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Like a Panther: Kiwami

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The room is palatial, beautiful Western-style carpets and drapery, lined by deep leather seats, and a larger, almost throne-like seat at the head of the line, like the seat a King or Lord would use to dictate to his people.

All seats bar the largest were filled. Men in suits, varying styles, cuts and colours, all with gold-coloured buttons in their lapels.

Directly to the right, an older-looking, balding man with a pronounced chin-strap beard, glasses framing his face, wearing a dark white suit and surprisingly flamboyant pink dress shirt beneath.

Nearby, a younger, portly man in a lavish, patterned, purple silk suit jacket, wearing all black beneath and a gold chain around his neck, holding a lit cigar in one hand.

Further down the line, a man who appeared to be far too young to be among this company, with long brown hair, eyes that appeared almost crimson, wearing a high-quality, dark grey suit and a pair of black gloves.

Even as every man in the room muttered amongst themselves - sans the three previously noted - about why they had been called here, the two large doors to the room opened. Silence filled the space as they all stood and bowed at varying angles.

A man stepped in and took his place in the seat at the head of the group. A man who appeared to be in his mid fifties, wearing a French-cut navy blue suit, a red cravate beneath his white shirt, and tinted glasses on his nose.

After he took his seat, the room remained silent for an extensive period of time. Until one man spoke up. The man in the purple jacket. Having noticed the sudden silence, he put his cigar aside in an ashtray and stood before speaking in a calculated tone, one that seemed almost not to fit his large frame.

“Alright, I gotta ask, if no-one else will. Why are we all here? Why call this meeting, Chairman Okumura?”

The man didn’t respond for some time, simply looking straight ahead for a long moment before he turned to face the man in purple. “I have called this meeting at the behest of another. He has requested that all major members of the Clan be witness to what he has to say.”

The purple suited man was suddenly enraged. “You? Taking orders from somebody else in the Clan? Shit, we must be going downhill like the Tatsumi Alliance wants everyone to think if the fucking Chairman is taking orders from some lowly patriarch!”

“Kaneshiro!” The voice came from the man in the white suit, a sharp noise designed to prevent an outburst. “Might I remind you that you speak to the Chairman of the Nagoshi at this moment?”

Kaneshiro growled and sat back down angrily, grabbing his cigar. “Alright, fine, I’ll bite. So who’s called this meeting, if not you, Boss?”

The chairman’s head moved slowly, looking past Kaneshiro to move further down the line at the young man in grey. “Akechi-san of the Sameru Association.”

The man in question stood with a smile so sincere it seemed fake before moving to the centre of the room, placing one gloved hand on his chest, and bowing to Okumura. “Okumura-sama, I thank you for permitting me this opportunity.”

“Him?!” Kaneshiro’s rage reared its ugly head once again. “He’s not even a fucking Patriarch! You really called a meeting on the word of somebody whose family we don’t even know the real boss of?!”

“Kaneshiro!” The older man called out again, his tone once again much more serious, immediately preventing Kaneshiro from saying anything more.

Ignoring the scowling Kaneshiro and nodding respectfully to the older man, he turned once again to speak to the chairman. “I’m afraid I must ask you, sir, in front of all of these esteemed members of the Clan, about a recent incident that has come to my attention…”

Okumura’s eyes narrowed as he looked over at Akechi, who simply smiled.

***

Two Days Later

Kamurocho, Tokyo

“Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me!” the man in the long brown coat grumbled as he held the phone to his ear. “I understand that this is Homicide’s jurisdiction, but come on! The man was a bigwig in a well-known crime syndicate! At least let one of our guys lead alongside yours.”

The woman heard her commanding officer grumbling even as she entered the office. Her ears immediately pricked up upon hearing him use the phrases “Homicide”, “crime syndicate” and “lead”. Something was happening. Likely something she needed to know about.

“Alright, then it’s a deal. I’ll send one of my detectives to follow Kawara-san’s lead on the case. That way we can at least make the public think that Homicide and OC get along, even if it’s clearly not the case. Right. Alright, until then. Bye.”

“Sir, might I ask what that was about?” the woman asked, walking up to her boss’s desk.

“Eh, just Homicide trying to flex their muscles on us again. Some guy got offed and his body was found on Tenkaichi Street, and they identified him as a yakuza with close ties to the local clan.”

“Th-the Nagoshi Clan, sir? Please, let me be the one you send to work with them! I know I’m still new to this, but I can prove my worth to the division with this case, sir! I promise!”

The boss paused for a long moment. “Forget it, Niijima.”

Makoto blinked. “What? But sir…”

“I said forget it. You’re still too green. And besides, don’t think I forgot the interview we conducted when you joined OC. You admitted that you wanted to look into the Nagoshi Clan from the off, because of the fact their captain died five years ago in the same accident that killed your father. Sae-san told me the same thing, on top of that.”

“It wasn’t an accident, sir! I know that they--”

“That’s enough, rookie. There’s no way I’m sending a greenie out to investigate a yakuza murder. Especially with this much personal baggage.”

The words fell into a pregnant pause. A long moment passed before Makoto reached into her pockets and beneath her suit jacket, pulling out her badge and government-issued pistol and practically tossing them on the desk in front of her.

“In that case, I resign. I’ll investigate this myself. As a civilian, if I have to.” Without another word, and not once looking back, even as her former boss yelled out at her, Makoto Niijima walked out on her dream job to follow the path she felt she was destined to follow.

***

Elsewhere in Kamurocho…

The men wore suits of an older, far out of style cut. Their dress shirts were gaudy, patterned and coloured, clearly of a style that more befit the bubble economy of the 1980’s instead of the here and now. The blonde clearly disliked what she saw as she looked at them, her beautiful face impassive, twisted in a scowl of annoyance as she looked at them, groveling in their seats as they begged.

“Please, Takamaki-san. We can’t pay now. But our loan payments will come back within the next week, I promise you!”

“You said that two weeks ago, Hachijo-san. And the people I’m beholden to are becoming less and less inclined to agree with you.” Her red satin shirt shifted as she leaned forward in her seat, the golden pin depicting leaves on a branch shining in the light of a nearby lamp. “You know how gokudō treat failure, right? And if I’m unable to get you to pay yet again after giving you leniency before, they won’t hesitate. And I’ll be sure to come back here afterwards…” When she looked at him now, her blue eyes almost seemed to glow with an unreasonable anger. “...I’ll be looking to get my pound of flesh back from you.”

The man flinched visibly at the look before indicating to another man, who procured a steel suitcase and placed it in front of her. She immediately opened it to find several stacks of bills, all printed with the visages of former Emperors, all in order.

She snapped the suitcase closed and handed it to another woman, one of a similar age with black hair and a similar outfit, though with white and black as the dominant colours.

“Always a pleasure doing business with you, Hachijo-san. Though for both our sakes, I hope it’s the last time.” She stood and adjusted her shirt before nodding to the other woman, who led them both outside.

“Amazing as always, Aniki.” The dark-haired woman smiled as they headed down the street, moving towards a nearby French-styled cafe.

“Stop sucking up, Shiho.” Takamaki did say it in a playful tone, despite the harshness of the words. “No way you’re getting me to buy you anything from the counter this time.”

“But Ann…” Shiho pouted cutely.

“No buts. You got a problem with it, you take it up with the Boss.” Chuckling, she led her into the cafe.

***

Three days later…

Makoto Niijima’s near red eyes looked up at the sign with determination gleaming within them. Cafe Leblanc . This was the place.

Finally, after three whole days of trying, she would get her chance. Here, she’d finally start finding answers...