Silence reigned the hallway as the deafening sound of a second point-blank gunshot ceased ringing in one’s ear. Well, not exactly silence because someone among the hospital staff had finally decided to do the sensible thing and hit the fire alarm.
The alarm, the screams, and the fanatic footsteps to the nearest exit all became background noises to the ears of those who stood before the scene. All the gangsters, the policemen, the boy with the smoking gun, and the old boss sitting flat on the floor with a limped body in his lap were speechless for a time.
Still standing tall in spite of having a bullet lodged in his chest, the former first lieutenant grabbed the gun pointing at his chest by the barrel. The boy squeezed the trigger three more times but the gun did not discharge. It was stuck! The safety was snapped back on and Ishii managed to yank the gun out of the boy’s grip before the boy could figure out how to unlock the safety.
Time resumed as the gravity of the situation caught up to some of the gangsters and they turned their guns toward the blue-haired boy.
The boss would be lying if he said he had seen this coming.
“I like it that you are ambitious,” Ishii hissed, unlocked the safety and cocked the gun in front of everyone to make a point. Then, he pointed the gun he had reclaimed at Daisuke, “But you’re such a reckless fool! Imagine if you did manage to get me, how do you plan on getting out of here alive?”
“Same way I got out of your betrayal alive,” the boss butted in, “Go crazy, kill everything that moves and pray for the best.”
“And look where that landed you, Mr. Kojima,” Ishii rebutted. There was enough sarcasm in his tone to bury a man alive. “Stop right there, Shimizu! I know where to shoot so as not kill you. Don’t press your luck, boy. Hands in the air! That’s right, hands in the air!”
The blue-haired boy slowly raised his hands in the air. The former first lieutenant took two steps back at the same time. A safety margin was established between the two.
“Now drop whatever you’re hiding in your hand,” the man ordered.
The boy did as instructed and a plastic eyedrop bottle fell to the floor.
“You win, Mr. Ishii. I am still no match for you.”
“Good grief, boy! I will ask again, how did you plan on getting out of here alive if you managed to take me down?”
“I would take you hostage and wait for the police. A wound in your right lung isn’t fatal but it would prevent you from fighting back. And we’re at a hospital so I can keep you alive for as long as it takes,” Daisuke explained.
“You’re playing a dangerous game, boy. I sure hope you came up with that on the fly and not before we came here.”
The boy smiled but neither denied nor confirmed this assertion.
“And you too,” the man turned to address the old boss, “I can’t take my eyes away from you for a second. What a bother!”
“Then why didn’t you just put a bullet in my forehead already? Not like I have any secret left to tell you. You have everything you need to become the boss. I don’t suppose leaving a second corpse here would make any difference to your case, wouldn’t it?”
“Oh no, I need you to hang around for a while longer. It seems there’s a bunch of troublemakers in Kanto planning on making a martyr out of you unless I show them that I am on your side.”
“What a heap, young Ishii! You think you can make me endorse you?”
“Not quite what I have in mind but should it come to that, well, I have my…let’s say…methods.”
At length, Ishii commanded his men to wrap everything up and shoved a rag in the boss’s mouth to stop his relentless laughter. The man had changed his mind and he relayed this verbally to the gang. With a strong emphasis on the instantaneity of the order, the new boss took long strides down the hallways, followed by half a dozen chaotic footsteps.
Two gangsters picked up the old boss, then merely a pitiful crippled named Kojima, from where he lay. They would not show the boss any respect at all. They did not need a wheelchair, they would just carry him out while the blue-haired boy would have his two hands in the air and two loaded guns on his back at all times.
Six gunshots rang out as they left. The policemen did not, could not, give them any further troubles.
The nurses and the other patients stared at the group on the way out in utter terror. One could hardly blame the civilians for feeling apprehensive when a man was being carried across the hall, motionless and upside down like a carcass in front of them. On the one occasion a nurse crossed the group’s path, she let out a high-pitched shriek and dashed back in the direction she came from.
Again, there was no real resistance when the gang passed the guards at the parking lot; understandable when the gang members outnumbered the guards by at least five to one. He was dumped into the trunk of one of the cars there. The whole gang drove off, no jeering or honking like second-grade hooligans, they quietly drove off just as they came.
There had not been a more appropriate situation to despair than being trapped in the darkness of a trunk with a rag in his mouth. The car moved slowly. The low rumble of engines was all around him. He grew feverish from the heat. The stench of the countless exhaust pipes was suffocating. He gasped for air but only fumes entered his lung.
His consciousness waned. He heard voices, many voices, and there were energetic shouts from above and below. He heard the loud crack of fireworks shooting off into the starry sky. His noses picked up the smell of yakisoba and deep fry takoyaki; this all smelled like Tanabata.
“Boss, wake up, boss!” a male voice called him. The voice sounded nearby, almost as though it came out from his mouth but was not quite.
“This way!” a clear female voice said.
“Akiyama, why are you here?” a younger male voice boomed as another firework exploded in the sky. The color was red and then purple.
Mr. Kojima opened his eyes; the lids felt too heavy. He tried to stir but could not. That was right, his body was still powerless. This was his reality. He was being carried by someone on his back. These broad shoulders and ruffled hair smelled salty like the sea. The man carrying him was breathing laboriously while he zipped through the pedestrians, agile as though he was performing parkour.
There were gunshots and explosions behind him. A slender girl in Fukuoka High uniform was running alongside him. Next to her was a familiar male also in Fukuoka High uniform with a pair of rectangular glasses.
“Headquarter is down. Our lines are compromised.”
“Damn, those Tsuitou brats…”
“Focus! I’m here to relay the new order…”
They exchanged information for a few seconds before the girl departed. She hopped on a biker waiting ahead and the two peddled away.
“Ugh, where am I?”
“Boss? You’re awake! I’m so glad!”
This voice, it was…
“Yes, it’s me, boss! I’m sorry that it took me so long. I promise I will not leave you alone ever again!” the man carrying him said with such conviction that he would split a mountain just by looking at it.
And from the look of it, he was not alone. Heiji’s crew was with him.
“How much further?” Alyosha asked.
“About three hundred meters,” the boy beside them answered.
“Alright! Let’s go!”