Begrudgingly, I turned away from the counter and towards the two individuals who just entered the store. On par with the estimation I had made of them through my peripheral, the stockier of the two looked about 6’2, 195, while the lesser was about 5’11, 175.
‘Hey man, you got a problem or something?’
The shorty directed that at me, and his buddy laughed it off:
‘Don’t mind him. Probably ruined whatever game he was trying to spit with that chick.’
He then looked at me:
‘Listen buddy, it’s closing time. Be a good guy and scram, eh? She’ll be working here tonight anyway, I promise.’
Man, if there’s one archetype of person that I absolutely can’t stand, it has to be the generic, arrogant piece of shit that you’ll encounter at least once a week in this ‘world’. Often, these guys can’t even endorse the nonsense that they say – I’ve heard the whole “Hey buddy, you think you’re actually gonna do anything to me?” spiel countless times, and I’d estimate, at least eighty percent of the time, they’re knocked out before they can finish their second sentence. Doubt it’ll be any different for these two.
‘Huh? The hell’d you say? Speak up!’
I looked up and down at them once more and scoffed, before turning back towards the girl who I’d been bickering with. Surprisingly, she didn’t appear nervous, but the playful, cheery attitude that she’d just had had also vanished – she was definitely doing her best at maintaining a resolute appearance.
‘Hey. You think you could hold this?’
I took off my jacket and gestured towards her – she slightly nodded and held onto it.
‘I’ll keep the smokes here too. Don’t think I’ll forget.’
‘Uh, sir, I don’t mean to ruin your white knight moment, but you honestly don’t need to involve yourself! This is just a parttime job!’
Did this girl just call me a white knight?
‘I truly appreciate it though! But seriously, I don’t want you to get hurt if you don’t need to – I don’t even know who exactly you are yet!’
Can this girl not put two and two together? The one person in your class that’s constantly absent – how do you not know who that is? Whatever.
‘All good, don’t worry. I’ll tell you who I am after I take care of these two rats.’
I looked at her and smiled, then turned around, and to my surprise, the two were still standing squarely in front of me.
‘You guys really didn’t want to take advantage of that time I gave y’all?’
The taller one retorted:
‘We fight fairly. Don’t need to jump you when you’re not expecting it – we’ll beat you clean.’
‘Clean? With a knife? That’s hilarious.’
The shorter one immediately responded:
‘Who said weapons were off –’
Before he could even finish his sentence, I’d had enough. There’s no such thing as ‘fairness’ in a streetfight. You take whatever advantages you can get. A knife? Advantage. Two versus one? Advantage. Having to fight with a non-fighter behind me? Advantage.
So, I closed the gap between us instantaneously, while he was still speaking. Lunging inward, I cut inwards and upwards with my first right punch, making sure to knock the wind out of him. On contact, I jumped backwards, turning around and raising my left arm to shield myself from a counterattack from the taller one – but none came.
All of this happened in less than a second – and that’s when I realized that, once again, these guys were just arrogant pieces of trash. The arm raise would’ve been necessary against a skilled fighter, but against amateurs who wouldn’t even be able to predict the speed of that kind of attack? Pointless.
I surveyed them again – the shorty was completely winded; even if he tried to join the fight again, he’d just bring the taller guy down. A kick to his chest would probably render him helpless, but not unconscious, which is what I’d want. As for the taller guy, he looked both enraged and shocked at the same time – it was a pretty hilarious expression.
‘What the hell – ‘
‘“Did you just do to my partner?” Was that what you were gonna say? I’ve been around this song and dance enough times to have heard that enough times. Now… less talking, more fighting.’
He didn’t say anything in response but instead came at me directly. An ideal response, except for the fact that his attacking stance left way too many easy targets available for me – it was almost like he was about to swing wildly, hoping that something would connect. No strategy, no ideas, just unbridled anger.
