[identity profile] stormymood.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] arashi_exchange
A piece of rainbow for [livejournal.com profile] gurajiorasu Part 2



Pain is the most reliable indicator of a damaged system. Man is made to be sensitive towards it, that the tiny pinpricks of it congregating in one spot of the body are enough to indicate that something has gone wrong and will turn for the worse if left untreated.

Jun, when he hears the news, expects to feel pain.

A flutter of it would do. He has to feel something, he believes. But there is nothing except an absence that has always been there, a lingering emptiness. He feels nothing except the undeniable truth that he is in top shape, each cell in his body functioning adequately.

“Jun-kun?” he hears again. “Your father is dead.”

He opens his eyes and nods. It had been coming—the disease had been eating his father away. It was only a matter of time until it completely devoured him, and devour him it had. There is nothing surprising about the matter, but it leaves Jun questioning if the blood that flows through his veins is the same blood that had once given life to his father.

How is it that he feels nothing, not even a hint of sadness or remorse? Like any son, he wronged and disappointed his father on numerous occasions, and yet, there is no penance on his part. He never sought forgiveness, and apparently he will never ask for it, not even after the death of an important figure in his life.

Important figure, not a loved one. Jun doesn’t know what love means, aside from the passion he has towards his vast collection of musical recordings. He can attribute affection to tangible things, to possessions he indulges himself in.

To people, not so much; they are unpredictable and fickle, and feelings are as finite. To Jun, loving people is a luxury he will never allow himself to have. Pain, he can accept, but only when he’d been the one who gave it to himself. Love often caused pain, and the fact that there is no trace of pain on his person means that he never loved his father.

Jun understands these things as soon as he realizes the corresponding meaning of this news. His father is gone. He is the sole heir. His elder sister had long abdicated, eloped and forgotten by the family, marked as a disappointment to the name. He can never follow her footsteps.

And he can never take after his father, who ruled through violence and fear, tearing the lesser with a strategically placed sniper rifle and winning over the majority by paying the right amount. Everyone has a price, the old man used to say, and it would do you well to know exactly what those are; man is what he makes of himself.

It is strange to Jun that upon recollection, those are the only pieces of advice he can remember his father giving him. A measly scrap of paternal affection, yet the only one he ever had in his life. He was groomed to be the heir his whole life, and that meant that he had never experienced youth like most children did. At eleven, he was taught how to wield a gun. At thirteen, his kendo lessons transformed to wielding katanas—a talent that was never transferred to him despite the remarkable gene pool their family supposedly possessed.

The funeral proves to be a dry, dull event. Prayers are chanted, and Jun wants to laugh at each syllable the monk utters. Why pray for a man to reach eternal life when all he did was to take others’ lives and play god? It’s a complete waste of time, and oddly enough, Jun isn’t finding it so because he desires to be inaugurated as soon as possible. On the contrary, he dreads his nameday. But prayers are unnecessary for a man who believed in neither heaven nor hell, and holding a funeral this grand is a waste of resources in Jun’s opinion. It is his responsibility to manage the costs now, and as he kneels and accepts condolences with the slightest tilts of his head, he knows he’s the one paying for these expenses in the end.

Until the very last time, old man, he thinks with misplaced amusement, you have done nothing but make things rather troublesome for me.

After the ceremonies that seemed to drag on forever, he has to meet some of their closest associates—men and women who instilled fear and gained respect over time, who worked hand-in-hand with his father in order to secure their future. Had Jun been someone else, these are the people he could perhaps trust. But considering his present situation as the yet unofficially recognized successor, he can only spare a tiny smile and offer nothing more.

“You hated everything today,” Nino says, when they are finally back in Jun’s apartment—an entire floor in some high-rise condominium. Nino has always been by his side, calling things out and allowing him to release some of his stress.

Jun only grunts in reply, tugging his tie loose with force. He felt overdressed and stared at too often. Some looked at him with curiosity, like he is the new circus attraction for them to prey upon. Others stared with contempt and distrust, like he is the son of a then-significant figure in their world.

Which he is.

Jun isn’t certain which he preferred, but had it been up to him, there would have been no funeral in the first place. “Today was a profound waste of valuable resources,” he tells Nino, “my time being the most precious of them all.”

Nino hums and picks up the tie he carelessly discarded aside. “Nobody asked you to put on a show for your father, and you most certainly didn’t. I never saw you cry.”

Jun shrugs off his suit jacket and deposits it in Nino’s waiting hands. “My presence there was the show itself. You’ve seen how they looked at me. I was the top performer, dancing to everybody’s standards without even knowing what those are. Nothing more than a jester.”

“That jester is the new leader,” Nino reminds him. “They will respect you in time.”

Jun rolls the sleeves of his dress shirt up and cracks his neck joints. “I don’t want their respect. I can do with acknowledgement. Their respect, fear, allegiance, and money—all those I will gain in time. I may not have put on a splendid show today, but you’re right: I am the leader now. If anyone’s going to be performing in the future, it’s them for me.”

