A/N: Here is Chapter 14, the conclusion of my version of the Misaki Arc. This is the longest chapter of the story by a large margin - clocking in at 9.5k words before edits and notes. I didn't want to split this up because of the break I'll be taking, see the note at the end of the chapter for more info. Enjoy!
Everything Will Be Okay
As the van continued on its way Hina could hear the men mumbling among themselves and Misaki behind her struggling with her bonds, bumping into her occasionally as she did so. After a moment the sound of a phone alert cut through the other sounds and Hina thought to herself, "That's Natsuo-kun's tone! Surely he'll think something is off if I don't respond!"
A moment later the sound a sigh was heard before Hojo spoke up, "Natsuo-kun? Who's that, your boyfriend lady? Looks like he's actually messaged a few times already, bunch of missed notifications. I'll just shut this off, it'll get annoying if I don't." The soft tone of the phone powering soon followed his statement.
"Isn't it bad if someone is messaging her and she doesn't respond?" one of the other men asked warily.
Hojo laughed dismissively in response before saying, "It doesn't matter. Even if this Natsuo guy gets worried and checks the apartment or calls the police, he'll either get taken out by our guy tossing the place, or by the time the police get there he'll be long gone. Either way there's no way they'll find us."
Hearing what Hojo was saying, Hina internally cursed, "Dammit he's right! Natsuo-kun and the police would have no way of finding us, especially if they've shut my phone off... Why didn't I let him know what we were doing?! Why didn't I tell Mari-san what was going on?! He was already looking into this for us!"
The men continued their idle chatter among themselves as the van drove for what felt to Hina and Misaki like an eternity as the dread continued to grow within them. In reality the drive couldn't have been more than thirty minutes before they felt the van slowly come to a stop before the ignition was cut. A moment later they could hear the doors open and the men exit the van before the side sliding door open and Hojo mockingly called, "Ladies we have arrived at our destination, I do hope the ride wasn't too uncomfortable!" A brief pause was followed by his simple order to the other men, "Bring them in, Kai is probably already waiting for us."
The two women immediately felt themselves being pulled out of the van and onto their feet and made to walk forward blindly, following the sound of a pair of footsteps ahead of them. Less than a minute of walking they could tell they had entered a building, a large and empty one based on how their steps echoed. Another moment of walking passed before Hojo ordered, "Alright there is fine."
With his order given Hina and Misaki found themselves being shoved to the ground roughly. A sharp pain shot through Hina's shoulder from where she landed on it, but before she could even process this she found herself able to see again as the blindfold was removed: the first thing she saw was was the terror filled eyes of Misaki directly across from her, less than a foot away. Seeing this she thought, "Misaki... what is going to happen to us? Who is this 'Kai' they keep referencing?"
As the thoughts raced through her mind Hina suddenly felt the gag being removed and she worked her jaw to relieve the ache that had set in, as she did this she saw that Misaki's gag had also been removed. At first she thought that Misaki was also trying to relieve a similar ache but she found she was able to hear Misaki faintly muttering, "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry Hina."
Before Hina could respond to Misaki she heard Hojo ask someone else in the room, "Kai is already here right?"
The man that Hina could not see from her spot on the floor, hands still bound behind her back, replied, "Yes, we got here just a few minutes before you did."
"Let him know we're here. We brought Ogura and the woman she was hiding out with," Hojo stated simply.
As the man's footsteps receded further into the building, which Hina now recognized as a warehouse, Hina called out to Hojo, "Why are you doing this?! What could you possibly hope to get from kidnapping us?!"
Hojo turned to face her and laughed before responding, "Like I said before lady, you've got guts. And to answer your question: I don't hope to get anything from this – just following the boss' orders. You really should be asking that lying bitch in front of you if really want to know why this is happening."
Hina's gaze shifted back to Misaki who frantically shook her head as she trembled, "I don't know why they're going this far! I honestly don't!"
Before anyone else could say anything a new voice called out in a mocking tone, "Ha! You say you don't know why I'm doing this? That's a good one Ogura, you've got some fucking nerve. Did you really think you'd be able pull a fast one on me?"
Hina saw Misaki's pupils contract at the sound of the voice before they both arched their necks in order to see the speaker: a man walked towards them with a casual gait, his face covered with multiple piercings, his hair long but shaved on one side revealing a a large tattoo covering half of his head – its design matching another which peeked out onto his forehead from the other side and another that covered the visible part of his chest, and his face wore a manic smile and glint in his eyes.
As the man came closer Hina blurted, "And who are you?!"
The man paused and blinked in confusion before chucking in amusement as he turned to Hojo and asked, "I assume this is the woman you told me about? The one Ogura's been staying with that 'has some serious guts'?"
Hojo grinned as he answered, "Yeah that's her boss."
"I see," the man laughed as he turned back towards to Hina and stated, "To answer your question, my name is Kai. I'm the one in charge around here, you'd best remember that." Kai resumed his walk until he standing next to both of their heads be fore he squatted down and asked, "Now, what would your name be gutsy lady?"
"Tachibana Hina," Hina replied shortly, her gaze as knives as she locked on to Kai's eyes.
Kai stood back up with a small grunt before he spoke, "You see Tachibana-san, I'm a bit of an entrepreneur... This business of mine has been going just swimmingly, until the numbers started to not add up properly." As he spoke he shifted behind Misaki, in plain view of Hina, before quickly kneeling down and grabbing Misaki by her hair and pulling her head up roughly, causing her to cry out in pain.
"Stop it! You're hurting her!" Hina screamed, tears forming in her own eyes.
