Wakagashira - the next leader of the group, and the first lieutenant to the current leader.
Kashira - abbreviation for 'wakagashira'. In the real world, this term 'Kashira' can refer to any leader of an organization, but especially manly and dangerous ones.
Shatei - lit. 'little brother', the lowest ranking yakuza that are officially part of the 'family'.
Oyabun - lit. 'foster father', the leader, the top of the yakuza pyramid.
Ane-san - lit. 'big sister', usually refers to wives of higher ranking yakuza, but can be any woman in the 'family'.
-kai - suffix, one way to denote a yakuza group. Others would be -kumi or -ikka.
I'll Be Your Master
Yamazaki landed hard on the concrete floor of the back room of the dark night club, and blood dripped from his injured mouth. He gritted his teeth, almost certain that his shoulder was dislocated. He had other injuries too, but to be honest, that wasn't what he was thinking about at that moment. It was the shoes a few feet in front of his face.
"Kashira," said one of the men responsible for his injuries. "This man was trying to infiltrate the lower ranks, but one of the men says he's seen him wearing a Shinsengumi uniform in town. We researched a bit, and-"
A soft laugh. "You don't need to tell me." The feet, one of which had been folded over a knee, now both planted firmly on the ground as the owner of them put elbows against knees and leaned down to see Yamazaki better. A smile. "My, my. A most distinguished guest we have today. Bring him a chair."
Yamazaki swallowed hard. He really didn't have much choice as someone found him a chair and another two men picked him up and put him in it. He allowed his eyes to fully meet those of the one he had been sent here to observe. He had had few scarier moments in his life than this.
Across from him, the leader of all these very capable men smiled. "This is a surprise. Well, I shouldn't say it's surprising, but I hadn't expected you so soon. Talented spy for the Shinsengumi, Yamazaki Sagaru."
Yamazaki's heart flew into his chest. He knew his cover was blown, but it was very disconcerting to be called out like that in a den of his enemies.
"No, you really are. As a result, I believe you were about to be accepted as a shatei. Can you imagine?" Another smile. "I tell you. The egg on my face, if you had. Right?"
Yamazaki really wasn't sure if speaking now would make his situation better or worse. But it didn't much matter, as he couldn't think of anything to say. He wasn't good with dark humor.
"At least you'll be able to tell your bosses that my boys have their shit together. And that works well for me." A laugh. "But see, there's a problem." Hands clasped together as the smile faded. Yamazaki gulped. "In my business, as I'm sure you can well understand, reputation is everything. And although you didn't succeed, you're sort of a fucking cop who almost infiltrated my group." Another laugh. "That's a gas, though, huh? What I'm trying to say here…May I call you Sagaru-kun?"
Yamazaki dimly shrugged his shoulders, not sure how that could possibly matter.
"Sagaru-kun. The thing is, I'm happy to let you go. No harm done to me, after all, and I got no grudge against you, personally." Again, the smile faded. "But see, my men don't all feel that way. Frankly, I don't really blame them. I mean, you don't like to see your superiors humiliated, do you?"
Finally, Yamazaki found his voice. "Kashira, I'm sure no one thinks-"
"Sagaru-kun, you're going to do a big favor to yourself and learn to shut the fuck up when I'm talking." The stream of words came so fast and in such a soft voice that they almost slipped right past his awareness. Yamazaki felt himself trembling, and resolved never to speak in front of this person again. The smile returned. "And anyway, you're not my shatei, you don't have to call me that. Now, back to the issue at hand."
Arms folded, one leg crossed over the other. "As I said, I'm perfectly happy to let you go, but as a…let's say, a penalty for losing the game, you're going to need to bring someone back to accept the punishment you would normally get for doing this sort of thing. See, I know you Shinsengumi. You're tough sons of bitches. But more than anything, you're loyal. You've got a nice camaraderie. And I can tell by the look on your face," smile, "you don't like the idea."
Yamazaki opened his mouth, but no words came out.
"That was good, you waited until I finished my thought. I hope your backbone catches up with your mouth next time. So, in other words, you're free to go. And make sure you understand when I say, you will bring someone back. Not an optional thing. That or…do I really need to tell you what will happen to you if you don't?" Yamazaki slowly shook his head. Another laugh. "Whatever you're imagining, it's worse than that, just so you know. Ah, but you will leave behind your…shoes, wallet, and…cell phone, I think. That will ease my men's troubled minds a bit, I'm sure."
