Chapter 1: He fell, she followed.
It was pouring icy rain from an angry sky, while a cluster of kids cheered on the hazardous cars that raced for the cliff not too far away. In the midst of the wild Yankee outcasts a young girl was frantically searching for a certain young boy. Her dark hair plastered to her face and her amber eyes swiveling this way and that in a desperate attempt to locate someone she knew. She stuck out like a sore thumb, still dressed in her school uniform; a white short sleeved button up shirt, and a navy blue pleated skirt that swished at her knees in the howling wind. Her red school tie had been stuffed into her school bag as soon as the last bell hang rung. As she bumped into gangster wannabes and shuffled out of their groping reach she finally caught sight of a girl she knew.
Tsukiyama Kiko, a self-proclaimed Yankee was jumping up and down shouting lewd suggestions to those who bumped her. She had long since discarded her own uniform and now wore tight blue jeans and red shirt that only just reached her mid-drift. The only recognizable quality was her hair; it was long and dyed a copper color.
"Tsukiyama!" At this the young yankee turned in question, no one here called her by her last name, and then her narrow eyes caught sight of Kusanagi Natsumi. Kiko's eyes widened at the sight of the class rep out in the rain surrounded by delinquents.
"Natsumi? What on earth are you doing out here?" Kiko grabbed Natsumi's shoulders and got a good look at the other girl. Natsumi's shoulder length hair was dripping and her sharp eyes were pleading with Kiko's.
"Tsukiyama, have you seen Akagi? I heard he got into it with some boys from Kirihara high. I thought he might come here." Kiko clueless, nodded her head.
"Yeah, I've seen him. Look." She pointed to the two cars about to race past them. All at once Natsumi's face was even more pale than normal.
"He's in the car nearest us, but why are you looking for him class rep?" Kiko, and no doubt 99% of the school wondered exactly how Kusanagi Natsumi, a friendly smart girl and Akagi Shigeru, the schools pariah, knew each other. As the speeding cars raced passed the two Natsumi could feel the pounding of her heart in head. She knew exactly how this stunt would end, and all she could do now was watch as her oldest childhood friend careened of the cliff and nosedived into the dark angry sea below. If she had only been a bit earlier, she could have…what? She knew more than anyone that she wouldn't have been able to stop him. She had never been able to stop him once he started, but since they were old enough to walk she had always tried.
The entire gathering had gone silent as the shock bore down on them, both cars had gone over. It wasn't until the sound of sirens startled them into action that Natsumi finally moved from her spot. She instantly lost sight of Kiko, but didn't worry too much about the girl. She ran blindly past the parking lot and into the night, her legs carrying her towards the nearest beach.
Not once did she fear for his life, he would never die so easily. She was however worried that he might get caught.
Natsumi's legs burned with protest as she finally made it to the beach. It was still raining as she canvased the place. A few minutes of searching and she found his wallet, his school ID and a few yen the only things left inside. She glanced this way and that shouting his name, but the thunder saw to it that no one would hear her. Then she saw him, the sky had lit up for a split second, and what she hoped was his silhouette flashed clear as day. He had climbed the wooden steps that led to the road and was walking towards the dimly lit buildings a mile or two away.
With a groan of protest her legs moved again, as she raced for him. She didn't yell for him, he wouldn't have heard her. As she reached the road she had to immediately duck behind a wind blown bush in order to avoid the police search light that was canvasing the area. She clench Shigeru's wallet just as the light swiveled his was, but as if by magic he disappeared into the shadow of a building.
"Damn!" She whispered as the police car slowly drove by her hiding spot. She popped up and followed after Shigeru as fast as she could without being seen. As she turned the corner he had, she groaned in frustration. He was nowhere to be seen. She glanced at the many signs down the alley way, a bar here, a casual restaurant there. She dreaded the thought that she might have to check them all, and even then he might not have even stayed in the area.
