-request, not confident enough in his own voice to risk a verbal answer. If asked, Daisuke would no doubt hesitate to admit it, but to himself he could concede that it was the something in the dark purple-blue of Ken’s eyes at times like these that made the decisions in Daisuke’s life so much more difficult. If only…
Daisuke shook his head, unwilling to let his mind wander down that dangerous path for fear of what he would come to realize.
Thankfully, as quickly as the moment had come, it passed, and Ken turned his back on Daisuke, completely ignoring the younger man as he strode across the room to where a computer sat, some half-finished work still awaiting completion pulled up on the desktop. Daisuke sighed softly at the hard line of Ken’s shoulder, turning away just in time to notice the older, slightly gray woman who served Ken hurrying towards the room with tray stacked with Ken’s favorite tea service. Daisuke stepped to the side, bowing slightly as she passed in a show of respect that Ken insisted upon, before shutting the door behind her with a soft click and leaving to complete his cleaning.