Kiryu could see ghosts for all he could remember. Back at the orphanage, he could occasionally see them in clear human forms or weird, creeping shadows. Other kids would make fun of him when he first bought it up. But not Nishiki. Being the great and helplessly supportive bro that he is even to this day despite every Dojima family member wants his head and giddy enough to wipe his existence off the map.
For whatever reason, it only occurred to him the moment he felt a cold presence in the room. The grip on his fifth cigarette tightened and he’s ready to jump from the sofa.
“A love hotel? How discreet.” An all-too familiar smug voice murmured.
He whipped his head. Out of all things, it was Oda.
His horribly flashy suit as pristine as the first time they met and didn’t appear as if he was stabbed by Makimura’s hidden blade the last time Kiryu saw him (courtesy of Sera, which is pretty damn smart in times like these). Except, well, for one thing which is his body was transparent and Kiryu can clearly see the ghostly wisps around him.
His superior jerked back (or, floated back?) out of shock. “H-hold on- you can see me?”
Kiryu dumbly nodded, “uh, yeah? Been seeing ghosts since I was a kid.”
Oda put on a thoughtful expression, “huh.”
Makimura stirred on the bed, tugging both of their attention. For once, she appeared at ease and completely out of it.
Kiryu looked back at Oda and made sure to keep his voice quiet. “So, why are you still here? Guilt?”
Oda flinched, averting his eyes.
To be honest, Kiryu doesn’t forgive Oda. Not what after he done to poor Makimura and the current state she’s currently in. Disgust crept in as he’s more than happy to punch Oda’s face, dead or not. But at the same, he felt emotionally drained. He put out his cigarette in the ashtray before leaning back against the sofa, “be lucky I’m too tired to give a shit.”
The older man stayed quiet for several seconds before heaving a sigh. “Shibusawa got to me.”
Kiryu’s eyes widened. “He was also there?”
Oda gravely nodded. “unsurprisingly. I ended up disappointing him and he shot me in the face. You know, the first thing I saw was my own damn corpse. It scared me shitless at first. But then after some waiting and nothing else better to do, I decided to track down you guys.”
He huffed out a laugh, “guess even playing last-minute heroes didn’t grant me permission to hell or a scrape of the afterlife.”
Kiryu sat there, unsure what to answer. Instead, he just asked, “so, you’re just tagging along for now?”
Oda shrugged, if not nervous like he was asking for permission, “if that’s okay with you.”
To be frank, Kiryu doesn’t really care and told Oda to make himself useful like keeping watch, as he desperately needs some rest, the comfort of the sofa already lulling him to sleep. The older man didn’t object in the slightest, giving a weak smile before hovering towards the tall glass windows.
“No one gave you a talisman or something?” Oda bought up at one point. Making small talk as they both waited for Makumura to get ready.
Kiryu pondered over it briefly. “Think so. I remembered it getting bad at some point- like some ghost punks kept picking fights with me during school. Ofcourse, they can’t physically hurt me so they settled with harassment and taunts.”
“Yeah, it was a pain in the ass so I finally gotten one at some antique shop. Must have lost it.”
The older man snorted, “ofcourse you did.”
“I’ll look after her.” Oda quietly offered, glancing at Makimura, now waiting anxiously on a sofa chair.
I don’t want to face him, went unsaid.
‘Really? After all this time?’ A part of Kiryu wanted to retort back. Instead, he held his tongue and retreated outside the makeshift shaft, making his way to Little Asia.
Kiryu told Tachibana everything, including Oda’s betrayal and his secret talks with Shibusawa.
His boss stayed relatively dead silent but Kiryu can observe the changing emotions in his eyes. Relief and sadness when he heard his sister was safe and thankfully unharmed despite her blind state. Flashes of anger, disappointment and regrets came about when he talked about Oda.
“So, it’s expected he’s dead.”
Actually, he’s watching over your sister.
Ofcourse, Kiryu doesn’t say that. And then, Tachibana bared his soul to him and broke down. The younger man has never seen him this vulnerable, his normally calm expression was wet with tears on as he spoke of his regrets and selfishness, choking on his words as he pleaded to see his little sister.
Kiryu stayed respectfully silent, waiting for his boss to recover.
