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Like A Mad Dog 3 | 狂犬が如く3

Chapter Text

Daigo fought the urge to turn and face the double doors to the Tojo Headquarters boardroom. He didn't need to look to know who stood there.

“Wow, Daigo-chan, lookin’ spiffy in that big boy suit!” called the former patriarch.

“Majima-san,” he sighed, wondering why it had to be the Mad Dog rejoining the clan and not Kiryu. “Kiryu told me you'd come.”

Majima closed the distance between them, following Daigo's gaze. It was snowing outside, and the courtyard was empty. Daigo's initiation ceremony as Sixth Chairman was over, and no one had stuck around to congratulate him but he and Kashiwagi. It spoke volumes about the lack of morale in the Tojo Clan, and the Dojima Family’s fall from grace.

Daigo finally glanced in Majima's direction, and frowned when he saw that the Mad Dog had changed his attire. “You're wearing a suit,” he remarked, wondering whether this was a good or a bad sign.

“Yeah, well, don't read too much into it.” Majima shrugged, but the look in his eye was somber. “Just tryin’ to look a little less trashy so I can hold down a contract.”

“So, Majima Construction is still in business?” Daigo asked. Kamurocho Hills had seized development until a new contractor could be hired to finish the job, but apparently, Majima didn't intend to let the loss affect his company's future.

“Our slogan's 'We Build Shit’, not 'We Quit’,” Majima replied haughtily.

“Hm. Fair enough,” Daigo agreed, and turned to take his leave. “Well, good luck. I'll see you at the meeting tomorrow. Kashiwagi's waiting for me.”

Majima caught him by the shoulder before he could take more than a step toward the door. “Hold up. Kiryu-chan told me ya couldn't even beat Ryuji in a fight. That true?” His glare was scathing.

“No point in lying. Yeah, he was stronger than I was,” Daigo admitted, locking eyes with Majima, readying himself for whatever came next.

At least Daigo was honest. Majima would go just a little easier on him for that. Before Daigo had a chance to react, Majima threw a steel-toed kick at his face and sent him stumbling into the back of the Chairman’s seat.

“You’re gonna need to be a lot stronger than that,” Majima told him sternly, keeping his dagger sheathed, but bending his knees and threatening to pounce.

Daigo was determined, but he threw undisciplined punches and dodged carelessly as he and Majima fought. Majima was barely sidestepping to avoid his fists, and could have easily stuck a leg out to trip him at any moment. But he played fair, and gave Daigo a chance.

He soon regretted it. Daigo was growing more reckless with every missed blow and every taunt. It disappointed Majima. He had hoped that in the time since Kiryu had pulled him back to his feet from rock bottom, he would have trained, or gained a bit more insight into the strength and elegance of Kiryu’s fighting style. Instead, it seemed he was still the brat who had gone to juvie for getting outsmarted by an Omi ogre like Goda Ryuji.

Out of curiosity, Majima decided to let Daigo’s fist connect with his face, just once. He needed to know if Daigo at least had strength, if not technique.

To his delight, the blow sent him thudding against the glass of the boardroom window, and brought back fond memories of Kiryu the year previous, after he had been released from jail. Kiryu had been sloppy and out of practice, but the strength of the Dragon had still been there.
As it turned out, Daigo was the same. There was potential behind that punch. Daigo might be a worthy pupil.

“Alright then,” Majima grunted, smirking and straightening his tie. “Ya might be worth the investment after all.” There was a spark in his eye as he reached a hand out for Daigo to shake.

Daigo looked between the Mad Dog’s hand and his eager grin, taking a moment to contemplate their brotherhood. Majima had nearly killed his father once. He had beaten and very nearly killed many members of his family that day, too. He had made life harder for the Dojima Family, and for Kiryu, over the years that followed. Daigo had always hated him, about as much as he had hated Shimano.

Yet, here Majima stood, offering peace and keeping a solemn promise to Kiryu, the Dragon who had taken the Dojima Family name and made it legend. Daigo respected few people as much as he respected Kiryu. If Kiryu had faith in Majima, then Daigo would need to have faith in him, too.

He reached out and clasped the Patriarch’s hand with a firm grip. “I accept your support, Majima-san. I plan to do my best as Sixth Chairman.”

“Ya better,” Majima warned him jovially, clenching Daigo’s hand until his knuckles turned white. “Or I’ll kick your ass.”

 

***

 

Two human-sized construction pylons flanked Nakamichi Street. Majima crouched inside one of them, clutching his phone, keeping the screen close to his face as he waited for Nishida to text him. Wearing a suit was burdensome at times like these, making him sweat in the cramped space, but it had to be done. The suit made all the difference when it came to business. He needed it in order to make a serious impression for Majima Construction.

That didn’t mean he couldn’t have a bit of fun, too. Majima’s eye lit up when Nishida texted, “Ok, he’s a few meters away. Start counting down.”

3… 2… 1…

“DAIGO-CHAN!”

Daigo closed his eyes and prayed not to see a certain one-eyed, smug-ass yakuza Patriarch’s face when he opened them.

His prayers were mockingly answered: instead, a tall pylon with feet faced him on the sidewalk. “Dojima no Gyuu! Fight me like a cow!” a muffled voice taunted from within.

“You’re not going to let me pass until I do?” Daigo asked hopelessly.

Majima bent down to grip the bottom edges of the pylon, pulled it over his head, and swung it at Daigo’s torso. Daigo staggered from the impact and crashed into a parked car, setting off its alarm.

Majima tutted and shook his head. “No good, Daigo-chan. You’re gonna have to fight harder than that if ya want your new captains lookin’ up to ya.”

Daigo swung a fist in his general direction, missing by a longshot. Majima smiled at his ferocity, and spun around to deal him a swift kick to the back.

This was how their relationship had been as of late: Majima would hide somewhere in plain sight around Kamurocho, and Daigo would have to wrestle him into submission before he could go about his business.

Considering just how busy the two of them were as leaders of the Tojo Clan, it annoyed Daigo to no end that Majima took time out of his day for this nonsense. As his superior, he had wanted to order him to stop, but soon came to a reluctant realization: his fights with Majima were actually making him stronger. They seemed to work to his benefit.

Unsure of whether or not that was the intention, and unable to get a read on Majima himself, he consulted Kiryu. The two still exchanged calls occasionally, as long as they couldn’t be traced.

“What kind of game is he playing? Should I be concerned?” Daigo asked Kiryu from a Showa Street phone booth one afternoon.

“No, it’s nothing like that,” Kiryu had assured him. “I think he just likes you.”

Daigo frowned, and grumbled, “Well, this is an odd way to show it.”

“Yeah, I know,” Kiryu agreed. He never tried to deny that Majima’s self-expression went beyond unconventional to something just short of insane, but he did seem to understand it better than Daigo. “He did the same thing to me last year, though. I learned a lot from fighting him. I think you’ll see a big improvement in your technique by the end, as long as you don’t take any of his invitations to strip clubs.”

“If you say so,” Daigo sighed, thanking him for the counsel and hanging up. When he exited the phone booth, he took a thorough look at his surroundings before hailing a cab. Usually something would rustle, or he would hear the clang of a garbage can lid or manhole before Majima showed up. To his relief, the street was silent, but for the taxi pulling up to him.

“Tojo Clan Headquarters,” he told the cab driver, who adjusted the rearview mirror to look at him.

“Wow, sir, ya look like ya got a huge stick up your ass. Have ya ever thought of catchin’ a ride to someplace more fun?” The cab driver slowly turned his head, revealing an eyepatch, and then a manic grin.

“Oh no. Please, not right now, Majima-san,” Daigo begged, reaching for the door handle, but Majima clicked the lock every time he tried to pry it open. It was too late. There was no escaping a fight.

“Silly Daigo-chan,” Majima chided, reaching for the baseball bat he had stashed next to the passenger seat. “Kiryu-chan told me to watch ya. Y’ain’t gettin’ outta my sight that easy!”

Daigo sighed. He couldn’t teach an old Mad Dog new tricks. This was the way things would have to be.

Daigo threw down his suit jacket, put up his fists, and punched the shit out of his least favorite Patriarch.

Chapter Text

Raising the Tojo Clan up from the ashes of the Jingweon uprising and Go-Ryu invasion was going to be a long and grueling process. Majima had met with Daigo and Kashiwagi to discuss who the various families were appointing as their new Patriarchs, but nothing was certain yet - and once new clan captains joined their council, only time would tell if they were worthy of their promotions.

In the meantime, picking up building contracts was proving simple, since Kamurocho was expanding so quickly. It kept Majima and his company busy, but it was boring work. It involved a lot of bureaucratic bullshit, so he left most of it to Nishida, and spent his free time elsewhere.

Confronting Daigo for street fights provided some entertainment - and was necessary to the Chairman’s training - but it was also old hat. Training Kiryu had been much the same, and Daigo would never be that strong. There was less excitement in it than there had been a year ago.

Despite himself, Majima was beginning to slip into loneliness and misery. It occurred to him that this was how dependent on Kiryu he had become. Without an exceptional shit-disturber around to rile up the clan, there was nothing to distract Majima from brooding. Unwanted thoughts floated into his head when he tried to fall asleep at night. What was Saejima doing right now, if he was still alive? Where was Yasuko? Had Mirei found another man yet? Was Makoto settling into her life overseas with her family? Was Kiryu ever coming back?

Try as he may to live in the present, the past was always trying to catch up with him. Majima had a feeling Kiryu felt the same. So, he gave up on trying to sleep that particular night. Instead, he lie awake in bed, staring into his phone screen, trying to find solace in harassing his friend.

“You up?” he texted, watching and waiting for a response. The text appeared as ‘seen’, but another minute passed before Kiryu apparently began to type. Majima felt irritated with the length of time it was taking, but hoped that meant Kiryu was about to say something worthwhile.

“Ya” was all he got. Majima cursed himself for even hoping Kiryu could manage more than that. The guy acted twice his age when it came to modern technology.

But, Kiryu seemed to be making a genuine effort, because he quickly followed that up with, “u ok?”

Majima could have said, “No, I feel like shit, and I can’t sleep because I’ll have nightmares.” What he actually wrote was, “No, I can’t go to sleep ‘til I know what you’re wearin’, Kiryu-chan~”

This time, Kiryu’s pause was warranted. Majima smirked at the thought of catching him off guard, and wondered what he would say next. Regardless, it would be sufficiently distracting.

The response finally came: “pajamas? im in bed”

Oh, Kiryu-chan. So absurdly naive. Majima pretended it annoyed him and typed, “You’re supposed to say somethin’ sexy, dumbass.”

Another pause. Kiryu seemed to be deliberating over his response. “uh, briefs?”

“No, Kiryu-chan. How ‘bout nothin’ at all??” Majima suggested.

“i cant bcuz of the kids” Kiryu replied, apparently oblivious to the world of sexting.

Majima was about to compose a lecture to explain to Kiryu the point he was missing, but halfway through, he received another text.

“r u trying to tell me ur wearing nothing?”

Maybe Kiryu was starting to catch his drift after all. He deleted his wall of text and answered, “Yeah. How’s that make ya feel?”

Again, there was a pause. Probably some hesitation, now that Kiryu understood what was happening. He wasn’t exactly the chatty type. Majima doubted he would be able to keep up the conversation, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t amusing to see him try.

“excited, i guess”

Totally non-committal answer, but damn if Majima wouldn’t try to squeeze more of a response out of him. “Ohhh? So ya wanna fuck me~”, then a massive eggplant emoji.

“yeah but y eggplant?”

Majima sighed out loud. He had to explain everything to this guy. “Good grief, Kiryu-chan…. Look at it! It’s a big hard cock.”

“oh” came the first response. “ohhhh” came the second response, when Kiryu genuinely realized what the eggplant resembled. “i see…” “wow”

“I mean, it’s nothin’ compared to the real thing, though, huh?” Majima was about to lower his phone to dick pic level when it suddenly rang, catching him by surprise and sending him scrambling to answer it.

“Who the hell is it?” he grumbled, fidgeting impatiently against his arousal.

“Majima-san?” It was Daigo. “I wanted to talk business before the meeting tomorrow.”

“In the middle of the night?” Majima whined.

“It’s not the middle of the night, it’s 11pm. I have the names of the new captains and wanted to run them by you,” Daigo told him sternly. To him, this was a reasonable request. When the Chairman called, his men should answer. “Why are you acting like it’s late?”

“I been out fuckin’ up heavy machinery all day. Makin’ money for Majima Construction means dukin’ it out with pro wrestlers bright and early.” Majima yawned. It was half true. His arms were heavy from punching bulldozers and knifing men with rocket launchers, just not heavy enough to stop texting smut to his bestie.

“I don’t get it,” Daigo said, “but whatever. If you can’t talk right now, then at least get in touch before the actual meeting tomorrow, okay? I’ll call Kashiwagi instead.”

“Daigo-chan,” Majima gasped. “Ya called me first?” Be still his heart. Daigo must actually look up to him.

“No, I called Kashiwagi first. He told me to call back,” Daigo explained.

“Geez, gettin’ my hopes up like that,” Majima sighed, making a mental note to teach Daigo a lesson on his way to Tojo HQ tomorrow.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’m hanging up now. Bye,” Daigo replied, and then he was gone.

Regretting his impatience, Majima wondered whose names were about to be brought to the table, and wished he had asked Daigo before he hung up. At least he would find out tomorrow. In the meantime, he had a few more texts from KIryu:

“the real thing? wat?”
“r u hiding somewhere?”
“plz just come out, dont scare the kids”
“majima?”

In the absence of a follow-up text, he could see why Kiryu would think he had implied a surprise visit. It made him feel a little badly that he couldn’t be in Okinawa right now. Sending Kiryu obnoxious texts from across the country suddenly felt lame, compared to the idea of sitting on a beach in paradise with a big sweaty beefcake at his side.

“Don’t worry, I’m not there,” he typed, but the words choked him up more than he had expected. Instead of waiting for a response, he locked his phone and tossed it to the other side of the room. Then, he stared dead-eyed up at the ceiling, trying and failing to dissociate.

It was going to be another long night without Kiryu-chan.

Chapter Text

Only two more hours until the Tojo Clan gathered, and gained three new captains. Majima decided to do as Daigo told him the previous night. He dialed the Chairman’s number and waited, itching as the branches surrounding him scratched him through his suit.

“Majima-san, glad you called,” Daigo said when he answered. “We don’t have much time. Should I meet you somewhere?”

“Yeah, I know just the place,” Majima replied enthusiastically.

Daigo heard an echo, as if two voices were speaking to him at once. “... You’re here, aren’t you.”

Majima jumped out of the tree and landed on Daigo’s head.

“Aren’t ya glad I didn’t keep ya waitin’?” Majima asked, locking an arm around Daigo’s neck and pulling him forcibly to his feet.

Daigo managed to wrestle out of his grip, grabbing his arm and twisting it around his back. He pulled Majima’s dagger away from him and held it out of his reach.

“Could you at least try not to embarrass me today?” he grumbled, throwing Majima into the limo that had pulled up to transport him to Tojo Headquarters.

Majima settled into the back seat and crossed his legs. “Embarrass ya? Ain’t that your mom’s job?”

“She won’t be there today,” Daigo told him, taking the seat next to him and pulling the door closed. “I have to be more independent from now on.”

Majima raised an eyebrow. “Right.” It was far from independant for Daigo to be keeping veterans like Kashiwagi and Majima at his side, consulting them before every decision he made. But the kid did need to gain some confidence, so Majima let him think he was on his own without Yayoi.

“So, weren’t ya gonna tell me the names of the new guys?” Majima asked, turning his good eye to face Daigo.

“Yeah. Kanda Tsuyoshi, Nishikiyama Family. Hamazaki Goh, Hamazaki Family. Mine Yoshitaka, Hakuho Clan.”

Majima already had so many questions, he didn’t know where to start. Kanda was a big name from back in his Shimano days, so that at least made some sense. After the remaining Shimano men were absorbed into the Nishikiyama Family, no doubt a brute like Kanda had made a name for himself among them. They might need someone with that kind of aggression to assert themselves against the Omi Alliance.

Hamazaki was a newer face in terms of patriarchs, but had a reputation already for single-handedly taking over Yokohama from the Snake Flower Triads. The circumstances of his success were a bit shady, but having his territory under their control would undoubtedly be useful.

Mine was not a name Majima had heard before, especially not in association with the Hakuho Clan. That bothered him most.

“So, ya want my opinion, then?” Majima asked, giving Daigo a hard stare. Whatever he said would be honest, and while Daigo appreciated that, he didn’t always take kindly to it.

“Yeah.” Daigo gave him a permissive look. He was prepared for Majima’s criticism.

“I think you’re nuts,” Majima said bitterly. “Kanda’s a loose cannon. Hamazaki’s sketchy. And who the hell is Mine?”

“I think you’ll like him,” Daigo said confidently. “He’s a hard worker. His business ventures should bring us financial stability, and he’s devoted to the clan’s cause. He has no history with the yakuza, but insisted on meeting with me to make his case for joining.”

Daigo speaking so highly of someone was rare, except for when it came to Kiryu. Majima was immediately suspicious.

“The hell d’ya mean, he met with ya? How’d that happen?” Majima demanded.

“Kanda introduced us,” Daigo said, giving Majima a look of warning when he rolled his eye. “It wasn’t a personal recommendation. It was set up by Mine, and it proved how strongly he felt about supporting the Tojo Clan.”

“Kashiwagi knows about this?” Majima wondered, a sour look on his face.

“I told him last night,” Daigo said, averting his gaze. “He reacted similarly to you. But I made up my mind.”

So many red flags already, and yet, Majima knew he would never talk Daigo out of this decision. He was so much like Kiryu that way, always dead set on following his commitments through to the end, and always trusting his instincts.

“Ain’t gonna argue, then. Just curious, though; what did this guy do that made ya so sure he’s loyal?” Majima had to ask.

A rare smile graced Daigo’s face. “Well, we had a fight.”

Majima’s eye widened. The gears were turning. The pieces were fitting together. Realization was dawning on him.

“He was strong, like you, or like Kiryu,” Daigo continued, and the way his gaze turned wistful made Majima want to gag. “I don’t know if I could have beaten him without your training. He fought fairly, and when it was over, he pledged himself to the clan. He said he respected my strength and would follow my leadership without question.”

Whether he knew it or not, Daigo was falling in love.

Majima turned his whole body to face Daigo and forced him to meet his gaze. “And ya trust him? With your life? On your dad’s grave?” The questions came out harsh, but they were for Daigo’s protection. Majima promised Kiryu he would watch over him. This was not a matter he would take lightly.

“Absolutely,” Daigo responded, his expression dead serious.

The lack of hesitation in his tone, and his mannerisms, convinced Majima. It was the sort of solid, irrevocable response he would have given if someone had asked him whether or not he trusted Kiryu. Slowly, he relaxed into his seat, and sighed helplessly.

“Alright. If you’re that sure, I guess I’m lookin’ forward to meetin’ this guy,” Majima grumbled. He pulled out a cigarette and offered one to Daigo, then lit it for him.

When they arrived at Tojo Headquarters, Majima knew exactly what he needed to do: kick Mine Yoshitaka’s ass.

Chapter Text

Meetings were long, boring affairs, and Majima had no patience for them. So, when he and Daigo entered the boardroom, he let Kashiwagi take the lead.

“I still don’t like this, Daigo,” Kashiwagi sighed, rubbing his forehead. “I have a few men that could split off from the Kazama Family and become patriarchs. Why don’t we at least promote one of them? Then we would have someone we trust in here, not just strangers.”

Daigo took his seat, and shook his head. “No. We have to put our faith in the newcomers. We owe the Nishikiyama Family a courtesy after what happened to Shindo. Hamazaki and Mine have been more than generous. I’m not looking to slight any of them. Be satisfied that we have you, and Majima, when the rest of the old blood is dead.”

His words were stern enough to make Kashiwagi reflect on their situation. Beggars couldn’t afford to be choosers. The Tojo Clan did need to learn to trust new faces.

“Put the damn phone away,” Kashiwagi snapped at Majima, who was texting with one hand and resting his head on the other.

“Relax, I’m just takin’ care of business,” Majima yawned, ignoring him. Nishida was giving him the play-by-play of this morning’s construction battle.

“Well, so are we,” Kashiwagi retorted. “At least act like you give a shit, or we’re in trouble when the new captains show up.” Between Daigo, who was half his age, and Majima, who acted like he was, Kashiwagi was getting tired of being the voice of authority in the room. He found himself wishing Yayoi had joined them today.

Majima slipped his phone into his pocket and sat upright, stiffening his posture and putting on an air of solemnity. “How's this?”

“Better,” Kashiwagi grumbled.

Daigo didn't look so certain. “The captains are expecting a Mad Dog. Maybe we should just let Majima do what he wants?”

Majima grinned. Daigo wasn't such a bad kid after all.

“No,” Kashiwagi shook his head with frustration. “Don't give him any ideas, Daigo. We need to make an impression.”

“I'll make an impression, alright,” Majima assured him, reaching for his knife.

Kashiwagi jumped out of his seat and caught the Mad Dog's arm. “Not today,” he growled. “I don't care what you do with your own family, but we need these men to respect us, not fear us.”

“I disagree,” Daigo stated plainly. “If they don't fear us, then why should they respect us?”

“The Chairman gets it,” Majima huffed, glaring up at Kashiwagi and tugging his arm from his grasp.

Kashiwagi turned on Daigo, staring him down. “You just said you wanted us to trust them. Beating them into submission is the opposite.”

Majima and Daigo exchanged a look. They were both of the opinion that fighting was the simplest way to earn respect, but Kashiwagi did have a point. They would need to tread lightly if they wanted to build up the Tojo Clan instead of breaking it down.

So, when the three new captains made their entrance, Majima took Daigo's left side, while Kashiwagi took his right. The most intimidation the Mad Dog used was a menacing scowl, daring the new blood to test him.

Kanda entered first, all pomp and no manners. He was shirtless. Majima respected that.

Hamazaki entered with a smug smirk on his face, clearly aware of the leverage he had in this meeting. Majima wished he could punch him, but there was someone else he needed to punch first.

Mine was all business. His expression was hard and serious, his bow deep and courteous, his language proper and polite. Majima noted that he was also of an age with Daigo, and barely gave a sideways glance to he or Kashiwagi. There was clearly only one person in the room who held his attention.

Majima tried to catch a glimpse of Kashiwagi's reaction from the corner of his eye, but the Kazama patriarch's expression betrayed nothing.

When they took their seats, Majima hardly cared that Kanda presumed to sit next to him, or that Hamazaki took the seat opposite Kanda. Mine, however, pointedly took the seat next to Kashiwagi on Daigo's right side. Politics weren't Majima's strong suit, but the implication was clear: Mine intended to position himself as closely to Daigo as possible.

Kanda nudged him and let out a boisterous laugh. “Shimano's Mad Dog, eh? Least we got somebody with balls in the room. Lookin’ forward to fuckin’ up Kamurocho with ya!”

Majima grunted and clenched his jaw shut to keep himself from retaliating. Kanda seemed disappointed.

“What the fuck? You ignorin’ me?” The color began to rise in Kanda's face, and he jumped to his feet, leaning uncomfortably close to Majima and spitting into his face. “This is bullshit! Fight me if ya think you're so much better 'n me!”

Majima's lip curled, his eye bulged, and his hand twitched. Kashiwagi and Daigo watched him with muted alarm, begging for him to show restraint.

Thankfully, Mine interjected. “Kanda, you won't be long for this world if you instigate a fight with the Chairman's advisor.” It was stated as a fact, rather than a threat, but Kanda recoiled.

“Fuckin’ pansy,” he spat, giving Majima's shoulder a shove before he sat down again.

Majima didn't know whether to feel grateful or disturbed by the sway Mine held over Kanda. He gave the younger man a suspicious glare. It could be as simple as Mine having proven he was physically stronger, or it could be something more devious. Either way, it spoke to Mine's level of strength and cunning.

Daigo nodded and seemed to appreciate Mine's interjection, but Majima didn't take his eye off of Mine for the rest of the meeting. Whatever the men around him discussed went right over his head. All he could think about was having a chat with the handsome young captain when this was over. He needed to know who the hell this guy thought he was.

Kashiwagi had noticed the look in his eye. When all was said and done, and the captains were heading for the door, he caught Majima by the shoulder.

“You were awfully quiet,” Kashiwagi commented, keeping his voice low so the other captains wouldn't hear.

“Just thinkin’,” Majima grunted, trying to brush him off.

“About Mine, right?” Kashiwagi gave him a knowing look. “I was, too.”

Majima searched his expression for any trace of disapproval, and found none. “I ain't convinced by that whole gentleman charade he put on. Ya think he's up to somethin’?” He hoped they were on the same page.

“Sort of.” Kashiwagi stopped in his tracks, watching the men ahead of them continue down the steps to the front door. Mine and Daigo were deep in friendly conversation. Hamazaki and Kanda were exchanging foul-mouthed threats.

Once they were outside, Kashiwagi continued. “I think he's after Daigo. Not his Chairmanship, but him, specifically.”

“Yeah. I see that,” Majima agreed, crossing his arms. “So, what're we gonna do?”

“Let it play out,” Kashiwagi told him, giving him a stern look. “Let Daigo figure this out on his own.”

Majima frowned and gave him a pleading look. “Kashiwagi-han, that's the shittiest plan I ever heard. At least lemme knock the guy around a little.”

“No,” Kashiwagi told him, his tone low and authoritative. “I'm not his dad. You're not his dad. This isn't our business.”

“Oh, like hell it's not,” Majima groaned. “Somebody's gotta look out for the kid. His mom ain't doin’ it no more.”

“Dojima wouldn't want me, or you, lording over his son like this,” Kashiwagi snapped.

Majima's anger rose. “That greedy fuck wouldn't want us doin’ anythin’ at all,” he snarled, heart pounding at the thought of Dojima Sohei having the nerve to tell him what to do.

Seeing his mistake, Kashiwagi backed down. “Fine. What about what Kiryu would want, then?” he suggested, knowing that mentioning his name usually brought the Mad Dog to heel.

Majima turned to him, slowly dropping his look of menace to one of mild contempt. Kiryu was a staunch believer in individual responsibility. If he were here, he would probably be giving the same advice as Kashiwagi. Kiryu had asked Majima to watch Daigo, not to babysit him. Daigo was his boss now, not his kid.

“Screw what Kiryu wants,” he lied, and calmly took the steps down to the front hall. “But yeah, I guess Daigo's gotta learn somehow.” He glanced back up at Kashiwagi from the first landing. “Can't trust nobody in our line of work.”

Satisfied that Majima seemed to have relented, Kashiwagi nodded in agreement and followed him out of the building.

On the front steps, Daigo and Mine were leaning against the building, each with a cigarette in their mouths. Mine bowed and paid them his respects, and Daigo told them he'd be in touch about their next meeting. Kashiwagi continued on to his waiting car. Majima kept glancing back over his shoulder.

“Majima,” Kashiwagi reminded him, “You just said you would stay out of it.”

“What? Yeah,” Majima agreed, but his focus was entirely elsewhere.

Kashiwagi sighed. It was no use. This was going to end the way it always did with Majima. “Just don't use your knife, alright?” he grumbled before he opened the door to his car and greeted the driver. Once inside, Kashiwagi rolled down the window despite the late winter cold, and gave Majima a final glare.

“Don't fuck this up for Daigo.”

“Sure, sure,” Majima responded, waving him off. Then, Kashiwagi was gone, and he was off his leash. Time to do some sniffing around.

Majima was accustomed to finding places to hide, wherever he went. Tojo Clan Headquarters had no shortage of shrubberies for him to duck behind, so he casually snuck his way back toward the main building and crouched under some branches to spy on his Chairman.

Mine and Daigo weren't even halfway through their cigarettes, so Majima put his back to them and listened, checking his phone while he waited. As soon as the two of them split up, he would make his move.

In the meantime, he texted Nishida. “How's the prep goin’?”

“Renovations to that club on Pink Street are going pretty good, only one pro wrestler has tried to kick us out so far. I also got that outfit you asked for.”

“Good. Thanks, Nishi-kun~”

“No problem, boss.”

Well, that was one ray of hope during these dark times. Majima was going to have another paycheck to look forward to, and some training with Daigo that should be sufficient enough to keep him on his toes.

Footsteps were approaching the bushes, catching Majima off guard. He flattened himself against the ground and held his breath.

Daigo parted the branches and looked down at him with mild interest. “Hey. You can fight him now, if you want.”

“Daigo-chan,” Majima whined, “I was gonna make it a surprise.”

“I doubt you could have pulled that off. I know how to spot you a mile away now.” Daigo let the branches snap back into place, slapping Majima in the face from both sides.

Majima cursed and rubbed his cheeks as he climbed out of the shrub, flicking stray twigs out of his hair and off of his suit. If Mine was amused, he didn't show it. The scowl on his face didn't falter.

“Majima-han,” the young man said, bowing with calculated respect. “Dojima-han told me you prefer to test new recruits by way of physical strength. I'd be honored to show you what I can do for the Tojo Clan, aside from financial sponsorship.”

Majima was already fed up with his formal theatrics, and wasted no time reaching for his dagger. Then, he remembered Kashiwagi's final request, and thought better of it. Slicing up their new captain on their first fight might cause more problems than it was worth. So, he left the dagger in its sheath, and drew himself back like a loaded spring, crouching and ready to pounce.

Mine locked eyes with him and took up the challenge. Every punch he threw was calculated, every dodge certain. Majima could outpace him, but every time he tried to take a swing at Mine from behind, he was ready with a counter. Mine had the type of finesse that Daigo so sorely lacked; the type of finesse that someone trained and disciplined and nearly invincible might have.

Daigo had been right. He was a lot like Kiryu.

This was unprecedented. A man with no ties to the Yakuza, who had built his success on financial wisdom, was easily matching Majima in a contest of physical strength. Where could he have learned to fight like this?

By the end of it, Majima was seconds away from pulling his dagger on the boy as a last resort. It was fortunate for Mine that, instead, Majima managed to feint and grapple him.

Now, Mine was on the ground, panting with exertion. Majima put his foot down on his chest. Daigo stood by and waited for him to say what he was thinking. From the way the fight had gone, it seemed Mine had earned his respect.

“So?” Daigo asked, searching Majima's expression.

Majima was annoyed that Daigo seemed to want his blessing. It was yet another testament to how dependent he was on his elders.

“Ya put up a good fight,” was the most credit Majima could give someone as unsettlingly strong and mysterious as Mine. “Daigo's lucky to have ya around.” He shot Daigo a meaningful look. Don't take this guy for granted, kid. And don't turn your back on him for a damn second.

“Later, Daigo-chan,” he called over his shoulder as he tucked his hands into his pockets and sauntered away.

Kiryu would want to know about this, but Majima wouldn't tell him. It would only worry him. It certainly worried Majima.

Daigo was so lost without Kiryu that he was trying to replace him.

Chapter Text

The more time Daigo and Mine spent together, the harder it was for Majima to train the Sixth Chairman. He couldn’t take on both of them at once, not unless he resorted to some serious violence, so he devoted most of his schedule to catching Daigo alone.

It wasn't easy. It required extreme measures. Nishida's texts weren't fooling him, and direct texts from Majima were just getting ignored. Daigo kicked over every trash can in his path, set off the alarms on parked cars, and even dodged manholes like he knew exactly where Majima would be trying to jump him next. He never took taxis, he didn't carry weapons, and he sure as hell didn’t walk into any clubs on Pink Street.

Luckily, he hadn't suspected some of Majima's less conventional methods, and waltzed right into Don Quijote, presuming it to be safe.

When he approached the curiously nervous store clerk with his purchases, Daigo began to suspect something was amiss. By then, it was too late.

“Don Don Don…” a suspiciously familiar voice sang over the store's intercom. “Don ki… Don Quijote… Daigo is in stock, what a convenient store….”

It was happening. There was nothing Daigo could do. He tried to run out the front door, but instead, he ran head first into a giant pink penguin mascot: Donko.

A muffled cackle emanated from inside her big round belly. Then, she body slammed Daigo to the ground.

“Majima-san, I can't breathe,” Daigo choked underneath the weight of the costume and the patriarch inside of it.

“Daigo-chan,” Majima exclaimed. “Ya been puttin’ up a real good fight, but we gotta settle this once and for all so I can get back to doin’ other shit.”

“Can't you just do your work, like everyone else?” Daigo pleaded, writhing against the foam costume pinning him to the ground.

“This is my work!” Majima told him, exasperated by how ungrateful Daigo was. This training had made him at least twice as strong and ten times as jumpy since it started, and that was a major improvement. “I won't smack ya around too much today, but tomorrow, I need ya to meet me out front of the shrine for a real fight. Last one, I promise.”

Daigo didn't want to agree, but Majima would probably keep him pinned until he did. “Fine. As long as it's the last one.”

Satisfied with that, Majima backed off and let him climb to his feet. Then, he waved a fin goodbye. “Okay, see ya tomorrow Daigo-chan!”

Donko took off waddling down Showa Street, and Daigo tried to imagine what he was in for tomorrow. If this really was his last confrontation with Majima, he would have to be prepared.

 

***

 

Despite what he would have Daigo believe, Majima was taking this final test very seriously. The shrine between Nakamichi and Pink Street rarely attracted visitors, since a creepy guy in a clown costume hung out in front of it. The low foot traffic made it the perfect setting for an all-out brawl.

There was no point in hiding, since Daigo clearly expected him, so Majima lounged on the steps while he waited, soaking up the last of the late afternoon sun before it receded below the skyline. No holding back today. Daigo was ready to prove himself worthy of his Chairmanship.

Soon enough, Majima heard footsteps approaching. Eagerly sitting up and cracking his knuckles, he turned his eye to face - Mine?

“What the hell?” Majima growled. “Where's Daigo?”

“I told him I wanted to talk with you, so he sent me here.” Mine bowed respectfully, prim and proper as ever. “Majima-han, I know I've been part of the Tojo Clan for less than a year, but I want to prove to you that I'm trustworthy. How can I do that?”

“What?” Majima scowled. This was sudden. It seemed like an honest enough question, but he didn't know Mine well enough to understand the intention behind it. Besides, he hardly knew what to tell the kid. Trust didn't come easily to him.

“I'll do whatever it takes,” Mine assured him, a determined look in his eye. “Daigo has my support, and by extension, so do you. That's what brotherhood means, doesn't it?”

Mine was earnest, but Majima still didn't understand why he was approaching him with this out of the blue. He had to know more. “Brotherhood, huh? Is that really what all this is about?”

“Yes.” Mine showed no hesitation. “Daigo and I swore an oath. We're kyoudai, for better or for worse. I want to do right by him, and by the people he cares about.”

“Kyoudai, huh? Don’t remember gettin’ the memo on that,” he grumbled. Daigo might need a heavier beating than he’d planned, for getting up to shit like this behind his back.

But, try as he may, he couldn't deny Mine's sincerity, and he couldn't ignore the implication behind it. “Is that all it is? Brotherhood? Or is it somethin' more?” Majima wondered aloud.

“I love him,” Mine stated plainly and confidently.

Majima sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, shaking his head hopelessly. So, the two kids were smitten with each other. Maybe he should be happy for Daigo, but all Majima could think was that this was too much, too soon. Mine was strong and sturdy, more-so than Daigo, and shared Kiryu’s stubborn resolve; but there was something missing in the way he expressed himself. His devotion was too strong for how little time he had spent in the clan. It was bordering on obsessive.

“I wanted you to know that I would do anything for Daigo, and that means I would do anything for the Tojo Clan,” Mine continued, his tone level but his eyes burning with such intense passion that it felt like a threat. “Money is the best I can offer, but I'll gladly give it, if it means earning your trust.”

Majima laughed incredulously. “What, is this some kinda bribe?”

Mine's expression didn't change. “I told you, I have nothing else to offer.”

“That ain't the point,” Majima sighed, waving his offer away with his hand. “Ya want people to trust ya? Give it time. Money ain't gonna buy trust. Just prove we got nothin’ to worry about, and us captains'll come around, y'know?”

“How do I prove that?” Mine genuinely wanted to know. It appeared that trust was something foreign to him. Majima could understand that, maybe even pity it, but still didn’t know how to address it.

“Well,” Majima began, but had to think. If Kiryu were here, he would know what to say. Majima didn't have that kind of tact, patience, or insight. “Uh... ask Kashiwagi. I'm no good at this shit,” he groaned. “I just bust heads, alright?”

“I can do that,” Mine said, but Majima wasn't sure whether he meant it about asking Kashiwagi or about busting heads. Either way, Mine bowed and turned to leave, and Majima was left sitting there wondering why the hell he had to parent the next generation of yakuza. Kiryu was the one who liked doing that sort of thing, not him.

At least this conversation had cleared up his suspicions about Mine, though. Kashiwagi was right. He wasn't after the Chairmanship at all. He was in this for Daigo.

The word “kyoudai” set off alarm bells for him, but that might just be his past creeping up on him. When he had called someone that, things went badly. When Kiryu had called someone that, things went badly. But that didn't have to be true for Daigo. He deserved to have someone by his side that he could trust.

Speaking of trust, Majima was going to have to get over the fact that Daigo had totally broken his trust by pulling this shit on him. He should be brawling with the Chairman right now, not counseling his emotionally repressed boyfriend.

Majima resigned himself to lighting up a cigarette, and was about to take a stroll, but stopped in his tracks. To his delight, Daigo had shown up after all.

“I was here the whole time, you know,” he told Majima, leaning against the gate to the shrine. “I wasn't going to leave Mine alone with you.”

“Why not?” Majima smirked against the cigarette between his lips. “Afraid I'd kick his ass again?” His hands balled into fists, and he took a few steps toward Daigo, giddy with violent energy.

Daigo ignored him. “Mine went to talk to Kashiwagi. So, now that he's gone, I need you to tell me your thoughts about what he said.” His expression was deadpan, but Majima felt like Daigo was still childishly looking to him for approval.

“He's less like Kiryu than ya think,” Majima warned him curtly, huffing out a breath of smoke.

“That's not what I see in him,” Daigo responded.

“Yeah, it is,” Majima insisted, his tone flat and unconvinced. The traits that Daigo idolized in one man were the traits he desperately sought out in his partner. It was obvious. “Ya think because he's honest that he's trustworthy, but he knows next to nothin’ about lovin’ somebody.”

“He was orphaned as a kid,” Daigo explained, as if that justified his total lack of social skills. “If he seems lost, that's because he was. Now, he's finding his way. I have no doubt he's trustworthy, considering he chose this path instead of being born into it. He understands the values of the Tojo Clan.”

Daigo was deflecting. Majima knew this game. It was the same game people played when they wanted to believe Majima Goro was worthy of their trust, and capable of love. They told themselves stories about how he was just in a bad place, he wanted to change, he would never do anything to hurt them. They would tell those stories over and over, despite the slowly building evidence to the contrary, and despite everything he had ever done to deserve his Mad Dog reputation.

Saejima had played this game before the Ueno Seiwa hit. Makoto had played it before she got shot by Dojima. Mirei had played it before he hit her. Most recently, Kiryu had played it, before he kidnapped Haruka.

The difference with Kiryu was that he had continued to play the game even after Majima hurt him, and from him, Daigo had learned that it was normal. He had learned it was normal to obsess and abuse the way Majima did, and normal to forgive the way Kiryu did. Now, Majima knew, he needed to teach him that it wasn’t normal. Lying to himself about his relationships was one thing. Lying to Daigo was another.

“I’m not the preachy type, so I'm only gonna give ya this lecture once,” Majima growled, closing the space between them and giving Daigo a hard stare. “You’re naive as hell, and I’ll tell ya why: first, it takes a long-ass time for somebody to really love ya. They gotta work at it. This Mine guy, though, he comes around, swoops ya off your spoiled little princey feet, and suddenly you’re swearin’ oaths behind everybody’s backs?” Majima prodded him in the chest, his anger rising. “By the time he’s been in the clan a year, he ain’t gonna know where you end, and he begins. That look in his eyes, it's possessive. It's fucked up. It ain’t love.” He shoved Daigo, desperate to knock some sense into him. “Daigo, the guy can’t even have a regular conversation. Don't matter if he means well, he ain't got a clue when it comes to lovin’ people.”

“Hm. And you think I can’t handle that?” Daigo wondered, utterly untouched by Majima's concern. “You say he doesn’t have a clue, but is he any more clueless than I am? You say he’s fucked up, but is he any more fucked up than you are?”

Majima’s eye went wide. The cigarette fell from his mouth. He couldn’t tear his suit jacket off fast enough.

“No, he ain’t,” he roared. “So, beat the shit outta me, and then maybe I’ll believe you’re gonna be able to hold your own if this guy fucks up.” Now, his tie was flying over his shoulder, and the buttons of his dress shirt were being torn apart. He bared his back and clenched his whole body, muscles coiled like springs, ready to bounce into action.

“I guess this is what we came here for, isn’t it?” Daigo nodded in acknowledgement, having been prepared for an argument to turn into a fight. He stripped out of his own jacket and shirt. In the faint twilight, the golden yellow and flaming orange of his own tattoo were like the sun, compared to the pale, lunar white of Majima’s hannya.

Neither of them said another word. They dove straight into battle, locking arms, butting heads, each determined to prove to the other that their convictions were stronger, through actions rather than words.

Each punch Daigo threw said, I haven’t given up on trust.

Each kick Majima delivered said, You will, once he hurts you.

The fight went on and on. They were so accustomed to each other’s fighting styles that it became a battle of endurance rather than skill. Daigo was losing.

This hadn’t been the plan. Majima had been training him for months. He was supposed to be stronger than this. Instead, he was sprawled on the ground, so tired that he didn’t even need to be pinned, accepting his defeat with grace. Majima watched him silently, taking no joy in his victory, screaming internally at the cruelty of fate. It should have been him lying there. It should have been a younger, more trusting, more loving person who still had faith in his brothers, standing over him, proving him wrong.

