Remembered how much I like this fandom and this idea. Enjoy, everyone. This has been sitting around forever. I'm a bit facinated with the Yakuza tattoos myself so I thought it might be interesting to explore like this. (They're also kinda badass :P)
Here she was,Yamaguichi Kumiko, years of her dreams finally cultivated into one glorious moment: Shinohara's kiss.
It was impossible to say it was just like she imagined it, because she'd imagined it so many times that it was a bit of everything she'd envisaged, and all she knew was it was… good.
"Shinohara-sensei" she murmured in a quick break of their lips; her hands twisted in his shirt collar and fingertips tracing the skin of his neck as their mouths brushed together again, "I lo-"
"Kumiko," he interrupted, pulling away from her with a terrifying clarity in his eyes. "Don't say that."
On the first count she couldn't believe he knew what she was going to say, and on the second she couldn't think of a single reason she couldn't say it: he'd kissed her, that meant he was accepting her feelings, didn't it?
"Wha…why, Shinohara-se…?" she stammered.
"This is…" he looked increasingly unhappy, and Kumiko got that sinking feeling she always felt when someone was about to give her bad news – like when she found out her parents had that accident, or when she found out about Grandpa's illness. She just knew something bad was going to come next.
"This is goodbye," he finally whispered, and with a sudden spasm of her hands and legs she lost hold of sensei's jacket and plummeted to the floor. However, before she could hit the floor a hand grabbed her wrist and pulled her back onto her feet.
"Kumiko?" He rushed considerately, "are you-?" before he could finish the question she'd ripped her hand away from him and back-pedalled into the nearest wall.
"Don't say that!" she hissed. "Don't touch me!" his kind expression shattered like her heart, and he looked to the floor in shame. "Why is it goodbye, Shinohara-sensei? Why is it goodbye?!" her tone rose until she was almost screaming.
"Where are you going?! Don't kiss me and then say things like that, like you're going to be leaving me!" As her temper frayed she came away from the wall again and approached him.
"I'm… not really going anywhere, Kumiko," he murmured guiltily, and then flinched as she grabbed him bone-crushingly tight and pulled him to face her; he thought for a moment she was going to kiss him again, but she still couldn't break that barrier and make the first move.
"Then why are you saying goodbye?" she demanded in the vicious snarl of a true Yakuza; unbeknownst to her setting his resolution even more.
"Because this is goodbye… for us," he said sadly, and then stepped away from her and tided his appearance. "I'm sorry about that kiss… but I just wanted to feel it…once." Everything she'd hoped and dreamed of from that moment suddenly came crashing down around Kumiko.
"What do you mean, sensei?" she asked much more timidly, as she felt a cold sharp pain slide down from her chest into the pit of her belly.
"Because...Kumiko... 'we' have no future," he confessed, and as much as she wanted to interrupt and tell him about all her plans, about the house in the suburbs and the children and the Dojo in the back garden… somehow she couldn't manage it.
"Whether you like it or not, you and the man you marry will become the fourth leader of the family," Shinohara said solemnly. "Your Grandpa wants you to be happy and let you tread your own path, but I fear the other members won't be as open-minded when the time comes." Another stone of fear dropped into the pit of her stomach – 'when the time comes' was getting closer and closer now, as her Grandpa grew weaker and his hands shook more with every visit to the hospital. Was this really true? She didn't want to have to think of it.
"That…" she stuttered, "that's… something I'll deal with when it comes." She pleaded with him, "It... it doesn't have to be this wa-"
"No Kumiko," he interrupted. "It does. You are the daughter of a Yakuza, and Yakuza in your heart. The man you marry will take your Grandpa's place…and... that man cannot be me." She felt tears prick the corner of her eyes and begged for the strength not to cry in front of him.
"Why… not…" she whispered, but then as she looked at Shinohara she suddenly knew.