“Let’s go, Kiryu-san.” Tachibana ordered with a firm expression. Kiryu nodded back, ready to lead him out.
But then one of the locals barged in, frantic and informed them a group of Dojima men arrived. Tachibana cursed at the timing before clicking his tongue, “Oda must have also leaked to them about my dialysis.”
Fucking hell, Oda.
What rotten luck.
Ofcourse, the Dojima family hired an assassin and it was Kiryu’s turn to get shot.
Atleast Elder Chen is willing to aid him and Nishiki is there, so painfully loyal in every possible way as they quickly sprint back to West Park. Two pair of heads looked in their direction when they entered the tent.
“Where is he?” Oda demanded.
“Is that…big brother?” Makimura lit up, when she heard a second pair of footsteps. Kiryu can’t bear to look at her, not with that hopeful smile on her face.
“Brother?” Nishiki parroted and already Kiryu is having a headache having to listen to three voices. He heaved a sigh and calmly asked for a proper sit down and gave them the short version of the situation.
“They found out Tachibana’s hideout-”, he made sure to shoot a quick glare at Oda (in which the older man avoided his gaze in response) before continuing, “and now they’re keeping him somewhere. Elder Chen and the Little Asia community are now tracking him down.”
Makimura sat there in dismay, praying her brother is still alive. Oda paced back and forth, impatient. Meanwhile, Nishiki, being out of the loop, is utterly confused, asking what was the full story and how the hell are they related.
Kiryu sighed, “look, one question at a time.”
Wait, scratch that. “Actually, forget them all. We need to get Tachibana back.”
“Damn right we do”, Oda hissed in the back.
Makimura is crying again, her hope slipping away. All because of a tiny patch of land her grandfather left behind for her mother to find if she ever comes back home, now some damn reward to be the head of a clan. Kiryu all can do was promised to bring her brother back, even if it kills him.
His pager beeped. It was from Elder Chen.
He nodded at Nishiki before glancing at Oda, his eyes darting between him and Makimura.
‘Stay put’. Hopefully the silent message got across.
Somehow, Oda seemed to understood it. Judging from the conflicted look on his face before reluctantly complying. “Fine! I'll watch over her in case other shit pops up. Make sure you bring him back alive, Kiryu.”
Kiryu made damn sure.
Kuze’s men did a terrific job, leaving Tachibana butchered and there was so, so much blood . Kiryu saw red, tearing into the room and made sure every last one of them stayed on the ground, including Kuze himself.
The moment they released Tachibana, the first thing that Kiryu said was, I’m sorry. Over and over again.
And Tachibana. The kind, patient, cool Tachibana that Kiryu have known just gave a bloody, forgiving smile while breathing out his words. His eyes barely opened and his chest heaving too slowly. That he might as well be close to death’s door. Kiryu won’t have it. Not when Makoto is just so close by, eagerly waiting to meet her brother that she haven’t seen in ten years. He quickly ordered Nishiki to go get her, praying time is still on their side. Nishiki ran within seconds.
But Tachibana still spoke, with every last breath as he shared what Kuze had told him, about Dojima pulling the strings, his fixation with the empty lot. Kiryu doesn’t give a shit. He just wanted to him to stop, better save his last words for his sister.
Tachibana lay limp in his arms, unmoving.
Kiryu let out an anguish howl.
“Big brother…you’re just tired, right?” Makimura clenched a desperate smile, holding tightly onto her brother’s cold hand.
Kiryu just wanted to bury himself right now.
They carried Tachibana’s body back to Little Asia. Elder Chen promised to bury him next to his mother and her side of the family once they found the location. Kiryu is just relieved his former boss will have a proper burial, the kind that he’ll deserve.
They put him in the medical room, a clean sheet covering him for the time being. Kiryu stared down, lost. Oda hovered behind him in complete silence. Nishiki accompanied Makimura back to West Park, the poor woman had completely shut down after crying her wrenched heart out. Leaving all three men not entirely sure what to do next.
However, Kiryu’s thoughts were interrupted when he felt another cold presence in the room.
“B-boss?” Oda suddenly cried out.
Kiryu slowly looked over his shoulders. Standing at the door, was Tachibana’s ghost. Similar to Oda, he was originally dressed in his everyday suit, looking ever sophisticated as if he wasn’t murdered seconds ago.