It was full night now, and cold. In fact, it was starting to snow, just like that night one year ago, when Ryuji had invaded Kamurocho and thrown the Tojo Clan into chaos. Here they were, a year later, and nothing had changed. They were still scared, still lost, and still struggling to pull themselves back together.

Daigo and Majima said nothing, but they were thinking the same thing: I wish Kiryu was here.

“You won,” Daigo finally muttered when he had caught his breath.

It didn’t feel like a win. “I guess,” Majima said bitterly.

“So, what does this mean? Will you keep harassing me, and Mine?” Daigo asked, his tone suggesting he assumed the answer would be yes.

“Nah,” Majima answered, grabbing his shirt and jacket, throwing them around his shoulders, and walking away.

Daigo sat up. “Why not?” he called after him.

“Got some thinkin’ to do,” was all Majima could say, and it was true. He hadn’t been thinking.

Kiryu wouldn’t want them fighting like this. Kiryu would want Daigo to follow his heart, wherever it led him. Kiryu would never have beaten him for having faith in another human being. Kiryu had had faith in even his worst enemies until the end. He still had faith in Majima, not that he deserved it.

The issue wasn’t that Daigo shouldn’t trust Mine. It was that Majima refused to.

What did he know about the guy? Who was he to judge? Even if he pretended he knew better than Daigo, it was Daigo’s words that spoke his truth. You say he’s fucked up, but is he any more fucked up than you are? No. No, he wasn’t.

What should have been Kamurocho Hills was still an empty lot. It mocked and tormented him, reminding him that everything he loved was destined to be lost. The concrete was cold and bare. Majima found himself missing West Park. At least there had been trees, and people; gambling, and booze, and campfires. Now there was nothing, no one, just a hollowed out corner of Kamurocho where he could stand completely and utterly alone.

It was December, so Christmas would be coming up soon, and New Year’s. It was a time to spend with family and friends, a time for new beginnings. But Majima felt like it was just the same old Tojo Clan bullshit.

Before he could bring himself to go down to Purgatory and indulge his baser desires, he needed a smoke to clear his mind. The heat of it barely touched him, compared to the cold concrete against his back, but the taste preoccupied him from his thoughts for just a while.

Majima’s phone buzzed in his suit jacket, and he pulled it out. Texts had flooded his inbox. Nishida, questioning his whereabouts, as usual. Haruka, asking him what he wanted for Christmas this year. Daigo, making sure his departure didn’t mean he was going to miss their meeting tomorrow. Kiryu, rambling on about something or other.

Wait, Kiryu rambling? Kiryu didn’t ramble. He was the strong and silent type. Majima scrolled up through his messages:

“cant get a hold of kaoru”
“do u still here from her?”
“i texted her about christmas”
“haruka tried too”
“i thought she might visit”
“and no, u no i cant invite u”
“sry”
“ill ttyl”

Majima let out a long sigh. As if meddling in Daigo’s love affair wasn’t enough, now he was going to have to give advice to Kiryu, too. He stuck his cigarette between his lips and typed out a response.

“Ya texted her??? Call that lady and talk to her for real or I’ll kick your ass.”

When Kiryu said he would talk to him later, Majima figured that meant later that night, but he got an answer almost immediately.

“i tried”

So, Kiryu had some common sense after all.

“Okay, ya tried, and???”

“it wouldnt go thru”

That was odd. Majima hadn’t kept Kaoru’s number, because honestly he could do without ever hearing from that cold-hearted bitch again; but if she was ignoring Kiryu, he would dig up that number, track her down, and leap over the Pacific Ocean to knock some sense into her.

“i think she blocked me?”

“Like hell she did. Gimme that number. I’ll have a chat with her for ya. I’ll invite her up here for a Merry Fuckin’ Christmas in Kamurocho with yours truly.”

“plz dont” Kiryu begged, and Majima could practically see him gritting his teeth at the offer.

“just try the number, tell me if it works”
“555-428-3495”

Majima was more than happy to oblige. If Kaoru answered, this would be a great opportunity to blow off some steam. He waited for the line to connect, but it didn’t. So, he tried again. Nothing. Dead silence.

“did it work?”

“Nope.”

“damn…”
“i dont even know where she lives”
“haruka asked about her, i dont no wat to tell her now”

Poor, naive Kiryu-chan. He really had believed that a young career woman would commit and come back to him. That wasn’t the way the world worked, Majima knew. Girls like her did what Makoto did, and what he could only assume Mirei had done, even though he never dared to ask Katsuya. They found a new man, a better man, a less shady man - and they moved on.

It was cruel. Kiryu deserved better. Haruka deserved better.

“Sorry, Kiryu-chan. She was pretty hot. 7/10 hot. You’re a perfect 10, so I dunno what that kid’s thinkin’. She’s gonna end up with some ugly American bastard who gets wrong kanji tattooed on his bicep or some shit.”

Majima was fairly confident in his ability to console jilted lovers, so he hit “send” and switched over to his conversation with Nishida. Partway through typing out a response, his phone rang.

“Kiryu-chan?” he asked, perplexed. That text really hadn’t warranted a verbal response.

“Hi,” Kiryu answered, sounding concerned. “You don’t happen to want to talk right now, do you?”

“Huh? Why?” Majima wondered.

“Well, you only text me this many times in a row when you’re upset about something.” Kiryu figured Majima must be projecting, because despite his disappointment, he wasn’t all that surprised or upset that Kaoru hadn’t responded. Majima was really blowing this out of proportion with his threats and his weird attempts at comforting him.

It was pretty difficult to catch someone like Majima off guard, but if anyone could do it, it was Kiryu. It was so annoying, how he always claimed not to be able to read Majima, and then read him like an open book.

“Tch, I’m upset? You’re the one who’s upset,” Majima whined. “The whole Kaoru thing’s gotcha down in the dumps, right? That’s why ya called?”

“Uh, yeah,” Kiryu decided to agree. It wasn’t that much of a lie. He was holed up in his room, having told the kids he needed to make a phone call before dinner, and was feeling a little lost now that the phone call he had planned to make hadn't actually happened.

“How many times I gotta tell ya? Forget about her! Plenty of girls out there, Kiryu-chan, and plenty of ‘em wouldn’t mind shackin’ up with - y’know what, nah, scratch that, ya got like nine kids, don’tcha? Eh, good luck,” he sighed and crushed the butt of his cigarette. Kiryu’s dating life had ended when he took over that orphanage.

“Thanks,” Kiryu said, not seeming to understand that the good luck had been wished on him with sarcasm. “So, what are you doing right now?” He still had time to kill before dinner, and really wanted to know why Majima was texting so frantically tonight.

“Eh? Hm…” Majima had to come up with something before Kiryu suspected he was moping. “Sex!”

“Sex…” Kiryu repeated with disbelief. “Right now?”

“Bye bye!” Majima quickly hung up. “Kiryu-chan got me all worked up,” he pouted to no one in particular.

Following that train of thought, Majima hopped to his feet and strolled on down to Purgatory to take care of business. Mine and Daigo were the last things on his mind now, so he was feeling better. If Kiryu was okay, then he was okay. Everything would be okay. … Probably.

Chapter Text

New year, same shit.

Majima could feel his life slipping into monotony, and he hated it. Meetings. Meetings. More meetings. Normally it made him restless, but now, it was just getting exhausting. The Tojo Clan was going nowhere, fast.

His family wasn’t pulling their weight, but it wasn’t their fault. They just hadn’t been able to pick up enough building contracts last season. Over the winter, they’d almost slipped into the red. As hard as Nishida worked, he couldn’t pull them back out without a miracle. That was when the Okinawa resort deal fell into the Clan’s lap.

“We should take it,” Daigo said with resolve. “The Hakuho Clan is keeping us afloat, but we need another source of revenue, or else we won’t be able to keep up with the Omi.”

Mine nodded in agreement. Kashiwagi, too. Hamazaki said nothing. Kanda exploded with rage, making the same argument that he always did: they should be taking territory by force, not by diplomatic means. Majima rolled his eyes and waited for him to either simmer down or make a dramatic exit. Even he knew when to sit down and shut up.

“I can work on acquiring the land,” Mine offered, once Kanda had settled. “I have a contact in the Tamashiro Family. They owe the Tojo Clan allegiance, right?”

“True,” Daigo agreed. “If we had them working on the land acquisition, we wouldn’t have to spare any men from Kanto. We’re already spread thin as it is. Give them a call, see what they can do for us. I’ll sort out the details of the agreement with the government reps.”

It sounded like a done deal, which hopefully meant the meeting was over. Majima couldn’t wait to get out of there. He was better at actually doing the work that needed to be done, rather than sitting around chatting about it.

“Majima?” Daigo asked. “You haven’t said anything. Care to weigh in?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Majima grumbled. “Do the resort thing. We got nothin’ to lose.”

 

Daigo gave him a second look, holding his gaze to make sure he had been listening and wasn’t just running his mouth. Satisfied, he nodded, and dismissed his captains.

In truth, Majima was a little concerned that they were getting involved with the government again. From what he had heard, Sera had been in deep with a government official, and that had ended badly for everyone - especially Kiryu. But they didn’t have much choice. They were running low on power and money. The new blood was overtaking the old. He and Kashiwagi needed Daigo to make some sort of move that would solidify his leadership, and lift up the Dojima name. With that power behind them, they would be able to maintain a balance with the other three captains, and keep their traditional values alive.

With all this thinking going on in his head, Majima had forgotten to check his pocket for his phone. It must have fallen out when he stood up from his chair. So, he went back to retrieve it.

He pushed open the double doors to the boardroom, and would have had a revelation if he hadn’t misplaced his phone. Daigo and Mine had discarded their jackets, and were getting all hot and heavy in the Chairman’s seat. Hands were wandering. Tongues were mingling.

“Whoa!” Majima cried, and both of them nearly jumped out of their skins. “That’s pretty hot, Daigo-chan.” This was really something. Majima had never seen Daigo this way before. He was impressed.

“Get out of here!” Daigo snapped, trying to straighten out his shirt in a hurry as Mine stumbled out of his lap.

“Just gotta get my phone,” Majima assured him with a wave of his hand, searching his seat for it. “Pretend I ain’t here.”

“Are you kidding me? Majima, please, get out,” Daigo begged.

 

“Okay, found it. Say cheese!” Majima spun around and aimed his phone camera just as Mine lunged forward to crack his skull. The blow made Majima dizzy, but he managed to hold his ground.

“You heard Dojima-han. Get out,” Mine repeated for Daigo.

“So strong,” Majima whined, rubbing the tender spot on his head. “Sure ya don’t wanna hit me again?” He grinned.

Daigo and Mine exchanged a look. Majima grossly misinterpreted.

“Well, if ya don’t feel like hittin’, I’m up for whatever it is you kids do when the grownups are gone. Ya ever try puttin’ on a dress?”

Mine punched him again to shut him up, then pushed him with all his might towards the door.

“What? I ain’t gonna kiss and tell,” Majima offered, but the door was already being slammed in his face. Apparently, three was a crowd. What a couple of spoilsports.

At least they were getting along. Majima was finally feeling convinced that those two were going to make it as a couple. Public fornication was always a good sign. Well, by his standards, anyway.

Back to thinking about the Tojo Clan. Kanda was really peeved. Majima could see he was getting even more restless than usual, and that meant trouble was brewing. Plus, Hamazaki was being awfully cryptic about… something. Majima didn’t know what, but that look he had on his face during the meeting was suspicious.

So, it was time to go visit the Florist.

“Nice suit,” Kage commented, swinging around to face Majima on the platform descending into his surveillance room. “Haven’t seen you in a while. Well, off-screen, anyway.” He smirked.

It was true. Majima hadn’t even been to the Coliseum in ages. Being a clan captain was hideously time-consuming and boring.

“Bet ya know what I’m gonna ask,” he said.

“Yeah.” Kage nodded. “Look into Hamazaki and Kanda?”

“Yup.” Majima was all talked out for the day, so he turned to leave.

“Wait,” Kage called after him. “You’re not gonna ask about Mine?”

“What’s there to ask?” Majima wondered. He’d already fought the guy, and talked to him, and walked in on him straddling Daigo like a desperate teenager. There really wasn’t much else to see at this point.

“You know how he made his fortune doing insider trading?”

Majima hadn’t known that, though it didn’t surprise him. The rich and powerful were always breaking the rules. In fact, insider trading was pretty tame for a Tojo patriarch; right up there next to tax evasion.

“That s’posed to scare me?” Majima cocked his head to the side. “If he gets caught, no skin off our noses. We’ll just promote the next guy down in the Hakuho Clan.”

The Florist shook his head. “He stopped when he joined the clan.”

“Hm? How come?” It would have provided them with a pretty hefty revenue stream.

“I think it was Daigo.” The Florist gave him a knowing look. “I think he’s taking their… relationship very seriously.”

“Ain’t that a good thing?” Majima didn’t like his tone.

“Well, if it were my son…”

“I’m gonna stop ya right there,” Majima cut in, his eye widening with anger. “‘Cause if ya say what I think you’re gonna say, I’m gonna have to cut ya.”

Kage was silent. That was to both of their benefits. But now, Majima was in a foul mood, and he wasn’t ready to let this go.

“So, Daigo and Mine don’t deserve a chance? That what you’re thinkin’?” he asked menacingly. It was about him defending Daigo, he told himself, but deep down, it was about defending what he had with Kiryu.

The Florist sighed. He needed to put this delicately. Majima wasn’t a man he wanted to make an enemy of. “I just think they’re being a little rash. Don’t you? You’re a traditional guy. You know he needs to meet a woman soon if he’s going to have an heir to leave his legacy to.”

“Kazama left his legacy to Kiryu,” Majima snapped. “Didn’t need a woman. Didn’t need to make kids himself. He found ‘em, he raised ‘em up, and one of ‘em turned out to be the best damn thing that ever happened to the Tojo Clan.” The veins in his neck were bulging. This wasn’t what he had been prepared to hear, not today, not ever. Kiryu wasn’t here to reel him in. Neither was Saejima, for that matter, and he was the only other person who could. It was all about to explode out of him.

“Think y’know what’s best for a guy you’ll never understand?” Majima snarled, taking a few swaggering steps forward, and glared down at the Florist. “Fuck you.” He drew his knife, twirled it, aimed it at Kage’s face - and before he could lunge, heard the platform behind him descending to their level. Both of them froze.

“What’s going on?” It was Daigo’s voice. Fate seemed to favor the Florist. If the Sixth Chairman hadn’t appeared behind him, Majima would have done something he couldn’t undo.

Daigo grabbed his arm, pulled the knife backward, tried to look him in the eye. Majima wouldn’t let him. He stormed past Daigo and mashed the button to lift the platform back to ground level. Everything was on fire. His mind, his body, everything around him. He couldn’t think straight. He needed to get out.

But Daigo chased after him. “Majima, what’s going on?” The look of concern on his face made it evident that he was willing to take his captain’s side in whatever conflict had arisen, and Majima couldn’t stand it. It was so naive.

“Nothin’. Go back down there, do whatever it is you were gonna do,” Majima growled.

“You’re not very good at lying,” Daigo observed.

“Nope.” Majima spun around and kicked Daigo with all his might, knocking him off of the platform to the ground before it connected with the upper level. Then, he fled.

There was nowhere he could go that would calm him down, so he took the route of embracing his violent energy. The Coliseum might provide some relief. It was the only place where Majima could batter people to his heart’s content and feel no guilt afterwards.

“Stop,” Daigo called after him. Majima cursed his stubbornness. The kick had only delayed him, not sent him packing.

“What, ya want a rematch?” He put on his best manic grin as Daigo approached.

“I didn’t just mean stop walking. Stop putting on the crazy act.” Even under the dim lights of Purgatory, Daigo’s scowl was harsh and striking. “I had some questions for the Florist about the upcoming election, and if you already know anything, I need you to tell me.”

Majima shrugged. “Sorry to disappoint ya, Sixth Chairman. I got nothin’.”

“You’ve got something.” Daigo motioned to the sheath at Majima’s hip. “You would never pull a blade on the Florist otherwise. I’ve never seen you do anything that reckless.” That said a lot, considering the amount of reckless things Majima did on a daily basis. Killing the best information dealer in Kamurocho would indeed be beyond reckless.

Majima really wanted to know who Daigo thought he was, presuming to know what someone like him would do, and presuming to know what the most reckless thing he’d ever done was. But then, he reminded himself he had just defended this man, and now was not the time to be attacking him.

Still, he was at a loss. Fighting was the only way to solve a problem like this, but if Daigo lost again, he’d have to spill the beans anyway. It was either cut to the chase, or deflect.

“Maybe I just feel like knifin’ somebody today. Better watch out, Daigo-chan,” he threatened with a smirk, and tried to walk away.

“Bullshit.” Daigo kept pace with him.

“Quit pissin’ me off, or I’ll really knife ya,” Majima grumbled.

“Some mood you’re in,” Daigo snorted. “Maybe you need something to eat. Takoyaki?”

Majima turned an angry eye to him, shocked at his audacity. “You sayin’ I’m just emotional ‘cause I’m hungry?”

“Yeah.”

Majima’s stomach rumbled. There was an awkward pause, during which he did some serious self-reflection. “... Fine. Takoyaki. You’re buyin’.” It was usually him offering other people takoyaki, but as it turned out, he was the one who needed the takoyaki most.

Daigo could tolerate long silences, so Majima had plenty of time to brood as they took the least crowded streets to Theater Square. At times like these, he felt himself aging, felt the energy slipping out of him as the years went by. Anger and spontaneity were taking their toll. It had been so long since he last felt a sense of calm or peace. Embracing chaos had seemed optimistic, seemed fun, until it started making him do shit like kidnap little girls and hold knives to people’s throats for no good reason. Now, he found himself craving some kind of inner peace, some kind of resolution to his inner conflicts.

He couldn’t find it in himself, though. Not without Saejima around. That was how long it had been since he had felt any sense of security, any sense of responsibility for his actions, or any desire for self-preservation. Twenty-three years, now, since everything had changed. Twenty-three years spent trying to adapt, and to forget. Even Kiryu couldn’t fill that void. Even when he was surrounded by people, he was alone. His brother was probably dead by now. Yasuko might be, too. If not, then they might as well be, because they were never coming back to him.

Even if they did, could they ever accept who he had become?

If Daigo had any inkling that Majima was sinking to an all-time low, he didn’t show it. The January cold seemed to be preoccupying him. He was exhaling into his palms and trying to keep them sheltered in his suit pockets. By the time they arrived, his nose was running, but he seemed to have enough pocket tissues to deal with it.

“How many?” Daigo asked.

“How much yen ya got?” Majima snapped right back into his manic persona and put on an excited grin. Old habit, he supposed.

“... Eight pieces, please,” Daigo told the vendor, and Majima groaned.

“Cheapskate,” he accused.

“I’m your boss, not your mother,” Daigo countered. “You can feed yourself. This is just a snack.” He paid and stepped aside, waiting for the order to be filled.

“You’re not gettin’ any?” Majima asked, frowning at the lack of a second order.

“I’m not hungry,” Daigo replied, shaking his head.

Now Majima really did feel like a kid. Yet another reason to brood. This was what his life had come to: taking handouts from somebody ten years his junior. Saejima would be pissed. Also, he would tell him to stop solving his problems with takoyaki, and eat more vegetables.

He tried to make himself feel more grown up by popping a cigarette out of his pack and lighting up, nearly forgetting who he was standing next to. Daigo should have come first.

“Ah, shit,” he realized after taking his first puff. “You want one, boss?”

Daigo looked miffed, but shook his head. “Go ahead.” The unspoken follow-up to that response seemed to be, Not like you’ve ever respected me anyway. Seriously, could this day get any worse?

A few minutes later, they were sitting on a bench while Majima held his cigarette and stuffed takoyaki into his face while Daigo watched with disdain. Screw it, Majima thought. Pride flew out the window. He couldn’t muster up enough of it to give a shit about manners or formalities right now.

“So, wanna know what I was so pissed about?” While he was not giving a shit, he might as well get everything out in the open.

“Mm,” Daigo answered, listening intently. The takoyaki plan really was getting Majima to talk. He secretly praised himself for being so clever.

“Florist-han was talkin’ shit about you and Mine,” Majima said through a mouthful of fried dough, swallowing hard as his stomach lurched just thinking about that horrid conversation.

“Oh.” Daigo’s heart sank. The way Majima said it, it wasn’t about Mine’s past, or else Majima would be talking shit, too. The way he said it sounded more like it was general commentary. It was the sort of thing he’d been dreading, the sort of reason he hadn’t told anyone about how close they had become. Kashiwagi only knew because he knew Daigo too well for him to hide it. Majima only knew because he was, well, everywhere. No one could harass Daigo that much and not find out about Mine, so they hadn’t even tried to hide it from him.

Yet, somehow, it had never occurred to him that the Florist would know. That was a foolish mistake. Now he wasn’t sure he could go back down to Purgatory and face him.

Majima couldn’t handle the troubled look on Daigo’s face. It was pathetic. He gave him a hard shove.

“Quit wallowin’,” he scolded, pointing his toothpick at him. “He shut right up when I pulled that knife on him. Doubt he’d say shit to your face.”

“True. That was still an idiotic thing to do, though,” Daigo sighed, resting his head in his hands. “It’s going to look like I can’t keep my captains in line.”

Majima hadn’t thought of it that way, and now he was mortified. “What? Bullshit! I do shit my way, but I ain’t…. Y’know, I’m in line.” He trailed off, wincing at how insincere that sounded.

“No, you’re way out of line,” Daigo told him sternly, straightening up, putting on his best Chairman glare. “You could have put us in danger.”

Majima couldn’t argue. It was true. His whole philosophy was looking pretty questionable right now. Acting without thinking wouldn’t just put his own life at risk; it would put others’ lives at risk, too. Yet, protecting people was exactly the reason he had shut everyone out and stopped giving a shit years ago. The irony was hitting him hard.

“I need you to stay away from Purgatory for a while,” Daigo ordered.

Majima was finished his takoyaki, but shoved his cigarette between his lips to stop himself from saying anything too impulsive. He took a second to think. “... Sorry, boss. I’ll do that,” he answered in a forced, level tone.

Daigo couldn’t help feeling unsettled when he saw Majima back down so completely. It didn’t appear natural. It didn’t feel right. It made him look old, and tired, and jaded. His leadership was based on fear and unpredictability, and a strong sense of loyalty and tradition. If he lost his wild passion, he might lose more than just himself. No one would follow a broken Mad Dog.

“But, aside from that,” Daigo said slowly, “I was considering sending you to Okinawa.”

“Hm?” Majima perked up just the tiniest bit at the mention of the island.

“If we get enough land to follow through on this resort project, I want Majima Construction on the job. I can negotiate for you to take the contract. Kiryu would probably be happy to see you.”

There was a sparkle in Majima’s eye. “Kiryu-chan on the beach…”

Daigo almost chuckled. “Yeah. I can’t imagine it, either.”

Majima threw his empty takoyaki tray over his shoulder and vigorously headlocked Daigo, driving his knuckles into his scalp. “Ya got yourself a deal, boss boy. Majima Construction’ll get that shit done faster than Mine can say ‘fuck me in the butt’.”

Daigo choked against his grip, immediately regretting breaking the news in public, especially without another captain present to save him from Majima’s violent affection. “O-okay. Let me go now.” Also, was that really the kind of thing Majima thought people said before sex? No, never mind, he didn’t want to know the answer.

“Right,” Majima threw him back to the opposite side of the bench and stood up, thrusting a fist into the air. “The Majima Family’s on this shit!” he roared. Before he had pranced too far in the opposite direction, he turned back and gave Daigo a deep bow, an exaggerated formal gesture of gratitude. It honestly just looked silly when he did it, so Daigo didn’t respond.

Majima was in a much better mood now. Forget whatever it was he was all pissed off about before. That was then. This was now. Daigo had just presented him with a total game changer.

The family was going to be able to support the clan, they’d have a shiny new project to work on so he wouldn’t have to sulk over Kamurocho Hills, and above all, he’d get the jump on Kiryu. There would be no warning. He could show up anywhere, at any time, and Kiryu would be all caught off guard and defensive like he used to get when Majima popped up out of the sewer. It made him giddy, just thinking about it.

This was the best news. Nishida would (pretend to) be so excited. Time for the Majima Family to get pumped.

Chapter Text

Everything was going swimmingly, now that the Majima Family had some sense of direction. Nishida even had them singing new anthems and forming baseball teams. The resort deal had everyone in good spirits, including Majima himself.

Months passed. Property deeds accumulated, and the Tamashiro Family seemed to quickly scoop up all of the land required in Okinawa. Majima was optimistic that this was going to pull the clan out of their rut, and he wasn’t alone. The captains had all settled comfortably into their routines, secure in the fact that their organization had a bright future to look forward to. The profits would easily put them ahead of the Omi, who were still scrambling to assemble beneath their new Chairman.

In fact, Majima was more aware of the Omi’s struggles than he let on, and it comforted him somewhat. Katsuya had kept him up to date on recent developments via the occasional hushed phone call or email. They had grown distant, but remained friends. The past fews years had kept Katsuya especially busy, what with all the Omi power struggles, and he seemed to be making up for lost time by sharing what knowledge he could with Majima.

When Katsuya visited Tokyo on business, Majima always invited him to dinner, but they tended to talk yakuza business rather than address the elephant in the room. Katsuya had changed a lot since they met all those years ago, but one thing hadn’t changed: he was still closely associated with Mirei. While Majima appreciated Katsuya looking out for her, it made him uncomfortable. It made him wonder about her and think about her whenever he saw Katsuya, and he hated it.

Regardless, when Katsuya stepped through the doors of Kanrai that day, Majima smiled.

“Yo,” he called. “Got us a table already.”

“And ordered, too, huh?” Katsuya asked, smiling in a way he never would have in public. Visiting Majima really took him back. His Kansai dialect resurfaced in his presence. “All that meat’s gonna mess ya up, y’know.”

Majima picked at his short ribs indignantly. “Kacchan, that’s a sacrifice I’m willin’ to make.”

Katsuya grabbed a slice with his own chopsticks, throwing it onto the grill in front of them. “So, been a while, huh? How’s things?”

“Same old shit. Bustin’ heads, tryin’ to wrap my head around this whole clan captain thing. Got a big job comin’ up,” Majima informed him cheerfully. “Biggest challenge is thinkin’ of Daigo-chan as a grownup.” He sighed. Back when he and Katsuya were close, Daigo had barely been an adult, and it had taken years before he started to act like one.

“Yeah. Daigo’s not so different from us now,” Katsuya mused. “Never would’ve thought he’d be sitting in the Chairman’s seat, or that we’d be captains.”

“How’s that workin’ out for ya, anyway?” Majima wondered.

“Not bad. Looks like I’ll be takin’ over one of our fronts.” It should have been good news, but Katsuya was scowling.

“That’s great, ain’t it?” Majima asked, confused.

“You’d think. But I’m not so keen on some of the guys I’ll be dealing with,” Katsuya mumbled. “They’re not like us. No loyalty, I mean. Too aggressive.”

“Yeah, we got one of those,” Majima groaned, rueing the day he had to face Kanda’s big ugly mug again. “But hey, kick their asses and they’ll fall into line.”

Katsuya nodded in agreement, but didn’t look up from his plate. “It’s more that I’m worried about... you know… Mirei.”

Majima put down his chopsticks and gave him a sour look. “Think she’s in some kinda danger?”

“Not yet,” was all Katsuya said before he lifted another slice of meat to his mouth. The implication was obvious.

“So, this front’s that big a deal, huh? Think she’ll finally get sucked into our shit?” Majima said bitterly. He trusted Katsuya’s judgment, but still hoped it was wrong.

“I’ll make sure she doesn’t,” Katsuya assured him. It was a solemn promise, and Katsuya kept his promises.

“Good,” Majima mumbled, before an awkward silence set in.

A phone was ringing. It was Majima’s, and he would have ignored it if he hadn’t noticed that Daigo was the one calling. Katsuya motioned for him to go ahead and take the call, so he did.

“Majima-san? The deal’s off,” Daigo said, though it was difficult to hear him over the noise of traffic in the background.

“Huh?” Majima asked, pressing the speaker closer to his ear, hoping he had heard him wrong.

“The deal’s off,” Daigo repeated. “Meet me at headquarters in a few hours. I’ve only told you and Kashiwagi so far, but the other captains need to hear it, too. I need you on my side when we get there.”

“Y-yeah,” Majima stuttered, too stunned to think of anything else to say. Daigo sounded so certain, even though this news was so sudden. Something must have gone horribly wrong on his trip to Okinawa.

When he hung up, Katsuya gave him a quizzical look, but knew better than to pry. He continued to eat in silence until Majima had a moment to process what was happening.

“Well, shit,” he finally sighed. “Kinda lost my appetite. How ‘bout a raincheck, Kacchan?”

“Sure,” Katsuya agreed. He knew their business, and the discretion it required. No offense was taken when Majima stood, barely gave him a wave goodbye, and took off into the street.

The first thing he did was stomp off in the direction of Millennium Tower to find out how much Kashiwagi knew.

“I don’t know any more than you do,” his colleague told him in his office, looking just as distressed as he was.

“The fuck is Daigo thinkin’?” Majima lamented. “This was the only thing we had goin’ for us. What’re we gonna do, spend another year squabblin’ and gettin’ nowhere?”

“I certainly hope not.” Kashiwagi ran a hand through his hair. “We can’t afford it. We really can’t.”

“How ya think the other captains are gonna react?” Majima asked, even though he had a feeling he knew the answer. Hamazaki and Kanda were already one step away from full-blown dissent, and Daigo was about to give them a good reason to openly rail against his leadership.

“Not well at all,” Kashiwagi admitted, his expression pained. “I should probably go ahead to headquarters and make sure we have a contingency plan if anything goes wrong. I can station some of my men there. Maybe I’ll give Yayoi a heads up, too.”

 

“Yeah.” It was a good plan, but Majima wanted more time to think. He couldn’t let everything fall apart like this. “You go ahead, I’ll catch up with ya later.”

“Don’t be too long,” Kashiwagi warned. “If the other captains catch wind of this before the meeting, they might try to get a foot in the door, too.” Not wasting another second, he pushed himself to his feet and called his driver. Majima was left sitting in the chair across from his desk, pondering their next move.

Nishida had been working so hard. It was going to be difficult to break this news to him. The Majima Family had been low on morale for the past year, and everyone was looking forward to a summer project. They hadn’t taken many other contracts, figuring that they had this one in the bag, but now they would be under pressure to replace the resort construction.

Majima spent the time before the meeting on the phone, trying to negotiate with and console Nishida. Well, console was a strong word. Mostly, he yelled at him to do his job, because tough shit, this was their situation and there was nothing they could do about it. He really needed to find a better way to thank the guy for his work next time he talked to him.

Finally, it was time for the dreaded meeting. His ride to Tojo Clan Headquarters took an eternity. Once he was there, he was relieved to find that he wasn’t the last person to enter the boardroom. Kanda still hadn’t shown up.

Daigo was on high alert, stiffening his posture and sharpening his glare as he addressed the clan leaders.

“I’ll tell you all first, before Kanda can disrupt the conversation,” Daigo grumbled. “The resort deal we took in Okinawa is cancelled. Mine, I appreciate your help, but I’ve already told the Tamashiro Family to back down. Majima, I’m sorry. Your crew will have to find work elsewhere.”

Majima bit his tongue, fighting hard against the urge to argue. Undermining Daigo’s authority was the last thing he wanted to do, but there were so many questions he wanted to ask. Thankfully, Mine spoke first.

“Why is it cancelled?” he asked. If Daigo hadn’t even told him, then he was definitely hiding something.

“I’m not in the business of kicking innocent people out of their homes. When I saw that we were acquiring people’s private property through intimidation, tearing their lives apart, I realized what we were doing was wrong. It’s that simple.” Daigo’s gaze was unfaltering. Mine matched it. The two seemed to continue to argue through looks alone.

“What you’re saying is, it’s not cancelled. We’re just backing out because of, what, some moral dilemma?” Hamazaki snickered. “Maybe we should take a vote, Chairman. Some people might disagree with that logic.”

“Not me,” Kashiwagi snapped, staring him down. But Majima and Mine stayed silent.

“It’s not up for negotiation,” Daigo told him sternly. “This is my decision. I’m in charge, and you’ll do as I say, or face the consequences.”

The threat hardly fazed Hamazaki. He shrugged, smirked, and held back the rest of his commentary. Majima could tell he wouldn’t just let this go. To be fair, neither would he. Daigo had extended him an opportunity that had given him hope, then ripped it away. His faith in their organization was at an all-time low.

“Dojima-han.” Majima finally spoke up, making sure to address him formally in the presence of someone as cocky as Hamazaki. Daigo wanted him on his side, so he would be civil, but he couldn’t pretend he approved of his decision. This was such a huge mistake. The clan might not recover from it if Daigo couldn’t be talked down. “No offense, but ain’t we in the business of bendin’ the law? Why’re ya gettin’ cold feet over some simple bullyin’ all of a sudden? I cleared out West Park in a night for Kamurocho Hills.”

“Majima, don’t argue with me,” Daigo replied. “I don’t want to have to discipline any of my captains. This isn’t a discussion. It’s an order.”

That tone didn’t sit well with Majima. Daigo didn’t normally lay into him in front of the other captains like this. He was throwing his weight around, compensating for some truth he didn’t want to speak.

When Kanda arrived, all hell broke loose. It took all four of the other captains to restrain him and force him away from Daigo as he screamed and spat. They threw him back out into the hallway, where some of Kashiwagi’s men took over and hauled him outside.

Everyone settled awkwardly back into their seats, waiting to be dismissed. Daigo hadn’t been surprised by Kanda’s reaction, nor his accusations that the Nishikiyama Family was always being shafted, but the reactions of his other captains worried him. Kashiwagi seemed to be the only one prepared to back him up without question.

When everyone else was given permission to leave, Mine stayed behind. He and Daigo clearly had some talking to do. Majima was following Kashiwagi out, but Hamazaki caught him by the shoulder.

“Hey,” he muttered. “Hang on a sec. We should talk.”

Kashiwagi turned and gave them an odd look, but Majima waved him on and told him not to wait up. He could spare a moment.

“This better be good,” Majima whined, shoving his hands into his pockets and tapping his foot impatiently.

Hamazaki nodded. “Of course. I think we’re on the same page, here. Dojima’s kind of lost his head, don’t you think?”

“Not gonna lie, what he’s sayin’ is pretty senseless,” Majima sighed. “But what’s it to ya? You’re not thinkin’ of betrayin’ our boss, are ya?” He glared.

“Nothing like that,” Hamazaki assured him. “I just figure, well, why not take matters into our own hands? If Dojima can’t stomach this business, then maybe we should do it for him.”

Majima was getting flustered. “Get to the freakin’ point,” he snarled.

“Alright.” Hamazaki kept it cool, but seemed to realize his mistake in talking circles around a Mad Dog. “Point is, I recently got in touch with someone who could hook you up with Minister Suzuki, the guy behind the whole resort proposal. The deal was that we’d get the land and build the resort, and the Minister would be able to use it in his platform for the election. Now that Daigo’s backed out, well, I don’t need to tell you what a government official could do to the Tojo Clan.”

Majima’s stomach lurched. Government and yakuza didn’t mix well on a good day. This could mean all-out political warfare. The Tojo Clan was too weak to survive any raids or crackdowns.

Hamazaki took the look on his face to mean he was getting the point. “If you went and talked to Suzuki, I bet he’d still give your company the construction deal, and it’d smooth things over between he and the clan. Otherwise, well, we’d be letting Daigo put himself in an… unfavorable position.” He hoped the look of concern on his face was convincing enough.

Majima hated that Hamazaki was making sense to him. It went against everything he believed to talk like this behind Daigo’s back, judging him, quietly overstepping his authority from the shadows. Yet, his job was to protect Daigo. If the government came after him, there would be nothing he could do.

Besides, his company was tanking, and his family’s livelihood with it. If they didn’t get this job, they could lose everything. He wouldn’t be able to continue to protect Daigo if that happened, either.

“Sure,” Majima finally answered. “Hook me up with this Suzuki guy.”

“Will do,” Hamazaki agreed, smiling a little too amicably for how little they knew each other. “I’ll set up a meeting as soon as possible.” He patted Majima on the shoulder and sauntered off down the hall.

Majima took a moment to text Nishida the good news, that he was going to get them their contract after all. For a moment he debated texting Kiryu, but thought better of it. If he showed up in Okinawa eventually, Kiryu would find out then. In the meantime, things were too uncertain. Kiryu didn’t need to hear about all this commotion when he had enough on his plate trying to raise a house full of kids.

Mine stepped out of the boardroom then, closed the door behind him, and leaned against it. There was a thoughtful expression on his face. If Daigo hadn’t even been willing to explain the whole truth to him, Majima was sure he wasn’t taking it well.

“Hey,” he called down the hall. “What’s goin’ on? Ain’t ya s’posed to be bendin’ Daigo over his throne and - “

Mine sighed with disgust and cut him off. “Shut up. Why are you still here, anyway?”

 

Majima hesitated for a split second before snapping back. “What, is loiterin’ in the hall a crime now? Maybe ya oughta try throwin’ me outta the building, tough guy.” There really was no such thing as a bad time for a fight.

“Not interested,” Mine told him flatly, chin up and eyes forward as he attempted to walk past Majima.

“Hold up.” He wasn’t going to let Mine go that easily. “Did Daigo tell ya what’s really goin’ on?”

“Even if he did, why would I tell you?” Mine asked, scowling with suspicion. After all this time, he still didn’t trust his fellow captains.

“Because, he’s actin’ crazy. I mean, ya do think he’s actin’ crazy, don’tcha?” Majima really wanted some validation here. He had seen the look on Mine’s face in the boardroom, and was confident they were both feeling apprehensive. They had more business sense than Daigo did, and knew this was a bad move.

“Let me be clear,” Mine told him, tone level and full of resolve. “I support Daigo, no matter what. As long as he’s alive, I’ll defend his wishes.”

“And what if his wishes are dangerous?” Majima retorted. “We both know he’s brewin’ up a shitstorm here.”

Mine’s scowl deepened. His eyes met Majima’s, unblinking, boring into him with that same stubborn determination Daigo had learned from Kiryu. “Daigo knows what he’s doing. He’s not a child, like you seem to think. Watch your mouth, Majima-han. I have more power, and more money, than you do. Those are the only things that matter in the life we’ve chosen. That, and the oaths we take. I take mine very seriously.”

“Think you’re hot shit, huh?” Majima grumbled, but Mine was already walking away. Considering the agreement he had just made with Hamazaki, maybe he shouldn’t be instigating fights. It would only present opportunities to slip up and expose his betrayal. Betrayal…. Was that really what he was doing?

No. It couldn’t be. It was for the clan and his family’s protection, and especially for Daigo’s. Mine wouldn’t understand. He didn’t know how to take care of anyone but himself. He was following Daigo down this path to protect his own feelings, not to protect Daigo, and not to protect the Tojo Clan. Majima knew what he was doing. So, why did he feel so lousy about it?

There was no time for doubt. There was work that needed to be done. No one else would understand, and they didn’t have to. Majima would handle this on his own.

Chapter Text

Handling things on his own took its toll on Majima. Meeting with Suzuki had been a difficult enough endeavor, considering how wary he was of lawful citizens and businessmen. Then, once the terms were set and the contract signed, every day had to be spent lying to and evading the other Tojo Clan patriarchs.

He ended up spending most of his time in isolation, under the guise of having too much work to do for his family. Daigo bought the explanation, since he felt badly about pulling the resort deal out from under him. The others didn’t seem to, but there wasn’t much they could say against him. Besides, they had their own problems to deal with. Tensions were rising. Infighting was imminent.

It was a typical, low-key weekday evening at Earth Angel, which was one of the few places Majima could go to escape. He needed a place to unwind after a long day of swatting legendary pro wrestler Antonio Inoki off of his cement trucks.

Ako had been pestering Majima for a ladies’ night for the past year. Promising that her famous stylist friend, Yoko, would take care of them, Majima finally let Ako talk him into it. Goromi was back, at least for tonight.

“Well, I think it looks cute,” Ako argued, pinching Goromi's cheek.

“It's gaudy as fuck,” Goromi complained, tapping her cigarette over the ashtray in front of her. Yoko had gone overboard on her makeup, and she knew it.

“I can’t help it if your pores are the size of craters. Seriously, this is what I get for giving you my professional advice?” Yoko huffed, pulling out his compact to look for imperfections in his own makeup. There were none. His work demanded perfection, and damn if he was going to let Goromi insult his skills.

“Professional, my ass,” Goromi grumbled, flicking her cigarette butt in Yoko's direction. They were sitting on adjacent bar stools, which she was hardly enthused about. “When's the last time ya styled an idol, anyway?”

“When’s the last time you even applied your own foundation?” Yoko asked haughtily, standing and putting a hand on his hip.

Ako rushed from behind the counter to put herself between her two snarky patrons. “Let's not get too catty, huh?” she laughed nervously. “We all look good tonight, don't we? Let's just leave it at that.”

But Goromi was itching for a fight, and no amount of tight pleather dress fabric or towering stiletto heels were going to stop her.

Before she could lay a clawed hand on Yoko, a swaggering group of yakuza kicked in the door. Startled patrons instinctively froze in place, or huddled at the back of the bar, until they were aggressively ushered out by the intruders. Yoko and Ako looked shocked. and clung to each other, but Goromi downed her scotch and stood to address them.

“Nishikiyama Family, yeah?” she asked, placing herself protectively in front of Ako and Yoko. “Earth Angel's mama don't owe ya nothin’, so piss off.”

“Oh, I beg to differ,” their leader, who Majima recognized to be a man called Hasebe, snickered. “The Kazama Family's time is up. They took our hard-earned territory.”

“Yeah, after your sleazy First Patriarch pulled it out from under 'em,” Goromi retorted, folding her arms.

“Wait… Majima-han?” Hasebe suddenly realized with amusement. The eye patch should have tipped him off, but it had been bedazzled, so it took him a moment to fit the pieces together.

“No. It's Goromi,” she snapped, kicking a heel into Hasebe's gut.

