A street-gang in Tokyo takes up arms against an oppressive yakuza family. (Prologue)
Nori kept her eyes aimed towards the stars as she let out a loud yawn. It wasn't the first sign of boredom her body had given her tonight, and she was willing to bet it wouldn't be the last. She'd barely moved during the past hour; her ass was practically glued to the cold cement of the rooftop underneath her. Of course, none of this would have bothered her, had she even the faintest idea what she was doing out at this time of night.
“All right, this is getting creepy.” Her legs cracked as she stood up and began to stretch her tired limbs; the act did little to relieve her fatigue. "Time to start talking, Tatsuya. What the hell are we doing up here?”
The target of her question was on his knees several feet away. A young man with short, black hair and a slightly muscular frame glanced over his shoulder before waving a dismissive hand in her direction. “I already told you,” Tatsuya answered in a hushed whisper. “Ya know, I'm gonna throw a party the day you start to listen when I speak. It's just a little late-night stakeout; nothing to get your panties in a knot about.”
By the time Tatsuya finished talking, she had made her way behind him and clenched both her fists. A solid grip on the young man's hair gained a noticeable reaction as she leaned down close to one of his ears. “You wanna try that again?”
A short silence followed, after which Tatsuya swallowed a lump in his throat and handed her the binoculars he'd been holding for most of the night. “Take a look for yourself,” he said, sighing when she let go of his hair and pressed the binoculars to her eyes.
The building they were on wasn't that tall when compared to those around it; only four stories if she remembered correctly. That being the case, the binoculars didn't really show her anything in the immediate area that she couldn't already spot with her eyes.
“And I'm looking for...what, exactly?” she asked. A moment later, a hand on top of her head gently guided her to the correct position. To her surprise, that position was aimed directly across the street.
She immediately recognized the gated entrance to this district's largest building. A parking lot beyond the front gate led to a massive skyscraper, home to the business half of one of Japan's most well known pharmaceutical companies, With slightly rounded sides and a simple, flat roof, something about the building's overall design was extremely pleasing to the eye. Combine that with the fact that the building easily towered over every other one around it by a good twenty stories, and it formed a sight that never ceased to amaze citizens and tourists alike.
Seeing nothing else that caught her attention, she drifted her view back down the parking lot. Upon closer inspection, she noticed something that she'd somehow missed previously: every vehicle parked in the crowded lot looked ridiculously expensive. Sports cars, luxury models, and even a few limos filled the parking lot. Most of the cars featured a flawless finish, that reflected every spot of light from the streetlamps around them.
If she had even the tiniest interest in cars, the beautiful sight could've easily taken her breath away. As she was, though, the most she could offer was a sarcastic whistle. “Yeah, yeah, we get it, you people are rich,” she said with a grin. “Hate to say it, Tatsuya, but I'm still not seeing anything that makes me not want to kick your ass."
“Bottom left of the parking lot,” came Tatsuya's snappy response. “Also, maybe can the attitude. I only brought you with me because you said you were bored.”
“Well, in that case, thank you,” Nori replied while carefully scanning the parking lot. “Now I'm bored and cold. You really know how—”
She cut her own sentence short when something else caught her eye. A single man standing alone beside a dark-green car in the parking lot, holding what she assumed was a phone against his ear as he paced the length of the car back-and-forth. It was a challenge to make out anything about the man, other than the black suit and pants that covered his body.
“I see a guy,” she said, lowering the binoculars and rubbing at her eyes.
Tatsuya gave her a confident nod before taking back the binoculars. With his focus once again on the area ahead, he narrowed two dark-blue eyes and tightened his grip on the binoculars. “I'm ninety-nine percent sure that that guy is with the Oshiro clan. I've seen him around Minato a few times before, and—and don't call me paranoid after I say this—but I actually think he's been following me around for the past couple weeks.”
“You're paranoid. Can we go now?” Taking a few steps back, Nori gave her arms and legs another much-needed stretch. “So what if he's with the Oshiro clan? Those guys are an actual, legit yakuza clan; they don't consider us a threat, you know that. Odds are Oshiro doesn't even know you exist. There's no-fuckin'-way he'd ever care enough to have someone follow your boring ass around the city."
“Uh huh,” Tatsuya answered, his tone somewhat distant. “Make jokes all ya want, but I know something's up with this guy, you just wait and see. I'm sure something exciting will happen before the night's over."
