Abnormal Mapping 24: This Is Our Tree, We Know This Tree

Rikiya surveyed the wreckage of the bridal suite in the love hotel. Crushed statuary and shattered glass spread across the plush carpet in splashes of industrail confetti. The hot tub swirled with a crimson froth of spilled blood. The room smelled of the wrong kind of sweat for a room like this, fearful and acrid.

“Boss,” Rikiya said. “Good job with Kanda.”

Kazuma was standing above his fallen foe, wiping clean his crimson fists with the dishtowel from the minibar. He looked as tired as Rikiya had ever seen him, this mythic figure brought down to a mortal space. But his suit bore no markings from his fight, and minus a split lip and the bruising that was sure to spread out across his hands, he looked none the worse for wear. To Rikiya, even in this vulnerable state, he looked invincible.

“There’s nothing to congratulate,” Kazuma said, turning to glare at Rikiya over his shoulder. “You don’t celebrate swatting a mosquito, and I won’t celebrate this similarly. Let’s get out of here.”

Kazuma turned and began walking out of the room, Rikiya hesitating as he looked down at the broken form of the unconscious Yakuza lieutenant. He was much the worse for wear, covered in scrapes, but he looked like he would survive. Rikiya turned and chased after Kazuma.

“Boss, wait!”

Kazuma stopped and turned around to look at Rikiya. “What?”

Rikiya hesitated standing before him, feeling like a foolish boy before this icon of power and responsibility. “We have … our room?”

“Our room?” Kazuma arched one severe brow.

“We paid for the room. You’re tired. I’m tired. We could make use of the bed and the bathroom to get cleaned up before we head out onto the street. We don’t want to attract unwanted attention.”

Kazuma paused. “You’re right.” Without hesitation, he fished the key out of his jacket pocket and strode down the hall to the small room they’d been assigned. It was dark and cool and made Rikiya think of the seaside coves back home in Okinawa. He never felt so far away from his home.

Kazuma took off his jacket, as Rikiya rushed to fill the ice bucket with ice and water. Kazuma was inspecting his lip when Rikiya returned, brow furrowed.

“I’ve been through worse,” Kazuma said.

“I know, boss, but that doesn’t mean we can get lazy about taking care of ourselves, does it?”

“I suppose you’re right.” Rikiya handed the bucket to Kazuma, who set it in his lap and then plunged both hands into the ice water. He let out a long sigh, the facade breaking, as his shoulders sagged in relief.

“See? There you go. I know we need to be tough, but you’re a blood-brother to the Ryudo family now, so you don’t have to worry about me. We can be honest with each other.” Rikiya sat down on the bed beside Kazuma, looking sheepish beside him, as Kazuma even in repose towered above him.

“What about you?” Kazuma asked.

Rikiya rubbed the back of his head, laughing. “Well, honestly, boss, you kind of took care of most of them before I could do much. You’re the easiest boss I’ve ever had, you do all the work for me!”

Kazuma smiled, and nodded. “I was … never good at giving orders. I just go ahead on my own, people have always gotten hurt around me.”

“You should let people in,” Rikiya said. “Look at your kids. They love you. They’re better because of you, and you have to admit that you’re better because of them.”

Kazuma paused. “I suppose that’s true. I’ve caused so much pain, though, I don’t want to do it anymore.”

“You can’t protect everyone, no matter how much you try,” Rikiya said. “People can make their own choices and make their own risks. Even the Fourth Chairman can’t be the boss of the entire world.”

There was a long pause, Rikiya turning to look at Kazuma. “Besides, you never know where life might take you so long as you remain open to possibilities. I mean, look at us. We went from fighting for our lives against each other out on the street to sitting here together in this bed. Who can even begin to guess what’s next?”

Kazuma turned to look at his charge, the young man earnest as he stared up at Kazuma. The instinct was to close up and be the boss, but Rikiya was right. Hadn’t he spent the past years trying to run away from a life where he had to be the Dragon of Dojima? He just wanted to be Uncle Kaz, whether that meant doing homework or cooking fish or … or exploring the possibility of a life that was entirely his own.

“Rikiya…”

Their eyes met, recognition of the same soul within each of them passed wordlessly between them. Kazuma set the bucket down, lest it be knocked over and stain the carpet. Rikiya laughed at the consideration thoughtlessly performed by this, the greatest man he had ever known.

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Reading List Additions: History Respawned and Top Score

Games Discussed: P.T., Paris HallwaySci Fi Corridor Maze Walkthrough, Gone Home, GTA 4, Burnout Paradise, Sleeping Dogs, Final Fantasy VII, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Skyrim, Minecraft, Interactive Fiction, Your Actions Do Not Effect The Ending, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, Dream.Sim, Mirror’s Edge, Tony Hawk, Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time, Attack of The Friday Monsters, Persona 3/4, Resident Evil

This Month’s Game Club: Yakuza 3

Next Month’s Game Club: Grim Fandango with special guest Heather Alexandra

Music This Episode

Blown Away by Kevin McLeod
Dead Run by Hidenori Shoji
D 2 A by Hidenori Shoji
Bray of the Dragon King by Hidenori Shoji
Kamurocho Lullaby by Hideki Sakamoto