Kuraki Akito was convinced that his teacher was a yakuza.
Seriously, there was no other explanation for how she knew freakin’ everybody in the city, and they all owed her a favor.
First there was the time that Class 1-D was assigned to make all the posters for the school festival, then some idiot lost them the night before. But Yankumi knew a guy who worked in some company’s advertising department and printed a whole new batch of posters for them for free.
(“That’s not mysterious at all,” Akito’s best friend Ichimura Junta insisted. “He was Yankumi’s student a while back. Look, he’s in an old yearbook.”)
Then there was the fact that the guy who ran a restaurant a couple of blocks away was waaay too eager to give Yankumi free food all the time. Yakuza always got free food from people in their territory; Akito had seen it in the movies.
(“Earth to Akito: Kumai-san talks all the time about how Yankumi was his teacher years ago. “)
Or if she didn’t know somebody directly, she knew a guy who knew a guy, and how suspicious did that sound?
Like the time that Maeda buried the vice-principal’s wallet somewhere on a construction site (except he wouldn’t confess so the vice-principal thought it was Terada who did it and was threatening to expel him) and Yankumi just happened to know a guy working at the construction company who was able to talk the foreman into letting the entire Class 1-D onto the site to comb the entire place until they found it.
(“Okay, so I checked the construction company’s records and they list one Uchiyama Haruhiko as being on the team for this site. Presumably the same Uchiyama Haruhiko who’s in this yearbook. Case closed.”
Junta had gotten very good at digging up info on people and proving them to be ex-Yankumi-students, after half a year of diligently debunking Akito’s yakuza theory.
“Anyway, Akito, you’re missing the real mystery here. Remember when she yelled at Maeda for letting Terada take the fall for him? And grabbed Maeda’s collar and lifted him in the air and shook him? What the hell is up with that?”
“Nah, that’s no mystery, that’s just regular Yankumi weirdness.”)
Akito was convinced that he had proof after the incident with Yoshida. Yoshida’s dad had pissed off a crooked cop and the cop and his buddies were out for revenge. Yankumi somehow got a guy who drove a delivery truck to help Yoshida’s family pack up their stuff and skip town for a couple of days until things cooled down.
(“Yoshida said the truck driver’s name was Mori Kenichi. The same name as a guy who is, surprise surprise, in one of the old yearbooks.”
“Junta, the guy helped a whole family go on the run from the cops! I don’t care if he’s an ex-student, that is some seriously shady behavior! Why the heck is Yankumi so buddy-buddy with a guy like that, and why the heck is he and everyone else so damn eager to do her a favor?”
“Look at it this way. Imagine yourself in ten years. Would you be willing to help Yankumi hide someone from the cops if she asked you?”
A month before the end of the schoolyear, Akito had almost stopped looking for proof of Yankumi’s yakuza connections. Maybe Junta was right, after all, and it was all just a combination of ex-students and Yankumi’s weird but memorable personality.
He and Junta were walking home together when they spotted a suspicious crowd of tough-looking guys in suits and dark glasses around the door of a hotel. They cautiously made their way closer and found a good vantage point. Their eyes widened when they spotted a sign outside the hotel confirming that it was an event hosted by the infamous Kantou Eigakai yakuza group. They were still gawking at the gathering of real live yakuza when a black car pulled up and a man with dyed red hair got out of the back, followed by a woman who—no, it couldn’t be. It couldn’t be. Yankumi?? In a black-and-red gangster-wife kimono and dark glasses?
“Holy shit,” Akito whispered hoarsely.
“Holy shit,” echoed Junta. “Akito, do you have any idea who that is?”
“Yankumi at a yakuza event, dressed like a gangster's wife?” Akito replied, a little hysterically.
“No, I mean the guy with her! That’s the Red Lion! My older brother told me about him! He’s like a rising star of the yakuza world! He’s the heir apparent to one of the yakuza groups, Kuroda something-or-other!”
The next day, Junta went to the library at lunch and came back with a yearbook, which was normal. He was wide-eyed and shaking slightly, which was not.
“Akito. I found the Red Lion in this yearbook. His name’s Sawada Shin—“
“Wait, Sawada as in the Sawada, the highest scoring student in Shirokin history, Sawada?”
“Yes! That’s him! And what’s more, he was Yankumi’s student way back in her very first year of teaching!”
“Whoa. And they’ve kept in touch all this time?”
“Not just kept in touch! Don’t you see what this means? You were right all along! Yankumi does have yakuza connections! She musta been sucked into it as a rookie teacher! Just imagine some fresh-meat teacher getting a yakuza heir in their very first class! Sawada musta corrupted Yankumi somehow, gotten her into the gangster life!”
“Wait. We saw them get out of the car together. Do you think—” Akito lowered his voice and looked around shiftily, “do you think it was some kind of forbidden student-teacher romance?”
“Holy shit. Yeah. Sawada fell for his teacher and dragged her into the yakuza life!”
“GOOD AFTERNOON!” Yankumi burst into the classroom with her usual enthusiasm.
Akito and Junta both shut up and scrambled into their seats, and spent the rest of the day—and in fact, the two remaining weeks of the schoolyear—staring at Yankumi in shock.
(On the last day of school, the two boys surreptitiously hung around long enough to see a sleek black car pull up outside the school, and Yankumi walk towards it. The window rolled down to reveal Sawada, who raised his hand to greet Yankumi. She grinned and waved back. Then Sawada's gaze shifted to look straight at where Akito and Junta were peeking around the corner of the building. The Red Lion's eyes narrowed in a glare, and the boys yelped in alarm and scrambled to hide. By the time they dared to look again, the car, Sawada, and Yankumi were all gone.)