Yamazaki's lips moved for a moment and he finally managed, "My badge…"
A grin. "Well I'm not going to sell it, if that's what you're worried about. You really need to learn to be more trusting. The yakuza and the police, that's an important relationship. Be sure you let your superiors know exactly that, Sagaru-kun." Wink.
Thus, Yamazaki finished his report before Hijikata. The Vice Head sighed heavily, rubbing his face with his hand.
Outside on the walkway, Okita happened to glance in a crack through the sliding doors to see Hijikata looking tired and Yamazaki looking positively tortured. Okita turned to some of the men, who were chatting in the garden, and approached them.
"What is Yamazaki reporting about?" he asked them.
"Oh, Captain. You didn't know? It was just supposed to be a routine thing, really. He was trying to check up on one of the bigger gang leaders in the area. He got caught, now things are a bit complicated."
"Hmm," Okita commented with interest, a fan of yakuza himself, despite being a police officer. "Which group?"
"Well, the group was the Kyokutou-kai, but they say the oyabun is on the way out. And yet, their business is doing better than ever, encroaching on the other groups and probably brewing up some trouble. Anyway, the rumor is that the oyabun is just a figure head these days, and there's a much bigger danger in that organization."
The man nodded.
Okita squinted, thinking back. "The Kyokutou-kai…I think I've heard of him. Kusunoki…Kouji, was it?"
The rest of the men were all staring at him for a moment.
He blinked at them. "What?"
One man chuckled. "Apparently you haven't heard much, Captain."
Hijikata sighed again. "So the next head of the Kyokutou-kai is an Ane-san."
Yamazaki shook his head vigorously. "No, Fukuchou. They all call her 'Kashira', and I personally found it very difficult to tell, if not for the voice."
Hijikata frowned. "Tell me about her."
Yamazaki gave a heavy sigh, and he described what he had seen. This wakagashira, unlike her predecessor and most of the other members of the group, did not wear kimono but instead mostly dressed in elegant and expensive three-piece suits. Tailored, obviously. Being tall and slender but also having slightly wide shoulders, they suited her. When he met her, she was also wearing dark (also expensive) sunglasses which simultaneously hid her emotions and made her even more threatening. Her dark brown hair was short for a woman, long for a man, partly swept back with a few sheafs calculatedly falling in her face. Most importantly, at any given moment, this woman gave off a killing intent that rivaled any one of the Shinsengumi at the height of battle. Yamazaki was no coward, but in her presence, his knees felt weak.
Hijikata listened to all of this with a look of disbelief. Yamazaki was not known to exaggerate in these matters. In fact Hijikata found his reports often too vague to be useful. Could it be true? A woman, and a dangerous one at that, in such a position of power in the Edo underworld?
"I guess the question is who to send."
Yamazaki gasped. "I can't really let someone take the fall for me, Fukuchou. Please don't make me stand by and do nothing."
Hijikata casually lit up. "Yakuza mean what they say, Yamazaki." He flipped his mayonnaise lighter closed. "That's not something you can afford to forget." He took a drag, thoughtfully. "And anyway, she's right."
"It's a tough pill to swallow, I know. But the yakuza and the police have a delicate relationship. One wrong step could cause a war. That's why we tread softly, and make sure we have irrefutable proof before we make a move. You were in the wrong this time, Yamazaki."
"Fukuchou…" Yamazaki murmured, hurt streaking his face.
Hijikata scowled. "Tell me I'm wrong, or get out. I'll choose someone to go with you, and you'll go back in a couple of days. Clear?"
Yamazaki's fists tightened and he lowered his head. Eventually he managed, "Yes, sir!" Btu the next moment he was on his feet and running out the door.
Hijikata rubbed his temples. It was then he noticed someone leaning on the door frame. "What a tough situation, Hijikata-san. Having to choose which one of your own men has to die."
"Yours is not the opinion I need, Okita. Anyway, from what Yamazaki said, this wakagashira is more concerned with building a good relationship with us than scaring us. Whoever I send, I doubt she'll actually kill him."
"Hmm," Okita considered. "And yet Yamazaki did disrespect her. There are few worse things you can do to a yakuza boss."
Hijikata took a drag. "Let's be grateful she's not the boss, then."