Natsumi checked the restaurant first, but none of the old men inside had seen a boy with light hair. Then she checked the bar, which was an adventure in and of itself, but nothing. Some doors she knocked on didn't open and some places were already closed. As a final attempt she climbed the last flight of stairs she vowed she would ever climb, and turned the corner toward the Mahjong parlor. At the sight of a police officer pounding on the door she halted instantly and hid behind the corner wall.
"We're looking for a teenager who caused an incident not too long ago; they were playing chicken on the cliff." It wasn't long before the door opened and a shady looking man with dark sunglasses on opened the door.
'It's the middle of the night, why are you wearing sunglasses?' she wondered as she glanced at the other man with the officer. He was shady too, a middle aged man with shifty eyes in a brown jacket.
"We have witnesses saying that he was spotted coming into this parlor." The officer said. It was hard to hear over the thunderstorm the words that were exchanged. Eventually the two ventured inside, and a minuet or two later the uniform clad officer was coming her way.
'What to do!' she thought, until he was so close that she had no choice. Natsumi jumped the railing of the building and hunched down so that the concrete wall hid most of her, she only prayed that he didn't see her hands. She barely had two inches for her feet to rest on, and as she heard the man pass she let out a quick sigh of relief and popped her head up just in time to see him start down the stairs and pull herself back over the railing before he saw her.
More than a little angry Natsumi stormed towards the door and slammed it open with a fiery frown.
For the second time that night the men in the parlor were more than a little surprised. First it had been the kid, now a school girl, what was next?
Akagi hadn't even looked at the door yet; as Natsumi slammed the door shut and walked straight over to him. She noticed the larger man sitting behind Akagi looking between her and the boy worriedly, and then noticed the cop staring at her with a knowing smirk. Then she looked at the yakuza who were now staring at her white and wet shirt. She wasn't about to get embarrassed over their stares, you don't show weakness to these kind of people. She quickly turned her attention back to the boy with the light hair.
"You left me in the rain." She stated very calmly before she flicked him in the back of his head with as much force as her pointer finger could manage. All around the quiet room everyone heard the sound of it and almost felt bad for the boy.
"There's a towel next to uncle." He said in his normal quiet voice, but his eyes narrowed at her and slid from her own eyes to her shirt and back up again. Even though Natsumi knew that she didn't have much to gawk at, she is only thirteen, she felt a slight blush creep over her cheeks. She gave his chair a swift kick before walking over to the larger man and giving him an award winning smile. Still in shock Nangou deftly handed her the towel that earlier Akagi had used.
Natsumi made quick work of her hair and then wrapped the towel around herself and sat next to who she was hopping was Uncle. She sat silently, not entirely sure what was going on. She could feel the tension in the room, no doubt created by Akagi and the cop just next to "uncle". The Yakuza were staring down Akagi and as they shuffled the Mahjong tiles Natsumi realized two things. Next to her "uncle" was increasingly nervous, he would twitch every now and then and he was sweating. Akagi was playing for him.
Natsumi tried to search her faintest memories, trying to remember the last time she saw him playing Mahjong. Never, she had never even seen him show interest in it. Judging by "uncle's" demeanor Natsumi would bet her wet shirt that he was in great debt to these yakuza. She caught his eyes, and gave him a blank stare. How desperate did you have to be to let a kid you didn't know play a game as confusing as Mahjong for your life? It was decided then that "uncle" was a complete moron.
The next thing she noticed, the cop absolutely knew that Akagi was the delinquent boy that he was looking for. She gave him props for it. He was shady though, every bit as shady as the yakuza in the room. She would have to be careful what she said, if she spoke at all.
"Oji, how bad of a way is nii-chan in?" Translation, how fucked are you? How bad are you losing? The person in question snapped his attention away from the back of Akagi's head and shook his own.
"Well, he's actually doing pretty well." He said. Almost as if smiling at her would make things better he gave her shoulder a pat and milked the supposed story more.
