Chapter 1:

The Genkei way

Jet Black Rock

Old lights flickering, remnants of the past back when the city was still thriving, the noise of hoverbikes echoing from above, people coughing, stomachs growling, it’s never quiet in Suramachi. After all, it’s the place where the most unfortunate people end up in. Built to the brim with shacks and lodges put together out of old cars, scrap metal, wires, and the will to survive. All the way from the G.O.K.K.S. industrial zone that connects Genkei to the barren wasteland up and over the highly polluted river till the end of the hover bridge that leads into the upper parts of the city.

An explosion in the distance; “Another generator failing?” Yami thinks to himself as he curls up, pulling the jacket that’s covering him closer. “It’s been a while since we had electricity running consistently.” Yami turns as he prepares himself to leave the little bit of comfort he has. “Another day, another struggle. Time to find some breakfast.” He crawls out of the broken-down van that’s been transformed into a makeshift house and puts on his jacket, ready to take on the day. He checks his pockets to ensure what he had is still there: “Two Kafeiyo pills and about seven Yula left”

As usual, Yami sets out to the lower parts of Genkei, going with the flow of the city. Dark alleys and bright shops, the contrast here couldn’t be any bigger. Having lived here in the past, Yami knows that every shop has something shady going on in the back. “Huh, Pharma Island has an unusual number of people going in today. Might keep watch for a bit.”

After some time a group of three similarly-dressed streetwear-wearing men leave the shop. The one in the middle is keeping his hands in his pockets, while the other two are staying close by.“That took way too long. That ol’ Gigi doesn’t know when to pay what he’s due.” The middle one says loudly. Yami takes notice. “Come on Jake, you know he can’t say no to us, let him keep his pride in trying.” The one on the left responds. “Guess you’re right, but we’re not done for today and I’d like to finish things up soon.” Jake answers. They walk around like they own the place but seem smart enough to keep their guards up. “After all, the boss said he wanted it today.”

As the men pass and Yami glances inside Pharma Island, he sees what seems to be the shop owner, struggling to keep his balance. His head was bruised, some blood running from his nose, and his right arm was dislocated. That definitely wasn’t your typical transaction. The three men approach the nearest alley, turning the corner. “Must be worth the trouble. I can work with this.” Yami thinks to himself. He goes around the building on the opposite side, takes a pill from his pocket, swallows it, and jumps up to the ledge of the fire escape stairs by ricocheting from a close-by wall. He climbs up onto the building, navigating the roofs as he tries to spot the men from above. “There they are. Now to wait for a good opportunity.”

The underbelly of Genkei is pretty packed. Buildings are close to each other, sometimes even colliding. For someone who knows the area, it’s pretty easy to navigate. Even if there are gaps between the buildings, agile people can use the environment to the fullest by using fallen-down signs or parts of the monorail that were never finished. For Yami, it’s like a walk in the park. While following the men, they seem to enter one of the residential buildings through the back entrance. “Sure as hell not going in there.” Yami lowers himself to one of the balconies on the second floor, waiting. His stomach rumbles. “Better be something.”

After about ten minutes, the one being referred to as Jake comes out of the building holding a grey briefcase under his arm. He tries to hide it as well as possible, but that’s not really possible in those clothes. “Not sure where the other two went, but that case must be worth something. They probably sold the meds they got from Pharma Island or cut them up to sell later. This is my chance.”

Yami drops down from the balcony, puts on his hood, and starts sprinting towards the package carrier. Jake takes notice and pulls out a small rod from what seems to be a modified arm, extending it in a quick fashion. As soon as Yami’s in range, he swings it upwards. Although Jake manages to scrape Yami's cheek, Yami can sidestep the attack and tackle him, who falls to the ground. Yami stumbles a bit but doesn’t lose his balance entirely and snatches the briefcase while making his escape toward the end of the alley.

“Stop! You don’t know what you’re dealing with!” Jake shouts. Jake’s buddies, who were waiting for Jake to come around, turn the corner. Yami’s cut-off. “Must have exited through the front door.” Yami thinks to himself. He quickly throws the briefcase up onto a balcony and swings himself up using one of the broken-down light poles.