“My hero,” Ako murmured, misty-eyed. Yoko elbowed her back to reality.

Hasebe was doubled over in pain, but laughing all the same. “Kanda likes strong ladies, y'know. Maybe we should take ya to pay him a visit….”

Goromi's look darkened. Prior to his promotion, Kanda had been jailed for sexual assault. This was not just an idle threat. She needed to snuff it here, and now, before it went any further. So, she tucked her loose strands of hair behind her ears and grabbed Hasebe by the throat, digging her freshly manicured nails into his skin.

“No respect for ladies, huh? Alright. Guess we got no respect for you, either.” She grinned.

Before Hasebe could even struggle against her, he was yelping in pain, the tip of a blade slowly dragging down the length of his abdomen. It stopped at his waistband.

“Tell Kanda to keep it in his pants,” Goromi growled. “And to keep his mitts off Kashiwagi’s turf.”

Hasebe flew out the door as soon as she released her grip, and his men followed. Ako breathed a sigh of relief, but Yoko was frowning. It wouldn’t end here. Now that the Nishikiyama Family had their sights set on the Kazama Family’s turf, no one within it was safe.

Goromi looked tired. She sheathed her knife, tucked it back into her handbag, and went behind the bar to pour herself another drink.

“I can get that, y’know,” offered Ako, but Goromi shrugged her off.

“We’re fucked,” she mumbled. “Kanda’s not gonna let up. He’s gonna come after me next.”

Yoko narrowed his eyes. “So, you’re yakuza after all.” Then, he turned to Ako. “And you knew. You seriously got me involved in this drama? Well, girl, I am out.” He pulled a pile of yen out of his wallet, barely counted it, and threw it in Ako’s face before he stomped to the door. “I am not putting my life on the line for this shit.”

“Yoko…” Ako started to plead, but her friend put his hand up to silence her, then slammed the door behind him on his way out.

Goromi watched him go with distaste. Of course she couldn’t blame him for putting self-preservation first, but Ako was strong, and she should have friends who were equally strong. It wasn’t fair of Yoko to leave her behind when her business, and her life, were being threatened.

“You okay?” she asked, leaning on the counter and sliding the glass of scotch she had poured to her friend instead. Ako needed it more than she did.

“Yeah, Yoko’s just like that. I think he’ll come around.” The glum look on her face said otherwise, though, and she took a few gulps of her drink before resting her head on the bar.

“Hang tight, Ako-chan,” Goromi told her, patting her on the arm before slipping her heels off her feet. She wouldn’t just let this go. Kanda had taken his violent antics too far. “I’ll be back. Lock up while I’m gone.”

Ako saw the fire burning in Goromi’s eye, and knew better than to try to stop her. She nodded, watched her friend go, and did as she was told. Once she was by herself, she prayed that if Majima planned to handle this, he would be okay.

Once Goromi had torn all of the pins out of her wig and discarded it, she dug around in her purse as she walked, and found her makeup wipes. Time to get all the shit off her face and become Majima again. Time to get back to reality, and stop avoiding his clan and his duties. Kashiwagi needed to know about this.

“Fuckin’ prick,” he grumbled to himself, breaking into a run at the edge of the Champion District and whipping out his knife. He bit down on the handle and kept his arms free to throw himself over any cars and railings that got in his way. Under the cloak of night, his speed kept him a blur to any passersby, so that he made it to Millennium Tower without confrontation.

Having no patience for the elevator, Majima took the stairs two or three at a time, until he reached the Kazama Family’s floor. The door to Kashiwagi’s office flew off the hinges when he threw it open.

“Where the fuck does Kanda hang out?” Majima roared, knife now tightly clenched in his hand.

“M-Majima?” Kashiwagi was too stunned to respond.

“Where the fuck does Kanda hang out?!” he repeated.

Kashiwagi could see that Majima had gone full Mad Dog. If he had been Kiryu or Daigo, maybe he could have talked him down, or wrestled him down if need be. But he wasn’t. He didn’t have the strength for that. So, he held his hands up in surrender, and tried to stay calm.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said. “I doubt he’s at the Nishikiyama Family offices now. Maybe Pink Street, or the Hotel District, but he could be anywhere.” He took a deep breath, trying to keep his eyes level with Majima. “Tell me what happened.”

Now that Majima was in a quiet, dimly lit room with no one to lash out at but Kashiwagi, he began to come down from his rush of adrenaline. If he had already known where to find Kanda at this time of night, there was no telling what he might have done.

Instead, his eye slowly closed, then opened again. His shoulders dropped. His knife found its way back into its sheath.

“That piece of shit’s takin’ your territory,” Majima informed his colleague. It was the first time they had talked one-on-one in months, and it was a shame it had to be under these circumstances. Still, when it came to protecting people he cared about, Majima was willing to endure some awkwardness.

“Is that all?” Kashiwagi asked. Not that it was unimportant, but it took more than a turf war to get Majima this worked up.

“No,” Majima admitted, but chose his next words carefully. He hardly trusted Kashiwagi with Earth Angel’s protection. The Kazama Family had no personal sense of responsibility for its patrons, nor for its mama’s well-being, even if it fell within their territory. “Kanda’s more fucked up than we realized. He’s gettin’ aggressive with civvies. Shit’s gonna go down if we don’t do somethin’.”

 

Kashiwagi looked distraught, and had to give the matter some thought before he responded. The Nishikiyama Family was powerful. Kanda was powerful. The Tojo Clan, and his own family, couldn’t take any more hits. A turf war would serve no purpose other than to diminish their already dwindling numbers.

“We can talk to Daigo about it tomorrow,” Kashiwagi offered, and sighed when Majima started to tense. “I’m sorry, it’s not a good time right now. If we fight back, we risk losing the Nishikiyama Family as a whole, or a whole lot of our own men. The Omi would be on us in a second if they found out we were vulnerable.”

“Fuck the Omi, and fuck this guy. Our families could take Kanda down a peg no problem. He ain’t bringin’ in any cash, and he ain’t bringin’ us power if all he does is steal it.” Majima clenched his fists. Fighting was the only way he could think to solve this problem. If Kiryu were here, and saw the Kazama Family being attacked, isn’t that what he would do?

Kashiwagi seemed to read his mind, because the next words out of his mouth were, “Maybe if we had Kiryu here, but we don’t. You don’t have his self-control. If I were to let you go after Kanda…” Kashiwagi hesitated. “Majima, you’ve done a lot for us, but… I can’t condone another incident like the Dojima Family raid. The Tojo Clan can’t afford it.”

That stung. Majima had never thought of himself as a liability. He thought of himself as a servant, a protector, and a leader. After all these years, somehow, he had come to believe he was more than a pawn, more than a fool, more than a Mad Dog on a leash. But somewhere, deep down, he knew: he was only as valuable as Kiryu told people he was.

Everything he did was for the Tojo Clan, including accepting the resort deal. Yet everything the Tojo Clan captains did was for themselves.

“Yeah. Right,” he muttered, and escorted himself to the door. Clearly he was unwanted here.

“Majima,” Kashiwagi called after him. “Hold on. Let’s talk about this.”

“Nah. Let’s not.” Majima didn’t bother to turn and look at his colleague again before he pulled the door closed behind him. What a fool he had been, to think he could avoid his colleagues for months, then run into the Kazama Family offices demanding blood. Kashiwagi owed him nothing. The clan was his priority, not their friendship.

He scowled when he stepped outside of the building, back into the cloistering nighttime humidity, and saw that it had started to rain. Pathetic fallacy was a bitch. Also, Majima hated it when authors broke the fourth wall.

It was time to head home and rethink his place in the clan, and what he was doing for them. He grudgingly stuck a stocking-clad foot out into the rain, and trudged through a puddle to the sidewalk.

Going back to Earth Angel at this point, soaking wet and miserable, felt pointless. So, he called up Ako, and told her he wouldn’t be back. She assured him it was fine. She could handle herself. Majima knew it was true, but advised her to keep a gun behind the counter anyway. Kanda’s boys would only get more violent.

The way back to Purgatory felt longer than usual, and not just because forgetting his heels back at the bar was making every barefooted step in the rain feel like soggy hell. It was the dread of having to go to sleep that night, when all that awaited him were restlessness and nightmares.

Maybe he was seen as a liability to the Tojo Clan, but he should have already known that. It was part of why he had left in ‘06. They didn’t value him. Kashiwagi was becoming too old, too careful, too tame in his methods. Even under Terada, there had been little the Kazama Family patriarch was willing to do to defend the clan against tyranny. They were different people with different goals now.

Majima wasn’t ready to retire and stop fighting, though, and hoped he never would be. Regardless of what the other captains would think, Kanda would pay for his transgression. The Florist could be convinced to tip his location, and from there, the Majima Family could put him in his place. Daigo might not like it, Kashiwagi might not like it, but that was the way it would be.

Nishida greeted him on the path to the underground palace, his grin dropping into a frown when he saw the state Majima was in. “Boss…”

“Don’t ask,” Majima grumbled, waving a hand at him dismissively.

“S-sorry,” he stammered. “Um, I’m supposed to tell you that you have a challenger waiting in the Coliseum.”

“What?” Majima wasn’t expecting anyone. If anything, he was usually the one challenging others to fights.

His curiosity got the better of him. Rather than dry off from the rain or change out of his dress, Majima charged straight for the Coliseum doors. When he threw them open and adjusted his eyes to the bright lights, he saw his challenger standing smugly in the ring: Kanda Tsuyoshi.

A grin crept across Majima’s face. At least one Tojo captain was still willing to settle things the old-fashioned way.

“Oi, Majima-nee-chan,” Kanda called gruffly, his flesh rippling as he paced back and forth. “The boys told me ya’d gone blonde. Where’d them pretty gold locks go, huh?” The look in his eye was ravenous.

Majima’s stomach turned at the thought of Kanda getting his grubby hands on him, but he strutted into the ring and rolled his neck. No more hiding. It was time to do what he did best. Time to fight.

“Kanda, ya sent your boys to fuck with the wrong okama.”

Before a laugh could escape Kanda, the breath was knocked out of him by Majima’s fist. As strong as he was, his arrogance left him open to attack.

It felt so good to pummel him, to let out all of the frustration that had built up over the past year. The sides of his dress were tearing as his legs swept through the air, knocking Kanda’s jaw sideways, crunching the cartilage in his nose. When Kanda tried to charge him, he dodged playfully, and swiped at him with his acrylic nails.

“Still think it’s fun to mess with strong ladies?” Majima asked him, standing over his prone body, pressing his bare foot into Kanda’s thick neck.

“Yeah,” Kanda gasped, giving him a bloody-toothed smirk. “I’d love to see those lips wrapped around my - “

Majima stomped down and felt his trachea collapse under the sole of his foot. That should shut Kanda up for a while. The crowd went wild. Sadist fucks, he thought, but far be it from him to judge people for getting off on violence.

Though Majima strutted out of the ring with his pride intact, the instant he left the spotlight, his thoughts sobered. Kanda would be hospitalized, and Hasebe would probably be running the Nishikiyama Family in the meantime. This fight hadn’t really resolved anything. All he could hope was that Kanda would be more wary of him now, and take his threats seriously.

Nishida had brought out his jacket for him, the old snakeskin one. What a guy. He always knew just what to do.

Majima threw it on and slapped Nishida on the back with a grin. “Helluva night, huh?”

“Yeah,” Nishida sighed. “You’ll be in deep with Kashiwagi for this, I’ll bet.”

“Eh.” Majima shrugged. “That old fart don’t scare me.”

“When he finds out you two missed the banquet, though - “

“What?” Nishida wasn’t making sense. The banquet was next… oh no. No, it wasn’t next week. It was tonight. “... Aw, shit.”

His boss was absent-minded at the best of times, but the pressure of keeping the resort deal under wraps must have been affecting him more than he let on. Normally, a clan-wide event wouldn’t fall through the cracks in his schedule.

“If you hurry, you can still make it before the night’s over.” It wasn’t ideal, but Nishida always tried to keep options open for Majima, just in case. “I got your suit pressed, and have your driver on standby.”

“Thanks, Nishida,” Majima grumbled. “I ain’t hungry, though. Maybe I’ll just call up Kashiwagi and tell him to go fuck himself.” Then he remembered his earlier conversation with the patriarch in Millennium Tower, and frowned. “Hang on. Kashiwagi was in his office just before I got here…”

“Huh?” Nishida looked as confused as he was. “He never skips out on formal events. Maybe you were right, maybe it’s next week?”

“No,” Majima said. “It ain’t. Look.” He pulled out his phone and opened up his email, showing Nishida the date on the invitation. “Somethin’ stinks.” His brow furrowed. There was no precedence for this that he could think of. If the banquet had been postponed or cancelled, Kashiwagi would have told him.

Majima waited until he had passed through the underground palace gates before he scrolled through his contacts and dialed up Daigo, figuring if anything serious was going on, he would know about it. Going over Kashiwagi’s head might be necessary to get the truth of what was happening.

The dial tone went on and on, but there was no answer. Majima groaned, and tried again. Still, no answer. He supposed he would have to call Kashiwagi after all.

“Yo,” he said, trying to keep his voice low. “Wasn’t the banquet s’posed to be tonight?”

There was a pause, then Kashiwagi said, “Yeah. Daigo cancelled it, though. I thought he would have told you. Did you not hear from him earlier in the evening?”

“Not a peep,” Majima answered. “Why’d he cancel it?”

“I think… you’d better meet me at headquarters. I’ll tell you there.” Kashiwagi’s voice sounded odd, as though he were forcing himself to sound calm.

Majima felt his chest tighten, and he swallowed against the rising bile in his throat. “What happened?”

“Daigo’s been shot.”

Chapter Text

Majima was running. He was supposed to protect Daigo.

“I found him on the floor in his office,” Kashiwagi had said over the phone. “He’s in surgery now.”

This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go. Kiryu was going to kill him when he found out. He was supposed to protect Daigo.

All he could think was that he had failed. Daigo didn’t need him to make more money, he needed him to be there for him. If only he had stayed by his side. If only he hadn’t taken the resort deal and spent the better part of the year avoiding everyone. Maybe he could have taken that bullet for him.

It was ironic to think that he would take a bullet for a member of the Dojima Family, when they had put a bullet in a woman he loved. Things were so different now. Dojima Daigo had become like a son to him, and to Kiryu, and to Kashiwagi. He was the one thing keeping them all together. He had to live.

Still wearing nothing but his pleather dress, beat-up stockings, and horribly clashing snakeskin jacket, he dove into the car that had been waiting to take him to the banquet. Now, it was speeding toward Tojo Clan Headquarters instead.

Majima was the first captain to arrive, much to his relief. The empty boardroom afforded him a moment of calm before the storm. He tried to convince himself to relax, to wait for the whole story before he assumed who might have hurt Daigo, and why. But relaxation didn’t come easy. Instead, he ended up picking off all of his fake nails before Mine showed up.

“Where’s Kashiwagi?” the Hakuko patriarch asked as he took his seat. It was clear he had been running from how heavily he was breathing, but he managed to maintain his composure.

“Hasn’t shown yet,” Majima replied. They waited in awkward silence, both unsure of how much information the other had been given, wondering if Hamazaki and Kanda had been called to this meeting, too. On the one hand, they deserved to know what was happening. On the other, they had only ever scorned Daigo, and this news would probably empower them to compete for the Chairmanship.

Thankfully, neither of them arrived. Kashiwagi entered alone. He looked like he’d rather be anywhere else. They watched him take his seat, and avert his gaze as he broke the dreaded news.

“Daigo made it through surgery,” he began, but Mine had already jumped to his feet.

“Is he okay, then? Can I see him?” His normally calm voice was trembling. The frown on his face, normally so cold and serious, was fraught with worry.

Kashiwagi opened his mouth to respond, but the words wouldn’t come. Mine grabbed him by the shoulders.

“What’s wrong? Where is he?” he roared, eyes wide with panic.

“I can’t tell you,” Kashiwagi said, pushing him away.

“Wait, why not?” chimed in Majima from his seat. If Daigo was in hiding, the attempt on his life was more sinister, and more calculated, than he had assumed.

“I don’t know if I should tell you that, either,” Kashiwagi confessed, clearly distraught. But Mine wasn’t having it.

“You’re fucked if you think I’ll take this!” he cried. “He’s my kyodai. Tell me where he is.” He had Kashiwagi by the collar now, dragging him to his feet, trying to shake the information out of him.

“Hey,” Majima called, finally standing up from his seat. “Back the fuck off, Mine.”

The Hakuho patriarch rounded on him. The mad look in his eye was all too familiar to Majima. It called for blood. It screamed in agony. There was no telling what he would do, now that the love in his heart had warped into hatred.

“Don’t tell me what to do. I’ll fucking kill anyone who’s out to hurt Daigo.” His voice was like a battle cry, loud with rage, deep with the thirst for vengeance.

“Cool it, kid,” Majima told him sternly. “Sit down, and let Kashiwagi talk. Don’t do somethin’ you’re gonna regret.”

“Shut up!” Mine hissed, throwing Kashiwagi back into his chair and and fixing his frenzied gaze on Majima instead. “I don’t want to talk. I want to see Daigo. And you’re going to tell me where he is.” He reached into his suit jacket, presumably for a weapon, but Majima was too fast. He managed to wrestle Mine into a restraining hold, pinning his arms behind his back.

“Shit,” Kashiwagi cursed as he watched them struggle, then grabbed Mine’s jaw to direct his gaze toward him. “Listen to me! Daigo is safe. I can’t tell you where he is, but he’s safe. Get a hold of yourself.”

“Why can’t you tell me?” Mine practically wailed. “Doesn’t he trust me? Don’t you trust me?”

Majima was sure he would feel the same way in Mine’s position, but he had known Kashiwagi long enough to believe that if he was keeping it a secret, it was for their own good.

“It’s nothin’ to do with trust,” Majima tried to explain to him against his thrashing. “It’s about keepin’ Daigo safe, whatever the cost.”

Mine finally managed to break free of his grip, and shoved past him. “Fine. I'll deal with this on my own, like I always have.” He stomped to the door, and turned to them one last time, giving them both a seething glare. Beneath the anger, Majima could see how badly he was hurting. It was a hurt he couldn’t heal, but he wished he could do something to console him. It wasn’t fair, what was happening to him.

“You’re hypocrites,” Mine spat. “You say you care about brotherhood, but it’s a lie. All you care about are money and power, like everyone else. You don’t care about Daigo, and you don’t care about me. That’s clear to me now.” And then, he was gone.

Majima and Kashiwagi watched him leave in somber silence. They couldn’t help but wonder what Daigo would want in this situation, but Majima didn’t even know what the full situation was, and Kashiwagi knew they couldn’t get an answer from the Chairman in his current state. Daigo was in a deep coma, barely clinging to life at Toto University Hospital.

“Just so you know, I can’t tell you where he is, either,” Kashiwagi finally said to Majima, breaking the silence.

Majima nodded. “Wouldn’t expect ya to.”

“You’re not going to ask any questions?” Kashiwagi asked, frowning.

“No.” Majima knew better. Unlike Mine, he understood Kashiwagi, and he understood what Daigo needed right now. The more people Kashiwagi informed on Daigo’s whereabouts, the more likely it would be that his killer would track him down.

But Majima also understood the rage Mine felt, and the deep hurt that came from feeling betrayed and abandoned by his kin. The man he loved was missing and dying. He had no one else. That was part of his problem: he wouldn’t let anyone else in, and unlike Majima, he didn’t accept that his way of living had consequences. Mine needed to learn to take responsibility for his solitude.

“Majima.” Kashiwagi interrupted his contemplation. “I need to call another meeting, but I don’t know who to entrust with the Chairmanship while Daigo is gone.”

“Trust yourself,” Majima suggested. “Ya been puttin’ off the role for years. Take it, for a change.”

“I don’t think I can do that, not with… what I know about Daigo’s assassin.” Kashiwagi’s scowl was deep, betraying the gravity of the situation. Majima didn’t dare ask him who the assassin was.

As for the candidates available to lead them, if Yayoi weren’t Daigo’s mother, then Majima would have suggested her next; but she deserved time to grieve, and she had done enough for the Tojo Clan already. If Kashiwagi wouldn’t take the role, Majima was next in line in terms of seniority, but he had no desire to be at the head of the stuffy meetings he already hated. Mine was compromised. Kanda was beyond compromised. Hamazaki was still too much of an unknown.

It dawned on him, then, that Kashiwagi’s mind would be turning to someone else entirely. Their eyes met, and Majima glared.

“Oh, hell no,” he grumbled. “Don’t do this to the poor guy.”

“It’s not like we have a choice,” Kashiwagi snapped. “Who else could replace Daigo?”

“He’s got kids. He’s got a life. Don’t fuck this up for him,” Majima insisted.

“I’m not. I’m just going to talk to him. He can decide for himself.”

Majima clenched his jaw and stormed out of the room. No amount of conversation could convince him that this was the right thing to do. Unlike Mine, Majima had boundaries. He knew when to cut people out to protect them.

So, he blocked Kiryu’s number, and left Kashiwagi to his own selfish machinations. It didn’t matter that Kiryu was the man for the job. This wasn’t his family anymore. The Tojo Clan needed to learn to stand on its own two feet.

 

***

 

Mine Yoshitaka followed a strict daily routine. It was how he managed to stay physically fit, and mentally sharp.

Today, that routine had to be broken. His assistant had located Daigo. Toto University Hospital, private room, top floor Intensive Care Unit. Kashiwagi had underestimated how far his wealth and power could carry him in his investigation.

Daigo was everything to him. Before he met him, Mine had given up on ever meeting someone he could trust and admire. His faith in humanity had been at an all time low, and Daigo had restored it.

The last person who had loved him was his father. On his deathbed, he had told Mine to make something of himself. He had believed in him, despite how small, and scared, and weak he had been as a child. He had seen the depth of his intelligence, and Mine had promised himself that he would honor his father’s memory by using that intelligence to succeed, no matter who tried to hold him back.

On the ride to the hospital, Mine contemplated his achievements. He was one of the strongest men in the Tojo Clan, and the wealthiest by far. He wore tailored suits, drank fine wines, and dined with Japan’s business elite. His father would be proud, he was sure. All the evil in the world that he had experienced as an orphan on the streets was in the past. Mine had conquered that evil, conquered the suffering that had been forced upon him. For Daigo, he would keep his empire afloat. For Daigo, he would continue to live.

When he saw the suffering that had been forced upon Daigo, and saw that it was unconquerable, the last thread of sanity he had been clinging to snapped.

“Daigo,” he wept. “No…”

His body was dead, frozen in a state of unconsciousness. The color of vitality in his complexion meant nothing, because the expression on his face was slack and lifeless, just like his father’s had been on the day he died. The mask on his face forced him to breathe, the tubes leading into his veins forced his blood to circulate, and the constant beep of the monitors next to his bedside screamed the lie that he was alive, alive, alive.

“You can’t be gone,” Mine sobbed in the privacy of the silent hospital room, under the glare of fluorescent lights, as though he were a child again, reliving his father’s death. “You were the strongest person I’ve ever met.”

He put a shaking hand to Daigo’s cheek, felt the warmth beneath it, tried to convince himself that there was hope. Any minute now, Daigo would hear his voice, and open his eyes. This nightmare would end. They would leave the hospital together, go for ramen, and forget this ever happened. They would share a car back to the Dojima estate, Mine would accept the invitation to stay, and they would fall into each other’s arms on the soft sheets of his bed. Daigo would argue when he told him his tie wasn’t knotted properly, and then it would be off, and his shirt would be unbuttoned, and the starched fabric would slide away as he ran his hands beneath it….

But that fabric had been replaced with blue flannel, and Daigo’s voice in his ear had been replaced with the incessant beeping of a machine, and no amount of pleading and crying would bring him back.

“This isn’t you,” Mine whispered to him, knowing he couldn’t hear. “This body isn’t you. I know you’re not in there anymore.” He ran a hand through Daigo’s hair, took note of every crease, every spot, every detail in the soft skin on his face, and every hair, every bit of stubble, surrounding those lips he couldn’t kiss, trapped beneath a dome of plastic.

“Goodbye.”

Even if the doctors preserved Daigo like this forever, it wouldn’t change the fact that he was dead. Mine would mourn him. Moreover, he would honor him, in the way he deserved. This man, who had aspired to lift the Tojo Clan to new heights, would live on through his devotion and determination.

“I love you.” They were the last words he planned to speak to him. They filled him with an inexplicable sense of calm and inner peace.

Mine dried his tears, and slipped into the cold, dark place in his mind that allowed him to face the harshness of reality and the cruelty of humanity. He knew what he needed to do.

Chapter Text

Majima couldn’t take it anymore.

“Chase Kazama’s ghost, kill Kiryu-chan, do whatever ya want. Just don’t touch my fuckin’ territory,” he grumbled, leaving the meeting before Kashiwagi could stop him. Outside the door and out of earshot, he sighed to himself. “Kiryu-chan, this is gettin’ to be a bit much….”

Of course he had promised to look after Daigo, but now Daigo was in a coma. All he was left with was this squabbling mess of Tojo Clan captains who couldn’t agree on anything.

Kashiwagi was dead set on the idea of bringing Kiryu back into the fold, and Mine was going along with it for Daigo’s sake, as if it mattered what he wanted when he was unconscious. Hamazaki and Kanda were being downright insulting about the suggestion. Majima may not agree, but he didn’t deny that Kiryu was a better candidate than any of them.

On top of this, Kashiwagi had apparently lost his damn mind, because he was claiming that security footage showed Kazama Shintaro attempting to assassinate Daigo.

First of all, if Kazama were alive, he would shoot to kill. The man was a professional. Second of all, Kashiwagi himself had watched him die. This wasn’t a Terada situation. There was physical proof of Kazama’s death.

Of course, the would-be assassin could have born an intentional resemblance to Kazama. If someone was trying to draw Kiryu back to Kamurocho, that would be the way to do it. The poor man was so naive, he would probably believe his father was still alive when he heard the news. Majima felt irritated just thinking about it.

Texting Kiryu to check on him was tempting, but Majima had already blocked his number, he reminded himself. Talking to him now would do nothing but hurt him. Better that he be kept blissfully unaware of the power struggle that was about to take place in Kamurocho. If Majima held firm, and protected his family, they would have no reason to participate in the turf war to come, and the dust would settle eventually.

If Kashiwagi succumbed to Kanda, the Nishikiyama Family would still probably dissolve once they set their sights on the other three captains. Hamazaki could probably outwit that buffoon, but Mine had more wits than he did. It would likely come down to those two, and Mine had a good chance of winning, Majima thought.

Mine had settled down since his initial reaction to Daigo’s injury. It came as a relief to see him back to his calm and composed self, though Majima couldn’t help but wonder how he managed it. If it were him, there would be hell to pay. Then again, back in his Sotenbori days, he had learned to control his temper, too. Mine must just be trying to survive. Any sign of weakness could put his patriarchy in jeopardy without Daigo’s power and influence behind it.

His ruminations carried him through the ride back to Kamurocho. Nishida was probably waiting for him at their newest construction site. Once he got there, they would need to talk about where they were stationing their men, and ramp up security in their territory. No telling what Hamazaki and Kanda would do next.

It was then, scrolling through his texts, that he realized he had forgotten to block Haruka’s number. She was sending him a flurry of messages that he felt a responsibility to ignore, but couldn’t. If she was this frantic, it would kill him not to know why.

“Majima-san… ojisan is coming back to Kamurocho.”
“I’m not supposed to tell you.”
“But please take care of him!”
“He wouldn’t let me come with him.”
“I think he’s scared. Nakahara-san, the head of the Ryudo Family, got killed. The person who did it looks just like Kazama-san.”
“I didn’t see him, but Saki-chan drew a picture.”
“Please don’t let him kill ojisan.”

Majima was floored. So, the rumors were true. Some assassin who looked just like Kazama was on the loose, killing people close to Kiryu. What motive could they possibly have? None of this made sense.

“Don’t worry, Haruka-chan. I’m on it.”

“Thanks, Majima-san! Love you~”

“Geez, don’t say shit like that, makes me look like some kinda sicko.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“Haha never mind, just kiddin’. Bye Haruka-chan.”

That girl was still way too young to be texting him. He really should just block her. Then again, if he had done that, he wouldn’t have heard the news that Kiryu would be coming to town. As much as he didn’t like to admit it, he needed Haruka’s help sometimes. Kiryu was too stubborn on his own.

Now that he had this information, Majima wasn’t sure what to do next. The pieces weren’t fitting together. It felt like there were still a lot of pieces missing, and he would need to find more before he understood how to proceed. Schemes and plots weren’t really his thing, but he had to find some way to protect Kiryu. There were only so many people who could help him.

Kashiwagi would likely have ideas, but one of them was trying to get Kiryu back into the clan. Majima didn’t want his help if that was his end goal. Date was still around, and had connections on the force and in the media, but Majima had no clue where to find him on a whim. New Serena, maybe? But his work took him out and about, so the odds of running into him were slim. That left the Florist. It would be awkward, but there were more important things to worry about right now. So, he headed to Purgatory.

“Sorry about that whole thing where I almost slit your throat,” he said when the platform leveled with the surveillance room floor. “How ya been?”

Kage nearly jumped out of his seat. “M-Majima,” he sputtered as he turned to face him.

“Yeah, hi.” Majima waved impatiently. “Now, spill the beans on the whole Kazama’s vengeful ghost goin’ around shootin’ people thing. What’s this guy’s deal?”

The Florist was still trying to process his sudden appearance, but after a few wary seconds of staring, he finally grunted and gave him an answer. “No idea. Hangs around with some American guy and his posse of men in black, but that’s about all I know. Is that the only reason you’re here?”

“Nah,” Majima said. “Guess who’s gonna be back in town anytime now?”

Kage gave him a look that said he knew where this was going. He turned back to his console, and switched his main monitor to the south end of Tenkaichi Street. There was Kiryu, swaggering his way through the crowd like he owned the town, even though his absurdly outdated grey suit made him stick out like a sore thumb.

“Kiryu-chan!” Majima cried with glee, and hit the button to lift the platform back up to ground level.

“Wait, wait.” The Florist wasn’t going to let him go that easily. “I guess you know why he’s here? Mind filling me in?”

“Oh, I ain’t got time for that. I gotta go jump him from the sewer or somethin’.” Besides, the Florist would figure it out soon enough. “Just have your guys keep an eye on him, or I’ll try to cut ya again. Bye!” The last glimpse he caught of Kage was the sour look on his face.

Forget that, though. Kiryu was back. No time to waste. They had two years of catching up to do, after all. The big sucker always showed up to one of three places first: Serena, Stardust, or the Kazama Family offices. Majima headed for the closest option first: Millennium Tower. It was likely Kiryu would want to get the scoop from Kashiwagi as quickly as possible.

The cops were out in full force, for some reason, barricading the steps to the skyscraper. It wasn’t the most unusual thing to see in Kamurocho, what with all the daily yakuza commotion, but Majima kept a low profile anyway. He was glad he was wearing his suit today, or else he might have been especially conspicuous.

“What’s goin’ on here?” he asked a sufficiently innocent-looking young guy with a short perm, who was gaping at the row of police cars along Taihei Boulevard.

“No idea, sorry,” he said, bowing. “I just got here myself from Okinawa.”

“No kiddin’,” Majima grunted. “Country kid movin’ to the big city, eh?”

The boy looked indignant. “I’m here on business.” He tried so hard to sound like a badass, but he was such a cute little thug, Majima couldn’t take him seriously.

“Yeah, alright,” he said, but his tone remained patronizing. “Must be scary for a country punk to see a buncha coppers all in one place like this.”

His little Okinawan pal was fuming. It was hilarious. Majima grinned at him, expecting him to throw a punch so he could kick his sorry ass back to the island he came from.

Instead, he huffed, and pulled himself together. He must have been intimidated by all the cops after all. “I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you might know where I can find Kiryu Kazuma?” The eye patch and steel-toed shoes were too flashy not to be indicative of yakuza involvement.

Majima cackled uncontrollably. “You’re lookin’ for Kiryu-chan? You his latest boy toy or somethin’?”

“Shut up and tell me where he is!” the boy growled. “I’m the Lieutenant of the Ryudo Family. Kiryu Kazuma is my aniki. There’ll be trouble if you mess with me.” His chest puffed up like he thought he was a man twice his actual size.

Majima was cracking up so much, tears were streaming down his face. “Who is this kid?!” he wondered aloud. Then, he kicked him in the face, knocking him to the ground. He picked him up and kicked him in the face again, just for the hell of it. Poor kid didn’t even see it coming.

“Alright, punk, now that we got a peckin’ order established, I’ll take ya to see your… aniki.” Just the thought of it made him snicker. Kiryu was adopting all of his neighborhood’s riff-raff. How adorable.

“You do know where he is?” the kid asked, his eyes full of gullible hope.

“Yeah, yeah,” Majima assured him, wrapping his arm around his shoulders and leading him down the boulevard. “C’mon, I’ll show ya.”

Eventually, they rounded the corner to Tenkaichi Street, and came to a stop outside of Stardust.

“Hey Yuya, I gotcha some fresh meat.” Majima grinned and pushed his companion forward. “I’ll take three hundred thousand yen for him.”

“What?” the horrified little country bumpkin cried. “Are you trying to sell me?!”

“No, no, no.” Majima tutted and patted him on the shoulder. “I’m settin’ ya up with a good, honest job. Ya gotta make some money so you can get a real haircut. Plus, ya work here long enough, you’ll be rakin’ in the yen. A million a night, easy. Ya just gotta learn the hand signals. It’s all about the hand signals.” He opened his hands like a menu.

“I-I don’t want to be a whore!” The boy was panicking.

“Whoa, this is a host club, not a brothel,” Yuya cut in, waving his hands in protest. “But also, Majima-san, you’re not a scout. Get out of here.”

Majima pouted. “But Yuya-chan, look at this kid’s face.” He squeezed the boy’s cheeks between his fingers. “It’s gonna bring in all the babes. Ya can’t say no to that. He’s a little charmer. C’mon, two hundred and fifty thousand.”

“You do have a point.” Yuya scratched his chin. “What do you say, kid?”

“N-no thank you!” he squealed.

“Damn shame.” Majima sighed and shook his head. “Kiryu-chan’s gonna be real disappointed if ya can’t make it in the big city.”

“Wait, he knows Kiryu?” Yuya blinked. This didn’t look like the type of company Kiryu usually kept.

“Oh, you do know Kiryu, then?” The boy was relieved. “I thought I was being played….”

“Nah, ya got it all wrong.” Majima patted him on the back. “This here’s one of Kiryu-chan’s good pals. He should know where he’s at.”

Yuya nodded. “He was just here. He took care of some Nishikiyama Family guys who were trying to clear us out again.”

“Again?” Majima groaned. Kanda’s boys were causing no shortage of trouble around Kamurocho these days, probably even more-so now that the Kazama men were fighting back and the Chairmanship was up for grabs.

“Yeah. We gave him a quick rundown of what’s been going on lately, but he headed to the Kazama Family offices to get the full story from Kashiwagi.” Yuya nodded up the street in the direction of the Millennium Tower.

“Thank you!” The boy bowed and made a move to hurry off down the street, before he realized he hadn’t even introduced himself. “Oh, my name’s Shimabukuro Rikiya, in case I don’t find him. Tell him I stopped by.”

“Hey, hey,” Majima whined. “Ain’tcha even gonna consider makin’ some dough while you’re here? Ya gonna mooch off a guy who manages an orphanage? That’s real low, Shima-chan.”

Not wanting to offend a guy who looked like he could kick his ass back to Ryukyu, Rikiya decided he had better not imply that Kiryu would be footing his bills while he was here. “Uh, is there an ATM nearby, then?”

“Sure. That way!” Majima pointed in the direction of Nakamichi Street.

“Okay. Thank you, sir.” Rikiya bowed and took off running.

“...You know the Poppo’s the other way,” Yuya grumbled.

“Yeah, but he don’t.” Majima cackled and waved goodbye, then sauntered off, heading back toward Millennium Tower. Yuya was left wondering why he even bothered talking to the Mad Dog when all he ever did was show up to entertain himself at his expense.

The sound of a helicopter caught Majima’s attention. Traffic and news helicopters were common enough, but this one was especially loud, and sounded like it was flying especially close to the ground. Then, the jarring, repetitive panging of machine gun rounds being fired sent him into a panicked sprint. When people fired guns from helicopters, it could only mean one thing: the Millennium Tower was under attack.

As he rounded the corner, Majima saw with horror that he had already missed the action. A row of the building’s front windows were shattered, and people were crowding the street to gawk at the damage.

His stomach clenched as he began to count the floors up to the shattered windows. Sure enough, his guess was right. It was the Kazama Family’s floor. In fact, it looked to be Kashiwagi’s office, specifically. If what Yuya had said was true, Kiryu was in there. Majima felt sick. They couldn’t afford to lose two Tojo Clan legends in one day, not while their Chairman was dying in the hospital.

Pushing his way through the crowd, Majima made it to the edge of the perimeter the police had established, just in time to see a bloodied Kiryu emerge from the building. Everyone was stunned into silence.

The police made a move for him, and he fled like a wounded animal before Majima could even yell, “Kiryu-chan!”

Kiryu had outrun the cops plenty of times before, so Majima focused on the fact that they were distracted, and made a beeline for the building's front door. Kashiwagi may have told Kiryu to run. If so, he was still alive. That meant he needed help.

Most people had been evacuated, apparently, so Majima had few obstacles to overcome on his way up the tower and down the hallway to Kashiwagi's office. Once he got there, he froze in the doorway.

It was dark. The power was out. But the city lights outside were enough to illuminate two silhouettes: Kashiwagi's lifeless body on the floor, and the spitting image of Kazama Shintaro standing over him.

“Kazama…” Majima said in spite of himself. It couldn't be him.

“Majima Goro,” the man answered, and the familiarity of his voice chilled Majima to the core. “You should go. I'm not supposed to kill you.”

This couldn't be happening. “Did you kill Kashiwagi?” he dared to ask.

“Indirectly, yes,” Kazama said, his tone inhumanly level for what he should be feeling as he examined his kinsman's body. “Now leave, before the police find you.”

“Did you shoot Daigo?” Majima couldn't hide his outrage. If it was true, then he would end this man, right here and now.

“I did.”

Before he could get a hand on his weapon, something struck Majima in the head from behind. Blackness crept across his vision, and he felt his body collapse to the floor.

“Tell him I'm sorry.”

Chapter Text

When Majima regained consciousness, he was somewhere cold, and dark. Whoever had knocked him out must have drugged him, too, because he couldn’t remember how he ended up here, or how much time had passed.

Slowly, his eye opened, and he found himself face to face with wet asphalt, reflecting the dim lights of Little Asia’s narrow back alleys under a clouded sky.

The left side of his head was still tender to the touch, and throbbing with pain. Lifting himself up from the ground proved difficult. By the time he had his back propped up against the wall, Majima could hardly imagine how he was going to walk away from this.

Luckily, help arrived, or at least some motivation. “Oh, shit. Majima-san?” It was Hamazaki, looking equal parts surprised and amused at finding his fellow captain slouched over in an alley on his turf.

Majima barely acknowledged him, gritting his teeth as he struggled dizzily to his feet. This was no time to be looking like a wimp who got beat up in an alley, not while the clan was on the brink of war.

“So, somebody got the jump on the Mad Dog of Shimano? Never thought I’d see the day.” Hamazaki smirked. Majima glared. “Funny, though. You’re just the guy I wanted to see.”

“That so?” Majima asked, trying to steady himself as his head spun.

“Yeah. We should talk. Come on up to my office,” he said, motioning for Majima to follow.

He didn’t really have much choice. It would look suspicious if he refused. So, he allowed Hamazaki to lead him into the back door of a nearby building, up a flight of stairs, and into a large and elaborately decorated office. There were two large armchairs on either side of a glass table just inside, and they each took a seat opposite each other.

“Have a smoke,” Hamazaki offered, sliding him a silver case of cigarettes.

“No thanks.” Majima wasn’t taking anything from this man. He had a feeling that if he did, he would pay for it later.

“Suit yourself.” Hamazaki lit one for himself, and took a long drag before speaking again. “Shame about Kashiwagi.”

Majima said nothing. His head hurt too much, and he knew he was no match for this man’s cunning.

“Kashiwagi was a good man,” Hamazaki continued, indulging himself more than Majima with his drawling speech. “He tried his best to lead us down the right path, but I don’t think he was ever cut out to be Seventh Chairman.”

“Seventh Chairman?” Majima repeated. Daigo was still alive. No one should even be thinking about succeeding him.

“Of course, Dojima might still be alive,” Hamazaki chuckled. “But we need to think ahead. You know, to protect the Tojo Clan.”

Majima didn’t like his tone at all. “You’re plannin’ somethin’, then.”

“Aren’t you?” Hamazaki wondered, glancing idly at the smoke rising from his cigarette.

“No,” Majima said curtly.

“Interesting.” He let out a long sigh. “I think we’ll get along just fine, then.”

Majima’s stomach clenched. Wherever this was going, it was not good. He wished he had called Nishida as soon as he woke up.

“I noticed you have a bit of a preoccupation with the Fourth Chairman.” The look of alarm on Majima’s face made Hamazaki smirk. His hunch had been correct, after all. The photo he had mailed would be the perfect catalyst in the chain reaction that would lead to Majima’s death. “That’s unfortunate for you.”

“Why’s that?” Majima asked, but he had this sinking feeling that told him the answer wouldn’t matter. The point was, he and Kiryu were in deep trouble.

“Didn’t you know? His orphanage is on future resort property. The Tamashiro Family tried to evict him last year, before Daigo put his foot down. Suzuki’s been trying and failing to get that land bought up for the past year. Kiryu must be pissed about it, if he’s showing up in Kamurocho to track down… whoever might be responsible.” Hamazaki gave Majima a smug look.

The ache in Majima’s head was nothing compared to the ache in his heart. Daigo hadn’t trusted him enough to disclose that information to him. He had failed. Kiryu and Haruka’s lives were being destroyed. Daigo was dying. Kashiwagi was dead. The Tojo Clan was crumbling beneath his ignorance.

