His fingers pressed the keys in rapid session stringing together the ideas in his mind. Kane Industries ran like a well oiled machine and taking into account the council of his advisors he sent an email to the head of his research department—a man he’d known and trusted since his adopted father was in control of the company. The cloudy sky loomed above and the low rumble signaled the approach of yet another rainstorm. He hated days like this, feeling tired and sluggish was no fun. He cracked his knuckles and sipped his steamy cup of coffee determined to wade through the numb afternoon. For the past two years he worked on the prototype for a new gaming console with the full intent to enter the ‘console wars.’ Ignoring the official recommendation by the legal executor of the company—Ray Hosokawa to focus on virtual military systems Kane worked tirelessly to become a full competitor within the gaming industry. Even to the point of creating a separate division of Kane Industries in a new division called ‘Purgatory Games’. A full scale gaming company which had released several successful PS4 and Xbox One games. Kane counted down the months to his twentieth birthday, the day he would be declared an adult and gain full control over the company. But the thought of what he would officially do weighed heavily on his mind. Ray Hosokawa, the Vice President was a good man but a part of him did not trust him taking full control over his company. He pushed the matter from his mind and stood up stretching his long legs in his dark suit. He kept his hair in a short buzz cut often stroking the smooth soft hairs against his hand, a habit he tried to break only to fail without thinking.
‘Dai.’ Kane said the name inside his head as if he was invoking a spirit. He checked his watch and it wasn’t nearly time to go yet. ‘I still have time to check on that development team.’ He thought heading out of his office.
“How is everything going?” he headed to the cubicle where a woman seemed to be going over the specs of the new system.
“I’m having some issues with the components but nothing I can’t handle, sir.”
“Good. We’re a new company so our reputation isn’t as good as Sony’s and Microsoft’s. If we release a shitty console customers would lose faith so keep working on it.”
He checked his watch again. He had to meet Dai for lunch soon and he didn’t want to be late.
Dai sat in class watching the clock tick away and every single minute turned into an hour. He didn’t want to leave his Grandfather alone, he struggled maintaining the shop but the older man urged him out the door with promises that he would be fine. ‘I hope that’s the truth.’ Dai said to himself.
“Mr. Uie! Mr. Uie!”
The teacher’s voice broke through his thoughts and he snapped at attention. “Yes, Mrs. Hansai?”
“I asked you if you’re finished with your paper.”
The entire page was blank. “Uh, no Mrs. Hansai.”
The abrasive chubby woman stood like a drill sergeant and marched the narrow row of desks until she reached his and as he tried to cover his paper, his face flushed red she snatched at the page. “Mr. Uie! Why am I even surprised?
You’re failing this class any way.”
The bell rang and the joyful students—relieved to be out of her class, gathered their supplies and headed out the door. Dai buried his face in his hands. She was right, he was failing. Not just her class but almost every class he had. He knew he was never the best student—unless they gave grades based on quietness and that was unlikely. In the worst case scenario he would have to repeat his final year as he would never pass any of the University entrance exams. He sighed deeply releasing his pent up tension. He thought of everything he had to overcome–Now his grandfather was ill. Every time he got better something else would come along worse than before. The only response he could give his friends was that he had the flu, but he feared the sickness was a lot worse and no matter how many doctors they visited they could never discover the cause. The doctor listed off possible causes, humidity, dust , so on giving them more medicine to buy and yet another doctor’s bill to pay off before sending them home.
“Look, our grades are posted here; we’re going to see what we got. I might get the highest honors.” Aya boasted as
Dai approached her in the hall.
“Tsk.” Sato approached Dai once he separated himself from the crowd. “Looks like all you know how to do is suck cock.”
Dai rounded on the teen. “Fuck off.” He shot back before attempting to walk away, the rage boiled inside of him.
“That tattoo you have. I hear it’s all over your body. Is it true that you got it from sucking Yakuza cocks?”
“You want me to suck you off or something?” Dai pressed his body against him. “Is that why you wanna know? I’m a real good cock sucker.” Dai gritted his teeth ready to fight.
“Freak!” The teen backed off.
‘Asshole.’ Dai thought taking his leave, he had half a mind to just never return to the school and the more he thought about it the better of an idea it became; it seemed to solve all his problems. He was always worried about his grandfather’s health and he knew he struggled to run the shop. ‘Besides, I don’t even think I’ll ever get into a University let alone want to go if I do.’
Aya noticed Dai heading to the foot locker and promptly followed catching her breath before she spoke. “Dai, it’s the middle of school, why are you leaving?”
“I just have to go home. That’s all.”
Aya noticed something was still bothering him and she wanted to do whatever she could to help. “Dai, if there is something going on, you should know by now that you can tell me.”
He appreciated her concern but was in no mood to open up, he felt almost as if speaking about his troubles made them real and he wasn’t ready to face that.
“Hey I got the perfect idea! When we graduate why don’t you come to New York with me? There are plenty of Universities there. It would be so cool!”
“Aya, I can’t. I doubt I would be able to pass the exams to even get into a University. Besides, money has been tight lately. I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
Aya fidgeted, her brown eyes turning to the floor. ‘But why would they be low on money? With so many Gamers in Tokyo alone, they should have more than enough money.’
They reached the relic of a shop connected to a row of other buildings along the downtown city streets. With its well stocked shelves and old fashioned counter—the place smelled of dust and scent of wood almost far away from the glass and steel of modern shops. It was dark and empty and nearly devoid of life—a killer for any business. Dai rushed to flip the switch on the lights and prepared the small number of bills for the cash register. Aya sauntered about trying to grasp just what was happening.
“My Grandpa hasn’t been feeling well lately and I’ve been leaving school early sometimes to open the shop.” Dai confessed watching for her reaction.
“That’s why you’ve been leaving school?”
