Chapter 09

Fuji yawned as he woke and glanced at the clock. Five p.m. He’d slept later that he’d meant to and it would take him a few days to get his sleeping pattern back to normal. He scowled. Sora’s personality was already costing him.

He took a quick shower and entered his father’s study with the spare key he’d been given the day he’d become a broker. His father was out of town but Fuji knew he wouldn’t miss any details. So he wrote a quick note and stuck it in front of his dad’s computer. Grabbed some burgers. Change is in the usual spot.

Fuji wasn’t actually taking money for food. Instead, he was grabbing a handful of burner phones. He had need of them rarely, when he needed to delve deeply into the information network. He scooted the couch in his dad’s study back and lifted the rug that was under it. At first glance, the wood looked like the wood in the rest of the room.

But there were two small scuff marks that Fuji spotted after a moment. He pressed down on the two at the same time and a five foot section of the floor shifted itself an inch downward and then backwards, hiding itself under the rest of the floor to reveal a descending staircase.

Fuji entered the Sanctum, as his dad called it, and glanced around at the rows of shelves that lined the basement-like room. There were shelves dedicated to burner phones, to laser security tools, to televisions and sound systems, to high end technology like fingerprint encoders. His father had his hand in every technological market there was, even if he did sell only to criminals.

Fuji never got tired of looking at the room. He never took anything he didn’t need for business, though, because his dad would know. His dad always knew. Fuji took two burner phones and dropped them into his pockets. That done, he left the Sanctum and went back upstairs, careful to rearrange his father’s study so that nothing looked disturbed.

Then he dialed the first person he needed to contact.

“Hello?” A man answered.

“Hi,” Fuji said. “We need to meet.”

“Okay,” the man said. “See you in fifteen.” The phone clicked off.

Fuji smiled and dialed the second person he would have to talk to. He didn’t wait for her to speak. “Meet me in an hour,” he said, then hung up. His other calls would need to wait until he’d talked to these two people.

He grabbed a pair of sunglasses and dropped his smiling mask. Smiling like an idiot wouldn’t get him the information he needed and he used his smile to keep people away from him while giving them the impression he was letting them get close. Not an impression he needed to give with the people he was meeting.

On the way to the first meeting, he dropped the phone he’d used in a trash bin beside a bench on the side of the road. He entered the café and took a seat near the back of the restaurant and ordered a coffee.

Two minutes later, the man he’d called slid into the chair opposite him. “Make it quick,” he said. “I need to get to work.”

Fuji gave a slight nod. “What do you know about the Kirihara family?”

“Not much,” the man said. “One son, around 17. It’s rumored he cripples people he plays sports with. His parents don’t seem to be around much. The Kirihara’s are supposedly rich because they own a large mansion, but there is no visual proof of their wealth.”

“That’s all?” Fuji asked, disappointed. This man was usually good at pulling full backgrounds on people.

“At the moment,” the man said. “Give me a day and my going rate and I’ll have you the details you need in 24 hours.”

Fuji pretended to consider the offer. In truth, there was no way he wouldn’t take it. But it wouldn’t do to seem easy. “I need someone who can get it to me by 8 am,” he said.

The man glanced at his watch. “My job will take me eight hours tonight. If you hire me, that’s only a two hour window to get the information you want.”

Fuji shrugged. “Can you do it or not, Gabriel? I can always find someone else.”

Gabriel smirked. “Of course I can. But I’ll need a monetary incentive to work that fast.”

“If you bring me your standard level of information by 8 am tomorrow, I’ll pay you triple your normal rate. If you can’t meet your own standards, I won’t pay you at all.”

Gabriel scowled. “You sell a hard bargain, Fuji.”

“Yes or no?” Fuji asked. He was in no mood to barter. He had another meeting to get to.

“Yes,” Gabriel bit out. “I’ll leave it in your mailbox.”

“I’ll wire you the money,” Fuji said. “Enjoy the rest of your day.” He slapped the money down for his coffee, plus a small tip, and left the restaurant. Then he made his way to the local museum where his second contact worked. On the way, he dialed another number.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Karl. I need everything you can find about Kirihara Akaya and his style of tennis by the end of the week.”

“No prob, Fuji. Been awhile since you asked me to check up on another tennis player. He skilled?”

Fuji tensed. “Aa,” he said, forcing a brightness he didn’t feel into his voice. “I will feel better if I have all his tennis data.”

“That scary, eh?” Karl asked. “Alright, no prob. I’ll email it to you by Friday.”

“Thanks,” Fuji said and hung up, tossing the phone into the nearest trash bin. While Karl wasn’t really part of the underground, he had ties to unorthodox people because he sold statistics and sports information to all types of people. If you got caught with the type of information Karl had about personal opponents, it could end a sports career.

Fuji walked into the museum and straight to the back, where the employees worked. “Madam Taiyumi?” he called.

Taiyumi spotted him and pulled him out onto the museum floor. “What do you mean by coming to my work place like this?” she asked, voice a hiss.

Fuji smiled and threaded his arm through hers and squeezed harshly, forcing her to bite off an exclamation of pain. “Your time is mine,” he said. “I’m calling in your debt.”

“Fine,” Taiyumi said. “What do you want?”

“I want you to get a rumor started at Rikkai. Don’t protest,” he said, silencing her just as she was about to start. “I know some of your thieves are there. And I’m not asking you to do anything dangerous. Just start a rumor.”

Taiyumi frowned. “Rumors can be dangerous.”

“Perhaps,” Fuji said. “But this rumor is meant for one person to hear and it will make him target me, not anyone else.”

“Oh,” Taiyumi said. “As long as my friends aren’t in danger, I’ll do this.”

Fuji squeezed her arm hard. “You’ll do it because you owe me, and if you don’t, I’ll make your friends homeless.”

Taiyumi gave a sharp nod and he released his death grip on her arm. “I’ll do it,” she said, glancing sidelong at her arm where a dark bruise had started to appear.

“Yes, you will,” Fuji said.

“So what is this rumor?” she asked, breaking an awkward silence that had fallen between them.

“You need to make sure that Kirihara Akaya hears a rumor telling him that Fuji Syuusuke has target him as his next victim. And be sure that the rumor mentions the things I’ve done to other people who cross me.”

“You want us to scare him?” Taiyumi asked.

Fuji smiled grimly. “No,” he said. “I want you to piss him off. I want him angry and rash. I want him to think that he can best me in everything, so that he’s overconfident and confrontational anytime he gets near me. I want him so sure that he can never be broken that it will take him by complete surprise when it happens.”

Taiyumi swallowed. “Why are you telling me all this?” she whispered. “I could just tell him the truth.”

Fuji smiled. “Do you think I haven’t thought of that?” he asked. “What would happen if you told Kirihara anything I’ve said to you today?” He waited for the realization to sink in.

“He would believe he could win,” Taiyumi said.

“Exactly,” Fuji said. “You’ll tell him, one way or the other, and it will have the same effect. And if you don’t tell him, well. I’ll let your mind fill in the blanks.” He withdrew his arm from hers and exited the museum. He took a circuitous route and headed back to his house.

He’d set the wheels in motion. Now all he had to do was wait for the information from Gabriel and Karl and listen for the rumors that would start circulating at every tennis match Rikkai played. He’d make sure he was there for all their matches on the days Seigaku wasn’t playing. He wanted to throw Kirihara off-balance. For the first time in a long time, Fuji was going to be able to break someone without anything holding him back. That set his blood boiling.

Chapter 8     Chapter Index     Chapter 10

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