Chapter 84:

My Beloved Kouhai is Going to Get Everything Back.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

I don't know how or why I gained my reputation. I just did. Ever since I was young, when I saw someone in trouble, I'd want to help them. Why? No particular reason. Whenever I saved someone, they'd look up to me. It happened again and again.

I know most people think that those who go out of their way to help wherever had to have had a strong sense of justice drilled into them from a young age by a parent, or someone they look up to, or a traumatic event that changed their life...but I didn't. Mom didn't tell me to go use my strength and protect the weak. Instead, she would gripe about how I was getting into trouble once again.

I don't really go out of my way to help's just that people who need help can't stop showing up in front of me, y'know?

The downside of being me is that at this point, people seek me out. It'll be some guy or girl with a request, or some jackass who wants to get even with me. It's getting kinda annoying at this point...but it's not like I'm gonna say no to them. So I do what needs to be done. And then it happens again. And again. And again.

Oh, wait. I haven't introduced myself. You're probably sitting there wondering 'Who is that talking? It's not Aikawa-kun, and it's not Haruto-kun, and it's definitely not Ayame-chan or she would have said a really stupid pun by now, and Kaede hasn't had a single line this whole book...'

Reika Suzuran. 78th Shinchoushi Private Academy Senior High School Student Council President. Yo.

Man, I only ran for election 'cause I thought I would lose, and then I'd get a nice do-nothing position as a consolation prize. And because Momo told me to do it. Maybe she was really trying to get me to leave her alone. Or to get me to embarrass myself in public. She's still a good friend, though. Just a prankster. We like to prank each other. I grope her, she tells me to go die. Heh. Anyway, I didn't expect I'd win two years in a row!

I just wanted a place to people-watch in peace. You learn a lot from observing. I can tell what kind of person someone is and what drives them by watching for a while. People think you learn about others by talking. They're wrong. It's a lot more interesting to watch stories play out, and you sit back and watch the show.

I just want to live a quiet life, really. But my innate, irrational sense of justice won't take that. Ha.

The thing that I've noticed is that the people who actually need help the most don't want to ask for it. Especially when it comes to guys. It's how this country works. Men aren't supposed to depend on others- they're supposed to do it all themselves. When bad things happen, they think it's because they deserve them. They think begging for someone else to help them makes them look weak. So they suffer in silence until they lose everything.

It happened to Torakichi and it happened to Aikawa-kun, too. Both of them thought they deserved their fate. They were too focused on doing everything themselves that neither of them realized how it would affect everyone else around them. A ton of students would have been left without a club to practice their favorite sport if Torakichi was forced to transfer out. And if Aikawa-kun moved away, his entire class would miss him. I've seen how well he gets along with everyone. He's basically the "glue" of 1-1. So, in both cases, I had to step in.

It's a good thing I've helped manage a small business since I was a teenager...and it's also a good thing the salon had so much junk hanging around that we could sell. I know what works and what doesn't for a business. And I also know exactly what heartstrings to tug to get strangers to give you money. Heh. No matter what, I never thought we would lose. We're not dealing with geniuses on the other side. They hardly tried to stop us at all- except for that lame slander campaign that didn't work...because I have connections.

Still...I knew that they were gonna find some way to try and weasel out of our deal. And it was going to be the lowest man on the totem pole, too. That way, if he fails, the bosses can pin the blame on him and get away scot-free. But, it's not gonna work that way this time. I was prepared for it.

Let's just say you're not gonna extort one of my students for years and then threaten to harm him and get away with it.

It was very nice of the police officer I met in line at the salon to give me her contact info. She's been investigating this criminal group for a while, she said, but hadn't managed to get the smoking gun she needed to convict them. It's tough going after the Yakuza. They're so organized and have so many connections and shell businesses linked to them that most police departments consider them more trouble than they're worth.

The other side of that is that they're so arrogant that they have their own public address, and business cards. They think they're above the law. Which makes it easy for Officer Masuda to give me their address.

