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Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3

In the world of Liminal Chronicles

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Chapter 2

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April 4th

A date etched in my mind. People avoid the number four because it sounds like the word for death. Normally I don’t put heed to superstitions. But today sucks so badly, I blame being out of food on the doubled unlucky digit. 

The class in middle school that warned us about the Japanese mafia gives me one last option.

Clutching an umbrella in the pouring rain, I hoof it over to the combini to snag one of the yakuza fan magazines. The mob groups aren't out in public in many neighborhoods. But they're well known enough they have comics and subscriptions published by big companies here in Tokyo. Steeling my courage to answer the ad on the back page, I use my remaining cash to buy a ticket to the entertainment district, Kabukicho.  

The address leads me to a well kept white building in a wide alley off the main drag. An insignia that reminds me of a crane hangs beside what must be the kanji for the clan name. I only recognize one of the symbols but can sound out the romanized pronunciation underneath—Hiragi Kaikan (meeting hall). 

Jeez, it’s true they label their buildings, operating a published headquarters just like a respectable company.

The realization doesn’t stop my hand from shaking. Pressing the buzzer, I stare into the security camera through the rain pelting my clear umbrella.

Ferret-like narrowed eyes meet mine as they peek through a crack. “State your business.”

Closing my umbrella I give a deep bow, putting my hands together in a prayerful position. “Let me join the Hiragi Clan.”

“Forget it, boy. Go home.”  The door slams.

So I ring the bell again. As the metal door opens, I drop to the most debasing and vulnerable of positions, the dogeza. On my knees, I put my head to the wet ground. “Please.”

The man growls, but the opening is wider this time. “We don’t recruit kids. I said, go home.” 

“There’s nowhere else to go.” My voice cracks, betraying my desperation.

“You won’t hack it. Think of your parents.”

“My dad’s dead, Mom’s in another country. I haven’t had a decent meal in weeks.”

“You can’t return to normal life once you join.”

“I already stole to survive, Sir.”

He sighs. “What about school? You won’t be able to graduate.”

“Haven’t been back in a year.” Rough cement digs into my knees and palms as my soaked clothing clings to my skin. Shivering dislodges drops from my long hair.

From inside another man’s voice calls. “Otsuka-kun why are you keeping our guest outside in the rain?”

Daring to look up, I spot shined shoes and a tailored suit.

The guard’s words and sweeping gesture contradict his predatory gaze. “Please, come in.” With a tightened mouth, his triangular face holds no friendliness. The confident stance, close-cropped hair, crisp white shirt, and complicated necktie knot indicate perfection and control. Two aspects I lack.

Am I fresh meat?

To hide my gulp, I recover my umbrella.

Fighting nausea, I force my feet to step into an office with a tiled floor and dark wood accents, give a bow of gratitude, and succumb to a chill deeper than the spring rain. 

A stocky man in a three-piece suit tilts his head. “Who is this?”

Hesitation earns me a flick on the ear from ferret eyes. “Answer.”

“U…Umeji Tatsuya, Sir. I wish to join.” My respectful bend is the deepest I’ve ever given.

“His bow is sloppy. What do you think Otsuka-kun?”

“No one else will want the brat.” Ferret eye’s emotionless words send another shudder down my spine.

 

That night Otsuka sees to my needs. “If I’m gonna sponsor you, you gotta look the part.”

Dragging me along, he has me measured for a suit and grabs dinner, before dropping me off at the gang office to meet the other initiates.

“Thanks.”

“Tomorrow, you’ll wish you’d never met me.” 

I already do, because I owe him more than can be repaid.

April 5th

To my surprise, the tailor has the suit ready in the morning. Otsuka swings by so we can pick it up. As I get in the Lexus sedan, his knuckles turn white on the wheel and his voice grows thick. “Boy, this is your last chance. I’ll drop you anywhere in the Tokyo area, no questions asked. You don’t want this life.”

My head droops. “If I had anywhere else to go…”

I half expect him to drive like a maniac, considering the emotion he showed. Pulling onto the street, he returns to cold, clinical control. “From here on out, show no hesitation or vulnerability. You have to become the best of the best fast, so you don’t slow me down. Embarrassment won’t be tolerated. Understand?”

“Yes, Otsuka-san.”


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