Yubitsume Fugitives: Chapter 1
Author's Quick Note: No, you haven't missed an arc or anything, presuming you just finished reading the A Weekend With Eda story arc. This story arc begins in media res, which is why you might think that. I wanted to clear that up before I got reviews about it.
"Well, fuck," Ranma's voice muttered from the left. From where he was seated, Rokuro Okajima agreed fully and completely with the young man's statement. In fact, had he not been inclined not to call attention to himself and his two contractors, he would have continued that line of thought considerably before stopping.
Rock stared, stone-faced, at the TV screen as he, Ranma, and Ryouga sat in a smokey bar in downtown Tokyo, currently bustling with dozens of salarymen long since finished work and well on their way to being sloshed. On the screen a frozen, slightly grainy black and white image from a security camera showed a clear image of the trio from just a few hours ago. They'd gone to meet the Yakuza contact immediately after leaving Tokyo International and things had taken precisely sixty seconds to go to hell once Rock and his hired bodyguards had entered the room.
He ignored the news anchor describing the trio as wanted criminals to be avoided at all costs as he considered the ramifications of the meeting. Every one of the heads he'd been about to meet from the two major families pushing in on Balalaika's Tokyo interests had been there. Most of them were now dead.
As far as his mission was concerned, that made this trip a wildly successful venture. The head of Hotel Moscow would no doubt be thrilled by the way the top-level leadership of both of her competitor's families had been so thoroughly eviscerated. Now instead of negotiating a cease-fire and attempting to retain a foothold until the right officials could be bribed to allow Balalaika's men back into the country, all Rock had to do was give his boss a status update and await her orders.
"This is all your fault, Ranma," Ryouga muttered, slinging back a saucer of warm sake. For once, he was not wearing the rather noticeable bandana he habitually wore, and sunglasses served to further obscure his features from the ones on the screen.
The pigtailed boy, nursing a beer, had been forced to borrow clothing from Ryouga and ditch his. The Chinese tangs he favoured would have immediately called unwanted attention to the trio, and the Saotome heir had further obscured his features by untying his pigtail and brushing his hair in front of his eyes.
"I'm inclined to agree," Rock noted, sipping his drink. Of the trio, he was the one with the least to fear in regards to being identified. He lacked any of the immediately distinguishing features of his companions, and thus was able to blend seamlessly into the crowds within Tokyo. His eyes hardened as he glared at Ranma. "What the hell was that all about?"
The youth grimaced as he sipped his beer. "I blame the panda. Stupid old man." He glanced once more at the TV screen. "Fuck."
They sat in silence for a time, the news finally moving beyond the story of their recent misadventure and onto the weather. Ryouga slung back the remainder of his sake, straight from the carafe as Ranma finished his beer.
"Okay, Ranma. Spill. Just what the hell happened back there?" Rock demanded, glaring at the younger Japanese man. He shifted uncomfortably.
"Look, I don't know, okay?" Ranma admitted, shrugging his shoulders. He returned Rock's glare fiercely, using the top of the empty beer bottle to point in his direction. "I know exactly what you know, man! We walk into the place, and the chick on one side recognized me. She told her dad 'Father, that's him! That's the one we've been searching for!' and then things went to hell!"
Rock pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to force the stress away. It wasn't working.
"Why did things go to hell, then, Ranma? What the hell did you do to make her father pull a gun on you like that? More importantly, why the hell did the other family get involved in that bloodbath?" The second-in-command of Hotel Moscow demanded, scowling fiercely the cause of his current headache.
"To be fair, the other guys probably used the excuse of the head of the first family drawing their weapons to cause a shootout," Ryouga noted, gesturing to the waitress for another round for the trio. At Rock's glance, he shrugged, adding, "It's the only thing that makes sense. The two were fighting over Balalaika-san's territory. They thought they could use the distraction to spring an ambush."
"They were wrong," Rock noted with a wince.
There'd been three dozen living people in the room when he, Ranma, and Ryouga had entered. By the time his temporary bodyguards grabbed him and left that number was down to single digits and the gunfire hadn't shown any sign of stopping.
"That they were," Ryouga agreed, placing a wad of yen on the empty tray the waitress held, their drinks now in front of them. Rock noted that even with the high price of Tokyo's living expenses, the tip was far larger than it should have been.
"Listen, we need to focus," the former salaryman noted, and groaned as the cellphone in his pocket chirped. Ignoring the amused look on his companion's faces, he switched to English as he answered the phone. "Hello?"
"I need to buy you something nice, Rock," Balalaika practically purred on the other end, the man in question facepalming as his boss casually rewarded a total catastrophe. Unaware of his personal opinion on the matter, or perhaps not caring, the blond Russian continued, "I only sent you to Tokyo to buy me some time. I didn't expect you to wipe out everyone important in an hour. While I don't mind at all, I've got to ask... How did you do it?"