He looked scared. Shinohara sensei, for all his skill and ruthlessness in the courtroom, wouldn't run into a warehouse of rival gang-members with nothing but a lead pipe and a war cry (he wouldn't walk out alive either, he had no skill in combat).
If he thought someone was wrong then he'd be more likely to talk them down than beat them down, run away than run in to attack – at that moment, when she could suddenly see into his heart; she knew that deep down he was just scared of what being the next Kumichou would ask of him.
She'd always thought he was brave, but in that light she realized that he was just being a...a cowardabout it.
"You fucking coward," She suddenly snarled, Yakuza voice at its very thickest. "Afraid of messing with a Yakuza kid? You're the fucking same at the rest of them."
"Kumiko…" Shinohara pleaded sensibility, and held up his hands in defence. "It's not like that at all. I've been your family's legal council for years and…" Striding up close to him, Kumko grabbed the collar of his shirt, like she had in passion on minutes ago, and ripped it apart viciously; revealing the expanse of pale and unmarred skin she had lusted over for so long.
"You never truly joined the family!" she spat, and then let him go, shaking her hands as if they were dirtied touching him now. "The men of this family have scars and tattoos to show their bravery and their strength. You, you... asshole, kept yourself just clean of us all these years! I used to admire you for it, but now I see that you're just a coward."
"Kumiko!" he tried to raise his voice, but it could not and would not compare to hers. "You are angry and twistin-"
"Fuck off," she said icily. "If I'm a 'Yakuza whether I like it or not', then perhaps I should act more like one." She took a threatening step towards him. "So fuck off, Shinohara,before I throw you out." A dead couple of seconds passed as she cracked her knuckles. Shinohara seemed to try and take in the words, and then he silently turned his back and walked away; only pausing at the door so say, "I'm so sorry, Kumiko. Goodbye."
Yamaguichi Kumiko kept her resolve and didn't waver at Shinohara's apology, her heart was steel now, she told herself, and could not be touched by such words.
However, once the latch clicked shut for good, she somehow couldn't help falling to the floor and bursting into tears.
"I'm a Yakuza no matter what, huh?" she sobbed as she stumbled to her room and curled up on her bed, pressing her hands over her eyes and holding a tiny funeral for every future memory she'd built for herself and Shinohara over the years.
"Ojou! I heard yelling, are you-?!" The door burst open and Kyou stood half-clad in the hallway; peering up at him with puffy, red eyes Kumiko heard him yelp with surprise, and then quietly step inside and shut the door behind him. Kyou had been a father… or at least, a big brother, to her over the years, and he'd seen her cry many times before: he knew what to do.
He locked the door so no one else could burst in, and walked tentatively over to the bed where she lay.
"Kumiko-chan…" he said softly, holding out his arms like a big teddy bear. "If you want…" Before he could even finish the sentence she was there, curling up in his arms like a child and sobbing even harder than before. He simply patted her back comfortingly and let her cry, he'd actually heard a bit more more than just yelling, and if Shinohara were ever going to dare showing his face near Ojou again he would see to breaking his bones personally.
He had settled his business with the boss for now; though he'd probably be back again when the bland drudgery of life away from the dangerous Yakuza edges of legality. They would be ready for him, he was sure of that.
"I…(sob)…loved…(sob)…him…(sob)" Kumiko hiccupped and snorted, trails of snot and tears streaking Kyou's torso as his regular breathing soothed her.
"I know, Ojou," he cooed, patting her head and sighing at the little girl she still was. "I know."
After she had calmed down a little more and blown her nose a few times, Kyou got up to leave.
"If you want a drink for your sorrows, you know where we are," he said solemnly as he walked to the door, and as he passed through it she noticed the tattoo spanning his entire back, 'the men of this family have scars and tattoos to show their bravery and strength' that was what she had said to Shinohara. She was just as good as the men of this gang, if not better, wasn't she?
