Arashi’s eyes had already adjusted to the lighting by the time he’d cut himself loose using his newly acquired and very sharp piece of glass.
As he stood up, he rubbed his wrists, happy to be free of the binding cord that had kept him a prisoner all this time.
But without his sunglasses, his rollerblades, and most of all, his music player, Arashi still felt naked and defenseless.
Slowly, he pushed open the door to the storage room that had previously held him. Light leaked in, revealing a clean and spotless hallway that led down to the floor’s lobby and the awaiting elevator.
If he was careful, escape would be a simple matter from here.
But that wasn’t first on the priority list. There were still his personal effects that had been so brazenly taken from him when he was originally kidnapped. And then there was the matter of his sister, and warning her of such an obvious trap in the first place.
With only his socks on, Arashi quietly made his way down the hall, peeking into each door and observing the contents within as best as he could.
Thankfully, these yakuza were just as obvious as Arashi expected. When he passed by the door marked “Office Backup”, he spotted from the corner of his eye the familiar bright color of his large headphones sitting on the table. Next to them, nestled in a box, were his roller skates, and more than likely, his music player.
Arashi pushed the doorknob with ease, opening the door out wide and making careful steps towards his things.
He looked back and forth, but there was clearly no trap set to capture or maim him.
With eager eyes, he grabbed at the box, rifling through it and finding his music player within seconds.
He touched his face in the next moment, realizing he was still without his sunglasses that had been so violently shattered earlier. Scanning the room, Arashi perked up at the sight of some expensive cosmetics; a nice watch, cufflinks, and among them, a costly-looking pair of larger sunglasses.
They were a little unwieldy, and certainly not his, but for now they would do.
He flipped them open, placing them over his eyes and instantly feeling at ease under the dark glaze.
Slipping his roller blades on, Arashi put his headphones around his neck and placed his music player in his pocket.
He was armed and ready.
Now all he needed to do was find Nami.
He began to leave, but as he did so, his eyes caught the teal color of objects he recognized just at the bottom of the box. Arashi rummaged through it, inspecting the pair of earbuds with inquisitive eyes.
They weren’t his, and they certainly didn’t belong to one of these Yakuza.
He might have assumed they were Omiko’s, but Arashi knew better.
They were Nami’s, which meant she was here.
He felt immeadite dryness in the back of his throat.
He avoided assuming the worst, even as he found her small music player nearby as well.
Right now, finding her was of utmost importance.
Swinging the door of the office open, Arashi focused his vision under his new sunglasses, before pushing off his with skates.
The green wheels skidded against the smooth floor, signaling his approach for any would-be opponents to hear.
Arashi just smiled.
With his precious music back in his grasp, he could care less if they heard him.
With song effects primed and ready, it wasn’t like it was going to matter if they saw him coming or not.
There were many benefits to the modest building that was Asakawa Finance, but foremost among them was the spacious bar built on its fourth floor.
Nicknamed Reina’s, it had served the finance building’s occupants for over twenty years. The decor and furniture, and drinks served always remained consistent, but the bartenders were another story.
Due to the clearly criminal clientele, most of the female bartenders rarely lasted for too long, and male ones were unheard of.
Amane and his boys needed some sort of eye candy while they were drinking, after all.
Up in Reina’s, Amane and a few of his trusted men waited, having heard nothing yet from the God Symphony representatives who were supposed to have arrived here over an hour ago.
Amane sat between two of his younger associates, downing another drink as the female bartender waited around for them with apprehensive silence.
A great many things plagued his mind. There was the question of their hand-off, the money they were to be paid, Asakawa’s eccentric niece, and how they would dispose of Nami’s brother once she was out of their hair.
Amane took another swig. The sake was only lukewarm, and he eyed their bartender with annoyance.
He might allow himself a moment of rage and violence if they had the luxury right now.
Together, the three men waited together for another five minutes, each of them downing drinks in relative silence.
When he was finally sick of it, Amane was just about ready to send one of his men to check on Hiyoshi and their new arrivals on the second floor, when the door leading into the bar swung open.
“Who’s that?” one of the younger associates said, leaning over as he spotted the newcomer.
Amane turned his gaze, only for his slight drunkenness to wash away completely once he realized who was strolling in to face them.
Hands in his pockets, and headphones with blaring music around his ears, stood Arashi.
He glared at the three assembled men through his new sunglasses, which upon closer inspection, Amane recognized as his own.
Without so much as a word, he stumbled up, nodding to the bartender to make herself scarce as his associates followed him.
She was already running out the bar and past a motionless Arashi even as Amane stood between his men, one of them already texting for backup.
The older Yakuza eyed their former abductee, noticing that he made no effort whatsoever to stop them from calling in help.
In fact, he seemed to invite it.
“Good.” Arashi said, as he watched Amane’s associate put his phone away. “This would be boring and quick with just the three of you.”
Amane couldn’t put his finger on it, but there was something off with the boy’s stance. He was too confident; too unafraid.
Either he was packing some heat they didn’t know about, or he was suicidal. It was hard to tell.
From across the room, Amane could hear it faintly, but there was clearly loud music pumping through the boy’s headphones.
