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Bloodlines

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Bloodlines

 

Dotonbori is a strangely unique place in Osaka, perhaps even in all of Japan. You might call it a bit of a tourist trap, what with it's colourful lights, luring you like a moth to a flame. Or perhaps it's incredible selection of restaurants and street food that make it a foodie's dream destination. Dotonbori's night life is equally popular, and it's slim backstreets are often fit to bursting with locals and tourists keen to experience the neon highlight of Osaka.

None of them expect to die here.

 

Soma Ramen was a small place. It was out of the way. Positioned directly beside the canal, but away from the majority of the hustle and bustle. A few tables and chairs sat outside, just so you could appreciate your meal, or a hot cup of coffee, beside the water. As you enter, the door's bell jingles. It's usually quiet inside. A small place like Soma Ramen exists mostly on the custom of regulars and the occasional lost tourist. It was warmly lit inside, though sparsely. Tables and chairs lined one side of the room, a bar on the other, and behind the bar a door led back into a kitchen, occupied by a single person. The manager, owner and chef - Soma Mitsuko. Mitsuko was in her late 20's, she was tall and slender though her clothes hung off her as though she wore a size or two too large. She wore a white tank top and a baggy black zip hoodie with the sleeves rolled up. Her arms were covered in black and grey tattoos and she was pierced in multiple places. Most obviously, a couple of black bands on her right ear, studs in her ears and another on the side of her nose. She had long, black hair, partially tied in a ponytail. Shaved on one side of her head, while her hair cascaded free down to her collar bone. She knew that she was... unusual, in appearance, but Dotonbori had many characters stranger than her.

Her attention lazily refocused upon one of only two customers in her restaurant. Noodles slipped between lips and disappeared into a void.
"Delicious, as always, Soma-sama!" A plump, middle-aged man exclaimed. His chopsticks clutched a thick bundle of noodles and brought them to their end while she watched with little reaction. As he finished his bowl with a sigh, he looked up and she blinked and smiled at him, closing her eyes a little and chuckling. The man smiled in return, happy that his hunger had been alleviated, then he left. The bell jingled and Mitsuko released a quiet sigh. Her smile vanished as she wiped her dishwater-covered hands clean and quietly placed the cloth down on the counter.

She felt it. Hunger. She knew it better than most. Hunger never surprised her. It was inevitable. His hunger would be sated by her death, at least for a time. But she was disinclined to allow him that satisfaction. Even if it also meant an end for her own special brand of hunger. She yanked her head out of the way as something crashed into the counter beside her, sending wood and debris flying everywhere. She barely moved, but it was enough.

Allowing herself the most fleeting of glances, she saw her assailant's weapon, through eyes that had turned entirely black, revealing her true nature. 
The weapon was like an enormous sword, only it had no edge. It was like a blunt slab of metal with a long handle. It seemed, she thought to herself, they're getting smarter. But, as she also reminded herself, smarter than cattle wasn't enough. The metal slab lifted from the crushed counter top and withdrew as the man who had been quietly sitting in the corner, a customer like any other, had now assumed the role of her attacker. From a coffee to a claymore in an instant - the shift, that is, as she didn't buy into the instant coffee fad. Screaming, the man pulled back his weapon and raised it above his head, ready to attack a second time, but she couldn't allow that. He'd already ruined her counter. Faster than the man could entirely follow, Mitsuko crossed the restaurant floor at a sprint. She moved gracefully, avoiding the tables and chairs until the last second, at which point she kicked a chair at the man with such force that when it hit him, it knocked the length of metal from his hands. His eyes screamed before it could reach his mouth, at which point his head separated from his shoulders and landed with a heavy thud upon the black-tiled floor. Blood splattered her face and clothes and the standing corpse collapsed as a puppet suddenly sans it's strings.