Jake yells, “After him! Get that case!” Yami picks up the briefcase and continues to scale the building, swinging from one balcony to another. He bites another pill. The climb is tough, especially carrying a package. One of the henchmen follows suit, climbing almost vertically. Especially compared to Yami, who zig-zags between the balconies and is saving a lot of energy, the pursuer brute-forces the climb. At the same time, the other henchman runs around the block towards the street. Jake gets up, quickly going inside the building again.

Yami’s fast. Jumping across buildings again, he improvises his escape route. He glances behind him. The guy that pursued him is falling behind. “Just gotta keep going straight until I lose them and lay low until this blows over.” Suddenly, a door before him opens. It’s the guy who ran towards the street earlier. “Come here, punk!” he yells as he unsheathes a blade from his sleeve. “You can’t escape now! Drop the package!”

Yami throws the briefcase towards his face. As he blocks, Yami closes the distance and knees him in the ribs in one smooth motion. “Euhrg!” Yami picks up the case again and continues his escape, but the one behind him is able to catch up and grabs him by his hood. Yami elbows him in the nose and goes for the door. Bzzzmt! A shot is fired. It grazes Yami’s upper arm. It’s hot. The shock makes him drop the case, leaving it behind as he realizes his window has closed.

As it falls to the ground, the case’s corner hits the concrete roof quite hard and it opens just a little. A cloud of black dust escapes and gets picked up by the wind. “You guys alright? Joey? Jimmy?” Jake appears from one of the nearby rooftops. He’s holding a railgun. “Yeah yeah.” Jimmy grunts as he covers his nose. “Little shit got moves.” He closes the case properly. “Boss will not be happy about this.” Joey sits upright, his ribs noticeably hurt. “I saw his face, seemed to me like someone who’d live in Suramachi.” “‘Kay. Let’s first check with the boss though.” Jake says as he helps Joey up.

Yami exhales loudly as he crawls back into his hideout, clearly exhausted from all the running. He gently takes off his jacket and inspects his arm. As he lays down on his couch, he grabs a bottle of what looks like moonshine from right below it. He bites the cork, pulls it out, and takes a sip. He pours some on the wound on his arm. It sizzles a bit but doesn’t seem to hurt much. After all, wounds from a railgun close up immediately. He rips up one of his old shirts and uses it to bandage up the wound to keep it from infecting. “That was close. Didn’t think they’d shoot me for some meds.” Yami turns around, closes his eyes, and thinks, “I’ll get some food later.” while drifting off.

A few hours pass. There’s a commotion outside and Yami wakes up. He glances through a crack of the van’s darkened windows. Five middle-aged men seem to be looking for something or someone. Aggressively checking people’s houses. Four of them are dressed nicely. Long clothed pants, shirts, ties, even one in a suit. “They’re not from here? Why does everyone let them do as they please?” The fifth one is different as he’s wearing street clothing, similar to… “Shit! That’s the guy I kneed in the stomach! What is he doing here?”

Yami carefully opens one of the doors at the back of the van and tries to leave, looking nervously behind him. Thud! He bumped into someone. As Yami loses his balance, he notices it’s Jake and he’s not alone. Four people in suits are behind him. Jake uppercuts his fist into Yami’s stomach and grabs his head using his modified arm. A fierce shock comes out and Yami’s vision starts to fade. His legs become heavy as he falls down to the ground. Jake signals the suits, telling them to pick him up.

Sometime later, Yami starts to regain consciousness, unable to grasp what exactly happened. It’s dark. He tries to move, but his back is strapped against what feels like a flat surface and his arms are tied behind his back. It’s hard to breathe and he can’t see. Something is covering his head. As he lifts up his chin, someone yanks the bag off his head. Yami’s eyes slowly start adjusting to the bright light on his face. “Well well, look who’s awake. Yami, right?” There’s a man in a three-piece suit standing in front of him. He’s tall, muscled, and has some golden teeth. Yami glances around and notices that they’re in an empty office-like space. Yami nods.