“Kiryu took out Kanda already.” Hamazaki continued his speech as though he hadn’t just broken the man in front of him. “If he knows you’re involved in the resort deal, he’ll be coming for you next.”

Majima was searching for a way out, searching for any sign that this was all just a terrible nightmare. He’d been played, again. Always the fool, always the expendable pawn…

“You’re set to make, what, a hundred billion off of that deal? I suppose that makes you the prime suspect in Daigo and Kashiwagi’s murders now, since they were trying to get in the way of the resort construction.” Calm and aloof, Hamazaki continued to weave his web, expertly tying the threads of his plot together. “You want the resort, and I want Kamurocho for myself. So, that makes Kiryu a bit of a problem for both of us.” He stood from his seat and stepped behind Majima, who was still reeling from the realization that this had all been planned from the start.

“You’re going to take care of Kiryu,” he said as he placed his hands on Majima’s shoulders and dropped his voice to a low, threatening tone. “I don’t care how you do it. Just get rid of him.” Then, he turned and left the room.

 

As horror-stricken and humiliated as Majima was, Hamazaki had made one vital mistake: underestimating the loyalty of the Tojo Clan’s Mad Dog. There was no way in hell he would let anyone usurp Daigo, nor take a cheap shot at Kiryu. Hamazaki had no chance of taking over the clan, not while he was around to stop him.

The first thing he did when he left the building was call Nishida.

“Meet me outside. Tell the boys to assemble at Purgatory, and wear somethin’ nice. I want ‘em lookin’ imposing,” he said.

“No problem, boss,” Nishida replied. “I have some news from the Florist, anyway. Turns out Hamazaki’s been into some real shady dealings.”

“Yeah, kinda figured that out just now,” Majima sighed. “Got a feelin’ Kiryu-chan’s gonna show up for a visit soon. Get the boys on the lookout for those Nishikiyama Family pricks, and for any of Hamazaki’s lackeys that might be sniffin’ around. Don’t let ‘em get at Kiryu-chan. He’s gonna get violent. I’m gonna take care of him myself.”

“You sure, boss? I could probably talk to him,” Nishida offered. Clearly he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.

“Nah, trust me, he’s gonna be pissed. He already beat the shit outta Kanda, apparently.” Majima couldn’t say that worried him too much, since he had beaten the shit out of Kanda, too. Still, it spoke to the intensity of Kiryu’s rage. They needed to resolve this through direct confrontation, or else the rest of his family would get hurt.

“O-oh.” Nishida sounded confused. Kiryu didn’t get hostile without good reason. “What happened?”

“Not sure, but I think he’s lookin’ for whoever took the resort deal and shot Daigo,” Majima said.

“He thinks they’re the same person?” Nishida asked. Then it dawned on him. “W-wait… he doesn’t think it’s you, does he?!”

“Nishida, ya really gotta stop askin’ questions and just do what I tell ya,” Majima growled. He hung up his phone and shoved it back into his pocket, too disturbed by the magnitude of his betrayal to explain it to anyone, even Nishida. The only thing he could do now was be ready, take responsibility, and either get Kiryu to forgive him... or die trying.

Chapter Text

The Majima Family could appear out of nowhere in an instant, if their Patriarch ordered them to. Today, they appeared on the abandoned Kamurocho Hills construction lot, facing the building they knew their Fourth Chairman would exit.

They bowed reverently when he emerged. They waited, patiently, for the man to whom they owed their allegiance.

Majima took slow steps through the parting crowd, admiring their freshly pressed suits, confident that his own was significantly more impactful with a contrasting red silk shirt underneath.

“Kiryu-chan,” he called out for the first time in years, and it felt good. “Follow me.”

Kiryu obeyed, like the trusting sucker he was. It was a good thing Majima had no intention of hurting him… badly.

Down to Purgatory they went, in total silence. Kiryu could tolerate the building tension. Majima couldn’t. It was too exciting. His heart was hammering against his chest, demanding action. He told himself he could wait just a little longer for the moment their bodies collided.

They left Purgatory’s lane of sultry red carpet and dim lanterns for the massive double doors of the Coliseum. Inside, all was dark but for the center of the ring, illuminated by a single light high above.

“It’s nice and quiet in here. No one’s usin’ this place anymore,” Majima commented with a smirk, glancing over his shoulder as he entered. He took his position opposite Kiryu and fixed him with a hungry gaze. “Brings back memories, don’t it?”

“It’s not in use?” Kiryu asked, looking around curiously, missing the point entirely.

“Nah,” Majima answered casually. “Been busy with… other stuff.” Maybe Kiryu would ask what, and that would be his opening.

“Like the resort deal?” Kiryu snapped.

That hit him like a pile of bricks. “Ya knew about that, huh?” he sighed.

“Why did you do it?” His voice was harsh, but pained, as though he really couldn’t believe Majima would stoop to sneaking around behind Daigo’s back.

“Ya told me to take care of Daigo, so I did. I did it for him,” Majima assured him, though guilt was creeping up his throat, and he had to swallow it back down. “We need the money, bad. But, if I’d known about your orphanage, obviously I never woulda come up with somethin’ like that.”

“But you didn’t come up with it on your own, did you?” Kiryu could see right through him, see that he was hiding behind someone far more devious than himself. “Who was it?”

Majima wanted to tell him, but could never bring himself to become a rat. “Y’know I got principles as a yakuza, even if I did get played. I ain’t gonna just out the guy. But…” He snapped his fingers, and the lights all came on at once, the crowd roared, and sparks flew. Kiryu should know by now that the only way to settle their disputes was with a good old-fashioned beatdown. He had specially prepared for it.

“If ya beat me in a fight, I might just tell ya,” Majima snickered, undoing and tossing his tie to the ground, popping his collar to match Kiryu. “What’s that thing ya always say? ‘If ya wanna die, come at me’.” He leaned back, put on a scowl, and beckoned him forward.

“Fine,” Kiryu relented. Per Coliseum rules, he stripped his upper half bare as the announcer introduced the returning champions to the ring. Majima smiled when he saw that Kiryu hadn’t lost an ounce of muscle tone. As unceremonious as he was about undressing, it was better that they do this quickly, before they lost momentum. His own jacket and shirt were tossed aside in seconds, his knife drawn, and anticipation boiled over into the heat of battle.

Kiryu was on fire. His technique hadn’t slipped at all. Swaggering, dodging, and dancing circles around him still left Majima open to hits that sent him spinning and reeling. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

All of the tension, the strife, the monotony of the past two years fell away. It had all been a dream. Majima was back in the reality he wanted to live in, fighting his equal with a passion that went so much deeper than a street brawl or a round of competition. This was what he lived for; pure, violent love.

He could have held his ground against the final blow, but his body had had enough of this charade. His walls were down. Kiryu’s eyes said his were, too.

The fight had satisfied the crowd, but they were only getting started. The real struggle happened in the dark hall beyond the ring, where their bodies clashed, their arms tangled around each other, and their mouths were locked in desperation, drawing each other closer together.

Most challenging of all was the act of breaking free from the intense grip in which they held each other, so they could make their way to somewhere more private.

“I don’t know if I’ll last,” Kiryu admitted when he finally managed to let go.

“Ya don’t gotta,” Majima whispered into his ear, his voice lilting. “‘Cause I’m gonna fuck ya up either way.”

Pants too tight, bodies trembling, every heartbeat was another agonizing pang of lust they couldn’t act on fast enough. They rushed for the cover of the palace and its hidden suite, where two years of caged and compounded desire could be set free.

Behind a closed door, there was no time for subtlety, for teasing, nor for anything that took longer than tearing off the rest of their clothes and attacking each other with their mouths. Kiryu went in for a tender kiss, but Majima sucked the breath out of him, tongue groping, teeth nipping at his lower lip. When Kiryu felt a hand cup and squeeze his balls, it was almost too much.

“Don’t,” he gasped. “It’ll be over too fast.”

Majima didn’t know if Kiryu understood how sexy it was that he could get off on the simplest gestures of lust. It only made it harder to resist teasing him.

“It’s cute that you’re so worried ‘bout disappointin’ me,” he moaned into his ear, pulling his hand out from between Kiryu’s legs and using it to brace himself against the mattress as he tackled him onto the bed. “Maybe I shouldn’t touch ya ‘til I’m finished?”

It was meant as a taunt, as a provocation, but Kiryu agreed. “You shouldn’t,” he panted, pushing their bodies apart, closing his eyes, trying to regain his composure.

“Ah, Kiryu-chan...” Majima whined, pulsing with desire. “Don’t say shit like that. I’m only gonna fuck ya harder.”

“Stop talking,” Kiryu begged, but he knew damn well it would never happen.

“What? Is it too much for that big, throbbin’ cock of yours?”

“Shut up,” Kiryu growled, but his hips were saying otherwise as he squirmed against Majima’s palm at the base of his shaft, and then his fingers, gripping him tightly and stroking rhythmically.

It only lasted for a second before Majima let go all at once, and backed off of him. Kiryu shuddered and closed his eyes, trying to even his breathing.

In the meantime, Majima crouched over him, relishing that look of utter helplessness on his face. Nothing in the world could be more beautiful than the strongest man he’d ever known lying prone beneath him, so completely at the mercy of his sex. Nipples small and taut, abs clenching against the pleasure he wrought, shoulders tight with the ache of self restraint.

Majima leaned in closer, until their mouths were almost touching, and kept his eye fixed on the tiny beads of sweat running down Kiryu’s face. “Know what I want?” he asked softly.

Kiryu took a guess, not realizing the question was rhetorical. “To cum inside me?”

Majima fairly choked in surprise. “Fuck, yeah. Holy shit.” A ravenous kiss and an eager press of his erection to Kiryu’s thigh, and then he was on his feet, kicking sheets out of his way until he was beside the bed, rummaging through a drawer.

“Shit,” he cursed, and Kiryu turned his head to see him tossing miscellaneous sex toys and supplies over his shoulder. “Shit.”

“What?” Kiryu asked, right before a bottle of lube hit him in the face.

“Is this expired?” Majima grumbled, lifting a condom to the light, then cursing again and digging deeper into the drawer.

“Do you… not have sex here?” Kiryu wondered, furrowing his brow at the sheer amount of junk Majima could fit in a single drawer.

“‘Course not,” Majima said, as if it were obvious. “Who brings prostitutes home? Geez, Kiryu-chan. This place is for lovers.”

“Oh. So, you don’t have any of those, then?” Kiryu realized, and for a second, he felt a tiny bit special.

“Nah, too much work. I usually just end up dumpin’ ‘em.”

“Oh.” Now he just felt silly.

“Kiddin’!” Majima tried to correct, having finally found a condom that wasn’t past its expiration. He threw himself back onto the bed and scrambled to open it.

“Do you need help with that?” Kiryu offered. Majima had the package between his teeth, tearing frantically, and Kiryu was afraid he’d end up piercing it.

“Nope.” He rolled it on as quickly as he could and pushed Kiryu’s shoulder forward, forcing him onto his side.

“Hold on,” Kiryu grumbled, pushing him back. Majima was already grabbing him by the ass, spreading his cheeks, ready to dive right in. “I haven’t even opened the lube.”

“Why the hell not?” Majima whined, giving him an impatient squeeze.

“Calm down,” Kiryu muttered, popping open the lid and offering it to him. Majima snatched it up.

“Gettin’ me all hot ‘n bothered, then tellin’ me to calm down,” he groaned, warming the lube between his fingers before he reached down to tease at Kiryu’s asshole. “So mean, Kiryu-chan.”

“I didn’t mean it that - ah,” Kiryu gasped as a finger slid inside him, his own fingers reflexively curling around the sheets.

“Say when,” Majima whispered, probing for the perfect placement and angle to massage his prostate, slowly adding another finger, and then another. It didn’t take long before Kiryu was writhing against him, and it sent a satisfied shiver up his spine.

“Now,” Kiryu mumbled, jaw slack, eyes clenched as his mind closed out everything but the pleasure.

But the fingers receded, then, and Majima laid down behind him, one arm curling around his waist, hand groping for his cock. Kiryu could feel his breath on the back of his neck as he pressed his cheek against the soft hair behind his ear, and spoke.

“You’ve been practicin’ without me, haven’t ya?” Kiryu didn’t answer, but he didn’t need to. “I can tell.” Majima gave him a few hard strokes, then slid his hand slowly away from Kiryu’s erection, back around the line of his hip to the curve of his ass. It was so obvious in the way he relaxed his muscles, didn’t clench against his fingers penetrating him, and stated so confidently that he was ready.

“I’m willin’ to bet ya think of me fuckin’ ya every night,” he cooed, stroking a palmful of lube onto his own eager erection.

Kiryu could hardly breathe. Maybe it wasn’t every night, but it was close. It was any night he could hide himself away in the dark and pretend that the hand around his cock wasn’t his own, that the pressure of anything phallic against his prostate was the man behind him, fucking him into sweet release.

It had been torture. It had taken so long for him to get here, and he wanted that release, now.

“Just do it,” he pleaded breathlessly.

Majima preferred not to do as he was told. So, he pushed only slightly against Kiryu’s opening with the head of his erection, rolling his eye back at how willingly Kiryu relaxed against him and whimpered in anticipation.

“Mm, I dunno,” he moaned, barely inserting the tip, letting the heat trickle down his length. “Maybe if ya say please.”

“Please,” Kiryu almost squealed, his voice was cracking so badly, his body trembling against the withheld pleasure.

“Fuck....” Kiryu’s desperation was driving Majima crazy. If he could have made it last forever, if he could have Kiryu treat him this way every second of his life, he would.

His own overwhelming desire finally got the better of him. One hard thrust and he was surrounded, enveloped by warmth and pressure so strong he could hardly control the noises coming out of his mouth. Kiryu was rolling onto his stomach, and Majima was lifting himself onto his knees, both of them urging his cock deeper.

The deeper he got, the better it felt, and it was already so good. Not just the fucking, either. It was the power he had over Kiryu in that moment, every involuntary sound and motion he made. Kiryu’s knees bending, his clenched hands pulling the sheets toward him, his mouth hanging open, the changing pitch of his voice and audible breathing. Majima was arching his back, rolling his hips just so, eliciting the responses that told him he was everything, the only thing, that the man beneath him wanted right now.

When Kiryu came, it was with a shudder that wracked his entire body, the friction and pressure inside him pushing its way out through his throbbing cock. Pulsing, ejaculating, screaming with so much pleasure he’d been denied for years as he stroked himself through the final throes of orgasm.

The sight and the sound of it drove Majima over the edge, jerking his hips faster, clutching at Kiryu’s thighs, pounding against him until he reached his own climax. It was forceful, powerful, shooting through him as though this were the last fuck of his life.

They were sweating, and panting, and shaking as they both mellowed out. This was usually the moment where it became awkward, where the intoxication of sexual desire wore off and reality reminded Majima that fucking someone didn’t make him feel less alone.

That moment never happened. Instead, it was replaced with a moment of serenity, during which Majima sat back on his haunches and Kiryu turned to face him. They both looked into each other’s eyes and saw the truth.

“I-I love you,” Kiryu said awkwardly, as if the words were foreign to him.

Majima snickered. “That’s the dumbest thing ya ever said, Kiryu-chan.” But there was affection peeking out through the cracks in his facade. It showed in the way he gazed fondly at Kiryu’s body, so strong on the outside, yet so deliciously soft on the inside. It showed in the way the grin dropped off his face as his gaze fixed on Kiryu’s brutally scarred abdomen, reliving the moments he was stabbed or shot nearly to death. Then it manifested, in a sudden lunge forward and a strangling embrace.

Kiryu gasped for breath. “This is… hurting me,” he choked.

“Good,” Majima told him jovially. “Can’t have ya thinkin’ I’m a wuss.” His grip loosened regardless.

In private, there was no pressure to put on airs, no pressure to impress, no pressure to hide. The only barriers between them now were their own insecurities, and even those were slipping away, now that they had known each other in this way for three years. So, it wasn’t jarring at all when Kiryu suddenly said:

“Could you get off me? I need to use the toilet.”

Majima huffed with annoyance. “I didn’t fuck your butt that hard. Can’tcha hold it?”

“I really can’t,” Kiryu stated flatly.

“Well, I ain’t movin’.” Majima yawned. “Unless you’re gonna make me.”

Without hesitation, Kiryu lifted him up and threw him across the bed. Majima cackled.

“Good ol’ Kiryu-chan. Strong as fuck,” he called after him. Then he sprawled out on the bed and stared up at the ceiling, mind pleasantly empty of thought, body blissfully relaxed.

Chapter Text

There was no better time than the present for a smoke. His cigarettes were normally in his suit jacket, but he had left that back at the Coliseum. So, Majima stood and sauntered toward his drawer full of random shit on the other side of the room, while Kiryu shut himself in the bathroom.

Having forgotten how much random shit he had already thrown over his shoulders earlier in search of a condom, Majima tripped on a butt plug, and went careening face first into the bathroom door.

“Ow ow ow, fuck,” he cried, sliding to the ground.

“I’m not done yet,” Kiryu said, figuring the loud bang was just Majima getting restless and bouncing off the walls. When he was done, he took his time washing up before he opened the door. There was Majima, lying flat on the ground, looking like a corpse.

“Uh.” Kiryu prodded him with his foot. “Majima? Are you asleep?”

Majima lifted his head. Blood was pouring down his face. “S-so tired, Kiryu-chan. So cold,” he croaked dramatically.

Kiryu sighed. “You’re fine. Get up.”

“So much blood,” Majima continued, grabbing his ankle. “I’m dyin’. Ya gotta save me, Kiryu-chan.”

“There are better ways to get my attention than this. But, fine.” Kiryu bent down, grabbed him by the shoulders, and forced him to his feet with little effort, proving that he really wasn’t as weak or injured as he was acting. The cut on his forehead was shallow, just a scrape, even though it was leaking blood like a broken faucet. “Go ahead and clean yourself up,” Kiryu said, stepping around him to retrieve his pants.

Majima sighed with disappointment. “Not the nurturin’ type, huh?” He shook his head. “If I was a girl, I bet ya’d be all worried and chivalrous.”

“Only if you were really hurt, which you aren’t,” Kiryu reminded him, digging in the pocket of his suit pants for a smoke, before realizing he probably had left them in his jacket. “Do you have any cigarettes in here?”

“I might,” Majima said as he mopped his forehead with a facecloth. “Also, what the fuck did ya eat today? Smells like death in here.”

“Eh… I don’t remember,” Kiryu admitted, pulling on his boxer briefs and seating himself on the edge of the bed.

“Well, whatever it was, lay offa that shit before ya plan to fuck somebody again.”

After cleaning up his forehead, Majima stared at his reflection in the vanity mirror for a good long while. He had to confront the necessity of removing his eyepatch. It was soaked with blood and needed cleaning. Under most circumstances, he wouldn’t even consider it, but maybe he owed Kiryu this token of intimacy. It wasn’t like he could avoid the subject forever.

So, instead of making a big deal out of it, he tried his best to play it cool. First, he untied the string and ran it under the tap, scrubbing it with soap until the stain disappeared. Then, he reluctantly left it on the side of the sink, and scowled at his reflection. Just get it over with, he told himself. It didn’t look that bad. Okay, it kind of did, but that wasn’t the point. It was just a scar, nothing too gruesome. Nobody who’d seen the level of gore and violence he and Kiryu had seen would bat an eye at it.

As soon as he stepped out of the bathroom, his confidence fell away, and he tried to make himself small. He rounded his shoulders, and pretended to fix his hair to obscure the left side of his face as he padded over to his pants. He made sure to keep Kiryu in his left periphery so he wouldn’t have to see his reaction.

The silence went on for too long. Majima's bottom half was dressed by the time he turned to Kiryu, dreading the look of pity, or sympathy, or shock that might be on his face.

Instead, Kiryu was giving him a soul-searching stare. It was non-judgmental, but it made him uncomfortable all the same, since it wasn’t accompanied by any questioning.

“Ain’tcha curious about the missin’ eye?” Majima asked, turning his head to fix Kiryu in the center of his wary gaze.

“No,” Kiryu answered, shaking his head. “There’s not much to be curious about. Even if there was, it would be none of my business.”

That first sentence threw Majima for a loop. “Not much to be curious about? What’s that mean?”

Kiryu frowned. “Maybe you’re right. I probably don’t know the whole story.”

Majima felt like he’d been stabbed in the gut. “Wh-what story is that?”

“Did you think no one knew?” Kiryu asked. He hesitated to continue when he realized Majima had really thought it was some big secret, but figured he had a right to hear what was whispered behind his back. “Do you want to know what they said?”

Majima clenched his fists. “Who?”

“Everyone.”

A pause. A twitch in Majima’s lip. A dark look in his remaining eye. “What did they say?” he asked, his voice low and bitter.

He asked, so Kiryu told. “When you first disappeared, I used to hear Kazama’s men talk about it. They assumed you had abandoned the clan out of shame, because you were sworn to the guy who did the Ueno-Seiwa hit. Then, when you showed up again years later, they figured you had lost your eye when you tried to flee, or as punishment. They figured that was why you… changed.” Majima already looked like he was about to lose it, so Kiryu avoided using the words “went mad”.

“Abandoned the clan?” Majima repeated incredulously. His face scrunched up in anger, but it had nowhere to go, not while visions of his year of torture were flashing in front of him, blocking out reality. He reached up to touch his scar, panic rising in his chest.

They all thought they knew, but they had no idea. No wonder Hamazaki had chosen to use him and set him up as a traitor. Twenty-four years of being judged as a deserter, as a betrayer, as someone who deserved nothing he had earned, had sullied his reputation. No one knew he had been thrown in the hole for an entire year, tortured nearly to death by Shimano’s goons. No one knew he had been shackled in Sotenbori, slaving away for the Omi, while Shimano conspired with them against the rest of the Tojo Clan. They had no idea what he had been through for his family.

“That’s what they think?” His voice trembled. His fingers closed around the puckered skin where what remained of his eyelids had been stitched together. The pain was back. The gaping, weeping, aching wound; the sting of alcohol poured into it; the sharp, cutting pain of dead tissue being sliced away; the stab of a tiny needle, in and out, in and out, threading through the raw flesh, as he was simultaneously healed and tortured.

He had heard a scream that wasn’t his own. It couldn’t be, because it was so hollow, so piercing, so close to the shriek of a dying woman, even though he could feel his throat burning as it erupted from his vocal chords.

Normally, he only relived it in his nightmares. Now, he was reliving it in a waking nightmare, in front of Kiryu.

I shouldn’t have told him, Kiryu scolded himself, watching with alarm as the color drained from Majima’s face, and his breathing became shallow and rapid.

“That’s what they think,” he repeated, his mind skipping like a broken record, stuck in an endless loop of remembering. There was nothing else he could say, nothing else he could think, that would bring him back to the present. It was happening all over again. Fear, anger, pain, humiliation, and the genuine belief that he was about to die.

“Are you…” Kiryu almost asked if he was okay, but realized the answer would be obvious. Concerned that he might make things worse, he was slow to rise from his seat, and approached with caution. Majima barely seemed to register that he was there.

When he reached out a hand, Majima instinctively swatted it away, curling into a defensive posture. “Fuck off,” he growled. “You thought it, too. That I was some deserter. That my kyodai’s a heartless killer. They got no clue. They got no clue what happened.” He gulped in air, inhaling too much, too fast. He started to feel dizzy. His skin was prickling, his fingers clenching desperately at the left side of his face, half expecting shoulder-length hair to be plastered with blood against it.

“I don’t think that,” Kiryu assured him, as calmly as possible. Haruka had panic attacks, but this was different. Majima was an adult, a man, and a violent yakuza boss. Soothing words and a glass of milk wouldn’t see him through this. Kiryu couldn’t deny that he was afraid.

Majima was backing away, keeping the wall behind him as if he were being cornered. His breathing was labored, his voice shaky.

“Get out. Just get out,” he warned Kiryu, painful as it was to think of being alone again. That was the way it always was, and had to be. Once someone saw him like this, it was over. They would never look at him the same way again.

“I can’t leave you like this,” Kiryu told him, firmly but gently, making no move to follow him as he backed away. “You can stay over there if you want, but I won’t go.”

“Why?” Majima’s voice started to crack. “Think you’re some kinda hero? Think you’re so great?” he yelled. “‘Cause that’s the kinda shit they say about you. Not me, though, huh? I’m a fuckin’ Mad Dog! I’m the guy that can’t get any fuckin’ credit.” He slammed a fist into the wall, cracking it open. “I’m the guy that got his fuckin’ eye stabbed out, got thrown in the hole, but that’s the shit they say about me? That I ran out on my boss? Is that the shit he fed ‘em while he was watchin’ me hang from those chains, bleedin’ out every day, screamin’ for my fuckin’ life?”

Kiryu swallowed hard. It was dawning on him that there was a lot to Majima he still didn’t know, that there were things he had hidden for reasons beyond what Kiryu could have imagined.

“They can all rot,” Majima was wailing now, his thoughts scattering across a thousand different memories of pain and suffering, his chest heaving as he sucked in air. “Fuck it. Fuck this. I’ll kill ‘em all.” The world was spinning, and he slumped to the ground, curling up and praying he would drop dead.

“Hey,” Kiryu tried to interrupt him. Despite his rambling, it was clear Majima was losing energy, and possibly consciousness. “Stop talking. You’re making it worse.”

When Majima rejected the demand and continued to gasp for air, he crouched down in front of him and tried again. No matter what he said in this state, Kiryu blocked it out. He knew it meant nothing, as long as he was saying it out of fear. Even Haruka said things she didn’t mean when she was afraid.

“Just look at me, then,” he said, calm and cool, even though his heart was pounding and he was uncertain that he was doing the right thing.

Majima reluctantly met his gaze, glaring daggers at him. He tried to close his mouth against the urge to take deeper breaths, causing his nostrils to flare. In that moment, he believed no one could say anything to convince him that they understood. No one could be trusted. This world had always rejected him, always chewed him up and spat him out, only to be gnawed to a bloody pulp again.

“Listen, you’re okay,” Kiryu stated with absolute confidence. “Maybe you don't feel like it, but you are.”

“Bullshit,” Majima spat, railing against the truth of the present in favor of the past. “You can’t say that shit. Not to me. Not to Saejima. Everything’s fucked.”

“I know it was back then,” Kiryu acknowledged, but stayed firm in his assertion. “But it’s not now. It’s okay.”

The more he said it, the more it was repeated out loud, the more it began to replace the repetitive thoughts in Majima’s head.

“It’s okay.”

Tears started to pour from his eye. He couldn’t fight anymore. “It’s not,” he said weakly, but dissociation was kicking in, and he could hardly feel what he said. His lips were numb. “They don’t get it….”

“They don’t have to.” Kiryu kept his eyes level, his expression neutral. “They can’t hurt you now. You're above them in the Clan. You’re safe.”

Safe. That word didn’t make sense. That word couldn’t be true. If it was, then Majima couldn’t handle the guilt that came with it.

“But he’s not,” he croaked, his stomach clenched with grief. “My kyodai’s not. And I am. It shoulda been me.” That was the real issue. It wasn’t that he felt he deserved better. It was that he felt he deserved nothing at all, compared to the man who had been his better half, yet had lost everything.

“I don’t know what happened, but…” Kiryu tried to find the words to say what he felt, to explain that he understood that kind of loss. “It wasn’t you. You’re here now. If your kyodai were here instead of you, he would feel the same way, wouldn’t he?” If Nishiki were here, he had no doubt that he would say the same things Majima was saying. Yet, Kiryu still wished they could trade places, and that his brother could be given a second chance at life. The only way to live with that feeling was to accept it.

Knowing Saejima, Majima could imagine that Kiryu’s words were true. He would never have wanted it to be the other way around. Ironically, that just made him feel worse. Saejima had always treated him like an equal, even though it was so obvious that he was better than he could ever be. It wasn’t fair.

Kiryu could see he was losing him again. Majima’s eye was downcast and distant. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t pretend to understand.”

That wasn’t the problem, though. The problem was that Kiryu was so much like Saejima that he really did understand. It hurt, to think that he might end up walking the same path, self-destructing for the clan’s sake, for Majima’s sake, when Haruka deserved to have him around for the rest of her life.

“No,” Majima muttered. “That ain’t it.”

“Then, what is it?” Kiryu wondered.

“Ya heard all this shit about me. Ya see the shit I do. Why’re ya always comin’ back and savin’ my sorry ass?” His heart hurt. Kiryu didn’t deserve to get dragged down like this.

Considering his earlier reaction, Kiryu figured Majima wouldn’t accept it if he said he loved him again. If Majima didn’t love himself, it wouldn’t matter how many times he said it. So instead, he said, “Because I believe in you.”

“That’s moronic,” Majima retorted, as expected.

“I have every reason to,” Kiryu continued, ignoring the comment. “I know you’ve done some terrible things. I’ll admit, there was a time when I would have left you for dead without thinking twice. I know why you think I shouldn’t believe in you, but I do. I’ve seen what you’re capable of. You can rally thousands of men to a cause you believe in. You can face any danger to protect what you love. You can survive and hold true to your principles even when most people wouldn’t.” There was fire in Kiryu’s eyes. Every word he said was spoken from the heart, with true conviction.

Majima had to let it sink in. This was what Kiryu really thought of him. He didn’t know how he felt about it, but he didn't have time to think, because Kiryu reached for his hand and continued in earnest.

“You can make Haruka smile. You can make Daigo feel safe. You can inspire people like Nishida.” There were endless examples he could come up with, but they all shared one common theme. “You can turn despair into pride.”

That sentiment was something Majima had never considered. It was something he had never seen in himself before, even though hearing Kiryu say it with that stubborn look on his face made it feel so obvious, and so true.

“I can, huh?” he wondered. There was still doubt in his mind, but Kiryu spoke over it, and the depth of emotion in his voice drowned out all else.

“You do it every day.” The volume of his voice was rising with his determination. “I don’t know how, but you do. I’ve known people who died under the weight of their burdens, but you keep on living.”

Majima sighed. Sure, he kept on living, but his tenacity only seemed to make others around him suffer. “Kinda wish I didn’t,” he mumbled.

“Don’t say that!” Kiryu roared, and might have hit him, but chose to squeeze the hand he was holding instead. “How can you say something so stupid?”

“Because I keep fuckin’ up. Might be better if I wasn’t around to do that.” He was so tired of hurting people. If they would just hurt him back, it would all be over. No more suffering.

“Stop that! Do you know how many people I’ve lost to that attitude? Huh?” Kiryu was tense with rage.

Majima gave him a long, hard stare. Exhausted as he was, he couldn't fight Kiryu on this, but he couldn't accept it, either. “Easy for you to say,” he said, voice hollow and weak. “You've only lost people because they were willin’ to die for ya. It was never your fault.”

“Like hell it wasn't,” Kiryu snapped, throwing his hand back at him. “If they felt that they needed to die for me, isn't that my fault? Somehow, I made them think I was more important than they were. Why do they always think that?” He ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “I've never taken a life directly, but there's blood on my hands.”

It took seeing Kiryu in this much distress for Majima to realize that he understood the guilt of being a survivor better than anyone. Kiryu was so stoic out in public that he had never considered his inner thoughts and feelings. He had lost a lot of people, maybe even more than Majima. It was so easy to judge him because he was a legend, and everyone in the clan talked about him like he was more god than human. Kiryu was just another man, though. To him, they really were equals. To him, the fame and infamy were irrelevant. Few people knew him well, and Majima had the privilege of being one of those people.

Feeling sorry for himself turned into feeling sorry for the Dragon of Dojima. That was all he was to most people; a Dragon, a legend, a one-dimensional hero they could tell stories about.

“It ain’t your fault people see ya that way,” Majima assured him.

But Kiryu could see it in his eyes. It was that same unwarranted, unwanted admiration that everyone who had died for him had. Nishiki had always had it, even when he got jealous. Yumi, too. To some extent, even Kazama had seen him that way. He had tried to stop Rikiya from seeing him this way, but he was here in Kamurocho anyway, tailing him like a lost puppy. What did these people see in him? All he did was what he thought was right. It was nothing to die for. Their lives combined meant more than his did.

“Then, whose fault is it?” Kiryu asked. “If not mine, then whose?”

“Nobody’s,” Majima offered weakly, but he knew it sounded like a lame argument.

“No.” Kiryu shook his head. “I need to take responsibility for this.”

There wasn’t much Majima could say to convince someone as stubborn as Kiryu. Still, it irritated him to no end to imagine Kiryu taking on even more responsibility than he already had. “Ya really don’t, y’know. Haven’t ya done enough of that?”

“Enough?” Kiryu looked confused, then pained. “It’s never enough. As long as people are suffering because of me, I have a responsibility to help them.”

“That’s some serious bullshit, Kiryu-chan,” Majima said. His own problems, he could understand; but it didn’t make sense for Kiryu to invent problems for himself. It seemed ridiculous to him. “Ya ain’t responsible for everybody else. Ya gotta take better care of yourself. There’s what, nine kids down south waitin’ for ya to come home? If they made sacrifices for ya, it’s not because ya tricked ‘em or somethin’. They just want ya to be as happy as they are. If all ya do is think of them, they’re gonna spend all their time thinkin’ of you, too, y’know? Give ‘em a break. Do somethin’ for yourself instead of for somebody else.”

Kiryu’s eyes were moving back and forth, trying to process what he was saying. “Something for myself,” he repeated, laboring against the urge to override his own feelings with feelings of responsibility for the well-being of anyone but himself. There was something he wanted, but could never say, not to anyone. “I want to do… nothing,” he muttered.

“Hm?” Majima wasn’t sure he understood.

“I want to do nothing,” Kiryu said more confidently, his expression slack, his eyes downcast. “I don’t want to be the strong one anymore.”

That sentiment was so familiar, and so close to Majima’s heart, that he could hardly believe it was coming out of Kiryu’s mouth and not his own. He reached out and put a hand on Kiryu’s shoulder, the one where he’d taken a bullet two years ago atop Kamurocho Hills, and met his gaze. “Yeah. Me either.”

They looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, before Kiryu sighed, and sat himself against the wall next to Majima. Both grew quiet. There wasn’t much more to say, now that they had laid their souls bare.

Kiryu leaned closer and tried to reach a hand up to Majima’s cheek, but on reflex, he knocked it away. He hadn’t meant to, but his skin prickled anytime someone made a sudden move on him. It had been too long since he openly trusted anyone.

“Sorry,” he mumbled as Kiryu withdrew.

The silence that followed was deafening. Here he was, sitting next to the only person who had ever genuinely understood him, and Majima still couldn’t accept or extend any absolute gesture of intimacy or commitment. It was too hard. There was too much at stake. If he got that close to Kiryu, there was no turning back.

A decade ago, he might have tried. Long after he had accepted that Saejima was a lost cause, and that Makoto was better off without him, Mirei had opened up his heart again for a little while.

But it seemed that the more he gave of himself, the less he got in return. Their relationship had been such a whirlwind. Moments of passion were one thing. Loving someone was another thing entirely. Neither of them had been able to love each other in the way they needed to be loved.

The difference now was that instead of coming from two different worlds, he and Kiryu had come from the same world, and had suffered in the same ways. They wanted and needed the same things. If he reached out to him, if he trusted him, Kiryu would still know where to draw the line. It wasn’t like being with Mirei, under the expectations of marrying, having kids, and spending their lives together. He and Kiryu didn’t want or need those things. They just wanted to feel a little less alone.

“Hey,” he finally said, turning a curious eye to Kiryu. “Uh… ya wanna make out or somethin’?”

Kiryu didn’t answer. He acted. One hand found its way to Majima’s hip, the other to the back of his neck. When their lips met, Majima wrapped his arms around him and pulled him closer.

It didn’t just feel sexual anymore, even though that was certainly a big part of it. This was the first time since he lost his eye that he had let anyone be this close to the scar without some sort of barrier between them. Only Saejima should have been able to make him open up like this.

There was no Saejima anymore, though. There was only Kiryu. If Kiryu was all he had now, then maybe it was okay to let him see the real him, and be the kind of vulnerable he used to be back then.

So, Majima tried to let go of everything holding him back, and become the person he hadn’t been since he lived alongside the Saejima siblings. Back then, he had wanted to feel connected, and to be close to people. He had laughed sincerely, given generously, and loved openly and affectionately. Closing his lips against Kiryu’s, pushing their pounding hearts closer together, he tried to submit to those feelings again.

It should be so simple. He could remember, so clearly, how he used to melt underneath Saejima. Whether he was curled around him in the dark or hanging off of him under the afternoon sun, it had always made him feel so light and warm.

He wasn’t the same person anymore, though. He wasn’t a teenager with his whole life ahead of him, still innocently believing that there was such a thing as a soulmate, and such a thing as a love that transcends all bounds. Love was as finite as life itself. It began, and then it ended.

The loss still felt fresh. Grasping at Kiryu’s bare back and savoring the taste of his lips did nothing to heal that pain. Letting another man, another lover, have this kind of power over him did nothing to mend his broken heart and mind. It was terrifying, to think that the cycle was beginning all over again. He could taunt and tease Kiryu all he wanted, but the truth was, he had no control over him, nor their circumstances. Anything could happen. Either of them could be captured, tortured, betrayed, or killed, and it would all be over in an instant.

This wasn’t supposed to be happening again. He wasn’t supposed to love anyone. Yet here he was, as vulnerable as his adult self could be, clinging to a man who could make him hope and believe that everything would be okay.

Kiryu was right. If nothing else, there was still one thing he could do: take all the despair he felt, and turn it into pride.

Well, what could made him feel prouder than his own limitless sexual prowess? He snuck a hand down between Kiryu’s legs, and felt… not what he had hoped to feel. He was totally flaccid.

“What the hell?” he grumbled, pulling away. “This ain’t doin’ it for ya?”

Kiryu looked confused. “We already had sex.”

Majima scoffed. “Yeah, once.”

“But, I… already finished,” Kiryu said, still trying to understand what was so disappointing about that, and wondering how he could be expected to recuperate so quickly. Women had never complained about it.

“You’re serious.” Majima rolled his eye and sighed. If Kiryu had this little energy compared to him, than he supposed he should just be glad they had fucked at all. “Alright, guess that ain’t happenin’. Want a smoke, then?”

Kiryu seemed disappointed, and was still clutching his hips, frowning and looking puzzled. “Well, I didn’t really mind what we were doing before. Can’t we just do that?”

“What, make out? Why?” Majima didn’t get it. There was only one logical conclusion to that course of action, and it was sex. Otherwise, what was the point?

“It’s kind of nice.” Kiryu looked him over affectionately. “I regret not doing things like this with the other people I’ve been with. Once they were gone, I eventually forgot what they felt like. I’d rather not forget again.”

Majima clasped his cheeks in his hands and couldn’t seem to settle on a facial expression for all the emotions he was feeling. His eye twitched. “S-so cute. Kiryu-chan’s a romantic.”

“Romantic?” Kiryu had never heard that word used to describe him before, and scrunched up his face in thought. It didn’t sound quite right. He was just saying what was on his mind, not trying to be romantic.

Majima’s eye was glazed over, and his thumbs and forefingers were pinching Kiryu’s cheeks. “Ah, ya don’t even know it! Just makes it even cuter,” he moaned.

“Ow,” Kiryu mumbled. He was starting to feel embarrassed.

“Kiryu-chan’s like a blushin’ bride on her weddin’ night!” Majima continued, his voice lilting, equal parts amused and aroused as he pulled Kiryu into his lap and held his head against his chest. “He just wants to be held! He’s so pure!”

“I…” Kiryu didn’t know what to say. That really wasn’t where he had expected this to go. Majima seemed to be forgetting that he was strong enough to fight him off if this got too weird. In the meantime, he tolerated the stranglehold he had on his head.

“Kiryu-chan just wants a big strong man to comfort him,” Majima continued, cradling his head, but in a way that was far from gentle or soothing. Kiryu was starting to lose patience. “Shhhh, it’s okay. I got ya.” He broke out into some sort of bastardized version of Takeda Lullaby, in which he replaced the words with things like “Kiryu-chan” and “iraira” and “fight”.

“I-is this supposed to make me feel better?” Kiryu asked, voice muffled as his cheek was compressed against Majima’s chest. It dawned on him that the reason Majima calling him romantic sounded off was because he didn’t seem to understand the meaning of the word himself.

“Nah, it’s s’posed to getcha all pissed off so I can kick the shit outta ya,” Majima confessed.

Well, this was what Kiryu got for attempting to express himself to someone who coped with their feelings via theatrics and violence. This was just who Majima was, it seemed. Any time things got too serious, he had to pull some sort of stunt to distract from the fact that he was just as vulnerable as anyone else.

“We already fought earlier,” Kiryu said, finally reaching up to grab Majima’s wrists and pry his arms off of his head and neck.

“And that’s all ya got? One round of fightin’, one round of fuckin’, and Kiryu-chan’s down for the count.” Majima huffed. He pushed Kiryu off of him and climbed to his feet. “Great, now I’m the one who’s all pissed off.”

Kiryu cracked just the slightest smile. Majima was so much more transparent than he realized, like Kaoru always had been. He’d always thought it was kind of cute. The more they acted out, the more obvious it was that they were trying to cover up how strongly they felt. It wasn’t all bad. It did keep them alive in a world where showing weakness could get them killed, and more than anything, Kiryu wanted them to stay alive.

So, he ignored the jabs and slights, and changed the subject. “I'll go get the rest of our clothes,” he said, before circling back to the original purpose of his visit. “Then, we can talk about what sort of deal you made with Minister Suzuki.”

Majima was reluctantly tying on his still-damp eyepatch, but dropped it and spun his head around to face Kiryu. “How the hell’d ya know about Suzuki bein’ involved?”

“Date and I were sent a photo,” Kiryu explained, fastening his belt and picking up his shoes. “I’ll meet you upstairs. I’d like to know who would have sent it to us, and why.”