“I never had cause to doubt your ambition,” Nino says, arranging Jun’s shoes after retrieving them from where Jun kicked them off. “Your inauguration will take place a week from now. Your suit will be tailored, so expect someone to get your measurements and try not to be too sour about it. The invitations, you can leave to me and Aiba. In fact, everything has been taken care of.”

Jun pours himself a glass of scotch and finishes all of it in one gulp. “If everything has been arranged, why are you here telling me these things?”

Nino stands beside his door, halfway into slipping his feet in his own shoes and excusing himself. “We needed your stamp for the invitations.”

“You took that from the pocket of my suit jacket the moment I handed it over,” Jun says, unsurprised. Nino always had quick hands.

“As I should,” Nino acknowledges, bowing. “Good night, Jun-kun.”

The door clicks and the lock falls in place, and Jun sits in the corner of his living room, nursing another glass of scotch. His future, the one gift his father gave him, begins tonight, and the only indication he has of it is the stinging burn of alcohol as it floods down his throat.

In hindsight, this is the kind of pain he wants in order to remember all of the events that led to this night.

--

Eyes indicated the antiquity of the soul, an American poet once said. Jun had encountered the saying in his readings—he is a voracious reader, finding books to be more interesting than people. Books don’t lie, don’t betray, don’t disappoint like people inevitably do. Books hold truths no one would be able to tell him, and upon reading those particular set of words, Jun believed them to be true.

He stares at his reflection and wonders what the people of tonight might see when they look into his eyes. Some of them will be reminded of his late father, no doubt; they are similar in almost all parts of their facial features save for the eyebrows. There might be those who will mistake his ambitions for plots towards ascension, and they won’t be wrong, not exactly. Jun wonders how much truth his eyes might bring to the table and if it can help assuage the anxious, often bickering old men and women that he has promise, potential, and the ability to turn his aspirations into reality.

If there is one thing he isn’t looking for tonight, it is acceptance. He doesn’t need anybody’s approval—the throne is his by birthright. He can’t do much by having an old man backup his decisions. Jun, all his life, has strived for independence, and the least those people invited to his inauguration night can do is to let him be.

Despite his yearning for autonomy, however, he recognizes that in order to create the future he envisioned, he needed men, even if they are mostly unreliable and unreasonable. His father’s funeral paved the beginning of his journey, but his inauguration night is the key to sustain the dream he has always been holding on to.

Win them over, he tells himself on the mirror, and you win. Put on a show, and you’ll have them perform for you in no time.

Nino, as always, escorts him out and leads him to the car that Aiba is to drive back to Jun’s ancestral house in Toshima. Traditions, they both reminded Jun, should be observed. Jun is vying for change, but he acknowledges that Nino and Aiba will never lead him astray.

He will never question their loyalty.

“All these theatrics for a necklace,” Jun says, after he fastens his seatbelt and slouches on the back seat.

“We ordered your favorite wine,” Aiba informs him as he gets the engine running. Nino sits on the passenger side, examining his already perfect hair in the rear view mirror and not contributing a word to the conversation. “Wine for you, sake for the others.”

Jun nods and Aiba drives on. “The wine won’t help me stomach all the socializing I have to do, but I appreciate the thought.”

“If I may offer a piece of advice?” Nino asks, finally breaking his uncharacteristic silence.

Jun hums in question.

“Smile for them, Jun-kun,” Nino tells him, meeting his eyes in the mirror. “Doesn’t matter if it’s forced, as long as it doesn’t look forced. Give them all the acknowledgements you know they’re dying to hear. Praise them, tell them you recognize their experience and are grateful for their presence. Lies never truly harmed those who knew how to wield them.”

Jun knew these things even before he had put on his tailored suit, but it is just like Nino to remind him of it. “This whole event is a lie in itself. I don’t have to do much, do I? We all know they don’t think I’m ready to assume the position.”

“They don’t have a choice. Unless there are usurpers who have been plotting behind your back, there’s no one else. However, for tonight, perhaps you can make them believe you are what they think,” Nino says. “And then you prove them wrong. You’re good at that.”

Jun smiles; he can’t help it. “Your faith in me would have changed the way of things, had my father been anything like you.”

Nino is silent at that, and Jun stares out the window, eyes following the trails of luminescent street lamps as the car moves past them. He watches his own reflection float with the rest of the city as his canvas and thinks with fierce determination that if there is anything his guests for tonight will see in him, it won’t be the truth.

--

The wine is pleasant, spicy and sweet in the manner that lingers as he rolls his tongue through each intricately crafted lie that has been earning him the laughs and the acknowledging nods all night. The family heirloom, a silver-chained necklace with a horseshoe-shaped pendant made of diamonds, adorns his neck. It is the proof that he is now the leader, the only Matsumoto that matters. With the necklace comes the exhausting task of mingling with people who can make or break his future, and Jun learned long ago to keep his cards close.

People, as long as they aren’t in a position of power or authority, are dispensable. There will always be some money-hungry, greedy individual out there willing to continue an uncompleted dirty work. Unfortunately for Jun, that also means that there will always be someone who will want to dispose of him, and the pendant hanging on his neck is the X that marks the spot.