Mitsuko straightened up, licked the blood from her fingers and heard the familiar jingle of her door's bell. Turning, she saw the plump customer from just moments before. It seemed he hadn't gotten far enough away to have missed the sound of her fight. He was stood, frozen in the doorway. She knew it would be maybe another second or two, and then confusion would turn to horror. Panic and self-preservation would have him call for someone, not because he wanted necessarily to hurt her, but because he did not wish to be hurt. Thoughts of hatred and fear of what she was would come later, when his brain wasn't screaming at him to run away as fast as his pudgy feet would carry him.
"Thank you for your custom, please excuse me, the mess..." She apologised, a smile renewed on her face, just for him. He blinked, and it was enough. He joined her would-be-assailant on the tiled floor. "What a mess..." She muttered to herself, the smile she had used like a mask, vanished and with it, any semblance of humanity.

But do ghouls have 'humanity'? Do humans? She wondered sometimes. The humans hate us so much, but are we not just animals as they are? We must eat to survive, just as they. But they kill one another over nothing. They rape and steal and hate and betray. But i'm a monster? Mitsuko asked herself, looking at her hand, tinted pink with the blood she'd licked clean. The black tiles were turning red all around her, rousing Mitsuko from her thoughts.
"Mop..." She said to herself, and got to work.

An hour later Soma Ramen was open for business again. A couple of familiar faces smiled and greeted her as she turned the door sign around to 'We're open! :3", then she followed them inside. She turned the big-screen TV on in the far corner opposite the bar. It was an old thing, and the buttons didn't always work, but she didn't really care and it never seemed to bother the customers. Two bodies immediately flashed on screen, they were mid-conversation. The news. That's what humans called it. They repeat information that was handed to them, to others, and then the humans accept it as part of their reality.
"--other news," The anchorman continued, glancing at his colleague with a grim expression. She couldn't know what this expression meant other than it was a kind of sadness. He was letting her know he was going to say something upsetting. "--2 found dead and partially consumed in Dotonbori--" Mitsuko was trying to listen, but she was having trouble focusing. His expression was distracting her, as it was sad, but his mouth was flat and thin, and his eyes were dull. He wasn't sad at all. He wanted her to think he was sad. Mitsuko found herself curiously pleased at the reminder of a curious thought she'd had more than once in the past. The concept that humans wear masks upon masks, while she only one.

"Dreadful! Another ghoul attack I expect, in my--!!" An old lady snapped, as she shuffled into her booth. The man silently slid into the opposite side and started taking his scarf off even as the woman continued to yap in a most loud and unnecessary fashion. She studied him carefully and knew this was not unusual behaviour for his partner. Yet, there was something underneath it? He was content to listen. He didn't mind. Interesting, she thought. Something to mull over later. The couple just wanted coffee from her and continued watching the news, and unfortunately, she found herself just as transfixed by the story the anchor was weaving. He told them that with 2 dead in a likely ghoul attack, it would be the first reported incident in over a month in the Dotonbori area. Then he asked them a question they could not possibly answer. It was phrased to scare them. "Could this mean a return to similar levels of ghoul-related incidents in the rest of Osaka?"

Fear-mongering. Mitsuko had used such a tactic herself, she had worked hard to keep incidents as low as possible. The more the government focused on other districts of Osaka, the less they would interfere with her home territory. It worked, because she knew how ghouls thought. Humans were still very much a mystery to her, despite her attempts at understanding them. But she needed only know that killing a ghoul whenever it's own kill was spread across the human's media, would show ghouls that hunting in this area was likely more dangerous than others, and so they would leave or kill and clean up after themselves. And so, presumably, without high numbers of deaths, the humans would leave them be.

