“Wow, that escalated quickly,” Kaiji said, sipping his Asahi beer. “That really got out of hand fast.”
“Yeah,” Miyoshi agreed. “I killed a guy with a trident!”
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,” Kaiji said, gesturing at him with his beer. “You should lay low for a few years and find a safehouse or something, because you’re probably wanted for murder.”
Miyoshi screws up and has a really nasty accident. Kaiji helps him clean it up, because what are friends for, really? A horror story taking place during the first arc of season 2. Warning for MURRRDERRR.
“Sempai,” Miyoshi starts off, and that’s an immediate red flag. ”I-I need your help, Kaiji-sempai! I messed up! I messed up really bad!”
He’s on his knees, his gloved hands balled tight into fists, and Kaiji crouches down next to him to put a hand on his shoulder. The poor guy’s shaking. “What’s wrong?” Kaiji asks, giving his shoulder a squeeze. “What happened? Are you okay?”
“I-I’m okay,” Miyoshi squeaks out, and he rubs at his eyes with his arm. His glove faces outward, and Kaiji sees something damp and red clustered in it.
His eyes grow wide. ”Miyoshi,” he says slowly, “What the fuck did you do?”
Kaiji throws up. It’s not his proudest moment, and while he’s crouched behind one of the tables Miyoshi just stands stock still in the cafeteria doorway, staring at the awful mess he’s made.
“It just all happened really fast,” he mumbles breathlessly, picking at his gloves. “The foreman was getting a midnight snack or something, and he started choking, so I, you know, I tried to help, give him those stomach compressions…I’m certified in First Aid, actually…”
Kaiji grabs the edge and pulls himself up, peering at Foreman Ohtsuki a few tables away. He’s slumped over, and in the dark he resembles nothing so much as the bags of sand that Kaiji and his crew move every day.
“…and I guess I just forgot I had this sharp T-bone in my hand—”
Kaiji groans and turns his face back down. Fucking gross.
But Kaiji works well under pressure, and as an old friend of his once said, there’s nobody else you’d rather have on your side when the chips are down. So Kaiji gets up and brushes himself off and they both agree that they’d better do something. Preferably something that doesn’t involve both of them being seen, questioned, and tortured.
Thankfully, Miyoshi’s a pretty quick thinker too. “I’ve got it!” he says, way too cheerfully. “You know that foundation for the underground tennis court? The one C Team’s been laying cement for?”
And that’s that. Cleaning up the cafeteria takes way longer, and it’s worse, because Kaiji knows that if anything’s off during breakfast, lunch or dinner, they’re sunk. It takes them almost the whole night, but they clean the place until it shines. Miyoshi keeps him up by chattering away, thanking him profusely over and over for his help, and how it’s really just bad timing or something, and it’ll never happen again.
“It’s not a problem,” Kaiji says, forcing a smile. “I mean, what are friends for?”
“Miyoshi!” Kaiji practically screams. “What the fuck!”
“I’m sorry!” Miyoshi blubbers, great big globby tears streaming down his face. “I’m really sorry, sempai! I had to! He found out!”
Kaiji bites his tongue. Miyoshi is straddling Isawa’s huge body lying face-down on the floor. The rope’s still in his hands, for fuck’s sake, so at least Miyoshi isn’t calling this another “accident.”
He’s a little too big to drag between the both of them, so they plop the guy on a wheelbarrow and run him back down to the tennis court, Miyoshi explaining all the way. “I guess he found the bone or something after we threw it in the trash,” he says, “and he just came up to me and started calling me a freak and a psycho and all that stuff. He said he was going to go tell the other foremen, and then he said he knew you were involved…”
Miyoshi gives Isawa’s body one, two, three kicks, and it tumbles into the cement with a slow, wet sucking sound. Kaiji’s stomach twitches.
“…and I couldn’t stand it if anything were to happen to you, sempai!”
Miyoshi turns and gives him the brightest, sweetest look Kaiji’s ever seen. In the dark, it’s too bright to even look at.
Kaiji is really tempted to live the next week in paralyzed terror, but during breakfast, it’s clear to see that his fear is nothing compared to Numakawa’s. Numakawa’s a scrawny and anxious guy in the first place, full of paranoia and negativity, but his eyes are wide and darting around from table to table as E team eats their food. His eyes rest on Miyoshi, and tears start to well up at the corners—and then he sees Kaiji, and mouths something that looks like “we gotta talk.”
Numakawa takes him aside during the middle of the day to talk behind one of the cement mixers. ”Miyoshi?” Kaiji says skeptically, putting on the best poker face he can muster. “You’re shitting me. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“That’s what everyone thinks, but I’m telling you it’s bullshit,” Numakawa hisses. “Listen, you’re a smart guy, right? They look up to you, right? I’m tellin’ you, you’ve gotta protect me. That Miyoshi kid, he’s a killer! Just round up a couple of the guys, you know, keep an eye on him, that’s all I’m asking, Kaiji!”
“I really don’t think Miyoshi—”
“Cut the crap!” Numakawa spits, and Kaiji leans back and wrinkles his nose. The other man settles down a second later, pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket and wipes his face clean. “Sorry. Okay. Okay. I’ll let you in on a little secret. You know why he’s in here?”
Kaiji raises an eyebrow. “Debt, right? Like the rest of us.”