Majima wanted to know, too, so he let him go and finished putting himself together as quickly as he could. He and Kiryu needed to swap info as soon as possible, and figure out who was plotting against them.

He knew there was really only one person it could be, though: Hamazaki Goh.

Chapter Text

Time to get down to business. If what Nishida had said before their rendezvous was true, Kiryu needed to see the Florist as soon as possible, and Majima needed to put a stop to Hamazaki’s threats.

They may not always want to be the strong ones, but the fact was, they followed their instincts. Right now, Kiryu and Majima’s instincts told them that Daigo and the Clan were in immediate danger, and they needed to protect them.

“So, somebody sent you and Date a photo of me and Suzuki, huh?” Majima said bitterly. “Musta been Hamazaki. Got a feelin’ he was plannin’ to blackmail me all along. Not just to piss ya off, either. I think he woulda sent that photo to the police if he had to. Me ‘n Suzuki both woulda been screwed, and then he coulda swooped in and taken over the resort deal, and maybe even the whole clan.” He cursed his lack of foresight. It seemed like such an obvious ploy to him now.

“Makes sense,” Kiryu agreed, though he knew very little of the situation himself. He trusted Majima’s insight.

“That ain’t all, though. It’s soundin’ like Hamazaki’s been plannin’ somethin’ bigger from the start.” He hit the switch to lower his desk down to the Florist’s surveillance room.

“You don’t have to use your head for that anymore?” Kiryu asked, nodding at the desk.

Majima frowned at him. “Huh?”

“Last time I saw you, you had to activate the platform with your head.” In fact, Majima had spent an absurd amount of time trying to do just that, before it had actually worked.

“Oh. Yeah, uh…” There was no way he could tell Kiryu it had taken a concussion to convince him that the mechanism hadn’t been so clever after all. “I don’t got time for that shit anymore. I’m all serious business now, Kiryu-chan.”

“Right.” Kiryu was far from convinced, but left it at that.

The Florist appeared to have been waiting, and had already turned away from his keyboard to greet them. “Long time no see, Kiryu-san.”

“Yeah. Good to see you,” Kiryu said, taking a bow.

“So, I heard you took Kanda down a notch. But he’s not your biggest problem. I’ve been investigating Hamazaki for the past six months, on instructions from Daigo.” The Florist folded his hands in his lap and gave Majima a quick glance.

“What? I never knew that….” Majima was taken aback. His stomach clenched. Daigo had trusted him even less than he had thought. He wondered if he had ever stumbled upon Majima Construction’s involvement in the resort plans, or if the Florist had chosen not to divulge that little secret to him.

“As it turns out, Hamazaki doesn’t just lord over Little Asia and Yokohama. He’s been working with the Snake Flower Triads all along,” Kage continued, ignoring Majima’s reaction.

“How did he manage that? They wouldn’t just partner up with yakuza for nothing.” Kiryu should know. He had dealt with them frequently in the years that Lau Ka Long had been active, and they had always been hostile toward the Tojo Clan.

“Hamazaki promised them that he would succeed Daigo, and that he would hand them the Okinawa resort on a platter. From what I gathered, they wanted to open up a casino underneath it, sort of like the one here in Purgatory. But that’s only the beginning. Kiryu… take a look at this.” Kage turned back to his keyboard and switched the main monitor to Taihei Boulevard, where an army-like assembly of Triad members were marching down the street, swords in hand, led by a long-bearded man in white.

“Lau Ka Long?” Kiryu gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. Their feud should have ended years ago. Lau was supposed to be dead. “He’s still alive, then?”

“Somehow,” the Florist sighed. “And he’s out for your blood again, Kiryu. Negotiating with Hamazaki was probably just a convenient excuse for him to come after you again.”

“That’s some messed up shit,” Majima scoffed. “I mean, if ya wanna come after Kiryu-chan, all ya gotta do is hide in a garbage can. Why’s he gotta make it so damn complicated?”

Kiryu ignored him, his attention focused on the screen in front of them. “Why are his men scattering now?”

“Hm?” The Florist turned back to the monitor. It appeared as though Lau Ka Long had given his men orders, and was now standing alone in the street. He was holding something.

“That’s… a photo of Rikiya,” Kiryu realized, his heart sinking. If only Rikiya had stayed in Okinawa. If only he could have convinced him that he wasn’t worth following. His enemies always got to the people he loved first.

“Lemme guess, you’re gonna go save the little twink,” Majima grumbled. This was so clearly a trap, but that never seemed to stop Kiryu.

Kiryu already had his phone out, and was dialing Rikiya’s number. The conversation didn’t last long, before Kiryu hung up and bolted for the platform.

“I think I know where he is. I’ll be back,” he said hastily, much to Majima’s chagrin.

“Honestly, why’s he always pullin’ this shit?” Majima complained as he watched Kiryu go, seating himself on the end of Kage’s desk.

“Get off of that,” the Florist snapped, shooing him away.

Majima didn’t obey, and crossed his legs instead. “Why’s he such a sucker? Why’s he always lettin’ the bad guys get to him like that?” He continued his lament, resting his head in his hands.

“Same reason he always comes crawling back to you, I guess,” Kage mumbled.

That comment should have made Majima angry, but the truth of it was undeniable, and he was too exasperated to argue. Kiryu’s behavior had a clear, self-destructive pattern: come crashing into Kamurocho, fuck around with Majima, track down whoever they had beef with, and eventually go off to save whoever inevitably got kidnapped thanks to his boldfaced heroics. There was no stopping it, not with how stubborn he was, even after their conversation about how he shouldn’t take responsibility for everyone around him. While he was out there playing hero again, all Majima could do was wait.

Well, maybe not all he could do. Majima was more resourceful than that. It only took a few minutes of pondering before his eye lit up. He snapped his fingers, stood up, and called Nishida.

“Just pretend I’m not here,” Kage grumbled as he watched him dial. He might as well get back to work if the conversation was over, so he turned back to his monitor and tried to ignore the loud, one-sided conversation taking place behind him.

“Hey, Nishida! Round up the boys in the truck and meet me at the north end of Little Asia. I got somethin’ fun for us to do!” Majima told his pal excitedly.

“Okay, boss. I’m on it. Um, what exactly are we doing? Should I bring anything?” Nishida asked, knowing how much shit he would get in if he showed up underprepared, even if Majima hadn’t given him any details.

“Yeah! Bring helmets.”

“Got it. So, can I… ask what exactly we’ll be doing, o-or…?”

Majima had already hung up. Nishida sighed. He had no choice but to do as he had been told.

The Majima Family was used to it, but it always made him nervous to order them around without any clear objective. The boss hadn’t even told him how many men to bring. Nishida used his own discretion and picked out a couple dozen, making sure they all strapped on their construction helmets before they piled into a couple of vans.

When they arrived, Majima was waiting. That was never a good sign. He hated waiting.

“Nishida, what the fuck?” he growled, motioning wildly at the rows of men assembling before him. “These guys ain’t even got any bats!”

“O-oh. Right. Sorry, boss,” Nishida apologized, bowing and praying for mercy. There was no point in arguing.

“Tch. Alright, well, ya brought the big truck at least, right?”

“The… big truck?”

Majima’s eye bulged. “Don’t tell me ya fucked that up, too.”

Nishida didn’t know what else to do, so he dropped to the ground and put his forehead to the pavement. “I-I’m sorry!” he squealed.

Majima yanked Nishida’s helmet off and strapped it onto his own head. “Go get the damn truck. I’ll take care of shit here. Go on!” He nudged Nishida with the toe of his shoe none too gently, and watched him take off running with distaste. Really, Nishida should know better by now. He had been so clear over the phone, especially when he had asked for everyone to bring helmets. This was a riot! Anyone would know to bring bats and a big truck to a riot.

“Let’s go,” he roared at his men, scowling as he led them down the narrow alley into Little Asia’s heart. He could just barely remember where Hamazaki’s office had been. It was darker outside now, but there were only so many buildings in the district. When they reached it, he kicked the door down, and was disappointed to find the main floor empty.

Maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised. Rumor had it that there were only ten members in the Hamazaki Family. The rest, he now realized, would all have been Snake Flower Triads.

It was time to regroup. Majima had his boys steal whatever they could use as weapons from the office building, from ash trays to broomsticks. Then, they marched on Hamazaki’s territory, knocking in doors and questioning business owners in hope of finding a lead - or at least weeding out some Triad members in the process.

One of the restaurants they invaded was nearly empty, but for a stout man in a long white coat who apparently was the owner, and a brown-haired boy with a petulant look on his face.

“Get out of here,” he ordered Majima and his family, much to his amusement. The little punk seemed to think he was hot shit.

“Now, now,” Majima scolded, wagging his finger at him. “Ya don’t wanna go sayin’ shit like that to a big mean yakuza boss. Otherwise, I might have to do this.” He grabbed the owner from behind the counter and held his knife under his chin. “Where’re Hamazaki’s goons at? Bet ya been payin’ 'em protection money, huh?”

“Judging by the eyepatch, you must be Majima Goro. If you’re here looking for Hamazaki, I’m guessing the Tojo Clan’s resorted to infighting?” the boy asked, though the question seemed rhetorical. The look on his face said he understood more than Majima had given him credit for. He barely reacted to him taking a hostage.

“Heh. Think you’re pretty smart, don’tcha? Well, don’t go gettin’ too smug. The Clan ain’t fightin’,” Majima lied, as if that would fend off anyone who already knew enough to identify him by appearance. Then, he grinned. “But I am.”

“Oh.” Brown-haired kid’s gaze grew distant for a moment, and he frowned. “Shit… that can’t be right.” He adjusted something in his ear.

“Hey. What the hell’s that? Ya wearin’ a wire?” Majima snapped, tightening his grip on his hostage.

The boy shook his head, and mumbled, “No, I’ve just got a lot of money on this race.”

“Race?”

“Yeah, horse racing.”

Majima was seething. Here he was, holding a knife to a guy’s throat, and this kid was listening to horse racing?

“Boss,” one of his men muttered behind him. Normally, they refrained from interrupting Majima’s spectacles of intimidation, but there was something he should know before he got into a fight with this particular person. “This guy’s with the police. He gets away with shakedowns and shady gamblin’ all the time. Had to kick him off our turf just a few months ago. Nishida almost went bankrupt. Takin’ him out might do us some good, but it might also get us in shit with the police….”

“Speak up!” Majima complained. “Can’t stand all that mumblin’.”

“I heard him just fine.” The Parasite of Kamurocho popped out his earbud and tucked it into his pocket. “Fight me if you want, I won’t get my colleagues involved. If I win, you stay out of Little Asia.”

This was an interesting development. Majima had to think. On the one hand, hostages weren’t much fun. On the other hand, fighting someone this far beneath him wouldn’t be much fun, either.

Just as he was about to give in to violence, Hamazaki himself came skulking out of the back of the restaurant.

“You're no match for him, Tanimura,” he told the boy sternly. “I’ll sort this out.” The boy gave him a stubborn frown, but relented, and took a seat at a nearby table.

Majima cackled. “So the kid was bluffin’ this whole time, eh? Yeah, I can see how he gave Nishida a run for his money.” He withdrew his knife and allowed his hostage to retreat, fixing his glare on the Tojo Captain before him. “Surprised ya ain't runnin’. Y'know I'm here to kick your ass, right?”

“Believe it or not, I've got principles,” Hamazaki grunted. “Mostly, though, I'm dead meat anyway if Lau Ka Long loses to Kiryu. Might as well die here instead of in the hole.”

The dead look in his eyes and the resignment with which he spoke made Majima frown. “So, that's what you're in for if me and Kiryu shut down your little operation, huh?”

Hamazaki nodded. “Death, if I'm lucky. Torture, most likely. So, let's settle our score now.”

“Hm,” Majima pondered, then shrugged and turned to leave. “Nah. Have fun with that!” He motioned for his men to follow him.

“What?” Hamazaki roared, his eyes widening with panic. “I betrayed the clan. You should want to kill me for what I did.”

Majima slid his knife back into its sheath and knocked on his helmet. “I ain't that stupid. Ya fooled me once, but not this time. Ya'd rather die than face the music, ain't that what's really happenin’?”

Hamazaki was frozen in place, lip twitching, eyes narrowing. There was no need for him to respond. Majima understood the fear of punishment, but having endured more for a crime he never committed, could feel no sympathy for a traitor like Hamazaki. His expression was cold, and his smirk devious, as he paused in the doorway on his way out.

“Try not to lose an eye, huh, Hamazaki-chan?” he snickered, slamming the door shut behind him.

There were hundreds of Chinese Mafia members, and only one Hamazaki. They would take care of him eventually.

In the meantime, the Majima Family cleared out of Little Asia, and Majima himself headed for Purgatory with his head held high.

 

***

 

Date was already there talking to the Florist when he arrived.

“So, that’s what happened…” Date said, his brow furrowed in thought.

“Yeah. I don’t get it, either. Kiryu can tell us more when he shows up.” Kage turned his gaze to Majima and nodded in acknowledgement. “Need me to get you caught up?”

“Depends on what info ya got,” Majima replied.

“Lau Ka Long is dead.”

“What?” Majima frowned. “Kiryu-chan ain’t no killer….”

“No, he’s not. But Kazama is.” Kage rubbed his forehead, still reeling from how little sense he could make of all this, even knowing all that he did about Kamurocho’s dark side. “Kazama showed up while they were fighting, and took a perfect shot at Lau’s head.” He pointed to a spot on his forehead to indicate the bullet’s entry point. “He saved that Rikiya kid, too. Two of Lau’s guys had him all set up for execution, and Kazama took them out. It doesn’t make sense, does it? First off, if he can shoot with that kind of accuracy, then he would have killed Daigo and that Okinawa patriarch easily. Second, if Hamazaki was behind all this, and he was working with the Snake Flower Triads, then that should have meant Kazama was working with them, too. This changes everything.” He stroked his chin, deep in thought, disturbed by how much information he was missing despite his citywide network.

Majima tried to follow, but couldn’t put the pieces together, either. It didn’t make sense that the guy who stole the deed to Kiryu’s land was the same guy who saved he and Rikiya’s lives. No matter how he looked at it, it didn’t add up.

Thankfully, Kiryu showed up with Rikiya in tow, bearing new information. It was a relief to see that he was unscathed. As strong as he was, he wasn’t invincible. Every time he went out to face some new danger, the thought was always in the back of Majima’s mind that he wouldn’t come back.

“He knew my name,” Kiryu told them, his scowl deep. “But he spoke English instead of answering my questions.”

Majima tried to imagine Kazama speaking English, but he barely knew enough of the language to come up with a sentence. “English, huh? Like, ‘yippie-ka-yay motherfucker’?” Kiryu just sighed and closed his eyes, willing himself to move past Majima’s asinine commentary.

“What could this mean?” Date wondered.

“Do you have any idea what he said?” Kage asked.

“I think… he said ‘beautiful eyes’. Then, something about a brother,” Kiryu replied, clearly troubled by the recollection. Rikiya didn’t look to be listening, and walked past them to rest against the wall. He was probably exhausted. No one could blame him for that.

“That’s odd,” was all the Florist could say. Those words implied some connection to Kiryu, and probably to Kazama, but it still didn’t shed any light on the assassin’s motivations.

Then, the phone rang. It wasn’t a cell phone. It was the office phone, which only ever received calls from the empty lot above, to announce visitors. Majima instinctively tensed when he heard it. No one had been invited here today.

Kage answered, spoke briefly with whoever was on guard duty, then hung up. “Apparently, Mine Yoshitaka is here.”

Majima pondered that unexpected turn of events. Maybe Mine had heard about Hamazaki, and about Kanda, and was prepared to offer his help. Knowing him, any threat to Daigo’s place in the clan would anger him. Plus, he had supported Kashiwagi’s proposal to make Kiryu their acting Chairman. He might be here to see that plan come to fruition.

When Mine came strolling down the red carpet toward them, he was carrying a metal briefcase. No one was prepared for what was inside.

“Kanda?” Majima gasped in spite of himself as the lid was lifted. The stench was overwhelming. Rikiya was gagging behind him.

“Why did you do this?” Kiryu asked, his expression calm and rational, though Majima suspected he was seething on the inside.

“I was partly responsible for the Nishikiyama Family’s actions under Kanda,” Mine explained, snapping the briefcase shut again. “I’d been giving them money for quite some time, but I didn’t suspect it would lead to betrayal on their part. What they did to the Kazama Family, and to Kiryu-san, was uncalled for. I hope you’ll accept this as a gesture of atonement. Kanda won’t be causing problems for you or for the Tojo Clan anymore.”

Majima gaped at him. In all the time he’d known him, Mine had never once made a move this aggressive, nor thrown his weight around so carelessly. In the presence of his fellow clan captain, three witnesses, and the Dragon of Dojima, he was admitting to murdering one of his own, and providing them with the proof.

“I have my men out searching for Hamazaki, though I doubt they’ll find him,” he continued. Majima clamped his mouth shut and hoped he was right. Hamazaki deserved whatever he had coming to him.

Kiryu’s ability to maintain his composure was admirable. “Why’s that?” he asked, his tone level, while Majima clenched his fists behind him.

“The Snake Flower Triad would have hauled him back to China to answer for Lau Ka Long’s death. I doubt he’s still in Japan by now. I’ll have some of my men meet with them and smooth things over, otherwise we’ll likely be facing a war. The Tojo Clan can’t handle that right now.”

As right as he was, Majima wasn’t liking his authoritative tone. Mine had barely given him a second look since he entered, despite their equal status. Instead, his attention was devoted entirely to Kiryu. It hurt Majima's pride more than he was willing to admit. Daigo’s own right hand man didn’t have an ounce of respect for him, and was making sure Kiryu could see it.

“The Tojo Clan is at a crossroads. I’ll be calling a meeting to discuss our leadership and direction as soon as possible. We’ll need your strength, Fourth Chairman. Take care of yourself.” Mine held Kiryu’s gaze, then bowed just lowly enough and long enough to emphasize his statement.

Majima was about to send him off with a snarky comment when Kiryu spoke up. “Is that what you were taught about the yakuza, Mine?”

“What do you mean by that?” Mine had been about to make his exit, but froze in place when he heard Kiryu’s chastising tone.

“Is this what Daigo would have done? Is this what you think he would want?” Kiryu asked, clenching his fists. So, he was as put off by this display as Majima was, after all. The looks on Date and Kage’s faces said they were, too, though they remained speechless.

“No, probably not,” Mine admitted without hesitation. Clearly, he had already thought his decision through, and developed some sort of justification for his violence. He locked eyes with Kiryu, matching his level of determination and stubborn self-righteousness. “But Daigo’s not here. I would do anything for him, and for the Tojo Clan, even if it seems wrong to you. In fact,” he said, his gaze hardening, “you’re as responsible for these consequences as I am, Kiryu-san. You chased Kanda and Hamazaki down. Pretend all you want that running away to Okinawa, supposedly to help a bunch of orphans, makes you morally superior to me. You abandoned the clan, and Daigo with it. I’m going to make things right, whatever it takes.” On that note, he turned to leave, the mad glint in his eye flashing only for a brief moment before he was gone.

Majima was chilled to the bone by his final statement. It threatened not only more bloodshed, but more murder. He would have to be particularly careful around Mine from now on.

“Never pegged Mine as the type to kill,” he muttered, still awestruck by what had just happened. There was nothing to be done about it, though. Whether or not it had been the right thing to do, Mine had just saved them a whole lot of trouble. “So, great, Kanda and Hamazaki are both outta the picture now! That means nobody’s out to kill ya anymore, Kiryu-chan.” He gave him a manic grin, suggesting that the follow-up to that sentence was, ’Cept for me, of course.

“Not so fast,” Date cut in, giving him a look of reproach. “Kazama’s lookalike is still out there. We have no idea what he wants yet. He may not have killed Kiryu this time, but who knows who he’s working for, and what he’ll do next?” The Florist nodded in agreement. “I’ll look into Hamazaki and the Snake Flower Triads some more, see if they had motivations beyond revenge for starting up their scheme to snatch up the resort. Kage, you look into Mine and the Hakuho Clan.”

“Wait, Mine? I thought we didn’t consider him a suspect,” Kiryu said. Majima looked to Date, equally confused.

“Well, the Tojo Clan is involved somehow, and there are only two captains left after Kanda and Hamazaki, so…” Date gave him an apologetic look.

“Hey, Date-san,” Majima snapped indignantly. “Ya sayin’ I’m on your shit list now, too?” How rude, after all he’d done for their ragtag team of shady old men.

“No, no,” Date chuckled. “And anyway, if I did, I wouldn’t say so to your face.” He smirked, and Majima widened his eye at the taunt. Kiryu could see where this would head if he didn’t speak up, so he interjected.

“We have a plan, then. I’ll keep looking into Kazama’s lookalike while you’re both investigating.” He then turned to Majima with a look that was both pleading and commanding. “I need you to look after the Kazama Family for me. Just be careful. I’m sure there are others in the clan who see their lack of leadership as an opportunity.”

“A-alright,” Majima stuttered, surprised that Date hadn’t shaken Kiryu’s faith in him even a little. That meant more to him than Kiryu could ever imagine. “Guess I’ll go have a chat with ‘em.”

“Rikiya, I need you to go back to Okinawa,” was Kiryu’s final matter of concern. Majima tried not to show how smug he felt about the kid getting sent packing.

“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Kiryu asked, crouching next to him, and Majima’s smugness turned to disgust. Of course it had been too much to hope that Kiryu could go one Tojo Clan conflict without fixating on some damsel in distress. That was his cue to leave. He couldn’t stomach much more of that crap.

For a split second, he thought to himself, He never worries that much about me. Then, he cursed his own insecurity. Kiryu believed in him. That was why he didn’t fawn over him as though he were a child. Majima needed to prove him right, and do what needed to be done, with grace and finesse befitting someone of his age and status.

Chapter Text

“Nishida! Get a load of this shit,” he exclaimed into his phone’s receiver. “Kiryu-chan asked me a big favor. Tell the boys we’re takin’ a field trip to the Kazama Family’s headquarters to introduce their new boss. Bring baseball bats. Oh, and tell Antonio Inoki he can come, too, if he quits beatin’ on our construction equipment.”

“Boss, um, I don’t normally question your methods, b-but,” Nishida stammered, “shouldn’t we be a bit less violent with Kashiwagi’s men? They’re not, uh, used to your way of doing things…”

“Ha ha, it’s all good. I got a plan!” Majima assured him cheerfully. He did not have a plan.

Nishida remained unconvinced, but knew what would happen if he pointed out his boss's lack of foresight. “O-okay. Um, when do we need to be there?”

“Now!” Majima responded, as if it were obvious.

“Wait, what? No, there’s no way we can - “

“Bye!” Majima hung up on him and chucked his phone over his shoulder so that Nishida wouldn’t be able to annoy him with any subsequent phone calls. There was important work to be done. He couldn't allow anything to distract him.

First, he dropped off his knife with Kamiyama, the new weapon dealer in town. He needed it sharpened, just in case. The Kazama Family still had plenty of former Dojima Family men within its ranks, and chances were, they wouldn’t take too kindly to him barging into their offices… again. Twenty years didn’t mean much when it came to a deep-seated grudge.

Second, he took a brisk walk back to his living quarters, and threw open his closet. A grin spread across his face as he pulled out the old snakeskin jacket and leather pants.

“Time to get crazy,” he snickered to himself, hardly able to contain his excitement as he stripped out of his suit and dressed himself in his Mad Dog ensemble. “Kashiwagi, ya had a good run, pal. The Majima Family’s gonna do ya proud. I’m gonna separate the boys from the men, like I shoulda ages ago. Not like ya ever had the balls to do it yourself.” It felt good to speak his mind, but inwardly, he prayed Kashiwagi’s ghost couldn’t hear him.

“Alright!” he called out to no one in particular, kicking open the door. Then, he looked down at his hands. “Aw, shit. Almost forgot.”

 

Once his gloves were on, he was ready to kick some ass.

The air was brisk, and the day was young. It smelled like new beginnings, Majima thought. He beamed as he trodded along the sidewalk, waving his bat at pedestrians to clear his path to Millennium Tower.

Along the way other members of his family joined him, marked by their yellow construction helmets. Nishida was one of the first, panting as he sprinted toward his boss, hoping with all his might that he was in a good mood.

“Nishida!” Majima sang, bopping him on the head with his bat. “It’s a great day! Let’s go have some fun. Countin’ on ya, pal. Didja wear your baseball shoes?”

Majima was in a good mood. Too good, in fact. I wonder if I’ll die today, Nishida thought to himself.

“N-no, boss.”

Dead silence. A pause. A wide eye turning slowly toward him.

“What?”

Nishida gulped. “I didn’t wear them, boss. I’m sorry.”

“Three strikes,” Majima told him in a low voice.

“Huh?”

“Three strikes,” he repeated, holding up a matching number of fingers. “You’re out.”

“I don’t - “

But Nishida didn’t have time to ask what the other two strikes had been, because he was struck off his feet and across the road.

“Home run!” Majima announced, and continued on his way up the steps to the skyscraper before him.

The Kazama Family had barely had time to mourn Kashiwagi. The offices that hadn’t been destroyed in the attack on their patriarch were still open, but everyone there worked in silence. Their grief was still fresh. Dressed all in black, they moved about slowly, nodding in acknowledgement when they caught the sorrowful gazes of their brethren. It would be a long time before they recuperated from such a heavy loss, but slowly, they would move on.

“Hey, dipshits!” an obnoxious voice exclaimed from the elevator down the hall, and everyone turned, horrorstruck.

Majima came prancing into their midst, flinging around his baseball bat like he was stepping onto the field for the first game of the season, and hopped up onto a desk, ignoring the mortified yakuza that sat there.

There was a look of distaste on his face as he surveyed the room. “None of ya look like you’re ready to play ball.”

Someone dropped a pile of papers they had been filing. Another choked on his cigarette.

“Geez, lighten up,” Majima chastised them, pointing his bat in accusation. “What is this, a funeral?”

No one knew what to say.

“Okay, everybody line up.”

No one moved.

“Line the fuck up!” Majima commanded, and his grunts blocked the exits to the room. The Kazama Family scrambled to form a haphazard lineup in the middle of the room.

Majima nodded with approval, and hopped down from his podium. The man sitting at his feet hadn’t moved. “Go on!” he growled, shooing the nervous gangster toward his brothers.

“Hm,” he thought to himself, looking up and down the line of awkward, overdressed men. Starting from the right, he began to assign them positions. “Left field. Third base. Center field.”

When he was done, he motioned for them to follow him out into the hallway. So far, so good. The weather was perfect, and there were enough men on hand to form two teams. Surely, the rest of the Kazama Family would follow in their wake, once this lot had been successfully assimilated in a friendly game of good old-fashioned baseball.

The Kamurocho Hills lot was full of spectators from the Majima Family, and the players reluctantly took up the positions Majima had assigned them. The Kazama men were wary. Majima had promised them a fair game, but something was off. There was a violent gleam in his eyes and a mischievous smirk on his face as he took the plate on their makeshift, concrete field.

Nishida was playing catcher, and mumbled from behind him, “I still think this is a bad idea.”

“Nah,” Majima disagreed, waving his hand dismissively. His eyes were fixed on the pitcher, knees bent, bat at the ready. “Play ball!” he announced.

For a while, it seemed as though the game was going to be played out according to traditional rules, and everyone settled into their roles. The Kazama men relaxed, and even started to have fun.

They had been lulled into a false sense of security. At the beginning of the ninth inning, Majima hit a fly ball, and made no move to leave home base as it sailed off into the distance.

“Uh, aren't you going to run the bases?” the pitcher called out to Majima, but he just grinned.

The outfielders scrambled to chase after the ball, but the glare of the sun obstructed their view of it until it was too late. It landed just past the boundary of the construction yard. When one of the men went to retrieve it, Majima called him to a halt.

“Don't worry 'bout that ball. Game's over anyway.”

Some of the Kazama men looked indignant, as their team had been about to win the game. They would have disputed Majima’s order if it weren’t for the sound of heavy machinery rumbling to life behind them.

Majima was accustomed to construction battles, and was glad that his plan to bide time with a baseball game had worked. With so many yakuza gathered in one place, how could a pro wrestler resist the urge to run at them with a missile launcher? The Kazama men would be forced to follow his orders when they attacked, and would learn to respect his leadership.

His satisfied grin dropped into a frown when he realized that the men approaching, and the wrecking ball that followed them, were not pro wrestlers at all.

“Conniving bastard,” Majima mumbled. Apparently, the Hakuho Clan was ready to make their move.

Men flooded into the construction yard, wearing black suits and shades. At first, Majima assumed them all to be Hakuho men. When he looked closer, though, he saw that many of their number were American, and did not wear Tojo Clan pins on their lapels.

“Where’s Mine?” he demanded when their ranks encircled he and his men, brandishing his baseball bat.

“I have better things to do than knock your undisciplined grunts around,” came the flat, bitter voice of the patriarch from behind his lieutenants, as they parted to make way for him. “I hope we can get this over with quickly.”

 

“Get what over with?” Majima questioned, eyes wary.

“Handing over your company to me, and acknowledging me as Seventh Chairman.”

There was a short pause. Even Kazama’s men scoffed, bewildered by the sudden, arrogant assertion of authority from their youngest clan captain.

Majima couldn’t help himself. His lip twitched. A grin spread across his face. He laughed until he could hardly breathe, and Nishida had to keep him from keeling over.

When he was done, his scowl returned, and his chin lifted with pride and menace. “Over my dead body, Yocchan.”

“Have it your way,” Mine responded grimly, and motioned his men forward.

Majima lived and breathed chaos, and the battle that ensued was nothing if not chaotic. His knife trailed arcs of blood through the air as he cut his way through the Hakuho frontlines. Nishida roared orders, and the Kazama men scrambled to follow them, colliding and stalling Majima Family men who would have known what to do even if Nishida hadn’t told them.

Regardless, the Majima Family had an advantage. Mine was cunning, but Majima was unpredictable. The Hakuho Clan had battle plans, training, discipline, and a swift, strong leader guiding their every move. They were missing one thing, though: improvisation.

Majima was on his home turf. He knew Kamurocho Hills like the back of his hand. When a flash of strategic genius finally struck him, it would all be over for Mine.

There was a creak, and a jarring thud. The Majima Family continued to fight as if nothing happened, but the Hakuho Clan faltered, sensing that something was amiss.

A shadow loomed over their heads, but by the time they glanced upward and shouted their first words of warning to their comrades, it was too late.

“Shit,” Mine cursed under his breath. How had he not noticed Majima slip away?

“DEMOLITION TIME!” The frenzied battle cry came from the cab of the crane behind them. A wrecking ball swung through the air and parted Mine’s ranks like the Red Sea.

Horrified, the Hakuho Clan tried to retreat. Those that weren’t demolished fell right into the Majima Family’s clutches, and were subdued and dragged into a shipping container for punishment.

Mine had acted quickly enough to avoid the trap, but he was seething all the same. Knowing that the wrecking ball couldn’t strike close to the cab of the crane, he had made a run for it and climbed to meet its operator.

“Majima!” he snarled, lunging for the controls. There was a brief struggle, during which Mine grappled his fellow captain in a chokehold, and Majima grabbed wildly at the controls, sending the wrecking ball smashing into nearby scaffolding and fences. Finally, Majima was forced to reach over his shoulders and poke at Mine’s eyes to distract him and break away.

“What the hell?” Mine growled, rubbing at the eye Majima had managed to bruise. “This is how you fight back? Coward!”

 

“The fuck? I ain’t a coward.” Majima glared daggers at him and gave him a sharp kick to the gut with his steel-toed shoe. “Ya brought ten guys for every one of mine and snuck up on us in middle of a ball game. Ya didn’t even bring peanuts and Cracker Jacks, Yocchan. You’re lookin’ pretty cowardly to me.”

Mine swung a fist in his direction, but his anger made him clumsy, and Majima dodged it with ease, even in the cramped confines of the crane cab. “If you won’t admit you’re a coward, then at least admit that smashing the Hakuho Family with a wrecking ball is reckless and dishonorable,” he demanded. “You’ll never take the Chairman’s seat by killing his own men.”

Majima hadn’t really thought about the killing part, just the smashing part. That did look bad on him, he had to admit. But Mine was definitely the one who was in the wrong here. There was no way he would let him manipulate the conversation in his favor.

“Last time I checked, Daigo was still Chairman,” Majima said, dodging another punch. Mine still hadn’t gained an inch of ground, even though Majima was fighting him sitting down.

“Daigo is dead.” Mine’s voice cracked ever so slightly. His face was turning red from exertion as he swung at Majima over and over again.

“No, he ain’t,” Majima argued. That couldn’t be true. He would have heard about it. “Even if he was, ya really think I’m dyin’ to be Chairman? It’s a whole lotta bureaucratic, diplomatic bullshit. Quit fightin’ me over it and tell me what you’re doin’ runnin’ with a gang of CIA-lookin’ suits from America.”

That seemed to take the wind out of Mine’s sails, which was a relief, because Majima honestly couldn’t have held out against him much longer without using his knife.

“You know who they are?” Mine asked, tensing and backing off.

“Sure,” Majima decided to lie. After all, any leverage against Mine would help him out of his current situation. It sounded like Mine didn’t want him to know.

“I’m doing it for Daigo,” Mine said. His posture was defensive. His expression was hard like a shield, but the look in his eyes was vulnerable. Like a child who knows they’re about to get beaten, he was defiant, but fearful.

“We’ve both been doin’ things for Daigo, but that don’t make ‘em right,” Majima said. His own guilt churned inside him, reminding him that whatever Mine was doing was no worse than what he and Hamazaki had done. Maybe Mine was using different means, but clearly, their goals were the same. They were both doing what they thought they had to do to keep the Tojo Clan afloat. In Mine’s case, that meant taking out the wild card and re-establishing order. On the inside, Majima could admit that it was the sensible thing to do. He had betrayed their Chairman first.

“Don’t preach to me about what’s right,” Mine snapped, and Majima fell silent. Both glared openly and unblinkingly at each other, but both were fumbling for excuses now that their treachery was out in the open.

Eventually, Majima sighed, and slumped in his seat. “Look,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “We both fucked up. This is gettin’ outta control. Daigo ain’t gonna have anyone left if we both keep tryin’ to kill each other. So, whaddaya say we forget this and get our shit together? Let Kiryu do his hero thing, and step off ‘til we got the resort bagged and that Kazama look-alike off our backs.”

It dawned on Mine that Majima didn’t actually know who he was working with, or what he was really up to. That realization came as a relief. He gave a satisfied grunt, and said, “Kiryu won’t be doing anything heroic. If you were counting on him, then my work here is done. All I have to do is wait.”

“Huh?” Majima wondered, just as his phone rang. Mine took the distraction as an opportunity to hop down from the cab and saunter off through the construction site. The Majima Family knew better than to lay a finger on him without an order from their boss, so they watched silently as he passed.

“Majima,” came the Florist’s panicked voice through the receiver. “Kiryu’s in - “

“Trouble!” Majima finished for him, answering with the confidence of a contestant about to win a game show.

“Y-yeah,” Kage answered.

“Great! Where’s he at?”

“You sound happy about this…”

Majima didn’t hear him, because he was leaning out the door of the crane’s cab, calling down to Nishida in a sing-song voice.

“Hey Nishida! Guess who’s in trouble?”

Nishida didn’t even blink. “Kiryu-san.” He tightened the strap on his construction helmet and rolled up his sleeves. “I’ll go get the truck, boss.”

 

“Sweet!” Majima finally put the phone back to his ear. “C’mon, hurry up and tell me where he’s at, I ain’t got all day.”

“I almost thought you’d hung up on me,” the Florist sighed. “He went to the Diet Building.”

“What?!” Majima couldn’t hide his surprise. Government offices were no place for yakuza. That was when he remembered Kiryu was a civilian, and hissed through his teeth. “That big dumb bastard….” The Dragon of Dojima thought he would be safe just because he had been frolicking on a subtropical island with a gaggle of kids for the past two years.

“He’s supposed to be meeting with Minister Tamiya,” the Florist continued. “Date went with him, and I’ve had my eye on him, but now there’s a bunch of men in suits staking out the building.”

“Men in suits?!” Majima gasped. “Like the guys Mine was hangin’ out with?” No wonder Mine had looked so smug at the mention of Kiryu. This must all be going according to his plan. In fact, now that he thought about it, provoking the Majima Family into a fight might even have been a distraction. The real battle was going down at the Diet Building, and Kiryu wasn’t supposed to make it out of there alive.

There was no time left to chat, so Majima promptly hung up on the Florist and stuffed his phone into his jacket. Nishida was bringing the truck to a halt when he swung himself out of the cab and made a flying leap for the driver side door. He missed, and landed flat out on the windshield with his good eye pressed to the glass.

Nishida gaped. “B-boss,” he stammered.

Majima raised a fist high, opened his eye wide, and gritted his teeth.

“Oh no.” Nishida knew what was coming. Not a moment too soon, he dove out of the truck and onto the pavement. The windshield shattered inward.

Broken glass was the least of Majima’s worries at the moment. At least the glass had shattered so completely that no one but him would notice his windshield was missing… for now. So, he used his gloved hands to brush the debris off the seats, then sat himself down and floored it out of the construction site.

He always does this, Nishida thought to himself sullenly, leaning against a pylon with a sigh. One of these days, it’d better be Kiryu saving him.

As honest as Majima had been when he had scolded Kiryu for putting everyone else before himself, and always playing hero, the truth was that he admired him for it: so much so, that he was about to do exactly same thing. After all, if Kiryu was the hero, then who would save him?

Majima would.

Chapter Text

As determined as Majima was to save him, and as much as he tried to acknowledge his own hypocrisy, he still couldn’t help feeling angrier the longer he spent speeding down the streets of Tokyo in his dump truck.

Kiryu always seemed to get up to the dumbest shit when they were apart. After all they had talked about the other day, about manning up and taking care of yourself, the message still hadn’t gotten through his thick skull. He was off running head first into danger, being a martyr, trying to save criminals like Daigo and Majima instead of going home to his kids.

Careening through the city in a massive, flamingo-colored construction vehicle with the intention of crashing into a government building to save a high profile criminal was... arguably just as reckless. It could be true that Kiryu’s point about his life being worth protecting hadn’t gotten through Majima’s thick skull, either.

Well, no use thinking about it now. Majima was running on pure instinct and adrenaline. This was just who they were, he supposed: a couple of meatheads who just wanted life to be as simple as beating the shit out of their problems, or maybe in his case, running them over with a truck.

Clenching his teeth, spinning the wheel to the left, he rounded the final corner and slammed on the breaks just in time. As fate would have it, Kiryu was already outside the Diet Building, and a crowd of men in black would have been about to jump him if Majima hadn’t sent them scrambling for cover.

“Kiryu-chan, where are ya?” he called out, leaning over his steering wheel to scan the ground. The Dragon was standing dumbstruck next to the passenger door. “Oh, good, there ya are. I thought I mighta run ya over. Hurry up and get in.”

Kiryu shouldn’t be surprised that Majima had shown up just in the nick of time, since he had a knack for that, but it really was a wonder that he hadn’t been either too soon or too late. The men in black were staggering to their feet, so he took his opportunity to escape, and jumped into the cab.

As the truck skidded forward and left his pursuers in the dust, Kiryu ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I’d ask you how you knew I was here, but I think it’s more important that I tell you what’s going on while we have time.”

“Oh?” Majima kept his rage under wraps for the time being, and gave him a quick glance. “So, what’s goin’ on?” He had a million questions, but figured they would soon be answered if he let Kiryu steer the conversation.

“Kazama Joji, that’s the man who shot Daigo and Nakahara. He’s Shintaro’s brother. He works for the CIA.”

That was a whole lot to wrap his head around. Majima furrowed his brow. “You’re shittin’ me. What’s a CIA agent doin’ gettin’ involved in yakuza shit? He tryin' to get vengeance for Kazama?”

Kiryu rubbed his forehead. “No. It has to do with some shady organization called Black Monday that he's trying to snuff out. Minister Tamiya was explaining that he initiated the proposal for the military base and resort on Okinawa as a means of luring Black Monday out into the open. The CIA was cooperating with him, which is why Joji is here. I guess this is bigger than we thought. It’s an international issue, and we’re just mixed up in it.”

“Sounds like some Bond level bullshit,” Majima grunted. “Bad enough the government’s involved, why they gotta get us involved, too? Now civvies like your orphan kids are gettin’ fucked. They ever think about that? Don’t they give a shit what people are goin’ through ‘cause of this?” His driving became more reckless the more his temper rose, and Kiryu was gritting his teeth as they sailed through yellow lights and around sharp corners.

“I know, it’s not right. But Black Monday sounds worse. Minister Suzuki is apparently working with them now. As it turns out, Tamiya never wanted the resort or base to actually be built. They were just ideas to use as bait. Suzuki decided he wanted those ideas to become reality, and pushed for the land to be bought up and the plans to go forward.”

“Okay, but back to that Joji guy,” Majima interrupted, flustered by how convoluted this explanation was getting. Politics had never been his strong suit. “So, he shot that patriarch in Okinawa and Daigo to get at the deed to your land. Why ain’t he shootin’ you, then?”

“I’d like to find out,” Kiryu said with a tone of resolve. “I need to talk to him, one on one, and sort this out. I also promised Tamiya I would track down his former assistant, who’s caught up in this. He needs my help to end this.”

Majima groaned. “Kiryu-chan… you’re doin’ other people’s dirty work, and playin’ the hero again.”

“This is what I need to do,” Kiryu told him sternly. “I’m not just doing it for Tamiya, or for Kazama, or for the Tojo Clan. I’m doing it for Okinawa, and for my kids.”

The drive was almost over. Majima let the truck drift back into the Kamurocho Hills lot, then parked it, so that he could finally turn to face Kiryu. “... And if ya die tryin’, who’s that gonna help?”

There was a solemn pause. Their eyes were locked in silent argument.

“You’re worried,” Kiryu finally said.

