Chapter 4: Sylvia’s Modern World
The early morning air was still and quiet except for the occasional ambiance of car engines driving by in the distance. Light from the city’s street lamps flittered through the shades of Sylvia’s room. The ceiling fan provided a constant turning of the air inside the room. Sylvia laid in her bed, the covers underneath her arms, her head resting in the crook of Shinji’s shoulder. The pair were sharing a cigarette that was burning low. The filter was marked red with Sylvia’s lipstick, and the smoke drifted up slowly and was being pushed around and out the open window. The fan provided quick bursts of soothingly cool air.
“You know, I always thought it was just a joke that the crazy girls were the best in bed, but now I’m a believer.” Shinji said, his breath ragged as he took a drag off the cigarette.
Sylvia suddenly hopped up, grabbed her dagger off the bedside table and jumped on top of Shinji, holding the blade close to his throat. Her eyes were wide open and intense. Shinji recoiled a bit, a look of frank terror in his eyes. The ash from the burning end of the cigarette fell off the tip with almost comedic timing.
“Are you calling me fucking crazy!?” She yelled. After a few seconds, her expression softened and she removed the dagger from his throat, placing it back on the small table near her bed. She smiled and pressed her cheek against his.
“Amaya-San, you don’t have to worry about me. I’d never hurt you!” Sylvia said happily.
“Ok, the fact that I was genuinely scared for a second should tell you something.” Shinji replied, chuckling somewhat nervously, wrapping his arms around her.
Shinji placed the cigarette in the small white bowl they were using as a makeshift ashtray and took another cigarette out of the pack and lit it using the silver zippo lighter. He placed the lighter back on the bedside table where Sylvia’s pistol was also located, still in its holster. He took a few puffs and handed it to Sylvia. She breathed in and exhaled slowly as Shinji lovingly played with her dark hair.
“You know, I have to admire the sheer confidence of a woman who doesn’t even attempt to hide her anime body pillow when she invites a guy back to her place.” Shinji snickered, looking over at the Jerid Messa cushion on the far side of Sylvia.
“Well, I figured if I get this far with a man, there’s absolutely nothing that they could see in my room that would turn them off.” Sylvia replied, passing the cigarette back.
“I assumed if they got this deep, you’d have already made it abundantly clear that you’re obsessed with Mobile Suit anyway… And probably made them watch all of it.” Shinji said grinning, which drew a short laugh out of Sylvia. He pulled her closer to him and kissed her on the forehead. “Ah, you’re lucky you’re pretty.” He sighed with a smile.
Shinji and Sylvia laid in bed silently for a while, simply enjoying each other’s presence. Sylvia yawned and eventually fell fast asleep.
The room was bright with sunlight when Sylvia awoke. The blankets were scattered messily around the top of the mattress, only half covering her feet. Shinji was lying in bed watching the TV on low volume. The lights flickered quickly across the screen. The same could be said about how the sunlight bounced off of the slowly rotating blades of the ceiling fan.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Did I wake you up Yamazaki-chan?” Shinji said as he saw her stirring.
“No, no. you’re fine. I’m just surprised you’re still here.” Sylvia replied groggily.
“Why… Wouldn’t I be?” Shinji questioned, a bit confused.
“No reason. It’s just… The last guy I was with didn’t stick around afterward.” Sylvia answered. She was able to feel content again, the relaxing warmth coming from the sun and from Shinji’s body made her feel comfortable.
“Oh, he seems like an asshole.” Shinji responded
“He was a good man. He just wasn’t…” Sylvia paused and sighed. She was struggling to find the right words.
“He wasn’t relationship material.” Shinji finished for her.
Sylvia nodded in response to Shinji choosing the words she couldn’t find herself.
“We shouldn’t speak ill of the dead though.” She added.
“Right. I-I’m sorry.” Shinji apologized sincerely
Sylvia sat up in bed and stretched her arms out. She then fell sideways onto Shinji. He was taken by surprise, but reacted quick enough to catch her. Sylvia rested her head against his firm pectoral muscles. He looked down at her and beamed.
“You’ve gained a new scar since the last time I saw you.” He remarked
“I can thank Katarina for that one.” Sylvia replied, reaching over her shoulder to touch the circular scar just above her left shoulder blade.
“I remember where you got this one.” Shinji said with a smirk, tracing his hand over a long scar across the small of her back.
