The Sandaime raised his full cup of sake and drank, before handing it over to the middle-aged man kneeling in front of him. "Drink, Naruyama, my brother."
Naruyama bowed and took the cup with both hands. "Thank you, elder brother." He also drank, draining the cup.
Their men, who crowded the room, all dressed in their very best suits and sunglasses, burst into applause.
When the clapping died down, Naruyama presented the young man sitting at his side. "Please look kindly on my younger brother, Sawada. He still has much to learn but he has recently become my trusted second-in-command."
The Sandaime studied Sawada, who looked back calmly and fearlessly. "I believe we have met before, Sawada-kun."
"Yes, Sandaime." Sawada bowed.
At the comment, Kyou-san raised his head in surprise and exclaimed in recognition, "Young Master Red Lion! It really is you!"
"What?! Sawada Shin has joined the gokudou?"
"He was accompanying Naruyama-san to the sake-exchange ceremony, Ojou."
"But he went to university. He had every opportunity. He could have become anything he wanted."
Kyou struck a dramatic pose. "When a man loves a woman, he will do anything to be near her! He will give up everything and suffer many hardships to become worthy of her hand. Only then can he call himself a true man!"
Yankumi stared then nodded vigorously, her eyes welling with tears. Sniffling loudly, she said, "I understand, Sawada! You fell in love with a woman of the gokudou world, and you wanted to prove yourself worthy of her. So you joined the Hachi-gumi and struggled long and hard to rise through its ranks! So noble, Sawada!"
"That's it, Ojou! Though he didn't struggle long and hard, since he originally came to Naruyama-san to act as his legal advisor--"
Unheeding, Kumiko continued, "But why did you not confide your troubles in me, your trusted teacher? Whatever happened to the sacred bond between teacher and student, Sawada? But fear not, I will not abandon you now!"
Kyou watched in bewilderment as Yankumi sped out the door, her fist raised for truth, love and justice--
"Oh right, where are the Hachi-gumi headquarters, Kyou-san?"
The loud bang of the door opening woke Shin from a nap. "Oi. What's the big idea?"
"Yankumi?" He sat up in a hurry.
"I understand everything. You want to become a great leader of men to prove your worthiness to the woman you love!"
He flushed. "Wait--"
"Am I not your teacher? And are you not my student?"
"In this too, I will guide you so that you will find the strength to reach for happiness!" With starry eyes, Yankumi reached her hand to the ceiling.
Shin groaned and put his head in his hands. "This is not how I imagined this reunion would happen."
"There are three secrets to succeeding in the world of the gokudou. First--"
Shin sighed as he read the ransom note scrawled in black marker on the back of an attendance sheet.
"WE HAVE YOUR FRIEND. GIVE US 400,000 YEN AND WE WILL LET HIM GO WITHOUT HURTING HIM. COME TO THE WAREHOUSE BY THE DOCKS WITH THE MONEY!!!"
With the letter came a photo of Kuma tied to a chair, clearly grinning behind his gag and making a V sign of encouragement with his hand.
"Only 400,000 yen?" Shin shook his head. "Kuma, don't sell yourself short."
Less than an hour later, Yankumi barged into his office. "But fighting for your underlings will make them your men for life. Loyalty to your subordinates turns into loyalty to you!"
"It was clearly a fake setup." He handed the photo to her. "Look, Kuma's even smiling."
Undeterred, Yankumi announced, "Well then, let's move on to the next lesson--"
Shin entered the room and gaped. Kyou, Minoru and Tetsu were all stripped to the waist, exposing their intricately tattooed backs. Yankumi, dressed in a sober black kimono, stood at the center of the room with a pack of kabufuda cards in one hand. Her right arm and shoulder were bare, revealing the tattoo of a thin dragon coiling around her upper arm.
"A true man never cheats at cards!" She expertly shuffled the deck in her hands. "Take a seat, Sawada. How much would you like to bet?"
Shin sat down self-consciously. "What's the maximum?"
"Young Master Red Lion," Kyou said with a sly wink. "You don't gamble with the gokudou with your shirt on."
Shin dutifully unbuttoned his shirt, his face already a bright red. He avoided meeting Yankumi's eyes as he took it off. He hunched over, trying not to draw attention to the roaring lion that was tattooed across his right side.
There was a long silence.
He grumbled, "Well, are we starting or not?" and looked up.
Yankumi was frozen, her mouth half-open.
Startled, she dropped the pack of cards. She studiously looked away from Shin. "I just remembered I had to help Grandfather with--with his bookkeeping! Let's do this some other time."
"And the third, most important lesson is--"
Yankumi stopped mid-sentence as they opened the door. The room was in chaos, with men brawling and throwing furniture around the place. "What's all this?" Shin demanded.
"Sawada-san! These men came and started hassling poor Miki-chan for money. She's in debt to moneylenders."
"Oh? Here, you!" He grabbed the collar of the man who held a club in his hand. "Which gumi are you from?"
"This bitch took my money and refuses to pay it back!"
"I assure you that she'll pay you back the money. Now I must ask you to leave."
"Who the hell are you?" The man tried to swing the club at his face. Shin caught the blow on his arm.
"I asked once, and I won't ask again. Please leave."
"I'm not leaving until I have my money!"
At this, Yankumi clenched her fist and punched the man in the jaw. He staggered back and fell. "You scum! How dare you bully these women!"
"How much do you owe him, Miki-san?"
She answered nervously, "I borrowed 50,000 yen from him six months ago, but he charged interest at such a high rate that now it must be double that."
Shin approached the man where he cowered in the corner. "Here's 50,000 yen, and another 5,000 for your trouble. If you're not satisfied with that, come to Hachi-gumi headquarters and ask for Sawada." He leaned in. "And if I ever catch you bothering these women again, I'll break both your arms."
The man took the money and left in a hurry.
As they helped the women clean up and repair the broken furniture as best they could, Shin asked, "So what's the third, most important lesson, Yankumi?"
"Integrity! Protect the innocent and punish the guilty!" She glanced at him, a little sheepishly. "But I guess I don't need to teach you about that."
As they entered Hachi-gumi headquarters, the men in the room immediately lined up and bowed. "Welcome back, Sawada-san!"
"Well, Sawada. It looks like you are well on your way to being a good member of the gokudou after all. There is nothing left for this teacher to teach you."
"You stopped being my teacher five years ago, Yankumi."
She looked crestfallen. "Well, I'm sure that the woman you love will recognize you for the fine, outstanding young man you are."
"Oh? Do you really think so?"
"Of course! How could she not?"
"So…she won't mind if I do this?" Shin grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her firmly on the lips. She tensed, then relaxed.
He released her gently and smirked. "Good to know." He walked into his room and closed the door.
Yankumi stood, hand raised to mouth, for a long moment. Then--