“You’re not that difficult to find. All we had to do was”- He pauses-“ to convince some locals to tell us about some scrawny kid making life harder. We checked your van and found some texts from some girl named Akari sent to you.” Yami’s eyes widen. “Didn’t mind us snooping around, did you? So you got some family in Genkei city? That makes things easier. Thing is, you kinda ruined something that we were greatly looking forward to and you know how things go. People have to pay what they’re due.” He starts walking back and forth, the room is quiet. “You know, I get it. We all need to survive and I honestly might have done the same, Don’t worry. I’m not such a bad guy.” he grins mischievously.

“That’s why I’m gonna make it easy for you. You get us back what we’ve lost and you’ll get out of here in one piece. Sweet deal isn’t it?” He spreads his arms, widening his posture. “Wha-what do I need to get?” Yami stutters. “Hold on. Not so fast. As I’ve said, I’m not a bad guy. I’m gonna help you out. There’s an… acquaintance.” he smirks. “He’ll visit the town in a few days and all you gotta do is give him a tiny little tour of the underbelly. You seem to know the area pretty well and I’m sure he’ll appreciate that. After that, you just bring him to one of my buildings in the northwest and you’re free to go. You understand?” Yami answers softly, “Yes.”

“Oh, and to be sure you don’t do anything stupid, we’re keeping an eye on that girl. Akari was it?” He signals the people behind Yami, who move to cut him loose. “Name’s Kumoda. A pleasure doing business. I’ll send one of my guys to pick you up on Thursday at 7 pm. Don’t make us wait. We’ll give you some clean clothes and the details later.” Yami rubs his wrists as he’s freed from the tight zip ties. “Jake, come here and guide our new employee back to where he came from. Don’t want him getting lost now”

Jake gestures to Yami. “Let’s go, it’s getting late.” They leave the room and start heading downstairs. They’re high up and there are a lot of floors. Glancing inside one of them, it seems unoccupied. “Don’t think I introduced myself yet. The name’s Jake. I’m the guy in charge of scouting the muscle of the lower area. Not that we do a lot of business there, but we do need some fresh faces now and then. People get greedy and take on more than they can handle, not knowing the consequences of going against Kumoda.” Still heading downstairs, Jake slows down a little. “Taking orders ain’t that bad, and eventually that will result in my family and I moving up to the upper parts. Just a few more jobs.”

“How long have you been working for Kumoda?” Yami asks. “Been a while, seen a lot. Enough to know that you got pretty lucky. Not many youngsters can intervene with a package like that and walk away alive.” He glances behind him. “Think he took a liking to you after hearing that you outran Jimmy and took both him and Joey on without any mods.”

Yami tries to argue, “If I knew such a small case of meds would nearly cost me my life, I wouldn’t have-” Jake interrupts. “Meds?” He scoffs. “You think he would send me personally for some meds? That case contained an experimental powder named ‘Jet’. Supposed to enhance your abilities permanently by quite a lot. Haven’t seen it in action yet but Kumoda paid a hefty amount for it. As I’ve said, you’re lucky to still be walking.”

They leave the building and Yami’s eyes start to sparkle. There are bright lights, wide roads, unnecessary big statues, clean white elegant-looking buildings, luxurious shops, and a lot of greenery. “We’re in Genkei city?” Yami asks.

“Yeah. We took the elevator for servants up and we’re heading down there as well. That reminds me. When we’re nearing the inspection zone, don’t mention anything about Jet. While it’s not much of a secret, the government showed some interest and that makes them unpredictable. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we see the substance, so I’d rather not deal with them breathing down my neck as well.”

Jake continues. “And hey, as you’re agile and know your way around town. You might have a chance to become one of our handlers or something. That is if you play your cards right. Eventually, you might even move up here as well.” Jake keeps on talking about all the possibilities, but Yami isn’t really paying attention anymore. “Me? Live in Genkei city?”

JBR - Yami and Haiiro by Casobi (2022)

Jet Black Rock