"If I'm Yakuza… perhaps I could show it as well…" she murmured to herself; Tetsu and Minoru would get tattoos when they were properly initiated into the gang as full members, but wasn't she already the Ojou – 'heir' to her Grandfather's legacy 'whether she wanted it or not' according to Shinohara – she had nothing to wait for, surely?
It had yet to be confirmed that she would inherit the leadership, as they had yet for any of the branch-members to dare crossing her Grandfather, but the words had hurt her and suggested things she already thought.
When Kyou or Grandpa went to the baths or walked down the street with his tattoo visible, everyone knew he was Yakuza, so no one approaching him could be ignorant of that… people were straight with you if they knew you were from that kind of family. No shit from anyone. She ought to be proud of belonging to such a respected and fearsome family – why shouldn't she show that?
She thought for a delirious moment that if she could walk down with a proud mantle of ink then everyone would know she was a Yakuza, and then the only people who would talk to her would be the ones who didn't care – no one would dare do what he did to her again.
She thought about how glorious it would be to have a beautiful painted back like her grandfather, or the wives of other gang members – and what would Shinohara make of it? If she acted quickly he could at least see the bandages before he went... he would ask what she did, and she could shrug and say in an offhand way 'oh, it's just the tattoo', and he'd be so surprised, and she'd throw his words back at him and he'd realize what he lost.
Her plan was enthusiastic, if not sensible, but there was one fatal flaw with it.
She had absolutely no idea how to do it. The men had never made it clear. She could get her back tattooed, but what would be the design? Where would she get it done?
She started spending every spare minute of her time time visiting salons and looking through designs, but she couldn't find anything that inspired her, gave her that 'fuck you Shinohara' feeling of victory. Her family left her to it, assuming she was just doing what she needed to move on from having her heart broken like that.
Until she was given some artwork by 3D.
3D rarely attended art lessons, but every once in a while the teacher would hand over a folder of things they'd actually done – usually homeroom teachers put up the pieces around the classroom, but the gesture was only a token for 3D; most of the 'art' that Yankumi received from her class was explicit and contained various styles of nudity or weaponry: often both. Particularly creative boys would create scenes of nudity out of weapons.
Except for one piece. It was a single picture, because it was from the only two art lessons that Sawada Shin ever attended.
She wasn't sure if it was because he was trying to be innovative, or if he was too lazy to get the right colour, but it was a lion and a lioness copied out of a magazine. A red lion and lioness.
Maybe he had been thinking about her family's aggravating moment of awarding him the title 'Young master Red Lion', as if he were going to become one of them some day, when he drew it, but suddenly she knew what she wanted.
"A lioness," she repeated carefully. "I am a girl, a lioness is surely more appropriate than a lion?" The squat man scratched his head and leafed through some pages in his pattern book.
"I don't got any lionesses, Ojou," he said sourly. "Lions, yes, but no lioness."
"You know it is the lioness who does all the hunting on the African savannah?" she said formally, her teacher's tone sharp and authoritarian. "The lion is a lazy slacker who suns his belly all day and makes the women do all the work. As usual." She snorted derisively. "On that note, I think I will take my business elsewhere. Good day."
She then spent a good hour searching the city for a female tattoo artist in order to make good on her word, and on her way collected an armful of animal books with pictures of lionesses in them to combat the lack of patterns existing. The woman she finally located wasn't too far afield, and was incredibly helpful; she, knowing who Oujo was, worked painstakingly with her on the design individually, until they had created something truly beautiful and one-of-a-kind.
A young lioness jumping for the kill would span most of her back, but, although her teeth and claws were sharp and bared, the eyes of this predator were calm and piercing. On the back of Kumiko's neck a blazing African sun would burn, and then more traditional Japanese emblems would reach over her shoulders and down her spine, filling in the gaps left by the lioness. It was truly awing.
"How long will it take?" Kumiko asked – she knew these things could take years, depending on the pattern.
