Yakuzaverse/A Well-Disguised Tourist
I was halfway down the river, in front of the Don Quixote, when I heard the voice of a woman speaking perfect English. "E-excuse me!"
I supposed I had time for her. "Ah? You must be a tourist, right?" I looked in the direction of the voice, but the only person there looked pretty distinctly Japanese. Four-foot-eleven, straight black hair, dressed like an office lady. "...Unless I'm mistaken..." I switched gears and spoke Japanese instead. "My mistake, I'm sorry."
"Uh...pardon?" The Japanese-looking woman asked. "Sorry, I am actually a tourist, I was wondering if you could help me with something."
"With what, exactly?"
"Well...I'm here on vacation with my grandmother, and got separated from her, and...I'm a bit embarrassed to say..." The way she has a hand on the back of her head is pretty distinctly Japanese anyway - if I wasn't listening to her talk, I wouldn't have believed she wasn't from here.
"What could be more embarrassing than being separated from your grandma?"
"Well...the thing is, I don't actually know Japanese."
"I know, it's so hard to believe," she continued. "My family came to America a little after the war, and I never really had a reason to learn to speak or read Japanese until now."
"I can see why that'd be a problem. I guess you were following Grandma around before, huh?"
"Yeah. I lost track of her after we checked out at this store here." She pointed inside Don Quixote. "I mean, I bought some Pocky and a pair of nice socks, but that's not worth losing my grandmother!"
"Well, this is kind of a confusing store anyway, but given the way this town can be, I don't blame you for being worried. Want me to help you look around?"
"I'd really appreciate it!" She bowed at me - Japanese, through and through; even if she didn't learn the language, her parents must have raised her that way anyway - and introduced herself. "My name's Yumi, by the way."
"That's a good name," I remarked. "Mine's Antonia. People call me Ruby."
"Ruby, huh? I love it!"
"Yeah. Yeah, I...kinda get that a lot." I got to thinking about places a Japanese-American senior citizen might want to visit around here. Restaurants as far as the eye can see, certainly, but one or two host clubs were around there that catered towards older women. Also used books, souvenirs, takoyaki stands...but I figured if she was going anywhere, she'd want a common, visible meeting spot first. I motioned up the river toward the Iwao Bridge. "Let's go see if we can spot your grandma in a crowd."
Crowd, then, was not nearly accurate enough of a word. More like a mob, it looked like, but it was peak foot traffic hours, anyway. "Lot of people use this bridge as a meeting spot," I called back to Yumi, raising my voice over the noise. "If your grandma knows you got separated from her, she might be waiting for you here."
Yumi reached the top of the stairs to the bridge, putting a hand on my shoulder as if to tether herself to me. She glanced around a few times, but wasn't catching anything. I couldn't find anybody that looked old enough to be her grandma either. "I don't think she's here," Yumi said barely loud enough for me to hear.
We moved elsewhere, to another common meeting spot, Ashitaba Park. While it was nowhere near as crowded as the bridge, there was no sign of our missing senior citizen, either. I decided to ask a nearby ramen vendor if he'd seen her. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm trying to help this woman find her grandmother. Uh, I just realized, Yumi, I never asked you to describe her."
"OK, so, she's...in her 80s now, walks with a cane, and she was wearing a neon-pink winter coat."
I translated for the vendor, struggling to remember what the Japanese was for "pink" (it's "pinku," by the way, which is probably why I didn't remember). He didn't recall seeing anybody wearing pink - if it was as loud of a shade of pink as Yumi said, there was no way he'd have forgotten if he had. We thanked him, apologized for bothering him, and moved on.
"I just don't get it," I began. "Even if you hadn't described her to me, there's no way I would have missed an 80-year-old wearing hot pink!"
"I know, you'd think it'd be impossible to lose her in the first place!"
We wandered up the road a bit as we thought about other places she could have wandered. Our travels brought us past an old, unassuming little shrine. "Maybe we should ask the gods."
"Wait, are you Shinto?" Yumi asked.
"I mean, I'm not really religious to begin with, but I find it doesn't hurt to do as the locals do."
We walked up to the temple to find a couple of brutish men there, and just hidden behind them, a very noticeable splotch of pink. I signaled Yumi to stay back. This always struck me as a shitty part of town to put a shrine, considering whatever money was destined for the storage box tended to get extorted before it ever made it there...case in point.
"You don't understand, I am looking for an apartment building," I heard a slightly shaky, elderly voice say.
"We're lookin' for somethin', too, and we figured you could help us." The words themselves were respectful enough, but the combination of his gruff tone and his leaking Kansai-ben accent were making it sound pretty rude.
"This must not be the place, then. I will go look elsewhere if you two young men could move aside."