“Worried?” Majima sputtered, but he didn’t have a clever retort ready, so he simply looked away. “Yeah, well…”

For a moment he looked insecure, and Kiryu was sure he was about to break. Then, one gloved hand was grabbing him by the collar, and the other was making a cutting motion across his throat.

“I don’t gotta worry about ya dyin’ if I go ahead and kill ya first!” Majima snickered before he was shoved back onto his ass.

“Go ahead and try.” Kiryu was having none of it. “I won't let anyone stand in my way.”

Normally, an invitation to settle things the violent way would get Majima fired up. Today, however, it deflated him. Maybe it was the murderous look in Kiryu's eyes, reminding him that no matter how close they were, Majima was still no more than an obstacle when it came to Kiryu protecting civilians. Maybe it was the hopelessness of knowing he would lose the fight. Maybe he was going soft.

“Forget it,” he snapped, and threw the door open to leave the truck, but Kiryu caught him by the arm.

“You're not going to try to stop me?” he asked, staring hard into the left side of Majima's face, even though he wouldn't turn his right eye to face him. “What's wrong with you?”

“Lots.” Majima tried to shake him off, but Kiryu didn't relent.

“If you think I can't handle what's waiting for me in Okinawa, whether it's Joji, or Black Monday, or anyone else, then fight me and let me prove I can take them down.”

Of course, that logic had always motivated Majima in the past - keeping Kiryu on his toes and testing his strength before he got himself into real trouble. But Kiryu had nothing to prove today. He was strong enough. That wasn't the issue.

“I just don't get why ya gotta go back there when there's so much shit goin’ down in Kamurocho,” he huffed.

Kiryu looked disappointed in him. “You know why. I have to keep them from touching the orphanage. If someone already has the deed, then the kids are in trouble. I have to be there.”

Majima glared. “Nobody's gonna hurt a buncha orphans over a land dispute.”

“You don't know that,” Kiryu retorted. “The Tamashiro Family was more than willing to mess with one of the Ryudo Family's kids.”

“Well, tell the kids that Rikiya guy’s gonna babysit 'em for a while, then.”

“Majima…” Kiryu wanted to tell him to calm down, but that would only escalate things. He needed to know what was on his mind before he left Kamurocho in his hands.

“Daigo's half dead, Mine’s lost it, and the Kazama Family sucks at construction battles," he finally blurted.

“What?”

Majima waved him off. “Point bein’, we still need your help. And you're just gonna take off, after comin’ up here and stirrin’ the pot? That's kinda bullshit, Kiryu-chan.” He was seething, and still wouldn't turn more than the corner of his right eye to glare at Kiryu.

So Kiryu stared, and waited. There was more to it than that. He knew there was. It was only a matter of time before Majima's restlessness got the better of him and the emotional floodgates opened.

“Ain't it a bit soon to call it quits on Kamurocho? What about Kashiwagi's funeral? Don'tcha give a damn about the guy who helped raise ya?” The volume of his voice was rising.

Kiryu wouldn't take the bait. This wasn't the core issue. Dense as he could be, it wasn't hard to figure out what was on Majima's mind.

“Okay, forget Kashiwagi. How 'bout me?” he snarled. There it was. “I ain't stupid, but I ain't that smart. Ya really think I can run half the Tojo Clan? Mine’s gonna be next to go, and then what, I'm all they got?” It was such a terrifying thought, he had to laugh.

“I have faith in you,” was all Kiryu felt he needed to say. But Majima misinterpreted his stoic certainty for ignorance.

“Heh. You've always been a bad judge of character. First ya pick Terada to head the clan, then Daigo… now, ya say ya'd trust me to do it? So fuckin’ naive.” His smirk dropped into a frown when Kiryu refused to respond, and his anger rose again. “Seriously, the Clan's about to go to shit, and that's all ya got to say? Throw me a bone, here....”

Kiryu opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it, and fell silent again. It was clear that their earlier discussion had broken down some walls between them, and that was dangerous. If he gave in, and told Majima what he wanted to hear, Majima might learn to trust him. He might even learn to depend on him. There was no room for trust or dependency in a Tojo Clan Captain's life.

So, rather than argue, or agree, or tell Majima that it did actually hurt him to leave Kamurocho behind again, Kiryu stayed calm and distant. He turned his back on Majima to step down from the truck's cabin, and dusted himself off as coolly and casually as if he had just stepped out of a taxi.

“Let's head over to Serena and wait for Date. If he made it out alive, that's where he'll go.” He didn't hesitate, nor did he spare Majima a second glance. Instead, he tucked his hands into his pockets and started his walk west through Kamurocho Hills. Whether they went together, or he went alone, it didn't matter. Their personal problems could wait. Okinawa couldn't.

As sour as Majima's scowl was, and as tired as his eyes were, he put aside his feelings and trailed along behind Kiryu. He may be a Mad Dog, but he knew when to heel. If Date was in trouble, they couldn't waste any time arguing, or wrestling, or getting all sentimental about Kiryu leaving. The message was clear: there were more important things at stake than their friendship. Being a leader meant putting others first. Maybe Kiryu was right to have faith in him, if he had learned to accept that.

“Ain't we takin’ the truck?” Majima wondered, glancing back over his shoulder at it.

“No. The windshield's broken. We should be more careful.”

So, he had noticed. What a time to get careful, though, Majima thought. He could never figure out where Kiryu drew the line between necessary risk and reckless self-endangerment.

Their walk through Kamurocho was silent, stiff, and as hurried as it could be without bowling over any pedestrians. Every time someone offered them pocket tissues, Kiryu had to stop, which set them back at least a few minutes and had Majima rolling his eye in exasperation.

Passing through Serena’s back lot always brought back an uncomfortable mixture of memories. It wasn’t a route Majima took often, and in fact, he had only ever entered the lot to follow Kiryu. Considering the first impression he’d made there, it was a wonder that Kiryu trusted him now, enough to lead him alone down a narrow alley. Majima felt the weight of the years that had gone by since his oldest memories here, and no longer felt thrilled by them. It was new memories, of visiting Haruka, chatting up Date, and sharing cigarettes with Kiryu, that lifted his spirits. This was a good place, a safe place, a place that fostered hope in their ragtag team of would-be heroes. Whatever danger they were about to face, Serena reminded him that they had faced worse and lived to tell the tale. It was enough to bolster his confidence long enough to grab Kiryu by the collar before he could open the door.

“So, Date might be in there, yeah?” he asked pointedly.

“Yeah,” Kiryu agreed.

“Alright then, Kiryu-chan, better pucker up and give your ol’ buddy a big kiss good-bye while ya still can. CHUUUUU~”

In one swift motion, Kiryu removed Majima’s arm from his collar, sidestepped his decidedly unromantic lunge forward, and threw the door open in his wake.

“Majima?” came a stunned voice from behind the bar, following a thud and a yowl of anguish.

Kiryu stepped over Majima’s prone body and nodded at Date. “So, you made it here. We have some catching up to do.” Without missing a beat, he took a seat at the bar and ordered a whisky.

“Coward!” Majima spat as he climbed back to his feet miserably. “Kiryu-chan, ya gotta get your priorities straight. Y’know I just busted my truck pickin’ up your sorry ass at the Diet Building, right?!”

Date had the TV on, and at that moment, footage of a pink dump truck careening into a crowd of men in black suits was playing, captioned, “Majima Construction Under Fire (Again) For Public Disturbances”, subtitled, “Tenth Lawsuit This Year, Kamurocho Crackdown A Possibility, Says Deputy Commissioner Munakata”.

“So, that’s what happened….” Date sighed and rubbed his forehead. He didn’t know whether to chastise or thank the Mad Dog for almost killing, and also saving, his closest friend.

“Yeah,” Kiryu confirmed, unfazed. Rather than defend their means of escape, he launched into a recap of his conversation with Tamiya, sparing no details. Date took notes. Majima moped at the back of the bar in one of the empty booths. He had plenty of money to pay off a lawsuit, but his reputation was tanking hard, and Mine was probably loving every minute of it. He'd never had any patience for Majima Construction. "There are plenty of other fronts we could use," he would say. "Construction is a dying business in Kamurocho," he would say. "Majima is clearly manic, stop letting him run a business," he would say. He didn't know shit.

A pause in the conversation indicated that Kiryu had finished explaining, and was about to tell Date what he intended to do next. Majima knew how it would go, but he sat forward and turned his attention to Kiryu anyway.

“I’m going to Okinawa, alone,” Kiryu stated, stern and unblinking.

Date was incredulous for a split second, before returning Kiryu’s scowl. “Alone?”

“I’ll send the whole Majima Family with ya, if ya want,” Majima offered, more for the sake of proving his intentions to Date than actually convincing Kiryu. “Whatever ya need.”

“No,” Kiryu grunted. “This is about the orphanage. This is my problem. I’ll solve it myself.”

Majima sighed. “Okinawa’s gonna be swarmin’ with yakuza now, y’know. Mine’s gotten his hands dirty. Government’s involved. Shit’s escalated. It ain’t just your problem.”

Kiryu turned to him. “I’ll have the Ryudo Family on my side.” When Majima scoffed, he continued, “I’ll have the people of Okinawa on my side. I’ll help them solve this problem for the people, with the people. We don’t need more yakuza involved.”

It was that old excuse Kiryu used whenever he wanted to shoulder the responsibility for something: he was a civilian, a man of the people, and that was who he owed his allegiance to, first and foremost. Not Majima, not Daigo, not the Tojo Clan; but civilians, children... Haruka.

Maybe it was that Rikiya kid, too, Majima thought bitterly. He couldn’t argue with the rest, but Kiryu’s tendency to run after helpless idiots was hard to stomach. All they had talked about, all they had said they wanted to do… was it all a lie? Were they both just going to go back to their old habits, in the end?

“That’s what ya really want?” he asked quietly.

“Yeah.”

They exchanged a hard look. Majima swallowed his pride.

“Guess that’s that, then,” he said flatly.

Date looked confused. “Majima…”

No doubt he had expected a fight. Even Kiryu’s eyes were searching for any hint of deception, any threat to kill him, any move to distract him from throwing himself into harm’s way. On their walk to Serena, he had believed Majima's silence to be a sign of internal plotting, not actual defeat.

“He’s as stubborn as they come. Y’know we can’t change his mind, Date-san.” Majima’s tone was as level as he could make it, but he averted his gaze and pulled out his lighter and cigarettes.

“Yeah, but…” Date continued to protest, but his voice dropped off and he fell silent. If Majima wasn’t trying to convince Kiryu, then no one could.

After an intentionally long drag off his cigarette, Majima lifted his gaze to meet Kiryu’s. “... Don’t worry, Kiryu-chan. The Majima Family’ll take care of the Clan while you’re gone. Do what ya gotta do.”

Even Kiryu was gaping at him, ever so slightly, having expected a brawl to break out when he finally announced his departure. He composed himself, and nodded. “Thanks, Majima.”

Majima grunted. The gratitude was sincere, but he didn't want it. He felt like an enabler, not an ally.

Kiryu stood from his seat, and started to make for the door, but hesitated. “I have to confront Joji,” he stated, as though he still felt the need to justify his actions one last time.

“Yeah, I get it,” was all Majima said. He did, actually. If he found out his adopted dad had a twin brother in the CIA involved in some sort of international conspiracy, Majima would want answers, too. Regardless of whether or not he understood, his stomach still twisted, knowing that nothing he was saying or doing was right. There was nothing right that could be done, now that Kiryu's kids were already in danger, and the Clan was already in tatters. The least he could do was something different. Instead of fighting, he would let go.

Having exchanged a final look, Kiryu went on his way out the door to New Serena, and Majima went on smoking his cigarette. When the door clicked shut, Date couldn’t contain himself.

“I know you’re not okay with this,” he told Majima, pointing a finger in accusation. “So, why are you just sitting there instead of going after him?” He gestured toward the door, as if expecting him to jump up and leave at the suggestion.

It was difficult to explain. “Look, Date-san,” he started, searching for the right words. “One of these days, one of us has gotta quit fallin’ into old habits. If it ain’t gonna be Kiryu-chan, then it’s gonna be me.”

“You think you’re breaking a habit by going along with his suicide mission?” Date snapped. “You’re not. You’re doing what you always do. You run after him when it’s convenient, and you back off when it’s not. He’s in this for his kids, and you’re in this for you.”

“Hey,” Majima retorted, tensing. “The fuck’s that s’posed to mean? Ya think I don’t give a shit about what happens to him and Haruka?”

“That’s not it. I’m saying you don’t see it as your responsibility,” Date said bitterly. Before he could do anything he would regret, like punch a Mad Dog in the snout, he picked up a dishcloth and started to polish glasses.

Majima crushed the butt of his cigarette in his gloved hand. The taste of smoke had turned sour in his mouth. Date had struck a nerve.

“That’s rich, comin’ from you. You’re a real responsible guy, huh, Date-san? How’s that detective job goin’ for ya? Oh, my bad, ya write articles that’re dry as a turd for the local paper now. How’s that daughter comin’ along, by the way? Oh, that’s right, she ain’t on such good terms with her pops now that he’s back in with his gang of dirty criminal buddies - “

A glass smashed on the wall next to Majima’s head.

“Get out,” Date roared.

Majima didn’t have the heart to cackle, but he managed a scathing grin before he threw up his arms and sauntered toward the door. “See ya around, then.”

“Asshole,” Date grumbled, following to ensure he made a full exit, then locking the door behind him.

Majima, now standing alone on the fire escape above piles of garbage, graffitied walls, and cracked asphalt, took a long, hard look at his general behavior.

It was selfish, at best. It might be abusive, careless, reckless, sadistic, and all the other things he told himself he wasn’t when he wanted to believe that the end result of his behavior would justify his actions. Whatever he said to Date didn't matter, and whatever he did or didn't do directly for Kiryu in this moment didn't matter. Kiryu would succeed in Okinawa, the Tojo Clan would pull together, and everything would return to status quo.

Except that it wouldn’t, because Majima didn’t have a status quo. There was nothing static about his life… aside from his loyalty to the Tojo Clan. No matter what it demanded of him, no matter what it did to him and the people he loved, he always coddled it like a child, keeping it safe whenever it came under fire, defending it regardless of its corruption. It was everyone but his men causing problems, he would think. It was all the other captains who were fucked, not him. It was their responsibility, not his.

He leaned over the metal railing and watched the sky grow dim as the sun began to set. Overhead, the roar of a jet engine reverberated, and blinking lights passed through the low hanging clouds. Kiryu was on a plane to Okinawa, moving on with his life, moving toward what was important to him, and taking responsibility for the harm he’d caused. Majima was here in Kamurocho, like he always had been, and always would be, for the sake of guilt and self-destruction.

If he'd had any sense of responsibility, not only would he have made a point of following Kiryu regardless of his wishes - he wouldn’t even have stayed in the Shimano Family and aspired to be a Patriarch in the first place. He would have walked away from it all when he had the chance, and started a life with someone who had loved him despite his troubled past.

He'd found and lost that chance, back in the spring of ‘94 - or was it ‘95? He could hardly keep track anymore.

“I have enough money for the both of us,” Mirei had insisted. “We wouldn’t have to keep everything a secret if I make it big enough. I could pay people off. No one has to know who you were. We could at least live together, like a husband and wife should, couldn’t we?”

“The eye’ll give it away,” he had grumbled.

“We’ll get you a fake one!” his nineteen-year-old wife had insisted. So naive.

“Sounds ugly,” he had grumbled again. “Can’tcha just quit the act and settle down?”

If only he hadn’t said that…

Mirei had a murderous look in her eye. “What did you say?”

“Quit the song and dance, and just put down roots, like a real woman.” He may have been nearly ten years her senior, but mentally, he had been entirely unprepared for a the kind of adult relationship Mirei wanted. One offhand comment, and everything started to spiral downward, beginning with her ultimatum - “leave the yakuza, or leave me” - and ending with her abortion.

“You think you could handle being a father?” she had screamed after he hit her. “You can’t even handle being a husband.”

You can’t even handle loving somebody, he thought to himself. Love was responsibility, after all. Love would have meant putting his wife’s honest career before his own unsavory ambitions.

You still can’t handle it. Majima knew it was true. If he could handle it, then he would be on a plane right now, against Kiryu’s wishes, because he wouldn't be using Kiryu's demands as an excuse to stay behind. He would be moving forward. Even Haruka was moving forward, and she was just a kid. What did that say about him?

No sense in regretting his choice, though. Like Date had said, he was just doing what he always did. It was an old habit, and it wasn't going to die, at least not today. He took out a fresh cigarette, lit it, and took the steps down to the back lot two at a time.

“Back to doin' what I do best.”

Acting the fool. That was all he was good for.

Chapter Text

After all that had happened, Majima owed Nishida an explanation. He had spent half the day getting caught up in Kiryu’s crap, and hadn’t delegated anything to his second-in-command in days. Kamurocho Hills was a shitshow by the time he showed up at dusk, threatening to bust heads if everyone didn’t finish their work and fuck off.

Poor Nishida’s voice was hoarse from trying to be heard, even with a megaphone, and he slumped onto a nearby workbench the moment Majima dismissed him from his duties.

“Boss, I can’t keep doing this,” Nishida admitted, rubbing his baggy eyes. “I don’t have your energy.”

Majima threw him an energy drink from one of the break trailers, then took a seat next to him. Flies were buzzing around the street lamps above. Otherwise, the construction site was dark and silent.

“I know,” he said. Humility wasn’t exactly unknown to him. He just couldn’t show it in front of the whole family. “Sorry, old pal.”

His remorse made Nishida nervous, and he immediately backtracked. “I-I mean… it’s not that I can’t do it. I’ll do anything for the Majima Family. It’s just not the same without the boss around.” He took a sip of his drink, trying not to meet Majima’s eye. It was downcast, and that could mean trouble if he said the wrong thing.

“Look,” Majima started, leaning forward on his elbows. “I’m done playin’ hooky, alright? Ya don’t gotta keep doin’ my work for me. Kiryu’s back in Okinawa. He’s gonna settle his shit, and I’m gonna settle mine.”

Nishida frowned, and showed no sign of agreement. Instead, he tried asking a question. “Is Kiryu-san coming back?”

Majima leveled with him. “Doubt it. Even if he did, I gotta leave him outta this shit for good. Best way to do that is to take over Kamurocho.”

“Hm?” Nishida wasn’t sure whether he meant for the Majima Family or the Tojo Clan as a whole, but it was an ambitious plan either way. His back straightened, and his expression visibly lifted.

“Yup. That’s what we’re gonna do.” Majima sounded certain, but he had actually come up with the idea on the spot. Nishida didn’t need to know that, though. “The Hakuho Clan’s gonna try to kick us in the nuts while we’re busy lookin’ up, but joke’s on them - we’re gonna be flyin’ high by the time they try. I got tabs on all the Kazama Family territory the Nishikiyama Family took under Kanda. We’re gonna take Stardust, most of Pink Street, not to mention half the hotels in Kamurocho. Might even be the biggest shakeup in the last couple decades.” He nodded to himself. It would work. Once they had reclaimed all of the territory the other families had lost, they would have the advantage over the Hakuho Clan in the event of a takeover. The Tojo Clan’s fate would be in their hands. That would work to Majima’s benefit, but also to Kiryu’s. No one would be able to touch Daigo, and Majima could make good on his promise to protect him, without having to further involve Kiryu.

Nishida had a big grin on his face. “It’s good to have you back, boss.”

“No shit!” Majima bopped him on the helmet and got to his feet. “I’m gonna go get laid and pass out. Round up the boys first thing in the mornin’. Night night, Nishida.”

His ears were ringing from the blow, but Nishida’s grin didn’t falter. “Yes, boss.” He saluted until Majima was out of his sight, on his way down to Purgatory. Finally, their Family’s business would be on the upswing again.

Now that he had some caffeine in him, Nishida was feeling pretty lucky himself. It had been a while since he’d been to a brothel. Hell, he hadn’t even been to a hostess club in ages. But then, he remembered why that was.

“Hm, if I go out for an hour now, that means I get… two hours of sleep,” he mumbled to himself, and then cursed. “No fair….”

Nishida skulked home for the night, feeling like a tired old salaryman, living to work. After this favor, he really needed to ask the boss for a vacation.

***

 

It was barely dawn. The streets of Kamurocho were hushed, as were the concrete foundations and scaffolding of Kamurocho Hills, where heavy machinery would normally be rumbling to life in preparation for another day of construction. Regular folks were sleeping. Criminals had retreated to the underground. Even the seediest bars and brothels were closing, and workers were retiring for the day.

The Majima Family assembled, as the horizon turned red with the sunrise. They required no instruction; they slipped into their roles and formations with the ease of seasoned troops performing their drills. Every one of them stood at attention, helmets strapped on, makeshift weapons at the ready.

Nishida was proud. This was the result of years of training and cooperation, the culmination of strategy, strength, loyalty and faith, that had allowed the Majima Family to climb so high. Standing at the head of their urban army, next to his boss, filled him with due confidence. It was time for them to make the move that would shape Kamurocho for years to come.

Majima was more ready than he could have imagined he would be. Everything that had happened in the past two years felt distant compared to the magnitude of this moment. It proved that Kiryu’s absence didn’t weaken the Tojo Clan. If anything, it made them stronger. In order to unite Kamurocho, and protect their Chairman’s legacy, they had to learn to rely on each other - not the Dragon of Dojima.

The shadows cast on the construction yard were lightening, and the red on the horizon was brightening. Nishida exchanged a look with his boss, and handed him his megaphone.

When Majima turned it on, there was a moment of total silence, a pause during which every member of his family held their breath in anticipation. Then, he tossed it aside. He didn’t need it.

“Alright!” he boomed, voice echoing off of concrete in all directions, reaching the thousands of listening men. “Let’s get to work.”

The silence broke, and the men roared their approval. Row by row, they took to the streets, fanning out in all directions - from the narrow alleys of the Champion District, to the broad expanse of Theater Square.

They kicked in doors, took hostages, and left no street thug unbruised. Civilians were left unharmed, but wherever they found Hakuho Clan men, triads, or remnants of the Nishikiyama Family, they seized and removed them, firmly taking hold of the businesses they held sway over. Kazama Family men, when identified, were offered weapons to join them on their crusade.

Though he would have liked to be in several dozen places at once, and seen the results of his men’s hard work, Majima knew he had to choose his approach carefully. So, while the others were hard at work in the streets, he and Nishida made a swift and stealthy exit. If they were going to strike anywhere, it had to be somewhere that would count. They were going to take back the Kazama Family’s prize jewel from Nishikiyama grunts.

Yuya was locking up for the night when a leather grip pulled him away from the back door to Stardust. He spun around, prepared to fight, and then realized who had grabbed him.

“Majima?” he asked, wondering why in the world the Tojo patriarch would show up at the end of the night on short notice.

“Yeah,” Majima replied, motioning for Nishida to enter the building. “We heard Kanda’s guys did a number on your place. Any of ‘em in there right now?”

“Yeah,” Yuya sighed. “Making damn fools of themselves.”

“Whaddaya mean?” Of course, Majima could imagine the kind of people who kept company with Kanda, but it was a wonder Yuya hadn’t kicked them out if they were interrupting business. Kazuki must have kept him in check. Any move against Tojo Clan men was usually a bad one.

“There’s this one guy,” Yuya began to explain with a sour look on his face. “He thinks he’s gonna get chicks by playing host. He’s ugly as fuck. Sometimes he takes off, but most of the time, he just sits around mouthing off, doing bad karaoke, and complaining that nobody’s requesting him. Our numbers are tanking, and he’s taking bigger and bigger cuts the worse it gets. I’ll owe you big if you can get him off our case.”

Majima nodded. “Nothin’ me and Nishida can’t handle,” he said jovially, patting Yuya on the shoulder. Then, he stepped past him, and into the dimly lit staff hallway. This should be easy enough.

“Oh, right.” Majima snapped his fingers and turned back to Yuya before he went any further. “How many guys we talkin’?”

“There’s five, including the guy I told you about,” Yuya said, waving as he turned to leave. “I don’t think you’ll have a problem.”

“Great!” Majima answered, more to himself than to Yuya, and turned back to the hallway ahead of him. Nishida was waiting for him at the door to the main club, so he gave him a nod and put a hand on his knife, ready to draw the moment they stepped inside.

When the door crept open, he heard it; the hideous singing voice resonating through a microphone turned up to full volume.

The club’s lights were still flashing, the music still thumping, and as four hulking yakuza watched from a booth and snickered, one man had taken the dance floor and was belting out the hit pop song Get To The Top in a drunken stupor.

His hair wasn’t actually hair. It was a toupee barely covering his bald head, an attempt to pull off a boyish, host-like hairstyle. His ears and lower lip were pierced, and his suit was expensive, but garish and ill fitted. In one hand he held aloft a bottle of whisky. In the other he held a microphone, and sang into it with the passion of an amateur vocalist who had failed a thousand auditions.

As he belted out a particularly dramatic, slurred rendition of the chorus, he turned his head, noticed the two men standing in the shadows, and stumbled in surprise.

“Bravo!” cried Majima, applauding furiously. Nishida joined, albeit half-heartedly, not sure whether he was supposed to act sarcastic or genuine.

“Who the fuck’s that?” the drunk thug growled. Before he could get an answer, a blade was whizzing by his left ear, and a bulging eye was bearing down on him.

“If you’re gonna steal whisky, at least steal the expensive kind, ya tone deaf monkey,” Majima chastised, sweeping a leg under his adversary.

Amazingly, the drunk man dodged his kick, and pulled some alarmingly fast maneuvers to disarm him, stumbling with unexpected agility. He took another swig of his drink. “Think ya can come in here and kill my vibe? Ya got another fuckin’ thing comin’, Eyepatch.”

The four men in the booth looked mortified, clearly recognizing Majima for who he was. They tried to signal to their friend, finally resorting to calling out to him.

“Minami! Bro! Back off, man!” they urged.

“Huh?” he drawled, turning to glare at them. “Ya lost your fuckin’ minds? We’re s’posed to be celebratin’ my first client. Ya just gonna let this old fart crash the party?”

Sweat was pouring down their faces. One clenched his teeth. Another wrung his hands. Minami wasn’t getting the message.

“Relax!” Majima assured them, twirling his knife. “The party’s just gettin’ started.”

What happened next was a blur to the men who witnessed it, because they had never seen a fight move so quickly and so erratically in all their time on the streets of Kamurocho. No one could make heads or tails of it. One minute, Majima would be whirling his blade around, the next, Minami would be behind him, until their movements became something between a whirlwind and a dance.

Not only were the two fast, they seemed to have limitless energy. Nishida’s eyes were starting to droop. He finally took a seat at the booth Minami’s lackeys were sharing, and bummed a cigarette off of one of them.

“So you’re one of Majima’s guys?” the man next to him asked. “Must be rough.”

Nishida shrugged. “The boss just has standards, that’s all.”

Two of them exchanged looks, then turned their attention back to the fight. Both men were bare chested and bleeding from numerous cuts and contusions. Minami’s bottle of whisky was smashed in half. Majima’s knife was painted red. Both were laughing and cursing in a confusing display of not-so-friendly rivalry.

“Standards…” one of the thugs repeated, just as the music changed tempo. In perfect synchronicity, Majima and Minami both halted mid-stab, and turned to face the music.

“My song!” they exclaimed, and just like that, they were scrambling for microphones and had abandoned all acts of violence.

Nishida regretted his phrasing immediately. “By standards, I mean… the boss just has… preferences,” Nishida stuttered.

The man next to him slapped him on the back, and everyone at the table exchanged sober looks of understanding. Two loud, obnoxious voices were singing somewhere in the background, but all they could think was:

“He’s out of his damn mind,” they all agreed, and drank to their choice of friends.

When they ran out of cigarettes, they left through the back door to get more. They even returned afterward, to find Minami passed out on a table and Majima sitting on the bar, trying to catch cocktail olives in his mouth.

“Nishida!” he called gleefully, motioning him over. The smell of whisky was thick in the air, and so was the smell of something burning.

“Check this out,” he said, eye gleaming as he hopped down from the bar and took a seat behind Minami’s booth, reaching out slowly with one hand as the young thug snored. He flicked open his lighter, and waited. Minami exhaled, and a tower of flame shot into the air, sending the rest of the men staggering backward while Majima cackled.

“Pretty fucked up, huh?” he exclaimed. And then he continued to play with fire until he nearly burned his eyebrows off, and fell backward, cursing.

Most men would consider a man so irresponsibly intoxicated to be a liability, but Nishida knew what his boss was thinking, and groaned before the words even left Majima’s mouth.

“We got ourselves some new recruits, Nishida!” He pointed at the four men staring awestruck at him. “Get ‘em some helmets and have ‘em carry the kid out. We got work to do.”

“What if we don’t wanna be recruited?” one of the poor, naive thugs dared to ask.

“What?” came the low growl of their new boss’s voice, and his scowl turned dark.

“Uh… nevermind,” the man corrected when he saw Nishida panicking out of the corner of his eye.

“Great.” Majima grinned. “Now, move it.” He let his expression drop back into a menacing glare until they had lifted Minami and made their way out the front door of the club.

Soon after, Nishida fell into step with him and followed him out the back. Yuya was long gone, and daylight had broken.

“I know what you’re thinkin’,” Majima said to his subordinate, knowing that Nishida would never broach the subject himself. He was too loyal for that. “You’re thinkin’ this kid and his pals are gonna be a handful, huh?” Majima smirked to himself. “That’s the point, Nishida. I’m gettin’ too old for this shit. Somebody’s gotta fuel the fire.”

“What?” Nishida was caught off guard.

Majima turned his good eye to him and threw up his arms. “The Mad Dog thing ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. If Daigo ain’t comin’ back, somebody’s gotta be able to do his job.”

“What?” Nishida stopped in his tracks, gaping.

His reaction was warranted. Through all the drama of the past few years, all the changes in leadership and power struggles, not once had Majima entertained the thought of leading anything more than his own Family. Date had a point about him avoiding responsibility. Someone had to take care of Daigo. Failing that, someone had to take care of the Tojo Clan. If it had to be him, he would need to be prepared, or else lose everything he had worked for in his entire adult life.

Sighing and patting Nishida on the back reassuringly, he continued to explain. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere. I just gotta make sure somebody can handle boostin’ morale if I gotta get serious. The boys are used to a Mad Dog, yeah? They ain’t gonna be able to count on me to rile ‘em up if I gotta settle down and take the Chairmanship someday.”

There were tears in Nishida’s eyes, because he knew there was more to it than that. Majima was still playing dumb.

“Hm? What?” he asked indignantly, as though he suspected Nishida of disagreement.

“You think you’re going to die, don’t you?” Nishida asked, his voice hushed, as though he knew the answer but didn’t want to hear it.

“Ha,” Majima chuckled, but he looked away as he spoke. “Dyin’ ain’t on the agenda. I just gotta cover my ass. I can’t be the only wild card in the Majima Family. Everybody’ll think we’re goin’ soft, y’know?”

The idea that anyone would think the Majima Family was going soft was ludicrous. They had the largest membership out of any Family in the Tojo Clan. They had the most money. They had the most leverage, the most connections - including Majima’s old friend Katsuya in the Omi Alliance - and they had Kiryu’s seal of approval. It was a blatant lie. Majima was looking for someone who could replace him.

Before Nishida could pry or argue any further, a muffled ringtone interrupted his thoughts. Majima reached into his helmet and pulled out his cell phone, flipping it open to answer without more than a quick glance at the screen.

“Kiryu-chan!” he began jovially, but his expression quickly went sour. “Y-yeah, I can talk.”

Nishida took the hint, and jogged ahead, until he was out of earshot. Maybe Majima was just in one of his moods. Maybe Kiryu could talk some sense into him. More likely, Kiryu had bad news, but Nishida didn’t want to let his thoughts wander too far. They were in a dark enough place as it was. The boss had always seemed invincible to him, yet here he was, planning his succession.

With Nishida gone and his thoughts redirected, Majima tried to take in everything Kiryu was saying. It was too much at once. He ended up slumping onto a bench in the children’s park up the street, ears ringing and eye glossed over in thought. Mine, gone rogue. The orphanage, torn down. Rikiya, dead. A kid half his age, barely a member of the yakuza, who should have had an entire career ahead of him, was just… gone. It happened sometimes in their line of work, of course, but the news shook Majima more than he cared to admit.

Kiryu was clearly shaken, too, and kept coming back to the subject no matter how hard he tried to stick to explaining what had happened with Joji, the Tamashiro Family, the orphanage, the Hakuho Clan…

“He was too young, Majima,” Kiryu said, repeating himself yet again. “He was a kid.”

Majima sighed. “Yeah. I know.”

“It was worse than Shinji,” Kiryu continued, his voice tight with emotion. “I didn’t know Rikiya anywhere near as long, but I’m older now. It’s different, watching someone half your age die in your arms. What if one of the kids decides he’s going to follow me one day? What if I get one of them killed? What if Haruka - “

“Haruka-chan’s smarter than that,” Majima interjected.

“Maybe now,” Kiryu snapped. “But when she gets to be Rikiya’s age, what then? She’s only ever grown up knowing this life. How can I steer her away from it?”

It was a valid fear, and even Majima didn’t have anything uplifting to say in response. When he tried to come up with an answer, all he could think was that she was doomed. Doomed, like Yasuko. No one in a yakuza family could live a peaceful life.

The silence between them spoke volumes. Brooding was all they could do. No one had been able to change their fates, and no one could change the fate of the orphans Kiryu was raising - or was it more like grooming? Majima felt sick.

“I’m coming back,” Kiryu finally stated. “I’ll be there later tonight. Don’t come find me. There’s just one more thing I need to do in Kamurocho, then I’ll leave again.”

“What? I’m s’posed to just twiddle my thumbs ‘til you’re done savin’ the world again?” Majima asked, none too pleased that the only thing Kiryu ever seemed to tell him to do was nothing. “I got Kamurocho under control, y’know. I got some free time on my hands.”

“I already lost one friend today. I don’t need to lose another,” Kiryu said, his voice neutral, despite the dark mood he was in. “Stay out of this. It’ll all be over soon.”

That was the wrong thing to say. Majima began to seethe. “The fuck’re ya talkin’ about? If ya ain’t gonna tell me what’s goin’ on, I’ll figure it out myself, dumbass. Ya think I’m just gonna stand by again? Maybe if ya’d let me send some guys down to Okinawa, your little buddy wouldn’t’ve dropped dead.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Kiryu growled, and then he hung up. Majima threw his phone at the nearest building, and screamed when it landed face-up, totally undamaged. He stomped on it until it was dust.

“Big idiot thinks he can dodge me,” he spat, and reached into his pocket to dial up Nishida without thinking. “Shit.” He would have to call a cab instead. “Shit.” He would have to walk.

Chapter Text

The Florist wasn’t expecting any visitors, and nearly fell out of his chair when Majima came crashing into his console.

“Majima, what are you doing here?” he sputtered.

“Gotta find out what Kiryu-chan’s up to,” Majima said, frantically grabbing him by the shoulders.

Kage was about to tell him to calm down, but thought better of it and turned to his surveillance monitors, making a sweeping motion with his hand. “He’s not in Kamurocho. See?”

“Yeah, well, he’s gonna be. And I gotta know why.” Majima shook his informant violently.

“Okay, okay!” The Florist swatted at his arms, and Majima finally let go, but kept his face close and imposing. “So, he’s definitely coming back, then?”

“He told me so,” Majima assured him. “So, hurry up and figure out what’s goin’ on. Clearly shit’s serious if he’s flyin’ up here so quick.”

“Why can’t you ask him yourself?” Kage wondered, but realized his mistake when Majima thwacked him on the head.

“Because, ya hairy blob, he’s mad at me.” Kiryu was so hot-headed, he thought. It really pissed him off.

With a sigh and a few requests for updates from his employees, Kage did as he was told and got to work searching for signs of imminent conflict in Kamurocho.

To his knowledge, the Hakuho Clan hadn’t been seen for days. What little he was able to glean through questioning Majima was that they had traveled down to Okinawa with their Patriarch, at least in part. But Kage hadn’t even been aware of Mine leaving. In fact, he was sure he’d seen signs of his presence near his condo complex. His secretary had entered the building on schedule that morning, and Mine himself was, to his knowledge, there at this very moment.

“That doesn’t add up.” The Florist shook his head. “You said he and Kiryu fought in Okinawa last night?”

Majima shrugged. “Coulda been durin’ the day. Point bein’, he’s had enough time to get back to Kamurocho, hasn’t he?”

“Do you think he took a private plane?” Kage asked, narrowing his eyes in thought. There had to be more to this if Mine was somehow flying between the mainland and Ryukyu, all while dodging his network of cameras and informants.

“Yeah, I mean… Kiryu-chan said somethin’ about him and those Black Monday guys. They got all kindsa shit at their disposal, right?” Majima frowned. “Wait… Mine and Black Monday? If that’s true, then…”

The Florist’s eyes widened. He and Majima exchanged looks of dread, neither wanting to be the first to say what they were thinking.

“Then, he’s after the resort deal,” Majima mumbled, stating the obvious, instead of stating the whole truth. No matter how suspicious Mine had been acting, he still hadn’t thought him capable of fully betraying the man he loved.

“I warned you,” the Florist said darkly. “He’s after Daigo. Not just him. His life.”

 

“No shit,” Majima snapped, kicking his chair out from under him and stomping away. Mine had clearly lost his mind. “I gotta go check on Daigo. Now.”

The Florist cursed and struggled to his feet. “Do you even know where he is?”

Majima came to an abrupt stop. Kashiwagi had never told him. Back then, he hadn’t wanted to know, for the sake of Daigo’s safety. But, if Mine was back in Kamurocho ahead of Kiryu, that could only mean he was trying to beat him to the Chairman’s location.

“Where is he?” Majima growled, hoping for the Florist’s sake that he had an answer ready.

“Toto University Hospital,” Kage told him without hesitation. When Kashiwagi had told him to cut surveillance to the hospital, he had also told him that one day, he might need to tell someone where Daigo was. Majima was one of the few people the late Kazama Family patriarch had named as trustworthy.

“Alright. That’s where I’m headed, then.” It was time to take matters into his own hands. Majima left the most powerful man in Kamurocho behind, and started down the path toward saving the life of the Tojo Clan’s Sixth Chairman.

Kiryu would try to do the same, but Majima wouldn’t let him. There was no excuse for him to face this alone. Infighting in the Tojo Clan was his business. Daigo’s safety was his business. The Majima Family had an obligation to end this.

Thanks to their overwhelming presence in Kamurocho, it didn’t take long for he and Nishida to round up the Majima Family and march on the hospital. Bystanders looked the other way when they saw their construction helmets, and retreated indoors, well aware that their numbers and pace indicated they were going to war.

Toto University Hospital was outside of Kamurocho, but close enough that they arrived within the hour. The surrounding streets were eerily empty of civilians. Black cars and men in black suits stared them down as they passed.

At the main entrance to the hospital, they leveled with an assembly of some several hundred foreign men in black suits, headed by a man speaking English into a two-way radio. Majima ordered his men to a halt, but would have charged forward if he could understand a word the man was saying. The smug smirk on his face already spoke volumes.

Scowling and pointing his metal bat at the man, Majima nodded in acknowledgement. “We gonna do this?” he called out.

Despite having understood him, the man chuckled and responded in English. Gary nudged Majima from behind.

“Boss, I think he’s waiting for Mine,” he muttered.

Majima scowled. “Guess that means he’s here, then.” His stomach churned. Daigo was already in trouble.

Sure enough, the Hakuho patriarch parted the crowd and returned Majima’s scowl. He had that mad look in his eye again, the one he had when he first found out about Daigo’s condition. Otherwise, his hair was styled immaculately, suit pressed as though in preparation for a business conference. Nothing about his appearance was out of place, except for his expression.

“What are you doing here?” he snarled.

Majima raised the pitch of his voice as though they were exchanging pleasantries. “Nice to see you, too, Yocchan. I’m guessin’ I’m here for the same reason as you.”

Mine narrowed his eyes. “So, did you know Daigo was here the whole time, or did you just figure that out?”

“That ain’t the point.” Majima waved a hand dismissively. “Point bein’, you’re plannin’ on doin’ somethin’ stupid, and I’m here to stop ya.”

A cruel grin crept across Mine’s face, and he laughed humorlessly. “Stupid? No. I think what’s stupid is that you just marched your entire family right into my trap.”

Keeping his expression casual, Majima scanned their surroundings. Men on all sides, walling them in. Of course. He should have seen this coming. He lifted a hand, and his troops raised their weapons for battle.

“Wait just a second, Majima-han,” Mine instructed, his own men raising loaded guns en masse, presumably provided to them by the foreigners among them. “You don’t want to cause an international incident, do you?”

So, that was his angle. These weren’t Hakuho men at all, which explained why they were all foreign. Mine had purposely left his family out of this. These were all members of Black Monday. Not only were they outnumbered and outgunned, they were risking being implicated in an international crime.

“Do what I tell you, and we won’t have a problem when I become Seventh Chairman,” Mine threatened. “Leave now, and when I finish my business here, I’ll make you my Vice Captain.”

“Ya gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me. What’s your game? Ya plannin’ on killin’ Daigo?” It had to be true, but considering how close they were, Majima had to hear it from the man himself. If Mine could look him dead in the eye and confess his murderous intent, Majima would know he was a lost cause.

“Daigo is already dead,” Mine told him, eyes distant, voice hollow. “It’s the doctors that should be punished for trapping him here, instead of letting him leave this world in peace.”

Majima was speechless. It didn’t occur to him that Mine had actually gone so far off the deep end that he was not only betraying Daigo; he was convincing himself that he was helping him.

“That’s about the craziest thing I ever heard a guy say,” Majima said, drawing his knife. “I’ll give ya one last chance to let me stop ya. Then, you’re good as dead.”

But a flick of Mine’s wrist later, Majima was on the ground, breathless, sucking in air against a torrent of blood.

All hell broke loose. Majima Family men were gunned down on all sides at the first hint of movement. Only those that abandoned their weapons and dropped to the ground in surrender survived.

