Chapter 7:

A Shot at Redemption


Kento fidgeted in his chair. He was early, even by his standards. After last night he’d had trouble sleeping. Every small noise made him check his phone, worried that it might be Aiya calling for help. He knew the kind of man that bastard was, and they were persistent. He knew because he was like them at a time. He hadn’t earned the title of the White Dragon for nothing. Even though he was only a kid he was feared by anyone who knew about him. It wasn’t a past he was proud of, but it was useful to scare that guy off. He gave himself a wry smile. If the people he called friends back then could see him now they surely wouldn’t believe their eyes.

The elevator dinged, sending Kento flying to his feet. The anticipation of that very sound had built so high it became a pipe bomb of nerves in his heart. Rin stepped out of the elevator. She looked over at Kento, her face expressionless. Kento felt a pang of guilt. Usually, she would be bounding over to his desk to come to annoy him. He never liked when she did that, but this was somehow even worse.

“Ms. Sugiyama!” he called out. “Can I please talk with you?”

“How can I help you, Mr. Shifutu?” She asked. She was in full-on business mode. Just like with Aiya it cut Kento deeper than he expected to have Rin act so cold to him. He steeled himself, drowning his pride.

“I’m sorry,” he said. He was surprised at how genuine his voice sounded. “I treated you poorly, and you deserve better. I’m sorry I hurt you with what I said.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. Shifutu,” Rin said. She brushed by Kento and walked into the conference room. “You and I are merely coworkers. There is no need to apologize for anything.”

“Look, I’m trying, ok,” Kento said, following her. “I know I can be a difficult person to deal with, but I’m really trying here.” He pulled a small flat box from his pocket. He offered it to Rin, bowing as low as he could without losing his balance. This wasn’t a time to look dignified. “I got you this. Please, accept it as a token of my apology. I don’t want to fight you anymore.”

Rin finally turned around to face Kento. She didn’t say a word, letting him stew for a bit. She was trying to see if he would back out if she didn’t accept. Kento didn’t move a muscle. He was determined to see this through. Rin sighed, dropping her defenses as she took the box. Inside was a simple bracelet.

“It’s really pretty,” Rin said, slipping it on. Kento straightened his posture, a relieved smile on his face.

“It was a set of four,” he said.

“And where are the other three?” she asked.

“You’re not the only person I treated poorly,” Kento said, cringing at the memory of his fight with Aiya. “I gave one to Aiya and one to a friend of ours. The last one is at my apartment. I’d wear it, but it’s a little girly for my tastes.”

“And here I was hoping to see you in drag,” Rin said. Her expression was neutral, which was a lot better than the cold look she wore just a minute ago.

“I’m really sorry,” Kento said. “About everything. I have my reasons for how I am, but I should have been more considerate to you.”

“Kento, what reasons could you have?” Rin asked. She sounded more defeated than angry. “I mean, I’d understand if you were just bad with people, but you’re actively pushing everyone away, and for what? A stupid rule?”

“When I was young I almost went to juvie,” Kento said. This sparked Rin’s attention. “I was a bad kid. I got into a lot of fights, and I was really good at it. I even formed a little gang. We had principles, but we’d still beat up anyone who crossed us.”

“How many times did you hurt people?” Rin asked. Her tone softened slightly. This was clearly hard for Kento to talk about.

“Let’s just say it was really easy to cross us,” Kento said. “We’d do it for money too, or if someone told us about some ‘injustice’ that had happened to them. At the time I told myself I was fighting for the little guy, helping people who couldn’t help themselves. In reality, I was just looking for an excuse to fight. I made a name for myself though. The White Dragon. I was untouchable and feared by anyone who knew who I was, and had it not been for a stupid mistake I made I would have probably been in prison by now.”

“How so?” Rin prompted. She didn’t want to push Kento, but she was also really curious about what happened. Kento quickly explained how he had seriously injured a rich kid and was made to pay off a debt.

“I feel awful about what happened that day,” Kento said. “But in a way, it was a blessing.”

“How is that a blessing?” Rin asked, disbelief seeping into her voice.

“About a week before the fight I was approached by a member of the Yakuza,” Kento said. “They wanted to recruit me. I would start as hired muscle and move my way up. At least, that’s what he told me. I was planning on accepting his offer, but then I got my reality check.”

Rin could barely believe what she was hearing. Just the thought that someone she had known so long could have such a dark past was hard to hear. She couldn’t imagine Kento being a run-of-the-mill thug, much less a member of the Yakuza. He was a good guy. He had clearly worked very hard on changing himself.

