Growing Pains: chapter 4

By Selphie Ivy

It was a week after being taken in by O-Ren that Ryuichi's suspicions had confirmed. Firstly, that they would not see each other again. Secondly, that the pretty lady who had adopted Aimi could be a killer.

Within a week of thirteen year old Aimi being adopted, she had already seen O-Ren kill. Nobody acted like it was anything major; killing seemed to be the norm in the life O-Ren had brought her into.

The man O-Ren had killed was an assassin, trying to murder her first. His skills didn't match O-Ren's. He was dead within moments. Gogo knew she should have felt scared, seeing someone die in front of her, but she felt little except a mounting sense of excitement. That she had been brought into this dark, dangerous world made her heart pound with excitement. Her life wasn't going to be a waste anymore; everyday was going to give her a thrill. The only regret she left at the orphanage was Ryuichi, who she couldn't help but think of every night, as she lay in bed.

Right after Gogo had witnessed the fight between O-Ren and the assassin, and had seen him die, O-Ren waited until they were safely escorted to the car. She sat beside Gogo in the back and started to explain. She had not had chance to yet describe to Gogo the life she had brought her into. She had been planning to tell her all after a month or two, but the assassin's death meant she would have to tell her all now.

Gogo listened intently to O-Ren. Listened to how O-Ren ran a large portion of the Tokyo underground. How she was a top assassin herself, a killer. How she had been hoping to find herself a new bodyguard, a young boy or girl of around thirteen, to train intently, so in a few years their talent would be unrivalled and they would be a formidable bodyguard. Her search had been in vain until, by mistake, she had spotted Gogo training outside. An orphan was a good sign. There were no parents to tear the child away from, no family to destroy, or to come after the child later. And O-Ren had a gut feeling that Gogo was going to be a fantastic bodyguard.

After everything had been explained, O-Ren gave Gogo two options. O-Ren may have been fearsome, violent and formidable, but she was not so heartless as to condemn a thirteen year old to a life of crime that she wasn't willing to commit to. She told her that Gogo could either stay on, learn martial arts, weapons training and become her bodyguard, with incredible perks including an apartment when she reached sixteen, never having to worry about paying for food, clothes or other necessities, and also being able to attend, with O-Ren, various meetings, formal events and councils. Or Gogo could decide to get out right now, return to the orphanage and continue living there as normal, on the condition that Gogo was never to speak of O-Ren or what had happened ever again. If she did, and word got back, Gogo would be 'taken care of'.

It was not a difficult choice for Gogo. The only faltering moment in her decision was the thought of seeing Ryuichi, but she could not resist a life so full of what she loved. And to commit to it was not to give up Ryuichi forever, but rather for a while as she trained. And so she gave her full consent to O-Ren. She wanted to train as her bodyguard. O-Ren had already guessed her answer, but she was pleased when Gogo seemed so eager to commit. And so Gogo's training began…

It was three years later, and Gogo was sixteen. She has just finished escorting O-Ren for the day. It had been a typical Friday. Gogo had trained in the meteor hammer. She had escorted O-Ren to a council meeting. She had escorted her to lunch with a few select members of the crazy 88s. Then she had been busy taking driving lessons from Miki. O-Ren wanted her to be able to drive as soon as she turned seventeen. Gogo didn't think she needed the classes, but O-Ren had insisted and so she had bent to her master's will. After driving, Gogo had escorted O-Ren again, this time to an underground club where the owner owed O-Ren money. Being an old friend, O-Ren had wanted to go there herself. The outcome didn't require much force or any violence, and so Gogo's day had passed without a single stain of blood on her usual clothing of choice, a schoolgirl uniform.

She was in her promised apartment, undressing. She laid her clothes on the bed and went to shower. After she had finished she dried herself and her hair, and then dressed herself again, in a fresh set of schoolgirl clothes. She wore little but that; it had become her trademark now. She glanced at the time. It was 10:07, and she was going out. She slipped a small, compact knife into her shoe and then she was ready. She was out of the door almost instantly.

