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Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3

In the world of Liminal Chronicles

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Chapter 3

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September 9th

I've spent the past months being trained to defend myself and learning the ways of the clan. Today is the big day. 

Inside the boss’s house, a mixture of traditional woods and furniture exude an upscale feel. Touches of elegance greet the eye, from the orchids in bloom on the tokonoma to the suits of samurai armor on display. Upgrading the old structure to have modern amenities, such as the heated floors warming my slippered feet, must have cost a fortune.
Members usher me and the five other initiates to a large spartan room, showing off the luxury of open space. Being the best-dressed one for the occasion makes my stomach tighten since it signifies Otsuka's expectations of me. At the far end sits an ornate built-in altar covered in offerings of salt, fish, rice, and sake. Kneeling formally on the tatami, we wait. 

When the oyabun strides in with the presence of an emperor surveying his kingdom, everyone bows deep until he’s seated on a silk cushion. We initiates keep our eyes averted while the boss speaks with quiet command. “Today when you drink sake, you swear to uphold our code of honor as descendants of the samurai. You promise never to reveal our secrets, violate the women or children of your brothers, be personally involved with narcotics, withhold any money from your superiors, or go to the police unless you turn yourself in to protect those above you. 

“You commit to putting this new family ahead of anyone or anything else, including your wives, children, even your own lives. While the Hiragi Clan does not ask you to cut ties with your blood kin, it may be in your best interest. Your duty is to live with this relationship for the remainder of your life.*”

The boss calls initiates’ names one by one, sharing a cup of sake with them. They repeat the ritual with their sponsor, who becomes their kyoudai (big brother).

Fighting the twitching in my fingers, I try to ignore my numbing legs and the oppressive unease.

“Umeji Tatsuya.”

Is calling me last a test?

Tingling, stiff legs cause me to plop down ungracefully in front of the boss.

Otsuka kneels to the side. As he pours sake into the miniature cup, I can feel his glare. 


Wrinkles carve the hands of the boss about to own my future. With purpose and grace, those fingers lift the drink. Less than half remains when they turn the vessel toward me. Stilling my tremors, I put the rim to my lips, gulping it down. His fragile face doesn’t look like he should command life and death until I meet those callous eyes. My throat burns not from the alcohol, but his gaze. 

The vessel accidentally clinks on the low table bringing a flick to the ear from the man to my side.

“Otsuka-kun, can you make something of this boy?” the boss asks. He’s not spoken about any of the others. Crap.

“Not if he doesn’t have more control, Oya-san.”

That brings a chuckle from the old man. “You were nervous too.”

Not asked to speak, I tamp down the words bubbling up inside to reassure them I’ll do my best. I’ll have to demonstrate it.

Another gentleman settles beside us, pouring for my sponsor who accepts the drink and places it back on the table with only a swig left.

Show no fear.

Knocking it back, the liquid tastes bitter this time. 

Silently sliding the cup into place links my fate with that of the Hiragi Clan and my new kyoudai.

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