Chapter 2

Chapter 2
“Pancakes! It’s been such a long time!” Ryouta beamed as we got closer to the restaurant.I looked at Ryouta and wondered how someone could be both dangerous and giddy at the same time. To others, he was a violent individual who caused nothing but trouble, yet from my point of view he differed greatly from that. To me, he was a complete and utter dork –one who loved pancakes enough to run ahead towards the restaurant from the opposite end of the road.
I sighed and followed his path at my own pace. I guess both of us were very different towards each other compared to the way we behaved around unfamiliar people. After all, we’ve known each other since childhood and no bond could replace the one we had made since the time we used to run around in nappies together. The pictures from back then still lingered around somewhere in his attic and I was determined to destroy them before they were found.

As soon as I opened the door of the restaurant, I was greeted by the wide grin of my closest childhood friend. It wasn’t Ryouta. This friend was someone who knew me better than anyone else in this world. In fact, this person knew me better than myself and would always go on about how fate played a role in everything.

“Welcome back son!” she smiled, showing her bright teeth as she grabbed me by the arm and pulled me into the restaurant, “Are you hungry too?”

It was my very own mother, who raised me all on her own by running this restaurant ever since I could remember. I had no memories of my father, and I was glad that I didn’t, because I preferred to know nothing of a man capable of abandoning his own wife and child. I was surprised that my mother didn’t hate him as much as I did, but she had never allowed me to find out who he was and probably never will. That was okay with me though, because I felt nothing but hatred towards that man.

“I’m back –Mom!” I shouted in surprise, but didn’t resist as she pulled me towards the table which Ryouta was already sitting at. He grinned widely while mom pulled out the chair for me.

“Thanks… although that wasn’t necessary.” I muttered and took my seat. She could be overly attentive towards me sometimes. I knew that she always worried that she wasn’t taking care of me well enough or that she wasn’t giving me what someone who had both parents would normally get. But I had more than enough because all I needed was a mother like her. Regardless of the complaints she’d receive from neighbours and relatives about me, she would still always believe in me and stand up for me. There wasn’t much else I could ask for in a world where parents don’t even hesitate to kick their kids out of home for the smallest mistake they make.
I, on the other hand, just recently came out of prison…

“How was school?” She looked at us with a cheerful smile.
“Boring,” I answered.
“I didn’t go, “Ryouta grinned sheepishly.

Mom sighed and shook her head, “You guys need to learn how to enjoy your youth! You never know what fate has in store for you, before you know it you’ll be old wrinkly geezers playing chess in an elderly home!”

“Not the fate-talk again” I rolled my eyes and leaned back on my chair.
“And that was way too exaggerated!” Ryouta laughed, checking his face for any sign of wrinkles nevertheless.

“Give Ryouta his pancakes fast mom, or else he’ll stay here all night.” I said as the thought alone gave me a shivering feeling of dread. The last time Ryouta stayed over, he hogged my entire bed and was clingier than a spider on its web.

“Oh right, you must be hungry!” Mom lightly hit herself on her head and hurried away into the kitchen. The restaurant wasn’t very big, but it definitely was a busy place. Mom would always scurry from one customer to another. Although I hated crowded locations, this restaurant was one of the few places that made me feel comfortable with its wooden furniture smells and mom’s favourite music pieces playing all the time.
It didn’t take her long to come dashing out of the kitchen through the double doors with two plates of steaming hot pancakes in her hands. Oh, and that big smile on her face.
She set the plates down on the table and soon rushed away again as she heard a customer call for her attention.

I turned around towards our table, only to see Ryouta had already devoured most of his pancakes and was hastily shoving the remaining bits into his full mouth. He had the world’s biggest appetite for sure.

“I hope you choke and die,” I said with a raised brow, and as soon as the words left my mouth, Ryouta coughed and suffocated on his pancakes.
“Oi! You spat in my food!” I shouted, whacking him on the head.

“Kentaro?” I heard a soft voice behind me.
“Yes?” I turned around to face mom and stared at her.
“Why haven’t you eaten anything yet?” she was still wearing that smile on her face.
“I was going to, but he spat in it. Now I lost my appetite.” I explained whilst pointing at Ryouta, who still hadn’t finished choking. Die faster!
“Eat it.”
“Nah… maybe another time, I’m going to go up to take a shower.” I said and pushed my chair back to get up, but was shoved back down onto my seat straight away. Her forceful hands never left my shoulders as she spoke with an entirely different tone this time, “EAT IT.”
I knew the smile on her face was gone judging from Ryouta’s expression.

Ryouta had stopped choking and stayed completely silent as he stared up at mom and then at me with wide eyes as if to say, ‘you’ve done it man! You’re so dead!’

Suddenly mom’s fist slammed hard against the table, causing everyone in the restaurant to jump in fright.
“YOU BRAT, YOU BETTER FINISH EVERY LAST BIT OF YOUR FOOD BEFORE I SNAP YOUR NECK LIKE A TWIG!!” She roared, silencing the entire restaurant.

There it was, her ‘other side’. Mom would turn into an entirely different person whenever she got angry and snapped. She could become so merciless in these moments that even Ryouta and I feared this side of her. I wouldn’t be joking if I said that she would really snap my neck like she said she would, and then cry over my dead body like someone else had done it.
But today she seemed more volatile than usual because normally she wouldn’t snap this easily for trivial things like this. Although I hadn’t noticed it due to my own issues, she must’ve been in a bad mood all along.

Not wanting to make the scene any uglier, I pulled my chair back towards the table and picked up my cutlery knowing she was still standing beside me with crossed arms and glaring me down.
As soon as I started eating I felt her pat my head in a patronising manner, “good boy.”
Irritation gathered up within me, but I kept it to myself to be safe.