He is someone important now, and while he can sense the apprehension and distaste some of their closest allies have for him, they remain vigilant enough not to expose a sliver of it in his presence. The ancestral home is heavily guarded, and the fact that these people still attended the event despite knowing that it is Jun’s home court, means that Jun, somehow, had their trust. He is using that against them now, playing the fool and flashing grins effortlessly as he takes his fill of his favorite wine.

The night drags on, and occasionally there are lingering hands that signify the promise of companionship. Their touches only solidified that he is someone else now: an essential ingredient to somebody else’s plans, perhaps. Jun keeps the flirting to what is acceptable for his personal standards, never promising more.

Everyone wants something from him now.

“We have one invitation that got sent back,” Nino informs him when the night is over and it is early morning. Nino never drinks, but he did his part and entertained Jun’s guests to the best of his ability, to help Jun gain the favor of his allies.

“Anybody important?” Jun asks. They are in his father’s office now, perusing through ledgers to know exactly how much of the legacy is still left after all the ‘traditions’ they had to adhere to.

He hears Nino sigh. “Yes, unfortunately.”

Jun straightens in his seat, fingers absentmindedly playing with the diamonds on his neck. “Well?” he prompts. He knows most of the names of the important people who control significant portions of the city as well as the transactions there. It is expected of him. He believes he’d met all those infuriating but necessary people tonight, cracked a joke with them and shared a good laugh or two.

“He sent a card,” Nino says, pulling out a cream-colored envelope from his suit jacket. “We checked it for any malicious intent through the scanners and found none. It remains unopened. I know you hate it when someone reads through your mail first.”

Jun holds out his palm across the table. He is seated in his father’s enormous swivel chair, a polished oak desk separating him from Nino. His rings gleam under the light as he waits for Nino to place the envelope in his waiting hand.

Nino does, and Jun wastes no time in flipping it over to check the seal. There is nothing except a sakura, ornate and branded in a red seal, like it is a letter from olden times. Jun wants to scoff at how traditional it is but refrains, instead tearing through the seal by yanking the flap up and extracting the card in a rush.

It is a congratulatory card, scented with what seems to be artificial floral perfume, and Jun’s mouth twitches to a scowl as he flips it open.

Matsumoto-kun, it reads in handwritten keigo that made Jun’s eyebrow raise, you have my deepest apologies for tonight’s event which I had to miss. I had far more important matters to attend to, but I personally extend my felicitations to you for this promotion and honor.

“Sincerely yours,” Jun reads aloud, “Sakurai Sho.”

He meets Nino’s eyes, and Nino stares back.

“You haven’t touched this card,” Jun says.

“No,” Nino affirms.

Jun flicks the card across the tabletop, and Nino catches it before it slides off the edge of the desk. “Read what it says.”

Nino does, and in a few seconds, he is folding it and reaching for the discarded envelope to place it back inside. “He didn’t bother mask the insult, I see.”

Jun feels the steady thrum of his anger that had been looming since he caught the distasteful looks of the old men and women who attended tonight’s event. Sakurai’s card aggravated things, and Jun has this urge to smash something in order to let his frustrations out.

“He controls the port,” Jun informs Nino, choosing to rise from the chair instead and pace. “Anything that goes in and out of the city, he controls it because the port is his.”

Jun turns to Nino. “And you only told me of the returned invitation now.”

Nino doesn’t look intimidated. “Because the return arrived with the card, and the card was delivered after we began sending everybody home. RSVP wasn’t applicable to your inauguration, Jun-kun, you know this. Had we required that, they wouldn’t have come, instead would have interpreted it as you taking countermeasures to eliminate them. Quite literally, at that.”

“I’ve had enough of the scoffs,” Jun says, eyeing the envelope in Nino’s hands. “Do we have his address?”

“Of course.”

“Good.” Jun nods as he continues pacing. “Arrange a meeting. I don’t care how, I don’t care when. As soon as this Sakurai is able. I can stomach any insult hurled at my face, but if he has no guts to say any of that in front of me, then he is nothing but another important name whose time will end as soon as I claim what has always been ours.”

His father had suffered losses in his desire to expand their resources. Expansion also equated to losing some of those resources. Small losses which eventually led to major ones, and with the old man dead, Jun is left with the existing problem of his family name being necessary as long as firepower is a requirement in any transaction. He knows about the movement behind his back, of other clans forming alliances in an attempt to take over what Jun has in order to do away with his existing control over weaponry.

But he won’t be cast aside so easily.

He plays his cards carefully. For him to understand the critical aspects of the business and to win over the people who control them, he had to meet and be friends with other leaders. That included the absent Sakurai, who perhaps knows what Jun has in mind or is simply content with insinuating that Jun is inexperienced in his eyes.

Either way, Jun will find out.

“Arrange it,” he orders Nino, taking the envelope from the man’s hands and plucking a lighter from Nino’s coat pocket. Nino always kept one with him, for his own and Jun’s smoking habit. “If he had other important matters to take care of, I simply need to be part of those so he’ll pay attention and not slight me next time.”