Kai cocked his head in mock confusion as he calmly said, "Well... that's the whole point of doing it." He paused to shift his gaze down at Misaki before continuing, "Now then Ogura... the drugs that you stole, that you were supposed to be selling for me, where did you hide them? Are they at her place, your new friend Tachibana-san's?" As he spoke he held Misaki down by shoulder with one hand as he continued to pull her head up by the hair.
"I – I didn't take them Kai... I swear! I gave you all the earnings from the last batch you had me move - all I had left was what I bought from you for my own use!" Misaki pleaded between her gasps of pain.
With a sigh Kai released his hold on her hair and stood up, resulting in Misaki's head slamming into the floor with a thud. As he reached his full height he asserted, "So you're still going deny it. We've already figured you out you know; it's your route that the profits aren't adding up properly on, it's only been a bit here and there over the year but it's really started to add up and I can't ignore it anymore. All in all you're short about three million yen at this point. I checked with all of the route handlers, you've been buying more for yourself than any of the other runners... it wasn't hard to figure out what's going on."
Hina watched as the color slowly drained from Misaki's face as Kai spoke before she managed to defiantly shout, "I told you already Kai, it wasn't me! Someone is lying to you, those shipments didn't go missing on my watch!"
"Ha! You honestly expect me to believe you?" Kai taunted with a menacing tone.
"She's telling the truth!" Hina shouted, causing Kai to turn his gaze towards her curiously as she continued, "There's no way she's been stealing that much! She only had a few doses in her stuff, and when she told me she had decided to quit using I got rid of those, she couldn't have been taking as much as you're claiming she did!"
"You got rid of them... Then I guess we won't be finding any at that apartment then," Kai sighed with a shake of his head. He paced back and forth a few times before he returned to the spot near both of their heads and taunted, "Regardless, I'm more inclined to believe my men as opposed to a lying junkie and the naïve woman she managed to win over. And I have the perfect way for the two of you to make back the missing three million yen."
Misaki gasped, "What do you mean the two of us?! Leave her out of this Kai!"
"No can do Ogura, she knows too much already. Besides, I'm not the one who brought her in to all of this. That would be you," Kai retorted with a mocking smile.
"What exactly do you want from us?" Hina asked hesitantly.
The look on Kai's face shifted from one of mocking into a leer as his eyes went up and down their bodies before he replied, "Well you see, lately I've been thinking about we expand our business, what other goods or services we could provide to customers. And looking at the two of you here I think I've decided on one of the ideas I had."
"What do you mean?" Misaki asked, terror creeping into her voice.
Kai chuckled darkly before he reached over and started groping both of their chests, causing both women to start struggling against their bonds again. Watching them struggle Kai leered, "You know Ogura, I always thought you had a sexy body... but to think you'd find and rope in someone just as good. You have my thanks. I'll make that three million back off of the two of you in no time."
25 minutes earlier...
Natsuo left the station and started walking down the street towards the apartment, checking his phone again and mumbled to himself, "Still no response from Hina-nee... that's odd. Hopefully she and Misaki are home, Boss asked if he could meet up with us there..." As he said this he re-read the short exchange he'd had with Kobayashi.
Boss: Hey Natsuo-chan are you at your apartment? There's some stuff I'd like to talk to you and Hina-chan about and confirm with Misaki-chan.
Natsuo: I'm not at the moment, but I can head over. I'll message Hina-nee to let her know to expect both of us.
Boss: Appreciated, see you all soon!
"This has to be about what Boss was looking into for us... what with Hina telling me that Misaki has a drug addiction she's trying to kick I doubt Boss has good news for us..." Natsuo thought as he put his phone back into his pocket and continued on his way towards his apartment. As he drew near to his destination he saw that the lights were on and muttered to himself, "Huh... they are home. I wonder why Hina-nee hasn't answered then..."
Natsuo started up the stairs and noticed that he was able to hear odd sounds coming from above, and as he got closer slowed down in order listen. After a moment he was able to determine that it sounded as though someone was moving furniture around roughly, causing loud thuds and scraping noises. Much to his alarm he could clearly hear the sounds coming from his apartment as he neared the door and thought to himself, "What the hell is going on? Hina-nee and Misaki wouldn't be moving around furniture..."
His thoughts were interrupted by a male voice coming from inside the apartment, "Dammit! Did she not stash it in here? I can't think of anywhere else in here it could be..."
Hearing this Natsuo slowly reached for the door handle and turned it slowly, suddenly thankful for how quietly his front door always opened as he pushed it open to reveal the inside of the apartment. He immediately saw that the inside of the apartment had been trashed: the furniture had been moved around if not flipped over, cabinets and drawers in the kitchen had been opened and emptied of their contents which were scattered all over the floor. Thinking he saw movement from the balcony door he shifted his gaze that way, not able to see much of the mess in the sitting room but saw a man come into view as he left the bedroom section.
"Hey! What do think you're doing here?!" Natsuo bellowed out in a furious tone as he stepped further into the apartment.
The man in question jumped in surprise at hearing Natsuo's voice and spun to face him as he shouted, "Who the fuck are you?!"
"That's my line! What the hell are you doing in my apartment?!" Natsuo yelled back, still wanting an answer.
"Your apartment? Did Hojo send me to wrong place... but that woman with Ogura had the key to this place..." The man mumbled to himself, though Natsuo was able to hear it.
Natsuo's eyes narrowed and he clenched his fists as he practically snarled, "Ogura, and the lady with her... Where are Misaki and Hina-nee?"
The man's expression shifted from confusion to aggression as he moved into a stance like a cat ready to pounce as he said, "So this is the right place. Sorry dude, but if you say this is your place and Ogura was staying here then the boss is gonna want to talk to you!"