Okita looked at him with interest. "Are you planning on using the oyabun as leverage?"
"Not sure yet. Anyway, you don't mind going, do you?"
"Not at all. Also, die Hijikata."
"Yeah, yeah." A drag. "So. I'll hook you up with a wire and follow a good distance behind. They won't be surprised to find it on you. I can intervene if things get out of hand. I can't say for sure about you, but killing me would most certainly cause a war, and they don't want that any more than we do."
"Well-reasoned, Hijikata-san. But in that case, why don't you go yourself?"
Hijikata blew out a breath of smoke. "Don't you know? It's too early in the game for a confrontation between the two shadow kings."
Okita observed him, then scoffed. Then he muttered, "By the way, I'll be killing you tonight, as usual."
Hijikata went bright red. His gaze flicked outside to the men who were clearing within earshot, all of whom had gone red and silent. Hijikata sighed heavily. "Yeah. I've been meaning to talk to you about your 'secret code'. I don't think it's working."
"In that case…" Okita said with a sensual yet aggressive whisper. "…maybe you shouldn't scream so loud when I'm making you cum, Hijikata-san."
All Hijikata's blood was now flowing to either his cheeks or a certain other place, and he actually felt a bit faint. He tried to take a drag to calm himself. "My room this time. It's more soundproof," he murmured.
Okita smirked with superiority, then meandered off about his business. All the strength drained from Hijikata's spine and he rested his elbow on his knee. He was distracted for a moment by imagining what Okita was going to do to him, and then he snapped out of it. What was he thinking? How had he allowed Okita to dominate him in this way for so long? Well, Hijikata was sick of it. He'd make Okita beg this time, he swore it.
Well, unfortunately his resistance only seemed to light Okita's fire, and this time Hijikata came with Okita cock in his mouth and three of his fingers deep in his ass. He was even starting to wonder what it felt like to be fucked by another man. But the desire to beat Okita didn't fade, and as he went to sleep that night, after Okita returned to his room as usual, he imagined all sorts of ways of bringing the sadist down.
He was awoken less than an hour later by a groan, followed by a few sobs. His eyes flew open and he drew his sword even before he was fully awake. When he was, his eyes widened.
From Yamazaki's description, he knew immediately who was sitting in his room smiling at him. In one fist, she held by the scruff a very familiar looking officer, on his knees beside her. Even with his head down, Hijikata could tell Yamazaki had had the shit kicked out of him. It was him who had groaned.
"Well, you'll have to forgive the unavoidable informality of the situation. But I'm just chuffed to bits to finally meet you, Vice Head of the Shinsengumi, Hijikata Toushirou," said Kusunoki Kouji with a grin.
Hijikata observed the situation, the state Yamazaki was in, and the look in the wakagashira's eyes that told him he didn't have a chance. He sighed. He sat up formally on his ankles and sheathed his sword.
"May I assume I'm addressing Kusunoki Kouji, wakagashira of the Kyokutou-kai?"
She grinned again. "You may. Whew, what a rush to be recognized by someone important."
"Do we have to keep up the bullshit?"
She laughed. "Well, no, but I'd prefer it. And anyway, I'm being fairly serious, I think you just don't get my sense of humor."
"Ha ha ha. Well, fair enough. Down to business, then." All that mirth suddenly vanished. "Your man has caused me a bit of trouble. I'm here to see if we can't sort this out."
Hijikata scoffed, reaching beside his bed for his cigarettes and lighting up. "If you're talking an eye for an eye, you beat my man to hell and snuck into the Shinsengumi headquarters. That sounds like you're already ahead."
Her smile remained, but it was an icy one. "Hm," she commented, and finally let Yamazaki drop to the ground, where he stayed, struggling to breathe. "You think so? Yet not only did he disrespect me, and my clan, he also failed to follow instructions."
Hijikata's eyes passed to poor Yamazaki, and his suspicions were confirmed.
"He came back to me much sooner than expected. But he also came alone, and he was instructed very clearly not to do that. Now, if you were me, what would you do?"
"Kill him, I guess," Hijikata muttered, taking a drag. He heard Yamazaki gasp.
Kusunoki whistled. "Your reputation precedes you. I'm almost tempted to poach you for my group."
"So serious," she chuckled, then in what he gathered was an unconscious habit, she touched one of the inside pockets of her jacket. "By the way, do you mind if I smoke?"
