“That’s a bit much for the diner, don’t you think?” Nambu commented dryly, although the expression he wore told a different story.
“Not enough,” was Joe’s response.
Mai chose to ignore the barb, instead she focused on Nambu. “Oh, Kozaburo, I thought you were getting ready too.”
He looked down at his own outfit, “I am ready though.”
“You are a walking advert for the ISO, let me sort you out.” She pulled off his jacket, quickly followed by the vest and tie. Stepping back she studied him closely, “nearly there.” To finish his makeover, she proceeded to unfasten the top two shirt buttons. “There! So what do you think?” She asked, turning to Joe.
“Are you on a date?” Joe was more surprised by the doctor’s lack of objection, than the remarkable transformation Mai’s simple actions had produced.
“Well, Jinpei was right about you. So how do you feel then Kozaburo?”
“Naked,” was all Nambu could think of to say.
“Not yet, you’re not.” She smiled and patted his arm playfully, “are we going then?”
“Definitely.” Joe held the door open for her, but put a hand on Nambu’s shoulder before he could follow. “You know she’s trying to seduce you?” he spoke quietly so Mai couldn’t overhear.
“That’s certainly how it looks.”
“And you’re ok with that?”
“Joe, I’m still human, at least I was at my last medical.”
“Have you thought about how this is going to come across to Jinpei though? He’s going to see you walking in the J, looking every inch the loved up couple…”
Nambu saw his point, “We’ll try not to get his hopes up.”
Twenty minutes later, Joe pulled up outside the J. Jun had booked a band for the evening, and the place was filling up fast. Jinpei still spotted them as they walked in though.
“Okasan, you came!” he vaulted over the bar, pushing his way through the rapidly growing crowd. “Otosan? You’re here too?”
“Yes, your mother here talked me into it.”
“You look different somehow.” He tapped his chin, his brow creasing as he tried to think of the change that had occurred, but eventually he shrugged, “never mind, we’ve saved you a table.” He found a path through to the edge of the dancefloor, to a small table where Ken sat alone, watching intently at the band setting up in the corner. Jinpei nudged his arm, and turning his head, he got to his feet when he saw their VIP guests.
Nambu introduced them both, and Mai’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re Ken?”
The Eagle simply nodded, embarrassed by her reaction. “You certainly have grown into a fine looking young man. The last time I saw you, you were smaller than Jinpei is now.”
“I remember now,” Ken admitted shyly. Ever since the revelation that Nambu was Jinpei’s father, he’d been scratching his head, wondering who this girlfriend had been. There had been a few women coming and going, but the only ones he could remember clearly were the household staff. Now he had a face to the name, the memory returned.
Nambu was taking him to see his mother in hospital when he’d spotted Mai at the bus stop and pulled over to offer her a lift. She’d turned to look at him in the back seat and said “hello”, and they had spent much of the brief journey chatting. At what stage of the relationship it was, Ken had no idea. All he’d learnt about her at the time was that she was taking Nambu’s class, studying something science-y.
As Mai took her seat, Ken was struck by her uncanny resemblance to Jun. Sure, her eyes and hair were a different color, and she had a slightly darker skin tone, but the shape of her face and features were almost identical. She was far too young to be Jun’s mother though, but it wasn’t improbable that they could share a common ancestry somewhere along the line. Cousin struck him as the most plausible answer.
“Are you going to stand there all night, Ken?” Nambu broke through his contemplation.
“Sorry. Of course, what can I get for you both?” he took their drinks order, then passed it over to Ryu to deliver, so he had the opportunity to meet Mai too. Jun was too busy throughout the night to be able to say hello, but Mai seemed to be having too much fun to really notice.
Nambu found her enthusiasm rubbing off on him. As the band began, he found it really too loud to talk, and had to move closer to her to be able to say anything. To anyone observing, it certainly gave the effect of intimacy between the two of them, and Jinpei for one was thrilled to see both his parents so close.
Joe wasn’t so happy about the situation. He could clearly see the impression Jinpei was having, and couldn’t bear to see the kid’s hopes being shattered when his mother returned to her own home the following day.
When he saw the ‘happy couple’ get up to dance, it was too much, and he called to Jun that he intended to take his break. He stood outside, taking a deep lungful of the cool fresh air. Ignoring Nambu’s earlier order of keeping their weapons out of sight for the duration of Mai’s visit, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a shuriken and chewed the end. He soon put it away when Ken decided to join him.
“What’s eating you then?” Ken asked his second, cheerfully, “it’s been a good night so far.”
“Good for whom?”
“Well business actually, what were you thinking?”
“Those two lovebirds.”
“Oh? How come?”
“Can’t you see? It’s a recipe for disaster, and Jinpei’s in there lapping it up. You know I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t talking about planning their wedding over breakfast tomorrow.”
“That’s a bit farfetched, don’t you think? What exactly are they doing wrong anyway?” When Joe didn’t respond, Ken continued. “Do you want to know what I think?”
“I think you’re watching them, and it’s triggered some memory of your own parents behaving in a similar fashion, and you don’t want them to go the same way.”
“Trust you to be ok with it.”
“Sure I am, and why not? Doesn’t he deserve some female companionship?”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“I’ll tell you something that is bothering me about this whole set up though.”
“Let me guess, her resemblance to Jun?”
“What do you make of that?”
“Not much, if I’m honest. A lot of people have doppelgangers that are totally unrelated to them.”
“Still, I’d like to run a DNA comparison on them both.”
“You can’t do that though? How the hell are you going to pull it off?”
“Maybe not Jun and Mai, but if Mai is related to Jun, then Jun would be related to Jinpei, and both their DNA profiles are on record already.” Ken’s brain was now fired up “So, if we assume that Mai and Jun are cousins, then what percentage DNA would Jun share with Jinpei?”