“Good evening, Oda-san.” His voice sounded flat.
The other ghost blinked, “wait, you’re…not surprised to see me?”
“Well, I saw you were accompanying Kiryu-san when he carried my body to meet with…” Tachibana trailed off, not daring to finish his sentence.
Kiryu bit his lips and dared to step in, “Tachibana.”
Said man stared at him with wide eyes, “Kiryu-san? You can… see us?”
“Apparently, the rookie can see ghosts.” Oda perfectly summarized.
“Ah.” Was all Tachibana could utter. But the flicker of interest in his eyes quickly morphed into regret. “I…please do forgive me, Kiryu-san. I was too weak to hold on.”
Kiryu promptly averted his eyes, gritting his teeth. “Why the hell are you apologizing? If I found you earlier this wouldn’t have-”
The younger man stopped himself. Tachibana’s ghostly figure hovered closer, he has a soft but sad smile on his face. “No one would have predicted this. Besides, I was basically goading them but as we all know how the result ended…” His eyes trailed towards his covered body before looking back at Kiryu, “But more importantly, let’s just focus on Xiao Qiao’s wellbeing. Okay?”
Kiryu stayed quiet at first before meeting his boss’s eyes, “…you’re right.”
Tachibana seemed satisfied with his response. However, the kindness in his eyes was short-lived when they shifted over to Oda. The other man gulped and- when did the temperature in the room dropped this drastically?
“Oda-san.” Tachibana started placidly, “I have many things to say to you. Unfortunately, with the circumstances as it is, I rather discuss with you once this all eventually settled, understood?”
For the first time, Kiryu has never seen his boss with such a stone cold expression that frightened him more than the time he was standing before the Dojima lieutenants that started this whole goddamn mess.
Oda could all do was bow his head. “Gotcha”, he weakly replied.
By the time they reached West Park, Nishiki was panicking and Kiryu know that’s bad . Apparently, Makimura wandered off after Nishiki offered to buy some drinks and snacks. Kiryu’s panic skyrocketed. Kamarocho was no place for a blind, defenseless woman. “B-but she could have not wandered off far, right? Nishiki?”
“Xiao Qiao…” Tachibana whispered in the back, horrified and completely guilt-ridden, painfully aware it was his death that tipped her off to the edge. Oda looked on helplessly at the side.
But then Nishiki shook his head, if not in a bit of a frenzy, “to be honest, bro. I think she’s slowly gaining her eyesight back?”
“Huh?” The three man chorused all at once.
“Yeah, believe it or not. But I think she can only see shapes? You know, like silhouettes.” Then a thought occurred to him, “hold on a sec- bro, you mentioned about Makoto and Tachibana being siblings?”
Ah, right. He haven’t given a proper explanation yet. And so Kiryu does, well, a brief quick one at that mostly about their family ties and history with the Empty Lot.
Nishiki paled by the time he finished, burying his face in his heads, “fuck, Tachibana is so haunting me right now.”
Bro, he’s just standing close by.
But what came out of Kiryu’s mouth was, “um.”
Nisihki froze, slowly bringing up his face. “He’s there, isn’t he?”
Kiryu wordlessly nodded and glanced to where his boss was standing. Suddenly, Nishiki got on his knees and screamed, “I’M SO SORRY, TACHIBANA-SAN!”
Oh for god’s sake we’re in public . Kiryu fought the urge to face-palm as he can feel eyes looking in their direction.
Not expecting the apologetic outcry, Tachibana tried to reassure Nishiki as he hovered over him, “Nishikiyama-san, please! You’re not at fault here!”
“Well, now people think you lot are crazy.” Oda mumbled, the unhelpful bastard.
Kiryu tried to calm his oath brother down. “O-oi Nishiki! Tachibana said it’s fine! Let just try to find her!”
Nishiki snapped out of it, suddenly aware of the attraction they were gaining. Too tired to care, he just shouted at them to mind their damn business. It wasn’t long before they were running in separate directions with Oda trailing after Nishiki while Tachibana accompanied Kiryu.
(“Oda is here as well by the way”, he threw in the last second before making a quick plan for their search operation.
Oda looked mildly offended.)