"So he left you in the rain? What a horrible brother, I'll have to tell your father about this." He gave a nervous laugh that Natsumi was sure would not fool the cop. Akagi neither heard them nor cared; he simply grabbed his tiles and went to work. The cop finally looked her way again and she met his stare evenly with her own.
"So this kid is your brother? Funny you two look nothing alike." He said casually as if making friendly conversation. Natsumi gave him a tight smile.
"We get that a lot, don't we Nii-chan?" Knowing that he wasn't going to give any input she went on.
"You see, our mother was struck by lightning when he was still inside her, that's why his hair is so different, albino or whatever they call it. It's also why she's plumb dead now, dad was so distraught that he plunged himself into work and here we are years later hanging out with dear old Oji-sama. Right?" she glanced at "uncle" who only gave a slight rapt nod staring at her unbelieving. In the corner of her eye she could see Akagi's shoulders shaking ever so slightly, good because she thought it was a funny story too.
"Then you are the older of the two?" The cop asked lighting a smoke and using a very skeptical tone. She gave a curt nod.
"Of course, I thought that would be obvious."
Everyone grew quiet though as the tiles were lined up and the next game began.
'He had better hurry this up, my mother really will kill me if she catches me sneaking in this late!' she thought leaning forwards to watch the game, even though she barely understood it.
As the game progressed an array of facial expressions played over the cops face and soon it was a bit more entertaining to watch than the game. As Akagi grabbed one of his tiles, Oji sprang up and grabbed his shoulder.
"Wait just a second! Can you at least look at the tiles in the pond?" Natsumi, a little jostled by his quick move glared at his back. The two were whispering to each other when Akagi slapped down another tile.
"I didn't know that, but it doesn't matter, see? It'll still pass." Akagi said. Natsumi shook her head, he didn't know what? Dammit all, this game had too many rules!
"Oji, just let him play would ya?" she said before one of the yakuza signaled that they had won the round. Now the cop stood up to stand next to Akagi.
"I can hear them, their voices." Akagi said. Now Natsumi was interested. Voices? Had her friend finally lost his mind? Well that was an unfair question, he was born insane but maybe you could go doubly insane? Nah, she doubted that. Natsumi stood up and slipped next to Oji and looked down at the board.
The Yakuza called for a break and while they were in another room the cop and Oji were still struggling to understand what had just happened.
"I don't get it, how is it that a novice like you is able to take the leads from Ryuuzaki without dealing a tile against him?" The cop asked staring at Akagi.
"I would like to know were the food is in this joint? Maybe some tea? Is that too much to ask of these cheapskates?" Natsumi really could have care less how Akagi did it; he was a genius, in more than one way. Anything impossible he could do, no matter how insane the odds. It was a given and so it didn't surprise her all that much. She was more proud than anything. It was a "yes that's right I know this guy, oh yeah we've been friends since we were in diapers." sort of thing.
As Akagi went on to inform the cop and Oji of his strategy Natsumi listened as well. Judging the value of a tile when it's dealt, noticing the small quirk that Ryuuzaki had. It was Akagi through and through; he was like this with dice and cards too which would explain how Natsumi never won.
"You noticed his little quirk? How can you concentrate on so many things at once? I'll never understand." She said, though it was more to herself.
"Because, I'm smarter than an ant unlike someone I know." He said smirking at her over his shoulder. Natsumi could feel her eye twitching.
"When we leave I'm going to push you down the stairs." She said before taking her seat as the yakuza filed in.
The game continued, and Akagi was making a killing. Natsumi was nodding off in her seat when a knock came and the door opened. She snapped to attention like she had been caught sleeping in class and gave the man a once over.
He was tall, dressed nicely and had his hair slicked back. Definitely another yakuza.
"Ah, Yagi! We've been waiting for you." Ryuuzaki said as the man let himself in.
"I heard you were in a bit of trouble." Yagi said as he glanced around the room.