Nino bows in acknowledgement and leaves, shutting the door quietly behind him.

Alone in his father’s study and surrounded by papers and ledgers that speak of nothing but money and assets under his name, Jun flicks the lighter, the blue flame touching the tip of the envelope. He allows it to catch fire.

He watches it ignite until the seal has completely melted away and drops the half-burnt envelope to the floor, never taking his eyes off it as the paper curls in itself. Blue turns to bright orange before quickly transforming to black and becoming gray and white, the words the card held fading to ashes.

Jun brings his foot down on the remnants of the card to put out the fire, and he feels the tendrils of satisfaction cascade in his veins as he sees the cinders float in the air. They descend slowly, in haphazard patterns that surround his feet.

When I’m done with you, Jun thinks, there’ll be nothing left.

--

Nino’s efficiency means that a month after Jun’s official naming as the new Matsumoto leader, Jun finds himself in Sakurai’s home in Minato, which also serves as the base of his affairs. Clad in his best suit with the family heirloom sitting on the dip between his collarbones, Jun allows himself be escorted inside by servants who assume the seiza every time they open the doors for him.

Sakurai Sho apparently lives in his family’s ancestral home, a traditional Japanese house with a beautiful zen garden that takes Jun’s attention away for a couple of seconds. There is a well-maintained lake filled with purple lilies under a bridge that Jun had to cross in order to reach the house. Koi swim in the water under him as he moves in perfectly paced strides, and he only allows himself a fleeting glance at the overall scenery.

Jun is eventually led to a room about the size of ten tatami. There is a long ornate table with scattered flowers on the surface at the center of the room, and Jun merely blinks at the sight of an expensive looking vase at the middle of the clutter.

He already toed off his shoes at the door so he doesn’t wait for any acknowledgement as he assumes the seiza on the only zabuton on the floor. Whoever is behind the elaborate and colorful ikebana has yet to pay attention to him, and Jun will not permit himself to grow annoyed at these theatrics.

Let him cut off a stem and arrange flowers in his leisure, Jun thinks. If Sakurai Sho has no time for him, his request to meetup wouldn’t have been entertained in the first place. The man is simply utilizing all resources at his disposal to infuriate Jun further, and Jun will never hand him the satisfaction of seeing a trace of it on his face.

A particularly loud snap of scissors brings Jun back to attention, and he watches as a white lily drops unceremoniously on the tabletop. He continues eyeing the flower despite feeling someone staring at him through the thick foliage that obscures most of Jun’s view. He schools his features to patience.

“Would you like some tea?” comes a deep voice that Jun didn’t expect so soon.

Still, he doesn’t allow it to throw him off. “That won’t be necessary, but thank you nonetheless.” If he gets what he came for, he doesn’t want to owe Sakurai Sho anything more.

Another snip of the scissors and he hears more than sees a smile. “You would forgive me for attending to these flowers first. I couldn’t let them wither; they were freshly delivered from Greece.”

“Exquisite,” Jun says, allowing the barest hints of dryness to seep through his tone.

That somehow manages to halt the incessant snap of the sharp shears, and Jun sees the scissors being carefully placed on the table. Soon, the vase and its towering flowers are being pushed aside, and Jun finds himself looking at Sakurai Sho in the face for the first time.

He can’t be far from Jun’s age. Jun takes in what he sees: round face and equally round eyes, with lines surrounding each. Unruly eyebrows which are scrunched in what Jun interprets as curiosity and amusement. Sakurai is dressed in a yukata patterned after the tumultuous waves similar to Hokusai’s work, fabric dyed in various shades of blue. He reeks of tradition and he blends perfectly with his house, while Jun stands out for sticking to his suits that fit him like a glove.

“The necklace suits you,” Sakurai says, inclining his head toward the jewelry.

“I’ve been told,” Jun answers, recognizing the trap as soon as he hears it. He won’t let Sakurai rile him up like he did with the damn scented card.

Sakurai looks on the verge of smiling, but he rests his chin on his knuckles instead and regards Jun carefully. Jun has been stared at on multiple occasions, and what Sakurai is doing is nothing strange or special. Jun isn’t intimidated or violated by it so he meets Sakurai’s gaze evenly when it finally snaps back to his face.

“Finished?” Jun inquires, and it earns him Sakurai Sho’s first smile.

“Quite,” Sakurai answers, full lips revealing teeth. “I’ve been informed that your succession had been a smooth transition. A relief, I’m sure, especially after the death of a loved one most respected in his time.”

“I’m afraid I could never assess how high your regard for my father is,” Jun says, holding his head high, “since I never saw you in his funeral.”

Sakurai lets out a chuckle, face scrunching a little in delight. Jun isn’t privy to what seems to be amusing, but he reckons it has something to do with him. He doesn’t let it bother him.

“I had some errands to run,” Sakurai says, every word laced with untruthfulness. “I did send flowers.”