Slowly becoming more and more suspicious, Amane nodded off to his two associates to give them the go ahead.
Without a word, they acknowledged and ran for Arashi, arms out and hands ready to tackle him to the ground.
Arashi didn’t move until they were less than a meter away.
His strikes were faster than Amane could ever expect; one of them was a hard kick that slammed against the younger associates stomach, robbing him of his breath as he was painfully tossed up in the air and over the side of the bar.
The other attack, a series of quick punches to the stomach and head, were brutal and unrelenting.
Amane could hear the sound of bones cracking as the man went to his knees, before crumpling into a heap on the ground.
With that, it was just Amane and Arashi.
The older Yakuza reached for the hilt of his gun, having finally realized that there was something very off about this entire situation.
No, he’s known from the very beginning. He had just chosen to pretend it all didn’t exist.
There was a reason that they’d been given such specific instructions when it came to initially kidnapping this boy.
There was a reason they were told to confiscate his headphones, and to keep him away from any music at all costs.
Amane had heard the stories, despite his unwillingness to believe in them.
These were old tales of men and women who could access the symphony of the universe, whether through instruments or otherwise. From what these rumors told, these people had the power to tap into strange powers more appropriate for the realm of movies or manga.
Amane pulled his gun out in the next instant, pointing it at Arashi and not giving him so much as a moment.
“End of the line, kid.” he said, holding his aim steady as Arashi remained in position. From what Amane could see, there appeared to be no fear or uncertainty in either Arashi’s face face nor his stance.
Perhaps part of that was due to the sunglasses on his face which the boy had so graciously stolen. Amane narrowed his eyes with anger.
He cocked his pistol, as behind him, Amane could hear the frenzied shuffling of their backup just about to arrive through the side staircase.
Seemingly taking advantage of the momentary distraction, Arashi took a step forward, only for Amane to cut him off before he could further approach.
“Stop. Stop now, or I blow your insides all across the bar.” he threatened, his tone shifting to become more calm a moment later.
“Think this through now. You’ve got guts, more than that Deji kid at least. But you want to see your sister again, right? Even if it’s one last time? I can promise you that much if you surrender now.”
Arashi said nothing at first, his eyes shifting underneath his sunglasses as he observed the decor around him.
It was expensive, well-kept, and most of all, quite classy in comparison to the criminals who called it their own.
“It’s a shame, really. I almost don’t want to break anything here. It’s all very nice. Must have cost you people quite a bit.” Arashi replied, not a hint of fear on his face despite the gun so clearly being pointed at him.
“It can be cleaned.” Amane said, finally sick of waiting.
“They’ll never know you were here. I’ve given you more than enough chances. Time’s up, kid.”
Amane pressed his finger on the trigger, a bang following as gunpowder snapped and the bullet exited the barrel.
If one could see it all in slow motion, they might have been able to perceive the orange flash that Arashi had become, sheathed in energy and spandex as he avoided the speeding bullet entirely.
If Amane was a Music Master, he might have seen Arashi’s new form, borne from Ultrasoul as he now was clad in the fashion of a Japanese superhero.
He might heard the music and had reason to wonder why Arashi was so fast; how he was able to dodge a bullet so easily, and how he now had his fingers gripped around Amane’s throat.
The gun clattered to the ground, as the older Yakuza struggled against this boy’s seemingly unbreakable grip. He sputtered out parts of words, fingers reaching and flailing wildly in the air as Arashi began to squeeze harder and harder.
As Amane’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, and the breath of life left his body, Arashi could almost see a vison of the past in his place; the same afro-headed target that had eluded this very same situation all that time ago.
There was an audible snap, as his vertebrae were crushed to dust and Amane’s world went black. He struggled no more, falling lifeless once Arashi let go of him.
Far from finished, Arashi nevertheless took a deep breath.
He didn’t enjoy taking lives, but he knew that in their current situation, it had become a necessity.
More than anything, Arashi somewhat wished Nami would not have to put herself through the same stress.
Knowing her, she wouldn’t be able to forget it as easily.
Arashi stayed in place for another moment, looking down at Amane’s now glazed over face even as the door burst open and a stream of burly, suit-wearing men entered. Armed with various weapons, and a few with more firearms, they were clearly out for blood.
They stopped just a few meters away, caught in a standoff on the other side of the room as they noticed the bodies now littering the floor.
One of them shouted at Arashi, welling up courage for some unknown place.
“You…you bastard! You killed Amane-san! We’re gonna make you bleed for this!”
His comrades seemed to agree, brandishing their weapons and the threat that came with them.
Arashi skidded forward, as the men showed their uneasiness in an instant.
He scoffed, not all surprised. “That’s what I thought.”
“I hope your boss knows what’s going to happen tonight.” Arashi then said.
“His mistake is about to cost him. Or more appropiately, it’s about to cost all of you.”
That was all these men needed to hear. They charged at him, yelling with fury as they prepared to drown Reina’s in violence.
Shots were fired, and weapons were swung, but Arashi dodged it all with relative ease.
His hands punched apart bones and weak flesh alike, superhumanly strong in this form as he slashed and maimed his way through the gang of men sent to kill him.
