Chapter 18:

"Baby Scratch My Back"


So yeah, I tried to rob the Nishi-Dori Konbini to put some respect on my name, but stupid Mizutami Sumiko tossed my ass out a window. As I flew through the air, a few thoughts came to mind.

I’m kind of into women tossing me around like this.

Did I leave my bike headlights on?

And lastly-

You fool! the jade snarls at me. You had this Mizutami Sumiko dead in your sights, yet you couldn’t pull the trigger!

She was alive in my sights, I correct. And I don’t know, but killing someone in cold blood just ain’t right. I gotta beat them in a fair fight.

The jade sounds angry. You moron! Why pull a switchblade out then? Why not fight her with your fists, put her at your mercy with your blows?

The white streetlamps shimmer and dance through the crimson streaks of blood and glass shards flying through the air. There's a wry smile on my face.

Isn’t it obvious? I can’t beat someone like her in a fair fight.

I hit the ground hard, the collision with the asphalt knocking the wind out of me. I lay there for a moment, my vision blurry.

Take my power! the jade commands. Let’s make a deal!

A deal? I question. Can I use your power without a deal?

I imagine the jade shaking its head as it speaks. A deal is required. The mahou shoujo who held me before you learned that lesson the hard way, much to her woe. But enough talk. Will you strike a deal?

For a brief moment, I consider it. But then I grit my teeth.

No can do, I tell the jade. I used to be a man of honor. No more pulling switchblades on unarmed women for me. I’m gonna hit the gym until I can beat the shit out of Sumiko the proper way.

I can feel the jade burn hot as it grows desperate. Listen to me! Money, power, women, sandwiches, name your price. I’ll grant you that boon instantaneously.

I frown. In exchange for what?

Temporary use of your body.


I cough and pick myself up out of the pile of broken glass.

Man, I really could use a sandwich right now.

But then again…

Eh, maybe later, I tell the jade.

The jade doesn’t answer.

Sumiko doesn’t pursue me as I hobble away to my bike.

I get back to the warehouse a little before the Reds are due to show up. I give a particular knock on the door; Sake Sakemoto peers at me through the slit in the metal and her eyes widen.

“Boss, waddya doing out there? I thought you were in your office.”

She opens the door, and I let out a little chuckle. “I snuck out-”

“Boss, you got put through a blender!” Sake cries out.

I groan. I hope I could’ve snuck over to our makeshift shower and bandage myself up without anyone noticing, but Sake’s shrill cries alert the whole crew.

A minute later, I’m sitting on a ratty yellow couch while Gumball uses a pair of cauterized (is that what she called it?) tweezers to pull the glass shards out of my cuts and scrapes. Shigemoto, Ichiki, and Sake alternate between taking swigs from a big bottle of Russian vodka and pouring it onto my wounds. I grimace from the pain, which sends shocks through my body and is enough to make me bite my lip and clench my fists.

I will heal you, the jade offers. Sign the deal.

Shut it.

Not until you sign the deal.

“Shigemoto, play some tunes.”

The rest of the Senko give me odd looks while Sharktooth Shigemoto grins because we usually don’t let him control the crew's speaker. We all know what he’s gonna play, and he plays it loud. The second he spins the dial - high-pitched, fast-paced electronic music blares through the warehouse, shaking the glass windows and threatening to blow out its walls entirely. The voice of the female singer rattles on like a cacophony of mice.

The jade loses its stoic tone. Wh-what is this?

I grin. Nightcore anime OST remixes. As long as you keep pestering me, I’ll be blaring it.

Your tactics don’t frighten me, Haruki, I will have what I want in the end-


Enough! Enough of this, please!

I snap my fingers. Sharktooth frowns, but turns off the speaker. Everyone else, including the jade, sighs in relief.

Gumball tightens a bandage around my head. “What were you thinking?” she says, anger in her voice.

“I know, I know,” I say with a sigh. “We got the deal, and I was out-”

“I mean getting yourself hurt like this,” she corrects. 

Didn't expect her to say that. There’s an awkward moment where we stare into each other’s eyes, then she yanks on the bandages until there’s black spots in my vision.

She crosses her arms and goes “hmph” while turning her back on me.

I sigh again. “Sorry. Guess I just felt like I had something to prove.”

“What, wearing that amulet make you feel tough or something?” Gumball asks the wall.

I look down at the jade. I get the feeling I probably shouldn’t tell her I’ve been talking to a piece of jewelry for like five hours now. Maybe I should just take it off - but then the jade sends out a surge of something warm and pleasant, making me think of fast motorcycles and freedom again, and I suppose I better keep it on.

I’m not sure how to answer her, but fortunately, a knock on the metal door to the warehouse interrupts our conversation. We all glance at each other; serious looks emerge on our faces. I punch my fist into an open palm.