With that said the man rushed Natsuo who simultaneously tried to remember what basic self defense knowledge he'd picked up and cursed himself for never taking a formal self defense course of any kind. As the man neared him he telegraphed a punch with his right hand as he wound it back, Natsuo waited until he swung forward to back step out before he quickly moved back in and delivered a fast jab directly into the man's face which caused him to falter backwards with his hands over his face, a slight trickle of blood visible. Seeing this Natsuo moved and delivered another hard hit to the man's gut, but instead of having the desired affect this just seemed to enrage the intruder who headbutted Natsuo before he could react.
As Natsuo's vision faltered for a brief moment before he felt himself being shoved against one of the counters as the man's hands closed around his throat. As he desperately tried to pry the man's grip lose he could hear him muttering, "Fucking bastard, wasn't expecting you to actually put up a fight. Once you're out cold though I'm going to drag you off to Kai."
"This is bad... if I don't get him off me he's going to choke me out... I won't be able to do anything if I get caught too!" Natsuo thought frantically to himself. The next thing he knew he heard a roar followed by the intruder grunting before he suddenly released his grip on Natsuo's throat. Natsuo took a much needed breath, and as his vision cleared he saw that someone was grappling the intruder from behind, keeping his arms stuck in an upwards position. Natsuo's eyes widened as he recognized who it was and called out, "Kuwaba?!"
"Get him Natsuo!" Kuwaba grunted out as the intruder tried to break out of his hold.
"Where the hell did you come from?!" the man seethed as he failed to get either of his arms free from the lock they were in.
Regaining his footing, Natsuo stepped forward and rained down a volley of punches on the intruder's chest and gut, avoiding his head in order to not risk missing him and hitting Kuwaba. Not used to this kind of exertion, and still not fully recovered from the strangling Natsuo soon found himself out of breath, and the intruder took that opportunity to deliver a strong kick to Natsuo's gut which struck his diaphragm and forced whatever breath he had out and he fell backwards against the counter again.
"Natsuo! You –" Kuwaba was interrupted as the man smashed the back of his head into his face. Kuwaba's grip loosened in response to this and the intruder didn't waste the opportunity to release himself and spun around to deliver two quick but powerful punches to Kuwaba: one to chest and the other to his face, these in combination with the initial hit caused him to falter backwards against the opposite wall.
The intruder put his back to the apartment door and backed up a few steps so he could keep an eye on both Natsuo and Kuwaba as he panted, trying to catch his breath and thought, "Dammit... That guy is inexperienced but he packs a wallop... I think my nose is broken... and where the hell did this other guy come from?" His eyes shifted to the now open balcony door and he let out a hoarse laugh that was almost a wheeze, "You came in through the balcony? Definitely didn't expect that..."
At this point both Natsuo and Kuwaba had regained their composure and looked ready for another round, and seeing this the intruder groaned before he drew a knife that had been concealed by his jacket. Seeing the expressions on the other two men's faces shift he chuckled, "I was hoping to avoid having to use lethal force... but with it being two against one this evens the odds."
Before either could respond the front door flew open again and a new voice asked, "So what will you do when it's three on one?"
Kuwaba looked at the newcomer in confusion but Natsuo smiled in relief as he half laughed, "Hey Boss... was wondering when you'd show up."
The intruder turned enough to face the third man while keeping the other two in his peripherals and asked, "Why the hell do people keep popping up here?"
"Well I was invited, which is more than I can say for you boy," Kobayashi replied in a stern tone, his eyes narrowing as he took a step into the apartment and shut the door behind him before taking a defensive stance.
"This is bad," the intruder thought as he saw this, "This guy is different than the other two. He clearly has experience fighting... and I'm already worn out from dealing with these two. They have me surrounded... I should deal with this third one and get the hell out of here!" With that thought he committed and charged at Kobayashi with his knife held in a position to stab his target. He could hear Natsuo and Kuwaba start moving behind him, he knew he had to land the stab on the man between him and the door get out quickly.
"Amateur," Kobayashi sighed as he deflected what he would later describe as a 'sloppy stab' by catching the man's wrist and forcing his arm upwards. With a sharp twist and a sharp snapping sound the hand went limp before the knife clattered to the ground. Before the man could fully react to this Kobayashi spun around behind him and locked him in a choke hold. As the man struggled to both get free and breathe Kobayashi muttered, "Alright enough of that, time to sleep."
Before long the man went fully limp and Kobayashi dragged him off to the side before laying him down on the floor. Seeing the threat had been resolved Natsuo spoke up, "Thanks Boss... I'm sure we would've been able to handle him, but I'll admit I was worried when he drew that knife."
"Yeah thanks... uh Boss?" Kuwaba added hesitantly.
"No need to thank me, I'm just glad I got here when I did... that could have gotten messy," Kobayashi said with a shake of his head.
Before anyone else could speak there was a knock on the door followed by a voice, "All clear in there?"
Natsuo and Kuwaba had jumped at the sound but Kobayashi motioned to let them know it was okay before he called out, "All clear Ichiban!" With that said the door opened and Ichiban stepped in and took stock of the situation in the apartment. Kobayashi turned to Natsuo before saying, "Natsuo-chan and..."
Natsuo, realizing Kobayashi had trailed off as he did not know Kuwaba spoke up, "This is Kuwaba, he's my neighbor. Kuwaba this Kobayashi-san, but he prefers to go by Mari-san or Boss." Kuwaba simply nodded at this, still processing what had happened.
"Natsuo-chan and Kuwaba-san, this is an old friend of mine: Ichiban," Kobayashi finished as he moved closer to inspect their injuries.
"A pleasure to meet you both, though I wish it was under better circumstances," Ichiban offered as he moved over to the unconscious man.
As Kobayashi finished inspecting their injuries, nodding when satisfied they would be okay Kuwaba asked, "So Boss, who exactly are you? That was pretty impressive how quickly you took that guy down."