The building I'm in front of looks like any other boxy Tokyo office- three stories, square windows, nondescript white painting- the only thing distinguishing it from anywhere else is the small "Okayu Group" plaque near the door. The city is lifeless. So is the heavy gym bag strung across my back. It feels like it weighs two tons, but I hardly notice it. I walked all the way here with it weighing me down.

It's time for me to play my trump card. I managed to get that man to agree to my deal by offering myself as bait. It was too easy. He was arrogant and obviously didn't think we were capable of making one yen. Now, he's gonna have to honor his part.

Sometimes you have to break the rules when you're fighting people who never respected them in the first place.

I throw the door open, striding inside with my cargo on my back. It looks like any other office, honestly. There's a reception room with black carpet, a curtain hiding a couple sets of stairs near the back, and a desk, with some art and flowers scattered around.

The moronic-looking guy at the desk, in a suit with a hideous paisley-print shirt, raises his bald head up to stare at me. "Huh?" he growls. "You wander in off the street, chick?"

"I'm here to see the boss." I fling the duffle bag off my shoulder, and instantly I feel thirty pounds lighter.

"The boss don't have time to meet with random kids. Go home and suck on your momma's tit."

"Will this convince him to change his mind?" I unzip the duffel bag just enough for the gangster at the front desk to see what's inside, and instantly his face goes stunned like he just swallowed a whole lemon. Yup. I figured that would work. He quickly pulls an old cord phone out, punches a few buttons, and starts talking in a low voice for what seems like ages, while I just stand there. I thought I'd meet a little more resistance at this point...honestly, this is too easy.

After minutes on the phone, the guy at the front desk nervously stands up and says "Come this way. Chairman Okayu will see you now." At his full height, he looks like a gorilla. His knuckles almost drag the ground.

We climb two stories up a set of claustrophobic, dark stairs, the heavy duffel bouncing against the back of my knees with each step, until we emerge into a large, bright room with a table set in the middle, a crystal ashtray in its center. Sitting right behind it is an older man dressed in a blue kimono, mon and everything. He looks exactly like a yakuza boss from manga. I mean, it's insulting how stereotypical he is. If this was a book, I would think our author was running out of ideas.

To the left is a dour, weaselly-faced man with a perfect coif and a navy suit. To the right of the boss, in an all-black suit with a red tie, is that guy, smoking a cigarette. His eyebrows raise a bit behind his dark glasses when he sees me, but he keeps the cool expression on his face. He still probably thinks he's about to get away with everything.

He has no idea what's about to happen to him.

"It's a late hour for a guest," the big boss remarks gruffly as our eyes meet. He and his subordinates immediately stand up. "Pardon our appearance. Shintaro Okayu, fifth head of the group, and my lieutenants Kojima and Ootsuka." They all bow in turn.

"Reika Suzuran. I'm just a high school student." I wink back at them.

"There's no need to be so modest..." Okayu replies, sitting back down. "Your reputation has even reached all the way to here. Please, have a seat. Mori, some tea for our guest, please."

The gorilla-looking guy grunts his approval and disappears, returning a few minutes later with hot tea in ceramic cups.

"I understand you had a money matter to discuss?" The head of the gang shifts, planting his cane on the ground, as he stares intently at me. "Go ahead."

"Yes. It's about the loan extended to a Mr. Aikawa of Tokyo a few years ago to buy real estate, currently in the care of his wife. It's the building that currently houses Salon Biwa in Shakujii 3-choume, along with a family home. Sound familiar?"

"I do vaguely recall something like that. Ootsuka."

"Yes, Boss?" the man replies smugly, taking a drag of his cigarette.

"Shakujii is your turf. Is this the building you were telling me you were about to evict the tenants from and demolish?"

"They couldn't pay the loan," the other gangster responds aloofly.

"That's interesting. I have the terms of the loan right here." I pull out a few sheets of paper from the front pocket of the duffel bag. As I do, the inside shifts slightly. While I was helping the Aikawas, I also managed to get Aikawa-san to drop by the "financial services" company that loaned her late husband the money to get a copy of the loan's terms and conditions. And I told her to remind them of their legal duty to give her a copy if they didn't give it out. Evidently, it worked. "Loan extended to Mr. Nobuhisa Aikawa, September 2014, for the total of ¥1,000,000. As of today, the balance stands at slightly under sixty-three million. APR over 60%...seems a little much."