Unfortunately, Kiryu couldn’t find her as he ran every street corner and alleys with Dojima family members lurking about. Tachibana looked as equally distraught before making a suggestion, “Kiryu-san, what about the Empty Lot?”
Kiryu stared at him, “huh? Why would she want to go back there?”
Tachibana gave an empty smile, “why wouldn’t she want to return to the root of it all?”
They did but with no luck. Makimura wasn’t anywhere in sight. Tachibana paced around, more tensed and terrified at the possible situations his sister could have been roped into against her will.
Nishiki somehow figured he’ll be there and whatever hope Kiryu had in store was thrown when his brother and Oda returned with not only frowns as Nishiki appeared as if he lost a brawl. He bowed his head, ashamed. “Sorry Kiryu, Tachibana, still no word on Makoto. Even the guys in Little Asia haven’t gotten any lead yet.”
Kiryu wordlessly nodded until Oda spoke up, “but we did ran into a guy looking for her. Apparently he’s a yakuza legend?”
Tachibana frowned at the new information, “from what family?”
Nishiki blinked, confused until Kiryu repeated what Oda had said. Focused again, Nishiki asked whether he recalled the story about Majima Goro. Kiryu remembered bits and pieces based on the rumours. Hell, once you’re a yakuza you’re bound to hear the story of Majima Goro of the Shimano family. Apparently he fucked up so bad that said family decided to wipe his existence off by sending him to the Hole.
“The Hole?” Tachibana inquired, intrigued by this legend of a man.
Kiryu bit his lips. “From what I heard, it’s hell. The worst kind of punishment for a yakuza. No man has never gone out alive.”
“It sounds lovely.”
Guessing the gist of their conversation, Nishiki nearly snorted. “Yeah, well, apparently not this guy.”
Well, that was unheard of. “So, you said Majima was looking for her too?”
Nishiki nodded, saying the guy was determined enough to even storm Kamaza family office and fought Kashiwagi, one-on-one at that and came out victorious. Kiryu eyes widened, not even himself managed to win a majority of their sparring practices.
“Guess who he decided to meet next?” Nishiki deadpanned, admitting even he couldn’t stand a damn chance.
“A monster, is what he is.” Oda grimaced. Tachibana narrowed his eyes, not liking the implications surrounding this man.
But then, Nishiki gave a thoughtful look, “although…it didn’t sound like he was on Dojima’s payroll.”
Equally confused, Nishiki explained this Majima guy claimed he was trying to protect her.
“I gotta admit, he didn’t look like he intended to do her harm.” Oda quietly shared.
Regardless, it didn’t hinder their doubts as Tachibana muttered dryly. “I hope that’s the case then.”
Then, Kiryu’s pager beeped. He took it out. However, he didn’t recognize the number. Both Tachibana and Oda peered at it. “It’s Sera-san.” Tachibana firmly stated before glancing at Kiryu. “Quick, Kiryu-san.”
“Makimura Makoto was shot by Dojima’s men.”
Was the absolutely last thing Kiryu wanted to hear after being told to take it easy because what the hell . Their initial shock worn off, it dissolved into immense concern after they were told despite the successful surgery, she has yet to gain consciousness.
Tachibana is pissed. Kiryu can tell because the restaurant has never felt this goddamn cold that not even the kettle steamer could help. Oda had to back away from his boss, shivering. Oblivious and how , Sera doesn’t appear to detect any spiritual presence as he asked whether Kiryu wanted some warm tea. Kiryu politely declined and asked what the hell had happened in the last hour or so.
The older man complied with long explanations and updates. Regarding Makimura’s condition and that she’ll be guarded at a private ship in Sibaura (Tachibana’s eyes finally softened just hearing her recovery), Dojima’s focus on the restoration project, Shibusawa’s near promotion to captain (Oda snorted), Majima (apparently, they shouldn’t be too concerned despite his initial orders and Kiryu met Shimano before) and finally, Kazama’s long-term plan that would ultimately make Sera the third head of the Tojo Clan.
“So you also go way back with the old man?” Kiryu asked, thinking about that Tachibana previously shared with him before.
Sera lightly chuckled, for once giving a genuine smile. “Maybe not as long as you, but Kazama-san showed me the ropes as a yakuza. I’ll never forget the debt I owe that man.”
Kiryu nodded, he can respect the sentiment. Tachibana agreed besides him.