“Of course, how could you ever let me forget about Busan?” Sylvia retorted dryly
“I mean, in retrospect, it was kind of funny seeing you get thrown through a plate glass window.”
“Oh yeah? Was it funny when I nearly bled out on you?”
“Undeniably, it was far less funny when I had a pint of your blood all over my best pair of pants, I will admit.” Sylvia laughed and rubbed her hand across his thigh. Shinji took her chin in his fingers and turned her head firmly but carefully. He tilted her neck up so he could reach her lips, and the two shared a long kiss. They sat in silence for a few moments, then Shinji looked down into Sylvia’s eyes.
“The third one, I think you told me what it’s from.” Shinji said, feeling the scar on the side of her right hip. “But I won’t say it. It probably brings up bad memories for you.”
“Go on, you can say it. Not like it’s going to change anything, right?” Sylvia permitted him.
“You’ve never told me the full story, but I seem to recall you got it from… From your father.” Shinji replied carefully and solemnly.
“That’s correct.” Sylvia answered simply.
Shinji gave her body a slight squeeze to ease her mind. “I won’t press any more. It’s not my place.” He spoke
Sylvia gave him a nod of appreciation, then rolled over onto her side. Shinji did the same so that he was facing her. The covers seemed like mere suggestion for how far they were off their bodies by this point.
“So, tell me, what is your motivation for finding Sensei Umata’s killer? I know for a fact it isn’t just out of blind loyalty to him. As much as he did for both of us, he was what, 78 years old? I mean, is it really worth risking your life over?” Sylvia questioned
“If I’m being honest with you Syl…” Shinji paused to compose his thoughts. “My life and my job have been so unfulfilling the last 5 or so years. I wanted to become a doctor because I wanted to help people in need. I’m not helping anyone who needs it. I’m helping people who are getting shot and stabbed because they’re criminals.” He sighed
“But you’re making great money.” Sylvia countered “Tax free as well I’m assuming.”
“Sure. money can’t buy you happiness though. It can buy you things that create the illusion of happiness, but when you’re on your deathbed, you’re not thinking about how much cool stuff you have.” Shinji said wryly “I could never be a legit doctor though. Spending 10 hours a day at work hitting middle-aged corporate types with that fucking reflex hammer, taking tons of paper work home for a 10th of the money. Fuck that, I’d rather make a bag working on Yakuza and retire in 5 years.”
Sylvia drew him in for a hug and Shinji obliged. He cupped Sylvia’s cheek and stared deeply into her hazel eyes. The two began kissing ardently. Shinji brought her head in close to his chest and whispered in her ear “Besides, last night… Sylvia, I’ve never had somebody ignite a fire in my soul like you did… And I’m not just talking about the job.”
Sylvia climbed on top of Shinji. He reached for the belt that had slid down between the bed and the side table on his half of the mattress.
Sylvia stretched her hand out and stopped him.
“No rough stuff this time.” She said confidently. Shinji dropped the belt to where it was originally resting and grabbed Sylvia firmly by the hips.
Two men walked along the outside of the warehouse near the waterfront. One was an older man, and another was younger, but his entire body was covered by a long golden silk cloak, with blue velvet fillagree decorating it. The older man’s expression was hardened and stone-faced, his silver hair tied up in a top knot. His skin had seen the wear of many decades, and the full traditional tattoo sleeve on both his arms had long since lost their once vibrant color. The two stood over the man who had been killed by Katarina’s knife.
“Who do you think could have killed our men?” The older man asked in Japanese
“Don’t know.” The younger man answered, picking up the arm of the dead man and placing it back down.
“I bet it was the damn Kohaku clan. They’ve been slowly moving into our territory ever since we wiped out their competition.” The older man mused bitterly.
“No. This wasn’t the product of gang related violence.” The younger man replied. He spoke with a cold, but calm arrogance.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Look at the way our guard was killed.” The youngling said, pointing to the cut marks on the guard’s chest and neck. “They severed the aortic artery that leads to the heart, and then cut the jugular at nearly the same time. Instant death with zero artery spray. Whoever did this was a professional.” He explained.
“Who the hell would be so bold as to come after our entire operation like this?” The old man questioned.
“Well, that I have no idea. But this weapons operation has been air tight for over a year now with no hitch. Somebody must have betrayed us.” The fledgling man extrapolated.
“So, you will see through that the traitor has been taken care of?” The old man said
“With all due respect chairman, I have to ask… How much more blood needs to be spilt before my father’s sins are absolved?”
