From the moment he’d sat down with Nami at Akito’s, Deji knew his current situation was practically unavoidable.
Nami said nothing on the way to the train station, her expression serious and focused as Deji followed her with meters to spare.
Based on that silence and what he perceived as annoyance specifically towards him, Deji intended to give her plenty of space until they could go to their location and further organize themselves once there.
That was impossible now.
Deji could practically feel Nami’s exhaled breath on his chest, as they were almost sandwiched together like sardines with absolutely zero wiggle room.
He held back the urge to sigh, having forgotten that they were approaching the end of the work day as they made their way on the train to Minato. Businessmen, students getting out late, mothers, and other assorted citizens stuffed this particular train to almost maximum capacity.
Nami seemed to care less, but the closeness of the whole situation had settled uncomfortably in Deji’s mind.
Anyone looking their way would almost definitely assume that the two of them were some sort of item.
Was Deji even against such an idea? He wasn’t absolutely sure, considering he’d had no time to think over the notion.
What he did know though, was that the train car’s air seemed to only get more and more constricting by the minute.
In response, Deji’s words just sort of flowed out as he attempted to get his mind off of things.
“It would probably be wise that you know the details of today’s plan.”
Nami looked up. She blinked twice, her piercing green eyes now somewhat interested.
“Plan? You have a plan?”
The way she said that gave Deji the impression that either she wasn’t used to having a plan, or she wasn’t used to coming up with one herself.
Either way, neither one of those things were good.
He cleared his throat. “Of course. We’re not just going to go in guns blazing. If we can avoid violence, then that’s the most sound solution. Little know fact; a lot of these yakuza aren’t bloodthirsty killers.”
Nami smiled with sudden relief. She was still having trouble getting over the thought of getting shot or possibly maimed.
Deji nodded. “Really. Don’t believe everything you see in games. A lot of it is just plain exaggeration.”
He held onto the pole grip as the train swayed just so slightly. People minded to their own business around him, speaking in formal and informal Japanese alike. Their destination was not too far away now.
“We should still remain cautious though. You’ve got a mini-speaker on your music player, right?” he asked her, but Nami seemed instantly confused.
“Um, no? What’s the point of that? That’s what I have new headphones for!”
Her voice got louder, and though it drew attention to them, Deji didn’t bother trying to silence her.
Any attempt to keep her quiet would just undoubtedly make things worse. He was smart enough to figure that one out already.
And so, Deji’s own voice got lower as he attempted to explain.
“Just think about what’ll happen if you lose your headphones, or they get taken away. Unless you’re good enough that you can beat up armed men with your dance steps and bare hands, you need to have a plan B.”
His words echoed in Nami’s mind. Try as she might to think otherwise, all she could hear was her brother again, and his incessant lecturing on how she failed to do as she was told.
Nami answered with annoyance, naturally. “Is that doubt I hear? I’m not some loser, so you can shut your mouth on that right now. “
Deji seemed ready to say something further, only for Nami to sigh as she continued.
It appeared even she realized how much her stress was leaking out.
“Look, you worry too much. Don’t be like my brother, okay? If these guys give us any trouble, I can handle them. We’ll have Nii-san back before you know it. Like you said, they’re not going to kill him, right?”
Deji nodded, sensing her impatience and deciding the wiser route was to let her be. “I did.”
He looked up, catching the train bell in his ears as their stop at Minato approached.
“That’s us.” he announced, as Nami let out an exasperated breath.
Deji said nothing in response, instead dwelling on his own words.
The Asakawa Clan didn’t seem willing to kill Arashi Nagataki just yet. That much was certainly true.
But when it came to the two Music Masters now en route to save him?
Unfortunately for them, that was a different matter entirely.
Everything was dark when Arashi came to.
For a moment, he wondered if this had all been one bad dream, and that in reality he’d merely fallen asleep on the train next to his sister, sunglasses still on his face.
But then he blinked, noting the darkness of the room and the fact that he was still very much restrained to his chair by his wrists and his ankles.
Reality looked back at him, and the fact that these God Symphony-hired Yakuza had him in their clutches weighed heavily in his mind.
Ignoring the spike of pain in his forehead, a gift from Hiyoshi’s baseball bat, he instead focused his hearing.