"Normally I'd say a month or so," the elderly woman answered. "But, as this has to be very special, Oujo, I'm sayin' two, maybe three if y'can't take longer sessions."
"I can," Yankumi answered eagerly, not quite realizing what she was getting herself into. "When can you begin?"
"Eh eh? You are eager, Oujo," the woman remarked. "Do you not want to think about it some before you start?"
"I've thought," she replied. "I made up my mind. Time is of the essence. When can you start?" the woman looked at a sun-bleached clock on the wall.
"Well...now, I guess," she said, with a thin grin. "Jus' let me boil a kettle."
Yamaguichi Kumiko thought that she was as tough as they came, in her own honest opinion. Still, she had not expected it to hurt as much as it did, or for it to bleed as much or make such disturbing sounds as the needle pierced her skin hundreds of times over and over.
Even then, she hadn't realized that it would not just be a temporary pain – even when it was done, the tattooed area would burn and bleed and weep; her dressing got stuck to the cracking skin, and her mood deteriorated as more and more of her back erupted into a slow-healing wound that was reopened on a just-less-than-daily basis.
But it was there and she'd done it. On her back the design that she'd seen drawn so beautifully on paper was being etched onto her own skin, and she felt she was closer to her true self than she'd ever been. In letting go of Shinohara she'd let go of the last remnant of her young naivety.
She realized that her decisions in life would not be as simple as what to eat for lunch in the school canteen, or even what to do about her next lot of rowdy and rebellious teenagers. They would affect her family – the people she cared about most – and the future of the Kuroda family, and she would have to make things right by them. It was the least she could do, considering what they'd done for her.
That was why she was getting this tattoo; she was accepting that weight that rested on her shoulders. She was ready to take it on herself, to step into the lineage her grandfather and parents had given her.
Her family noticed what was happening, but said nothing; she was irritable enough as it was, being in the process of tattooing didn't improve her temperament at all. She would say something when she was ready, and they were all secretly eager to see what she had chosen for a design. They didn't question her reasons, and secretly Kyou and the rest of the extended family were pleased and excited to hear of the Ojou stepping up to the mark in this way. Perhaps there was hope for her after all.
Unfortunately, her students weren't so understanding.
"Oi! Yankumi!" Ucchi taunted, when Yankumi had snapped at them a little more than usual because it felt like her lioness had real claws instead of inked ones today. "What's pissin' you off so much?!"
"NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!" she roared, and even Shin woke up – he needed his sleep, Kyo had insisted on dragging him out last night for some reason (apparently there was a 'raging dragon' in the house and he couldn't stay there) and he hadn't slept in fourteen hours.
"Keep it down, Yankumi," he moaned quietly, opening his eyes a crack to watch her scolding Ucchi fearlessly. However, she was moving funny today, stiff or something, like she was injured.
He was pretty sure she hadn't been up to anything last night; he generally heard any happenings from the Kuroda family (seeing as they were slowly but surely drawing him into it), so the fact that she was moving like she was injured was interesting.
He was even more interested when she bent over, to pick up a book Ucchi had thrown at her, and he saw some kind of white plaster down the back of her collar. She was hurt.
When that class ended, after what had felt like a lifetime of maths to student and teacher alike, Shin remained at his desk, which he frequently did when he had something to say to her.
"Oi, Yankumi," he announced as she tried to follow the rest of 3D out of the room. "I'm waiting for you, you know."
"What is it, Shin?" she snapped; no-nonsense attitude firmly in place. "I've got an appointment, so don't waste me time."
"What's wrong with your back?" he asked, and her face froze up.
"Uh.... nothing!" she yelped, reverting to her old awkward and poorly-lying self for a change. "Nothing at all! I slept funny last night and it's a little stiff... yes, yes that's what it is."
He narrowed his eyes at her.
"Then you don't mind me going along with you to this 'appointment'?" he inquired – guessing (accurately) that it would have something to do with her strange behaviour.