“So you work so hard so you can have money when you need it?” Rin asked.

“That’s a part of it,” Kento said. He looked to the side, self-conscious about his next words. “It’s also for you. I know under how much pressure you are from clients with our deadlines. If a few extra hours make your life easier then I’d happily work them.” Rin was genuinely surprised by this. She didn’t think anyone in the office knew how much she had to struggle every day. It warmed her heart to hear how much Kento cared, even if he didn’t say it directly.

“I’ll forgive you for what you did if you start calling me Rin,” Rin said with a cheeky smile.

“Not a chance,” Kento immediately replied.

“Why not!?” Rin asked in a childish whine. Kento couldn’t help but crack a smile too. It seemed like everything would turn out alright. It kept looking that way right up until Rin’s smile disappeared, and her eyes darkened.

“I’m really happy you told me all of this, Kento,” she said. “And I think I understand where you’re coming from. That being said, I’m not going to keep begging you to be my friend. You clearly don’t want that, and I can’t force you to care about me. From now on I’ll stop forcing myself on you, and treat you like a coworker.”

Kento bit his bottom lip. He wanted to say something. He wanted to scream at Rin that he wanted to be her friend too, but the professional part of his brain got the better of him.

“Sounds good,” he said, turning his back and walking out of the conference room.


“So I assume things with Rin went well?” Aiya asked, typing away at her keyboard.

“Yeah, Ms. Sugiyama and I are back to an amicable professional relationship,” Kento said. Aiya suspected he wasn’t telling the whole truth, but she decided that he wasn’t the person to ask about it. She had a much more open book she could read, after all.

“Please excuse me for a minute,” she said. She got out of her chair and made a b-line for the conference room. Rin was on the phone and signaled for her to wait a moment. It ended up taking a bit more than a moment, but Rin finally hung up the phone.

“Yes, Aiya?” she asked with a weary tone. “How can I help you?”

“I wanted to hear how things went with Kento,” Aiya said. She could have beat around the bush with pleasantries first, but she couldn’t contain her curiosity that long.

“As well as can be expected, I guess,” Rin said, falling into one of the chairs with a sigh.

“With Kento what counts as ‘expected’ is a very wide margin,” Aiya said, sitting down next to Rin.

“Really? I always saw him as pretty predictable,” Rin said. “What makes you think he’s a wildcard?”

“What happened yesterday,” Aiya said. She told Rin the entire story. About how they went to buy her an apology gift, how they ran into Mirai, how they got distracted with other shopping, their eventual fight, running into Mr. Sasaki, and finally how Kento saved her.

“Wow,” Rin said. “I almost can’t believe it. I can’t imagine Kento sucker-punching someone.” Her eyes fell to the floor as her cheerful demeanor dropped. “So it’s just me, huh?”

“What do you mean?” Aiya asked.

“That stupid ‘workplace philosophy’ is just a convenient lie,” Rin said. “He’s close with you, and you’re his coworker. He’s close with Abe too. I’m the only one he won’t be friends with. What does that tell you, Aiya?” Aiya stammered for a second, then fell silent.

“Rin, you know he cares about you too,” Aiya said.

“Does he?” Rin asked. “Because I can’t imagine him coming to save me like he saved you. He won’t even call me by my name. He has to hate me, right?”

“Then how do you explain the bracelet?” Aiya asked, grabbing Rin’s wrist holding her bracelet in front of her eyes.

“He just doesn’t want to be on bad terms with his boss,” Rin said. She looked up at Aiya, forcing a smile. “But that’s ok! I told him he doesn’t have to be my friend, and I won’t try to be his anymore. Everything will be fine like this.”

“Rin, I-” Aiya began, but she was interrupted by Rin.

“Aiya, just stop, ok?” Rin said, her anger finally showing. “He doesn’t want me around, I’m not going to force it. Stop trying to make us get along. It will never happen.” Aiya tried desperately to think of something to say, but her mind came up empty. She stood and left the conference room with a mountain of mixed feelings.


“What’s with all of you?” Abe asked, waltzing into the office. It was deserted, as it usually was this late hour, save for its three most dedicated workers. “Did someone die?”

“No, Abe,” Kento said. “But all of us have work to do.”

“Nonsense!” Abe said. “Come on, it’s quittin’ time, and I want to grab a drink.”

