1st Year, P. 7 (fin.)

It only took a few swings before Watanabe grew tired and out of breath. His rage diffused into sobs. Yoshida allowed the boy to rest on his chest, though he dared not to embrace him. The overcast in sky lifted to reveal a golden crescent moon. A moment of relief came when Watanabe’s heavy breathing shifted into snoring. There were no other elements of comfort to cling onto

“Those poor boys. Hinna’s death must have been devastating for them,” Savoi said, as the Alpha squad stood over them.

“Perhaps she went quickly,” Farouk chimed in.

“I doubt it. My mother suffered from the same type of illness. It was long and not pretty,” Roudan replied somberly.

Savoi wiped a few tears away and nestled her face into Roudan’s shoulder. Shevchenko shook her head in disbelief.

“This is truly awful, but Haru’s father was only trying to protect him from all this pain. He tried to do the right thing,” she said.

“You can’t mean that,” Savoi’s voice trembled. “This war has spared no one. The dueling houses fight for power, while innocent lives are constantly thrown in the fray. Haru realized that through his friendship with Jiro. Perhaps Hinna’s death caused him to enroll in the academy.”

“I don’t believe it was that simple,” Farouk said, as he stood between the women. “Haru was in a gang before he came to the academy, and he seemed hesitant to show us his past. We might be on the brink of discovering the real story.”

No sooner than those words were spoken, did Watanabe wake up. He looked up at Yoshida, whose eyes were wide awake. He clumsily rolled himself off to the side, and they both sat up.

“How long was I out?” he asked.

“Not long,” Yoshida sighed, wiping a plug of blood from his nose.

Watanabe stood up and dusted himself off.

“Well, good. I have somewhere to be,” he said.

Before he could walk away, Yoshida grabbed his arm.

“Are you going to get your father?” he asked.

Watanabe snatched his arm away and said,

“Hell no. That sorry sack of bones left us, right around the same time you did. After the blasts, he was summoned to report to the infantry line. We haven’t heard from him since.”

Watanabe walked away without saying another word. Yoshida leapt up and silently followed him. They walked through the village all the way to the Red-Light district. They passed Mr. Watanabe’s old jade shop to an abandoned alley. A gaggle of young men stood in the darkness. Yoshida placed his hand on Watanabe’s shoulder.

“Jiro, what are you about to do?” he asked.

Watanabe sighed, knowing he could not run away from his friend.

“Nothing. Just wait here for me,” he said.

Watanabe joined the men, and they immediately laughed when he arrived. One man, who looked to be only nineteen or twenty, teased him.

“There you are, pudgy. Tell us; how is it you are so fat, when you clearly are so poor?”

Another young man chimed in, as well.

“Perhaps he’s a better thief than you are,” he cackled.

The first young man pulled out a wooden crate from inside a barrel.

“What do you mean? These stolen weapons are going to get us in for certain,” he replied.

Yoshida quietly crept behind them, just before five more men entered the alley. They each were smartly dressed grey business suits, but multicolored tattoos were visible on their necks, arms, and hands. The leader had a small green mamushi snake inked on his left cheek. All the young men hushed in reverence as the meeting began.

The leader glared at the young men with spite, then spoke.

“Tonight will be your final night. If the deal goes well, you will no longer be mutts. You will be invited into the Gokudō family.” He held a dagger to his throat, then continued. “If the deal goes south; you will no longer be mutts, you will be dead.”

His associates cackled, as the young men trembled in fear. The leader snapped his fingers, which was a signal for one of the young men to bring the wooden crate to him. No one was brave enough to do it, so the first young man kicked Watanabe in the shin. When he yelped, the leader called him to bring the crate.

“Hey you, fatso. Bring over the goods,” he said.

Watanabe gulped and looked around to see that Yoshida was nearby. Yoshida nodded for him to proceed. The crate was too heavy for him to lift alone. His bottom lip quivered as he trembled. Yoshida broke through the group to help his friend deliver the crate. The leader looked curiously at Yoshida, not remembering him being a part of the initial group of pledges. His traditional black kimono caused him to stand out from the rest, but he was muddy and looked as if he had been in a fight. The leader shrugged off any suspicion that Yoshida was anything other than a common thief, like the rest of the young men.

The leader opened the crate and pulled out a laser beam rifle. He studied it thoroughly, then tossed it to one of his associates.

“Does something seem amiss to you?” he asked.

His associate playfully tossed the rifle back and forth between his hands, and said, “Seems awfully light to me, boss.”

“I thought so,” the leader chuckled.

He gingerly sifted his hands through the rest of the crate, then looked at Watanabe and Yoshida.

“These are all fake. Do you expect us to take this bullshit merch to the Lesser House and demand our salary?” He slammed the lid over the crate. “They’d kill us on the spot.”

One of the bigger associates cracked his knuckles, then approached. The leader signaled for the other two associates to join in.

“The only way to settle is for us to kill you on the spot,” he said.

Each of the Gokudō associates fought with the young men and beat them mercilessly. The leader took turns fighting Watanabe and Yoshida. Watanabe hid underneath a boy’s body, while Yoshida fended for his life. The leader was shocked at Yoshida’s strength and agility. The boy in the black kimono was a classically trained martial artist who could outmatch him.

“What’s your name?” the leader asked Yoshida.

“What does it matter?” Yoshida answered.

The leader laughed.

“I suppose it doesn’t. Can you at least tell me why you’re here? I know for certain you are not like the rest of these mutts,” he said.

Yoshida signaled for Watanabe to come out of hiding.

“Nothing matters at this moment. All that you need to know is that I can show you where real weapons of value are stored.”

The leader smirked and rolled up his sleeves.

“Keep talking, young Doragon. If I don’t like what I hear, you and your fat ass friend will die.”

The Alpha squad watched on as Yoshida explained to the Gokudō leader where his father held forty-seven different warehouses that stored antique and new weapons. He and Watanabe were formally initiated into the Gokudō family, as they raided the warehouses and sold the goods to the Lesser House. Unfortunately, Watanabe was killed during one raid. This left Yoshida sullener and more depraved than ever before. He became the 3rd lieutenant of the Gokudō, and was feared by his peers.

One night in the Red-Light district, Yoshida laid on his stomach across a table in a tattoo parlor while a prostitute finished the remaining touches of ink for his Komodo dragon. A man in a military uniform entered the establishment. The name Guitterez was seen on his lapel. Yoshida raised his head and smirked at the man.

“Long time no, see Hatsuharu,” Guitterez said.

Yoshida laid his head back down on the table and said, “No one has called me by that name in a lifetime.”

Guitterez chuckled.

“That is who you are, isn’t it?”

Yoshida signaled for the prostitute to leave the room.

“Only God and the devil know who I really am,” he said.

Guitterez leaned over the table to whisper in his ear.

“Well, I am in good company, because I stood next to your father on the day you were born.”

Yoshida raised himself up on the table. Guitterez winced, believing him to be in pain from his tattoo. Yoshida’s ill mood was not tempered by his elaborate tattoo, which covered his entire back. He, instead, was annoyed by Guitterez’s unwelcomed visit.

“I have no dealings with my father. Whatever his sins are with his allegiance to the Greater House, they do not concern me.”

Guitterez sighed.

“I know the Gokudō are not properly aligned with the Lesser House, but you sold them over one hundred thousand weapons. You are no better than your father, who you loathe so much.” He headed to the door. “My offer still stands; enroll in Calvary Academy to atone for your bloody hands, or your beloved Gokudō family will all be brought to the Tribunal Council for war crimes.”

The scene went black as the Alpha squad gasped in horror.

~The Waring Robins~

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