It seemed that time had come to an end. With an attack on her life from what could only have been one of the government's ghoul killers. Ghouls didn't use weapons like humans. That big chunk of metal had a purpose. Their bodies were tough, tough enough to stop a blade. Conventional weapons were mostly useless against them. So the government had started equipping officers with a variety of weapons intended to cause pain and break bones through impact, which could be enough to subdue a ghoul long enough for them to kill it. It wasn't the first one she'd seen, but they were getting better with them. It was lighter than the ones that came before it, but not much smaller. Was that then made of titanium? Mitsuko pulled herself from the television and quietly walked behind her bar and checked behind a loose backing. There it was, the bone-breaker blade. She pulled a nail - which was not unlike a thick claw - across the metal. Just a scratch. Yes, titanium. Or something stronger. Mitsuko stood back up and saw what she was expecting, the old woman, though the woman herself seemed surprised that Mitsuko wasn't thrown by her sudden appearance. Despite what had happened earlier, or perhaps all the more because of it, she could never take any chances. She might be old, she might not throw her weight around and so she just walks quietly, but she was still a potential threat.
"Boo!" The old woman snapped, and then smirked to herself, though her face turned sour once more upon seeing a lack of reaction from her. "Hey, waitress, you seen that couple up there on the news? I can't believe you run this place all on your own, y'know, and we're your customers and we're old, so...!!"
"We're real old..." The real old man grumbled to himself from back in his stall.
"We can't be expected to protect ourselves from monsters!" The old woman looked indignant. What was she upset about? Was she upset because they might, maybe, die? Wasn't that a certainty? Mitsuko saw the sour look on the old woman's face deepening. She had to correct this. 
"Oh I know!" Mitsuko said affirmatively, nodding. No? "I completely agree." The woman still looked upset. Mitsuko added a smile but the woman still looked pained. What was she missing? Ah, of course, the woman didn't want her to agree with her, she wanted her to be upset for her. Mitsuko lost the smile and let the corners of her mouth droop just a touch and closed her eyelids slightly. It felt like juggling. Luckily, she could catch knives like this with practice. "It's so hard for you..." She pulled out the master class. She turned back to a smile but dialled it to 11, scrunching her face up as hard as she could and let her voice quiver, "I'll do better! I'll hire someone on!!" 
"O-Oh--" The old woman was instantly disarmed, unsure what she'd triggered. Then she reflexively started patting Mitsuko and encouraged her into an embrace. Then Mitsuko slowed her crying into silence and stared off into space. Now was a good time for idle thoughts. She had a few minutes to kill. Humans liked touching. Not just their partner, but anyone who will let them. So now she had to hire a pair of hands she didn't really need, when she struggled enough already with paying the bills. But, that was just another cost of her blending in as much as she did. She was just trying to survive. At any cost. So why then did that girl...? Mitsuko couldn't dwell on years-old memories though, as the door jingled once more and a scruffy-looking man stepped inside. She knew the moment he stepped inside. He wasn't human. But he wasn't a ghoul either. He was something... else. Also, he needed a bath.

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Inside a shady nightclub in Shibuya, Tokyo, heavy bass rumbled through the thick stone walls. A dancefloor packed with youthful revelers was illuminated through piercing, colourful lights and lasers which cut through the darkness like a knife through butter. Attractive young bodies in vibrant clothing, skin-tight dresses swayed and grinded to the rhythmic bass and delighted at the synthesized parade of trance sounds and electro beats. A female vocalist sang a song about memories as jets of dry ice were sent hissing across the room, weaving through the lights and the people like a fog.

Around the dance floor were low tables and luxurious leather chairs where groups of men and women shouting at each other over the music, laughing and enjoying drinks. One man stood out sitting with his entourage, for he wasn’t Japanese. He was a pale man, with a gaunt, skinny frame. His hands, arms, neck and chest were covered in various tattoos and he was dressed in a pair of red Dr. Martens, grey, skinny jeans with a black belt and custom metal buckle that read: “F*CK OFF”, in English. He had no shirt on and his eyes were hidden behind a pair of mirror-lensed aviators. His hair was short, cut high and tight round the sides, the top was longer but tied back in a top knot, with a little tail.