"But I've seen the kids hand and can't play this round, shall I play the next?" He asked as he moved towards the couch.
"Yes, please do." Ryuuzaki said, relief pouring out of him.
Natsumi shook her head, the big bad yakuza was afraid of a junior high kid and called in a reinforcements. She glanced at Yagi who had now started to smoke, when he caught her staring he winked at her. Not phased in the least she scooted over till she was an arm's length away. He watched her with a pleasantly surprised expression.
"So are you supposed to be really good?" She asked curiously enough. Yagi smiled a bit more.
"I am these guys' Rep player, so yes I'm pretty good. Are you interested in Mahjong miss?" He was rather polite Natsumi would give him that.
"Only a little, it's all so confusing." And so for the remainder of the round Yagi explained most of what Akagi was doing and certain rules to her. He stopped mid-sentence though and tensed as Akagi threw away a tile.
"How did you say you and this guy were related?" He asked trying to cover up his sudden surprise.
"He's my brother." She replied automatically.
"He's talented." He said quietly. Natsumi smiled a devilish smile.
"I know." With that she scooted a bit away from Yagi and watched as once again Akagi won.
It was a bit later on when during a break Yagi came to stand in front of Akagi.
"Do you think this match is fair?" He asked smiling confidently at the younger player.
"I mean if Ryuuzaki loses, he has to shoulder a huge debt. If I lose my reputation will be in the shit hole for eternity, but you lose nothing. Now is that fair?" He leaned a bit closer, maybe a form of intimidation. Natsumi frowned and instinctively moved a bit closer to Akagi and tightened her hand into a fist.
"Let's make a bet, one hundred thousand for each game." At this Natsumi nearly fainted, was he serious? Did he think that a school kid had that kind of money?
"I'll take payment in other forms of course since you can't possibly have that much money." Oh. Well there you go. Why mention money at all?
'Men.' She thought shaking her head.
"What then?" Akagi asked still calm and collected. Yagi held up his hand.
"A finger, for every one hundred thousand it'll cost a finger." Now Natsumi really did think she would faint. This guy was nuts, clearly and not the good Akagi kind of nuts.
"Alright." Excuse me? Pardon? Natsumi stared at Akagi with wide doe eyes, had he really just said…
"Shigeru!" she whispered harshly. He spared her no glance but continued his glaring match with Yagi.
"I will agree if it's the same for you." He said smoothly. Now it was Yagi's turn to be riled, he hadn't seen that coming and now had no choice but to agree to the terms he himself had set.
"Alright then, let's play." He said his voice rose a bit, as he walked to his side of the table.
"Are you…dumb question, I can't believe…no wait I can." Natsumi shook her head.
"You listen to me you idiot, if I have to explain why your missing fingers I swear…" she trailed off as Akagi finally looked over at her. It shut her up in an instant. His eyebrows were raised in question and the twitch of his lips denoted his amused continence. It was like he was saying 'you really think I'll lose?' dumbass.
Natsumi took a deep breath, she was legitimately nervous for him.
"Just…don't lose." She quietly gave his sneaker a soft kick with one of hers and went to stand next to Oji.
'He'll win. He'll win. He'll win.' She chanted this over and over in her head.
The games started off well, with Akagi winning. Then it got confusing.
"Hey, Oji why was he skipped? Twice!" she asked, but it was the cop who answered.
"You see those three tiles fatty has? When you declare a pon the rotation becomes different, in effect skipping your brother." He explained with sarcasm laced in with the word brother.
"What a dumb rule." She muttered. Just as she did, glasses knocked two of his tiles over.
'What a clumsy…wait a minute.' Natsumi was not as intuitive as Akagi, but she was smarter than your average bear. Was it a cheat? She glanced at Akagi's face and knew he thought so too. Then another pon was declared, and Natsumi could feel her face heating up in anger. A sudden intake in breath caught her attention again, and a face she hardly ever saw on Akagi stared at the tiles. He was surprised. Natsumi's stomach began to twist into knots, Akagi was never surprised.