Most clubs wouldn't let a sixteen year old in, but Gogo was heading to a place where they didn't even ask. The dark underbelly of Tokyo had plenty of illegal clubs where minors could enter with no questions. Some she became aware of through O-Ren's involvement in them, meaning that Gogo's connection to her was recognised and respected. The club she was going to was called 'Hideki's' and the bouncer waved her in immediately. It was fairly early, so Gogo took a seat at the bar and grabbed a drink. One drink turned into two, then three, then four. Binge drinking was quite a hobby of Gogo's, and Friday night meant she could go pretty crazy. As she drank, the club slowly filled. It was not a place for a nice, innocent girl, but Gogo could take care of herself. Pimps and their whores were there, some drunk twenty-something's were taking crack in the corner. Most people were either smoking, taking drugs or drunk. The dance-floor was overflowing with guys and girls, a fair few of whom were making out in such a vigorous way it wouldn't have been tolerated at the average club.

Gogo was an outsider to the action happening around her. She watched everyone around her intently, but never showed any signs of wanting to participate. A few guys would edge up next to her at the bar, as usual. Gogo was used to this, she had had a wide range so far. The youngest was a boy her age, who had been visibly awed by her. The oldest was a guy in his forties, who had attempted to grope her before Gogo promptly knocked out his front teeth. The bouncers escorted him, not her, out. The bouncers knew Gogo, and O-Ren, and were too scared to attempt to force Gogo out of the club. It was best to just ban the guys she clashed with or attacked.

The night continued. Gogo continued drinking, she had been drinking so much recently that it seemed to have little effect on her. She had never been a light-weight, and even after a copious amount of alcohol she still felt quite sober. A fight broke out on the dance-floor. Gogo watched nonchalantly, only half-interested in the mindless violence. Unless she was a part of it, it couldn't command her full attention, and it was merely a dance-floor scuffle, nothing involving the brutality Gogo was used to witnessing on an almost daily basis.

After the fight broke apart, Gogo downed a final drink before hoisting herself down from the barstool and heading outside. After leaving the club, she turned a corner and found herself in a dark back-alley. She had purchased a pack of cigarettes earlier and she now pulled them out, before realising she had forgotten a lighter. Swearing, she was interrupted by a leering voice.

"Hey there, pretty girl"

Gogo turned immediately. A male, most likely in his early twenties, was approaching her. His eyes skimmed greedily over her legs and body before fixing on her face with a nasty grin.

He moved in an instant towards her, attempting to prise her hands against the wall and take control, but Gogo was too quick for him. She raised her knee to his groin and he keeled over. A second later and she had grabbed her compact knife and slashed out, aiming for the man's face. A gash appeared and he howled with pain, but that didn't stop Gogo drawing her fist back and punching him squarely on the face. He toppled over and was unconscious before he hit the floor.

Gogo flicked her bloodstained knife back in, before depositing it safely back inside her shoe. She then appraised her situation. The man was unconscious, but for how long? The gash she had inflicted was bleeding heavily. He would most likely need a lot of stitches. Or should she just finish him off? As she stood there considering her situation, a voice called from the end of the alleyway.

"Hey, what's happening here?" A male figure was approaching. Gogo reached instinctively for her knife, wondering if she was going to need to spill more blood to escape, when suddenly the man's face came into her eyesight. She has been wrong, it wasn't a man; it was a boy about her age, although his tall frame gave him the silhouette of a man. It may have been three years, but Gogo could not second-guess those features. It was Ryuichi.

It took Ryuichi only a moment longer than Gogo to realise. The shock of seeing her threw him for a moment. He could only gape in wonder. She had certainly grown up. She was a young woman now, a very beautiful, dangerous young woman. Her eyes were unsettling to watch, and her figure was fitter and taller than he had seen before. Gogo stared silently at him and observed the changes three years had done to Ryuichi; he too was taller, his facial features were that of a young man. His skin was perfect. His hair was groomed precisely. He looked like a male model.

Gogo was speechless. She turned the knife over in her hand wordlessly. Ryuichi glanced at it.

"You gonna stab me, Aimi?" she said gently.

Aimi. She had almost forgotten her old name, her old identity. She opened her lips to speak but no words came out, but Ryuichi didn't seem to need to hear anything. He stepped forward and grasped her in his arms, just as when they were thirteen and fourteen, and knew so little of the world. And now look at them! They knew too much of everything. Gogo had experienced ten lifetime's worth of violence and death in three years, but clutched in Ryuichi's arms she felt like that thirteen year old girl again, as though the last three years had been a dream and she was still in the orphanage, being held in Ryuichi's arms as he said goodbye.

Gogo had never cried before, but a single tear now escaped and as Ryuichi let go of her, his hands moved to her face and gently wiped away the tear. He looked at her, and she stared stonily back, determined not to let another tear escape.