“No, that’s the thing. His financial record’s clean as a whistle. Ohtsuki made a big deal out of it when he came down here,” Numakawa explains. “We couldn’t find anything on him! They figured it didn’t matter, maybe he slept with the president’s wife or whatever—”
Kaiji grimaces inwardly.
“—but I think I know what it is. I think that kid’s down here for murder.” Numakawa leans in, and Kaiji leans back. “I’m tellin’ you, you watch out for me, I’ll watch out for you. 10,000 perica a month extra.”
Kaiji feels a grin tug at the corner of his mouth. “10 yen extra to keep you safe at night? You’re gonna have to do better than that.”
“It’s great!” Kaiji says excitedly, laying down the money in front of Miyoshi. “I got that asshole to cough up almost double our salaries, and all you gotta do is not kill the guy. We’re gonna make bank!”
Miyoshi looks at the money, his hands on his knees. “Wow,” he says mildly. “That’s great, Kaiji.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” the other man chuckles, flipping through the scrip. “Guy’s paranoid as fuck. See, what he doesn’t get is that nobody’s going to believe him if he says you killed Ohtsuki and Isawa,” Kaiji explains, “because he’s still alive, and anyone who would off the other two would have to go for him too. So all we gotta do is sit back and get paid,” he chuckles. “Can ya do that, Miyoshi?”
“Sure I can,” he replies, smiling. “Anything you say, sempai.”
Kaiji has long suspected that the higher-ups of Teiai don’t actually give a shit what happens to the men underground, and soon his suspicions are confirmed: despite the fact that Numakawa is one loud sound away from a heart attack at any moment, nobody comes to investigate. There’s plenty of theories buzzing around between the men of E team and the others, but it’s all conjecture. Kaiji hears most people peg him as the killer, and he laughs. Nobody mentions Miyoshi.
“What are you doing, Kaiji?” Numakawa whispers to him one morning, from his spot at the foreman’s table in the cafeteria. As the only remaining assistant, naturally he’d become the new foreman. “Come sit over here.”
Kaiji turns to glance at him, puzzled. “Huh?”
“Come on.” He waves Kaiji over and gives him a look. “You’re my bodyguard, aren’t you?”
“Bodyguard?!” Kaiji hisses. “You didn’t say I was gonna be a bodyguard! You said I just had to talk to some of the guys—”
“Kaiji?” Miyoshi speaks up, leaning close to his shoulder. “Everything okay?”
“U-uh, yeah,” Kaiji says, flinching away from his friend. “Sorry, it’s just, uh, it’s just…I gotta keep up the act,” he whispers, while picking up his tray. “You know how it is. I’m really sorry.”
As he moves over to Numakawa’s table, he feels the eyes of every single man in the room digging into his back—and when he sits down, Miyoshi stares straight at him all through breakfast.
To his credit, Kaiji didn’t ask for any of the perks of being the foreman’s assistant, and he shares. He splits the retainer money with Miyoshi and even saves him some of the meat they eat at dinner, but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Still, he does what he can—the last thing he wants is for Miyoshi to feel like he’s getting shafted.
“Hey, Miyoshi,” Kaiji says good-naturedly one night, holding up a can of Asahi Beer from behind the snack table. “Do you want one?” Numakawa gives him a nervous, sidelong glance, but he presses forward anyway, holding it out. “Special. On the house.”
“For me?” he says, glancing between him and the foreman. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Kaiji says, shaking it a little. “C’mon, take it. You were doing some real hard work out there today…it’s no biggie.”
Miyoshi takes it. He’s not a big drinker, but he downs it anyway, and Kaiji smiles as he sees the happiness play over his face. “Thanks, sempai.” He grins a little bit, and leans over to look at the rest of the food. “I’ve been saving up for a while, so I don’t want to get a whole lot of stuff.”
“Yeah, I understand,” Kaiji agrees. “Maybe just some chicken to go with it? I’ll give you a discount.”
“Kaiji,” Numakawa says, and Kaiji shoots him a look that shuts him up.
“That’d be great,” says Miyoshi. “Can I maybe have two?”
It isn’t until Kaiji’s lying awake in the foreman’s quarters at midnight that he realizes his huge fucking mistake.
It’s okay, he thinks to himself, I can just advance Miyoshi some cash tomorrow. It sucks that he ended up burning through all of his perica, but we had some to spare anyway. All I gotta do is treat him a little more and it’ll be okay.
He rolls over restlessly, first on one side, then the other. He hopes Numakawa doesn’t wake up. Numakawa’s a really light sleeper.
He was out like a light anyway after the first two beers, he rationalizes. He’ll just sleep through the night. I can apologize to him about it tomorrow. Christ, it’s cold down here.
During the work day it gets hot and sweaty in the underground, but at night temperature drops like a rock. Kaiji wraps his gloved hands around himself, his teeth chattering a little. He flips over again, staring at Numakawa’s back.
Poor Miyoshi. God, I can’t believe it. Even if I didn’t mean to, I was no better than Ohtsuki. I gotta refund him all that cash. That’s the right thing to do.
“Hey, Numakawa,” Kaiji says, reaching out to grasp him on the shoulder. “I was thinking.”
The foreman doesn’t move.
“Hey,” Kaiji repeats, pushing him with his palm. “Chief.”
Numakawa rolls forward and slumps onto his face without a sound. Something grabs Kaiji’s stomach and twists it hard, and zawa zawa begins to buzz in his ears.