When it appeared that he was alone, he proceeded to push and struggle against his bonds, grunting loudly as he strained his muscles to break free.
If he could just get out of here, and get a hold of his songs, then escaping this place would become a highly trivial matter.
Someone shifted in the darkness, making just the smallest amount of noise in the process.
Aware that he was no longer alone, Arashi stopped in place, relaxing his thrashing limbs as the unknown person spoke.
She seemed to read his mind with her words.
“I wouldn’t bother. They tied you up good. Kind of feels nice, doesn’t it?”
Arashi tried to focus his gaze on the speaker, but in this light, he only got a dim silhouette of what looked to be a girl.
She took a few steps towards him, slowly revealing her appearance as she did so.
She was thin and wiry, with a face that appeared young and yet scarred with heavy black eyeliner.
Her eyes appeared to be unnaturally wide, and her hair was made up in two different colors as her clothes had enough visual backwash to make a kaleidoscope feel inadequate.
She stopped right before Arashi, leaning down until they were only inches apart. Her dry laugh reverberated through the entire room.
“So you’re the famous Arashi. God Symphony told me a lot about you. You’re a lot shorter than I thought you would be.” she said to him with a smirk.
Arashi just kept his stone-cold stare despite his position. “And here I am. God Symphony got exactly what they wanted, so why waste time with so much talking?”
Without warning, the girl swung her legs over, and proceeded to sit on Arashi’s lap.
In the middle of the darkness, he could feel her warm breath on his collar, and see the dishonesty in the smile on her face.
She put her arm around his neck, her voice relaxed and calm.
“Come now, Arashi-kun. We know you’re not that stupid. We both know who these guys really want.”
Perturbed by both the sudden pet name and the invasion of his space, Arashi entertained the thought of shoving her off.
He brushed it away as soon as he realized it would simply be a waste of energy.
Instead, he held onto his calm demeanor despite his restrained state.
Whoever this girl was, she clearly had a much bigger mouth than the men from earlier. This was an opportunity in the making.
“I already told your Yakuza friends; my sister will kill you all when she gets here. You’re setting a mouse trap for a lion. Do you really think that’s going to work?”
The girl started giggling in response to the threat.
Two seconds later, and she was laughing so hard that she had to hold onto Arashi’s shoulders to keep herself from losing her balance.
She then craned her neck, flipping back her wild hair before staring straight into his eyes.
“I’ve heard about her, but my uncle’s boys don’t know what Music Masters are. They’re just around to soften her up for me. I’m not really one for a fair fight.” she told him, smiling wide and showing off surprisingly impeccable teeth.
“And once I’ve had my fun, God Symphony can have her.”
The fuse in Arashi’s head sparked at the sound of those last few words. Anger came over him at he thought of losing his sister, and his reaction was natural.
He forced his body forward hard, with the sudden momentum pushing this girl off his lap and onto the floor.
Arashi stayed in his seat, now looking down at this girl and somewhat relishing the surprise on her face.
“Not happening. Not as long as I’m still here.”
He kept his gaze locked on her as she stood up, brushing herself off before she proceeded to lord over him.
Her previous smile was now gone, as she put a tall black boot on his knee and she debated to herself on what to do next.
“Oh, you really are a fiesty one, aren’t you? You know what, I think you’ll be my little reward.” She grinned at the thought.
“Maybe I’ll even record it and send it to Craven-sama. Oh, would he love that.” she remarked with glee, before pushing against Arashi’s knee hard and sending him plumetting back in his chair.
The back of Arashi’s head slammed against the floor, and though it was painful, he thankfully remained conscious this time.
He was left in his prone positon and staring up at the ceiling, as the sound of the girl’s footsteps got farther and farther away.
“My name is Omiko, by the way. I’ll see you in a bit, Arashi-kun.”
With that, she then closed the door to the room, cackling in the distance as she left Arashi in solitude.
Once he was sure she was gone, Arashi tilted his head to the left of him.
He had long since spotted this detail, but had kept his attention solely on her until she was out of the way.
Just a meter away, like some glowing treasure, he spotted the reflective surface of an empty glass vase waiting to be shattered.
Arashi rotated his wrists in his bonds as he narrowed his eyes in satisfaction.
Freedom was staring right back at him.
Arashi smiled at his own ability to stay calm and collected.