“Yeah, this is our only income and with the shop opening late or not at all we barely make any money.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“But still…” She felt sorry for the way things were going for him. She wondered if he had hurt someone powerful in a past life with the mess his life was turning into. Dai noticed Aya staring off in her own thoughts for a moment, he knew she pitied him and he suddenly wanted to tell her to leave but instead he smiled at her assuring her everything would be okay.
The worn wallpaper peeled down in various colors of pee yellow to black mold matching the substances on it. The sunlight shined through the cracks of the dilapidated roof, the floor board looked as though one wrong step would trigger a fall into the dark hole that was the basement. The bar was a rustic ragged mess, the shelves missing, along with any indication that this place was anything other than the abomination the city deemed it as. It was an old club located in the heart of Koenji, the birthplace of the Tokyo punk scene. Once a Mecca of art and music, where old bands longed to play their tunes was now…this. Shouta could smell the musky scent of rain water and wood and he heard the squeak of a family of mice nearby. This was going to be a lot of work.
“You think you can do this?” Ein asked covering her nose from the earthy dust and stench. Something was dead nearby, she just knew it.
“Well, it’s definitely a fixer upper.” Shouta replied watching a beetle scurry across the floor.
“I’m glad you asked me to come along on your little venture.” She said after a beat. She had worked as a bartender for Grunge City for more than four years, something that was supposed to be a temporary job until she worked up enough money to ‘leave my shit neighborhood and shit life’ behind. But nothing was ever temporary when finances were concerned and she found herself enjoying every aspect of her job from the bands that played there waiting for their dreams to come true to the energy of the patrons who decided their fates. Ein was a colorful woman—colorful both literally and figuratively. Her hair was a long straight shooter fiery red, her limbs were long and slender, and her outfits were always full of vigor and didn’t at all match but they looked good on her; a light pink tank top and puke green leather pants and grey boots with the right outfit she could easily look like some vixen from an old film noir.
“I’m glad ya came.” Shouta smiled at the woman enjoying her company immensely.
“And yes, I’ll be your bartender…if that’s why you really called me here.” She laughed wickedly.
“Can I just have a friend here for moral support?” Shouta smiled along. ‘She saw right through me as usual.’
“Of course…I’m just staking my claim on this shit hole”
“Ha ha, it won’t be for long.”
“Actually, I want ya to be more than a bartender. I was wonderin’ if ya wanna be my partner.”
“Yeah. I can’t do this alone. I know ya always talkin’ of one day ownin’ ya own place…it may not be how ya pic…”
“Yes! My god yes!!” She shouted with a squeal.
“Really? Ya in?!”
“Hell yeah! I can’t imagine not sayin’ yes!” She calmed down for a moment. “But I only have ¥911,400 yen ($7,000) in my savings.”
“That’s good. It only means that we need another partner.”
“Hm.” Ein placed her cracked black polish finger to her lips. “I think I may know someone who could help but give me some time, okay?”
“Alright!” Shouta celebrated scooping her into a big bear hug.
Dai yawned and stretched his heavy limbs, he licked his pursed cracked lips hungry for the taste of hot food. He waved Aya goodbye and locked the shutters on the doors. With no one entering the doors of the desolate shop he decided to cut his losses and close up. Nightfall approached, and although he left the shop open later than usual the act only brought in one or two extra customers than before. The chilly wind licked at his flesh from the open window.
The falafel vendor once again had a long line of customers to deal with. ‘Maybe I should turn this place into a falafel shop.‘ Just as he closed the living room door the phone rang. He couldn’t shake the nagging feeling he had forgotten to do something earlier.
“Who is this?” Dai’s voice trembled slightly.
“Is… Grandpa there?”
“Vergil?!” He gasped taking the phone harshly from his ear. He couldn’t believe this; he couldn’t believe his grandfather would stay in contact with him! ‘Of all people!’
“If he can’t talk then it’s okay.” The raspy voice spoke on the other end in a perfect flow of Italian. “I think you and I need to talk especially. To clear the air.”
“There’s nothing to talk about!” Dai shot back in the romance language.
“We need to think about the future, about…arrangements… I know he’s sick and–”
“Fuck you!” Dai slammed the phone and pressed his fingers against the corner of his eyes. His distant brother was the last person he’d ever wanted to hear from, he wasn’t ready to face him, not after everything that happened between them long ago. He collected himself and took a deep breath. ‘It’s over.’
A phone ranged a customary tune and Dai brashly picked up the house phone. “What?!” Nothing but the sound of the beep. ‘Oh yeah my cell.‘ He laughed madly to himself while answering the call.
“Dai.” Kane sighed.
“I’m so sorry! I knew I was forgetting something but this has not exactly been the best weeks of my life.”
“I hate being stood up.” Kane’s deep voice reflected his annoyance.
“I’m super sorry! I just haven’t had time for…anything.”
Kane tone reflected a willingness to listen. “It’s okay. What’s going on?”
“I’ve been keeping the shop open later for extra money. Uh…my grandfather is having a rough time and he’s not able to run it so I come home early from school to do it and because I’m opening late I’ve been keeping it open overtime.”
He could hear Kane’s breathing on the other end and he wondered what he could be thinking but it did not take long for the other to respond. “Is there anything I can do?”
“No. It’s my own problem. We’re not about to be set out on the street or anything.”
“Well then can we meet up again?”
“Sure.” Dai grew silent for a moment. “Actually we can meet up tomorrow night. There’s no school so we’re all going to meet up at Suziko’s for some sushi.”
“Yeah.” Kane replied sarcastically. “Like your friends would be happy to have me there.”
Dai smiled. “Since when have you ever cared about that?”
“Fine.” Kane laughed. “I’ll come.”
“Good. Tomorrow night at eight p.m.”