“You’ll find benediction for your father when our family returns to the glory that he sought to steal from us. Now, I trust you know what needs to be done, Nobiru.”
“Yes, Uncle.” The man replied, bowing.
Sylvia was laying on her back, lighting up a cigarette. She stared up at the ceiling, counting the rotations of the slowly turning blades of the fan. She took the zippo in her hand and flicked it open and closed a few times before placing it down on the bedstand nearest to her. She took a long drag off the cigarette and watched as the thick billows of smoke floated up to the ceiling to be dissipated by the fan. She looked over at Shinji who took her left hand in his.
“I didn’t know you smoked.” He stated, his voice barely able to reach above a whisper without becoming strung out and raspy.
“I don’t except after sex.” Sylvia answered. She passed the cigarette to her partner. Her hand had formed an arch over the top of her eyes as she tried to regain her focus. He breathing was slowly returning to normal. “Welcome to the exclusive club of two people who know that about me. How’s it feel to be the only living member?”
“Honestly, pretty great.” Shinji replied. “I assume you scared all the other men off by showing them your entire collection of Mobile Suit action figures and weird statues.” He added, referencing the three huge clear glass shelves hanging from the wall filled to the brim with collectables, action figures, statues and figurines. All of them were in pristine condition, even if the shelves had begun to collect a thin layer of dust. He handed the cigarette back to Sylvia. “Because you are entirely too pretty to have slept with only 2 men in your life.”
“First of all, they’re not weird, ok. That right there is the 10th anniversary Ken the Eagle commemorative statue. There was only 200 of them ever made and it’s worth $300,000 yen.” Sylvia refuted, pointing towards a fairly large statue on the top shelf with the cigarette before taking a draw. “Second of all, I’m very selective about who I decide to engage with romantically. As you know, I don’t have the best luck with men.”
“Seems like it, have you ever considered switching to women?” Shinji said in jest.
“I would absolutely love to spend all day stocking and eyepatch shopping with Katarina. Then at night, we could cuddle up and she can whisper in my ear about how great the U.S.S.R. was.” Sylvia responded sardonically, playing along with the joke. Her eyes lit up as she gave a hearty, genuine chuckle. The cigarette had burned down near the filter and Sylvia placed it in the makeshift astray without entirely putting it out.
Shinji laughed and pulled her on top of him so that her body was resting on his brawny physique. He had one arm cradling her body, and the other was holding her left hand in his from behind; his fingers interlocking over her hand.
“As much as I enjoy bantering you about your choice of interior design, you don’t get off that easily. I know you have an ulterior motive for helping me out. So, what is it?” Shinji’s question was met with silence.
“C’mon, it’s only fair since you asked me.” He prodded.
Sylvia heaved a massive sigh. “It’s a combination of things.” She started
“I know we talked before he died, but it was for less than a minute. The fact that I never truly reconciled with Master Umata is…I uh.” Sylvia looked down out of frustration since she struggled to think of the correct words to express her feelings. “I just don’t think I could live with that guilt eating away at me if I didn’t do something to try to resolve how things ended between us, even if he isn’t here to see it.” Sylvia reached over and grabbed another cigarette from the pack. She lit it and took a few puffs.
“Well, that’s nice. I think Sensei Umata would be proud of the woman you’ve become Syl.” Shinji stated
“Ha, don’t get it twisted. There’s a reason why the shouting matches him and I got into were so crazy. He thought that becoming an assassin had changed me too much.”
Sylvia didn’t attempt to hand the cigarette to Shinji, she was just using it to help steady her own breathing now.
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t see how it has.” Shinji reiterated
“That’s because you don’t know the real me, Shinji.” Sylvia retorted a bit severely
“Nonsense Sylvia, we grew up together, I know you better than-”
“What would you be doing with your life if you weren’t a doctor?” Sylvia interrupted him, seemingly changing the subject.
“I dunno. Being a salary man at some shit corporate job. My father, god rest his soul, always wanted me to be a corporate accountant.” Shinji answered, slightly taken aback by the abrupt swerve in the conversation.
“If I wasn’t a hitman, I’d be a homeless person on the street yelling at everyone walking by.” Sylvia said “You have to realize Shinji, that killing people is the only thing in the entire world that I’m good at. Without being an assassin, I’d have no purpose in life.”
Shinji said nothing in response, so Sylvia kept talking.