He glared at her. "I'm already smoking, and this is my room. Why should I care?"
An appreciative smile. "Aren't you sweet?" She took out her smokes, lit up and then slipped them back into the inside pocket. Smoking, she looked more elegant than before, yet no less frightening. "The question remains, how are you lot going to make it up to me? This guy's life isn't worth the humiliation he's caused," she said, applying pressure on Yamazaki's back with her foot. Yamazaki choked out a sob, and Hijikata gritted his teeth. "I'm a big fan of 'an eye for an eye', as you say." She grinned for a moment to let it sink in, and Hijikata's eyes widened. "I may have men on the inside here already," she said. "I may have planted one or two as soon as this maggot was discovered. Or, I could just be bluffing."
Hijikata's fists tightened until his fingernails against his palms nearly drew blood.
She chuckled. "But actually, that's just my insurance. And a little side game," she said casually, though now her smile had faded somewhat. "Because it seems I've found something more interesting to play with." A hard look met Hijikata's eyes. "Hey, Fukuchou. Did you know I actually got here about an hour ago?"
Hijikata was in disbelief for a moment, then his heart started to pound. "No," flickered through his mind.
"Yes, I see on your face that you know what I'm going to say," she said, smirking. Her smile faded. "Or at least part of it. I can think of a thousand ways I could humiliate you and make you suffer with the knowledge I discovered just now. But none as great…" Another smirk. "…as the simple idea that I know your secret." Her grin widened. "Unintentional though it may have been, you have picked a fight with a yakuza. And, I flatter myself, quite a big fish too. You've got to realize, no matter how much of a big shot you are in the real world, you're no match for the rulers of the underworld."
She seemed to be ready to leave, but Hijikata stopped her. "They may accept you as Wakagashira," he murmured, and Kusunoki froze. "Even treat you as Oyabun, while the real one is indisposed. But you're still in the shadows. Do you think any one of the crime lords will accept you? You're a smart woman. You should know your place."
The yakuza was totally still for several long moments. Slowly, a complicated expression turned itself on Hijikata. Then she smiled, and walked toward him. "If I lost my temper every time some dick told me I couldn't do something," she knelt down inches from his face and smiled with a dangerously soft voice. "There'd be no end to it. Or perhaps a better expression might be, the streets of Edo would run red. Since I don't think there's a single person in this city who approves of my holding this place. Nevertheless, I've earned it. And let me tell you something else." She brushed some dust off his collar, and nearly whispered, "You should know, even without my army, even with yours, you, Hijikata Toushirou, would die if you ever tried to fight me."
She looked him hard in the eyes, and Hijikata saw exactly what she meant him to. That there was no exaggeration in her words. "Even unarmed. You're still no match for me. So if you're thinking of proving supremacy by fighting, you should think again." She patted him on the head. "You're a smart man. You should know your place."
With that, she stood. "Live your life for a while. When I need you, I'll contact you. Goodbye, Hijikata Toushirou. It's been a gas." A final grin, and then she left.
Hijikata lowered his head, his whole body shaking with rage and frustration, as well as, yes, a little fear. But then he noticed Yamazaki sobbing on the floor. He sighed. He knelt beside him and gently helped him onto his back.
"Stupid Yamazaki," he muttered, though the man was clearly half dead and sobbing.
He managed through a bloody, swollen mouth, "I'm…sorry, Fukuchou." He sobbed again.
"Yeah? You look sorry. And you know this is exactly why I told you, yakuza mean what they say."
Sob. "I'm sorry…Fukuchou…I didn't know she would…find out about you and…"
"Whoa," Hijikata stopped him, waving that away and blushing. "You're going to forget about that too. Anyway…" he sighed. "She was probably planning on using you as a bargaining chip all along. You don't have to worry about that. What I'm saying is you did not have permission to put yourself in danger like that."
Yamazaki's tears let up a little. "Fukuchou…"
Hijikata blushed again. "Yes, yes. I said something warm and fuzzy, now forget it, and try and get some rest. I'll get the medic."
"Thank you…Fukuchou…" Sob. "I'm sorry…"
Hijikata rested a hand on his head. "Yeah. Now shut up."
Hijikata left his room and slowly closed the door behind him. He took a moment to absorb the situation. Then slowly put his head in his hand. What was he going to do?