Chapter 9:

"Supervillain Theme"


Two Hantei armed with wooden katanas guard the mahogany doors to the Student Council office. You need to head down a long hallway to reach it, with every aspect of the corridor specifically designed to overawe the viewer with the glory of the Nakashima conglomerate’s rule over Shikishima. Amid paintings of the interventions in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Somalia that restored democratic rule to those countries (with Shikishima guidance), amid photos of Shikishima tanks racing across the Kanto Plain during the war with Japan, one man regularly makes an appearance - Elder Nakashima himself, the former professor who founded Shikishima, declaring it open to the public in 1986.

There’s photographs of his childhood days in a torn and baggy Imperial uniform. There’s photographs of his college graduation from the University of Tokyo; photographs at the Tokyo Tower with some fellow authors, including the the steel-faced Mishima Yukio and cigarette-smoking Shintaro Ishihara; photographs at the Sapporo laboratory where his scientists invented cold fusion; photographs of tall cranes laying the foundations to what would become the floating city of Shikishima. Nakashima wears business suits when he was young; he wears a gray uniform covered in military medals in his middle-years; his more recent photos depict his white-bearded self in a flowing kimono.

In some of the photographs, he’s with a young girl who steadily grows up before your very eyes as you head down the hallway, until you get to the very end, where you can meet the real thing herself.

I stop before the mahogany doors. It's not because the guards stop me - they know Nobuko and I by sight. No, it’s because there are times when a man must fight.

I take a breath.


Damnit. I’m falling into the spaghetti once more.

Deep breaths.

Focus on your art.

Just be yourself. If that chick don’t wanna know, forget her.

I fucking got this.

Nobuko wraps me on the temple. “Oi…Kouji, you still in there?”


Nobuko smiles and puts her hands on her hips. “Stop talking like you got a stick up your ass. Relax, chief.”

Her words flow smoothly like a rolling wave in the lazy days of midsummer. I calm my breathing, and then nod at Nobuko, who opens the doors to the Student Council office.

Elder Nakashima’s granddaughter sits behind an ornate carved wooden desk. Sure, I could first tell you about the suits of armor and Pre-Raphaelite picturesques adorning the walls, the rich blue French Rococo carpet striped with patterns of golden fleur-de-lises, or the imported couches and tables where some of the other Council members sit, because President Nakashima sits all the way in the back behind it all. 

But she’s the first one you notice. She greets you with that serene smile every time you enter the room, like she’s expecting you, because she expects everything. A genius, a prodigy, a woman who can make a five-minute instant mac-n-cheese in three minutes.

Three minutes!

When she sees it’s me, President Nakashima Sakura leans back in her chair, her eyes and smile turning something mischievous, her slender fingers tented together on her desk. Her long black hair shines like the stars or something beautiful and poetic. Some women make you want to write poetry. Some women make you stand still in awe and lose the ability to write entirely. The words don’t come to mind because there’s a layer of beauty that words simply don’t do justice to-

Nobuko knees me in the ass, pretending it’s part of her natural motion as she walks by. But the soreness is worth bringing me back to my senses.

Nakashima lets out a dainty giggle. “Nobuko, thanks for escorting Kouji to our meeting,” she says in her relaxed tone. “You may stay, as may you, Hashiguchi. The rest of you, we will meet again this afternoon.”

A number of bookish-looking secretaries and under-secretaries depart the office, leaving just the four of us. Hashiguchi Gion, Captain of Hantei Squadron 1, remains seated on a couch, dark hair held tightly in a top-knot, sipping tea with the distinctive pose and arrogance of a golden son of Ichi-Machi at the top of the city.

“Kouji, you have performed exemplary service in waste removal,” Nakashima begins.

I rub the back of my neck. “Ah, you know...I would like to keep the city clean, that’s all.”

“Good. For tonight, I’ll need you to keep the city clean by performing a different sort of waste removal.” Nakashima reaches below her desk and removes a manilla envelope. A few photos spill out of the front - passing close-ups and long-distance shots all depict a particular warehouse in the Minami Port District.

“Shikishima has made many enemies abroad," Nakashima explains. "And our grip on the global economy has weakened. Our Pacific Union Organization has fallen behind the G7, and their sanctions are clearly hurting us. Many on the island want to restore the old relations with the world, to return to how it was before 1989. Many want free and fair elections. Many want to turn the island on its head entirely."

"The Reds," I realize. 

"A group dedicated to overthrowing my grandfather. Modern-day Bolsheviks."

Politics are messy and confusing - Sumiko tries to explain them to me sometimes, but when she talks about things like the far-left or far-right, I tell her I only understand far-ting, so she throws her hands up in the air and kicks me out of her room (it's so easy to tease Sumiko).

Fortunately, it's easier to understand the kaicho. When Nakashima speaks, the words flow like a slow river, moving at their own comfortable pace, calm conditions for any ship caught in its susurration.

“A revolution would be difficult,” I say, since I'm not completely useless. “Only the military and police are allowed access to weapons on the island. A revolt without guns would be a short one.”

Nakashima nods toward Nobuko, who leans over and smiles at me. “You’re on the right track, but the situation’s a bit different now. Weapons made in Japan are being smuggled into the city.”

“Past our fleet?” I question.

“Some part of the fleet is loyal to the rebels,” Nobuko elaborates. “And considering our engagements in the Yellow Sea and Indian Ocean, they can’t be everywhere at once.”

“Do the police not watch all the docks?”

“Some part of the police is loyal to the rebels,” Nobuko more-or-less repeats. “And many of the docks and longshoremen are controlled by the mass organized crime syndicate known as the Hiroi-kai.”

I’ve heard of them. My old crew, the Senko, is said to now be a part of them. Guess they’re using their control of the ports to be the middle-man between Japan and the Shikishima Red Army.

Nakashima unfolds a marked-up map of San-Machi. She points a delicate finger at Minami Port. “This warehouse here is being used to house a small depot of smuggled weapons. It’s lightly-guarded by your former Senko.”

Nakashima then turns and looks through the long glass windows behind her desk. Down below, students cross the courtyard while trees sway in the sea breeze.

“I would like to use the Hantei for something greater than litter duty. Kouji, your mission is simple - you and the Lads will storm this warehouse and secure the weapons.”

Nakashima turns toward me and places a hand across her heart. “Shikishima is my home. I’ll do what I can to protect it. I can only count on you, Kouji.”

A feeling of pride rushes through me and bursts from the seams like solar flares from the sun. Perhaps this is the way of the sword - in service of the one you love. There’s simplicity in love, a simplicity in being trusted, in being desired, in being me because the girl I like said something spectacular.

“President Nakashima, may I raise a point?” Hashiguchi stands and speaks with an upturned nose and eyes of cool confidence. He’s taller than me and walks with the gait of a man who’s never been outdone.

Nakashima nods. “You may.”

Hashiguchi stands next to me and smirks. “Don’t allow this termite from the undercity to lead the Hantei’s first offensive action. Quite clearly, this honor should go to me and me alone.”

Steward McOy