“12.5 I think, now shush a minute, ok.” Joe was suddenly on alert.
“Look.” Ken turned in the direction Joe indicated. Sure enough, there were two Galactor’s footsoldiers coming up the path, both seemingly the worse for wear.
“Ca can you believe it? This place is open f f for once,” the first one slurred to his comrade.
“There’s music, can you hear music?”
“Aww, they playing the soppy stuff, no good places have soppy stuff.” Instead of going through the door, they staggered to the window and peered inside. “Hey l l look who’s in there!”
“Who sss it?”
Ken and Joe watched carefully, as the goons tried to get the attention of someone already inside. Joe’s teeth were audibly grinding as Ken kept his hand on Joe’s shoulder.
“We can’t reveal ourselves.” Ken had to remind him, “Just keep an eye on them, and if they start anything, then we take them out, got it?”
“Nambu’s in there though.” Joe muttered through gritted teeth.
“Yeah? How likely are they to recognize him? Besides, they’re already three sheets to the wind, they’re probably seeing double already.”
Finally getting their buddy’s attention, the goons staggered inside, Eagle and Condor hot on their heels. A few patrons decided to leave on the sight of the latecomers, freeing up a few tables. The first goon took advantage and sat down, while number two, the more sober of the pair tried to order drinks.
“What the fuck, are you refusing to serve a paying customer?”
“No sir,” Ryu tried to hold his own temper, “We are not licensed to serve alcohol.”
“My money’s just as good as everyone else’s. All we want is a couple of drinks, what the fuck is so hard to understand?”
By now, goon one was getting bored, and was making his way towards the dance floor, “hey musicman, when you gonna play some decent shit?” he hollered, sending more of the customers heading for the door. Nambu ushered Mai to one of the now vacant booths, and kept low.
“I think we should get out of here too,” she told him nervously.
“Just sit tight, we’ll be ok.”
“I don’t like this, Kozaburo.”
“Stay calm, and don’t draw attention to yourself.” She continued to watch, as goon one attempted to snatch a guitar from one of the performers, but to Mai’s horror, Jinpei got between them.
“I think you should leave now,” the Swallow said in the most commanding voice he could muster.
The goon stared down at him, and burst out laughing. “You think you could make me leave this shithole, small fry?” he turned round to seek his companion. “Hey can you hear this, this little kiddy thinks he can make me leave.”
By now, the band and the last remaining customers had made themselves scarce. Jinpei stood his ground, as he was joined by Joe and Ken. Goon two, seeing the commotion his friend was causing, quickly drew his gun, only to have it chopped out of his hand by an irate Jun, and turned against him. He got the message and called for the other.
“Come on man; let’s find somewhere else, eh?”
“Not ‘til this fucking shrimp gets what’s coming.” He took a wild swing, but Jinpei instantly kicked out, striking him in the midriff. The goon staggered back, landing awkwardly on one of the tables and rolling onto the floor. Ken picked him up, hoisted him over his shoulder and carried him outside, dumping him unceremoniously on the sidewalk. Ryu frogmarched the other after him, sending him sprawling into the night.
“Is everyone ok?” Nambu called, as he emerged with Mai from the booth he’d taken refuge in.
“Yeah, just a couple of drunks, nothing we can’t handle. Probably been booted out from whatever bar they’d come from.”
“But they were in Galactor uniform.” Mai exclaimed.
“I know,” Jun sighed, “Nothing clears this place faster than that.”
“But weren’t you worried they were going to kidnap you or something?”
“We weren’t being targeted, if that’s what you mean,” Nambu attempted to reassure her, “they just wandered in off the street, there could have been a dozen of their cohorts in here, but unless they’re in uniform we’d never know.”
“That’s right, if they’d just ordered a drink and sat down, we wouldn’t have thought anything of it.” Jun confirmed. “I can’t afford to turn custom away, no matter what I might think of their lifestyle choices.”
“You must be Jun then?” Mai asked the young woman. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
“Anyone for coffee?” Jinpei suddenly appeared from the kitchen, carrying a jug in one hand, and a tray of mugs balancing precariously in his other. “Okasan, did you see the way I handled that goon?”
“I saw it,” Mai confirmed, still unsure as to how she felt about the whole thing. On one hand she was nervous of her child facing up to someone who was considered dangerous, on the other, she felt proud her son had the confidence and capability to stand up to them and get the upper hand in the situation. “I thought you did great, Jinpei.”
“Yeah, I did, didn’t I!” He put the tray on the bar; placing the jug next to it and proceeded to recreate the incident, step by step.
“Save it for the dojo, kid.” Ken and Ryu returned and gravitated to the beverage. “Well, they’ve gone at least, doubt they’ll be back in a hurry.” They distributed the drinks around; Mai took hers gratefully, and took a sip immediately, the hot liquid cooling her shattered nerves.
“Don’t be too sure.” Joe sneered, “They’re like rats, if you see one or two, then you can be damn sure there’ll be a hundred more hiding in the sewers.”
“Oh, that’s so reassuring, Joe.” Jun commented dryly.
“It wasn’t meant to be reassuring, I’m stating a fact. There’s nothing to stop them coming back with reinforcements.”
“Joe has a point.” Nambu agreed. “I think we should drink up, and Joe can take us home.”
“I need to stay, count up the takings…”
“I’ll help Jun with the clearing up, then.”
“Yeah, I’ll give you a hand with that, Ken.” Ryu offered, understanding instantly where they were coming from.
Nambu considered this for a moment, then nodded, satisfied that the three of them would be able to handle any more trouble if it came their way.