Cutscene: The Devil's Due

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Time: Evening
Place: Yumezaki Ward, Sumaru
Date: 26 October 2011

Once upon a time there was a man named Shoji Yamashita. Shoji was a husband, and a father, and -- though you might not have guessed it to look at him -- an important cog in the ill-oiled Yashida-kai machine. He did his best for his oyabun, though he faltered at times; still, no one could say that he was not loyal, nine fingers and all.

Until they ensnared his daughter.

Kimiko's decline into heroin abuse and whoring to make up her debt was the straw that broke the camel's back. Even a man such as Yamashita, whose destiny had always seemed painted entirely in shades of beige and whose anger never before managed to rise above a blubber-suffocated sizzle, has his limits. Once those limits were crossed, even he felt compelled to respond; as a saiko-komon, he had the perfect means at his fingertips.

That is how, after a not-inconsiderable amount of bother in getting the thing set up, Shoji Yamashita found himself in the secret employ of Tatsuya Sudou, the so-called Red Dragon.

He'd been everything the rumours had said he was: Bombastic, intense, monstrous. Like fire made flesh. Allying with the crazy halfbreed, who kept company with gaijin women and seemed more than a little queer himself, went against everything Yamashita stood for -- yet making a deal with the devil had been preferable to the alternative.

Honeyed whispers promised vengeance. For that, the Yashida traitor swallowed his pride, knowingly eroding a little more of his already tarnished honour.

What is honour compared to the thirst for revenge?


"I trust you are aware of our current situation, Yamashita-san."

The honey has fled from Tatsuya Sudou's mutable voice, replaced entirely by iron. He had been frightening before; the month he spent missing has heightened his menace. To Yamashita, it's reminiscent of the way an already dangerous dog might be starved to make it even more vicious. There is a nearly palpable heat in the air; at least, he's sweating more than usual.

Of course, that could just be the fact that the eyes of the Dragons are watching him. He feels them keenly, especially the women's. The glamourous actress, the girl with the lightless blue eyes, the unruly gaijin, these and more observe the proceedings in judgmental silence.

For a Yashida lifer, it's very nearly unbearable.

"I will rectify it with all due haste," Sudou continues, looking down his aquiline nose at the sweating Yamashita. "Yashida-kai, Yamaguchi-gumi," his white hand flicks to the side in an irritable gesture, "the pieces matter little when the board is upended. They will all meet the same end."

Through the opium haze hanging in the air, Sudou's single eye resembles nothing so much as a red sun veiled by smog. Its gaze fixes on Yamashita's greying face, on his piggy eyes; though it burns, the traitor finds he cannot look away.

It's become hotter, he's certain. They must be fucking with the thermostat in order to unsettle him.

"Do you know why I've summoned you now, Yamashita-san?" Sudou asks, the abrupt shift in his tone visibly startling the Yashida traitor. It's melted, transmuting back from iron into gold, quiet warmth shaped by a smile. Around them, the Dragons seem to have leaned in slightly.

Yamashita swallows. "No, Sudou-san," he replies, unconsciously shifting his left hand over his maimed right. His missing finger pulses with phantom pain.

The Sumiyoshi-kai oyabun's smile slowly widens, baring the fangs Yamashita had had to see in person to believe. He has never been a superstitious man, but the rumours- what he's seen- he's almost ready to believe the Foreign Minister's son is not human, but a dragon- a devil- in truth.

Sweat drips into his eye.

"Because," Sudou cheerfully replies, "you failed!"

There is a wooden clatter as Yamashita's chair hits the floor, toppled as he shoves his ponderous body out of it. Even standing, he must look up to meet Tatsuya Sudou's diabolically gleeful gaze -- and he does, stammering, "N-No, it wasn't my fault! I-It was y-" No, no- "You- you said i-it was Yashida's Yamaguchi whore and- and the Russians," he corrects, glancing toward the gaijin woman regardless, "I-I didn't-"

"Oh, I'm getting to her, and to them," Sudou replies, still grinning. "I'm going to set this whole fucking city on fire, Yamashita-san! The Russians, the Yamaguchi-gumi, the Yashida-kai, and so many others -- they're all going to burn." His eye -- that terrible eye -- flickers and smoulders like a hot coal, wide and alive with mirth and rage and hate. It's now hot as an oven in the Dragons' Nest, and Yamashita could almost swear Sudou is the source of that heat--

--but those stories are just stories, right? He's not- he can't-

"And so will you."

Sudou's voice cleaves utterly through Yamashita's thoughts, halting his sickened stammerings. "Spare me," Sudou drawls. "Your traitorous nature is as much proven by your quailing and excuses as it is by your maimed hand, so for all I know, you set this up yourself. After all, your daughter is no longer in their clutches..." One white hand rises to Yamashita's eye level, its long fingers curled inward; slowly, they curl outward again as though to release a moth from Sudou's palm.

"You asked for vengeance, Shoji Yamashita. Fire and blood. You paid the price, but it was not received. I will honour our bargain, but I must still have my due -- and in lieu of what was arranged, I will have your traitorous life. It is not enough to balance the debt, but it will suffice."

How can he say such things with such a cheerful smile?

"If it's any consolation, what I'm going to do to you is practically a kindness compared to what you would otherwise suffer at the hands of your former compatriots," the oyabun offers as Yamashita's slackened mouth works soundlessly in an attempt to form a defense- any defense. All that leaves his lips, however, is a thin squeak of air forced from a throat dry as bone.

The air grows hotter than ever, and out from behind Tatsuya Sudou steps a spectral figure clad all in pitted black iron and blood-red canvas, with tarnished brass fittings and a pressure gauge embedded in one shoulder. The heat and look of it reminds Yamashita of the time his grandfather had opened the furnace door while he'd been standing in front of it. It smells the same, too, of hot grimy iron -- but it's wrong, wrong; no furnace ever smelled of boiling blood and the stomach-churning musk of some great beast.

Fire, real fire, spurts from the jets cresting the entity's shoulders, and the sight of it shocks Yamashita out of his reminiscence. "No- no- Sudou-san," he stammers, stumbling backward and raising his hands in supplication, "please- my daughter-"

"Don't worry about your daughter," Sudou interrupts, the fangs in his smile cutting his voice into an unpleasant shape, "I'll take good care of her."

Yamashita's watery, smoke-stung eyes widen as the demon(?) lifts one hand, flexing fingers clad in heat-cracked leather, then lets it fall. Instantly, the air above the Yashida traitor combusts, and he finally manages a terrified shriek as the flames surge downward to envelop him. Soon there are screams -- but for every searing breath he takes to fuel them, the fire steals another.

Somehow, even over the roar of the flames and the crackle of his skin and his own breathless shrieks, Yamashita can hear Tatsuya Sudou's high, hellish laughter.

It persists even after the screaming ends.

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