“I didn’t want to have to do that,” Mine sighed. “The Tojo Clan is hurting for cash already, even with Majima Construction working overtime. But we’ll make due. I have some stocks that are about to vest.” He turned his back on his former co-captain, and went back through the front door of the hospital building to put his plans into motion.

Nishida was accustomed to saving his boss’s life, but the drama of it all still sent him into a panic. Dressing the sucking wound in Majima's chest to the best of his ability without suffocating him, he and several other men lifted their boss onto their shoulders and made a quick exit. Nishida called out for everyone to abandon their weapons and retreat. The members of Black Monday let them pass, their guns still cocked and loaded, as if to say, “and stay out”.

It was a long trek to Emoto’s clinic, which was ironic, considering they had just marched on a hospital. Nishida seethed. Not only had Mine callously betrayed them, he had left Majima for dead without a second thought. Did he even understand that Majima had come prepared to talk, to negotiate, to give him the benefit of the doubt? No. Mine didn’t trust anyone enough to believe they thought of him as more than an obstacle between them and a position of power.

This all came down to a tragic misunderstanding. Mine could have been one of them, but instead, he had pushed everyone away and driven himself into isolation and insanity.

Now that he thought about it, Nishida came to the sobering realization that Majima had done much the same. He avoided meetings, he kept even his closest friends at enough of a distance to stop them from predicting his actions, and he invited death at every opportunity. Today was no exception. Maybe if he hadn’t pulled his knife on Mine, they wouldn’t be here, hauling his limp body to Emoto’s clinic instead of engaging in patient negotiation. He hoped Minami had survived the attack. At least then, Majima's preparations wouldn't be in vain.

Kiryu was the only thing keeping Majima's recklessness in check these days, and as was evident from today's spontaneous march, even their link was growing weaker by the year. If it broke, or if Kiryu dropped dead one day, or fell into a coma like Daigo, would Majima become the next Mine?

While Nishida mulled over his troubling thoughts, Majima slowly lost his sight, and was forced to turn his gaze inward. I should’nta done that, he thought. I shoulda talked him down. I shoulda trusted him for half a second. The kid’s scared. I shoulda seen that.

Now, he was going to die, and it would all be because he couldn’t trust Kiryu to tell him what to do, he couldn’t trust Mine to have a meaningful conversation, and he couldn’t trust Daigo to go on living despite his worst fears. He could just imagine how angry Kiryu would be when he found out he had made a fool of himself, instead of letting him handle things in his own way. He could imagine Haruka crying when she found out, and that was even worse.

Dumbass, he chastised himself. His mouth tasted like blood. The voices around him were distant. He sucked in one last breath, and then succumbed to the blackness that he knew to be death.

 

***

 

A ring of light slowly expanded in the center of Majima's field of vision. He realized his eye was open, and he was staring up at a fluorescent light. Instinctively, he tried to sit up, but a hand pushed him back down.

“You need to rest for a while,” a familiar voice told him. He tried to speak, but his throat was sore, and his face was covered by an oxygen mask. As his eye began to focus, he looked dizzily around the room. Nishida was at his bedside. Of course he was. Emoto was at his desk, typing up procedure notes. Yuya was lingering in the doorway, looking restless.

“I’ll go tell him he’s awake,” he said to Emoto, who nodded and assured him it was safe to leave.

Tell who? Majima wanted to ask, but the words wouldn’t come, so he rolled his gaze over to Nishida. As if reading his mind, all Nishida did was shrug and say, “Sorry, I didn’t ask.”

Emoto seemed unconcerned, so Majima knew he must not be in critical condition anymore, but his heart was still fluttering as he waited in suspense for an explanation. It felt like someone was sitting on his chest, even though his blank only came up to his waist, and his bandage was light gauze.

Finally, the doctor stood from his seat, grunting and stretching his stiff limbs. He took a seat next to Majima with his notes in hand.

“I don’t suppose I can convince you to stop smoking,” he said miserably, eyeing Majima’s bandaged chest. “You’ll die if this ever happens again. I had to remove a lobe. Not that it was doing you a hell of a lot of good to begin with. Surprised you don’t have emphysema yet. Do you even know what that is? Forget it, you’re yakuza, you don’t give a damn.” He continued to grumble and flip through his notes to his treatment plan and discharge instructions. “You’re not going anywhere for at least a week. I won’t take you off oxygen yet, and you’re going to need to learn to slow down so you don’t suffocate yourself.”

Nishida groaned. “Slow down, doc? Really?” Good ol’ Nishida, always on the same page as Majima.

Emoto sighed with exasperation. “With some breath exercises, he can learn to do a lot of what he used to do with his lung capacity, but he can’t do it for too long. If he does, I’m not responsible for whatever happens.”

Majima lifted himself onto his elbows in protest, but was quickly pushed down again.

“That’s the opioids doing their job,” Emoto commented. “His pain is under control, at least. But if he keeps trying to get up, I’ll lower his dose.”

“Lower it?” Nishida asked, wide-eyed.

“Pain is useful, sometimes,” Emoto explained coldly. “If he had any idea how much pain he should be in right now, he would know better than to move like that.” Majima could take a hint, and grudgingly resigned himself to staring at the ceiling.

“So… a week,” Nishida said, repeating Emoto’s earlier instructions. “And… not any sooner, then?” Maybe that was to their benefit. If anything happened to Kiryu, at least Majima was subdued, and wouldn’t be able to act rashly.

“Not under my professional recommendation, no. If you want to leave sooner, then be my guest, but again, I won’t be responsible for whatever happens.” Emoto stood from his seat, took his notes back to his desk, and began typing again. That was all he had to say, unless Nishida had more questions. He was tired of giving yakuza orders they never abided anyway.

Majima flicked his gaze over to Nishida, hoping to see some spark of rebellion in his eyes, but his look said he was in no mood to argue.

“Sorry, boss,” he mumbled. “This was a close one. Gary and I can take care of things while you’re gone.” It took all of his strength to avoid Majima’s pleading look and leave the hospital room, determined to do what needed to be done for their family.

Being alone in this capacity was not something Majima was used to. Being helpless was not something Majima was used to. He made himself a deal; the moment Emoto left the room, he would pull off his mask and make a run for it.

Emoto wasn’t going anywhere, though, because he knew better than to leaa fractious patient unsupervised in his clinic. In fact, he had already called in backup, because he was worried that the anesthetic wearing off would send Majima into a frenzy, and he couldn't pacify him on his own.

After a few minutes of silence, there was a knock at the door. Emoto stood to let the visitors in.

“Shit,” Date cursed under his breath. “He looks like a corpse.”

“Majima,” Haruka said, voice cracking.

The most Majima was able to do was cough and grunt, and Haruka nearly threw herself onto him before Date caught hold of her and ushered her into a chair. “He’s hurt,” he reminded her, and took a seat next to her, folding his hands in his lap and leaning forward.

“I won’t ask,” Date assured him, though the look on his face said he knew what had happened. “And I won’t tell Kiryu, either. He’s on his way to the hospital now. Don’t!” he yelled, holding Majima down as he reflexively shot up straight in his bed. “Look, whatever happens, he has a better chance than any of us. There’s nothing we can do. We just have to wait.”

Majima wanted so desperately to argue that Kiryu had about as good of a chance as he did, but all he could do was glare.

“I know,” Date said. Truly, he did. Which was why he needed to have a serious conversation with the last loyal Tojo Clan captain. “Haruka, do you mind going to get us a couple glasses of water? We might be here a while.”

Her eyes were tearful, and her mouth pursed shut, but she nodded and left the room. The girl was too smart for her own good. She knew what was happening.

Date lowered his voice. “Kiryu told me what he wanted us to do.” The sentence was cut short. It should have ended with, “if he dies”, but saying it out loud would make it too real.

“Haruka will stay with me for now. Then, I’ll fly down to Okinawa to hand over the orphanage to the Ryudo Family.” That was the easy part. Now, Date had to break the rest of the news to him. “Kiryu left the arrangements to me. He doesn’t want to be affiliated with the Tojo Clan. He doesn’t want anyone from his former life involved in his wishes.”

Majima felt numb. So, that was how Kiryu saw things. If Mine and Daigo both died with him tonight, then he would be truly alone.

It wasn’t that he had ever wanted to attend his closest friend’s funeral, nor that he had wanted to be the godfather of his children. It was the principle of the thing that hurt him. Ultimately, he was yakuza, and Kiryu wasn’t. They weren’t the same. They weren’t equals.

This was the path he had chosen. It was a path that took him away from anything resembling unconditional love, and toward hostility, fear, and distrust. The only respect he would ever gain would be that which he gained through power and conquest, not loyalty and devotion. Maybe Mine had it right. Maybe money and status were all that really mattered to people like them.

Haruka came back into the room, hands trembling as she handed Date one glass of water, and took the other in both hands. She sat there, staring into it, watching the surface ripple, trying her best to get as far away as possible from the hospital room in her mind.

Date gave her a look of concern. “Have you eaten anything yet today?” Haruka shook her head, so he reached into his wallet for some cash. “Here, go get something from Poppo, at least.”

She shook her head again, and kept her hands clenched around her glass of water. “I’ll eat when Majima-san can eat.”

For some reason, that touched Majima's heart in a way he didn’t expect. It was just an excuse from a grieving child with no appetite, but it meant something. It meant that someone still cared about him, even though they had no reason, nothing that bound them to him other than an emotional connection.

“You can’t…” Date started, but Haruka gave him her best stubborn Kiryu look. He sighed. “Emoto-sensei, when can Majima eat?”

“Whenever the nasal cannula is sterile,” Emoto answered, checking his watch. “Eh, what a pain. It’s ready, but I wasn’t going to take the mask off yet. He’s going to try to talk if I do.”

Majima tried to cuss him out, but all that came out was a rasp and a gargle.

“See?” Emoto said, his point proven. “But, kids need to eat. So, if it has to be done, it has to be done. I’ll go get it.” He took his time lifting himself from his chair and sauntering down the hall to the kitchen, where his instruments were being cleaned and sterilized.

“Now, will you go get us some food?” Date asked Haruka. She nodded, took the yen he offered her, and scrambled out the clinic door as fast as she could.

By the time she returned, carrying an oversized bag of prepared food, Majima was breathing through his nose and taking sips of water to wet his dry mouth. He tried to light up a cigarette while Emoto wasn’t looking, but Date smacked it out of his hand.

“Take small bites,” Emoto warned, but Majima was already stuffing yakisoba into his mouth. Haruka smiled and said itadakimasu for both of them, then dug into her own modest meal.

After gagging on the first bite, Majima took the doctor’s advice and slowed down. Small bites and regular breaths got him through his meal in about the same time it took Haruka to finish hers, daintily as she was eating. He suspected she was trying to match his pace so he wouldn’t get frustrated.

“Can he talk now?” Haruka asked Emoto hopefully, after she had cleaned up.

Emoto hesitated. “Well,” he said, “he should be able to. I was just hoping to get in at least one night of silence before he started going off.”

“What?!” Majima roared. His voice was hoarse, but in working order. The pressure on his chest was the only thing preventing him from going on a tirade.

“There goes my night,” Emoto sighed. “You two should head back to Serena and get some sleep while you can.”

Date gladly stood from his seat, but Haruka stayed where she was. “I think I’ll stay here,” she told him cheerfully.

“Hm?” Date gave her a doubtful look. “But, you must be tired….”

“I used to sleep in ojisan’s hospital room,” Haruka said. Majima couldn’t handle it.

“Go on,” he urged her, none too kindly, hoping to scare her off. “Whaddaya gonna do here, anyway? Annoy the shit outta me all night? I gotta sleep too, y’know.”

Haruka laughed. “You’re so silly, Majima-san. I know you don’t sleep.”

“Huh?!” he growled. “Who toldja that?”

 

“You text ojisan every night. I can hear his phone from across the hall every time he gets a text.” The other kids probably could, too, but no one had the guts to complain.

Majima felt bad. “Have I been keepin’ ya up at night? My bad, Haruka-chan.”

“No, it’s okay,” she said, shaking her head. “Actually, it’s usually something else that wakes me up.” She scrunched up her face in annoyance. “It’s a sort of slapping sound, like this.” She clapped the palms of her hands together.

Date and Majima both exchanged looks of panic, and interrupted her.

“That’s… well… sometimes you can hear that at nighttime, Haruka-chan,” Date stuttered.

“Oh, really?” she asked, curious.

“Uh, Haruka-chan, don’t ever go into ojisan’s room without knockin’, alright?” Majima told her, trying to keep a straight face.

“Of course.” She nodded gravely. “He told me to only knock if it’s an emergency. I wouldn’t bother him while he’s sleeping. He needs his rest.”

“G-good,” Majima said, relieved, and Date looked grateful for the interjection.

“Well… I’ll go back to Serena and close up. You’re sure you’re okay staying here, Haruka-chan?” Date gave Emoto a look, and the doctor nodded, signalling that he approved. If anything, he was glad Majima would have someone around to keep him occupied while he did his work.

“As long as she stays out of the way when other patients come in,” Emoto said. If it had been any other kid, he probably would have asked them to leave, but Haruka had seen it all. She knew what he meant by “other patients”, and he knew she would keep to herself and react calmly, no matter how dramatic his cases were. Unfortunately, she had seen it all, thanks to having Kiryu Kazuma for a guardian.

“I’ll stay right here,” she promised, inching her chair closer to Majima’s bedside. “I’ll ask first if I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Good girl.” Emoto smiled. “Let me know if you decide to come back, Date-san. I’ll let you in.”

“Thanks.” Date gave Haruka a final apprehensive look, and then turned to Majima, his gaze stern. “Behave yourself,” he said curtly. “If I hear from Kiryu, I’ll call you.”

Majima’s heart skipped a beat. He had almost forgotten why Haruka was here in the first place. She was staying with him to distract herself, as much as she was staying to look after him. The poor girl was missing her dad, and Date was a bit of a stick in the mud. He had better keep her in good spirits.

“Well, Haruka-chan,” he said, turning to her curiously. “I’m stuck in this bed, and it ain’t got any wheels. How’re ya gonna get me outta here?”

Emoto chastised him, but Haruka laughed. Being a kid, she didn’t take anything nearly as seriously as an adult. Majima grinned.

“Maybe I can break a window,” she suggested, balling her hand into a fist. “I’m pretty strong, you know. I could lift you and throw you out.”

Majima cackled breathlessly, and Emoto scolded them both. So much for keeping Majima out of trouble. The doctor would be stuck babysitting all night.

For the first few hours of the night, as the fluorescent lights glared relentlessly down on them, and Emoto typed away at his computer, Majima and Haruka ran through their repertoire of games and invented some new ones. Janken, riddles, tongue twisters, changing the lyrics of pop songs, betting on whether or not he could raise and lower his heart rate by sheer force of will (Emoto put a stop to that one pretty quickly, but not before Haruka had won several hundred yen). Once that was done, Emoto gave them a deck of cards and threatened to turn the lights off if they didn’t keep quiet.

They were halfway through their second game of hanafuda when Emoto got a call, and stormed out of the office in a hurry. Majima tried to keep Haruka focused on the game, but she kept glancing anxiously at the door.

“Hey,” he said, looking her square in the eye. “Quit rubber neckin’. It ain’t our business.”

“I can’t help it,” she said shakily. “What if it’s ojisan?”

Majma gulped. “It ain’t your ojisan. He’s at a hospital. They’d take care of him there.” Lying through his teeth was a gamble with Haruka. She could usually see right through him.

“I guess,” she conceded, but still kept staring wide-eyed at the entrance to the clinic. A moment later, there was a metallic thud as the main door flew open, followed by Emoto yelling authoritatively and another voice wailing and screaming in pain. Haruka’s eyes went dull. Even though she didn’t turn away from the sound, Majima could see her heart thumping in her chest. He tried to get her attention.

“Haruka-chan,” he said softly. “There’s nothin’ to see, alright? Remember, Emoto said to let him do his work. We gotta leave him to it. We got a card game goin’ over here.”

Haruka shook her head. The voices grew louder, and she kept her eyes focused on the doorway. “I have to look. It might be ojisan,” she said flatly, though her nostrils were beginning to flare with her rapid breathing.

All at once, Emoto and some nameless gangster came crashing into the room, carrying a bleeding man between them. Where he was bleeding from, they couldn’t tell. His face was red, his shirt was red, his hands were red, and over the sound of Emoto calling for his nurse, his screams of agony pierced their ears.

Even Majima felt panicked and awestruck for a split second, before he turned his attention back to Haruka. “Hey,” he said sternly. “Haruka-chan, don’t look, alright?”

“It’s not ojisan,” she said, wondering why she felt sick instead of relieved, and couldn’t stop watching the scene before her unfold, even though it was a stranger bleeding out on the bed next to them. His eyes were out of focus, but it felt like they were staring at her, begging her for help.

Majima tried again and again to convince her to look at him, but she was in her own world, and he couldn’t move close enough to physically pull her attention away. All he could do was talk himself hoarse, desperate to distract her.

“Haruka-chan,” he said over and over. “Ya gotta look away. Please.”

But she wouldn’t, because even if it wasn’t her ojisan, surely it was someone’s ojisan. Surely the man in front of her had people waiting for him to come home safely. She couldn’t rest until she saw that he would be okay.

Emoto went about his work methodically, and his nurse moved with speed and precision as they prepped their patient for surgery and monitored his vitals. They were both tense and grimacing, Emoto barking orders, and the nurse reporting parameters. The man who had helped carry their patient in was ordered to leave, despite his insistence that he should be there.

At first, they went about their work with the certainty of professionals carrying out their daily routine. Then, there was a shift in their movements, from tense and controlled to frantic. The nurse threw open drawers until he found a plastic tube. Emoto grabbed a vial from a nearby shelf and cursed as he drew clear fluid into a syringe.

By the time the nurse had the tube down the man’s throat, and Emoto had injected the medicine, the patient had gone silent. His screams turned to moans. His eyes stared blankly. His limbs were limp. A few tense moments of monitoring later, Emoto shook his head, and the nurse began to quietly unhook the equipment he’d attached to their patient. By this point, the occasional sighing breath was the only sound the man made.

Haruka looked to Majima for an explanation. She was smart, but that didn’t mean she was mature, he realized. His throat tightened. She was begging him silently to lie to her, to tell her that her eyes were deceiving her, that she wasn’t watching a man die.

“It’s alright,” was all Majima could manage, but his chest was heavy with guilt. She shouldn’t have stayed the night.

Haruka looked back at the dead man, watching for signs of movement, maybe a breath or a sudden heartbeat, hoping that when the doctor wasn’t looking, his patient would spring back to life. He didn’t. Instead, his body was covered with a sheet, turning him from a person to an object in an instant.

All of her greatest fears had been confirmed, and Haruka couldn’t hold it in any longer. She sobbed hysterically.

Hating that he had just effectively ended Haruka's childhood and re traumatized her when her life shoild have been improving, Majima made a last ditch effort to protect her innocence. He pushed himself forward, tugging too hard on his IV line and catching his breath, determined to reach out to her.

“I told ya not to look,” he said, sounding more angry than remorseful, and immediately regretting his tone. He grabbed her arm and tried to meet her eye. “Haruka-chan, that guy probably had it comin’, alright? This shit happens all the time. It ain’t your ojisan over there. It’s gonna be alright.”

“What if it isn’t?” she bawled. “Wh-what if it’s him next? He’s gonna die….”

“He ain’t gonna die,” Majima said, but the words were forced. Kiryu was just another man. It could happen.

“You don’t know that!” she screeched, tugging her arm away and covering her face. “H-he always says that, and he’s lying. You’re lying. Everyone’s lying. He’s gonna die.”

Majima didn’t know how to respond. He had to sit back to catch his breath, and searched for the right words.

“What if he did die?” he wondered aloud. No point in lying anymore. They may as well talk about it, now that it was out there in the open, a distinct possibility that Haruka had to face someday.

She cried harder at first, but she thought about it, and answered through shuddering sobs. “I… I dunno…. I’d have to take care of everybody, and he wouldn’t be there.”

“Bet ya’d miss him, huh?” Majima said sympathetically.

“Yeah. A lot.” Haruka wiped her face on her sleeve, but her eyes and nose continued to run.

“Me too.” Majima gave her a meaningful look. “He ain’t all ya got, though, Haruka-chan.”

“I don’t care,” she screamed. “I don’t want another dad. I don't even care if I have siblings, or if i live in a tent. I just want ojisan to live.”

That was to be expected. Haruka had lost both of her parents, no matter how distant they had been. Now that she finally had what felt like a real father, she was afraid to go back to the ways things were before. He could understand that. Majima was afraid of his past, too. Maybe solidarity was the best he could offer her.

“I know,” he agreed. “I wouldn’t wanna go back to the way things were, either.” Part of him wasn’t so sure. There were parts of his past he would go back to, if he could. But ultimately, he believed in moving forward, not backward.

“I hated the orphanage,” she continued, and he was confused until he remembered that she had been abandoned in Kamurocho before Kiryu took her in. “I only like Okinawa because ojisan is there. I can’t live there. Rikiya is dead.”

Her sentences weren’t fitting together anymore, but Majima could see that this went deeper than the current situation. Witnessing a man's final moments had flipped a switch. Death had taken on a new meaning for Haruka. She was scared of what she had seen, because it meant that anyone she knew who had died, or would die, could die suffering: in pain, alone, and without sympathy.

But then, the man who had carried his friend, or his brother, or maybe even a perfect stranger, entered the room with tears in his eyes. He collapsed on the floor next to the other man’s deathbed, held his hand, and sobbed openly. Emoto and the nurse looked away and went back to their work. Haruka sniffled for a bit longer, then got up from her seat.

“Haruka-chan,” Majima hissed, watching in awe as she approached the man on the ground.

“It’s okay,” she said sheepishly, wrapping her tiny arms around his shoulders. “It’s okay.”

Rather than push her away or back off in surprise, Majima was shocked when the man didn’t hesitate to return her embrace and cry into her shoulder. All the while, Haruka sniffled and patted him on the back, reassuring him that everything was going to be okay.

It was surreal, watching her go from crying child to nurturing old soul. Majima didn’t know how to feel. He was afraid for her, having to grow up so quickly. But he was also grateful. He was lucky to know someone so strong. He was lucky to have someone like Haruka in his life, who cared so deeply for others, when she could have dedicated her life to self-preservation.

When the man on the ground hugging the girl who was half his size finally came to his senses and realized what his grief had made him do, he gently backed away from her and climbed to his feet, clearing his throat. He bowed deeply to Majima.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “Your daughter is really kind. Please excuse me. I wasn’t thinking straight. I’ll leave now. I’m sorry.” He averted his gaze, stepped quickly past Haruka, and left the clinic.

Haruka looked thoughtful, and stared for a moment at the sheet covering the dead man. Then she knelt next to him, put her hands together, and shut her eyes. Right back to being an innocent child, Majima thought. He hadn’t prayed sincerely since he was younger than her.

When she was finished, she went back to her seat next to Majima. As if to console him, she said, “Don’t worry. I’m okay now.”

“R-really?” he asked, still unable to make heads or tails of her actions and the shift in her mood.

“Yeah.” She nodded with confidence. Her eyes watered, but her voice was level, and she didn’t curl into a ball like she had before. “That man cared a lot about his friend. He tried to save him. So… even though he’s dead, he had a good life.”

“Yeah?” Majima wondered. That sounded naive to him.

“Yeah,” she said with certainty. “If even one person loved him, then he didn’t die alone.”

Once again, Majima was struck speechless. The cynical part of him said that was empty wisdom, invented by a kid who couldn’t accept that death was cruel and solitary. The side of him that still hoped, and loved, and believed life was worth living disagreed.

“I guess that’s true,” he admitted. He was here in a hospital bed thanks to Nishida. His life was worth living thanks to people like him.

“I think if I died, I would be okay if ojisan was there,” Haruka said, and the thought of her dying stopped Majima’s heart. “Or, maybe if Date-san was there. Or maybe you, Majima-san.”

The sound that came out of him was something between a laugh and a sob, and then he was suffocating under Haruka’s embrace.

“Don’t die, okay Majima-san?” she demanded. “If Nishida was too slow, and you got here too late, then you would have died today. Nishida would cry, just like that man. So would ojisan. So would I. So, don’t do it.” Her eyes welled up with tears, and she tried to hide her face so he wouldn’t see her cry again.

Little did she know, she wasn’t the only one holding back tears. “Don’t count on it,” Majima said, half choked by emotion, half by the weight of Haruka on his wounded chest. The pain was tolerable, though. The thought of pushing Haruka away when she was missing her dad and looking for comfort was more painful.

Soon enough, though, he could barely breathe, and had to loosen her grip and gently push her aside. She stepped away for a moment to pull her chair closer, then curled up and laid her head in her arms on the bed rail.

“Majima-san,” she said, her eyes drooping, her voice tired. “Could I live with you if ojisan dies?”

He patted her on the head. “Nope.”

She whined. “But why? I’m not a kid anymore, really. I’m in junior high now. I can cook, clean, fix stuff, and buy groceries on my own. I take care of the kids at Sunshine all the time. So, I wouldn’t be a burden or anything.”

To think she would put being a burden before yakuza involvement was so absurd, Majima almost laughed. “Haruka-chan, I’m a big mean yakuza boss. Kid or not, ya don’t wanna hang around me too much. It ain’t safe. Your ojisan’d come back and haunt me if I took ya in.”

“No, he wouldn’t,” she protested, apparently more offended by the notion that Kiryu would haunt him than the notion that he would die and wander the earth as a ghost. “He likes you. And you would keep me safe, I know you would. Plus, you’re more fun than Date-san.”

Now, Majima did laugh. “That all ya care about? Your ojisan ain’t much fun, either.”

Haruka thought for a moment. “No, but he’s still more fun than Date-san.”

“That so?” Majima snickered. Date was terrible with kids. He would never let him live this down. Haruka seriously thought he was more boring than Kiryu.

“Anyway, maybe I’ll come live with you whether you say I can or not,” Haruka grumbled. “I’m old enough to take a plane on my own. I’d come to Kamurocho, make money at Mahjong, and then sneak into Purgatory while you weren’t looking. I know where the Florist’s cameras are. I could dodge them or break them if I wanted to.”

“Whoa there, Haruka-chan,” Majima chided. “If ya go around doin’ shady shit like that, your ojisan’s gonna end up hauntin’ you, not me.”

“He’s not gonna haunt anybody,” she finally huffed. “Ghosts aren’t real.”

Majima rolled his eye. “Funny, ya weren’t too worried about that part when I said he was gonna haunt me.”

“Yeah, I was,” she lied.

“No, ya weren’t. Ya want him to haunt me, is that it?” he taunted.

Haruka finally lifted her head and stared him down. “Maybe I do.”

“Tch, that ain’t gonna scare me.” Majima motioned as if he were drawing his knife and cutting the ghost of Kiryu out of thin air. “I can kill a ghost if I gotta.”

“You can’t die twice,” she said, yawning and turning her head as she laid it back down, so he wouldn’t see her smirking.

“Like hell ya can’t,” Majima snarled. “Kiryu-chan’ll show up all translucent and goopy, and he’ll be all, ‘Majima, come at me if you wanna die,’ and I’ll be all, ‘You’re the one who’s already dead,’ and then I’ll kick his glowy ass.” He was actually getting fired up about this. It must be the narcotics, he told himself.

Haruka chuckled. “Okay, Majima-san. I believe you.”

As she drifted off to sleep, Emoto took the hint and turned the lights down. He and Majima didn’t speak, but there was tension in the air between them. Occasionally, Majima would glance over at the corpse no more than a meter away from him, and wonder how long it would be there. It was an uncomfortable reminder of his own mortality.

Haruka dozed, occasionally gasping awake. Majima would close his eye and pretend to be asleep, but he felt her check his pulse each time, before her breathing slowed and she drifted off again. It was heartbreaking, but he was glad she was there. Otherwise, his mind had nowhere to go but to his new phone, sitting on the tray table next to him, threatening to light up with a call from Date at any moment.

The night dragged on, and the next time Haruka woke, she didn’t let go of his hand. He hoped it would put her at peace long enough to get some actual sleep, but it didn’t. She gasped awake again and put her ear to his chest to listen for his breath. The medications Emoto had given him were tapering off, so it took all of his strength to clench his teeth and bear the stifling pain, but eventually Haruka was satisfied and laid her head on the pillow next to his.

This way, I’ll hear if he stops breathing, she told herself, and faded out of consciousness for the last time.

Guess I better not fall asleep, Majima thought miserably, inching away from Haruka as much as he could. If I roll over on her, Kiryu-chan’s gonna haunt me even after I’m dead.

Chapter Text

It felt like it should have been morning, but it was still pitch black outside when Majima’s cell phone rang. Haruka jolted awake and sat up straight in her seat, watching attentively as Majima answered the call. Emoto flicked on the lights and shot them a quick look of concern.

“Kiryu’s okay,” Date said quickly. “Daigo is, too. Tell Haruka. I don’t want her to worry for longer than she has to.”

Majima grunted in agreement and turned to face her. “Your ojisan’s safe, and so’s Daigo.”

Haruka beamed with glee. “I knew it,” she said, as if the previous night had never happened.

“So, what’s the deal with Mine, then?” Majima asked, and he heard Date sigh on the other end of the line.

“He’s dead.”

Majima nodded to himself. It wasn’t a surprise, but it still made him feel guilty. It shouldn’t have gone this way. Daigo didn’t deserve this.

“So, what’s next?” asked Majima. He had more questions than he could even begin to ask, so he figured that would at least get him a few answers at once.

“Well,” Date said, clearly just as unsure of where to begin, “I’ll come get Haruka, and bring her to see Kiryu. She’d probably appreciate that. Daigo is starting physical therapy today, so she can visit him, if she’d like.”

“Hold up, is Daigo awake?” Majima shot up straight in his bed, and his chest felt like it had been pierced by a bullet. Then he remembered it had, so he slumped back into his pillows.

“Yeah,” Date chuckled, relieved to be able to break the good news, considering everything else that had happened. “By the time Mine got here, I guess he had already been out of the coma for a day or so, but the doctors were waiting for Kashiwagi to contact them before they told anyone. They didn’t realize he had passed. They’d also seen Mine visit a few times, and knew something wasn’t right. So, Daigo was told to play possum until they could figure out where to transfer him and how to contact Kashiwagi.”

Majima was confused. “But… everythin’ Mine did, he did ‘cause he thought Daigo was dead, didn’t he? So, if he had woken up, wouldn’t that’ve solved the problem?”

Date hesitated. “You saw how erratic his behavior was getting. You saw what he had planned. Do you really think he would have let Daigo live, after all the trouble he went to trying to take hold of the Tojo Clan?”

“Yeah, I do,” Majima snapped, and his anger came to a boil. “You’re fucked if ya think he woulda killed the guy he loved for the Chairmanship.”

“But that’s exactly what he was going to do,” Date argued.

“Ya don’t know shit!” Majima started pulling monitoring equipment off of his body, and tugged his IV until it came out and fell dripping to the floor. Haruka was grabbing his arm. Emoto was yelling. “Date-san, you’re a fuckin’ idiot, and so’re those doctors. I’m gonna come over there and kill ‘em right now. Where the fuck’s my knife?” He swatted away the arms trying to hold him down and stop his arm from bleeding, and looked wildly around the room. “Where the fuck’s my knife?!” he roared.

Whatever Emoto was yelling at him, Majima was deaf to it. All he could think was that Mine had died for nothing. Everyone had proved him right. No one trusted him. No one loved him. The Tojo Clan Chairmanship had been more important than his life. It was that principle, more than anything, that made Majima livid.

Even wounded and breathless, Majima was worlds stronger than Emoto, and easily knocked him to the ground. Haruka tried to weigh him down, and begged him not to kill anyone, but he was beyond reasoning. It only took a fraction of his strength to push her back into her chair and make a run for the door.

Heaving against the pressure in his chest, Majima could feel that he only had a short time before he collapsed. He had to abandon his weapon and head straight for the nearest cab. Emoto and Haruka had recovered, and were catching up to him. He was fast, but not nearly as fast as he should be, and they would have him pinned if he didn’t make it to the end of the street in time.

The cab driver must have thought he was fresh out of a sanitarium, from the way he launched himself into the backseat of the car in nothing but a hospital gown, and mashed on the button to lock the doors. “Drive!” he croaked against his labored breathing, and fearing for his life, the driver obeyed and stepped on the gas.

“Wh-where to?” he finally deigned to ask once his passenger seemed to have caught his breath.

“Toto University Hospital,” Majima said, as calmly as though he were a regular customer. “And if ya got any cigarettes, mind if I bum one off ya?”

“Uh, s-sure,” the flustered man replied, and passed him a pack and a lighter from his coat pocket.

“Nice,” Majima said, relieved as he put his lips to the cheap cigarette, flicked open the lighter, and puffed until the embers shone and a whirl of smoke drifted upward. It was like heaven, after going a full day without. Even though it stung like hell and burned his lungs, it was worth it.

Savoring the taste of tobacco until the ride was over, Majima finally spoke up when they reached their destination and came to a full stop.

“So, real sorry, but I don’t got any money,” he explained with exaggerated remorse, patting the driver on the shoulder. “But, I’ll let ya live if ya don’t charge me.”

The driver chuckled uneasily, and turned to face his passenger. When he saw the eyepatch, he went quiet and swallowed hard.

“Thanks, I owe ya one,” Majima said amicably, handing him back his lighter and exiting the cab like a perfect gentleman, murderous grin and bare ass aside.

Now that he was actually here, Majima wasn’t sure what he was going to do, so he put his hands on his hips and contemplated his next move, as stunned pedestrians passed him by. On the one hand, he could hardly breathe, so violence wasn’t really an option. On the other hand, he was filled with righteous anger. There had to be a way for him to punch some doctors on his way up to confront Daigo.

Maybe he could call Nishida. “Shit,” he muttered, when he realized he had busted his phone the other day after talking to Kiryu.

“Ah!” he cried triumphantly, when he realized Nishida had replaced it with yet another burner phone. How could he forget? He had just talked to Date on that phone.

“Shit,” he muttered again, when he reached down and remembered he was wearing an assless gown with no pockets.

Well, there were worse things than having to put off a hospital rampage. In the meantime, he stomped out the butt of his cigarette with his bare foot, and headed into the hospital.

At the reception desk, Majima cut to the front of the line and held up a hand in greeting. “Hi! I’m here to visit my buddy. He just woke up from a coma.”

“Right,” the receptionist agreed nervously, and hit the page button on her office phone. “Security, please come to the front desk. Security, front desk.”

“Hey, now,” Majima whined, leaning forward on the counter, but a hand grabbed his shoulder from behind.

“Sir, please step away from the counter,” the hulking security guard instructed.

Majima did as he was told, but not without complaint. “This how ya treat visitors? Ain’t there a guest list or somethin’, like a club? ‘Cause if ya got one, I’m on it.”

“Okay, sir,” the security guard agreed in a flat tone, clearly not convinced. “Who did you come to see?”

“Dojima Daigo,” Majima said indignantly. “I mean, ya’d think they’d warn the muscle that a guy with an eyepatch was gonna show up. I’m pretty much his best pal.”

The guard gave him a searching look, then muttered something into his radio. “Please wait a moment. What did you say your name was?”

“The Mad Dog of Shimano,” Majima said, deadpan.

The security guard bristled. Then, a reply came through his radio, and he turned to answer it in a hushed voice. After several moments of tense back-and-forth, he turned back to Majima with a grudging scowl.

“Please, follow me,” he said curtly, and Majima followed him with his chin held high. Passersby pretended not to notice his hannya tattoo and full moon.

It was a short elevator ride up to the high security ICU, where Daigo was being held until discharge instructions were complete. Majima tapped his foot impatiently, nonetheless. He needed to know what the doctors had told Daigo, and what exactly had taken place last night.

The Chairman was sitting up comfortably in bed reading a book by daylight, when the security guard brought Majima to him. Daigo’s jaw dropped.

"You're alive," he breathed. Clearly, they had some catching up to do.

Majima closed the door behind him and took a seat in the chair at the foot of Daigo's bed. His bare balls touched scratchy cushion cover and he growled, stood up, and pulled a pillow out from under Daigo's legs to sit on.

"Better," he said happily. Daigo glared. He was too weak to protest.

“Did you come here to find out what happened?” Daigo asked, his tone somber. Majima nodded and seemed prepared to listen, so he continued. “I killed Mine."

Knowing how much Daigo hated being interrupted, Majima clenched his mouth shut and tried to respect his authority, even though that statement was an obvious lie.

Just like that, the wind went out of Daigo's sails, and he slumped forward, expression slack with grief. "If I could have just talked to him…" he mumbled.

Majima counted to three in his head, ensuring there was an appropriate pause before he dug into his Chairman. "Talk can't fix crazy, Dojima-han," he advised in what he hoped was a stern, fatherly voice. "Sounds like he never gave ya that option."

"But he did," Daigo replied, averting his gaze. "He came to see me before Kiryu fought him on the roof."

"What's up with Kiryu-chan and rooftops? He’s always gettin’ into trouble up there," Majima blurted, then pursed his lips shut when Daigo shot him a look of disapproval.

"As I was saying... he came to see me. I could tell he wasn't in his right mind from the tone of his voice. I've never heard him sound so desperate or angry before. I've never heard him say anything like what he said when he thought no one was listening. He explained what he was about to do, and acted as though I were already dead. He didn't acknowledge me or mourn for me. He didn't even ask me to wake up. So, afraid that he wanted me dead, I pretended I already was." Daigo rubbed his forehead, his eyes distant and troubled as he contemplated his decision. "I was afraid, maybe more afraid than I should have been. When I finally had to end the charade to protect Kiryu, it was like Mine snapped out of it and turned back into the person I knew. He looked so afraid...."

The Chairman's voice went silent as he relived the previous night in his mind, straining against the urge to cry again. If only he could have stopped him. If only it hadn't been too late. If only things had been just a little bit different. Kiryu had told him that Kazama Joji never intended to kill him, and that shooting him had been a mistake. If he had never been shot, things would have been so different. Mine would never have done anything against his wishes.

"You know, one of the last things he said to me was that he loved me," Daigo said shakily. "He could have pushed his co-conspirator off the rooftop, but instead, he jumped with him."

"He jumped?" Majima said incredulously. Mine hadn’t seemed like the type. The news disturbed him more than he let on.

Daigo nodded. "He said he didn't deserve to be with me. He didn’t believe he deserved to live after what he had done. I didn't know what to say." He couldn't hold back anymore. His face wrinkled, his eyes clouded over with tears, and he slammed his fist into the bed rail so hard that it went flying across the room.

Not one to resist violence, Majima watched patiently, and made no move to calm him his Chairman. He sat and stared at his feet, brow furrowed. There was something he needed to know about Mine’s final moments.

"What'd Kiryu say?" he asked, voice hollow, thoughts spiraling.

Daigo's cheeks were wet. He clenched the sheets pulled over his legs. "He said, 'As long as someone has a will to live, as long as their heart still beats, their life has value'. He tried to get through to him. And I said nothing…."

Typical Kiryu. Of course he would try to save Daigo from the heartbreak of losing someone he loved, despite their betrayals, and despite their lack of good sense and capable leadership leading to the destruction of the Tojo Clan. Mine could have gotten he and Daigo killed, and if he had been anyone else, his punishment would have been death. Kiryu was wrong. Some lives weren’t valuable, if they put the lives of better people in jeopardy.

"What would you have said?" Majima asked, staring hard at the ground.

"I would have said… that he was more than good enough. That we could start over." Daigo's voice dropped to a whisper as he clenched his throat against a sob that nearly escaped him.

"That's naive," Majima responded coolly. He stood from his seat and moved toward the door, abandoning the singsong pitch of his voice and the eccentric speech patterns he had spent half his life cultivating. He was tired. So tired.

"Majima, don't go," Daigo demanded, voice cracking. "Did I do the right thing? What am I supposed to do now? Be honest with me."

Majima turned his right eye to face him, figuring he owed him a direct response. No more avoiding responsibility.

"You man up and take care of the Tojo Clan, like you always do. You accept the punishment Mine dealt himself. And then, someday, when you fuck up as badly as he did, you accept your punishment, too." He felt nothing when Daigo stared back at him, speechless, pleading with his eyes for him to say something more, to give him hope, to laugh it off and break the tension. But he had asked Majima for his honest opinion, and he had given it, like he always did.

So, numb with sober acceptance, Majima pulled open the door and walked down the quiet hospital corridor to face his own punishment. Saejima had faced his, after all. It was only fair that Majima did, too. He was just as much to blame for the mismanagement of the Tojo Clan as Mine, and had endangered just as many people.

Kiryu almost caught sight of him in the hallway, presumably on his way to visit Daigo. So, instead of heading for the elevators, Majima ducked into the stairwell. His footsteps were slow and heavy, both resigned and resolved to make a responsible decision for once in his life.

Everything was going to be okay, he realized. Daigo would be more resilient and self-reliant with this experience behind him. He had learned to survive. Once the grief passed, the Tojo Clan would be in good hands. Kiryu could go home in peace. Haruka could go with him. Date would go back to writing and building a relationship with his daughter. Nishida was going to be able to visit his mother in the countryside. Minami would earn the respect of the Majima Family, and the Majima Family would go on making a name for themselves, living their lives freely.

Everything would be fine. Majima was so convinced of this that by the time he got to the roof and squinted against the afternoon sun, he felt lighthearted, despite the heaviness of his breath in his wounded chest.

He took off his hospital gown and spread it on the flat concrete like a picnic blanket, then sat down with a sigh. His first thought was to have a smoke, but he didn’t have a lighter nor a pack of cigarettes. His second thought was to text Kiryu, but he didn’t have his phone, either. So, he stared miserably up at the hazy blue sky and the bright sun, savoring his freedom and the odd sense of calm that came with knowing this would be his last memory of Kamurocho.

“Put some clothes on,” came a low voice from the stairwell. He heard something flap through the air behind him, and turned in time for his snakeskin jacket to hit him in the face.

“No point,” Majima replied, throwing it back to Kiryu. Nishida must have given the jacket to him. It kind of pissed him off that they had been talking behind his back, but he supposed they would be doing a lot of that from now on.

