Tsukasa could only curse in her head as she heard Asago’s childish rant.
Tsukasa understood the girl was worried for her father, no, really, she did. It wasn’t every day your father is shot at, and hit (although it was probably more common in the yakuza world than the civilian one). It sucked. Tsukasa had actually lost her parents not that long ago due to the yakuza – she understood Asago’s feelings more than most.
But that did not allow the annoying monkey to blame whomever she pleased.
Asago shouldn’t be reprimanding the bodyguards for not catching the wannabe assassins, but rather praising them for managing to save her father! They did the best they were able to with the tools at their disposal! They can’t magically both shield her father, make sure he’s unhurt, and run after the culprit. Even Tuskasa wasn’t that good!
(Frankly, Tsukasa thought the Silver Dragon Clan was a bit lacking in their security. The boss only had two bodyguards on him. Ryuuji had Tsukasa with him at all times, Bun-san and Kamo-san most of the time, and on top of that was an incredible fighter himself. But maybe that was an unfair comparison to make.)
Tsukasa looked to her right where the Sumon Branch Head’s bodyguards were silently accepting the humiliating dressing down delivered by the Sumon princess. The cross dresser was dearly tempted to kick Asago in the face right now when she saw the bodyguards’ shoulders progressively becoming more hunched, and their expressions more pained. Couldn’t Asago see how guilty the two bodyguards already felt? Did she have to make them feel even worse?! Especially when they had actually done a good job in the first place?!
Then Tsukasa remembered how Asago felt about bodyguards – she had likened them to meat shields, hadn't she? Only use was to get hit by bullets to shield their clients. Tsukasa was disgusted with this disregard for human life. It showed an appalling lack of respect for the people that were risking their lives to help the blonde girl’s family!
It seemed Asago had finally finished her tirade.
When Tsukasa looked back up, her expression was stony, so different from the usual carefree and humorous faces she was famous for. Ryuuji, of course, noticed, as he noticed everything about Tsukasa. He could guess as to the reasons for such a face, and silently agreed. Honestly, Asago still had to grow up a lot before she’d become a good seisai.
Aoki and Matsuda, the bodyguards that had received the verbal beat down in question, felt an intense aura to their left that managed to distract them from their overwhelming guilt. They were startled to find the Sandaime’s bodyguard with a grave expression. It surprised them, as they had always seen him being silly, comical, or overly dramatic. Not someone people would really take seriously. Now, though, faced with such intensity, they could understand a little better why someone like this had been chosen by Sandaime to be his bodyguard.
Tsukasa’s expression sent ice through their veins.
The person that not two minutes ago had been acting like a kid on a sugar high now stood calm and composed, the image of a powerful force of nature, deserving of respect. He was staring at the young Sumon girl, eyes hard with disapproval. Somehow, the two bodyguards couldn’t tear their gazes away. Something about that person’s aura demanded their attention.
“You two! I want you out! Out of this room! I can’t stand to see your incompetent faces!” Asago cried, startling them out of their incomprehensible focus on the Sandaime's bodyguard.
Aoki and Matsuda succeeded in tearing their gazes away from Tsukasa and back to their mistress. Silently and obediently, they left the room, but waited right outside the doors. Even after the humiliating way they were treated they still diligently carried out their duty as bodyguards.
They almost didn’t notice when a third figure followed them out.
Tsukasa couldn’t bear to stay in the same room as that ungrateful harpy anymore. If she stayed there any longer, she’d either throttle the harpy or spontaneously combust out of pure irritation. Honestly, to think that such annoying people exist in the world, she thought. Why does Ryuuji even put up with her?
Tsukasa also had an alternate reason for leaving the room. And they were conveniently standing right outside the door.
Aoki and Matsuda watched, perplexed, as Tsukasa followed them out of the room. When he wasn’t jumping or rolling around, they noticed, he moved with a fluid grace found only in experienced fighters. As though the boy was intensely aware of each part of his body, making no unnecessary movements. It seemed he was ready for anything that may occur.