It seemed impatience would forever be the bane of others, and remain something that Arashi would forever take advantage of.
Even Nami had initially wondered at why they’d gone for such a brazen move, despite being in public.
It was daring and probably stupid, to say the least.
Her small headphones and music player nestled in a pocket, she followed Deji as he approached the group of three suit-wearing Japanese men that had been guarding front of this small finance building for the last twenty minutes.
“Let me do the talking.” Deji had said only minutes before.
To Nami, those words echoed the same one’s her brother had told her just before they had faced Rob Protoype for the first time.
She gulped, hoping their outcome wasn’t of a simliar vein.
On some level, Nami wondered why she was following orders from someone she had so easily beaten.
Then she quickly realized how much easier things were if she allowed Deji to take the reigns, and on top of that, Nami was far more concerned with Arashi’s well-being to argue over group leadership.
So instead, she stayed silent as Deji made his presence clear to the lookouts on duty.
“I understand we’ve been summoned to this address.” Deji began, voice confident despite the height and width difference between him and these muscular men.
They turned in unison, one of them in particular eyeing Nami behind him from top to bottom.
Hiyoshi made no effort to hold back his slimy smile. “Oh, indeed. So good of you to make this so simple for us.”
Deji held his ground, even as Hiyoshi approached with hands open and twitching.
“Not so fast. I was hoping we could discuss this. Perhaps even make some sort of deal with your boss. I’m former Asakawa Clan.” he told them, pulling away at the nape of his uniform to show his unfinished tattoo as he’d done with Nami before.
The men observed it for a moment, only for one of them to roughly put an arm around Deji’s shoulder just a second later. He leaned in close, a horrible fume of aftershave leaking into Deji’s nose.
“Former Yakuza? Oh, then you get some special treatment for that. The boss is going to love seeing a runaway like you again.”
It was the sound of those words that Deji’s calm expression began to crack, as two of the men had already surrounded Nami and were pushing her along in front of them.
Deji had expected to use his status as a former criminal to his advantage, even if the details were vague.
Unfortunately, it appeared he might have been remembered a little too well.
“Make sure to get her headphones and music player once you’re inside. Boss’s orders.” one of the other men barked, as Hiyoshi nodded with approval.
Deji just attempted to keep his emotions in check, but fear seemed to be crawling over him like some black, overpowering monstrosity.
“Doesn’t that seem a bit extraneous?” he told his sudden captor with uncertainty, even as he and Nami were ferried inside and away from public eyes.
“I follow orders, kid.” the older man said, his grip around Deji’s shoulder tightening.
“You should have done the same. Now it’s time to pay the price.”
The front door of the finance building closed behind Deji and Nami, as they were led upstairs and away from the light of the outside world.
Deji could just about feel his heart in his throat.
So much for diplomacy.
In all her time as a Music Master, Nami had never seen a real gun before.
Her eyes absorbed the dark sheen of metal in the pistol currently being held by the suit-wearing Yakuza in front of her.
Led to a spacious and well-furnished conference room, the two Music Masters were both seated comfortably but remained surrounded by the threat of lethal force. Beyond the gun in the hands of the man in front of her, she could only assume that the other two were undoubtedly packing heat.
So even if she had her headphones, even Nami knew she wasn’t fast enough to Harmonize with a song effect before they put more than one bullet in her head.
Deji’s expectation of having a external speaker on her music player couldn’t have rung any louder now in the back of her mind.
She looked to him, noticing the apprehension now in his face. Unlike her brother, he had failed to keep himself composed in the face of these criminals.
Nami couldn’t help but wonder if they’d managed to confiscate his music player as well.
In the end, she couldn’t be sure. They’d been escorted inside far too quickly for her to notice.
Once they’d been forced into this room, both Nami and Deji had been silent for the last three minutes. There would be no answers from these men it seemed, but it was obvious that they were waitng around for something.
Across from Nami, Deji’s expression shifted as he realized this was the only time they would have before he expected the worst.
So despite his fear, he spoke.
“What are you planning to do with us?” he asked, quite bluntly.
The man holding the gun replied, though with surprising calm and patience in his voice.
“Took you long enough to ask. Nami-chan here will be picked up by our clients shortly. From there, I have no idea what they’ll do with her, and I couldn’t care less.”