“And?” Jun spares a glance at the unfinished ikebana to his right. “Did you make those too? To personally extend your condolences despite your inability to take part in the grieving?”

Sakurai’s lips twitches. “Don’t insult the flowers, Matsumoto-kun. They’re a dying beauty. Ephemeral, and therefore more worth my time. We all have things we hold on to and things we want to do away with. I believe our views towards family affairs are in accordance with one another.”

From what Jun knows, Sakurai Sho came into the seat of power after he had done away with his traitorous aunt who had usurped the throne from his father. It was how he’d gotten so much respect despite his age being close to Jun’s. Sakurai Sho snatched more power, more than what was given to him by his birthright. It made him exceptional.

“I didn’t kill my father,” Jun says.

Sakurai laughs, loud and obnoxious. The type that Jun will replay in his head as soon as he leaves this place. “I never said you did. No need to be defensive. We all know he succumbed to his illness. It was expected. Modern medicine can only do so much. Money can only buy so much.”

“The port remains under your control, yes?” Jun asks, diverting the topic. They had exchanged enough pleasantries and engaged in enough small talk. He doesn’t want to discuss the dead with a man who scoffed at his naming.

“I believe so, unless in the past few hours one of my siblings has taken my place as the head of my clan,” Sakurai affirms. There is a grin playing on his lips, and Jun catches him looking at his mouth more than twice.

“I have a shipment arriving at two in the morning,” Jun says, wishing to end this meeting fast. Sakurai is just another irritating leader he will have to bend to his will, but Jun prefers to do that with wine glass in hand. Words came to him easily when he armed himself with wine. “I would appreciate your consideration in letting that pass without any incident.”

Sakurai’s eyebrow quirks. “That is all you’re willing to tell me?”

Jun matches it with a raised eyebrow of his own. “I will forward the information to you as soon as I have your word that my business will not be compromised in your territory.”

Sakurai grins and stands, inclining his head. “Then convince me, Matsumoto-kun, so I can determine for myself if this shipment is truly worth my approval.” He opens the door behind him, revealing the rest of the garden that Jun didn’t get to see. “Walk with me.”

Recognizing the invitation as something that could lead to a beginning, Jun follows, and as soon as he steps out of the room, an attendant provides him with slippers to use. He puts them on and walks beside Sakurai, discovering that they are of similar height. Jun is perhaps only a couple of millimeters taller. From his place he can see inked skin peeking at the edges of Sakurai’s yukata, the complexion of his nape transitioning from brown to faded blue.

Somewhere underneath that elaborate garb lay a tattoo, a mark of tradition. Perhaps it is a symbol of the Sakurai family or a worshipped deity of old that Sakurai associates himself with. Perhaps it served to prove his place just like the necklace adorning Jun’s throat.

Irrelevant, Jun thinks, dismissing the distraction. He can have the entire map of his territory etched on his back and it won’t help him when I finally take it.

“Having the port under my name isn’t as profitable as it seems,” Sakurai says, breaking the silence. Around them are lush green growths and the occasional flowers, and Jun can hear a frog croaking somewhere far. “With money comes paperwork, with paperwork comes the legalities, and with those legalities come the incessant disputes. Money always led to misunderstandings, particularly with old men who believe they know and have seen everything.”

“Old men who adhere to traditions?” Jun asks, eyes on the fallen petals lying close to their feet. A little hypocritical of Sakurai to talk about traditions when every single thing in this patch of land speaks exactly that.

“Respect for traditions is what wins over those old men,” Sakurai says, the corner of his mouth upturned. “What I did in order to have what I have might have been revolutionary, but there are rules to stick with, to follow. Rules set the limits and the absolutes. Whoever gets to make them controls the game.”

“You’d find, Sakurai-san, that I am adhering to your rules by seeking your approval in person,” Jun says. “Should I have worn a yukata to acquire it?”

“That sounds very inviting, but you’re an impatient type, Matsumoto-kun,” Sakurai says, stopping in his tracks to observe Jun from head to foot then back up. “I was trying to show you my garden.”

“I’ve seen it on the way inside earlier,” Jun claims.

“I’ve heard you’re into a bit of gardening yourself,” Sakurai tells him, eyes alight with mirth. “I thought you’d appreciate a personal tour of the premises.”

Jun looks around for show. “Why would you show me how you operate this place? Does that thrill you, the idea that you’re letting a potential competitor in your hive?”

“Quite the opposite, I’m afraid,” Sakurai says, resuming his walk and leaving Jun with no choice but to follow. “I’m showing you...my lair, if that term is acceptable, so the next time you visit you no longer need a guide to tell you where I am.”

“I don’t have a shipment every week,” Jun says, quelling his temper. “Out of courtesy to you who governs that side of the city, I came personally for your permission. Should you grant it, this will be the last time I’ll be here. And that is preferable to you, I believe, that I remain as a one-time inconvenience. A meeting that you’d rather not have again.”

Sakurai looks appalled. “What gave you that impression?”

Jun faces him and smiles at him for the first time—his most charming one, according to Nino. “Your scented card.”