Sera then changed the topic, suggesting Kiryu to lay low. Not only from the Dojima family, but from the police as well since the murder charge haven’t been cleared yet. “I promised Kazama-san to do all that I’m able to for you, Kiryu. So for now, leave everything to us. Alright?”
“...There’s really nothing I can do?” Kiryu quietly raised, hating the idea of feeling powerless. Oda scoffed, something about playing heroes and recklessness. Tachibana smiled gently, “Kiryu-san, you did more than enough.”
Sera shook his head, “you done plenty. If not for you, there’s no way Makoto would have made it Kamurocho alive. She’s clinging to life now in part thanks to you.”
“Well said, Sera-san”, Tachibana concurred. Oda deliberately stayed silent.
Sera then stood up from his seat, “remember, Kiryu, it’s best that you leave town.”
“Guess who looked ready to start some serious shit?”
No sooner after he met up with Nishiki, the latter told him there has been sightings of Dojima family heading for the Kazama family office.
“Shibusawa.” He quickly concluded. Nishiki gravely nodded, “can’t believe his first order as captain is to put every Kazama loyalist to the sword. The city gonna be flooded with Dojima muscle real soon.”
That certainly sounds like deja vu. As if on cue, a few Dojima men spotted them in plain sight from afar.
“What the hell.” Nishiki’s frustration said it all.
“They sure are punctual”, Oda drawled.
Tachibana clicked his tongue, “indeed.”
Kiryu sighed and cracked his knuckles. Somebody’s face is going to get slammed into a vending machine.
After a quick beatdown, Kiryu rushed over to the Kazama family office while throwing some money on the side to distract the Dojima family with a crowd. He’d already told Nishiki to go ahead to warn everyone and lay low.
By the time he reached Tenkaichi street, Kuze was there by his lonesome self. Kiryu is both impressed and annoyed, boasting that he’d rather beat a hundred Tojo punks than his senior with such a stubborn streak and pride that refused to die. Tachibana couldn’t help but looked at him with a worried expression while Oda mumbled where the brat’s obnoxiousity came from.
Kuze just huffed out a laugh, sharing small words of philosophy on men’s pride. “Well, be fun to see whose pride dies harder here...your’s or mine.”
Somehow, he managed to beat Kuze for the third or fifth time now. The older man was relentless but Kiryu pulled through, leaving him staggering and catching his breath. Both Tachibana and Oda heaved sighs of relief that their junior still lived after occasional panicked shouts.
“I can tell, you know?” Kuze said out of the blue while he lay beat on the ground. “That Captain Kazama tried to keep you from becoming a real yakuza...he even tried giving you the opportunity to be a civilian. And then we broke the damn seal. The Dojima family did this.”
Tachibana stared at him with a knowing look, “so, you also knew.”
Kiryu blinked, not entirely sure what his boss meant by that. However, what Kuze said next made him stop dead in his tracks.
“Go to Nikkyo Consortium, Kiryu. Makumura Makoto is still alive, ain’t she?”
They all stared at him in shock. “What do you mean?” Kiryu bit out, the worst images already coming to mind.
“Shibusawa.” Tachibana hissed.
Shibusawa (the terrifying bastard), purposely had ordered the assassin to not shoot her in the vital organs, in order to conduct a raid to drag Nikkyo Consortium out of their hole, the ultimate plan to eradicate them all. Erasing the Kazama family as the first step was merely a distraction. Kiryu stared blankly back, blood boiling in his veins.
Oda paled. “Holy fuck. ”
“To go that extreme…” Tachibana whispered in silent anger.
Suddenly, Nishiki bust out of the office. Exclaiming that he got word from Little Asia, that Shibusawa got the Dojima family leading a raid on Sibaura right at this very moment. It wasn’t long before his brother ran off to fetch the car. Kiyru was about to follow him until Kuze tugged his attention again.
“You best know this, Kiryu...You’re about to step into the deepest, darkest, shit pit of the yakuza world. You better be fucking ready.”
He is, and he will be. With that, Kiryu gave one last respectful bow.
“Shit.” Nishiki cursed at the number of black vehicles surrounding the cruise ship. Men in suits ready to march in with weapons in hand.