"You got a problem with how we do business?" the rat-faced guy snaps.

"Not at all! That's not what I wanted to talk about. You see, that guy over there and I made a deal that if the salon could make all that money back before the eviction deadline, the debt would be canceled and the Aikawas could keep the money. They made that money back, so I'm here to collect." I push another piece of paper across the table- a contract, stamped with Aikawa-san's seal. The boss grabs it and the three criminals take a closer look, staring intently. I made it in the library. I looked up what kind of wording you need to make a legally binding contract and everything. The good thing about going to Shinchoushi is that you get a lot of kids of lawyers and students that want to be future lawyers.

It's a bluff. It’s just a piece of paper- it means nothing until they stamp it, and they're not obligated to. But hopefully, they're dumb enough to fall for it. If not…I’ve got more up my sleeve.

"Ootsuka, is this true?" The boss sets the paper down and stares at his subordinates.

"No..." He adjusts in his seat slightly, his voice wavering just a bit. "This whole contract is made up. I never agreed to any kind of deal like this."

"Oh, really?" I fold my fingers underneath my chin. "I recorded the audio where you made that deal with us. Should I play it for you? I'll include the part where you say that if we don't make the money back, you'll 'own' all of us. Interesting choice of words, Ootsuka-san. You're aware that human trafficking is a serious crime, right?"

"Ootsuka, what is the meaning of this? Did you-"

The lieutenant suddenly cuts his boss off. "Don't believe a word she says. She's trying to con us."

"If that wasn't enough, I've also got video evidence of Ootsuka-san's direct subordinate performing property damage, as well as attempting to attack and "cripple"- his words, not mine- Aikawa-san's son and his classmate with a deadly weapon. The guy openly admitted to breaking the salon's windows on Ootsuka-san's orders so they could add an extra repair charge to the debt and not have to cancel it. I'm a little disappointed in you, Ootsuka-san." I stare right at his sunglasses, where I think his eyes are- he looks slightly nervous. I've got him on the ropes. "I thought you would be smart enough to not trust an idiot with your plans."

The boss looks at Ootsuka, ready to open his mouth, but before he can, his lieutenant jumps to his feet. "She's lying! She's got no videos or recordings or anything!"

"Want to see if I do?" I'll answer that for you. I do. I've got all the video on my phone. It's something I practice in my daily life. You can't do anything if you don't have evidence.

"So what?" he sneers. "You can have all the evidence you like. It doesn't mean nothing. Sorry, kid. You're not getting a cent of that money. Nothing's gonna happen to us. Now get out of here."

"Ootsuka, sit down!" the boss barks, and instantly he complies like a scolded puppy.

Okayu rests his elbows on the table. "I apologize for my subordinate's...rudeness toward you and the others. However, he doesn't have the authority to cancel one of our contracts. Only I do. We'll deal with this internally." He casts a strong glance at his lieutenant, and the guy shrinks back. "I apologize for wasting your time, Suzuran-san, but unless you have the money to pay the loan off physically present in cash, nothing can happen to it. The loan still stands."

A smile starts to creep over Ootsuka's face. Well, I expected this. I didn't think he actually had the authority to play fast and loose with multiple millions in the first place. But I got him angry enough to make a promise, and yakuza have to keep their promises. Or at least that's the way it works in fiction, and these guys are pretty stereotypical to begin with.

So it's time for my trump card.

"Is this going to change your mind?" I unzip the duffel bag, revealing the pathetic form of Motomu Wahira, bound and gagged with duct tape. He's fully awake now, wriggling and trying to move, his eyes full of terror, trying to scream, but only a muffled moan is coming out. I tied him up myself. Pretty good, if you ask me. He looks like a real hostage.

Ootsuka's mouth has dropped open and his face has gone white, while the boss is bending over to look at the guy with concern. "Like I said, I caught him on video confessing to multiple crimes. The police have been watching you guys for years. All they need is one last piece of evidence to raid this place, and then all of you are getting locked up for the rest of your lives. And if I turn this guy over to the cops...he'll definitely squeal. All your hard work will be gone, just like that, Okayu-san. You wouldn't want that, would you?"

