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Leverage

 

Never good at obeying orders, Kiri scooped up her chips and headed to the bar herself. She took a stool behind Nanahara and eavesdropped.

“...going to shut down? Why?”

“Well, with the virus and all, it doesn't seem like a good idea to stay open.”

“You're full. You should keep it running until the people stop coming in. We have an arrangement.”

“You get a piece of the take cuz this is your turf and you help keep the cops offa our back. If we're closed, you don't gotta do nothin'. So whaddya care if we close or not? You ain't makin' that much offa us.” Sugimoto's accent was stronger than Nanahara's.

“You think the cops are just going to stop asking for their payout? All the businesses are taking losses – casinos are one of the few still bringing in cash. It makes a difference. Unless you're planning to move again to somewhere out of my territory, this place is under my watch. I don't want it closed.”

“Tsunakawa, we ain't your men. We ain't your family. We had a deal and it don't give you that right over us. It's only for a month or two. You ain't going broke in that amount of time. It ain't safe to keep this place running. Not health-wise.” Nanahara was trying to be reasonable.

“That's right, you're not mine. You're not anyone's anymore. So keep this place open. People get sick, that's their problem. You don't like it, then disappear and take all this shit with you or I'll claim it for myself. Yashiro, damn him, had a talent for choosing locations and this one is perfect.”

“Motherfucker! You can't-”

“Buy it off them, then.” Kiri was horrified. Her mouth had just opened up and spewed out words.

“What? Who the hell are you? Shut up, and keep out of our business.” Tsunakawa did not like women telling him what to do, apparently.

“Kiri!” Nanahara glared at her.

“Don't tell me to shut up, asshole. If you want their business, make them a fair offer for it. They did all the work, they brought the customers in, they take all the risks. Are you just a lowlife thief, or a boss with some kind of honor? They might not be a part of your...association anymore, but that doesn't mean they should be treated like this. They stuck to your rules, you owe them some respect.”

“Someone take this little bitch away, please!”

One of his men approached her and Nanahara got in his way. “Touch her and die.”

Oh fuck.

“Seriously, Nanahara? You going to war over a pussy?”

“You kiss your daughter with that mouth?”

“Don't you dare mention my daughter, you piece of shit!” He studied Kiri. “How'd you score this one? She expensive?”

“Do you really want this kind of reputation?” Kiri asked, ignoring his insults. “Doesn't it look weak – threatening to steal the business of someone you had a deal with? Won't other people start to worry you might steal their businesses, too? I know Yashiro isn't yakuza anymore, but that doesn't mean he can't talk and spread rumors.”

Tsunakawa reacted to that, finally. She'd caught him with an important point he hadn't considered. “Rumors.”

“That you've gotten so weak, you're resorting to this kind of behavior. A family's status is based on its power, isn't it? I don't know where you stand, but you'll lose face if this gets out. And it will get out. Discuss it like civilized men. Find a compromise. Rent their equipment and staff the place yourself. Buy them out. Give them the month or two off they're asking for. Don't steal it like a petty thief.”

“Petty. Nanahara, your girlfriend has a big vocabulary.” I've moved up in rank.

“She does. She's way too smart for me.”

“I can't afford to buy you out. Everything's a mess right now.” Tsunakawa downed the scotch he'd ordered when he first arrived. “If you guys let me put a couple of people here to run this place while you go off and do whatever you were planning to do for the next month, how much would you want?”

Nanahara waved him to Sugimoto. “He's better with that stuff. Besides, he's buying me out, so this place will be all his anyway.”

“Fuck, Nanahara! You're not even a part-owner? Why'd you even bother?”

“Because. He may not be my partner after next week, but he's still my brother. It ain't in my nature to stand by and watch someone take what's ours or threaten the people I care about. I'm old-fashioned that way. I'll never abandon them. Doesn't need blood or vows made with sake. Sugimoto, me, and Yashiro been a family for fifteen years almost.”

“Yashiro left you for Doumeki.”

“Nah. He's still looking out for us, and we for him. Don't forget that. Ain't none of us alone.”

“Fine. I don't want Yashiro flapping his mouth about me, so let's make a new deal. Sugimoto?”

“Gimme the weekend to come up with some numbers.”

As Sugimoto and Tsunakawa talked, Nanahara dragged Kiri back to the office. Uh oh. I'm in trouble.

But all he did was hold her tight. “Crazy. You're crazy. I almost died when I heard your voice.”

“I'm sorry! I shouldn't have interfered. I spoke without thinking!”

“If you spewed out all that without thinking, I'd hate to see you when you were on top of your game. You came up with the perfect way to make him shut up and listen. You gave us...uh, what's the word? Helps you move something...”

“Leverage?"

“That's it. He's real touchy about his status. Their family almost collapsed a while back and he's been slowly building it back up. And you were right about Yashiro being able to tear that all down with nasty rumors.” She felt him take a deep breath. “It was dangerous. But you helped us. So, thanks.”

That was unexpected, that he would admit she was helpful, thank her even. She'd been ready for an epic scolding for having the audacity to butt into men's business.

She pulled back far enough to see his face. “You're not mad?”

“Hell yes, I'm mad! I almost got my ass kicked before we could take any of that training together. That fucker ruined your fun and called you some names I'm going to make him pay for someday.”

“Mad at me, I mean?”

“What for? Speaking your mind? Defending us? I guess I did order you to stay away, but shit, I ain't your keeper. And I'm an idiot – nobody ever listens to me.” He grinned at her. “You're okay, I'm okay. That's a win, far as I'm concerned. We were a team, yeah? I'll hold 'em off, you tear 'em a new asshole with that vocabulary of yours.”

She laughed. This man was dangerous for her heart. Her Bad Man. Her nice guy. She could get used to being this boss's lady.

KiriNana

And...let's end it there. The Tokyo Yaoiverse had a little action in this one! Next week...who knows? Not me! See you soon!