An exaggerated yawn was Nori's chosen response. She pulled up her jacket's hood alongside a cold gust of wind. “So, what's going on over there, anyway?” she asked, grasping for any reason not to sit back down. “I don't think I've ever seen the building's parking lot that packed before.”
Despite also barely moving for some time, Tatsuya refused to budge from his position as he spoke. “Apparently it's some sorta company merger, or something. I never paid attention to the specifics, but the local news has been hyping up the party for weeks now.”
“Okay, chill with the exposition.” Nori rolled her eyes as she climbed onto the rooftop's thin railing. “I didn't ask for your goddamn life story.”
“You're the one who brought it up!” Tatsuya countered, clearly losing his patience. Nori's grin widened, and she began to playfully balance herself in front of Tatsuya's binoculars. The young man responded with a loud sigh, one that the chill night air made visible as it left his mouth. “You're not gonna sit back down, are you?”
She shook her head the moment Tatsuya looked up at her.
“Fine. Have it your way. The guy went inside, anyway.” Tatsuya lowered his binoculars and reluctantly stood to his feet. A loud crack of his back sounded as he turned away from her. Assuming they were leaving, Nori followed the young man across the rooftop, and raised an eyebrow when he stopped just before the fire escape they'd used to get up here.
“What now?” Nori asked, watching Tatsuya pick up a large knapsack setting at his feet.
“Well, that depends,” Tatsuya said while slinging the knapsack over his shoulder.
“Whether or not the two of us can bullshit our way into that party.”
A motion for her to follow started them both down the fire escape. A pitch-black alleyway sat below them, covering their descent in darkness as they worked their way down the rear of the building. The fire escape, clearly passed its prime, creaked under their combined weight. Just to be safe, Nori backed off a bit and let Tatsuya get several steps ahead of her before continuing.
At the bottom of the fire escape, a broken ladder forced a short drop onto the unforgiving pavement. Second to take the fall, Nori landed perfectly and shrugged off Tatsuya's hand when it touched her shoulder.
Her eyes adjusted to the dark alley after the first few steps, just in time to show her the large dumpster they were passing. Raising her jacket's collar to her nose did almost nothing to stop a smell she didn't want to identify from assaulting her nostrils. Thankfully, the foul smell was gone by the time they reached the alley's end.
A nearby streetlamp illuminated the very end of the alley in a warm, golden light. Flashing neon signs located on most of the building's around them mixed with countless streetlamps to create a rainbow of light that covered nearly every inch of the block. However, nothing in the area came close to outshining the skyscraper looming over the cement fence across the street.
“This is ballsy, Tatsuya,” Nori said while looking up at their destination, "and a touch stupid. Are you sure you wanna do this? This seems like a lot to go through just to counter-stalk one yakuza.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Tatsuya follow her gaze, a sly grin forming on his lips.“I just want to take a quick look around. We'll be in and out before ya know it. I promise.”
Nao had spent the past several minutes smiling at her own reflection. Every now and again, her peripheral vision would catch a glimpse of the door across the room, but one gaze ahead would always draw her attention right back to where it was needed most.
Perfectly brushed, dark-brown hair that fell to her shoulders; two large, dark-green eyes surrounded by the perfect amount of mascara, and a round face with smooth skin brought out by a few soft dabs of blush. All of this came together to form the stunning sight that had transfixed her for so long. At least, in her own humble opinion.
While compulsively adjusting the golden necklace dangling in front of her chest, a light knock on the door took her by surprise. Rather than walking over to greet whoever was on the other side, she decided a more direct approach would be most appropriate.
“I said five more minutes!” she yelled, hoping her annoyed tone would carry across the large room. She expected no reply, and was quickly disappointed when the door's knob began to turn.
Through the reflection of the mirror in front of her, she watched as a skinny, middle-aged looking man—dressed head-to-toe in a jet black suit—walked into the room. Despite the response she'd given him, the man had a warm smile on his face as he walked up to her. “I gave you fifteen,” the man said softly with a light chuckle, “and you looked great before that.”
A playful pat on the head caused her to immediately grab for a nearby brush. “Great isn't great enough,” she declared, running the brush through her now frizzy hair. “You're the one who kept going on and on about how important today was. I have to look perfect.”
The man's reply didn't miss a beat. “You're already perfect.”