The boss rubs his forehead, deep in anguished thought. "What are you proposing, Suzuran-san?"

"Well, you've got two choices. Number one is you stamp that little piece of paper right there, and you lose sixty-three million, but no one presses charges. Number two is you don't, and you get to find out whether I was bluffing about the videos or not." I make sure to do my best idol pyon-pyon smile while I say this. It's my favorite way to use my idol training from childhood- acting cute while I make someone sweat.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention I used to want to be an idol when I grew up? Things changed, though.

"Boss, you can't do this-" Ootsuka begins to cry out, standing up so suddenly that his glasses fall off his face, and he's suddenly silenced by Okayu picking up his stamp and placing it on the paper. "What-" For the first time in my knowledge, the gangster is completely silent.

"As I mentioned before, we apologize for Ootsuka's actions." The boss bows his head. "The contract is canceled at our expense."

"Pleasure doing business!" I quickly grab the contract and all the other documents before they can change their minds. "I'll be dropping by the loan office sometime later to finalize the contract, so just be prepared!"

I bound toward the exit with the most non-threatening body language I can use. If they've got someone waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, I'll try cuteness first, and then I'll beat him up. Heh.

As I dash down the stairs and the criminals go out of sight, I hear something thump on the table and the gruff voice of the boss growling, "Ootsuka, take responsibility."

It's a long way back home to Funabashi- the train takes about an hour, but I don't mind. And it's expensive, but I have my IC fully loaded. I'm imagining Aikawa-kun and his family's surprise when they wake up in the morning. Like I said, I feel obligated to help. It's kinda a compulsion. But it's also because of how rewarding it is when everything finally works out.

Of course, I'm also a liar, so don't believe everything I say.

I spend the whole hour listening to music and watching TakTiks. A lot of the girls on this app are cute. Not like Lara (I know her, she should totally show her face and she'd get even more popular), but they're cute. I bet they'll end up being scouted sometime. That was what I wanted to do as a kid, but I missed that boat...because everything changed so suddenly.

I open the front door to my home quietly, and instantly all my elation dissipates...because that woman is standing there with a glare on her face.

"Reika Suzuran, where have you been?!" she snaps in that annoying Karen voice of hers. I brush past her. "It is eleven o'clock on a school night and your father and I have had it with you and running off to go do who knows what! We were about to call the police to go looking for you- Hey! Listen to me when I'm talking to you!"

That's a bold-faced lie. Dad doesn't care. He's probably asleep right now. It's all this woman who thinks she can control me and my sister. Fuu-chan goes along with it...and that makes me even angrier.

If she's going to start this...fine. I can play along until she rants and raves herself out of breath. None of her words will have any effect on me.

I stop in my tracks, turn around, and glare at her with all the hate I can muster, stopping my Dotify playlist, but not taking out my earbuds. "What?"

"Like I said, we were about to call the police and report you missing!" the hag raves. "And you still haven't explained this! I've told you just about seventeen times to explain what you mean about not going to college and you just blow me off!" Oh, boy. She's brought out the class survey again. She's holding the paper up. She stayed up late just to nag me. This is what I deal with almost every night. "Why can't you be more like your sister? I swear-"

"It's none of your business."

"I can't believe you! After how hard your father has worked..." I'm done engaging with her. Time to go to bed. "Listen to me, young lady! I am your mother!"

Halfway up the stairs, I stop again, turn back to her, and say flatly. "I wish you'd stop acting like you're my real mom."

"Huh?" She's turning red. I hope the bitch gives herself a stroke from yelling at me. I'd throw a party.

"It pisses me off."

I don't wait for her reply. I just go upstairs, slam my door, and descend into my fluffy, pillowy bed. I've earned a good night's sleep.

Oh. One more thing. The story with the Yakuza doesn't end here. They tried to break their promise to Aikawa-kun and I get to do the same thing to them.

Steward McOy