Aoki and Matsuda were ex-military. They knew a fighter when they saw one. And that deadly grace couldn't be faked.
The two men felt their respect for the civilian boy involuntarily go up a notch. Perhaps, despite others' protests, the Sandaime did choose his bodyguard wisely.
But Tsukasa was not done surprising them.
As Tsukasa turned around to look at the two men, they felt the weight of the young boy's gaze. Physically, they towered over the young boy, and yet he emitted such an aura of utter domination, that they felt small and inconsequential in comparison. Upon feeling the boy's eyes on them, the two immediately shifted to attention, straightening their spines and pushing their shoulders back as though they were in the presence of a superior. The two bodyguards didn’t understand their reactions, but they didn’t question – they couldn’t question. Not under the weight of that intense stare.
“What are your names?” Tsukasa asked.
Suddenly, both men bowed.
“Aoki Tanegawa, s-!” Aoki cut himself off.
“Matsuda Fujiwara!” Matsuda shouted right after.
Both men had to bite off the “sir” that was at the tip of their tongues after saying their names. Why were they both acting this way towards a civilian gaki?
“Aoki Tanegawa and Matsuda Fujiwara, huh?” Tsukasa mused to himself, "Those are good, strong names."
The lighthearted air that came with Tsukasa's musings abruptly ended as the boy focused piercing green eyes on them. All of their attention was focused solely on the mysterious being in front of them. The bodyguard’s aura was still strong- not oppressive so much as overwhelming. Unable to be ignored.
“Good job, both of you.”
The bodyguards abruptly looked up from their bowed positions, startled. On Tsukasa’s face was an almost proud smile, one that inexplicably filled Aoki and Matsuda with warmth. Oddly, they were reminded of a mother, proud of her children after they had done something well.
They were quickly reminded of what she could be talking about, however, and soon began to protest.
“Not at all, Tsukasa-san!” Aoki vehemently contradicted, “We have failed! Under our supervision, the boss was wounded! He has to stay at the hospital for a month due to our failure to protect him!”
“Not only that,” continued Matsuda, “but we also failed to capture the culprit. Asago-sama was right! We are useless and - ”
“Quiet!” The loud order cut Matsuda off.
The two bodyguards straightened and abruptly became silent.
“You will listen to me,” Tsukasa began slowly. “You did not fail." Tsukasa glared sharply at them, silencing their forthcoming protests. "Yes, the Sumon boss was wounded," Tsukasa admitted.
"But he is alive. You two were the ones who kept him alive. No human could’ve both shielded the boss from assassins, made sure the boss didn’t aggravate his wound, and gone after the culprits! You had to choose between making sure your boss was safe and going after the assassins. You chose to ensure your boss’s safety. You did exactly as you should have done! And you were most certainly not useless!” Both bodyguards looked at the 14-year-old bodyguard, stunned. Each word seemed to be relieving them of a bit of their burden. “If I hear either of you listening to that spoiled girl’s inane rants, and actually taking them to heart, again there will be hell to pay! Do you understand that?”
“Yes, sir!” came the automatic reply.
“Good.” Tsukasa paused, voice back to a normal. “Now I’ll repeat myself.”
Tsukasa took a deep breath, calming herself before opening her eyes. She looked at both bodyguards before steadily responding.
Aoki and Matsuda looked at the young bodyguard, moved. They felt proud again, reassured that they had not failed. There was only one thing they could say. Simultaneously bowing low, they shouted:
“Thank you, sir!”
Later, Aoki and Matsuda would tell others of what had happened, of how the civilian gaki that the Sandaime had taken as a bodyguard was more than he seemed. Of the powerful aura he commanded, as well as his surprising insights and warm acceptance. A good leader, Aoki and Matsuda had said, worthy of being beside the Sandaime. Tsukasa had not realized, but she had inadvertently gained two followers for life in Aoki and Matsuda.
The story told by the two bodyguards spread to kumin in the different branches, mostly treated with disbelief. Years later, however, as Tsukasa sat beside Ryuuji as the seisai (and a woman), people would think back on this story and wonder how they hadn’t seen it coming.