He threw with his right, and I easily evaded. He followed that up with a left, right, right combination, which was easily countered again, as I jumped backward knocking over a shelf of cards and letters. I looked behind him again, and the shorty was still struggling to stand, so I reasoned with myself that I didn’t have a secondary threat to worry about, and that I could focus on this guy. However, just as that thought processed, he pulled the switchblade out of his pocket and began to swing wildly.
‘Really? That desperate already?’
‘Shut it man!’
He continued to lunge towards me with the blade, striking at least five different times, all of which were dodged effortlessly. However, as soon as that fifth strike missed, I could sense that he was growing tired – he had been on the offensive the entire time, with no success – and I rationalized that that would be my easiest opportunity for victory. Lunging forward, I raised my right leg outwards, and, nearly instantly, roundhouse kicked into his defenceless left ribcage. He attempted to defend with his left arm, but the kick’s force propelled him to his right, and while off-balance, I went in for the finishing blow.
Jumping slightly off the ground, I drove my left fist into the bridge of his nose, stopping the force which was pushing him right, and dropping him directly into the ground. On impact, the switchblade dropped out of his hands and onto the floor – and despite trying desperately to regain his footing, he fell backwards and eventually took a knee.
‘You still raring to go or what?’
He grimaced holding onto his broken nose, and then winced while grabbing his side.
‘You see my state? What kind of monster are ya?’
I turned back towards the girl, who’s jaw had dropped fully – I was completely taken aback that she didn’t have anything witty to say. I scoffed, before retorting:
‘Me? I’m x54’s number one – Yokoyama Tsuyoshi. Most know better than to try and start shit with me.’
‘You’re trying way too hard to look badass, aren’t ya?’
Oh, now she has something annoying to say.
‘Huh? That’s all you’ve gotta say to me?’
‘Well, I never told you to defend me or the shop!’
She then looked downwards, almost to avoid eye contact.
‘But thank you… that was pretty cool.’
Wow, some sort of recognition – I’m amazed. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what I’m able to do – not like she needs to know that, at least.
‘Anyway. Onto the smokes. You’re gonna cut me some slack now, can’t you?’
‘I honestly would! But a night of property damage, assault, and then following that up with an illegal sale to a minor – I really don’t think I can do it! Also, shouldn’t we deal with those two first before we get to anything?’
‘Huh? They’re knocked out. The smokes take precedence.’
‘So you really can’t cut me anything? Even after I told you who I was? Your shop owner even knows who I am; if you told him who you were selling to, he’d –’
Suddenly, and out of nowhere, she looked panicked and screamed to interject me.
In a split-second, I jumped to the side, narrowly avoiding what would’ve been a lethal knife’s strike to my abdomen from the shorter of the two, who’d somehow picked up the blade.
Immediately regaining my composure and realizing that he was off-balance from lunging towards me, I turned myself towards him and kicked directly forwards with my right leg, impacting his frontal ribcage and shattering at least a few of them. The contact pushed him backwards, and, without wasting a second, lunged toward him, connecting squarely with his left temple and knocking him cold.
Suddenly, I could feel a bit of a sensation in my abdomen – I lifted my shirt to discover that the knife had grazed enough of me to leave an open scrape, with blood trickling down my back. Nothing too serious – luckily.
I’ve got this girl to seriously thank for that.
I turned back to her and looked at her directly.
‘Hey. Thanks so much. That could’ve been a hundred times worse if you didn’t react the way you did.’
‘Aw, don’t mention it. For a guy who looks like he’s trying awfully hard to give off main-character vibes, you’ve got skills to actually be that kinda guy. I’m impressed. Even if you were checking me out before.’
‘I really wasn’t – is that really what you’re gonna keep saying about me?’
‘Yeah, I am, cause you were! Anyway, you should probably get rid of those two now, right?’
‘Yeah. I’m surprised pipsqueak over there could even move after the first blow I landed. Guess what they say about not taking your eyes off your opponent holds true, even for fodder like these guys.’