"Nah, lady, you're the one who doesn't understand. We're lookin' for cash, jewelry, fancy shit," said burly guy number two. "Now you could either dump it all in that box to some gods who ain't listenin', or you could donate it to a fund that's gonna clean up this damn town."
"The only thing that needs cleaning up is hoodlums like you," said the lady, who was playing with not just matches, but a blazing inferno.
"That's my grandmother!" Yumi whispered. I needed to step in, right now.
Burly number one noticed me almost immediately. "American? Always think you gotta solve other peoples' problems."
I retorted without thinking. "When it's fuckers like you causing those problems, you really think you have the moral high ground here?" I shifted my stance carefully, anticipating violence.
The other guy turned to me now as well, and they both raised their fists, with number one taking the first swing. I snatched for his elbow and bent his attack around until his arm locked up. Number two tried to go for me as well, but I still had enough momentum going that number one's face was right in the way at the crucial moment. Having failed the first punch, Two tried for a front kick, missing both of us entirely and hitting a support pillar. I released my grip on One's arm so I could jab an elbow down at Two's knee, not quite managing enough force to break it, but enough to throw his stance off-kilter. One had shaken off the punch by now and was going for me again, this time trying to grab me. I took advantage of the height difference and ducked beneath his attempted bear hug, grabbing his legs and shoving upwards. One came crashing down into the pavement, not quite as hard as I'd hoped, but enough to put him down for a few more seconds.
Two had regained his stance by now and was winding up for another punch, aimed low. Unable to decide in time whether to parry or dodge, I dove to the side, taking the glancing punch as I fell to the ground. The men both stood over me as I rolled to face upwards. They thought they had advantage over me. They did - but not for long. I shot a leg straight upwards, nailing One right in the gut with my work boot. Two wasn't watching where his buddy landed, and almost tripped over him, but wasn't going down for just that. I sprung back to my feet, shifted around behind Two before he could wind up another punch, and made a brief jog to gain a bit of distance from him - not to run away, but to gain a margin of error. With positioning now in my favor, and Two taking the bait to run towards me, I assumed the stance I'd practiced for so many hours with Yasuyo. When Two came within snatching distance, I placed my hands in strategic places, and redirected his speed right to the ground, flipping him square on his back.
One had caught his breath enough to yell. "I'm going for help! Stay there!" He bolted down a random alleyway. Two, not really planning on going anywhere, just stayed down, staring up at the buildings.
I stared him down (not hard when he's lying on the ground). "You're not getting back up, right?" He just made a tired-sounding grunt.
Yumi couldn't stand back any longer and ran towards me. "Ruby! Are you alright?"
"Eh...I misjudged a bit back there, but I've taken worse hits."
"I'm so sorry!"
"Not your fault, don't worry." I gave Two a little nudge with my boot. "Not gonna do that again in a hurry, though, are you?"
"Whatever, lady. Once my bro gets back, you're gonna get it."
"Well, Yumi, I dunno about you, but I think we oughta get going before that other guy comes back."
Yumi was busy hugging her grandmother now. "I thought I'd lost you!"
I heard a lot of frantic footsteps coming this way. Too late to run now, I supposed. Four men in dark suits, one of which was the other guy from earlier, arrived to see Two lying there, and the three of us standing in front of the shrine just feet away. "Bro! I got backup!"
One of the new guys looked at us. "Really? Women?"
The first guy, though, was quick to point out, "But she took down Kondo!"
Another sounded pretty disappointed. "OLD women? Man, I thought we were gonna be up against a real badass, Tooru."
The last of the three spoke up. "I was kind of in the middle of something back there. I don't see why you had to drag us here."
I shrugged at them. "Hey, if you're not into it, I'm not either. Let's just go get some chow or something and forget this happened."
Number one, the man called Tooru, finally thought better of what he'd been doing. "...Yeah, screw this, I fucked up. Boss doesn't have to know, we'll find some other mark."
I wanted to make them promise they weren't going to do that at all, but I didn't exactly have the upper hand to begin with. It was probably better to have short-circuited the fight than to have seen it to the end and wound up with a few more fresh bruises, or even a trip to the hospital for my trouble. A fighter, I was, but a dragon, I was not. All my training with Yasuyo so far had been one-on-one, after all.
Yumi's grandmother tugged at my vest. She was somehow even shorter than Yumi was, but I could see the resemblence. "Thank you for finding my granddaughter," she said, in English, with only the slightest hint of a Japanese accent. "I had come here to pray for my late husband, but when I noticed she was not with me, I decided I should pray for her safety as well."
"I'm just glad those jerks didn't go all-in," I said, removing my snap-brim hat to wipe the sweat from my brow. "Anybody else wanna grab a drink? I know a place." Yumi and her grandmother agreed. The heavies went their way, and we went ours.