Laying in bed Sakurai stared up at the ceiling, Uta was snuggled safely in his arms, and the house was quiet. His thoughts were churning over the news from San Francisco: there had been two deaths of immortals that were associates of Raymond Watts. A letter had arrived late in the afternoon in, post marked October 20 1934, detailing the events leading up to the deaths of Ricky Norris and Sasaki Seiji.
The somber tone of the letter worried Sakurai, Watts was obviously despondent, but worse was the manner in which his friends had died.
“Seiji was attacked and killed by three rogue vampires from the seedy area near the wharfs, his decapitated head was found on a pier pylon. Ricky Norris was set upon by a mob of mortals, who somehow had discovered that he was a vampire, and they chased him to the beach, where he perished in the rising sun. Atsushi, we are not certain of whom the maker or makers are of these rogues, so this is fair warning to you; I fear the worst is coming, sooner than we have predicted. I hesitate to return to Japan as it will leave my friends here in America devoid of anyone that has any experience and knowledge of the minds of Ryuichi and Yoshiki. I do feel however that I may be of use when this incipient war begins.”
Sakurai immediately called the other leaders to share the information, “I don’t believe we have much to worry over,” he tried to sound confident, but it was not what he felt in his heart. Uta stirred, sighing softly and burying his face into Sakurai’s neck, the older man kissing the top of his head. The years following the last gathering had been relatively uneventful; there had been more immortals that had been discovered that had no connection to the clans, though were causing no problems and choosing to live apart from the others.
Breathing deeply and closing his eyes, Sakurai’s last thoughts were of how far the community of immortals, had come; how they had weathered the centuries, facing the trials and tribulations of societal changes, modernization and the loss of members by death or destruction. Imai had destroyed the life Sakurai had given him, and destroyed any possibility of reconciliation, the incident with Tangier solidifying the permanence of the estrangement. As with Imai, Issay had also destroyed his relationship with his maker, albeit temporary. Sakurai’s child had redeemed himself in Sakurai’s eyes, even as Kai could not be convinced. With his own blood spouse to care for, Eiji had been the single influence in Issay’s redemption.
They had all settled into a cautious existence., trying to live normal lives, (as normal as a vampire could) but as predicted, the weekly phone calls they had promised the young ones, were causing headaches for two of the leaders, with some pushback from Ayato and Uta.
“We agreed, no more than once per week.”
“No, you decided that without asking our opinions. Those are the leader’s rules,” Uta argued with Sakurai.
“What is so critically important that you cannot wait three more days, or is this just another reason to gossip with Ayato?”
“We’re not gossiping!” Uta protested, “We’re just exchanging information.”
Both Ayato and Uta had been chastised by their leaders for using the telephone to scheme and gossip. It had annoyed Kyo so much, that he dragged his mate to Reo’s office, for a scolding.
“Tell him he can’t use that damned telephone more than once a week, or I’ll tear it out.” Kyo none too gently shoved Ayato towards Reo’s desk.
The clan leader frowned, “Is this a problem, Ayato?”
Ayato looked down, scuffing his feet on the wood floor, “It wouldn’t be, if I could call more than once a week,” he huffed.
“AYATO!” Kyo snapped, “Mind your manners, boy.”
“And how do you expect to pay for these extra calls?” Reo knew Ayato would have no clue to how the billing for telephones worked.
“Extra calls?” the young man stammered, “It costs extra to call more than once a week?”
“Mmhmm,” Reo nodded, “It’s not safe for you to work outside the clan house, so how do you expect to compensate me?”
Ayato’s shoulders slumped in defeat, “Okay, um…I won’t complain any more.” With a light bow, he turned and left the room.
“That’s a lie, isn’t it?” Kyo smirked at Reo, “It doesn’t cost any more than normal.”
“Yes, but he doesn’t need to know that.”
It wasn’t just the issue of Ayato and his telephone usage, there were other problems on the rise with Clan Aichi; an influx of Yakuza in Kyoto. There had always been a human criminal element, but it had always been controlled and allowed to function in Kyoto, with supervision by Reo and the assistance of local government officials. It wasn’t until 1933, that the oyabuns had collectively started to push back against both the clan and the government. At first, Reo allowed the city officials to attempt to control the increasing crime. It wasn’t until a late-night raid of a known Yakuza clubhouse, that Clan Aichi was called in.
“We would have not approached you had it not been so serious of an issue, but there are children involved.” The police commissioner explained to Reo.
A low growl was heard in the room, Reo raising a hand to silence who he knew was Kyo. “In what way were children involved?” The commissioner glanced at an obviously angry Kyo.
“There had been an increase in what had initially been reported as runaways.” The man shifted nervously, avoiding Kyo’s burning gaze. “We received an anonymous tip that led us to a building on the outskirts of the city.”
“Go on,” Reo had his eyes closed as he leaned on his elbows at his desk.
“Once we gained entry into the building, and arrested those present…” the man looked down for a moment, “we found fourteen girls under the age of twelve, and nine boys under the age of ten, all being held in two makeshift jail cells.” Without a word, Kyo stormed out of the room. Reo opened his eyes, and waved off Asanao’s attempt to go after Kyo. “Human trafficking?”