Deji smirked. It was a purposeful attempt to piss this man off.
“Wow, that was easy. Are all of the clan associates so willing to give up information, or just you?”
There was light click, and in the next moment, Deji found himself staring down the barrel of a gun.
Looking at the face of what could be his own death, the boy’s heart beat fast against his chest, as if attempting to violently escape a prison.
“Watch your mouth. I would shoot you now, but I’ll get blood on her.” the calm man stated. “The last thing I need is for them to think we touched her.
He kept the gun steady for a moment before pulling away.
His tone remained just as threatning. “But once she’s out of here, I can promise that you’ll be handled in short order. Ask anything you want. It’s not going to matter once I put a bullet in you, and that’s if I’m feeling merciful.”
Next to him, Nami’s previous confidence was all but gone as this man’s death threat sent a clear chill down her spine.
She felt naked without her headphones or music player.
More than that, without those things, she was practically powerless. One bullet could easily claim her life before she could so much as throw an arrow or force her Sweet Survivor to throw a punch.
Across from her, Deji ran his would-be killer’s words in his mind as he analyzed this scenario.
They clearly had some small amount of time. God Symphony was on their way to pick Nami up, and it was only after she was secure that they would then allow the Asakawa Clan to kill him, and most likely Arashi as well.
These people didn’t know what Music Masters were, as far as Deji could tell, but they’d been given enough information so as to disarm Nami of her weapons beforehand.
Fortunately, they’d overlooked the one thing that would be their only salvation.
Within the front pocket of his uniform jacket, Deji’s small and thin music device remained untouched.
Deji eyed the gun in the man’s hand. This next action would be a matter of life or death.
With all the bravery and cadence he could muster, Deji spat out his next words.
“I was right to leave the organization. You people have really become soft.”
Hiyoshi, who had been seemingly oogling Nami the whole time, still appeared to understand what the boy was trying to do.
“The kid’s trying to stall. Don’t let him provoke you, Kaiji. You’ll get your satisfaction soon enough.”
Kaiji’s grip just tightened on the gun in response. He seemed to be holding back every urge to kill Deji right then and there.
Across from them, horrible images flashed in Nami’s mind, and she could hear the bang of his shot going off already as warm, red liquid splattered across her clothes.
She didn’t even want to begin to imagine what Deji’s face would like after something like that.
Unaware of her thoughts, Deji ignored her frightened expression as he pushed the man’s buttons further.
“You call me a runaway, but you want to know why I really left?”
The men said nothing, but Kaiji squeezed on his gun harder. If he was strong enough, he would have warped the piece of metal in his hands already.
“I left because the Asakawa Clan is stuck in the past. There’s no opportunity among old men who can’t let go of dated traditions. I’m not wasting my life away with a bunch of has-beens.”
With that, Deji stopped, and right on cue, wind whipped in front of his face as the butt of the pistol came down upon him like a hammer.
The impact was fast and violent, and he keeled over in his seat as blood began to drip from his nose.
Deji immeaditely held onto it with his fingers, smiling under the free-flowing liquid as his free hand tapped beneath the fabric of his uniform and pressed play.
Above him, Kaiji seemed only somewhat satisfied. His words showed all of his thinly veiled anger.
“Nothing worse than a coward who can’t get the job done. Tell you what, when those weirdos have what they want and she’s gone, I’ll be sure to take my time with you.”
Kaiji might have contiuned, if not for the foreign sound that he could now hear just in the corner of his mind.
It was quite low, but all three men’s ears perked up as the sound of music invaded the air.
It was soft, sweet singing; oohs and aahs that greatly contrasted against the dark mood of this encounter.
As the music played Hiyoshi spoke up, even as Kaiji picked up Deji by the collar and prepared to cut loose on him more.
“I thought the boss said no music?” he asked, somewhat confused but not at all afraid.
Kaiji seemed to care less as he barked right into Deji’s face. “You really want to die right now, don’t you? Cause I’m thinking we got just enough time to do the girl’s laundry if we have to.”
His two fellows didn’t immediately answer, somewhat distracted by the calm, jazzy tune humming in the air.
The gun was dangerously close now. Deji kept calm, however, his mind now focused as he’d Harmonized within a second.
Invisible to all three of these men, only Nami could see the wispy, pink form that materialized in the air beside Deji.