Kobayashi smiled slightly as he replied, "I'm a cafe owner, though I do have a lot of martial arts training. Been training since I was kid. I hate to ask this of you Kuwaba-san, but could you give Ichiban a hand?"
Kuwaba look back and forth between Natsuo and Kobayashi, when Natsuo gave him a nod he said, "Okay... I get the feeling I really jumped into something crazy here. Natsuo, I expect an explanation of some kind later."
"You got it Kuwaba. Thank you for everything," Natsuo replied simply.
Kobayashi smiled at Kuwaba reassuringly as he went and helped Ichiban remove the unconscious man from the apartment. His smile dissolved as he turned to Natsuo and asked, "What happened here? Where are Hina-chan and Misaki-chan?"
Natsuo took a breath before responding, "I don't know... from what that guy was saying he was sent here to find something by somebody called Kai. I think whoever this Kai person is has them... at least that's the implication I got from him..."
"Dammit," Kobayashi practically spat before explaining, "I thought we'd have more time before they made a move. I found out that Hojo, the guy you told me about is part of a gang that's started operating around Shibuya... which means that Misaki-chan had some sort of connection to them. I doubt she was anything more than a pawn in their operation, but I don't know for sure and was hoping to confirm the situation with her tonight."
"A gang... and they have Hina-nee and Misaki..." Natsuo mumbled in shock.
Kobayashi put his hand on Natsuo's shoulder before reassuring him, "Don't worry Natsuo-chan, I'm going to go get them. We were able to track down this gang's hideout, I'm going to call in some back up and head straight there."
As Kobayashi turned away and pulled out his phone Natsuo requested, "Take me with you Boss."
"What?" Kobayashi asked he turned back to him, "You want me to take you to this gang's hideout? Natsuo-chan it's going to be dangerous. The backup I'm calling in is the Yakuza family that this gang tried to steal territory from. I appreciate you wanting to back me up but I assure you I've got my bases covered."
"Boss... looking out for those two was my responsibility. I know that it wasn't mine alone, everyone has been helping since the beginning... but I can't ask someone to put themselves in danger, even someone as capable as you, while I sit back and wait. So please Boss, let me do this," Natsuo pleaded, his determination practically a fire in his eyes.
Kobayashi watched him for a moment, looking for any sign of him wavering, when he saw none he nodded and replied, "Alright Natsuo-chan, you win. But you follow my lead and don't do anything rash you got it? I really don't want to have to explain this to Rui-Rui if you get yourself hurt."
"Thanks Boss," Natsuo said gratefully with a small smile of relief.
"Don't thank me yet, you can thank me later once this is all settled. Find something you can use as a weapon and meet me in the lot in two minutes; if you're not down there by then I'm leaving without you, we don't have time to waste," Kobayashi ordered as he quickly left the apartment while dialing a number on his phone.
Natsuo quickly rushed to sitting room closet and found the baseball bat that he kept in there, relieved the intruder hadn't used it. Having quickly secured his weapon he pulled his phone out of his pocket and sighed when he found it was undamaged. Knowing that he was going into something dangerous he quickly typed out a short message to Rui.
Natsuo: Hey Rui, going to be a bit busy tonight so I'm sorry if I don't get a chance to talk to you. I love you.
At the warehouse...
"Get off of her!" Misaki screamed desperately as she flailed on floor, tears pouring from her eyes.
Kai had since dragged Hina a bit further away, but staying within Misaki's line of sight. As Misaki and the other men watched, Hina cried silently as Kai ripped her blouse open to give himself better access to her chest. "Holy shit, your shirt was actually keeping them that restrained, they're even bigger than I thought," he growled as he renewed his fondling.
Hina tried her best to escape his grasp, but bound as she was her squirming only seemed to excite Kai even further. As he roughly handled her she pleaded, "Please... please stop!"
"Oh I don't think so. I can't very well start providing new merchandise to my customers without testing the quality myself firsthand now can I?" Kai leered with a dark chuckle.
Hina and Misaki's eyes both widened at the implication, but Misaki was the only one who was able to find her voice, "What the hell do you mean by that?!"
Kai sighed as he released his grip on Hina's breasts and stood up to face Misaki and retort, "Huh? I thought I was being pretty clear before, guess you're just not thinking clearly..." he trailed off as he approached her. Once he had reached her, his face shifted back into the manic grin he had before as he stated, "I'm going to be selling you two. Guys will pay big money to fuck women with bodies like yours you know. I've been thinking about expanding into prostitution, you and your friend over there are the lucky ladies who'll be the first."
Misaki began trembling in fear as she stated hyperventilating, her vision blurring as a result. Before Kai could say anything else Hina's voice broke the silence, "Why are you doing this?! All Misaki wanted was to get her life back on track! You find a woman down on her luck, have someone pretend to care about, get her addicted and then blackmail her into dealing drugs for you!"
Kai simply stared at Hina as she screamed her tirade, his eyes initially widening and then narrowing as he turned back to Misaki and said, "So you've really been running your mouth huh, I was thinking maybe this new friend of yours didn't know the details... but you went and blabbed everything to her huh."
As Misaki didn't react to his statement he turned to face Hina and responded, "And as for your question: why am I doing this? Why wouldn't I? This little operation of mine has boomed in just a year, we've even managed to steal business and territory from the Yakuza! I need to strike while the iron is hot and keep expanding! And I'm going to make more money off of you then I could with the drugs Ogura stole from me."
"I won't let you..." Misaki muttered, barely audible.
Turning back to face Misaki again Kai asked, "What was that?"
