Chapter 06

Once seated in Sora’s private rooms, Fuji waited for the assassin to speak. She studied him for a few minutes before she leaned forward, her eyes flashing with intensity.

“I need your expertise to eliminate three targets,” Sora said.

“I’m not a killer,” Fuji said. “If that’s what you wanted to discuss with me, I’ll leave.” He pushed his chair out.

Sora scowled at him and clasped a wrist around his hand. He stared at her until she removed it. “I’m not asking you to kill anyone, Syu. I need you to put them out of commission by using your own skill set. I’m not asking you to get involved in anything heavy. I know you have people to take care of.”

Fuji’s smile tightened. “Those people are more important to me than any debt between us.”

Sora frowned at him, puzzled for a moment. Then realization flared into life in her eyes. “Oh! No, Syu. I’d never threaten anyone close to you to ensure your cooperation. Hatred doesn’t make good business relations.”

“No it doesn’t. Who are these people?” Fuji asked.

“There’s a couple who run an army surplus store, but they sell weapons on the black market. Only thing is, they don’t want to sell to me. They say I’m too risky a client.”

“I can’t blame them,” Fuji said. “You’ve been taking out a few twenty man teams lately, from what I’ve heard.”

Sora sighed. “Yeah, but they have the best weapons this side of town. I’m getting tired of spending half my days carting weapons from one side of town to the other. So I want you to fix it.”

Fuji digested the information in silence. “You said three people. Who’s the third?”

Sora shrugged. “A no one, really. It’s a personal grudge, and not a business issue. Hell, you may even know him since he runs the tennis circuit.”

Fuji raised an eyebrow, waiting for her to get to the point.

“His name is Kirihara Akaya.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of him. What did he do to you?”

Sora grimaced. “He didn’t do anything to me, specifically. But he injured my cousin in a practice match three months back. The doctors are saying he may never walk again.”

Fuji swallowed back the rage that threatened to consume him. “He crippled your cousin through a tennis match?” he asked, voice calm.

“Yeah,” Sora said. “It’s despicable. If I could kill him with my bare hands, I would. And, before you ask, he’s too visible a target. His family is wealthy and he stands to inherit a lot of money once he reaches his majority. With the heat I’m facing already, I can’t afford to kill him.”

Fuji’s shoulders tensed slightly. He hated hearing how easily Sora talked about killing people. Although he knew she was an assassin, he’d always hoped that she would see the value of life as they got older. So far, all that had happened was that life had become less and less valuable to her. That she killed in tens and twenties was testament to that.

“Ok,” Fuji said. “I’ll break one person for you.”

“You’re the one who owes me a debt,” Sora said. “You’ll break who I tell you.”

Fuji laughed. “Sora, as much as I respect you, you know as well as I do that you can only ask me to break one person because I only asked you to protect one. If you really want to go down this route, I won’t hesitate in letting people know that you go back on your word.”

Sora glared at him. “I could kill you where you sit.”

Fuji shrugged. “You’re the one who needs my services. If you want to kill me for refusing to be rolled so easily by your reputation, go ahead. But really, has the infamy gotten to you to the point that you feel it necessary to threaten me?”

Sora chuckled. “You’re a refreshing change from the people stumbling over themselves to keep from upsetting me. Alright. Fine. One person. It won’t do me any good if you only target one of the two members of the arms-dealing couple, so let’s go with Kirihara Akaya.”

“Consider it done,” Fuji said. “Time frame?”

“Before the end of the school year,” Sora said. “I’ll give you that much time, since you did me the courtesy of making our arrangement concerning Echizen open-ended.”

Fuji dipped his head in acknowledgment. “Now,” he said. “How would you like me to pay for visiting your establishment?”

Sora smiled. “Oh, I think I have the perfect payment method for you.” She stood and made her way to the door. She leaned out it and shouted, “Iwao! Get up here now! Cayeni, take over.”

Fuji heard the heavy footsteps of a man running up the steps with a great deal of urgency.

“Iwao,” Sora said, “come in. Take a seat.”

Iwao walked in and took a seat across from Fuji, eyeing the tensai cautiously.

Sora pulled out a trunk from behind a counter and opened it to reveal several different whips. She pushed it towards Iwao. “Pick one,” she said.

Iwao’s eyes flicked nervously between the two as he did as ordered and pulled out an eight inch single-tailed whip. “How’s this, Hayashi-sama?”

Sora smiled. “That will work just fine.” She crooked a finger at Fuji.

Fuji stood and rolled his shoulders. ” Door frame?” he asked, shedding the top half of his suit.

“Good as place as any,” Sora said. She turned to Iwao. “Have you ever whipped a man?”

“No, Hayashi-sama.”

“Then this should be fun for you. I sign my deals in blood, but this man irritated you at the door. You can whip him for that now and there will be no repercussion.”

“Not even from him, Hayashi-sama?” Iwao asked.

“Fuji, will you do anything to this man for whipping you on my command?” Sora asked.

Fuji grit his teeth. “No,” he said. “I won’t.”

“See?” Sora asked. “So go ahead.”

Iwao shook his head. “I can’t,” he said. “He did nothing to me.”

“Okay,” Sora said. “Then take his place.”

“What?” Iwao asked.

“If you can’t whip him for me, then take the whipping for him. But be assured, it won’t be a light whipping.”

Iwao’s voice trembled as he spoke. “Cayeni warned me about him, Hayashi-san. With all due respect, I’d rather take a whipping for him than piss him off.”

Fuji smirked at the door. It seemed Cayeni was helping spread his reputation. If that got him out of a whipping, he’d make sure to send the man a thank you gift.

“Okay,” Sora said. “Take his place.”

Fuji moved away from the wall and let Iwao take up residence there. He slipped his clothes back on and turned to Sora. “I assume you want me to do the honors?”

“Yes,” Sora said. “Thirty strokes. No matter how much he screams.”

Iwao made a strangled noise low in his throat. “He’s going to whip me?” he asked. “Why?”

“It’s how Hayashi works,” Fuji said. “You either get whipped or whip someone for her. Honestly, I’m rather pleased that you chose not to whip me.”

“Why is that?” Iwao asked.

“Because now I can show you part of the reason I’m called the Bleeder.” Fuji watched Iwao’s shoulders shake and grinned wickedly. He was playing to Sora’s sense of the dramatic, but he was enjoying this too. Iwao had caused him grief earlier and now he was going to get to pay him back in kind.

Sora tapped her foot. “I’m waiting, Syu.”

Fuji glared at her. “Don’t call me that, Sora.”

Iwao gasped.

Sora laughed. “Then get it over with. I’m sure you’d like to go home just as much as I’d like to get you out of my hair.”

“With pleasure,” Fuji said. He unfurled the whip and tried to ignore the way the screams the whipping forced out of Iwao made him long for the life he could have had, if only he had given into the monster lurking inside.

Chapter 5     Chapter Index     Chapter 7

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