YV1 - The Demo Version

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"Yup. He's following me. Fuckin'...dammit," Ruby whispered to herself. Shofukucho was already not the best part of town for women, let alone foreign women, and especially not women that stuck out as badly as she did. How she found herself here was not really the problem; it was how she was going to get back out, while also losing the tail. But judging from the way the road was blocked in front of her, this was looking less possible by the second.

Before her stood two men in the loudest possible button shirts, had to be at least three heads taller than she was. The man on the left looked like he went to the gym twice a day, and used it exclusively as a means to get laid - his muscles looked threatening, but she knew they were built for form, not for function. The strain of a fight would sooner pull a muscle than stop any serious opposition. His bright orange shirt almost wasn't even buttoned - there was a such thing as showing too much chest, even for a man, Ruby thought - and his white slacks had probably been introduced to the pavement a few times too many to be called "white" anymore.

The other man, Ruby figured, might not have been as tall as his muscle-bound cohort, but probably weighed twice as much. His suit was maroon with gold trim around the cuffs, the jacket hanging wide open, and his shirt - buttoned to its physical limit - was a sickening, clashing shade of bright green. Still, Ruby had to at least (mentally) compliment him for somehow still being able to dress himself; no live-in assistant would dare let him out the door like that.

Ruby pulled a quick heel-spin to ascertain the situation behind her. Sure enough, the lanky fellow from the sushi joint was back there. His tweedy getup at first reminded her of her first physics teacher, before she realized he was closer to the Japanese equivalent to Steve Buscemi - the misshapen face, sunken eyes perpetually stuck half-open and bloodshot to show for it. "Alright, you got me," Ruby declared.

"Nice catch, Suda," said Fatso to Steve. "We gonna take her to the labor people?"

"Who says we gotta take her anywhere? She's an outta-towner, probably here 'cuz she thinks we're cuter than they got in America, heheh!" Steve punctuated his horrible thoughts with an over-the-top pelvic thrust. Ruby figured he was only halfway there - Fujiyama was more handsome than most of the guys at her old college, but these men were nothing at all like him.

Musclehead opened his mouth, but what came out wasn't in Japanese. He raised a threatening fist. "How are you? I am fine, thank you."

Ruby badly stifled a laugh. That had to be not only the thickest accent she'd heard in years, but the worst possible phrase to say.

The meathead, meanwhile, noticed. "Quit your damn giggling, woman! I tried!" His flabbier cohort started laughing as well, earning a weak-looking punch to the shoulder.

"Well, if you paid any attention in English class," began the Mr. Pink wannabe behind Ruby, "maybe you'd know what you just said."

"And who says yer a damn linguist now?" Mr. Bulk swung at the air.

Ruby had heard enough. She shrugged. "Good grief," she said with a sigh. "Clearly you wanted something from me, is that right?" Were they not coming from a red-haired beanpole of a woman, the words wouldn't have sounded out of place coming from the foulest of yakuza.

"D'you know where the fuck you are?" said the sunken-eyed man. "This street's owned by one of the biggest Omi families in Soten!"

"Really? Thank you for giving me the tour, then," cracked Ruby. "I wouldn't suppose you'd be willing to let me go, though?"

"Not without seein' our boss," said the wide man. "An' our boss? He don't like loudmouths."

"I see. Well that's too bad, then, because this mouth ain't gettin' any quieter." Ruby stood sideways, so as to keep an eye on both ends of the pincer she found herself in.

The built man leaned at that forward angle so typical of yakuza intimidation tactics. "Normally we don't hit women, but seein' as it's this late out, and you're gettin' to pissin' us off..." He cracked his knuckles and put up his dukes.

"Don't fool yourself. If you're gonna fight, then fight!" Ruby had already weighed the odds. Three was more people than she usually took on at once, but her heart was already in top gear, and all that she needed focus on were her fundamentals, and which direction the punches were coming from.

The fat man didn't wait for further encouragement. With a speed unusual for a man of his considerable girth (then again, even a bowling ball is aerodynamic), he took off forward, both arms crossed in front of him. Ruby took half a step backwards, leaving a foot in front, then as he whiffed past, she lifted the foot and pushed hard on top of his back. Fattie's face crashed right into the pavement.

"You bitch!" Not Steve Buscemi was the next up; he threw what Ruby could only call a "roundhouse punch" - a right hook so over-the-top that, if he'd missed, he'd have fallen over of his own accord. But that, to Ruby, wasn't nearly humiliating enough. A couple hands on the right spots, and Steve's punch was redirected into a lit sign that read, "SEXY PUB PRISON." The plexiglass sign shattered, and Steve's fist took not only the shards, but a hundred-some volts from the shattered light bulb beneath it. Steve was down for the count, right on top of the fat man, who had enough trouble getting back up as it was.

The muscle man had yet to even make a move from his stereotypical boxer's stance about 20 feet away from the dogpile. "You're about to suck pavement, lady!" he screamed as he ran full-bore at her. There was enough distance between them, Ruby figured...as soon as he was within range, Ruby executed a near-perfect reverse seoi-nage, exactly as Fujiyama had taught her in their impromptu judo lessons a year ago. Beefcake landed flat on his back as Ruby's elbow landed on his stomach.

With all three down, but still very much considering getting back up, Ruby had little time to waste - now was her chance to put as much distance between them as possible. The initial surprise she'd given them would have since worn off; they'd be coming at her with all they had, if she were still there when they'd sorted themselves out. She gave the pile of downed thugs a quick mock-salute, then took off in a sprint towards the Bishamon Bridge.

She'd rounded a few more corners and vanished into a POPPO store before she dared turn around. Out of breath, she immediately made for the magazine rack and pretended to flip through a Shonen Jump as her wary eyes peeked out the window. The loud trio were nowhere to be seen. She carefully replaced the magazine, gathered up a couple of rice balls and an instant soba, paid for her goods, and walked out. "Thank you," she said in English.

Ruby's cell phone rang on the way out. She juggled the plastic bags into her other hand to reach it, spending no time to check the caller ID as she flipped it open. "Moshi-moshi, Fujiyama Ruby desu."

"Ruby, it's me, your husband? Don't you ever look who's calling before you hit Talk?" Yasuyo Fujiyama, the man she'd fallen in love with back in college, spoke English as well as Ruby spoke Japanese. "Anyway, I just got out of my meeting. How are you holding up?"

"Hell of a night so far, but nothing I can't handle. I, uh, oughta thank you for those sparring sessions, by the way."

"Did you get in a fight?" There was a note of concern in his voice.

"A few lunkheads over in Shofukucho. Said something about being in one of the Omi families, but I didn't see badges."

"Probably faking," Yasuyo sighed. "There's been a rash of people lately who think they can get anything they want by pretending they're from some second-tier family."

"Lemme guess, that's what your meeting was about?"

"Maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I thought I asked you to stay out of my business."

"But you still care enough about me that you taught me to defend myself."

Another sigh came through the phone. "You know what, Ruby, I'd rather talk about this at home. Are you near the apartment?"

"I'm on...uh..." She glanced around - the Bishamon was one way, the Grand was the other. "Sotenbori...avenue? Just walked out of a convenience store."

"Alright, alright. Uh, don't cross the bridges until I meet up with you, okay? Let's meet by that game center and we'll walk home together. That way if those...lunch heads?...see you again, I'll be there to help."

"Sure thing. See ya soon, hubby."

"You too, uh...wifey?"

"You'll get this figured out yet." She was grinning hard enough that her face was starting to hurt. "Bye."