Nice to know my graduation plans aren’t the only thing getting frakked up.
Part Four: Breakdown
Repeating the same process on the other side of town, we were once again seated across from a middle-aged man flanked by two guards. On his right and left sat two younger women, and two stocky male guards stood behind us. This Syndicate official had a short scar under his right eye, and the contemptuous gaze he kept giving us gave me the impression this part of the plan would not go well. Once more tea and snacks were served, we got down to business.
The Syndicate Leader gave a cold smirk as he sipped his tea before speaking in the gravelly voice of a former smoker, “so, Mr. Setou and Mr. Nakai, after all they have done to eradicate my way of life, have come to me to negotiate.”
I cleared my throat lightly, trying to organize my thoughts, “how do you know who we are?”
The man sighed, “Your adventure series. The events it depicts may be sensationalized, but I am well connected enough- or at least, I used to be,” he paused to glare at us, but neither of us reacted, “to be able to connect the dots.”
I glared at Kenji, “I told you to use a penname and to not have me on the web site for the Agency.”
Kenji shrugged, “Hakamichi and Satou nixed the gold statue, so I didn’t have a lot of choice. And I needed to have your name on the site for tax reasons.”
I sighed and pinched my nose; I knew becoming Kenji’s business partner would bite me in the ass someday.
Kenji, meanwhile, continued speaking to the mobster, “I take it from the fact that we aren’t already dead that you are willing to honor the protection granted to us by the efforts of Jigoro Hakamichi’s daughter?”
The man sighed and nodded, “as much I would like not to, at this point, our honor and our word are all we have. So, speak your mind.”
We again explained that Kaze had come to us for help, and then explained that he wanted the Mark removed.
“…If I have the Mark removed, and he is claimed by my rivals, what benefit do I gain from this endeavor?” the Syndicate Leader asked.
“Well,” I said, “it would be a nice gesture of peace between both groups. Solving this problem peacefully would demonstrate to the other syndicate that violence isn’t the only option these days.”
The man sighed again, sparing a glance down to look wistfully at his tea, “if only that were true.”
“He also has information he’d be willing to exchange for the removal of the Mark,” Kenji added.
The man grunted, “Information that by rights should be ours regardless.”
Kenji glanced at me. He was rubbing his spleen and I suppressed a shudder. We had one last option besides violence, and I was going to take it.
“Negotiating these types of things when all the parties are apart can make things unnecessarily difficult,” I stated.
The man sipped his tea and raised an eyebrow, “this is true. What do you propose?”
I quietly exhaled slowly before continuing; if he considered what we suggested an insult, it was time to gun and run, “your rivals are willing to discuss this in person. Kaze has already granted us the power to negotiate on his behalf, so if all three parties could meet on neutral ground, I’m sure we could come to some sort of agreement.”
“Your rivals have already agreed to a meeting,” Kenji added, “if you are willing to attend.”
The man sipped his tea, lowered his cup, and leaned forward to glare at us. We both knew better then to react, so we calmly waited as he looked into our eyes –or tried to, in Kenji’s case. His steely gaze would’ve been unnerving if I wasn’t used to Hanako’s Stare of Judgment or the idiot administrators at school who seemed to think I spent all day sitting at my desk scratching my ass. The syndicate Leader glared at us for some time, but when neither of us faltered or wavered, merely returning his glare with placid looks of mild impatience, he leaned back and smirked.
“Very well,” he said, “We have an old warehouse on the edge of town that we use for such meetings. I will give you the address and contact our rivals. Since it seems likely they will agree, all three of us will meet in…four hours.”
Kenji smirked, “you guys work fast.”
The man nodded, “the negotiations may take some time, but meeting quickly will ensure that no one has time to plan anything deceptive or underhanded. If there is nothing else, I shall see you both soon.”
He waved us off, and after some deep bowing, we departed the back office. Before we left, one of the guards handed us a business card with the warehouse address on it. We nodded in thanks and left the restaurant.
“This is going too well,” Kenji grumbled, rubbing his spleen a bit more forcefully then before.
I nodded, “that does seem to be the case. I don’t suppose it could just be things going well for once?”
Kenji leered at me over his glasses.
I sighed, “It was just a thought. So what do we do?”
Kenji waited until we were back in the car before responding, “We play along. Until everyone has their cards on the table, we can’t properly react to whatever’s happening.”
I sighed and started the car, “we’re going to get shot at again, aren’t we?”
Kenji shrugged, “probably. Let’s head to the office for some rest.”
I nodded, “good idea.”
After some rest and resisting the urge to grab more weapons –though I did pick up a certain tooth filled bracelet, for good luck- we headed off to the warehouse. The address provided did lead to an abandoned warehouse, which, while cliché, was at least easy to plan for. We parked a few blocks away and stepped up to the old metal structure. It was painted a dark green, and the blocky windows were barred, but the glass was intact and reflected the night sky and surrounding city lights, few as they were in this part of town. The front door was black and made of thick metal. We walked up to the door and paused.
“You know,” I said, “I can’t help but notice this is the first time we’ve walked into an abandoned warehouse with non-violent intent.”