"I said I won't let you..." Misaki repeated as she locked eyes with him before continuing, "I thought my life was over after you roped me into all of this... but then I met people who genuinely showed concern for me, who wanted the best for me and encouraged me. I will not let you destroy Hina's life too you bastard!"
Kai stared at her wide eyed for a moment, but his shock at her boldness quickly shifted to a vacant indifference before he sighed, "Didn't expect you to grow a spine... guess I'll have to dispose of you then..." As he said this he pulled a handgun out of the large pocket it had been concealed in and pointed it at Misaki's head before continuing, "I can't risk you actually doing something to ruin everything. It's a shame though, because of your outburst just now your friend is going to have to pick up your slack and take twice as many customers... hopefully she learns from your mistake."
Seeing the gun Misaki froze in fear again while Hina screamed out, "Misaki! No!"
As Kai's finger moved to pull the trigger a voice called out, "You clearly don't know what you're doing, if you're going to use a gun you should take the safety off. Little kids like you shouldn't play with toys reserved for the big boys."
Everyone in the warehouse froze as they turned towards the voice and saw two figures standing in the frame of the open side door: one wearing a motorcycle helmet obscuring his face and wielding a baseball bat, the other leaning casually against the wall. Hina was the first to find her voice again and called out hopefully, "Mari-san!"
"Sorry we're late Hina-chan, everything will be okay now," Kobayashi said confidently as he straightened up and glared at Kai.
Kai narrowed his eyes as he asked, "Who the hell are you two? Where did you come from?"
"Me? I'm just the humble owner a cafe, though I doubt someone like you would appreciate it. And he's a friend of those two women," Kobayashi answered with a taunting smile pointing towards Natsuo, "And as for where we came from... you haven't been as careful in your operations as you think. You may have evaded the police, but for those who know where to look and who to ask, it was pretty simple to figure out where you were. And now that we're here you're all done playing gangster."
Hojo looked over to Kai who simply nodded his head, seeing this Hojo called out while drawing a knife, "Let's get them boys, there's only two of them!" As he shouted he and the other three men present rushed towards Kobayashi and Natsuo, only one other having a weapon in the form of a crowbar.
"You handle the unarmed ones, I'll take the ones with weapons," Kobayashi ordered as he dashed off to intercept Hojo and the man with the crowbar.
"You got it Boss," Natsuo replied with a nod of his head as he split off towards the other two men.
"Oh you think you're tough shit huh, well we'll see about that!" Hojo yelled as he closed in on Kobayashi and brought the knife down to stab with an icepick grip. He grunted in surprise as Kobayashi caught him by the wrist before using his momentum to pull him forward and down as he slammed his knee directly into Hojo's solar plexus with an audible cracking sound. As Kobayashi released his hold on him, Hojo dropped to the ground struggling to breathe while the knife clattered to the ground.
Kobayashi's eyes locked on to his next target as he kicked the knife away into the darkness around the edges of the warehouse. As he crowbar wielding man advanced cautiously Kobayashi taunted, "So you wanna dance too?" He then quickly closed the distance, provoking the man into swinging the crowbar so he could back step to avoid it. As the swing lost its momentum Kobayashi grabbed onto the crowbar and then simultaneously twisted it out of the man's hand while delivering a backhanded strike to his face with his other hand. While the man was trying to recover from this initial strike Kobayashi slammed the crowbar into his face and he dropped to the ground limply before Kobayashi tossed the crowbar away as well.
"What the..." Kai muttered as he stared in disbelief. He'd just watched an unarmed man disarm and disable two of his men without breaking a sweat in no more than five seconds. He risked a glance at the others and saw that Natsuo had also disabled one of his men who was now laying on the ground, blood flowing from a pulverized mouth courtesy of the the baseball bat he wielded. His remaining man was being more cautious, taking quick lunges before backing off before he could be hit, but from the looks of it he'd already received a few glancing blows from the bat. As he watched, Natsuo charged forward and seemed to aim high causing the man to bring his arms up to block the strike just for Natsuo to change trajectory and smash the bat directly into his knee. The man fell onto his uninjured knee with a shout of pain before the bat was slammed into the side of his head, silencing him as he fell to the ground unconscious.
"Now then, looks like it just you," Kobayashi stated menacingly as he started advancing on Kai.
"Fuck this, I'm done playing around," Kai growled as he flipped the safety off on the gun. As he brought it up and fired at Kobayashi he shouted, "Die you bastard!"
"As expected," Kobayashi thought as he timed his side step with Kai pulling the trigger. He'd already gotten close enough to where he could accurately see when the trigger was pulled, as the bullet flew past him he dashed in and grabbed the gun during the recoil, twisted it out of Kai's grip as he landed a punch on his face, grabbed him by the collar and pointed the gun at his head.
Kai's eyes widened in fear as he processed what had happened and the situation he was in, mumbling a quiet, "How..."
"You must have thought having something like this would make you invincible didn't you? Sorry to disappoint you but against someone with experience like mine you can't let them close the distance or you lose the advantage of a gun. Looks like you're not cut out for a life of crime," Kobayashi said in an almost scolding tone as he watched Kai sweat bullets staring down the barrel of the gun.
While this was happening Natsuo ran to Misaki, the closest of the two, and hastily undid the binding on her hands with the knife Kobayashi had lent him. The moment she was free she scrambled over to Hina to check on her, frantically calling, "Hurry, come untie her too!"
Natsuo quickly followed after her, his adrenaline starting to fade and his aches starting to become more noticeable. He quickly cut the binds on Hina as well, averting his gaze from her exposed chest before she and Misaki embraced each other, both crying in relief.
"I'm glad we made it in time... I was worried..." Natsuo trailed off as he placed the bat down and removed the helmet.
"Natsuo-kun... Mari-san," Misaki paused, remembering what Hina had called the other man, "Thank you so much... I can't..."