“I know that,” she said, perhaps a tad faster than she should have. “That's why I said look perfect. Try and keep up. I just need, like, a few more minutes, 'kay?”
“Sure thing, sweetie.” With that, the man turned around and started for the door, but not before one final pat found the top of her head.
She scoffed loudly, and once again began to brush her hair. However, before the man could exit the room entirely, she couldn't stop herself from spinning around in her chair. “Wait,” she said to get the man's attention. “I don't mean to pry, but...You've been acting kind of on edge lately. Everything is okay...right?”
At her question, the man's smile disappeared, but only for a moment. “Of course,” he said in a tone that sounded somewhat reassuring. “It's just...This merger going through could mean big things for us. I really need everything to go off without a hitch tonight...That's all.”
Nao's eyes drifted to the carpet. She'd spoken to enough businessmen in her life to know when one of them was lying to her, even if the one lying happened to be her father.
“Listen,” the man said, walking back to where she sat, “I hate to rush you along, sweetie. Lord knows you've already done enough to make tonight a success...but that beautiful smile of yours isn't doing anyone any good being locked away in here.”
Feeling a coarse hand gently grip her chin, she was soon met with the always soothing sight of her father's caring gaze. Nothing else needed to be said between the two of them. She nodded her understanding alongside a thin smile, and watched as her father walked out of the room.
It was less than a minute later when she finally stood up from her chair. Giving her reflection a parting wink, she walked across the room and opened the door without a moments hesitation.
The ballroom beyond looked drastically different than when she'd left it. What was once a gigantic, empty room was now filled to the brim with people. A sea of flashy suits and elegant dresses completely covered an intricately designed marble floor, and were illuminated by several golden chandeliers that hung from a high ceiling.
She scanned the crowd for anyone important enough to warrant a conversation. After a minute of searching, she'd made her decision. Making her way through the crowd was made far easier when the people she passed began to recognize her, and stepped to the side accordingly. She took little notice of this as she continued across the room. These people, most of whom worked for her father, were simply acting as they should. In her mind, there was no reason to even acknowledge their presence.
With as much fake confidence as she could muster, she approached her target from behind and cleared her throat to gain his attention. The man who turned to face her was a great deal taller than those around him, and had more of a muscular build than that expected of a businessman. His skin was dark, which made his short, light-brown hair stick out on top of his head. All in all, his appearance was a tad more intimidating than the people she usually spoke with at these kind of parties. At least, it was...until he opened his mouth.
“Ah, I remember you,” the man said with a booming voice and welcoming smile. “Akiyama's daughter, right?”
Nao answered with a single nod. A deep bow gave her time to wipe the thin smirk from her lips. This wasn't the first time they'd spoken, but the man's extremely thick American accent still managed to catch her off guard. Thankfully, this was far from the first foreigner her father's work had introduced her to, so she was able to understand him enough to hold a basic conversation.
“It's a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Simmons. It's been a few weeks since we last spoke, are you still enjoying your stay in Tokyo?”
“Yes, yes, very much so,” Simmons answered. Due to their drastic height difference, the large man was forced to look down at her as he spoke. “Although,” he said with a hearty laugh, “I have the feeling my crash course in Japanese didn't yield the best results; you're about the only person who doesn't just give me a blank stare and nod along to whatever I'm saying.”
Nao laughed as well, but kept it short and sweet. “Your accent might be a little thick,” she said truthfully. “I wouldn't worry about it too much, though. I'm sure it'll improve once you're here for a little while longer. Practice makes perfect."
The two shared another short laugh before Nao felt a hand grip her shoulder. She turned her head to see her father behind her. “Ah, Mr. Simmons, there you are. I hate to pry you away from such a lovely young woman, but I'm afraid they're still some small details we need to discuss before the night's end.”
Simmons nodded and allowed himself to be led away. As soon as the two men were far enough away, Nao wiped the fake smile from her face and let out a loud, relieved sigh. "Ugh...one down,” she whispered quietly to herself. “Good lord, that moron really gets on my nerves. At least have the fuckin' common decency to wait until I look away before staring at my chest."
Scanning the crowd once more, she stopped a passing servant long enough to nab one of the wine glasses on her tray. She downed the entire glass and placed it back on the tray in a matter of seconds. Leaving one wide-eyed servant in her wake, she started back across the room with a fake smile painfully forced onto her face.