"Balalaika-san..." Rock groaned, rubbing a temple. He waved his free hand, fighting for the words to describe his feelings. After a moment's pause, he found nothing and just sighed. "I'm investigating the cause of our recent... Windfall of good fortune. I suspect it has more to do with the bodyguards I've hired for this trip than any actions of my own."
"Oh?" The blond teenager's voice teased, sounding curious. "Well, I suppose I can have you stay for a few days before reporting back. I did originally expect you to be gone for at least a week, after all."
"That's very kind of you," the former Lagoon Company employee noted, keeping most of his frustration out of his voice as he made the statement.
"By the way, Rock. If it truly was Chang's two boys who precipitated today's events... Tell them they've earned themselves a rather nice bonus. I do so appreciate it when low-level workers go above and beyond for me," Balalaika concluded, and the only Japanese man in Hotel Moscow had to fight the urge to do violence on his phone when the connection was closed on his employer's end.
"So what did Balalaika-san want?" Ranma asked, scratching one cheek idly as his gaze wandered around the bar.
"You guys are getting a bonus," the man being questioned responded, glaring at the cellular phone in his hands as if it had betrayed him. "Balalaika wants to give you guys more money for throwing my plans to hell and causing a massacre. I knew she was bloodthirsty, but..."
"So..." Ryouga began, tapping his finger on the table and frowning a bit. "Does this mean that Ranma's bad luck is actually working in our favour for a change?"
"Cram it, pork-butt," the pigtailed youth countered, rubbing his face. "Like you luck is any better."
"We're getting off topic," Rock informed the duo, frowning. He directed his attention back to Ranma who was now taking a pull from his beer. "We need to know why what happened, happened. Ranma, you're obviously our best bet for that one. Why the hell would a local Yakuza head have a hit out on you?"
"It wasn't a hit. Or more accurately, the original deal which I can get information on probably had nothing to do with my murder," Ranma winced, and then drained his beer in one go. The Lost Boy was now nodding in realization, leaving only the former Lagoon Company employee confused.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Rock demanded.
"It means," Ranma began, setting his empty beer bottle at the edge of the table for the waitress to retrieve. "That I need to go see my stupid old man and figure out how I got engaged to a Yakuza princess."
At Genma's interjection, Soun Tendou glanced up briefly from their Go board to look at his friend. Despite the blazing light the setting sun illuminating the pair on the porch of Soun's home, his friend looked pale.
"What is it, old friend?" Soun asked, concerned for his training partner's health. Not so concerned that he didn't notice Genma's hand sneaking towards the board, and a quick glance down toward the offending appendage caused his friend to jerk it back with a broad smile.
Things must be dire indeed for his old friend to be so far off the game they played while they were playing Go.
"I've just had a chill run down my spine. Almost as if someone were stepping on my grave," Soun's bald friend noted, scratching his jaw idly with one finger before grinning a bit. "I mean, I could understand the feeling if the boy were in town, but he's hundreds of miles away. Perhaps I'm just being paranoid?"
Soun had just enough time to nod in agreement with his old friend when Nabiki rushed into the room, her voice almost breathless.
"Daddy, why didn't you tell us that Ranma was back in town? Did you hear about the job he pulled on the Yakuza downtown?" Nabiki's question caused Genma's face to go absolutely white, and Soun nervously tugged the collar of his gi as his middle daughter continued, "The police are looking for him, Ryouga, and another guy right now! Apparently over thirty people, all high-ranking members of their family, are dead and it's those three who are responsible!"
The Tendo patriarch casually excused his sanity from the proceedings as he processed exactly what his daughter has said. More importantly, he chose not to associate the tone of regret in his middle daughter's voice with the fairly recent memory of her brief usurpation and following succession of the Tendo half of the Tendo-Saotome marriage pact.
Best not to think of those things. That way lay madness.
"Perhaps it would be best if I leave," the Saotome clan head noted, standing abruptly. He drained his beer in one smooth motion and had taken a single step off the porch when all three residents heard the front gate slam open.
Genma winced, and looked set to flee regardless.
"You know he'd probably catch you anyway," Soun noted solemnly, nodding once. "Better to take your lumps now and forge ahead. Why, by the time you're done he might not even be that mad!"
Judging by the look on his friend's face, Genma thoroughly disagreed with that assessment.
Yubitsume is the act of cutting off your little finger in apology to a superior, generally within the Yakuza. Since this arc is, rather obviously, going to deal with the Yakuza a bit (and specifically, Yakuza failing to capture a certain trio), I picked Yubitsume Fugitives because it sounds cool.
I struggled with how to write this arc. Originally I was going to have Ranma and Ryouga head back to the Tendo dojo first, then help Rock. Yet no matter how often I tried to write and rewrite the first chapter, it just didn't want to come out right. It wasn't until I went in this direction that things clicked and went smoothly.