“Umm…well, since I’ve finished my food I guess I’ll be heading home then!” Ryouta laughed nervously as he got up from his seat and started walking towards the exit.
“Oh no you’re not going anywhere, you’re sitting right here and making sure Kentaro eats it all even if he throws up blood and dies in the process.” She grabbed him by the back of his shirt collar and dragged him back onto his chair.
“Yes Ma’am.” He gulped.
“And if you fail to do it like last time, you’ll be cutting five hundred onions all night instead of just a hundred.” She warned with a creepy smile, before walking away towards a customer who looked like he wanted to run away.

Just a hundred? She says it as if it was nothing…I’ve never cried as much as I did that night in my entire life!” Ryouta muttered as he slumped forwards on his seat and rested his face on his palm.
“You’re the one who wanted pancakes, you knew the risks.” I shrugged whilst hesitantly picking at my food.
“Hey, you’re going to eat that right?” Ryouta stared at me with wide eyes as I grinned sinisterly, “Oi! You are right?!”
“Eat it for me, she won’t notice.” I commanded.
“Are you serious? You know she’ll find out!” Ryouta hissed back.
“Well up to you… I’m going now, bye.” I grinned to myself as I got up from my seat.

With no time left to sit and wait, Ryouta grabbed the pancakes on my plate and hurriedly shoved it all into his mouth and chewed faster than I had ever seen him chew before. I was sure he ended up just swallowing most of it as soon as he saw mom approaching us though.

I was already walking up the stairs by the time she had reached Ryouta.
“YOU PIG!!!” was the last thing I heard before I sped up my pace and her thundering voice faded away.
“Sorry Ryou,” I said to myself as I got into the shower and laughed to myself. Not really.

I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. Somehow what I heard Ayano say at the school garden earlier was bothering me more than I thought it would.
I thought of the possibility that she could’ve lied to get rid of Ryouta, but I knew that it was only wishful thinking too.

I clenched my fist and climbed out of my bed, knowing that this wasn’t the only thing I should be worried about. I jumped out of the window and made my way towards our old gang hangout; the place I always went to when I needed some time to myself. In the darkness of the night, it was only the moonlight that guided me on my path as I thought about what had happened today.
I knew Ryouta would be up to something sooner or later. He’s only holding back because he knew that messing with Ayano meant war with me. And although fighting was exactly what he wanted from me, he didn’t want to fight against me as an enemy. It may be true that Ryouta followed and obeyed me like a loyal brother, but that kind of affection alone was enough to make him do dangerously reckless things to people who caused me harm.

As soon as I reached the worn out buildings, I felt calmingly nostalgic. The windows were all shattered and there was graffiti all over the walls. It was a mess, like it always had been. I was sure that Ryouta kept this isolated street untouchable for others while I was gone. It was our own territory after all.
But as soon as I opened the door to enter the building, I heard loud crashing noises and a couple of shouting men from around the corner. Some of them sounded like they were crying out in excruciating pain.

Startled, I walked towards the edge of the wall and tried to peek around the corner to see what was happening, because as far as I could remember no one ever dared to enter this place.
I saw two men being thrown about and beaten up violently by a group of four other men. They were merciless as they ruthlessly slashed at the two pleading men. I frowned.
What’s going on? Who are they?

“You had the nerve to cross Boss’ back, so you better have the nerve to die a painful death too!” the tallest of the four men spat as he grabbed one of the two painfully beaten guys by the hair.
“N-no… please, I’m sorry. It was all his idea!” one of them begged.
“HE’S LYING!” the other one yelled in panic but was silenced with a baseball bat slammed in his face.
“We don’t give a damn… you’re both dying for betraying us.” the bald one of the four brutes growled.

I gritted my teeth in irritation and clenched my hands into fists. If it’s one thing I couldn’t stand, it was a large group of thugs showing their ‘power’ to a measly pair of men who didn’t even have anything to defend themselves with. I had been trying to avoid getting into fights, but this time I couldn’t help it anymore. As soon as I intended to step forwards to get involved, two black cars suddenly drove into the street and screeched to a stop beside the men.
I stopped and remained behind the wall, waiting for the dust to settle in order to see properly.Two men who were dressed fully in black climbed out of each car and the victims started to shake in panic. Then one of the men opened the back door of the second car, and a middle aged man stepped out. He was wearing a white tailored suit and had a cigar spouting smoke out of his mouth as he sullenly glanced at the two helpless men. A chill of revulsion travelled down my spine as he rubbed the stubble on his chin.
Half of his last finger was missing.
But it wasn’t him that was emitting the immensely powerful aura… there was someone else in the car. The dominance that person had over everyone was so formidable that it had me glued in place, unable to move for a few seconds.
I knew who he was straight away.Katashi Oshiro, the most powerful Yakuza boss ruling the largest mafia syndicate in the whole of Japan.  Compared to these people, gangsters like me were powerless. One wrong move, and I could be wiped out from the face of the earth and nobody would even dare to search for my corpse. The police feared them. In fact, you could say that the Yakuza even had control over the police.The car window was lowered slightly and the man in the white suit humbly talked quietly to the person inside. I dared to lean forwards to be able to take a better glimpse but to no avail. I knew who the man in white was too; Toro Yamada, the local leader in charge of this area.After a minute or so, Toro nodded once, pulled out a gun and shot both of the men in the head.
I froze as I watched them drag the bodies into the trunk of their car. They killed them.It took my body a few seconds to react when the two cars raced past the corner that I was standing behind. I quickly stepped back against the wall and shut my eyes.The last thing I had seen were the eyes of that man in the car… peering straight into mine.
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