“Did you smell it? I pressed roses on its surface,” Sakurai says. “Or did you think it was artificial?”

“Does it matter? I’m not here because of the card.” Jun waves his hand in dismissal. “I’m here for an assurance that my shipment will not be jeopardized in any way as the delivery is made. As soon as the goods are out of your border, my men will do their work. I only ask that you allow the ship to dock and my men to perform their job.”

Sakurai purses his lips, appearing contemplative. Jun busies himself with looking at the plants around them. He is into a bit of gardening—there is something about bonsais that drew him in. Their long life and the idea of never getting to see the fruits of his nurture is enticing in an inexplicable way. He is currently looking for one he can have in his apartment.

Sakurai clears his throat and Jun’s attention snaps back to him. “Two in the morning?”

Jun inclines his head. “Yes.”

“How much time do you need to use the port?”

“Two hours. That’s cargo unloaded and transported. I value efficiency, Sakurai-san. Tardiness is unbecoming, I’m certain you’d agree.”

Sakurai smiles. “You’ll forward the specifics to me?”

“Are you giving me your word?” Jun asks.

Sakurai moistens his lips. “From two in the morning until four, the port will be yours to use.”

Jun steps back and lowers his head in a formal bow. “You have my thanks and appreciation.” He straightens up and tilts his head in a gesture of farewell. “It has been a pleasure doing business with you, Sakurai-san. I’ll see myself out.”

He doesn’t wait for Sakurai’s acknowledging reply, instead walks back to the house to retrieve his shoes. He can feel Sakurai’s gaze following him and he ignores it, taking comfort in his ability to convince.

If he can have a man like Sakurai Sho bend to his whims, his desires will be within reach in no time. But Jun never liked using people unless it is necessary, and Sakurai Sho is simply one of those powerful individuals he has to work with in order to get what he wants. A rulemaker that Jun has to learn how to manipulate. If not, then influencing Sakurai Sho will do.

Technically, he is in a loose alliance with Sakurai since his father sided with Sho back when he’d made the claim to be the family’s ruler. Jun refers to his alliance as loose on account of his father’s death and Sakurai’s obvious disbelief in his experience. But if he can cultivate that and let it sprout, he believes he’ll be closer to the reestablishment of his clan’s degraded status. Corruption has consumed their name, another legacy of his father for him.

On his way out, he catches sight of the scattered stems, leaves, and flowers surrounding the unfinished art Sakurai cast aside in favor of him. The thought pleases him, that he managed to direct the undivided attention of an influential man towards him.

Know your strengths, he tells himself. And use them.

He picks up the white lily that he saw fall earlier, and he hears footsteps behind him.

Without turning, Jun asks, “Would you mind if I take this?”

“What for?” Sakurai asks as Jun cups the delicate flower in his hands, thumbs caressing the soft petals.

“A souvenir,” Jun says, standing by the now-opened doors. Sakurai’s attendants are alert as always. “Something to remember your agreement and this meeting by.”

Jun looks over his shoulder and meets Sakurai’s eyes. Jun blinks at him as he waits for a response.

“You may have it,” Sakurai acquiesces.

Jun tilts his head. “Thank you,” he says as honestly as he can manage.

He turns away and leaves for the car that is waiting for him.

As soon as he gets back in his apartment, he grabs a bowl and fills it halfway with water before depositing the flower there. He watches it float for a moment.

--

What drives you? Jun had been sixteen when he had seen the words graffitied onto a bridge that housed more outlaws than the back alleys of Tokyo. Kobe had most of their resources, back when the port was still under their control.

Passion, ambition, a better future, Jun thought back then. That was what had driven him. At that age, he was asked to kill a man. They gave him guns, katanas, and assorted knives to use, but to him, those were simply extensions of the real weapon—his hands.

Men have always been the best asset in any organization. Without men, there’ll be no intel, no workers, no runners. Jun, from the moment his sister eloped and left, knew that the loss of men—the most vital asset of them all—would mean the eventual loss of all they’d worked hard for.

The port is one of those things they lost. His father had unwittingly gifted it to Sakurai Sho to show his loyalty (because unlike the old men who valued the given word, Sakurai required proof, which made him a step ahead of everybody else), and that action had since caused their free reign to diminish gradually.

What remains of Jun’s territory still allows him to resume their usual activities—every clan requires firepower, and being the one who mostly handles arms dealership means that Jun has a big fraction of nearly everyone’s money.

With the exception of Sakurai, Reizei, and Shirihara.

Sakurai doesn’t rely on him for weapons supply because he controls the port. It’s the primary route of entry in the city, and with that under his name, Sakurai Sho doesn’t need anyone to cooperate with. Instead, they all have to cooperate with him, which gives him the best vantage point in the game.

Reizei, meanwhile, remains as Jun’s biggest competitor in the arms dealing business, and Shirihara is the traditional self-absorbed clan who prefers katanas rather than firearms. Shirihara is the most traditional one of them all, and they are the one family Jun doesn’t want to have any dealings with.