It formed to the beat of the music, clouds of salmon air colaescing into the form a petite, ghostly girl.
Even as Kaiji pulled back to deliver another hard pistol whip, Deji’s Sentonal flitted about, estatic and energetic as it seemed to debate on what to do next.
Kaiji’s mouth opened wide with fury as the pistol fell downward towards Deji’s brow.
Noticing its opportunity, Deji’s Sentonal gleamed with happiness. With a surge of energy, it flowed its entire, gaseous form through the confines of his mouth.
Caught in mid-blow, Kaiji gargled loudly, stopping just before hitting Deji as his two fellows looked on with immeadite confusion.
Like a statue, he now remained motionless, hand poised just above Deji’s head as Nami and the others watched in silence.
Finally, one of the other men approached, grabbing him by the shoulder as if to shake him out of his trance.
“Kaiji?” he said, only to recieve no spoken response.
Instead, Kaiji pivoted in place, before pointing his gun right at his friend’s face and pulling the trigger.
There was a loud crack, and Deji was somewhat thankful to be between Nami spare her the unpleasantless of the blood splatter.
In shock, Hiyoshi fell back onto the floor, unable to believe the insanity in front of his eyes.
“What the f-”
He never finished. Three shots, since he wasn’t close enough, and he fell limp on the ground. Blood pooled around him, and Nami bit her fingernails in fear at the sight.
Then Kaiji opened his other hand, letting go of Deji’s collar before making a loud, girlish giggle as he pointed the barrel of the gun to his chin.
Another bang, and Kaiji’s body swayed in its standing position for a moment, before his body fell back onto the floor as the glimmer of life left him.
Stunned at this entire turn of events, Nami stood up quickly.
She looked on with a mixture of surprise and small relief as the shifting, cloudy woman surged out of Kaiji’s mouth to face both Music Masters.
The top half of her body was dressed akin to a beatnik, while her bottom half was half-formed and sinous in the fashion of a spectre.
She giggled, addressing her Music Master directly. “It’s done, Deji-dono.”
Deji didn’t know exactly how to feel as he looked around them at the carnage his Sweet Soul Revue had wrought. But then he thought about the alternative, and the guilt of taking these lives suddenly wasn’t as heavy in his mind.
“Thank you for your services, P-san.” he said, before pressing pause on his music player. In response, his ghostly Sentonal vanished from existence, leaving Nami and Deji alone with only the dead to keep them company.
Nami walked carefully around the bodies, lifting her feet so as not to get blood on her boots. When her eyes wandered to where their gunshot wounds were, she looked away, and held back the urge to vomit.
Her words were shaky. “Did we…did we really have to kill them?”
Deji checked his uniform. The top half was dotted with blood. Judging from the fact that he’d stood right next to someone who’d blown his own brains out, it could have been worse.
“Not like we had much of a choice. Once she gets a hold of someone, I’m never quite sure what she’ll do. All I know is that she always keeps me safe.” he explained, though unlike her brother, a hint of regret was present in his tone of voice.
“She?” Nami said, trying to get her mind off of the scent of death but at the same time genuinely interested.
“Not all Sentonals are as mindless as everyone assumes.” Deji replied, only to look towards the door in the next moment. “But that’s besides the point. We should find your brother.”
“And my music player.” Nami added. She followed him as they left the room, closing the door behind her and leaving the dead bodies to their supposed rest.
Nami shivered at the thought of being shot like that, only to recompose herself once she saw the seriousness of Deji’s expression.
As they walked down the quiet hall leading towards the floor’s elevator, the girl seemed to reconsider her previous thoughts.
“You’re not bad.” she said, recovering quickly as she felt some embarrassment in her own words. “Skill-wise, I mean.”
Nami cleared her throat, trying to form her words. It was rare that she said something like this to anyone.
“Not that good. But not that bad. It could be worse.”
Deji chuckled as they waited in front of the elevator. He noted the name of the building right nearby, listed in huge letters as Asakawa Finance.
If he didn’t know any better, than Deji might have thought he just heard Nami give him a compliment.
He looked back, noting the more confident expression on her face, as if she was ready for anything now that he was by her side.
Deji smiled at today’s luck, and the elevator doors opened.
No, he’d definitely heard her right.