“And as stupid as it sounds… I um… I have no… Ugh, why am I so fucking bad at communicating my feelings?” Sylvia said angrily, outwardly upset with herself more than anything. She sat up, pulling herself away from Shinji. He could feel the tact of her skin separating from his.
“It’s ok sweetheart, don’t get frustrated. Just take some time to think about it.” Shinji said, putting a supportive hand on her shoulder. After some time, Sylvia spoke.
“As lame as it sounds, the Sun-Jin, the Blackstar… Those people were the only family I’ve ever had. Since those fell apart for me, I just haven’t felt like I belonged.” Sylvia was finally able to articulate.
“It’s not lame.” Shinji assured her “Everyone wants to feel like they fit in, it’s just human nature.”
“You make me feel more at home than anybody has in so long. I’m really happy I decided to help you, Shinji.” Sylvia said, a relieved look on her face as if she was Atlus and the weight of the world had finally been lifted off her shoulders. She laid back with her head on the pillow. Shinji slid down sideways in the bed, resting his head on her abdomen, looking up at the ceiling.
“And you showing up really dug me out of a dark place as well. So, I’m glad you decided to help too.”
Sylvia was gently sweeping the tuft of his black hair that had fallen in his face to the side. Shinji took her hand in his and stopped her.
“Syl, whatever this is… Friends… Romance. I want you to know that I care about you.” Shinji stated, that look of approachability and safety shining even brighter than usual in his eyes.
“Whatever this is, you still need help growing proper facial hair.” Sylvia joshed out of nowhere.
“Sylvia, you’re using sarcasm as a defense mechanism again.” Shinji scolded her.
“Ugh… Talking about all these emotions is going to make me cry.” She replied with a sniffle. “Can’t you just go back to making fun of my Sailor Moon figurines?”
“If your heart says you need cry, then cry. There’s no shame in doing it.” Shinji responded
Sylvia wiped a few tears from her eye and she leaned down to kiss Shinji on the cheek. Shinji sat up and pulled himself on top of her so that his head rested near her shoulder. He used his thumb to gently wipe her eye.
“Ok, but seriously, you have way too many Sailor Moon figurines.” Shinji whispered in her ear with a deep, flirtatious laugh.
The Golden Koi restaurant had just finished its usual lunchtime rush. It was located in a medium sized building just off the main road in town. It had a blue door with a golden koi jumping through the surface of the water on it. Beyond the door was a well-kept and cozy restaurant that sold all types of Japanese cuisine. The aroma emanating from the kitchen could make even the most well-fed man salivate. Nobiru opened the door into the entryway where two young employees were chatting. As soon as they saw a glimpse of the Chairman’s nephew, the two stopped mid-conversation.
“A-ah Nobiru-San” The host said, bowing in nervous reverence. “Please, sit anywhere you like, I can move any of the patrons for you. I’ll also alert the chefs-”
“Don’t worry about it Iha-San. I’m not here to eat.” Nobiru replied respectfully, but with an intimidating edge. The host opened the door for him and Nobiru dipped his head in appreciation. Nobiru walked to the middle of the dining room. He stood cross-armed in front of a table of seven high ranking Yakuza were drinking and eating. They all stopped in their tracks when they saw him standing above them.
“Everybody who is an employee or patron, get out now!” he roared at the top of this lungs, which sent shudders of terror down the spines of everybody in the restaurant. One by one, the employees, chefs, waiters, hosts all left out the front door along with the few customers in the café, the sense of fear in the air was palpable. Once he was sure everyone innocent had left, Nobiru began to speak to the men.
“One of my family’s warehouses in the water district was hit last night. We lost many good men.” He paused and started to stare at the men demoralizingly. “That operation has been nothing but smooth sailing for over a year. Somebody ratted us out. So, please, enlighten me as to who that might be.”
“Nobiru-San” One man spoke up from the group. “I assure you none of us would ever betray the family, no matter what. I think I can vouch for everyone with confidence when I say that.”
Nobiru didn’t talk, he just lowered his head to the level of the men sitting down. He stared deeply into all of their eyes with an intimidating, stone-faced scowl. He had his right arm tucked inside his cloak, leaving the sleeve to blow gently in the air inside the building. Suddenly, he pulled the dagger out of the sheath and in a flash, he grabbed the man’s arm and stuck the dagger through the middle of his hand. The gangster let out a bone-chilling scream of pain as Nobiru pulled out the dagger, wiped it on the tablecloth, and put it back in the sheath on the front of his waistband. The hand was pouring blood that seeped across the tabletop.