Jun’s shipment had been delivered without any incidents—a proof that Sakurai honored their agreement. Jun sent him tulips from Holland as a thank you, and he is mildly surprised to find out that there is no card waiting for him.

“No word?” he asks Nino again, who only nods.

“They accepted the tulips. Nothing more.”

Jun hums. “That’s interesting.” He moves his rook to protect his queen. “Your turn.”

Playing chess with Nino helps him unwind. Nino has been outlining their clients to him all evening, and he is yet to come to a decision regarding a favor being asked by one of their old allies.

“I never asked how it was like,” Nino says as he contemplates his next move.

Jun frowns, and Nino picks up his knight to do away with one of Jun’s pawns. Rather unexpected of Nino, but Jun doesn’t comment on it.

“How was what like?” he asks, fingers absentmindedly stroking his chin as he observes the board between them. Nino is quite clever in chess (or any board game for that matter), and his seemingly spontaneous way of playing is hardly anything but. There has to be a trap somewhere, and Jun wants to find it.

“Meeting Sakurai Sho,” Nino answers. He’s not prying, and in his tone, Jun hears the invitation for a refusal. “Did his card tell you everything you needed to know prior to meeting him?”

Jun spends some moments recalling their meeting. Nothing in particular stood out to him, though he has a withering lily for a souvenir in a glass bowl. “He does ikebana.”

Nino smiles, a slight curling of lips. “Hence the tulips you sent in thanks?”

He’s sharp as always, and it makes Jun smile back. It’s why he keeps Nino around. Nino’s cleverness might be detrimental, but since his loyalty to Jun is unquestionable, Jun is the one who benefits the most from it.

Except when they’re playing a game together, because Nino rarely shows his hand until he’s going for the kill.

“I can’t court him if I don’t know what he likes, can I?” Jun asks. He finally decides to move his bishop to protect his queen. “He seems to know I’m into gardening.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Nino tells him, frowning at the board now. “He has his hand in everything. I’d wager he had his people look into you as soon as he received the request I sent regarding a meetup.”

“And I’d wager you did everything you could to only give them an overview of me,” Jun says with confidence.

Nino picks up his knight and does away with one of Jun’s bishops. “If you’re wondering if Sakurai Sho knows your favorite suit brands, he probably does. But if you’re thinking he knows how much money you have in your name, I’m positive he doesn’t.” Nino grins. “Check in three, by the way.”

Jun stares at the board and sees the trap laid out for him, so carefully arranged that he only notices when it’s close to being complete. Nino can pass for a predator; it’s a relief he isn’t one of Jun’s competitors but one of the people Jun trusts the most.

He moves his queen out of the way and signals for Nino to make his move. “Which is why I’m surprised he hasn’t sent anything. I gathered he wasn’t the type to let anyone else have the last word, but it’s been nearly two weeks and we haven’t received anything from him.”

Nino eyes the board for a couple of moments, tapping on his lips with his forefinger absentmindedly. “Have you decided on whether to accept the handling of Yamaguchi’s shipment while he handles his affairs in Siberia?”

It’s what they’ve been talking about before the topic of Sakurai Sho came. “If I accept,” Jun ponders, “I feel I will turn into his lackey.”

Nino decides to chase after Jun’s queen with his bishop. “Except that Yamaguchi genuinely likes you. You’ve seen what he gave you on your nameday. He forked quite a sum over for it, I believe.”

Jun got an entire cellar-worth of (perhaps illegally) imported wine from Yamaguchi. Nino is right; the man definitely spent a fortune on those bottles. Jun is yet to figure out on which occasion is he going to use each of them. “It will gain me favorability if I accept. And yet, there might be those who will interpret it as obedience on my part.” He moves his queen out of the way and clicks his tongue at Nino’s grin. “Stop chasing my queen; you can’t have her.”

“Then whoever misinterprets your actions simply needs to be informed correctly,” Nino says as he picks up a nearby knight and goes for the kill. Jun hadn’t seen that coming. He had been so focused on Nino’s bishop from earlier. “Check.” Nino smiles, broad and amused. “Sir,” he adds.

Jun flicks his forefinger to topple his queen over, acknowledging his defeat. “Inform Yamaguchi-kun of this development.”

Nino inclines his head and excuses himself, but only after Jun’s refusal of his offer to reset the game. Jun can handle that himself.

He picks up the chess pieces and starts arranging them, finding something for his hands to do. His ring gleams with each movement, metal clinking against the glass pieces as Jun busies himself with resetting the board. It’s as if moving these pieces is him making his move in the real game. His agreement regarding overseeing Yamaguchi’s business personally establishes him as a trustworthy ally of the man, but there are consequences that he can’t foresee and that bothers him.

Nino returns when Jun has arranged the board and is staring at the pieces as if he can make them float, and Nino has to clear his throat a few times to get Jun’s attention.

“I’ve informed them of your decision,” Nino says. “He was pleased and would like to know if there’s anything you want as a souvenir.”