“No point?” Kiryu repeated, tossing the jacket to the ground next to Majima instead. “Why’s that? Did you come up here to kill yourself?”

Majima burst out laughing, but couldn’t answer, because anything he said would be a lie. The truth was, he didn’t know what he was going to do. The fresh air was supposed to help him decide. On the one hand, it would be the ideal way to go, choosing his own end instead of leaving it to fate. On the other, going to prison for life might be a more appropriate punishment, if his intention was to take responsibility for his actions and free the Tojo Clan from his treachery and recklessness. He wasn’t one to give up when things got difficult, after all, and was willing to endure more than most yakuza were.

Kiryu took a seat next to him and pulled out his pack of cigarettes, popping one into his mouth. “I figured you wouldn’t.”

“Hm?” Majima wondered. The last thing he expected was to be treated as predictable.

“You wouldn’t kill yourself,” Kiryu said with certainty as he lit up. “It’s not like you.”

“Tch,” Majima scoffed. “How d’ya know what I’m like? I’m a Mad Dog. I could do anythin’.” He swung a fist at Kiryu’s face and stopped half an inch away to prove his point, but Kiryu didn’t flinch. Grudgingly, Majima realized that being unpredictable was its own kind of predictable. Nothing he did could surprise the Dragon of Dojima anymore.

Kiryu barely acknowledged his retort, and went on smoking. His eyes were distant. Majima could only guess at what he was thinking about, but he tried.

“So… Mine,” he offered, side-eyeing his friend.

“Yeah,” Kiryu answered, but didn’t elaborate at first. He expected Majima to start running his mouth, especially without a cigarette in it, but a few moments of silence went by. The afternoon sun slipped behind a cloud, then re-emerged. A few pigeons flew overhead. Distant sounds echoed up to them from the streets far below.

It must have happened right here, in this very spot, Majima realized. He could be sitting exactly where Daigo had been sitting the night before, as Mine stepped up onto the ledge and let himself fall from the building. It was hard to imagine.

Ever the master of tact, Majima broke the silence and rekindled the conversation. “Kinda surprised ya let the guy jump. Thought ya weren’t big into murder.”

“Let him jump?” Kiryu grunted, furrowing his brow. Clearly the jab had offended him. “I tried to talk him down. He made that decision on his own.”

Majima pointed to the ledge, then swung his finger to Kiryu in accusation, demonstrating the short distance between the two. “One lunge and ya probably coulda stopped him, dumbass.”

“Are you trying to make me feel bad?” Kiryu wondered, still staring off into the distance.

“Well, yeah,” Majima snapped. “Ya played hero again, and came out worse for it. Daigo’s boyfriend offed himself. That Rikiya kid threw himself in front of ya. Haruka had to spend the night with Uncle Majima watchin’ some street thug bleed to death. Ain’t that worth feelin’ bad about?”

 

Kiryu exhaled. Smoke clouded the air in front of him, and though he remained calm, his tone of voice was solemn. “I do feel bad. Do you?”

“Me?” Majima thought it over. Part of him wanted to kick Kiryu in the face for turning the conversation around on him. All those walls they had broken down were back up, and they were back to deflecting each other, competing instead of confiding. It was infuriating. It would be so easy to start a fight right now.

Then, Majima remembered why he was up on the rooftop: to take responsibility. He gritted his teeth and said, “Yeah. I do feel bad.”

“That’s good to hear.” Kiryu finally spared him a glance. “What are you planning on doing now?”

Majima was sure he had no plans, but he found himself answering as naturally as though he had been planning all along. “Gonna pass the torch. I got this new recruit lined up to be the wild card so I can take it easy. I’m bettin’ Daigo’s gonna crack down now that all this shit’s happened. So, I better smarten up.”

“Your lifestyle isn’t really compatible with being smart, Majima,” Kiryu said flatly.

Majima cackled, and seized on the opportunity to argue. So much for responsibility. “Says the guy who adopted nine kids and left ‘em home alone while he went off to frolic with some twink and wrestle on rooftops.”

“Too soon,” Kiryu grumbled, crushing the end of his cigarette through clenched teeth.

“Oh? Did that get ya all worked up?” Majima’s eye lit up, and he leaned in excitedly. “Wanna fight about it?”

“You don’t even have your knife,” Kiryu sighed, leaning forward to climb to his feet, but Majima was too fast. He was shoved back onto his ass before he could even get off the ground.

“I got somethin’ just as good!” Majima told him cheerfully, but ended up grappled and tossed across the cement. He cursed and rubbed his scraped elbow. Clearly he had misread the situation.

“Back off,” Kiryu warned him. “I didn’t come up here to fight, or whatever.”

Majima normally didn’t give up that easily, but this time, he did. Something in Kiryu’s voice said this would escalate beyond a petty fight otherwise.

“What?” he asked curtly, suspicious that Kiryu wanted to talk more than he had let on. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be so defensive. Something was clearly bothering him.

Kiryu turned down his anger from a boil to a simmer, and tried to remind himself that they could have an adult conversation about their feelings. So much had happened in such a short time, though. It already felt like they were living in different worlds. Majima had almost died for the yakuza, and was spouting nonsense about cleaning up his act again to keep the Tojo Clan together. Kiryu had watched Rikiya die, his kids tremble in fear, and a man he barely knew jump to his death, all for the sake of a criminal organization he resented. He wanted nothing to do with the yakuza, and yet, they were at the center of his identity. His feelings were mixed and muddled.

“I came up here because Daigo needs you alive,” Kiryu began, looking Majima in the eye. His fists were balled, his posture rigid. “And, because I don’t want to go back to Okinawa only to hear that you died without killing me first.”

Majima couldn’t help smirking, but it wasn’t to mock Kiryu. It really did lift his spirits to hear that Kiryu took their more-than-rivalry seriously. “So, go get my knife, and I’ll make sure ya can’t leave with any regrets,” he snickered.

Kiryu’s lip twitched, and he continued to speak, though his voice became strained. “Last time I left for Okinawa, we talked like this. You promised you would look after Daigo.” His knuckles were white, his fingernails digging into his palms.

Majima was taken aback, and tensed. “Yeah. I kinda fucked that up, huh?”

“You did.” Kiryu’s voice was low, but rather than scathing, it was emotional. There were cracks in his expression. “I don’t think it could have gone much differently, but I never expected to come back to Kamurocho or to deal with Mine myself. I trusted you. This time, I’m leaving without asking any favors.”

“I…” Majima trailed off, cringing at the thought that his lack of foresight at the time had led him to make a promise he couldn’t keep. He should have known better. Now, Kiryu had lost faith in him. The sutures in his chest stung. “It ain’t like I planned it this way…”

Kiryu shook his head and sighed. “No. You don’t plan for anything, do you?” He shoved his hands into his pockets and trudged to the door, tense with self-restraint. Majima would have to figure this out on his own. There was no sense in arguing. The Tojo Clan wasn’t his responsibility, and neither was the Mad Dog. He had Haruka and his kids to take care of.

Kiryu had his suit jacket on, but Majima could feel the dragon tattoo on Kiryu’s back glaring, judging him, raging at him. He gritted his teeth. Part of him wanted to lunge across the rooftop, grab him by the collar, and start the fight he had thought they were about to have. His body was stiff, though, and his breath shallow, and he knew he could never win. Kiryu would shove him aside and leave, no matter what he did.

And yet, at the same time that Majima was deciding not to pursue his friend, Kiryu was standing still in the doorway, fist clenched on the door handle, refusing to look over his shoulder, yet hoping his pause would invite intervention. Nothing happened. The silence was deafening. So, he slammed the door behind him, and continued down the stairs to the elevators.

Thirsty, hungry, craving a smoke, and itching at the sunburn he would inevitably have by the end of the afternoon, Majima waited until he was sure Kiryu would have left the hospital before he stood up and tied his hospital gown on. He had had plenty of time to think, more than he usually gave himself. It was time to start making amends.

Before he could reach the door, Nishida fell through it, and Minami close behind him.

“Boss!” they screamed, both clamoring for his attention, speaking over each other until he grabbed one of their collars in each hand and shook them silent.

“The fuck d’ya want?” he snarled.

“Kiryu-san called me,” Nishida said, his voice surprisingly steady. Minami was struggling and wide-eyed beside him.

 

“I didn’t do nothin’!” he yelled, so Majima threw him to the ground and ignored him.

“Hope ya didn’t come up here ‘cause ya thought I’d do somethin’ stupid.” Majima eyed his right-hand man suspiciously. Nishida knew better than to track him down when he wanted to be alone. Whatever Kiryu said to him must have been urgent.

“No, no,” Nishida assured him, waving his hands. “I didn’t just come because of that. I was going to warn you - “

Haruka busted through the door and ran screaming at them, throwing her fist into Majima’s gut. The force of it wasn’t enough to knock him over, but he stumbled forward just enough for her to start smacking him relentlessly in the face.

“You idiot!” she screeched. “You don’t leave the hospital like that! You almost died! Emoto won’t see you anymore if you won’t listen!”

“Ow,” was all Majima could say, trying and failing to shield his face from the small hands slapping him frenziedly.

Finally, Haruka’s hands were starting to go numb, so she stepped back and tried to catch her breath. “Don’t make my ojisan worry like that, or I’ll block your number forever.”

“Uh.” Majima was taken aback. “Kiryu-chan’s that worried?”

Haruka’s scowl was so menacing that Majima was afraid she would punch him as hard as Kiryu could, but to his relief, all she did was give his arm a shove and stomp away.

“That’s why I came up here,” Nishida mumbled, flinching as Haruka slammed the door. “I was going to warn you about her.”

“I ain’t afraid of a little girl,” Majima huffed, although, fear wasn’t really the issue here so much as guilt. He was embarrassed, and not because his face was red with slap marks. He had ditched Haruka back at Emoto’s and hadn’t even considered how she might feel about him dying or going to prison for life.

“As soon as we got here, she tried to come see you,” Nishida continued. “Kiryu had to talk her down. I’m not really good with kids, but… she seems upset with you.”

Majima looked him dead in the eye and said flatly, “Oh, really?” Whether or not it was worth earning her forgiveness, he wasn’t sure. Making amends was going to be more complicated that he had imagined. So, he decided to change the subject, and cocked his head to the side as he watched a frazzled Minami chug from a flask of whiskey. “What’s this asshole doin’ up here with ya?”

“Oh!” Nishida seemed to have forgotten that Minami was sitting on the cement next to him. “I ran into him on the street, and he wouldn’t leave me alone. He wanted to know what happened to you after the fight with Mine. I didn’t really have time to convince him to go away, so he followed me all the way up here.”

“Yeah?” Majima wondered, putting his hands on his hips and eyeing up Minami. The young punk looked to be in awe of him. That said something about what kind of yakuza the kid wanted to be, he thought with satisfaction. “What, ya lookin’ for a fight or somethin’?”

“Yeah!” Minami replied with unprecedented enthusiasm, climbing clumsily to his feet and belching. “Been lookin’ for a rematch, boss.”

“Boss, eh?” Majima wondered, smirking. “So, ya wanna fight your boss? That’s kinda ballsy, kid.”

 

“Fuck yeah, it is,” Minami spat, pouring a copious amount of strong liquor down his throat. “I got kicked outta high school for beatin’ up my principal. Just ‘cause you’re the boss don’t mean I ain’t gonna kick your ass.”

What a delightful notion. Majima was grinning from ear to ear. “Sounds like fun!” he said pleasantly.

Nishida booked it into the stairwell right before a pillar of flame shot into the air between them, and sighed with relief. Maybe Minami’s presence had been a blessing in disguise. Majima was in hot water with most of his closest allies. If he was going to deal with the fallout, it would be good for him to let off some steam first, and come back to his problems with a clear head.

Still, Nishida’s thoughts were troubled as he waited in silence for the elevator. He knew his boss was hurting. He knew that all of this being over was only the beginning of new problems for their family, and the entire Tojo Clan. It was also the end of their friendship with Kiryu and Haruka. The way forward was hazy. Nothing was certain.

His hand was shaking as he opened the door to the Chairman’s room, keeping his eyes plastered to the floor as he took a bow and entered. Dojima Daigo had never addressed him personally before. He hardly knew how to react.

“Nishida,” Daigo said amicably, motioning for him to sit down. “I’ll cut to the chase. I know you’re the backbone of the Majima Family, and I have a favor to ask.”

Resisting the urge to glance up at the Chairman to see if there was any hint of sarcasm in his expression, Nishida bowed his head and nodded. “I’ll do anything you ask.”

“Good. I need you to report to me on the Majima Family’s business and general activities, privately, on a weekly basis. Do you understand?”

Nishida’s stomach knotted, and he swallowed hard. He understood all too well. He was being asked to spy on his boss.

“Do you understand?” Daigo repeated sternly, frowning when Nishida failed to answer.

“Yes, of course,” Nishida said quietly, bowing reverently.

“Thank you, Nishida.” Daigo motioned toward the door, excusing him from their brief meeting. “Don’t tell Majima about this. Act like everything is normal.”

“Yes, sir,” Nishida agreed, still averting his gaze, leaving the room before he had second thoughts. It would do their family no good to fight with the Chairman over Majima’s trustworthiness. Best to show obedience, and to prove his suspicions wrong.

Majima had done a lot wrong in the past two years. Most notably, he had conspired with Hamazaki. But for Daigo, that was only the tip of the iceberg. He had done a lot of growing up after all he had been through. Allowing his Mad Dog to run loose wouldn’t do. He needed to keep a firm grip on his leash from now on.

He continued to read his book in silence, pushing down his personal feelings. It was time to be the authority he had never trusted himself to be. It was time to let go of the people whose advice had carried him up until this point. Daigo was his own man now.

Chapter Text

Tragedy only occurs when it is least expected, and no one was expecting what happened next, considering the Tojo Clan’s internal conflict had ended.

Majima, in particular, was not expecting tragedy. He was getting along well with his new pupil, his right hand man, and his Family in general. He had even made peace with Daigo, and was actually looking forward to planning for the future. Then, having just left the coliseum to spectate a fight between Minami and Gary, he got a phone call from a sobbing Haruka.

“He stabbed ojisan,” she bawled, and his jaw went slack with disbelief.

 

They hadn’t spoken since that day on the roof of the hospital, when she had screamed and battered him for abandoning her and failing Kiryu. Even so, the tension between them suddenly dissipated. Neither of them could hold a grudge while Kiryu was in danger.

“Where is he?” Majima demanded.

“Emoto’s clinic,” Haruka answered, and as soon as she did, Majima hung up and stormed out of Purgatory with his pounding, and his breath catching against the healing wound in his chest.

It was always one thing after another, a never-ending chain of violence and tragedy that followed he and Kiryu no matter where they went, even when they tried to part ways. Just when everything seemed to be settling down, here they were again, right back in the thick of the violence and drama of the criminal underworld. Kiryu didn’t deserve this.

Why anyone would take a stab at Kiryu now was beyond Majima. His land was no longer at risk of being stolen. Mine was dead. Anyone who may have held a grudge against him was dead. Why was this happening? How? Kiryu couldn’t have been stabbed by some lowly street thug trying to mug him… although, that was just the sort of irony that usually caught up with criminals like them. He clenched his jaw, and focused on getting to Emoto’s clinic as quickly as he could.

When he arrived, Kiryu was pale and unconscious, but clearly alive. Haruka was standing next to him. Her eyes were bloodshot from crying. When she saw Majima, she lowered her gaze and made a quick exit, hurrying past him to the door. She was gone before he and Emoto could protest. They exchanged a puzzled glance, unable to imagine what she might be thinking.

Sighing, Emoto changed his look from puzzled to wary. He hadn’t expected a Mad Dog to visit today. “I hope you’re not here to do anything stupid,” he said.

“Why’s everybody always think I’m gonna do somethin’ stupid?” Majima whined, taking a seat in the chair that had been next to his own bedside the week previous, and was now next to Kiryu. “Y’know what’s stupid? Thinkin’ so hard about everythin’ that ya don’t do anythin’ at all. Somebody’s gotta be able to act fast. That’s all I do, y’know.”

“If you say so,” Emoto mumbled, in no mood to argue. “He’s pretty drugged up, by the way. I wouldn’t count on having any lively conversations.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Majima waved him off and turned his attention to Kiryu. There were bandages around his abdomen, yet again. He had a moment of deja vu. What was this, his third stab wound now? Fourth? If only Kiryu and Haruka had flown out a day earlier….

“So, any idea who did it?” Majima asked, not expecting an answer. Emoto replied, to his surprise.

“That Hamazaki guy.”

Majima’s heart skipped a beat. “Hamazaki Goh…?” he asked. He couldn’t believe his ears. Hamazaki should have been dead. The triads should have dealt with him by now. How did he survive long enough to come after Kiryu? Was he coming for Majima next?

“Yeah, they caught him, don’t worry. He’ll end up in prison for life. The cops seem pretty confident about that,” Emoto assured him.

“But…” Majima couldn’t let it go. This was his fault. If only he had never let Hamazaki go, back when he encountered him in Little Asia. His thoughts were racing.

Emoto could see his anger rising, his lip curling back with rage, so he approached Kiryu’s bedside and gave Majima a hard stare. “It’s unfortunate, but Kiryu will be fine. If you want to do something, then sit here and wait for him to wake up so you can talk. God forbid I ask you to wait for anything, though. You’ll probably just take off now that I’ve even suggested it,” he grumbled.

Majima didn’t like being preempted, so he glared and crossed his arms. “I ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

Emoto shrugged with disbelief, and took his seat at his desk. “We’ll see how long that lasts.” Clearly, he had no idea how stubborn the Mad Dog could be, once he had chosen his course of action. Once, he had stayed crouched inside a giant pylon for three hours, waiting for Kiryu to walk by. He could wait for him to come out of his narcotic nap.

At some point, duty called, and Emoto had to leave the room. Kiryu’s eyes snapped open as soon as he heard the door click shut, and Majima nearly fell out of his chair when he spoke.

“I’ve been awake the entire time,” Kiryu said.

“Obviously,” Majima snapped, as if he hadn’t been worried at all that Kiryu would be out cold for the rest of the day.

“I’d rather talk to you without Emoto here,” Kiryu continued, though the explanation was unnecessary. Majima could infer why he had been pretending to sleep. “I wasn’t intending for you to find out who did this, because I knew you’d blame yourself. Don’t do that.”

“Why the hell not?” Majima growled. “I coulda killed him. If Mine hadn’t killed Kanda, guess who else’d be stickin’ a knife in ya right now? ...Besides me.”

“I wouldn’t have killed Hamazaki, either. You did what you thought was right,” Kiryu argued.

“Yeah, right. Not like we’ve never gotten anybody killed before. Maybe we gotta start doin’ it intentionally before they take us all out.” Majima’s look was troubled, and he clenched his hands together to keep from reaching for his knife.

“If you did, I wouldn’t respect you anymore.” Kiryu scowled at him. “You’re a man of principle. That’s why I trust you.”

“Didn’t think that was where we left off.” Majima looked into Kiryu’s eyes, searching for some sign of resentment, but he was met with an equally searching gaze. Neither of them blinked as they fought silently through their expressions, each trying to discern the other’s intentions.

“Maybe it’s a good thing we aren’t leaving it at that, then,” Kiryu finally said, laying a heavy hand on Majima’s arm. “I can’t afford to lose any more friends.”

Majima thought it was odd that Kiryu was the one worried about losing his friendship, considering he had been the one who fucked up so badly in the first place. He sighed and shook his head.

“Some guys aren’t worth keepin’ as friends, Kiryu-chan. Thought ya’d gotten the message by now.”

“You’re full of shit,” Kiryu said matter-of-factly. “I’m glad you’re worried enough about me to say that, though. I know you don’t want me to let my guard down.”

Majima was ready to show him exactly why he shouldn’t let his guard down, but Kiryu held his arm in place before he could reach his knife.

“You don’t have to keep proving it, you know,” he said.

“Provin’ what?” Majima asked curtly.

“Proving that I’m too trusting,” Kiryu admitted, still holding his arm firm. “You were right when you said I was putting everyone before myself and playing the hero. You’ve been right every time you’ve called me naive. But I don’t regret my choices, and neither should you.” His tone was earnest. “If you regret the past, it’ll catch up with you. Keep living freely without looking back. I wasn’t worried about you dying in the literal sense when I left the roof of the hospital. I was worried about you losing yourself.”

Majima looked him over curiously. “Even though I’m the idiot responsible for all the shit ya’ve had to put up with?” he asked.

“Why do you only see that side of it?” Kiryu wondered. “You fucked up, but you also succeeded at a lot of what you set out to do. Don’t you think I’d have been stabbed a lot sooner if you hadn’t told me about what Hamazaki was planning?”

It was true enough, but it was far from the whole truth. Majima was more about the big picture than the little details. Overall, Kiryu was worse off for having associated with him.

“Y’know Daigo stopped trustin’ me, right?” he decided to confide, his voice bitter. “Found out he got Nishida to start keepin’ tabs on me. If even that numbskull can get it through his thick head that I’m no good, so should you.”

“Daigo is wrong,” Kiryu said with certainty. “You act without inhibition. You’re honest. He’ll be sorry if he stops trusting you.”

“Sounds like a threat,” Majima snickered. “You’re just provin’ him right.”

As patient and stubborn as Kiryu was, he was close to snapping. He pushed himself upright with a grunt of pain, hoping that sitting up straight would help him assert his point.

“Stop changing the subject and admit that you’re worried, or afraid, or something other obnoxious. And no, I won’t fight you over it,” he added quickly, before Majima could rise up on his haunches and spring an attack. “If you don’t calm down, I’ll have Emoto kick you out. I’m done fighting after all that’s happened. You should understand that.”

It hit him that this was a conflict he had had before, many years ago, with Saejima. Always running his mouth, always throwing punches, but never pausing to reason things out long enough to keep anyone close to him. Saejima had always chastised him for that. Most of the time, it was what he seemed to like about Majima, but that didn’t mean it never went too far. He made it clear that their friendship was conditional on Majima’s self-restraint.

Now, Kiryu was giving him that same look Saejima gave him that was simultaneously pleading and threatening. Talk it out, it said. Not just with asinine comments. Stop fighting for one second, and think.

“I get it,” Majima said solemnly, forcing himself to relax in his seat, struggling against his nature. Submission didn’t come easily to him after all he had been through, but the quiet strength of listening was something he had learned over time. It had kept him safe in Sotenbori for years. It had made him the successful patriarch that he was.

“Do you?” Kiryu asked sternly.

“Yeah.” Majima removed Kiryu’s hand from his arm gingerly, pulled each of his gloves off with care, and put his hands on Kiryu’s shoulders, his expression dead serious. “I’m done fightin’, too. I swear.”

Kiryu relaxed back into his pillows, and eyed Majima warily. “... I hope you’re serious.”

“‘Course I am,” Majima assured him, keeping his gaze fixed on Kiryu. He continued to grip his shoulders a little too tightly.

Kiryu wasn’t sure what was going to happen next, so he kept quiet and refrained from blinking. Finally, he looked down.

“You’re… getting off on this, aren’t you,” he realized with distaste. Tight leather pants didn’t exactly provide discretion.

“Yeah,” Majima nodded, still dead serious. It was a wonder he could keep a straight face when Kiryu’s expression was so hilariously distraught.

An awkward silence settled between them. Kiryu couldn’t decide how he felt about this turn of events. It was infuriating, partly because it was starting to arouse him. Grudgingly, he leaned forward.

“I’m only doing this because I probably won’t see you again.” He tugged at the waist of Majima’s pants and felt him shudder. “Hurry up, before Emoto gets back.”

Hurrying was no problem for Majima, and in an instant, he had kicked off his shoes, wriggled out of his pants, and climbed onto the hospital bed.

“Watch it,” Kiryu grunted between aggressive kisses, elbowing Majima in the gut to keep him from putting pressure on his abdomen. It still hurt, and he didn’t need the wound opening up on him. Emoto would have a fit.

When he’d had his fill, Majima put a knee on either side of Kiryu’s head, and braced himself when he felt the grip of a hand and the hot embrace of a mouth around his hard cock. He moaned when Kiryu’s tongue pressed against him, and when he let the tip fall from his lips.

“Can’t you be quieter?” Kiryu grunted, but he resumed hastily kissing and sucking from shaft to head. Majima groaned, and his breath caught as his hips began to move of their own accord. Kiryu had to restrain them, but tried to use the motion to his advantage. His own cock was pulsing against his abdomen by the time he tasted precum.

That was when Majima started to cough. “Shit,” he gasped, and pulled back suddenly, the back of his thigh hitting Kiryu’s bandaged wound.

On reflex, Kiryu yelled and shoved him off the bed, clutching his abdomen. This happened to coincide with Majima’s peak, and he fell to the ground simultaneously gasping out of pleasure, pain, and breathlessness.

Blood began to seep through Kiryu’s bandage, and he cursed, applying pressure to it even though it hurt like hell. This was the price he paid for thinking he could indulge Majima for one quick blowjob from his hospital bed. It didn’t even turn out to be worth it. Now he was bleeding, flaccid, and more irritated with the Mad Dog than when he’d walked in.

After inelegantly ejaculating all over both of them, the sheets, and the side of the bed on his way to the floor, Majima was exhausted. The pain in his chest was sharp, and he continued to wheeze for a few moments, trying to remember the breathing pattern Emoto had instructed him to use in times like these.

“Fuck you,” Kiryu grumbled, lifting his hand from his wound momentarily. The bleeding wasn’t stopping. He would need his bandage changed already. “This was an idiotic idea.”

Majima sprawled on the cold tile floor and closed his eye. “Shut up, I’m tryin’ to breathe,” he mumbled.

“You’re the one who should have shut up,” Kiryu said. “Half the building probably heard you. If Emoto heard you fall, he’s going to think we were fighting and come running in here.”

“Shut… up…” Majima repeated between breaths, but he yelped in surprise and started coughing again when the door flew open.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” Emoto screamed, half in frustration, half in despair. “Why do I even try?” He shielded his eyes and stomped over to the supply closet, retrieving a large roll of gauze and throwing it at Kiryu. “Redress that thing yourself. And you,” he pointed sightlessly in Majima’s general direction, “don’t stand up for another ten minutes. Then, change the bedding before my nurse gets back, or so help me, I will strangle you to death myself. No strenuous activity! I told you! Why is it so hard for you damn yakuza to follow simple instructions?” He continued to rage as he found his way back to the door and slammed it behind him.

“Ha ha, he was pretty pissed, huh?” Majima wheezed.

“You’re fucked,” Kiryu mumbled.

“Wanna go for round two?”

“No!” Kiryu roared, slamming his fist into the mattress since he couldn’t reach Majima’s face.

Majima remained undeterred. “Just gimme like, fifteen minutes. Relax. Ya gotta let out some of that tension, Kiryu-chan. It ain’t good for ya.” He ignored Emoto’s instructions and struggled back to his feet, clutching his chest, then slumped into the nearest chair.

“Why are you like this?” Kiryu sighed, staring up at the ceiling, lamenting his choice to listen to his dick instead of his brain.

“I got… stamina,” Majima told him very seriously and breathlessly. “Ya gotta have… stamina.” Then, he passed out.

Kiryu only waited a few moments before Majima shot up straight in his seat and looked around wildly.

“How long was I out?” he asked, leaving no pause for an answer before he reached for his pants and pulled them back on.

“About ten seconds,” Kiryu told him, looking between him and the soiled sheets with a frown, realizing he had no intention of cleaning up.

“Whew, I got plenty of time to get back to Kamurocho Hills, then!” Majima said jovially, straightening out his jacket as he stood to leave. “Thanks for the good-bye present, Kiryu-chan.”

“You’re leaving,” Kiryu stated, berating himself internally for thinking they were going to end their friendship any less awkwardly, and maybe even sentimentally.

“Yeah! But I’m gonna make it up to ya. Promise!” Majima assured him with a confident grin. “I got a plan!”

“What?” Kiryu asked, but Majima was already out the door. He sighed heavily. “Maybe it’s better like this,” he mumbled aloud as he began unraveling his bandage. “I’ll have another reason to stay away from Kamurocho if I don’t want to see that lunatic again.”

The sunshine welcomed Majima as he stepped outside. It was a good day, he thought, so he treated himself to some property destruction, and pulled a metal stop sign post straight out of the ground. This would be perfect for halting traffic once he mobilized the Majima Family. He was feeling inspired, and wanted to get to work on their new project as soon as possible.

Haruka was sitting on a bench down the street brooding over a can of soda when she saw Majima uproot the signpost, throw it over his shoulder, and swagger east toward Tenkaichi Street.

“Um, Majima-san?” she called out meekly. He stumbled and seemed genuinely surprised to see her sitting there, and she almost cracked a smile. “I’m sorry about earlier. And, I’m sorry I hit you the other day. I was being childish.”

“Huh?” Majima gaped. “You’re still thinkin’ ‘bout that?”

Haruka blinked. “Well… yes. You aren’t…?”

“I don’t give a shit!” he assured her happily, before starting back down his path to Kamurocho Hills. “Bye bye, Haruka-chan.”

Maybe it was the bounce in his step, or the grin on his face, or the twinkle in his eye; whatever it was, Haruka let go of her worries and eased back into her seat, smiling. If this was the last time she would see Majima, then at least he seemed happy. The least she could do was be happy, too.

Majima wasn’t much for sentimental good-byes, so he left Haruka behind without a second glance. What he had planned would be better, anyway.

Time to take responsibility. Time to make things right. Time to cheer the fuck up, and have some damn fun.

Chapter Text

Any day now, Kiryu would be discharged from the hospital. Haruka was over the moon. His recovery had been extended for some reason, and she had refused to return to Okinawa without him, opting to sleep on a bedroll next to him in his hospital room. At first, Kiryu had protested, but she was even more stubborn than he was. Nothing could convince her to leave his side.

Date came by to visit regularly, as did Daigo now that he was able to get around. The Florist sent bouquets (not just the informative kind). Kazuki and Yuya were able to stop in. Sometimes, Kiryu would expect to see Kashiwagi, and then remember he was gone. In those moments, he was glad Haruka had stayed, or else he would have been left alone to dwell on his loss.

For some reason, Majima never did show up again, and neither did Nishida - nor did anyone from the Majima Family, for that matter. Kiryu and Haruka regularly received texts, though, assuring them that although they were busy now, they planned to visit Okinawa. Majima offered to send more graphic messages than that, but Kiryu was quick to shut him down, since Haruka was usually sneaking glimpses at his phone over his shoulder.

Kiryu’s condition improved, his energy returned, and the day finally came for he and Haruka to fly home. It was overcast in Tokyo, but their flight from Narita took them above the clouds, where the sun shone brightly. Haruka pressed her face to the window, watching the sea of clouds roll by. She looked so happy. It made Kiryu forget all that had happened, at least for a short time.

When they arrived, Nakahara met them at the airport with Mikio. The kids were back home waiting, he told them. Kiryu wasn’t sure what that meanT, since they didn’t have a home to go back to. Sunshine Orphanage had been demolished. He figured Nakahara must be referring to the Ryudo Family building.

Yet, as their truck passed through the city, Kiryu realized they were heading for the coast. It was the route they would have normally taken back to the orphanage.

As they turned down the dirt road to their destination, the truck slowed to a crawl. Lining the street, on either side of them, were men in construction hats, putting their hands on their knees and bowing reverently.

“Are they…?” Kiryu almost asked if they were Ryudo Family men, but there were too many of them. The Ryudo Family was nowhere near this large. Then, the truck stopped at the gate, and it dawned on him that these were Tojo Clan men.

The truck rattled to a stop at the gate. There was Sunshine Orphanage, standing tall and proud, brand new and decorated with paper ornaments to welcome them home. There were his kids, all jumping for joy and wearing construction hats that were far too large for them. And there was Majima, crouched on his front steps, grinning and ruffling Mame’s ears with his gloved hands.

“M-Majima-san!” Haruka gasped, bolting out of the truck and across the yard to launch herself into his arms. Her affection made him a bit uncomfortable, but he patted her on the back and tried to loosen her grip on him.

“Hey, hey,” he mumbled. “Quit embarrassin’ me in front of your ojisan.” She laughed, and only hugged him tighter.

“Majima….” Kiryu was speechless. Nakahara and Mikio had both gotten out of the truck, and waited with bated breath for his reaction. Still stunned, he forced himself to climb out of the back seat and step through the freshly painted gate. The sun was bright. The air was salty and humid. It was as if Okinawa had been peaceful all along.

“What’s the matter, Kiryu-chan? Surprised to see me?” Majima taunted over Haruka’s shoulder. “Y’know I gotta get the jump on ya, or else I’ll lose my edge.”

As Kiryu trudged closer, greeting the children one by one, Majima finally saw that he was fighting back tears. Kiryu hid it better than most, but on the inside, he was just a big softie. Majima pretended the sight didn’t move him close to tears, too, and forced a grin instead.

“Ojisan, Majima-san taught us so much cool stuff while you were gone!” Taichi raved, jumping up and down with excitement.

Oh no, Kiryu thought, adopting his trademark scowl. His gratitude dissipated. Do I even want to know…? The other kids had encircled him, and were all chiming in now.

“We learned a new song!”

“I learned how to hold a knife.”

“Majima-san told me to ask you what the word ‘fuck’ means.”

“I did a cigarette!”

Kiryu dropped his suitcase and balled his fists, but Majima just shrugged.

“I mean, I dunno what ya been teachin’ these kids, Kiryu-chan, but they gotta learn how to survive on the streets,” he advised sagely. “If ya want, I can stick around and give ‘em some more pointers, turn ‘em into real badasses.”

If he hadn’t been surrounded by his children, Kiryu might have punched Majima to the moon.

“You don’t belong around children, Majima…” Kiryu said through gritted teeth, closing his eyes to block out the sight of his “best” friend kneeling down, handing the knife that stabbed his eye out to Koji, and encouraging him to show Kiryu his new moves.

“Well, I’m glad he’s here,” Haruka said, beaming up at Kiryu, ignoring Koji flinging a precariously sheathed tanto around behind her. “Majima-san made us a new house. He made us a family again.”

Majima was touched, and rubbed his neck in embarrassment. “Aw, Haruka-chan….”

Taking a deep breath and putting aside the subject of appropriate child-rearing behavior, Kiryu took a seat next to him on the wooden steps up to the building, and looked him straight in the eye. This is what Majima had meant when he said he had a plan. It was more than he could ever have anticipated. The past year had been a nightmare, and now, it felt like they were finally waking up.

“You saved us. I can't thank you enough.” Kiryu’s eyes were genuine. They started to water again as he turned them to watch the kids run around the yard with Mame, who had a brand new doghouse and toys. Majima had gotten it right, down to the last detail.

“It’s nothin’,” Majima assured him, waving his hand dismissively, swallowing the lump in his throat. “It’s a puny little place. Didn’t take much to put it back together. Besides, Nakahara’s the one ya gotta thank. I couldn’ta done it if he didn’t let my boys on his property.”

“Don’t listen to him,” Nakahara called out from the front gate, where he leaned on his cane, smiling. “It was his idea. I don’t have the manpower for something like this.”

Kiryu was still taking it all in. Majima was here. He had rebuilt the orphanage. His kids were safe. Haruka was safe. He was safe. It was surreal.

“I…” he began, but trailed off.

Majima clapped him on the back. “Look, don’t worry about it,” he said, as shouting and laughing kids drowned out his words so that only Kiryu could hear him. “Ya don’t owe me nothin’. Consider it a donation from the Majima Family for savin’ our asses. And, uh, here’s a little extra so you can go get a nicer shirt.” He handed him a ten thousand yen bill, and gave his tropical button-up a look of disapproval.

Kiryu stared at him as though he had two heads, and made no move to take the yen. “I still can’t believe you left Kamurocho for this,” he muttered.

Majima withdrew his cash, realizing Kiryu wouldn’t gain a sense of fashion no matter how much money he had. He shook his head.

“So dense, Kiryu-chan. Kamurocho gets borin’. Why wouldn’t I wanna go to the beach?”

“Because you have at least a few funerals to attend,” Kiryu said gravely, giving him a hard stare. Majima recoiled.

“I ain’t skippin’ out on those,” he said, sounding somewhat hurt. “Just ‘cause I’m lookin’ for better shit to do, don’t mean I’m leavin’ Daigo to do the hard stuff. I got a new suit and everythin’, y’know.”

Kiryu broke into a rare smirk. “I was kidding.”

Majima’s eye bulged. “Kiddin’?!” he roared, and almost wound up to slug Kiryu in the face before he remembered that children were watching, and pretended he was just stretching his arm. “Your sense of humor needs work, Kiryu-chan. That was low,” he grumbled.

Kiryu continued to half-smile as he looked toward the ocean, and rose from his seat with a grunt.

“I’m going for a smoke,” he said, and though he didn’t explicitly extend an invitation, Majima heard the implication in his tone. So, he followed him off the property, across the street, and down to the white sand beach.

They stopped at the edge of the water, watching the tide roll in and out as they each pulled out their packs of cigarettes and lit up. The sun was turning orange as it lowered toward the horizon, and the sky was a deep turquoise, almost the same color as the waves below it. It might have been romantic, if they hadn’t been a couple of gritty yakuza who couldn’t stomach the thought of getting too close to anyone anymore.

“Haruka’s going to want to know if you’re staying for dinner,” Kiryu said casually between drags, keeping his eyes on the gulls hovering past them, squawking for scraps of food.

“Nah,” Majima sighed, removing his construction helmet to let the breeze cool his head. “Gotta get back to Kamurocho tonight.”

“Right.” Kiryu nodded in understanding. “You’ve got a lot to do. Thanks again, for doing all of this. I won’t need to leave Okinawa again.”

“Yeah,” Majima muttered. A lump was forming in his throat, and he was angry that he couldn’t think of anything more to say.

He supposed they had already said everything that mattered, at some point or another. They believed in each other. They cared for each other. They knew their places in the world, and they knew they had to keep moving forward, but they would never hold each other in contempt. It was the way things were. Their paths were different. If they didn’t overlap again, that was just how it was meant to be. Neither of them were the type for wishful thinking, clinging to the past, or forcing themselves into the lives of people they loved.

But Majima did secretly entertain the thought of “retiring”. Okinawa was beautiful, and peaceful, and far from the drama of the mainland yakuza. He could shack up somewhere, hide his tattoo with an ugly tropical button-up like Kiryu did, play with kids all day and loaf around with small-time gangsters in the city, doing street deals and scoping out local hostess clubs. He could try Haruka’s curry, and train Taichi for pro wrestling, and play fetch with Mame while the kids ate their lunches. He could lie in the sand under a palm tree, dozing and watching the days pass him by. Maybe, sometimes, he could even stay at the orphanage after dinner and into the night, teasing Kiryu for being too strict, getting chastised for being too loud....

It would be so easy. That was exactly why he couldn’t do it.

A lifetime of difficulty meant he didn’t know how to live easily. It would leave him restless and irritable. It would slow his ambitions, sedate him, make him a shell of a person, like he had been in Sotenbori when he ran the Grand. That wasn’t who he was. He was free, and always would be.

“I know ya ain’t askin’ for favors this time,” Majima said. “But if ya want me to drop some flowers off at any graves or whatever, text me.” He stomped out the butt of his cigarette, then retrieved it so as not to desecrate the pristine beach. Not one for self-restraint, he threw an arm around Kiryu’s shoulders and took one last whiff of his awful cologne before plucking the cigarette from between his lips and pressing their foreheads together.

“And good luck findin’ a lady as attractive as Goromi out in the boonies,” he snickered, stealing a kiss that lasted longer than he intended and ended with Kiryu shoving him backwards.

“We’re on a public beach,” Kiryu scolded, surveying the path up to the roadside, hoping that no one had bothered to look in their direction.

“Yeah, yeah,” Majima said, shoving the still lit cigarette he held back into Kiryu’s mouth none too gently. “Well, I’m off to round up the family. Later, Kiryu-chan.”

Kiryu returned to his smoke, and Majima trudged through the sand to the dirt road. It wasn’t such a bad end to the trip, he thought. They had made their peace. He could go back to running the family without worrying about the safety of Kiryu and Haruka. Sunshine Orphanage would always be there, down in the south, serene and secure. It was comforting to think that even though he could never live there himself, Majima would be able to return to that place in his mind, and put his curiosity to sleep.

As he barked instructions to Nishida and sent him with the megaphone to line up the Majima Family for their departure, Majima paused. Haruka was standing outside the gate, staring him down. Just when he thought the most difficult good-bye was over with, she had to go and tug at his heartstrings.

“You’re leaving now, right?” Haruka asked, but didn’t wait for an answer. “It’s okay, I understand. A couple years ago, I might have cried or asked you to stay. And when ojisan was hurt, I cried, too. But I won’t cry now. I just want you to know that I appreciate everything you did for us.” She bowed. “Here. You should have this.”

Majima was frozen in place, listening to his heart pounding in his ears as she reached into the pocket of her vest and drew out a round locket on a gold chain. She held out her hand, offering it to him. He didn’t move.

“Take it,” she told him gently, looking into his eye. “We don’t need it now that we live together. Take it, or I’ll worry that you’ll forget about us.”

“Ya think my memory’s that bad?” Majima asked incredulously.

“No, I don’t mean you’ll forget who we are. You’ll forget that we care about you,” Haruka explained, taking his hand and folding the locket into it. “You get careless sometimes, Majima-san. Please stay safe.”

There was no arguing with her. Haruka didn’t see him as a low-life thug. She saw him as family. Majima didn’t feel he deserved to have a kid care about him that much, but realized that was exactly why Haruka wanted him to remember what she had done today. She had reminded him his life was worth living, not just for himself, but for those who loved him.

“Thanks, Haruka-chan. I won’t forget,” Majima promised. He tucked the locket into his jacket, and paused, expecting her to start crying or force him into a hug. Instead, she bowed gracefully, smiled, and waved as she walked back into the yard.

“Later, Majima-san!” she called out to him.

He smiled, and turned his back on Sunshine Orphanage for the last time.