"You grew into a beautiful girl, as I knew you would" said Ryuichi.

"That's coming from a male model, right?" Ryuichi gave a small laugh and quickly wiped his eyes, fearful that the emotions pounding through his body would be betrayed in his own tears.

"But, Aimi…what are you doing here? It's not a safe place for sixteen year old girls at night…" he trailed off and glanced down at the body beside them. He had only just remembered why he had been brought to the alley-way in the first place. He had heard a shout and, thinking it was a girl being attacked, he had come to help. Now he realised that the one who had shouted had been the attacker, as Gogo defended herself.

"I can take care of myself" said Gogo bluntly. And she replaced the knife she had held all that time to her shoe yet again. Ryuichi watched her, his worst fears confirmed. She had been trained as a killer. He had had a gut feeling all these years. The beautiful, elegant lady was not what she had seemed. For the last three years he often tossed and turned at night, wondering what had happened to Aimi and what she was doing now.

"I think you should come home with me" Ryuichi said quickly, as he bent down to check the man.

"No, let's go to mine. I can change then." Gogo's clothes were stained with blood.

"Ok then…he's just unconscious anyway," Ryuichi confirmed "he'll wake up soon…we better get going quickly…"

He took Gogo's hand in his and although she didn't quite hold as firmly as he would have hoped, she didn't pull away either, which was always a good sign.

They walked together, Gogo mainly leading as she knew the way. They barely talked. It was as though there was an unspoken agreement not to speak properly until they reached Gogo's apartment. They met very few people on the way, and thankfully, they met no police. They reached Gogo's apartment and made their way up. As soon as they were in her room Ryuichi burst into the speech he had felt too oppressed to say before;

"What are you doing Aimi, what did that lady make you do? You've been trained haven't you? Trained to kill?" Ryuichi asked desperately.

Gogo didn't reply at first.

"I've been trying to look you up for ages," Ryuichi continued "I left the orphanage at sixteen, started work and got myself a cheap place. I begged the orphanage people for the details of the lady, to figure where you'd gone. They eventually relented but all the information didn't seem to be right…"

"It was fake" said Gogo simply. Ryuichi stared in shock.

"What's happened, Aimi? I don't get it!"

Gogo gave a sigh, withholding information from Ryuichi would eventually be impossible now he had found her. Perhaps bringing him back here had been a bad idea…

"I'm a bodyguard. Of O-Ren, the woman who adopted me. Being able to kill is a requirement of my job…"

Ryuichi lowered his eyes to the floor.

"I always guessed…I just didn't want to believe it…you could've used your skills better, Aimi."

Gogo gave a shrug.

"All this time, I've been beating myself up about this. I shouldn't have let you go so easily…" Ryuichi raised his hand to grab his hair in apparent frustration "I regretted it as soon as you left. She wasn't legit, I knew that. And there were so many things I wanted to say before you left…"

"Like what?" Gogo said abruptly. Ryuichi paused and turned to look at her, feeling that perhaps right now wasn't the best time to illustrate his true feelings. A sudden other thought struck him.

"Aimi…have you been like, going out a lot, and drinking?"

"Sure, most weekends."

"Oh," said Ryuichi, trying to keep his face impassive "so, you've slept around a lot too?"

Gogo did not reply, but only shot him a glare. Ryuichi tried to keep his face impassive, trying to resist the sense of jealously throbbing through his veins. If someone else had done that…to his Aimi…

"What's wrong?" Gogo said, eyeing his suspiciously. Ryuichi's attempt to maintain indifference wasn't working.

"It's just…it's just…"

"You wanted to be my first?" Gogo said bluntly, now using a face towel to clean the small flecks of blood off her face. Ryuichi's jaw clenched. Gogo finished cleaning her face and sat down next to him. Ryuichi's face was flushed and he tried to avoid making eye contact, but Gogo's eyes were steady as she said;

"I'm still a virgin"

"Really?" Ryuichi asked in surprise. Gogo gave a nod. It wasn't that she had exactly chosen to remain a virgin, she just hadn't met a guy she wanted to screw in the last three years.

Standing up again, Gogo undid her shirt and started to tug it off. Ryuichi leapt up immediately.

"What are you doing?" he said quickly.

"Changing, I have blood on my clothes."

"In front of me?"