‘Especially for these guys, considering they had a weapon!’
‘You’re not wrong there.’
I turned to the two, and only the taller one was even conscious, albeit fading out of it. I slapped him across the face to get him to talk.
‘Oi, shithead. Wake up. I’ve got questions.’
He coughed, with a bit of blood coming out, and then tilted his head as he looked at me:
‘What could the leader of x54 want with someone like me?’
‘So you know who I am then. And you still engaged?’
‘Of course not, idiot. I’ve heard all of the rumors of ya – never seen your face or knew who you were. Didn’t care to know either. But yeah, you’re the real deal alright.’
‘You apart of any group up here?’
‘Listen buddy. I’m not from around here. I – we – we’re from down south. We came here on a whim cause it looked like an easy target, especially this late at night. You think we researched a random store before hitting it? Get real.’
‘Down south eh? Y’all Death’s Bliss character then?’
That piqued their interest – the girl also continued to listen in.
‘Those guys? They broke up not long ago – I thought you’d be in the know, especially with the informants you keep, but I guess not.’
Same story as Tosh, and as Asahi. Guess it really is true that their number two left – gonna be a damn power struggle down there, that’s for sure. Odd coincidence that these guys aren’t local, but I guess it’s better, I don’t have to worry about some brash startups trying to infringe on my turf and causing a nuisance.
‘Well. That’s all I’ll be needing from you two tonight.’
I grabbed both of them by the scruffs of their collars and dragged them towards the door. The girl followed me, with a key and lock in her hands. I turned to her again and chuckled.
‘You didn’t bring the smokes, did you?’
‘I didn’t! I can’t give them to you, y’know!’
‘I figured as much. It’s all good.’
‘You’re surprisingly – what’s the word? Unfazed? Yeah, that’s it. Like, you just fought two guys, nearly got stabbed, didn’t even get what you came here for, and your emotions are basically null. It’s kinda creepy.’
‘Creepy? I’d say it’s more just a live-and-let-live attitude. Can’t do anything about what you don’t control.’
‘But you definitely could’ve taken those smoke packs if you wanted. What was I gonna do, stop you? There’s no way.’
‘Yeah, I probably could’ve. But you earned my respect tonight, fully. I wouldn’t do that to someone like that – I’ve got morals y’know?! As much as you don’t believe it!’
She smirked as we reached the door.
‘You know what?’
‘Show up to Lincoln’s class tomorrow. I’ll give you the smokes. I’ll buy them under my name, just pay me tomorrow for them.’
‘Aw, you don’t have to. But I’ll take you up on that, as long as you’ll honor it.’
We both laughed.
‘By the way. I never asked, but, what’s your name again?’
‘What’s that? Kisasa? Kisasa Yuina? Sounds good, sounds good!’
‘Sa – sa – ki! Don’t play with my name!’
‘Kisasa? Got it, got it. I’ll see you tomorrow then Kisasa! I’ll dump these two losers outside the store, they won’t be able to do anything so you’ll be safe!’
I waved to her, as she looked towards me and pouted – serves her right for all of the jokes she was making at my expense. Opening the door, I threw the two guys to the curb, but before stepping outside myself, I came to an immediate realization.
The frigid cold had turned into a blizzard. Visibility was close to zero, and although the temperature wasn’t as bad as before, snow was descending quickly, and the winds howled through the dark night skies. To make matters worse, the bleeding from the scrape hadn’t stopped, and was starting to redden my white tee. I shook my head as I stepped outside, knowing that the walk back to my place was going to be nightmarish, but there wasn’t another choice. I was about to take another step before I felt a hand on my shoulder.
‘You can’t go like that. In fact, I can’t let you – not after everything you did. You probably know of our upstairs employee lounge considering what a big shot you are; I’ll treat your scrape there and we’ll wait out this blizzard. No point trying to tough it out, right Tsukkun?’