As blood rained on the floor, and the bar was ruined in the process, Arashi couldn’t help but think to himself.
Every once in a while, it was okay to cut loose. It was okay to smile.
It was okay to relish the violence.
Especially against scum who long since had it coming.
“Ugh, do I seriously have to do this?” Nami complained, as she and Deji waited for the elevator to reach the appointed floor.
She held in her hand Deji’s cell phone, along with a pair of white headphones he had brought along with him as backup.
“Just until you have your music player back. The internet is going to make choosing your songs a lot more of a chore, so stick with one if possible.” Deji explained, and thankfully, Nami still took the tools into her hand with mild acceptance.
It was uncomfortable to not have access to her own personal music player, but she had little choice for the time being. A few seconds later, and the doors to the elevator opened, revealing a clear hallway and a surprising emptiness.
Deji still was careful to look back and forth as he and Nami stepped forward. He poked his head into a few offices, and it appeared that none of them were occupied for the time being.
Deji’s ponytail swayed as he came back out quickly to meet with Nami, who waited in the hallway for him, seemingly at a loss of what to do.
“Looks like I scared them all off. Figures.” Nami said through a gap-toothed smile, but Deji was unconvinced.
“I wouldn’t celebrate just yet. Lots of space in this building, for all we know they might have just been called away.”
He opened another door nearby, taking a quick look but finding nothing of interest.
“We should prioritize finding your brother first, and then your things. I remember so little of this place, so we’ll have to dig around.”
Nami’s eyes focused towards the hallway at the end, reading the kanji on the door and formulating possibilities in her mind.
“What about down there? Says storage. It’s kind of cliche but…”
Deji turned towards where she was pointing. “It’s worth a look.”
Together, the two Japanese teens made their way to the other side of the hall. Deji opened the door first, headphones in and music at the ready in case of the worst.
Thankfully, all that met them on the other side was a large, bare room that appeared to have one held quite a great many things.
Deji pushed the light switch, but nothing happened. He motioned to Nami, who clicked on his phone’s flashlight as they inspected the middle of the space.
“Looks like your brother’s been busy.” he said, kneeling as Nami leaned beside him to give him some light.
She shined it over a now empty chair and a series of cut cords. Nearby, she could see a broken glass vase just a meter away. The pieces fit together in her head quickly.
Her sudden happiness was stifled, however, once she noticed the spots of blood on the floor. Some distance away, Nami gasped as she saw Arashi’s sunglasses, shattered and broken beyond repair. Blood stained their black edges.
A horrible flashback entered her mind in that instant. An orange bass slamming into Arashi’s face, and a cap-wearing bass player who could take their life at any moment.
Nami could barely control herself at the mere thought.
She picked up her brother’s broken glasses, fingers shaking even as Deji attempted to calm her down.
“Hey, hey, relax. Unless they recently decided to cut him loose, he clearly got out on his own. We can’t be surprised that they roughed him up; it’s common procedure with these people.”
Deji put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “He’s okay. I’m sure of it.”
Nami stared for a long while at the broken sunglasses, only to drop them on the floor as she found herself falling into Deji’s arms.
There was a warm comfort within them that her brother never really could provide.
Meanwhile, Deji just stood surprised, but patted her on the back as he became silently ecstatic at their sudden closeness.
“Thanks for coming with me.” Nami said, quite genuinely. “I wonder if I really could have done this on my own.”
“You could have.” Deji reassured. “But there’s no shame in having allies. One of the few lessons I still keep from my time with these people.”
The door into the storage room closed behind Nami and Deji, interrupting their moment as a snide voice addressed them.
“Wow. I didn’t know people used this room for that sort of stuff. And I thought I was a bad girl.”
Nami and Deji were separated in an instant, as they were both faced with the same makeup-drowned, colorful girl who had terrorized Arashi some time before.
Omiko closed the door behind her, twisting the lock as she made her intentions painfully clear.
“You two treated the boys good. Lots of blood to clean up for sure.” she said with a cackle.
Deji stepped forward, his expression shifting as Nami stood ready right beside him.
“I’m assuming there’s no way we can convince you to let us go, is there?”
Omiko laughed. “Yeah, sorry. You had a better chance of telling that to uncle’s men. Looks like you decided to kill them instead. Can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same.”
“But that’s besides the point.” She continued, before pointing at Nami. “I just need Dance Dance Princess over there. Once I have her delivered to God Symphony, everybody’s happy.”
Her stance suddenly shifted, black fingernails sharp and prepared to slash apart any would-be opponent. “Except you, and that brother of hers, because you’ll both be dead.”
A second later, and her loud rock music began to flood the air, as Nami and Deji shared one last look.
In one silent instant, they understood each other. They understood that a fight was unavoidable.
Both of them then dashed forward, muscles tense and ready, but Omiko seemed unamused.
Deji could only wonder, among many things, where Arashi was a time like this, when backup was as precious as gold.
For now, he would just have to settle for Nami as a dance partner.
Hopefully, he could keep up, lest he die a horrible and lonely death in the empty storage room of Asakawa Finance.
She didn’t beat all those losers at Shori-Platinum for nothing, after all.