“We went for drinks like two days ago, Abe,” Kento said. “Do you ever go home to see your wife?” Abe’s mood sunk a little bit. It was only a moment before it bounced back, but it was enough for Kento to take notice.

“I think drinks are a fantastic idea,” Aiya said, packing her things.

“Sorry, I really can’t join you guys,” Rin said. “I have too much I need to get done. But you guys go ahead.”

“See, Abe,” Kento said. “There’s too much work to do, we can’t afford to leave.”

“Kento, go,” Rin commanded. In reality, she needed the help, but she also didn’t want to be alone in the office with him.

“Are you sure, Ms. Sugiyama?” Kento asked.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Rin said. She picked up the phone and began dialing a number, signaling that she was done with this conversation.

“Well, Mr. Shifutu,” Abe said teasingly. “Your boss told you to go. You can’t say no now.” Kento knew when he was fighting a losing battle, and he wasn’t in the mood to put on a fight right now.

“Fine, let’s go,” Kento said. He began packing up his things as well.

“Aiya, go ahead and invite anyone else you want to,” Abe said. He turned to Kento. “I’d tell him to do the same, but all of his friends are in this room.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Kento shot back. “I can invite Mirai.”

“No you can’t,” Aiya said. “I already sent her a text.” Kento shot her a glare.

“Really?” He asked. “You can’t let me have just that one?”

“Nope,” Aiya replied. “Now come on, let’s get going.”

“I like your spirit,” Abe said. “To the bar!”

“Abe, you sound like an alcoholic,” Kento commented, listlessly dragging behind.


Kento grimaced at the noise of all the other patrons. The weekend was finally upon them, and it seemed everyone in town wanted to celebrate. Abe had dragged them here early so they could secure their usual booth, and his foresight paid off. The bar wasn’t so packed that it was uncomfortable, but there were enough people to make sure no seat went vacant for longer than a minute.

The roster for the evening ended up being Kento, Aiya, Abe, and Mirai, although the latter one was running late. Aiya invited her friend Hina out, but she claimed to have a headache and declined. Abe had just excused himself to the restroom, so that left Kento and Aiya, drowning in uncomfortable silence. Aiya wasn’t talking because she was upset at Kento for not properly patching things up with Rin. Kento didn’t talk because he could sense that Aiya was angry at him, but he had no idea what he did wrong.

Kento was sure he was about to die from discomfort when, like a mercy from the heavens, he saw Mirai walk through the door. He waved his arm, signaling to her where they were. She spotted him and began making her way over, but was almost knocked down when a large muscle-bound man crashed into her. He seemed unfazed, not even sparing a glance for Mirai. Kento was about to give the guy a piece of his mind, but Abe, who had just returned from the restroom, was quicker on the draw.

“Hey, buddy!” he called out. He walked over and grabbed the man by the shoulder. “You think you can just do that and not apologize?”

“What are you talking about?” The man asked, clearly not happy with being accused of something.

“You nearly trampled her,” Abe said, pointing at Mirai. “Apologise right now!” The man turned around to where Mirai was, then turned back to Abe. He grabbed Abe’s hand off his shoulder and shoved him back.

“Listen, old man,” he said. “I don’t know if this is your idea of a practical joke, but I don’t appreciate it. Leave me alone.” Abe was about to keep pressing him, but the words were knocked right out of him when Mirai dove into his chest, wrapping him in a tight hug.

“Uh, hi?” Abe said, more than a little uncomfortable. Mirai quickly pulled back from the hug.

“Sorry!” she said, looking embarrassed. “I was just so happy when you stood up for me I couldn’t help myself.”

“He really is a pig,” Abe said. “Acting like you’re not even there.”

“Aiya, Kento!” Mirai called out, ignoring Abe’s comment. He looked at her, then to Kento and Aiya, then back to her.

“I take it you’re Mirai?” he asked.

“Yep!” Mirai replied. “And I know you’re Abe. They’ve told me a lot about you.” She quickly made her way to the booth, sitting down next to Aiya. Abe followed soon after, Kento standing so Abe could get the seat by the wall.

“So I’ll do introductions,” Kento said, sitting down. “Abe this is Mirai. Aiya and I kinda met her separately and then ran into her again yesterday. Mirai, this is Abraham Matsumoto, my best friend.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Abe said. “Please, call me Abe. Also, about earlier, I’m flattered, but I’m married.”

“Oh I know,” Mirai said. Kento could have sworn he heard a hint of sorrow in her voice. “It’s nice to meet you too, Abe.”