'I'll bite off ever one of Yagi's fingers before he lays a hand on Shigeru!' she glared at the man across the table and from that moment on watched him like a hawk. Akagi drew the three pin and sat it down, and as if he had been waiting on that very draw Yagi overturned his tiles and declared ron.
"Akagi!" Oji said worriedly.
"Don't worry it happens." Akagi said with a small smile. Natsumi could feel her fist twitching.
"It happens!? Shigeru this bastard…" Natsumi stopped as Akagi held up a hand to quiet her.
"What you did there was pretty elaborate, Yagi. I guess I'll be more direct." Akagi glared at Yagi like a lion glares at his pray. The game began with Akagi on the offensive. Then with his Kan, the unthinkable happened. Akagi knocked over his last tile, and barely had time to cover it with his finger.
"Oh my god, Shigeru, seriously?" Natsumi covered her eyes. This had to be part of his plan right? RIGHT?
She was near puking when suddenly he showed those behind him his hand. It was all an illusion. He had tricked them all. Natsumi struggled to keep a smile off her face. How quick he was with that sleight of hand.
"Yagi, you really are an idiot. Did you really think I would knock over a tile?" with that Akagi showed everyone his hand and declared himself the winner. Oji visibly relaxed, while Natsumi gave a little jump and shouted "Yatta!" and gave Akagi's shoulder a little pat.
She stopped and stared at him about to suggest they head home, when something in his eye caught her attention and her face paled.
"Come on seriously let's just go home…" But her plea wasn't heard.
"Ryuuzaki, don't tell me that's it. I'm going to take Nangou's canceled debt of three million and wager that, double or nothing." Nearly everyone in the room about pissed their pants.
"I don't think my heart can take it, this game was supposed to be a nice game for old people." Natsumi said slipping down onto the couch. She didn't dare to pay any attention to the game and instead leaned back and closed her eyes. She gave a sudden start when Yagi cried out. She jumped out of her seat thinking a finger or two had been severed.
Akagi had dominated.
"I don't have the money with me, we'll contact you about it later." Ryuuzaki said as his two goons carried a passed out Yagi.
'Well thank all that is holy for that! Now we can leave.' Natsumi thought letting a sigh of relief.
"What are you talking about? I won't let this end, were going to keep going until one of us collapses. I'm doubling up again." At this point Natsumi was prepared to knock him out and drag him home she was not above violence.
"Shigeru…" she began but he cut her off.
"Let's go all the way to hell." Now she was desperate and looked to Nangou and Yasuoka the cop.
"Talk some sense into him!" she said pointing at the mad man. Yasuoka gladly obliged and set up another match for another time and place.
"Not what I meant…" she sighed.
As she and Akagi were leaving she quickly gave Yasuoka and Nangou a bow and ran after the prodigy.
"Mother is going to kill me." She sighed looking at the sky. Akagi looked over at her, irritated at the yakuza for running away.
"Then why did you come?" He asked sharply. Yasuoka and Nangou had to hold in a laugh as they watched Natsumi smack Akagi over the head.
"You idiot, because! Well…just because. Who else is going to watch out for you?" she asked glaring at him and sifting through her bag till she found his beat up wallet.
"You dropped this." She said shoving it into his hands. Akagi's irritated demeanor shifted as he put his wallet in his back pocket. He looked over at the girl next to him. Her face was frowning and her lips were puckered the way they always were when she was upset and she had a slight angry blush on her cheeks. She looked like she had been through a monsoon. He dark hair had dried and was wavy now which made it look shorter.
"Polka dots?" He asked suddenly and it was almost too hard for him to stifle the laugh that had burst from his chest at her face. She was now completely red in the face.
"What's wrong with polka dots!?" she demanded covering her front with her school bag.
"Why are you looking anyways!"
And so that long night ended and Akagi's legend began.