"No need to thank us Misaki-chan, there was no way we weren't going to come after you two," Kobayashi replied with the faintest trace of his usual cheer, still not taking his eyes off as Kai.
Natsuo looked at him, wondering what he would do with Kai before he turned his attention back to Misaki and Hina and saw that Hina was just staring at him, not having said a word yet. Alarm rising in him he asked, "Hina-nee... are you okay?"
Hina's eyes refocused, as if she'd been snapped out of intense thought and she stammered out a response, "Y-yeah, I'm okay N-Natsuo-kun. Thank you..."
"Hina... you're blouse..." Misaki whispered as she pointed downwards, causing Hina to hastily redo what buttons hadn't been completely ripped off. As Hina did this, Misaki turned to Natsuo and asked, "Natsuo-kun, who exactly is that Mari-san?"
Natsuo turned back to Kobayashi and saw that he was now restraining him with a zip-tie, hands behind his back in the same fashion the women had been. Sighing in relief that it was over he responded, "Boss runs a cafe that we all frequent... he's actually a former Yakuza. I actually had him looking into things after I first ran into Hojo, it's thanks to the info he got that we were able to get here in time."
Before anyone else could say anything Kai suddenly started laughing before he exclaimed, "You idiots really think you won?! The rest of my crew will be here soon, and when they get here you're all dead! You hear me?! Dead! You should have just kept your head down Ogura, if you'd just kept doing your job you wouldn't have dragged these friends of yours into it!"
Misaki narrowed her eyes as she faced Kai and replied, "You're right about one thing Kai... if I hadn't tried to cut my ties and go straight I wouldn't have dragged anyone into this. But if I hadn't decided I wanted out then I wouldn't have met Hina and Natsuo-kun, the first people in years to see me as me, not as a tool. They could have just tossed me aside, but they welcomed me and encouraged me to better myself... and when they learned I had an addiction and wanted to get clean... they said they wanted to help me do that. I owe it to them to stick to that decision."
Kai blinked a few times before letting out a rough laugh and retorting, "Are you crazy? What the hell is with the sappy speech? You 'owe it to them to stick to that decision'? What are you spouting this bullshit for when you're a dead woman? I already said it: you're all dead once my crew gets here!"
Several thuds echoed from the front of the warehouse as several lights illuminated the inside through the open shutter doors and a new voice asked, "Is this the crew you're babbling about?"
Everyone turned their attention that way, Kai's face openly showing shock as he saw his men piled up in front of a line of men, who while very well dressed emitted a dangerous presence. The one in the center, wearing a clean looking white overcoat, walked towards Kobayashi and Kai while saying in a calm tone, "Masa... I was surprised to get your call. I'd apologize for getting here late, but it looks like you and your friend handled things here just fine. Thank you for the information and the assistance."
"I'm the one who should be thanking you Kazuma. If his backup had shown up we would have been in over our heads," Kobayashi replied with a smile and shake of his head.
Kazuma chuckled briefly before fixing his gaze, now ice cold on Kai and asking, "So I assume this is the ring leader, Kai was it?"
Kai glared back as he nearly spat, "And who the hell are you?"
"This is Kodan Kazuma, the head of the Kodan family. You know, the Yakuza family that you tried to steal territory from," Kobayashi answered in a dark tone. All of the color drained from Kai's face as the full gravity of the situation he was in sank in.
"You're going to wish it was the police that got to you and your men first... boy," Kazuma stated darkly. He turned to his men and with just a nod from him they started rounding up the gang, Kai included, and stuffed them into the multiple vehicles they had used to get there.
A few minutes passed in relative silence before Kazuma approached the group of four, Kobayashi having moved to check on the others now that everything was over. As he made it to them he spoke, this time with a small smile, "Again I have to thank you Masa. On top of the drug trafficking, he was also having his gang commit fraud and theft... he'd been marked by us for a while, but with recent events we had trouble pinning him down."
"Glad I could be of some assistance," Kobayashi replied simply with a smile of his own.
Kazuma was about to say something but was interrupted when one of his men called out, "Boss! We've got them all loaded up and ready to go!"
"Be right there!" Kazuma called back before turning back to the group and said to Kobayashi, "How about next time we get a drink for old time's sake?"
With a sad chuckle Kobayashi replied, "Probably not a great idea. If I'm seen in public with the boss of a major family rumors will start spreading and people would stop coming to the cafe."
"That's a good point," Kazuma said with a chuckle of his own. He then turned to Natsuo and said with a slight bow, "Fuji-san, I understand that it was you who put Masa on Kai's trail, and for that I thank you. The Kodan family is indebted to you, if you ever need anything tell Masa and he'll pass it along to me."
Natsuo quickly returned the bow before replying, "I'll remember Kodan-san... though to be honest I hope the day never comes when I need to cash that favor in."
Kazuma's smile grew and he gave a full laugh at that before saying, "I completely understand Fuji-san. I also hope you never find yourself in a situation where you'd need to call on me." He then turned to Hina and Misaki, who were still processing what was happening and bowed deeply as he said, "And to you two, I sincerely apologize. This situation only came about because my family and I failed to keep control of our area. Had we sorted out our internal issues sooner Kai and his gang never would have gained as much influence as they did. The same offer is extended to you two, if there is ever anything we can help with, let Masa know and he'll get it to me."
Both Hina and Misaki stared in awe that a Yakuza boss was apologizing to them. Misaki was the first to recover and replied, "Please, you don't have to bow. Thank you for that, and for helping by taking down the rest of them... I'll be content knowing that they can't hurt anyone else."
"Yes," Hina chimed in, "I'm just happy that we all made it out of this... relatively unscathed."