“So, Mr. Shifutu,” Abe said, turning to his friend. “What exactly were you doing yesterday with these two lovely young ladies?” The tips of Kento’s ears turned bright red at the insinuation.

“Abe, you know it’s not like that,” Kento said. “And I think Aiya should be the one to tell the story.” Abe turned expectantly to Aiya.

“Well then, let’s hear it!” Abe said. For the second time that day, Aiya told the story of what happened the previous day. Abe was listening intently, but every few moments his eyes would dart over to Mirai. He seemed confused about something.

“And that’s about it,” Aiya finished. “I’m really thankful to Kento.”

“And I told you, don’t mention it,” Kento said. “I’d do it any time.” He shared a smile with Aiya. Their moment was broken when Mirai mimicked throwing up.

“I agree,” Abe said, nodding. “If you two want to make googly eyes at each other you should do it in private.” This time Aiya’s face joined Kento’s ears in turning red. Abe couldn’t keep his laughter in. “I swear, it’s too easy with you two!” Mirai giggled too.

“Yeah, they do get flustered easily,” she said.

“Mirai, are you related to Aiya?” Abe asked. All three of the others looked at him with surprise.

“That came out of nowhere,” Kento said.

“Not as far as I know,” Mirai said. “Why do you ask?”

“You two look very similar,” Abe said. “Like you’re sisters or cousins or something.” Kento furrowed his brow, studying the two women in front of him.

“He’s right,” he said. “Especially your hair. It’s almost exactly the same.”

“Must just be a coincidence,” Aiya said.

“Still though, it’s a little uncanny,” Abe said. He was about to ask them to move closer to each other when his phone went off. He’d placed it on the table when he sat down, so everyone could see the message on the screen.

ALERT: Office Panic Button, Floor 4

“What does that mean?” Aiya asked, a sinking feeling in her stomach.

“The panic button in your office was pressed,” Abe said, panic in his voice.

“Oh, no. It’s Rin!” Aiya said, her voice cracking in distress. She looked over to Kento, only to find an empty seat. He had bolted out of the door the moment he saw the alert.

“Come on, we need to move,” Abe said, rising to his feet. “The police will be notified automatically, but if we’re there to at least tell them where to go it’ll help.” Aiya and Mirai wordlessly followed his lead, quickly walking out of the bar.


Rin listlessly typed away at her laptop, her drive to work completely destroyed. She thought after her conversation with Kento the weight on her heart would finally be lifted, but if anything it only got heavier. She tried to focus on her work, but her concentration just wouldn’t come to her. She was tired and wanted to go home and sleep, but she knew she couldn’t. She had to finish up these documents for her clients quickly. They couldn’t afford to fall further behind on work.

Rin got to her feet with a grunt. She walked over to the kitchenette intent on making some coffee. As she passed the elevator she noticed someone was coming up. She immediately ran back to the conference room and pretended to be busy with work. It was probably Kento, and she didn’t feel like talking to him. She heard the doors open and glanced up, already prepared to scoff if Kento waved at her. She froze when she saw three large men in ski masks walk off the elevator. She quietly rose from her chair and walked to the wall to press the panic button. Afterward, she dived under the conference room table to hide. She strained to overhear the thug’s conversations.

“Ok, grab the monitors first,” one of them said. “They’re the easiest to move, and they sell well. We can grab the big stuff after.”

“You got it,” another one replied. “I’m glad this place is empty. Wouldn’t want to use this.” Rin risked peeking out to see what he was referring to. In his hand was a pistol. She immediately ducked back under the table, trying her best not to make a single noise. The fear chilling her spine made her breathing ragged. At this rate, she would be caught.

“Oi, go check that glass room,” the second thug said. “I’m gonna carry this first load down.” Rin winced, closing her eyes. She hoped and prayed that somehow she wouldn’t be found. She heard one of the thugs walk in. He picked up her laptop. It sounded like he left, and Rin let out the breath she was holding.


Rin’s blood froze solid in her veins. He was still in there with her, and he definitely heard her. She heard the rustling of clothes as the thug bent over to check underneath the table.

“Well, hello,” he said. He stood back up. “Looks like we have someone in here!” He called out. The first thug who spoke up walked over. He checked under the table.

“Well, well, well,” he said. “Get out of there.” Rin had no choice but to comply. She was shaking as she rose to her feet. The men towered over her. The first thug had his gun leveled at her. “Go to the kitchen,” he demanded. “We’ll kill you on the tiles, make it easy on the cleaners.”