The man, who couldn’t have looked a day over 30, was smoking a cigarette that had an aroma that was certainly not tobacco. He was transfixed on the end as he inhaled, watching the crimson light claw closer to his lips, devouring all in it’s path, hungry, relentless, and leaving only ash in its wake.
“Adrian!” A man yelled over the music as he sat next to him. He turned to the young man and leaned back in his chair. He pondered about the way people here said his name, which always sounded more like ‘Ey Dorian’ to him.

He exhaled the smoke he was holding in his lungs and pulled down his shades momentarily to see him with his own eyes. Recognition followed. “Ah, right, didn’t recognize ya there, mate!” He said in English, “I’m too fucked mate, apologies. It’s my fault, eh.”
“Do you…have any…” The other man seemed to be struggling with his English. Adrian held up two fingers to acknowledge that he understand, however. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, clear bag with 5 yellow pills in it. Amphetamines were the popular choice here, which Adrian figured was fiar enough but he’d always been more partial to cocaine. He offered them to the man, held between his two outstretched fingers. The man nodded and took them gratefully, then went to reach for his wallet. He produced a handful of Yen and slipped them to Adrian who pocketed them without a word.

“Pass?” He said to the young man and offered him his joint. The man smiled and went to take it, but then hesitated as something caught his eye. He stared off behind Adrian, and then quickly began to look nervous. He stood up suddenly and disappeared into the crowd. Arian frowned at that, he felt it a bit of an unusual reaction to him,  but once again realization dawned as another man tapped Adrian on the shoulder. This man stood out, much like Adrian did, but for a different reason. He was a broad shouldered Japanese man, dressed in a black suit and tie with a white shirt, with tattoos barely poking out from under his collar. The man looked mean, and definitely dangerous.

“Ah…” Adrian said with a nod, “Y’alright there Kazuo san?” He asked, but Kazuo did not reply. Instead he pointed up to the second floor of the building, away from all the patrons, to a windowed room overhead. “Boss man wants to see me, eh?” Adrian asked, and he stood up, placing his joint in the ashtray. He picked up his T-shirt and put it on; it was a black t-shirt that had a white logo of two acoustic guitars crossed at the neck, with lettering reading: ‘Johnny Cash – Genuine American Rebel’ on it. Kazuo walked, and Adrian followed him. Before long they had exited from the main nightclub area and all that could be heard of the music was the distant thumping of bass. Bright lights greeted them along with a decidedly less visually appealing corridor. They moved in silence, passing other men in black suits as they went up some stairs and then knocked politely on a door. A voice on the other side indicated for them to come in, and they did.

The room’s walls were the colour of slate, and the room was decorated with expensive, minimalist furniture. Inside there were two more goons and a third man who was older, perhaps in his mid-50s. This man was sitting down, and as Adrian came in her locked eyes with him and then offered the seat next to him. “Sit.” The man said in English.
“Yeah, alright.” Adrian said with a smile and he walked over and sat down opposite the man, a glass coffee table between them. A decanter of whisky sat on the table, and a glass had been poured for each of them. The older man held his hand out to permit Adrian to drink. He took the glass happily and downed it’s contents in one gulp, feeling the amber liquid burn his throat on the way down.

“Do you know why I have called you up here?” The man asked.
“Not really.” Adrian replied, “Pretty sure it’s not my birthday though, so I can rule that out.”
“I took you on because you are a foreigner, and people here feel more comfortable buying drugs from a foreigner.”
“Well I wouldn’t really say they are comfortable but it’s a lot less scary than asking you lot for drugs, right?” Adrian said with a grin, “I mean you’re a pretty scary lot, aren’t you?”
“Do I scare you, Adrian?”
“A bit, yeah.” Adrian admitted, “But I’ve never really been described as the brave sort so I’m probably not the best person to ask, Mister Tatsuyuki. “Plus I’m not exactly sober.”