Gogo gave a shrug. Ryuichi shook his head and gallantly turned away. Gogo continued to undress, taking off her shoes, socks, placing the compact knife on her bedside table before undoing her skirt and slipping it off. Ryuichi remained turned away, his arms crossed.

"Ryuichi…" Gogo called gently.

"Yes?" he asked, still not turning.

"Turn around" she demanded. Ryuichi turned slowly. Gogo was wearing black underwear, and nothing else. He quickly tried to turn away again but she moved forward and grabbed his arm, forcing him to remain. He closed his eyes, partly to be courteous, partly because he was worried what he may do if he spent any longer looking at Aimi. His body was still pulsing from the amazement and joy of seeing her again. Moments later he felt her lips on his. He kissed back instinctively. He had not kissed her since they were young children, and the memory of this flashed freshly in Ryuichi's mind and made him reach out and clutch Aimi to him again, in such a fierce grasp an onlooker would have wondered if they were to ever break apart again. Ryuichi kissed her passionately and she kissed back, as though each wished to devour the other. Gogo stepped backwards, Ryuichi followed, still clutching her to himself, and they fell onto the bed.

They kissed frantically, as though they would never see each other again, and neither would let go of the other. Ryuichi kissed her lips, her cheeks, her forehead, her neck in a desperate passion. Gogo's hands moved to his shirt, which she swiftly unbuttoned, and kissed the chest underneath. In a moment his shirt was on the floor, quickly followed by his dark jeans, his shoes and his socks. They were now both in only underwear, and they continued kissing as though their very lives depended on it.

His arms still holding Gogo. Ryuichi raised his face from hers and looked into her eyes. He wanted confirmation.

"Are you sure?" he asked gently. Gogo gave a small nod. Ryuichi leant in to kiss her forehead and she moved her hands to his head, running her fingers through his hair.

That night, the sixteen year old Gogo lost her virginity to the seventeen year old Ryuichi. He knew it was her first time and was gentle with her. After, as they lay naked next to each other, he grasped her body close to him and could not sleep for the abounding happiness he felt, although he was uncomfortably aware that this happiness could be cut short if he was prevented from seeing Aimi again.

The next morning, his worst fears were confirmed. Gogo was living the life of a criminal, a yakuza. She had a life so separate and diverse to Ryuichi's, the difference seemed irreversible. It tore them apart. Gogo had woken up still in Ryuichi's arms, and even she, not known for a tendency to display strong emotions, felt grieved by what was to come. Last night had been one of the best nights of her life. She was thankful she had found Ryuichi. To lose her virginity to any other guy would have felt inadequate compared to losing it to Ryuichi, who she loved more thoroughly and completely than any other person on the planet, except perhaps for O-Ren.

When they both were awake and started to dress, Gogo told Ryuichi that they couldn't see each other again. The effect was immediate. His sorrow was displayed in his anger. He shouted at her, asking her why she had screwed with him if she never intended to see him again. Gogo's self-control had never been so tested. She wished to weep. Against every logical, rational thought, she longed to see Ryuichi again, but she knew it was impossible. They were from two different worlds, and O-Ren would never approve of him. She longed to tell him how she felt but she was too blunt, too ineloquent and unaccustomed to describing her emotions to put it in words. As a result, Ryuichi left in a rage, his heart broken, although his face was free of tears until he reached his own apartment. Once there, he raged like a madman, destroying everything in his sight, before succumbing to the inevitable tears. Gritting his teeth he made a decision. He would spend every waking moment in pursuit of girls; if he could not have Aimi then he would have every other girl he could have instead. Perhaps twenty girls combined could together have the qualities Ryuichi saw in Gogo, although he doubted it. The plan was formulated; he was to continue working for now in his crappy convenience store job. At night he was to scout the streets on a constant prowl, whilst studying the qualities a host must have. Already charming, eloquent, attractive and charismatic, he would emphasize each quality to become the top of his field, before becoming a host himself. If that was not to supply him with a constant distraction of beautiful women, he didn't know what job would. His simple, innocent dreams of becoming a model seemed so far away. His life course had been altered by that one fateful night with Aimi.

Back in her own apartment, Gogo was trying to convince herself that she had done the right thing. She loved Ryuichi. She tried to pretend she didn't. She lied to herself, but could not ignore the pounding of her own heart and the misery she had felt as he stormed out, raging and shouting at her. Running her fingers through her hair and willing herself not to cry, she crossed the room for a shower, hoping that that would make her feel better.