The official snorted, “that is our conclusion, yes. Of course, they tried to lie their way out of it, saying that they were helping the children, but it was obvious by their injuries, the children had been subjected to both physical, and psychological abuse.
“Have you returned the children to their families?” Reo knew Kyo would ask the same question.
The man’s expression turned to anger, “This is why we have come to ask for your, um…specialized help. Some of the children are now orphans, their families were killed during the abductions.”
Jyou, who had remained silent, gasped, “What?” Hazuki reached out and held his mate’s hand.
“Yes. Out of the twenty-three children, seven are now orphans.”
Reo shook his head sadly, “Tell me who these men are, who is the leader and Clan Aichi will take care of it before dawn. Also, tell me where the orphan children are living, I will make arrangements for their care.” As much as Reo was hesitant to be involved in human politics or policing, this act by the Yakuza had crossed the line and Clan Aichi would not tolerate attacks on the innocents.
“What are we going to do about this, Reo?” Kyo stormed back into the room, “Who’s going to take care of those kids?” The diminutive man was livid, only returning to Reo’s office after the city official had gone.
Reo once again held his hand up to quell Kyo’s rage, “I am open to suggestions, but they will be cared for none the less.”
The idea that Reo wanted opinions had thrown Kyo’s anger off immediately, “Um…well, I guess you could…” the man stuttered, unsure of how to respond.
Reo smirked, “There is still time, the children will not be released from the hospital for another few days.”
“Good! Make sure that they’re safe.” Kyo turned to leave, stopping just short of the door and without looking back, “I’d like to visit with the kids once they’re settled, they’re going to need to know that they’re safe.” With a grunt, Kyo left Reo’s office.
In 1934, Morrie’s movie theater had shifted from a film theater to becoming a very profitable jazz club, providing a new venue for local musicians. The new venue was called ‘The O’, in tribute to his original theater, ‘The Oriental’, (though everyone believed it was really ‘Otsuka’). It was Miya who brought the idea of a music venue to Morrie’s attention. “We need to have a back up plan,” he claimed, “what if the theater stops being profitable?”
“How do you know of this?” Morrie was hesitant, “how do you know a music venue would work?”
“You obviously have not been reading the news out of Osaka. They’ve already had a jazz club for over a year, and more are opening every week. We should cash in on this, it’s a sure bet on a business scale. A music venue can evolve with time as music styles change. It could be the single most important business for the clan.” Miya had always been a music fan, and the thought of having a club for live music was almost more than he could stand.
“Before I agree to anything, we need to present this to the family.”
The transformation of The Oriental from a movie theater, to a music venue, had been a daunting endeavor. There had been more than a few instances where Morrie doubted Miya’s vision; finally handing the decision making to Tatsurou. “I trust you; you have more patience than I ever will,” was his excuse. Tatsurou’s supposed patience was put to the test daily, as he and Miya had conflicting ideas.
“Wait! You want how many tables? I thought this was a music venue, not a restaurant.”
Miya threw back his head in frustration and sighed, “Do you expect our customers to stand all night? We have to have tables and chairs for the guests, we’re offering drinks, not food.”
Six months later, The O’ opened its doors and from the very first night, was a huge success, with the clan members staffing the venue, and working together much like they had at the theater.
“Can I say it?” Miya grinned at Morrie and Tatsurou.
“I told you so.”
Inoran continued living with Yusuke, Heath and Rin, his life was now consumed with literature. He had gone as far as publishing a book on the subject of vampiric folklore, under a pseudonym, much to the amusement of his friends, “If they only knew…” was a frequent comment. However, the dull throbbing ache that constantly resonated throughout Inoran’s body, left him feeling the weight of the centuries of immortality pressing down on him. “Has it really been over nine hundred years? No wonder I’m tired,” he chuckled. In fact, it had been 1037 years; over a millennium of immortality. Did his peers feel the same pressure? Was the weight also too heavy for them to bear?
“You need to see a doctor.” Yusuke had said on more than one occasion.
Inoran scoffed, “And what shall I tell them when they listen for a heartbeat, or feel for a pulse? No Yusuke, there are no mortal doctors that would treat me, and as far as we know, there are no immortal doctors either. I’m just tired, there’s nothing else wrong with me, please leave me alone.” Inoran shut and locked the door to his study, leaving a perplexed Yusuke standing in the hall.
Yusuke’s worried look, gave Heath pause, “Is it really that bad?”
“I think it is, but you know how he is, too stubborn to admit he’s not well.”
“Leave us alone, we have nothing to say.”
This was the standard response from the unknown and unaffiliated immortals that crossed the clans’ paths, often frustrating Reo’s members in particular. “What are they hiding…or who?” Kyo would growl and complain to Reo any time there was a new confrontation. The leaders would then call each other to report yet another incident. “Two older females this time, both about fifty, but Kyo said he could not tell how long they’d been immortal.” Reo explained to Morrie.
“Hiro and Daisuke saw a group of four young men, barely out of their teens, hiding in that old stone hut behind the Shrine. Isshi said he’d been aware that they were lurking nearby, but you know he will no longer approach anyone.” Morrie huffed in frustration. “Also, Atsushi has heard voices near his estate. He’s sent Uehara out every time, but there was nothing to be found.”
“I suggest we continue as we have, and perhaps we will get lucky at some point, and they will speak with us. Until then, we wait."