“I mean, we fought through crowds of punks before.” Kiryu pointed out almost nonchalantly. His brother and Oda shot him looks of disbelief. Tachibana just chuckled, amused. However, they refocused when they saw a very familiar man climb out of one of the cars.
“Shibusawa.” Kiryu tightened his jaw before climbing out of Nishiki’s car, the latter following suit. He shouted out the man’s name. Shibusawa himself just cooly looked over his shoulders. A brief look and then he was on his merry way towards the ship with a few guards.
“Hmph, the nerve.” Tachibana gritted his teeth. Even Oda looked annoyed on his behalf.
It wasn’t long before hell broke loose. Nikkyo Consortium were outnumbered, no doubt caught off-guard. Things could have worsened if it weren’t for Kashiwagi’s dramatic entrance. The older man suddenly barged in with a truck together with the Kazama family.
All the more reason to put both Kiryu and Nishiki at ease as they fought their way inside.
“Go, Kiryu! I’ll hold these guys off!” His brother shouted, gun in hand as he peered around the corner. “Go find Makoto! Sides, don’t want you dying either and I totally don’t want to be haunted by Tachibana for failing you and Makoto.” He attempted to grin, as if making light of the shitty situation.
Tachibana glanced at Kiryu, “he’s right, Kiryu-san. We must make haste.”
Kiryu reluctantly nodded and ran ahead. He just pray Nishiki survived through the ordeal. He doesn’t want another wandering ghost.
Atop the balcony, Shibusawa was there. But so was Makimura, unconscious and oblivious as she sat in a wheelchair, like some kind of damn trophy it’s insulting. Her doctor stood behind her, keeping a strong front but Kiryu can see her eyes darting between her patient and the yakuza who could kill them within mere seconds.
Tachibana never looked so ferocious, his expression dark and ready to kill if Shibusawa dared lay a finger on his little sister. Every threat possible spilling through his lips that Oda wouldn’t dare to interrupt him. Shibusawa seemed unbothered, as he doesn’t appear to detect any spiritual presence either much to Kiryu's disappointment. The older man then send them both away. The doctor gave one last look at Kiryu, a silent plea before bringing Makimura back down.
“The girl can die later.” Shibusawa nonchalantly remarked afterwards as if was an afterthought.
“I. Dare. You.” Tachibana practically growled and Kiryu just realized this was the first time he heard his boss used such tone. Suddenly, there was a gust of wind, startling them.
“Wha-what the hell?” Oda shouted. Admittedly, Kiryu felt some goosebumps.
Shibusawa didn’t seem to care, brushing it off before bragging about titles and legacies that will bring yakuza to heel. That it simply takes a body count to carve out a legend. Kiryu doesn’t gives a shit. So much blood has been spilled just to earn some cutesy title.
It was time to end this.
Just when Kiryu thought Kuze couldn’t have been more ruthless, Shibusawa fought like an unyielding beast.
Kiryu doesn’t give in. He will not.
“I’ll kill you all...Like I killed Tachibana.”
The bastard still has the audacity to gloat from the floor, all the more reason to piss Kiryu off. The images fresh in his mind as he staggered towards and promptly kicked Shibusawa in the face, more blood splattering across the wood. He then made sure to land three precise punches afterwards. For Oda, for Tachibana, for Makimura.
But the wrath that he had pent up wanted to unleash itself. His stained fist still trembling and Shibusawa’s taunts didn’t help. Both Tachibana and Oda are yelling something, he thinks, but their voices were fading into obscurity while blood rushes to his ear. He pulled back his fist-
Someone abruptly shoved into him, flunging them both to the side. It was Nishiki, still alive with purple bruises on his face, looking rightfully pissed.
“What does killing this guy get you? A lot of nothing!” His brother shouted in his face. But his anger dissipated as tears started to fall, as he choked, "just- don't cross that line without me, brother."
And just like that, Kiryu snapped out of it, his hardened gaze finally softened and his eyes trailed to his fist, covered in Shibusawa’s blood. A transparent gloved hand reached out to it, Kiryu blinked, just realizing Tachibana had bend down to meet his eyes.
Kiryu stared at him, confused, “but-”. Tachibana shook his head, “I don’t want to place such a heavy burden on you, Kiryu-san. You have done plenty.” His words final.
He quietly obeyed. It was over.