“Sober enough…” Tatsuyuki replied, “We allow you to indulge yourself on our product, provided you keep making us money, and you take your cut like everyone else. If you were to take more than your cut…if you were to steal from me, that would be a problem. Do you have anything to say?” Adrian leaned back in the chair, and there was a pause as he thought about it. They definitely knew. He’d gotten greedy, had kept money aside, hidden it away from them when he was dropping off his takings. In retrospect, stealing from the Yakuza was never a particularly genius plan, but then again he’d never been all that smart.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about mate.” He said finally with a shrug, “But I’m sure that whatever’s bothering you, well, we can sort it out with a good chat, eh?”
“Who do you think you are talking to?” Tatsuyuki said, and he got up from his chair and began walking to the back of this room, “I have indulged your relative lack of respect since you are a young, unenlightened foreigner. You have thus far shown little appreciation of our culture.”
“Hey now that’s not fair!” Adrian said, getting up as well, “I appreciate the hell out of this culture, y’know, I love all the Pokémon games, and don’t get me started on Hatsune Miku, she’s just fab is she not? Cute too, well, for a cartoon anyway.”

“Urusei!” Tatsuyuki snapped, suddenly allowing anger in to his voice. He continued berating Adrian in Japanese and as he reached the far wall he picked up  katana that was sitting on a stand on a mantelpiece. “Do you understand honour, even a little, gaijin?” He asked as he began to approach Adrian once more.
“I hope you’re not gonna ask me to do the hari kari shite, are ya?” Adrian asked.
“Aitsu o tsukamaero!” Tatsuyuki barked as an order to his men, and the two goons advanced on Adrian, who spun around to face them, holding his hands out placatingly.
“Now lads don’t be so hasty, eh?” He said with a nervous grin, “Let’s not go doing something we regret, hm?”

The two men went to grab him, but Adrian avoided the first’s lunge and backed off, his tone more frantic now. “Hey listen, listen! I’m telling ya, I don’t want to hurt ya now. Let’s just settle down eh?”
The second man came at him and grabbed him by the wrist, wrenching it behind his back and twisting it hard, causing him to cry out. The other goon grabbed Adrian’s other side and collectively they forced him to his knees, and held him there. He tried to summon some strength, but it had been so long since he had used it. Plus he wasn’t sure the last time he was entirely sober, and he was pretty far gone on various chemicals now.

“This…this is for those who are honorable.” Tatsuyaki said, indicating to the katana. One of the men held Adrian’s head up so he could look at Tatsuyaki. “You are a pitiful little thief, and you do not deserve to taste this steel. You get the easy way out.” And then Tatsuyaki pulled out a gun and pointed it at Adrian’s head.
“Oh…fffuck.” Adrian managed, staring at the outstretched arm holding the gun at him. “Look…if you’re gonna kill me I would really suggest the sword, mate. If ya cut me head off ya might have a chance.”
“Be silent, your time is up you little punk” Tatsuyaki said in Japanese, which Adrian had understood quite clearly. Then there was a loud bang and his ears began ringing like bells. He felt something hit his face, the floor perhaps. His vision faded to white, and he could hear the muffled sound of the men talking, and that distant rumble of bass that had likely masked the sound of the gunshots to anyone in the club down below.

“Clean this up.” Tatsuyaki said, as he picked up his glass of whisky and sipped from it. One of his subordinates nodded and left the room to get some help. The other man knelt down at Adrian’s side and began to haul his corpse up off the floor. He got the pale man up off the floor, and was holding him tight against his chest, when suddenly the corpse moved, and Adrian suddenly was the one gripping hold of him. His shades had come off and in the bright light of the room his amber eyes blazed, his pupils slitted like a cat’s. His mouth opened to a maw of gleaming, serrated, razor sharp teeth like that of a monster shark. He clamped his jaws down on the man’s throat and gnashed furiously. The man screamed but it soon became a gurgle as Adrian tore his throat out, snarling like a feral animal as he guzzled down his blood hungrily.