"It's... it's not for someone like you!" she said hurriedly; non-Yakuza had no need to be around tattoo parlours like hers.
"Like me?" he echoed, one eyebrow raised.
"Uh... yes... a... boy," she stuttered. "A boy. Yes, I'm going for a... ladies appointment."
She couldn't sound more unconvincing if she tried.
"Is that so?" he said sarcastically, and shrugged. "All right then, Yankumi." For a moment she thought she had got away with it, but then Shin added, "I'll have to dress as a girl."
"Oh yes, then I suppose it would be ok–WHAT?!" she screeched: she thought she knew Shin quite well... but she didn't know about that.
"It's a good thing you aren't going to a 'ladies' appointment," he said caustically, "or I might actually have had to do that." He stared at her. "If you don't tell me now I'll just ask Kyou tonight." He needed to get his trousers back from his place anyway (it was a long and ironically non-explicit story).
"I...I...I..." Yankumi stammered, feeling her excuses crumble. They never did last well with Shin. "Why are you hanging around him anyway?!" she spluttered. Kyou would not betray how she had cried to Shin, but he might let the boy know what was going on underneath her jacket. He seemed dangerously attached to her student and Yankumi worried that before long she'd have even more of a troublemaker on her hands – the last thing someone smart and resourceful like Shin needed was opportunities.
"He hangs around me," Shin replied uninterestedly. "Anyway. What's wrong with you recently? And if whatever you're going to is the reason for it, why are you still going?"
However, there was a small, weak part of her wanted someone to keep her company, to distract her while the artist hammered that needle and ink into her skin. She couldn't tell her family or Shinohara, not until it was finished. She wanted to present them with the finished project; not the bloody in-between.
Shin could do that, couldn't he?
She heaved an over the top sigh, and crossed her arms.
"No!" she barked. "Go home and do your homework!" Seeing he was going to get nowhere with this, Shin scowled and stood up from his desk with an irate pound of his fist on the desk.
"Fine!" he snapped, throwing her own foul behaviour back at her. "Then I'll find out myself!"
"Don't you dare!" she hissed back, feeling her inhibitions loosen under the pressure of her own temper. "Stay away from my private life!"
"I've had plenty to do with it before," Shin said coldly. "I'll do what I please."
In a few quick strides Yankumi was in front of him and had his collar tightly in her hand – just as she had with Shinohara less than a month ago.
"I'm warning you, Sawada," she snarled. "If you know what's good for you you're gonna keep that mouth shut." Shin stared back at her emotionlessly, her words barely even registering to him. He wasn't afraid of her; that was the problem.
Without another word Yankumi let go of Shin and stormed off, but as she lay there later on the tattooing bed biting her lower lip, she wished that she had let him come along just so there was someone she could abuse as this pain bit into her again and again. The linework was finished now, so the much more intense filling process had begun.
It had started affecting her sleep cycles because she could no longer sleep on her back, and not long after that run in with Shin her Grandpa sat her down and made a very vague speech about 'doing the right thing' and 'being free to make her own destiny' then gave her a herbal tea he claimed had 'really helped him through it', but when pressed would not say what 'it' was, just that he 'was very proud of her, no matter what she chose'.
A few more weeks after this Kumiko's Lioness was almost complete – the rest of the work could be added to gradually, and once she had healed from the main bulk of the work. Shoulders, lower back, little finishing touches; they could all come in smaller sections and shorter sessions. For now it was enough that the main piece was done: the Lioness; fury and beauty existing side by side. Just like her lion when Kumiko pounced she would be accurate and deadly, but never excessive – like her lion brave and strong, proud of herself and her heritage, and never, ever ashamed.
Second part will be on its way! Two-part piece at least! We still have to find out how everyone reacts, Shin most of all. Plus I've got more I want from this, but I honestly have no idea how this half is it's been so long I have no perspective on it. So gimmie a line to let me know what you think :D XXX