“That was me being nice.” He said with an unnerving calmness “Tell me who the snitch is.”
Sylvia reached across Shinji for the pack of cigarettes that was getting thinner and thinner. The room was no longer comfortingly warm, as the sun had grown in its intensity throughout the day, the heat in the room had become a bit more stifling. There was music coming from a turntable underneath the TV. The sound emanating from the speaker was smooth jazz. The cascades of electric piano chords, impetuous brass, crashing symbols and chaotic guitar was oddly romantic. Sylvia had placed the makeshift ashtray on top of the vinyl case between the pair. Shinji had his arm around her waist and his hand resting against her abdomen which was slick with sweat.
“I really did not take you as somebody who listens to jazz.” Shinji commented
“Why not?” Sylvia replied
“I dunno. You just don’t strike me as a jazz person. Also, you do realize that record players have been outdated for like, 15 years, right?”
“Records are cool and they sound better.” Sylvia jabbed back “But now I really want to know what kind of music you think I would listen to.”
“I assumed like… J-Pop or something. I have no idea.” Shinji admitted
“J-pop? I lived in America for 15 years, I’m basically a Gaijin at this point. What makes you think I’d listen to Japanese boy bands?” Sylvia said, feigning anger.
Shinji just laughed. He sat with her listening to the music for a while before he finally stretched and sat up.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Sylvia asked, putting out the last cigarette in the tray.
“As much as I would love to lie around slowly getting lung cancer with you, it’s 11 o’clock and I have stuff to do. I have clients to consult, you know, my job.” Shinji replied, standing up to put his pants back on.
“Alright but just so you know, you could have said lying around cuddling, I think only a truly unromantic person would call it ‘slowly getting lung cancer.’” Sylvia responded, playfully grabbing Shinji by the arm and pulling him back onto the bed.
“Well, there’s nothing romantic about my mouth tasting like the bottom of an ashtray, so I’m going to go with that one, thank you very much.” He said, kissing her on the lips.
“I’ll see you tonight?” He said, grabbing all his belongings scattered around the room. “Thought I could maybe pick us up some dinner?” he suggested
“Sure, what were you thinking?” Sylvia asked
“Maybe sticky rice and gyoza?” Shinji offered as a proposal, finally getting his shirt on. “Actually, you know what? I know exactly what to get us.” He corrected himself
“What are you planning?” Sylvia replied
“It’s a secret, but trust me, you’ll love it.” Shinji waived goodbye and stepped outside the front door.
“Oh god, is this what being married is like?” Angel said in Sylvia’s head.
The booth at the Golden Koi restaurant had turned into a bloodbath. Streaks of blood lined the leather upholstery and pools of blood had soaked into the carpet floor. Two of the men had their throats cut, one had an arm severed off and had been stabbed through the chest. The fourth man had his stomach cut open and two more had been hit by shurikens to the chest and throat. The muffled screams of the final man were barely audible from beyond the door of one of the walk-in freezers. He was hanging upside down from a chain and Nobiru was slowly walking toward him.
“Nobiru-san, please… I… I didn’t do it, I swear… I would never betray the family, you know that.” The man was quaking in fear as Nobiru approached him.
“Tell me who you told the information to, and I’ll let you down.” Nobiru said coolly
“I-it was a doctor. I don’t know his name, but he said he works with the Sun-Jin. I swear that’s the most I can tell you. P-please let me go!” he stated desperately.
“Well, that certainly narrows it down, now doesn’t it. Thank you for telling me the truth.” Nobiru pushed his cloak to the side to expose his katana.
He could sense the look of intense panic and fear in the man’s eyes. “You-you said I’d be let down if I was honest!” he shouted
Nobiru pushed up the scabbard with his thumb to reveal a bit of the golden blade. “I never said you’d be alive when I did.”
In one quick motion, he drew the blade and cut the man’s throat, killing him instantly. His severed head fell to the floor with a thud as dark crimson blood began to pour out and drip slowly into the drain pipe in the middle of the floor. Nobiru then exited the kitchen and went back out into the dining room. One of the men that had been hit by a shuriken was slowly dragging himself along the floor with his arms towards the door, barely alive. Nobiru stopped and plunged his katana deep into his back, his final breath forcefully being drawn out of him. Nobiru wiped the blood off his blade using his forearm and sheathed it. He removed the golden oni mask on his face and dropped it on top of the man’s lifeless body.