“I’m yet to taste his expensive wines, so no.” Jun stands and buttons the top button of his suit jacket. He moves to the nearest window to watch the city, the day giving way to the night and illuminating the streets in striking colors. This house in Toshima does give him a view of majority of his territory.

He’s just wondering how long will this part of the city remain under his hold when he hears Nino scream his name and feels himself tackled to the ground, followed by a deafening crash caused by glass shattering.

Nino is on top of him, pressing him down to the floor as he tries to make sense of what happened. Nino is screaming for the guards to get inside, and soon Jun hears the heavy footsteps running towards them.

“Are you okay?” Nino asks, moving off him and shaking him. “Are you hurt?”

“What was that?” Jun asks, still breathless. His blood rushed to his head as soon as he heard Nino’s terrified voice. There was no explosion or gunfire, but there was something that broke the window.

Nino’s gaze moves to the floor. They’re now surrounded by Jun’s men, armed and inspecting the damage. Some of them already filed out of the room, intent on seeking the perpetrator behind the attack, some aiming their guns out into the night.

Jun looks down and sees it: a red dart planted on the floorboard, undoubtedly aiming for his neck if it hadn’t been for Nino’s senses. His eyes narrow when he sees the spot on the floor pierced by the dart bubble and sizzle, emitting a small hiss as it reacts with the material of the flooring.

Had that hit him—

“You would have been dead in a matter of seconds,” Nino says, as if knowing exactly what’s on Jun’s mind. He crouches down and inspects the dart, eyes hard.

Jun looks around and sees the rest of his men awaiting orders. Shattered pieces of glass lay at their feet, and Jun hears them crunching under his shoes as he turns to give orders. “Get this room cleaned,” he says, refusing to show a moment of weakness. “And find whoever was it that tried to kill me tonight. Find him and bring him to me alive.”

He shoots a glance at Nino, who’s still inspecting the dart cautiously. “I can have someone run an analysis on this thing,” Nino informs him, gesturing to the dart. He doesn’t dare pick it up. “But it’s better if you leave, now. Whoever was it that tried to kill you won’t stop now that he failed.”

Jun palpates his neck unconsciously, feels his pulse thrumming—a proof that he’s alive and the attempt has failed. He wonders how Nino managed to catch sight of the dart flying in his direction despite the growing darkness outside. “Have someone tell us what’s inside that thing as soon as possible,” he says instead, not liking where his thoughts are going.

Is he becoming paranoid?

Nino nods and stands up, hands straightening his slacks. “I’m getting you home. I’ll tell Aiba-shi to ditch the car and get us the armored one. If someone’s going to shoot at you, they’re going to have to try harder.”

Jun allows himself to be led outside, with Nino clutching tight on his elbow. Night was just breaking when the attack happened. And yet Nino had seen it coming for reasons unknown. Had he known? Is it possible that Nino knew there was going to be an attempt on his life tonight?

Jun shakes his head. This is what his perpetrator wants him to think. Nino is one of his closest confidantes. Nino would never betray his trust.

“How did you know?” Jun asks, when they’re finally in a room that has no windows, only a grand piano that lay untouched for years. This part of the house had been ignored when his father fell ill. The piano existed as a way of recreation for the old man, and when he couldn’t play it anymore, it lay abandoned and forgotten.

“I saw the glint of the gun aimed at you,” Nino says. “Are you doubting me now?”

Jun looks at him. Nino has never been afraid of him. But, Jun knows, if he asks Nino to shoot himself right now, Nino would do it. If Jun asks that he lose a finger to commemorate this event, Nino wouldn’t hesitate to pull out a knife and ask which finger would he like.

“I’m starting to think I don’t know who to trust, is all,” Jun says, not breaking eye contact.

Nino’s eyes narrow at him. “You know what that means,” Nino tells him.

Jun nods.

“I’m important enough that someone wants me dead,” he acknowledges.

He’s in the big game now. He has no idea what he has done recently to warrant an assassination attempt, but he knows that whatever he decides to do from now on will result to more plots that seek to end his reign.

Jun wants to crush them, all of them who thought they could do away with him so easily.

What drives you? he remembers reading many years ago. It was written on an off-white wall with the paint chipping on the surface, a black spray that wasn’t meant to invoke thought, yet something that stuck with him even though he merely saw it in passing.

Passion, Jun thinks, vowing revenge and slow death once he finds out who’s behind the poison dart. Ambition, he answers next, imagining himself trampling down on those who thought he’d be so weak like his father.

A better future, he decides with conviction. When he’s done with all of them, he’ll leave nothing but scraps for them to grovel at at his feet. He’ll show mercy to make them hope for it, crave it, want it, burn for it. Then he’ll take it all away without second thought and let them destroy themselves, be content with the idea that he instigated it all.

This is my game now, he thinks and makes a promise: I’m going to make the rules.




Follow the link for part 3

Profile

arashi_exchange: (Default)
AMNOS/Arashi fanfiction exchange

May 2017

S M T W T F S
 123456
78910111213
141516171819 20
21222324252627
28293031   

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 25th, 2017 08:30 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios