Chapter 16

TW: References to violence.

(Monday, April 5th after 23:35)

ZHCh 16Maseo sat in the passenger seat of Asami’s black Mercedes.  It was after 23:35.  There was traffic in Shinjuku but once they’d left the city and driven towards Minato Ward, traffic had thinned out.

It had been a long time since he’d been in a car.  He couldn’t remember the last time.  It was probably when he went with Asami to his father’s funeral.  Asami stayed focused on the road.  He’d changed into a different suit, shirt, and tie.  Maseo realized after hanging up the phone with Kirishima that Asami had been wearing funeral clothes.  At least he was smoking again.

“Did you go to Jin’s funeral today?”

“I went to his wake.”

“I would have come with you.”

“It wasn’t necessary.  Kirishima came with me,” said Asami.  Maseo flinched but just barely.

“Did someone try to kill you there?” Maseo kept his voice steady to keep Asami from noticing his reaction at Kirishima’s name.

“What better place than a wake?” said Asami, “Yes.  Kirishima and I were outside the funeral home.  A car came by and someone in the back seat started shooting.”

“How do you know they were after you?”

“The only other people around were some kids.  They took the brunt of the bullets because Kirishima managed to get me out of the way in time.”  Asami took a drag on his cigarette then slowly exhaled the smoke.

“He’s a good man,” Maseo muttered.

Asami looked at Maseo as long he could before he had to look at the road again.  “You always did like him.  I think you liked him the first time you saw him.”

Maseo looked out the passenger window, not replying.  They were getting closer to the water.  He could see the bay between the warehouses as they drove by.

“Was he who you were with?”

“Yes, but I don’t want to talk about it right now,” said Maseo.  He was blushing.  He was glad the car was mostly dark.

“Obviously you seduced him,” said Asami.  He tapped the cigarette on the dashboard ashtray then looked at him again, eyes narrowed.  “You didn’t try to force him, did you?”

Maseo started.  “Of course not!  I would never do…anything like that.”  He paused.  “I might have used a bit of persuasion here and there.  In the beginning, maybe.  He wasn’t unwilling, just surprised.”  He turned towards Asami.  “I asked his permission each time I wanted to take things farther.  Unlike someone I know.”  His voice was flat.

Asami laughed just a little.  It was a slightly hoarse sound.  “Poor Kei.  I don’t think he’s been with anybody in a long time and then to be seduced by you.  He must have been completely overwhelmed.  Did you have sex with him?”

“I said I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”  Maseo let the cold commanding tone creep into his voice again though he knew Asami would ignore it.   In spite of his annoyance, he was glad to see that Asami had relaxed a little.

“Since you don’t want to talk about it, I’ll assume you did.  Was it good?”

“Didn’t you hear what I said, Ryuichi?”  Maseo was flushed scarlet.

“It must have been very good if you’re being that defensive.”

“Stop it!” Maseo was glaring at him.

Asami chuckled then became serious again. “You told him about Tsuji.  How did you find out that information?”

Maseo looked down at the floor.  “I might have done some unauthorized digging around.  There was something wrong about Tsuji even though he was with you from the start.  I felt he’d gotten untrustworthy.  He was jealous of Kei—of Kirishima—because you chose him over Tsuji for First Assistant.”

He looked up to see Asami smiling slightly.  “That’s not like you, Maseo.  Haven’t you always told me how important it is not to meddle in these affairs?”

“I get…I get tired of it, Ryuichi.  I have these…abilities and yet I’m not supposed to use them.  I’m only supposed to observe and help people feel better.  Jin was my friend.  I know I should have left it alone but I couldn’t, not when he was well on his way to recovering so I went digging around.”

“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

“You know Tsuji’s jealousy caused a rift in your organization, right?”

Asami sighed.  “Yes, I know.  I should have dealt with it earlier but I was focused on Jin’s recovery and retaliating against Andou.  Kei took care of it anyhow as I knew he would.”

Maseo frowned.  He wasn’t used to thinking of Kirishima as a murderer but there was no getting around this fact.  He glanced at Asami, remembering the shock he’d experienced after Asami had killed someone for the first time.

“Why don’t you tell me where we’re going and why,” said Maseo, trying to focus on something else.

“I just want to see,” said Asami.

“See what?  Why don’t I just go ahead of you and check back?”

“I have to see with my own eyes.”  Asami had stubbed out his cigarette and was holding the steering wheel too tight.  “You know this about me, Maseo.”

Maseo waited for Asami to say more but he stayed focused on the road.

“Obviously you’re not going to tell me anything else.”  He glanced outside.  They were driving along the docks.  The huge white orb of the full moon was reflected on the black water.  He thought about what he’d need to do to keep Asami safe.  He was up to the task, as always, but Asami was no ordinary man and this made his enemies less ordinary as well.

The car slowed down and pulled off to a side street.  Asami switched off the headlights.  There were very few streetlights.  Maseo looked around.  The warehouses were close together in this section.  There were no people or other cars around.

“Why would someone want to kill you?” asked Maseo.

“You really have to ask that?”

“I was just wondering if it was anything specific this time.”

“I killed Andou and destroyed his organization recently.”

“Yes, you did but you gave them fair warning.  You were reasonable about it.”

Asami looked at him, surprised.  “I think after all these years you’re finally accepting who and what I am.”

Maseo looked at the dashboard again.  It was 23:35.  “I’ve always accepted who and what you are, Ryuichi.  That doesn’t mean I have to like the things you do.  We are an odd pair, aren’t we?”

“The very good with the very bad,” said Asami.  They sometimes indulged in this exchange.  It had become a ritual over the years, a way to connect back to when they first met.

Asami pulled off the street up next to a warehouse near the dock.  He parked the car and cut the engine.  “You called Kei before we left, right?”

“You set up this entire scenario so your men would come after you,” said Maseo, “Of course I called him.

“Good.  Kei and Kazumi aren’t going to be happy with me but this was the only way I could get them to come with me.”  Asami paused. “I’m not as stressed as you think.”

“Yes, you are,” said Maseo, “Stay here.  I’m getting out first and taking a look around.”  Maseo got out of the car, closing the door quickly.

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