Kazuma raised himself from his bow and nodded before saying, "As am I. Be that as it may the offer will remain on the table. This incident is a stain on our honor, and writing the three of you a blank check is the least that I can do," he paused and looked towards the cars before adding, "I need to get going. I'll have one of my drivers bring you back home, take care everyone."
After Kazuma got into the car at the head of the line one of the less intimidating men walked up to the group and explained he had been tasked with driving them back to Natsuo's apartment. The girls and Natsuo filed into the back seat and the car began the drive while Kobayashi followed on the motorcycle he and Natsuo had used to get there. Not a word was spoken between the three passengers as they watched the city roll by back into familiar territory.
Later that night...
After being dropped off back at the apartment the group had taken some time to collect their thoughts on everything and catch their breath. Hina and Misaki took turns taking quick showers, wanting to wash off the feeling of Kai's hands on them, before changing into fresh clothing. While the girls bathed Kobayashi and Natsuo first explained what was had happened to Kuwaba, who was sporting a black eye from the hit he had taken earlier. Kuwaba, having taken it all in stride, offered to help clean up the mess in the apartment, so the three men hastily did some preliminary cleaning: pushing things to the sides of rooms and putting furniture back in place. After that was done Kobayashi gave Natsuo's injuries another once over, declaring he'd have some nasty bruises but nothing to worry about.
Once all of this had been completed Misaki had voiced that she wanted to admit herself to rehab, to make good on her decision and promise to get clean. Which is where the group, minus Kuwaba, now found themselves.
"You sure you want to do this tonight?" Natsuo asked as they all stood facing the front of a rehabilitation center.
Misaki nodded confidently as she looked towards the others and asserted, "I am. The adrenaline from from everything made the withdrawal symptoms fade... but I can already feel them starting to come back. If I wait any longer I might start to hesitate. And I can't do that, not after everything you've all done for me."
"That's good to hear, hold on to that resolve and I'm sure you'll be able to make it through Misaki-chan. Once you get out come see me at my cafe, L'Amant, I'll have a job waiting for you," Kobayashi promised with a warm smile.
Misaki's eyes widened in surprise as she asked, "Are you sure Mari-san?"
With a thumbs up Kobayashi replied, "Of course. You're going to need some steady income when you get out, and I'm more than happy to give you the opportunity, but I expect you to work hard!"
"I will, thank you so much!" Misaki cheered gratefully with a wide smile.
Hina stepped forward and have her a tight hug as she said, "I'm going to to miss you, I promise that if you're allowed to have visitors that I'll come by at least once a week!"
As she returned the hug Misaki responded, "I'll miss you too, and that would be greatly appreciated. Though I might not be that pleasant at first..."
The two women shared a brief laugh before Hina hesitantly asked, "I could go in with you if you'd like?"
Misaki shook her head as she replied, "That's okay Hina, this is something that I have to do myself. I'll be okay." As she and Hina separated Misaki approached Natsuo and pulled him into a hug as well as she said, "I know I've said it before, but I don't think I'll ever be able to say it enough: thank you for everything Natsuo-kun."
With a chuckle Natsuo returned the hug and said, "I've given up on telling you that you don't need to thank me. You're welcome Misaki."
"No more honorific?" Misaki asked in a teasing tone.
"I think after going through something like we did tonight... not really needed anymore," Natsuo replied with another laugh.
Misaki nodded as she backed up a step and said, "I agree Natsuo. Tell Rui-chan I'm sorry about dragging you all into this, and I'm still looking forward to our contest if she still wants to."
"I will, and I'm sure she'll still want to... once she processes everything," Natsuo assured while scratching the back of his head as he imagined Rui's reaction to what had happened.
Misaki took a moment to look at the three again before turning around and resolutely announced, "Alright! Here I go!" With that she started on her way to the front door of the building.
The three watched as Misaki entered the building, once she had Kobayashi spoke up, "Everything will be okay, I'm sure of it. She's strong, and failing once doesn't mean losing everything. She'll be able to get her fresh start."
"You're right Boss, and she's not alone now. If she stumbles we'll be there to help her, right Hina-nee?" Natsuo asked as he turned slightly towards Hina.
"That's right! We'll look for her!" Hina cheered in response.
With a chuckle Kobayashi said, "Alright let's hit the road. I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say a good night's rest has been earned."
As the three started on their way, Hina lagged behind a bit as she listened to the two men ahead of her talking. As she followed, the images of Natsuo rushing the gang members in order to save her and Misaki flashed through her mind, and she remembered how she'd felt in that moment and thought to herself, "I... I do still love him."
Late morning of April 7th – NYC...
Rui sighed as she let herself sink further into the couch cushions as she dropped her phone at her side, having checked again to see if Natsuo had sent another another message and the screen still showed the same display:
Natsuo: Hey Rui, going to be a bit busy tonight so I'm sorry if I don't get a chance to talk to you. I love you.
Rui: No problem! Hope everything is okay, I love you too!
"Everything okay Rui?" Daniella asked as she entered the living room and sat on the opposite end of the couch.
"Yeah... when I woke up I saw Natsuo had sent me a message saying he was going to be busy and might not be able to talk. I responded saying 'no problem' but I was still hoping to get to talk a little before he went to bed," Rui answered as she tilted her head towards her.
"That sucks... that's not like him though, doesn't he usually make time even if it's just for a few minutes?" Daniella asked as she tried to remember other times this may have happened.
Rui nodded as she replied, "Normally yes, something really important must have come up... but it's weird that he didn't mention what it was."
"I hope everything is okay..." Daniella trailed off.
"So do –" Rui was interrupted by the alert tone of her phone going off. She quickly picked the phone up and read the new message displayed.
