1st Year, p. 7 (con.)

The Alpha squad moved to an old-style dojo where a group of adolescent boys, donned in traditional black and white Hakama uniforms, practiced aikido. There, young Yoshida was among the group.
“His hair must’ve always long with frosted white tips,” Savoi noted.
Roudan chuckled.
“He’s such a serious lad, isn’t he? Look how focused he is compared to the other boys,” he said.
 Suddenly, an entourage of eight men in business suits walked into the dojo. Their formation was four in front and four behind. Between them was a man dressed in a vintage black kimono with a red Komodo dragon embellished on the backside.
“That man in the center must be Haru’s father. He is the grandnephew of the legendary shogun,” Farouk called out, before Roudan muffled his mouth.
 The dojo Master, who was an elderly man with long white hair tied in a braid, called everyone to attention, then they all bowed at the important man. Once the formal bows were acknowledged, the dojo Master commanded Yoshida and an older boy to the center of the room. The Master gave a final command, and the boys began a sparring match.
“Look at Haru go,” Savoi beamed.
Yoshida and his opponent danced in a contactless circle for several minutes. The older boy became frustrated at Yoshida’s swift speed.
“This is hardly what I’d call an exciting match,” Shevchenko scoffed.
“I totally expected more from him,” Farouk chimed in.
“He’s toying with the older guy. A perfectly sound maneuver for any fighter worth his salt,” Roudan interjected. “Now pipe down; you just might learn something.”
Yoshida’s father gruffly nodded at the dojo master, then commanded his bodyguards to walk away.
“Enough!” the dojo master shouted.
Yoshida stopped in his tracks once he realized his father was displeased. The older boy used the opportunity to grab his wrist. Yoshida twirled his body around and behind his opponent. With his free hand, he jabbed the older boy in the neck and kicked his legs from beneath him. The maneuvers happened fast, and the older boy could not get off the mat after that. All of this was to no avail, as Yoshida’s father continued to leave the dojo.
The dojo master called the boys to attention, and they all bowed in reverence. Yoshida ran after his father in haste. He caught up to the black stretch limousine before the driver started the engine.
Out of breath, Yoshida called out, “Oto-san. I won!”
Yoshida’s father rolled the window down just enough to peer at his son.
“As you should. I expect nothing less from you,” he dryly replied.
Yoshida bowed as the driver started the engine.
“Oto-san, you came to see me. May I ask why?” he asked.
Yoshida’s father sighed.
“Ah, yes. I am going away on business for several months. Twelve, at the most. You should not look for any contact or communication from me during this time. I have placed a detail security to look after you in my stead,” he said.
Yoshida reached a hand in the window.
“Will my mother come to see me?” he asked.
Yoshida’s father cackled.
“Your mother was a courtesan. She enjoyed her life very much. The only reason I married her is because she produced me a strong son. Her affairs are her own, just as mine are my own. You should lose the sentiment that she will ever come to see you.”
Yoshida quickly removed his hand out of the window as it rolled up, and the limo sped away. His saddened demeanor was interrupted when a short and stubby boy dressed in a tattered tunic with shorts came from around the corner.
“Don’t tell me you’re gonna stand there and cry, now that your rich daddy has left you on the curb,” the boy laughed.
Yoshida released a few sniffles, then turned to the boy with cheerfulness.
“Watanabe, you always know what to say,” he replied.
Watanabe threw a playful jab, which Yoshida promptly blocked.
“Well, you know what they say; with a friend like me, you’ll never need enemies,” he said.
Suddenly, a silver sedan crept up the street. Yoshida grabbed Watanabe’s arm and darted down a nearby alley. The boys climbed a fire escape of a tall building, then leapt across the rooftops of three more. Once Yoshida knew they had lost the sedan, he stopped running.
“What was that all about?” Watanabe panted.
Yoshida grinned as he caught his breath.
“That was just my security detail. I don’t know why my father insists on giving me the worst of his flock,” he answered.
Watanabe gasped.
“Why did we run from them? Aren’t we gonna get into big trouble?”
Yoshida patted his friend’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry. Those losers would never report to my father that they lost me in a high-speed chase.” With a wink, he continued. “My father would actually be proud of my accomplishment, though he’d never say so out loud. His jerk crew, however, would probably lose their feet, hands, or eyes.”
Watanabe’s eyes grew as big as saucers. He stood frozen in terror.
Yoshida snapped his fingers repeatedly.
“Hey, snap out of it. I was just joking.”
Watanabe blinked and cracked a smile.
The boys snickered for several minutes before Yoshida said, “Let’s go to your house.”
Watanabe scratched his head and replied, “Sure, but why can’t we ever go to your big and fancy house?”
 Yoshida scoffed. “It’s more like a museum than a house. Dozens of rooms filled with ancient antiques. My father is always gone away on business trips. I haven’t seen my mother since I was three years old, and that was by accident when she came to demand a bigger allowance. There is no laughter or love where I live. Only misery and loneliness. That’s why we go to your house. It might be small, but your mother makes the best udon noodles ever, and your baby sister is delightful.”
Watanabe smiled.
“Well, alright then. Just know that if my father found out the shogun’s family was in our home every night, he’d have a heart attack.”
Yoshida wrapped his arm around Watanabe as they walked towards a door to exit the roof.
“It’s a good thing he works in the Red-Light District and keeps his jade shop opened all night,” he said.

~The Waring Robins~

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