“What….are…are you a ghoul!?” Tatsuyuki cried as he pointed the gun at Adrian once more. Adrian dropped the lifeless corpe of the man he had feasted on, and turned his narrow eyes towards Tatsuyuki, and when he spoke he did so in perfect Japanese, even with a regional kansai dialect.
“I warned ya…” He said, and he paused to shiver. Fresh blood coursing through him was a particularly intense high, made you feel stronger than any cocaine would, and the intense pleasure was better than any amphetamine, better than heroin, and he would know. He’d had quite a lot of heroin over the years.

“G-get back, Ghoul!” Tatsuyuki yelled, and he opened fire on Adrian, firing again and again until the magazine was empty and the gun just clicked. Adrian looked down at the holes in his shirt where he had been riddled with bullets, and then looked back up at Tatsuyuki with a hurt expression. “Just ‘cause I don’t die doesn’t mean it’s ain’t sore, ya know?” He advanced towards Tatsuyaki. “And I ain’t no Ghoul. I told ya didn’t I? I’m a vegetarian!”
“But…then what…?”
“I like drugs, Tatsuyuki san. Love ‘em, I admit it. Somethin’ of an addict. Just so happens though….that human blood is the best drug goin’ for guys like me. Now, see…” He held up his blood covered hand and pointed his finger at Tatsuyuki chastisingly. “What ya failed to grasp is that the reason I take so many drugs is because it helps me not consume the one I really love. But when you got and blow me to bits like this, you went and triggered my healin’ didn’t ya? Now I’m stone cold sober, in a lot of pain, and everythin’ has a price, includin’ my immortality. Bet yer wishin’ you’d cut my head off now, hm?”

With a bit of resolve mustering in him, Tatsuyuki threw his gun to the ground and drew the katana from it’s saba and with a warrior cry he ran at Adrian. The vampire smiled a grin full of bloody fangs, and as Tatsuyuki swung the blade he side stepped it with inhuman speed and grace, then he plucked the sword out of Tatsuyuki’s hands with effortless strength, and tossed it away. Then his other hand clamped around Tatsuyuki’s throat, his finger nails had hardened and became pointed claws, that pierced into the skin of Tatsuyuki’s neck. “16 years….not a drop of blood. Then ya had to go an’ fuck all that up, didn’t ya?” Adrian snarled and then he savaged at Tatsuyuki. Like a starved feral beast he ripped the Yakuza boss to shreds, his claws and fangs tearing him limb from limb, relieving him of his organs, scattering his flesh and bone across the floor, all the while blood sprayed everywhere, coating the window that looked out on to the nightclub from on high.

Adrian’s memories of the event grew hazy as the blood frenzy consumed him. Specifics of the even were lost. There was only blood, and violence. For a while he swam in the sea of his dark, primal nature. When he finally emerged to the surface once more, he was no longer in the Yakuza den. He was in his shitty little apartment. At some point he had showered and ditched his blood-soaked clothing. Somewhere along the line his human side had seen sense and had ditched the blood for safer options.

Adrian stared down at three empty bottles of whisky, and a fourth that was almost finished. Three lines of cocaine were chopped up and set out on the counter. He took the rolled up 10,000 yen note in his hand and then he snorted each line, one after the other. With each line he was given a sudden jolt of reality that brought his consciousness front and centre. He looked around the room, rubbing at his burning nostrils. He had money, but not a lot. His clothes were hastily packed in a duffle bag, and his phone was charging on a stand by his bed, a futon on the floor. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. Then he picked up his duffel bag and went to zip it shut, and noted that the katana Tatsuyuki had threatened him with was nestled in among his clothes. “Well…at least I got a souvenir.” He said to himself.

He left the apartment in a hurry, and ran down the stairs in such a rush that he wasn’t paying attention to the windows. When he opened the doors to go outside he instinctively froze and stepped back. The bright sunshine of early morning greeted him on the street outside. He lingered in the door there for a moment, his normal looking eyes returned to narrow slits as the light him them. He covered them with his shades and then took a deep breath. Then Adrian the Vampire stepped out into the sun. It’s heat prickled on his skin, but did nothing more outwardly. While there was once a time where the sun would have burned him to ash, this had not been the case for more than half a century now.