Natsuo: Hey, sorry for not responding. Everything is settled now, do you have time to talk before heading to work?
"It's Natsuo... I wonder why he's still awake, it's after one in the morning over there," Rui mumbled as she checked the time on her watch.
"Well go on! Go chat before we have to leave, find out what's going on," Daniella urged as she made a shooing motion with her hand.
Rui nodded as she hastily typed out her response as she got up and started towards the desk where her laptop sat.
Rui: Of course! I have to leave fairly soon but there's still time to talk, I'm heading to the laptop now.
Natsuo: Okay, I'm already at mine. You can call as soon as you're ready.
Rui sat down at the desk and quickly got the laptop out of sleep mode, as soon as she could she pulled up the chat program and initiated a video call, Natsuo answering right away. As soon as she saw him Rui immediately saw how exhausted he looked and asked, "You look half dead, are you okay?"
"I guess I look about as bad as I feel, I'll be okay though," Natsuo replied with a small chuckle.
Rui was about to ask what he meant when she noticed the scene behind him and instead asked, "Are you at the apartment...? Why is it such a mess?"
Natsuo let out a sigh before he replied, "I am... and it's been a hell of a night. Rui, before I tell you what happened I need you to remember: everyone is okay and everything is resolved."
"Natsuo... you're worrying me... but okay. What happened?" Rui pressed, the concerned obvious in her tone and expression.
Natsuo took a deep breath before he started, "It started last night: Hina-nee messaged me to let me know that Misaki confessed to her that she has a drug addiction, and that she had decided to quit and get clean."
"A drug addiction?!" Rui exclaimed incredulously.
Natsuo motioned with his hands for her calm down as he said, "Trust me I was shocked too... but that's the tamest thing that happened." Seeing Rui take a few breaths to prepare herself he continued, "So, after that Hina-nee and I started looking into stuff to help her. But what she hadn't told me was that Misaki had been blackmailed into working for a gang... earlier tonight Misaki decided to go to the police and admit herself into rehab, and Hina-nee was going with her to help. While they were on their way members of the gang jumped them and kidnapped them. When I –"
"Hina-nee got kidnapped?!" Rui screamed in horror as she clutched onto the desk tightly.
Daniella, having heard Rui scream, rushed in and yelled, "Rui! What's wrong?!"
Rui took a moment to translate what Natsuo had already told her, and the conversation proceeded slowly: Natsuo being as specific as he could about what happened while Rui translated back and forth when Daniella had a question. Once the entire story had been told Rui has tears threatening to spill as she choked out, "Thank God you're okay, that everyone is okay. I don't know what I would do if anything had happened to you..."
"I'm sorry Rui... I know it was reckless of me to go along with Boss, but it felt wrong to sit back and do nothing while he went alone," Natsuo replied solemnly.
Daniella, reading the room chimed in, "I'll give you two your space, I'm glad you're okay Natsuo."
"Thank you Daniella," Natsuo called back as she left the room.
"You said you and Kuwaba fought the man who was searching the apartment?" Rui asked after a moment.
Natsuo nodded as he replied, "Yeah, honestly if Kuwaba hadn't jumped in I don't know what would have happened."
"I'll have to make something for him as a thanks when I come home," Rui said with a small smile before asking, "Are you hurt?"
"Boss looked me over, he said I'd have some nasty bruises but nothing to worry about. I'm going to take it easy the next few days when I'm not helping Tougen-sensei. He says thank you for your concern by the way," Natsuo explained, a small chuckle escaping with the last part.
Rui frowned slightly before she asked, "Can... can I see?" Natsuo nodded before he wordlessly removed his shirt and turned the desk lamp to better illuminate him, showing the dark marks forming on his torso and on his neck where the man had been strangling him. Rui gasped as the tears leaked down her cheeks, "Natsuo... I'm sorry I'm not there to help. Those already look horrible..."
"You don't have to apologize Rui," Natsuo responded with a shake of his head, "I'll be okay, going to be sore for a good while, but I'll be okay."
"I love that you're always trying to look out for everyone and help them... but please try to avoid getting caught up in any more turf wars between a gang and the Yakuza," Rui chided with a smile growing on her face.
Natsuo let out a full laugh at this before he replied, "I can assure you that I will do my best to stay out of anything like this going forward... once is enough for me. And before I forget: Misaki wanted me to tell you she's sorry for getting us all pulled into this... and she's still looking forward to the cooking contest if you're still up for it."
Rui managed a laugh of her own as she stated, "From everything you told me it's clear she didn't mean for this to happen... but I expect her to repeat that apology in person."
Natsuo smiled knowingly as Rui's tone shifted and asked, "And the cooking contest?"
Rui took on a confident grin and answered, "I'm even more determined to show that my skills are the best! So you tell her that she better be prepared."
Seeing the fire light in Rui's eyes Natsuo felt warmth spread throughout him and he thought, "Boss was right... everything will be okay."
A/N: As stated before I will be taking a short break. December is going to be very busy so I won't have much time to work on the story, so I expect to start working again in full force after New Year's. I'll be re-reading the next parts of the manga over December so I can start the outline for A Retelling - I have a general outline of bullet points I want to hit, but I've learned I work better mapping each chapter out ahead of time as well. I plan to pre-write multiple chapters before posting resumes so expect to start seeing new chapters again by late January or early February.
I want to thank everyone who has read, followed and reviewed so far. It means the world to me that this passion project of mine can be enjoyed by others. Seeing as there will be some time before posting resumes I would ask you all to leave your thoughts, complaints or constructive criticism, all are welcome!
And just to clarify something I did not mention before: I'm taking a "butterfly effect" approach to this, so the changes from the canon will become greater the further we get from the point of divergence. I hope that my changes to the Misaki Arc were enjoyable.