Tears started streaming down Rin’s face. She tried to beg for her life, but no words could come out. She slowly walked over to the kitchen, her crying only increasing as she got closer. She stopped in the middle of the tiled portion of the floor.

“Sorry, sweetheart,” the thug said, pressing the barrel of his pistol against the back of her head. “It’s not personal. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong t-” he was cut off, a pained grunt. Rin winced. Behind her, she heard a hard hit. She turned around to see what had happened.

Near the elevator the other thug was on the floor, clutching at his stomach. That wasn’t what drew her attention though. Right in front of her was the first thug, with his back pressed against the kitchen counter. His gun was pointed at the air. He was grunting, struggling to lower his gun again.

“Get out of here!” Kento yelled, holding the man at bay. Rin was frozen, a mixture of fear, relief, and disbelief rendering her immobile. Kento turned his head, looking her in the eyes. “Rin, what are you doing?! Run, please!”

Rin finally snapped out of her daze and did as she was told. She took off down the stairs, tears still streaming from her eyes. In the lobby, she found the last thug, seemingly unconscious on the floor. The night doorman who was supposed to be standing in for Abe was nowhere to be seen. Rin walked out, trying to process what just happened. She could hear sirens in the distance, rapidly getting closer. She stepped onto the sidewalk, unsure of what to do next.

“Rin!” a voice called out. She turned to see Aiya, Abe, and an unfamiliar girl running towards her. Aiya crashed into her, wrapping her in a hug. “I’m so glad you’re safe,” she said.

“Where’s Kento,” Abe asked, his voice almost inaudible over the sirens as three police cars stopped by them.

“He’s still up there!” Rin said the fragile composure she built up shattering. “There’s two guys. They have guns!” A police officer ran up to them.

“What’s going on here?” he asked, five more officers rushing past him. One stayed behind to tend to the thug in the lobby while the others rushed up the stairs.

“Two gunmen on the fourth floor,” Abe said. “They have a civilian up there, he’s in danger.” The policeman nodded and relayed the situation over the radio.

“Don’t worry, everything will be fine no-” the policeman said. He was cut off by the explosive echo of a gunshot, ringing out from the building.

“Kento!” This was screamed by Abe, Rin, and Aiya, at nearly equal volume and intensity.

“Stay back!” The policeman said. He pulled out his walkie-talkie. “What the hell is going on in there?!” A few agonizing seconds of silence passed.

“We have the gunmen subdued,” a voice rang out over the radio. The three civilians all let out a relieved sigh.

“But the civilian was shot. We need immediate medical here.”


An ambulance arrived on the scene a few minutes later. Kento was carried out on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital. The EMT held a handful of gauze against his stomach, a large red stain tainting his white shirt. The officer who seemed to be in charge asked Abe, Rin, and Aiya for statements on what happened. Abe and Aiya both told them how Kento had rushed from the bar, and Rin told them how he had come in to fight off the gunmen. Aiya had tried to find her, but Mirai had vanished. She probably got scared when she heard the gunshot and ran off.

The officer was kind enough to take them to the hospital, where they anxiously waited. Rin seemed to be the most on edge. She had so much regret for how she handled the situation with Kento. Most of all she hated herself for believing that he wouldn’t help her if she needed it.

It was nearly two hours before a doctor finally came to see them.

“I’m sorry, it’s too early to tell,” the doctor said. “He got hit pretty badly. We’re doing everything we can. For now, please be patient. Aiya and Rin grabbed onto each other, the nerves growing too much. They cried into each other’s arms.

“Thank you, Doctor,” Abe said morosely. “We know you’re trying your hardest, and we appreciate it.” His voice caught slightly, on the last word. His eyes were glistening as his emotions threatened to overwhelm him. He looked down, trying to hide how nervous he was. “Please, Doctor, save my friend.”

“We’ll do all we can,” the doctor said. He walked back through the doors he came from, leaving them alone in the waiting room. Abe put a hand on Rin’s shoulder and guided her into a chair.

“You should rest,” he said. “You’ve been through a lot.”

“Kento will be ok, right?” Rin asked. At times like this, she really did seem like a child. A passerby wouldn’t believe she was almost five years older than Aiya.

“Knowing that stubborn man, he’ll walk out of here with the doctor still poking around his insides to be on time for work,” Abe said. This gallows humor managed to get a laugh out of the girls.

“I’m sure he’ll be ok,” Aiya said.

“He has to be.”