Status: On hiatus currently but will be coming back.

Ano Ne


It was already a remarkable day, and the crows, crowding the dull curves of the prison gate’s twin baroque domes, perched in silent awe before it. One ruffled its feathers, a piercing eye taking in both the still-early sunset and, swiveling, the black Mercedes parked in the wide concrete entranceway. The car shone with the luster of a newly minted coin, and drew each glint as if sapping it directly from the sun’s waning rays. The crow concluded that it controlled the sun’s path itself, and probably the secret rumblings of the Earth, too. It had seen things that day, things like the ocean turning upside down and renouncing its age-old feud with fire. Things that had spurred it to fly farther south, though plum blossoms were shyly waking up all over the country. The side door opened, and it let out a lone caw in reverence.

The scavenger was almost correct in its surmising, for the Mercedes was one of a fleet belonging to the single most influential man in the entire archipelago, from its frosty northern tip to its southernmost tropics. He coerced business owners into paying him protection money, stockholders into selling their shares, and adulterous husbands into burying the proof with cash. He and his group operated in the highs and lows of society, lurking in the shadows of both legal enterprises and those not. He was the force behind entertainment and garbage collection, gambling and the real estate market. He was the life and death of Japan. And he had continued to be so from behind bars for the past six years.

One immaculately polished shoe followed another as a man bowed out of the back seat, careful to avoid catching his slicked-back hair on the doorway’s lip. Outside, he straightened up, revealing a pressed suit and a pair of thin glasses frames to complete the ensemble. Mishima Yuujiro, newly initiated into his fifth decade of life, could almost pass for one of the many salarymen who cluttered narrow city alleyways after dark and then lurched forward on trains, a long day of work behind them—all shōchū-tinted breath and a lonely desperation that sometimes manifested itself in broken English when a foreigner with a little something more than a B-cup got too close. But something about Mishima was hard and closed, so cold as to be nearly synthetic, like the glass eye that floated in a pit of scarring on his left profile. As he walked past, the salarymen’s gazes found a new target in the matte leather of their own shoes, images of elaborate tattoos springing up in the cracks and fades. They could sense his difference, and that difference was that he was the wakagashira—the number two—of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza organization.

Mishima stiffened to attention as the complex’s heavy iron gates screeched open before him, hinges wailing. Two prison guards flanked a broad figure, the shock of white hair on his head standing out in stark contrast to the Japanese black peeking meekly out from under the brims of the guards’ hats.

On March 11, 2011, Sato “Sugar” Yuki had served out most of his six year sentence for gun possession, and now left the confines of Chiba Prison at 5:30 p.m., a time when the press would be too defeated to come sniffing around out of curiosity and thus destroy the hushed nature of Sato’s release. Everyone involved agreed there was no need to alarm the public.

The guards fell back, and Mishima bowed steeply. With that one motion all the power Sato had seemed to have lost during his stint was relinquished back to him. Holding the car door open, Mishima gestured his boss inside. He got in opposite him and lowered his head in deference. Aside from his weekly visits to the compound, Mishima was no longer familiar with the position of subordinate; he called upon the great reservoirs of respectfulness all Japanese men must harbor to get him through this now. The maintenance of his rank depended on it, as did that of his appendages. He hadn’t lost a digit yet, thanks to a well-disciplined cautiousness. If he continued in that vein, he might be the one to succeed Sato.

A rough voice, one that sounded like it was born of gravel deep in the chasms below Isengard, abraded his ears. “Keep your head up. Don't feign respect you do not have. I’ll win it back. Fill me in on what’s happened in the past week.” The kumichō motioned, palm up, for Mishima to reprise his role as opportunistic right-hand man.

Mishima smiled inwardly at the dare, but didn’t allow it to reach his face. He raised his eyes, studied the craggy ruins of Sato’s features and the grandfatherly crow’s feet that betrayed them, and elected to use keigo, the honorific language. “There was an earthquake this morning, Oyabun. It brought a tsunami in Tōhoku.”

“Yuu-chan,” Sato purred softly, barely above the vehicle’s motor. The sun had dipped below a mountain range in the distance, painting the car interior in murky shadows with its absence.

Mishima’s impassive expression did little to hide the very physical realization that he had taken a misstep. He stopped breathing. His hands tensed on either side of him, but made no move to grip the seat. His posture was impeccable, and none of it mattered.

Sato spoke slowly, the speed he usually reserved for speaking with foreigners. “Yuu-chan, I felt it. The earthquake. I know everything, NHK is always on.” He gradually took on a more conversational tone, and Mishima, though his external appearance didn’t change, relaxed into the safety net he’d strung up for himself over the years while proving his loyalty. “Those Jews, they watched it too, and not a word of Japanese to share between them. We practiced speaking English together, but I think I was better. Israel, huh?” Sato ran his tongue over the top row of his teeth, stained with rot from an era in which dental health wasn’t popular, especially for a punk causing trouble on the streets.

Mishima looked past him and nodded. “I see, sir.”

The authoritative quality was back in his voice as he laid out instructions. “Get helicopters to fight the fires. I want men pumping water into that reactor when the generators go out, and I want people to know it’s us. This is an opportunity bigger than Kobe ’95, and nobody will deny us extending our reach to save lives. Set up an organization to figure out long-term aid. I want the Aizukotetsu-kai’s Takahashi-kun behind it in Kyoto. We still have an agreement with them, ne?” Sato’s face had broken out into a huge grin, decaying incisors slick with the spit of excitement.

“Yes, sir.”

Sato frowned at Mishima’s inaction. “Do it now!” he commanded, snarling the order in his impatience. A beat later he changed his mind, as Mishima was in the very act of dialing, and halted him. “No, wait. First, was there anything else?”

Mishima lowered the phone to his lap. “The rumor, Oyabun, the one about Yamane. It’s true; he’s back. He has a group now near to the temple where he pretends to be a monk.”

Sato flared his nostrils, the tiny burst capillaries snaking through the wings like liquid fire in a flash of light from a streetlamp. “Send Oyama to infiltrate his group. Circulate a hamonjo so other families think he’s left the Yamaguchi-gumi and won’t do business with him. Have him go crawling to Yamane, who will take him in to spite me. I need to know what Yamane is up to before I release the zetsuenjo.”
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I kind of wish there was an author's note at the beginning, but anyway. Shochu is an alcoholic beverage with between 15-35% alcohol that is sometimes sold in juice boxes with a red devil on the side. Salaryman (sarariiman) is the Japanese term for white-collar businessman. Japanese last names come before first names. The suffix -chan is a term of closeness added to someone's name. It can also be extremely rude if used in an inappropriate context. Anything else you can google, or you could just wait for it to be explained in further chapters. This is a Green Day fic, so don't worry, they'll show up next chapter.

I lived in Japan for eight months, and this story is the product of my love affair with its dark side. Enjoy!