Kenji frowned, “enjoy the novelty while you can, man.”
I sighed and nodded before knocking loudly on the door. The door opened and I saw part of the face of one of the Yakuza guards leer at me. The door opened wider and the guard gestured for us to enter. I glanced at Kenji. His face was set as he nodded. I nodded back, and we stepped inside.
The warehouse was disturbingly clean. Its vast expanse was missing the usual piles and stacks of junk and old equipment you expected from such a place. In the center of the lone room there was a large round table. The two Syndicate Leaders were already seated, as were the other four who had sat with their respective leaders earlier. Two empty seats at the table were obviously meant for us. The only other person present was the guard at the door, and another one tending to a cart loaded with tea, coffee, and snacks. You found good hospitality in the strangest places.
“Ah,” the man from the Syndicate Kaze wanted to join -I forget the name, started with an H when Anglicized, I think- said, nodding towards us, “would you two like some tea? Or perhaps you prefer coffee?”
Politely accepting the coffee, we bowed and took the two empty seats. Two cups of coffee, some sugar packets, a small pitcher of cream, some stirrers, and a small tray of snacks appeared in front of us while we sat. When the guard serving us retreated, the other Syndicate leader -I think the name started with an A- spoke up.
“Yes, now that you have arrived, your underhanded scheme to wipe us out can come to fruition.”
“What?” I asked. I glanced to Kenji and saw his hands move slowly towards his pistol.
“What are you talking about?” Syndicate Leader H asked.
Syndicate Leader A sighed and glared at us, sneering for extra evil points as he stated, “After all these two have done to destroy our way of life, do you really expect them to negotiate with us? They have asked for this meeting to ensure Kaze’s safety while also finishing us off once and for all.”
“You sneaky bastard,” Kenji growled. Seeing the guard and the Yakuza lieutenants tense, I slowly reached for my pistol, while also trying to calm everyone down.
“I assure you that’s not why we’re here,” I declared, “We just want a peaceful solution to help a former work associate.”
Syndicate Leader A turned to his rival counterpart, “after all that has happened over the last three years, after all they have worked so hard to achieve, do you expect them to be satisfied with any of us surviving? They will not stop until we are all dead!”
The other Syndicate Leader stared at his rival. He sighed, cleared his throat, and spoke calmly and slowly, “I think you may be feeling the strain of the last few years. There has been no indication that they have violent intentions for this meeting.”
“You’re the one that feels the strain!” SLA snapped, “You’ve deluded yourself that things are fine as you sit there with your tea and your pathetic entourage! Rome is burning around us and you’re playing your damn lyre!”
The rambling Syndicate Leader shot out of his chair, holding a katana that he must’ve had under the table, “and now they will die for their treacherous ways!”
The other Syndicate Leader slowly rose out of his chair, unarmed, “you had no intention of negotiating, did you?”
The raving Leader’s eyes were wide with insanity and menace as he sneered at his rival, “Finally caught on, have you?”
Syndicate Leader H sighed again and snapped his finger. The four other Yakuza sitting at the table slowly stood up. The guard by the serving cart reached under it, pulling out five more katana. The other guard dashed behind us, drawing a pistol and aiming it at Kenji. At the same time the two did that, the raving Syndicate Leader’s posse each pulled out a black nine millimeter pistol and aimed them at the other Syndicate.
Kenji groaned and yanked out his own pistol, pointing it at the unhinged Syndicate Leader, “I think you need to calm down, man.”
“You brought weapons, as well?” the saner Syndicate Leader groaned.
I sighed and pulled out my Tesla, pointing it at the guard by the cart, “I think everyone here needs to calm down,” I glanced at Kenji, “that includes you.”
“The time for calm has ended!” Syndicate Leader A snapped, “Now is the time for action!”
“He is right,” the other Leader sighed, “weapons have been drawn. Accusations have been made. The time for talk is at an end. Now, there is only one way to settle this, and that is through force of arms.”
He turned to us, his face hard but weary, “we knew that this meeting might break down into violence, and so we came prepared. We also brought extra weapons for you two, if you desire them.”
He pointed towards the small stack of katana. Three of them were the longer kind, while two were shorter. They’re called wakizashi, if you’re curious. I looked to Kenji, who shrugged.
“You wanna dance, let’s dance,” he stated.
I groaned and rolled my eyes, “you know, just because we have to start shooting, doesn’t mean you have to enjoy it so damn much.”
“We will allow the weapons to be distributed, in the interest of fairness,” Syndicate Leader A grunted.
“You do know what century it is, right?” I asked.
The guard distributed the sheathed weapons. Kenji and I awkwardly unsheathed our shorter swords while the others did the same with their longer katana. The guard, now out of katana, pulled out a nine millimeter pistol and shot the guard standing behind Kenji.
“Where did he come from?” Kenji asked, turning briefly to face the crumpled body.
“The door,” I explained, which was the last thing anyone said for a while, as with the first shot fired, chaos quickly followed.
I may be predictable, but I like to think I’m still entertaining, even in my predictability. Helps me keep writing.