“Let’s do this, Senko.” I stand up and ignore the way the world spins. I glare at my teammates ‘cuz I mean business.

“Sharktooth, smoke a cigarette so we look tough. Ichika and Sake, hold guns so we look tough. Gumball, cross your arms and make sure to pop a bubble every time I say something dramatic.”

The Senko dash off to their respective assignments. There’s another round of knocking on the door. I approach and open the metal slit. Youthful eyes meet my own.

“Here for Nikolai,” the college kid says in a disdainful tone.

Even though he said the correct password, I frown at the way he said it. College kids are the worst when it comes to self-righteousness. Don't even get me started on Red college kids.

“Bukharin’s out,” I answer gruffly.

“Can I wait here until he gets back?”

With the song-and-dance password routine all set, I twist several locks and pull back the metal door. The college kid stands before me, a detached, amused smile on his face. He’s tall and lanky, dressed in a brown coat and brown fedora. There's a little goatee on his face that he seems very proud of.

What a loser.

I let him inside and close the door behind him. Sharktooth bears his dark smile with a lit Chinese cigarette in his mouth, while Ichika holds his gun tightly. Sake, unfortunately, points the gun at herself to look down the barrel, curious as to what’s inside; Gumball carefully saves Sake from her own foolishness.

“Quite a crew,” the college sophomore (you just KNOW he’s a sophomore) muses.

I want to stuff this guy in a locker. If I was in college, I’d be playing video games and hitting on co-eds all day, not trying to start a revolution.

“Senko’s the toughest there is,” I tell the kid, puffing my chest out.

The sophomore looks at my bandages and exhales through his nose.

I feel the heat rise from my stomach. I tap my foot against the ground. “It’s five against one, pal. You don’t want to start something.”

Gumball pops a bubble.

The relaxed look on the sophomore’s face never changes. “I’d advise against that. Might not be obvious, but I’m packing serious firepower.”

Sake's eyes move towards the area below his belt. God, she sucks.

Focus, Haruki, the jade reminds me. You shouldn’t make a scene here.

What’s it to you?

The jade metaphorically eyes the sophomore. I do not wish to fall into the possession of the Shikishima Red Army.

You know who the Reds are?

I know lots of things.

We lead the sophomore to the middle of the warehouse. He smacks his lips. “Got the guns?”

“Got the cash?” I answer.

He reaches into his coat, causing Ichiki to put a finger on the trigger of his gun, but the sophomore merely pulls out a wad of cash. Sake tentatively approaches, takes a few loose bills, and sniffs them.

“They’re real, boss.”

Gumball pops a bubble.

I nod at Sharktooth. He retreats into a backroom and returns with a stack of briefcases. Before going to retrieve the ammunition boxes, he kicks over a briefcase to the sophomore. The Red kneels down and opens the case. The new grin on his face confirms he likes the Taifu x04 pistols he sees inside.

When Sharktooth arrives with the last box of ammunition, the sophomore unveils two manila envelopes hidden in his jacket. Gumball takes them and after peeking inside, her eyes turn into dollar signs.

As the exchange continues, the tension in the warehouse slowly starts to relax. All things considered, this is actually going pretty smoothly-

There’s another knock on the door. “WcDonalds delivery!”

“Ah, schweet!” Ichiki holsters his pistol and bounds toward the door. Before he reaches it, I fucking deck him. As he writhes on the ground, I put him into a headlock.

“You ordered a goddamn WcDonalds delivery during a weapons deal?”

“I was hungry, boss! I didn’t think it would arrive until afterwards!”

A fierce headache comes over me, sending the room spinning once more. The metallic knocking continues, each sound making my brain pulsate. The sophomore frowns and places a hand inside his coat Gumball, Shigemoto, and Sake look around uneasily.

Don’t open the door, the jade warns.


“Just leave it outside!” I yell out.

It takes a moment for the delivery guy to respond.

“I, uh…I need a signature!”

The jade snarls at me. Don’t open the door!

My headache explodes and steam comes out of my ears. I snap at the jade.

Fuck you! I’m tired of you yapping at me! I’m gonna open the door, sign the stupid thing, send the sophomore off, and then eat a burger! If you keep smacking those lips, I’m gonna eat every fucking burger in this room!

The jade does the inanimate object-equivalent of banging its head against a wall.

I open the metal slit to look outside. I grin because hot damn, it’s not a delivery guy…it’s a delivery woman!

I immediately open the door. The woman looks my age, with dark red hair and blue eyes seemingly made from winter itself. Now that she no longer needs to yell through the door, she speaks in a plain tone.

“Hello. My name is Yamashiro Yuki. Unfortunately, I will be hazardous to your health today.”

A laser beam erupts from her finger and vaporizes my nutsack.

Steward McOy