However, moving in daylight was no picnic for him. His keen senses and supernatural healing seemed to stop working when he walked in the daytime. And so all of a sudden the liquor and drugs hit him almost as powerfully as they would a normal, mortal human. He felt dizzy, and he was sweating, yet he kept getting cold shivers. He became disoriented as he moved through the streets of Shinjuku. A modicum of sense came back to him as he ducked into the subway and rode a train to Tokyo Central, and managed to shamble through enough conversation with the ticket lady and the man at the station’s shop to score himself a bottle of sake and a ticket on the Shinkansen to Osaka.

As he settled down on the train, he got to drinking the bottle of sake and pulled a denim jacket over his head, in an attempt to get some sleep through the daytime journey. It took a long time, but sleep did take him eventually. Sleep, for a vampre, was not filled with dreams. Instead sleep was a cold, dark embrace. While it brought him rest, it was not the same comforting experience that he had once remembered it to be. And so not long after he felt his consciousness fading, he was suddenly awake again.

It had been hours, and he had awoken to a headache that was surely a sign that he was far too sober. The train had pulled into a station, and the tannoy indicated that it was Shin Osaka Station. With a grown Adrian grabbed his things and hauled himself up and off of the train. He made his way quickly through the station, which he noted had changed quite a bit since his last visit to Osaka. When had that been? 20 years ago? More? It didn’t matter especially. He knew where he needed to go.

He took a moment to be incredulous at the inconsistency of his ancient brain’s memory. He had forgotten more languages than most people could speak, including his native Romanian, but for some reason had managed to hold on to English, Spanish, French and Japanese, and specifically with a kansai dialect. Bonkers. And he even remembered he needed to get to Namba Station to get to where he was going. Yet he could not remember his own mother and father. He could remember that he loved his mother, and that he had absolutely no love for his father, but for the life of him he hadn’t a clue why.

The journey through the subway to Namba was a brief one, only a quarter of an hour at most. When he reached Namba station he went to the bathroom and straigtened himself out a bit. He was wearing a sleeveless, black T-shirt with a picture of Godzilla; the old kaiju rubber suit one, not the weird Mathew Broderick one. He had kept his Dr. Martens on and had changed to a pair of blue, denim jeans that had been cut at the knees to make them shorts.

After that he begrudgingly made his way out of the station, and back in to direct sunlight. The disorientation wasn’t quite so intense this time, mostly because he’d somewhat sobered on the journey. A quick five minute walk in which he had hoovered through about 3 cigarettes had lead him to Dotonbori, and it’s signature neon adverts emblazoned across the tall buildings next to the canal. A wave of familiarity and nostalgia washed over him. The place had not changed quite so significantly as Tokyo had over the years.

So now he was here. On the run from the Yakuza, who would no doubt seek retribution for the massacre that had transpired in Shinjuku. He had no money, and no employment now that his previous employers likely wanted him dead. He also had no contacts to buy drugs, and nowhere to live. Now that he had taken time to stop and think, perhaps coming to Osaka with literally no way of getting by wasn’t such a bright idea. However, as he had acknowledged many times before in his life, he had to admit that he was not a smart man.

His pondering was disrupted by the smell of delicious foods being cooked. Dotonbori had a whole host of decent places to eat, lots of cosy little bars and restaurants where you could eat a good meal for an affordable price. He moved away from the busier streets and walked down by the canal, looking for somewhere quiet where he could avoid drawing any attention to himself. Finally he found himself a little establishment called Soma Ramen. He put an unlit cigarette in his mouth and pushed the door open, and stepped inside. He looked up to find a young woman staring at him with an unreadable expression. He waited for the customary ‘welcome’ that most shops in Japan greeted patrons with, but it didn’t come. Oh dear.

“Yo.” He said with a tired smile, “Do you have a vegetarian dish?”

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