Walking My Friends Path Ch. 02byfgmntfmgnshn©
As always, thanks to Boheminxen for editing.
Chapter 2: Avenging My Friend
The marriage was a lovely affair. It consisted of Ayano, Tsukiumi, a monk, and me in a small, private room. There was more to showing off our union to the Brotherhood of Japan than the wedding itself. Since I must marry, I am pleased it is with Ayano. She looked absolutely stunning in her white silk kimono. Ayano was elated to finally being able to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming the Mikado's wife and once again expressed her love and faithfulness to me. The one disheartening transpiration was that no one came. We knew my family wasn't coming. Why would they, I didn't invite them, but the surprise was that her family didn't come. The only evidence they even acknowledged their daughter's wedding was a note written from her Mother saying that she will always love her and hopes she has a great life. I was shocked.
"Do you know why no one came?" I asked as I put my carry-on in the overhead compartment.
"It's because you're not Japanese," Ayano stated as she buckled her seatbelt.
"If that was a problem, why did your father press you to marry me? I would have never have known." I sat next to her and held her hand.
"He didn't, I did." Ayano gazed into my eyes.
"Really?" I asked insinuating that I was hoping for more information.
"As soon as he saw you were not Japanese, he was ready to back out. It would have dishonored the family, but he didn't care." Ayano smiled. "But I knew after you stood up to everyone, you were an honest, courageous man and deserved to be the Mikado. I wanted to at least meet you and see for myself, and then Tsukiumi called and said you wanted to go on a date. I don't think a Mikado has ever tried to get to know his future bride before the wedding in the entire history of the Brotherhood of Japan. I'm yours now, not my father's and I will love and honor you forever."
"And I you," I said sincerely, and then added sympathetically, "But I am still sorry about your family."
"We all follow our own paths in life and now mine and yours are the same." Ayano put her head on my shoulder. "Just be who you are and I'll be happy."
We landed in Washington D.C. at five in the evening. Tsukiumi insisted on handling the carry-on bags and we made our way through the tunnel. My sister, Valerie, a ten-year-old tomboy, darted toward me. Tsukiumi didn't hesitate. She dropped the bags, dove between Ayano and me, and had my sister's arm bent behind her back with her right hand. My Dad was none too happy and charged Tsukiumi. Still holding onto Valerie, she knocked his arm away with her left palm as he tried to grab his youngest child. She then kneeled down and drove her left shoulder into his knee. My Dad fell immediately on to his stomach and she straddled his back, put her left hand to his forehead, and pulled back.
All this happened before I was able to say, "No Tsukiumi, this is my family."
Tsukiumi quickly released her captives and helped up my Dad. "I humbly apologize for my impulsiveness." She then bowed.
My father looked at me and without even asking, I knew he demanded an explanation.
"Hi dad." I hugged him and he slowly returned it, still waiting for the clarification. I turned toward Valerie, and she was rubbing her arm. "Hey Val, how's the slap shot?" I picked her up as I embraced her.
"It's good, but who are these people and why did she attack me?" Valerie pointed at Tsukiumi. Leave it to a child to say what is on the adult's mind.
"I'll tell you soon, where's Mom?"
"At home, cooking a big family dinner," Dad responded, irritated.
"Oh. Well, this is Ayano and this is Tsukiumi. Please allow me to explain who they are when we get home. I really only want to say this once."
The drive to the old family homestead, a three-story condo, was made in near silence. Valerie was the only one willing to talk. Leave it to a child to ignore the big elephant in the room, or in this case car.
As soon as I entered, Mom had me in a bear hug. "We missed you for Christmas -- welcome back Connor." After a moment, she appeared startled and pulled back. "Oh, you've brought guests." Her eyes were looking over my shoulder. "Please come in. Any friend of my son's is a friend of ours."
"I'm not so sure," I heard my dad mumble as he kissed my mom. "Well?"
I took a deep breath. "Mom, Dad, this is Tsukiumi, my bodyguard."
"Bodyguard?" My mom shook her head.
"Believe me, Barb, she is very good at her job," My dad added.
"Well, that's good to know Dennis, but Connor, tell me why you need a bodyguard?" My mom stared at me curiously.
"I will, but there is someone even more important to meet." I put my arm around Ayano's waist and moved her to the forefront. "Ayano, this is my Mother and Father, Barb and Dennis Baldwin." I looked at my parents. "Mom, Dad, this is Ayano, my wife."
Their looks were priceless as they both stood mouth agape, utterly stunned.
Mom blinked. "When did this happen?"
"And what about Kate?"
"I don't like Kate." I shook my head. "And I haven't seen her since she tried to kill me."
"I thought you two were good together. Just because she wanted to see you doesn't mean she was trying to be clingy or smother you," My dad defended. "And that also doesn't mean you have to go marry the first girl you meet afterward."
"No, you really don't understand: she had two men hold guns to the back of my head as she tried to cut Ayano's throat," I stated matter-of-factly. "Look here, a bullet grazed my ear." I pointed to the cut on my earlobe. "Now, what's for dinner? I'm famished."
Over dinner, I explained everything and left no detail out. My parents began to worry about my predicament but didn't say too much. My mom was adamant that we hold a wedding of our own, as the first one didn't count because she wasn't there. Ayano liked the idea, and once the women decide something like that, my opinion doesn't count.
The three of us stayed at my parents place for the next week. Ayano and I shared my old room and Tsukiumi patrolled the house. Come to think of it, I don't think I have ever seen her sleep. We found a place of our own and moved shortly after the New Year. Having a bodyguard makes college that much more fun. Seeing a college professor shit his pants when Tsukiumi pulled her sword on him because he demanded her removal made for an exciting day. This is why they were waiting until Kagari was out of college to promote and marry him. All too soon, it was time for my first trip back to Japan for my unannounced visits.
The religious members received me warmly and gave some very good ideas on peace. The Akita samurai's were overly nice, but I'm sure that was because Tsukiumi is the head of their clan. Most of the businesses were indifferent to me. They showed me around and I got to know key personnel.
We were met with a great amount of enthusiasm at Harashima Enterprises. We were chaperoned to the main office, fifty stories in the air.
"It is a pleasure to finally meet the famed Mikado." The young man in the black suit shook my hand firmly and then bowed to me. "And this must be the lovely Ayano and talented Tsukiumi." He smiled at the women. "I'm Daijiro Harashima. I apologize my father, Chikao, and my older brother, Daitaro are unable to receive you today as they are at a conference. Please accept my hospitality in showing you around."
"Not a problem," I said cheerfully. "I'm looking forward to seeing the anti-oil device in person."
"Of course you are." Daijiro hit an intercom button. "Minato, Karasuba, can you please come in here?" An older man, also in a black suit and a stunning young woman wearing a blue skirt and white blouse quickly entered the office.
Daijiro wasted no time in giving orders. "Minato, please take our guests and give them a detailed guided tour that includes a demonstration of the anti-oil device. Karasuba, ensure tea is ready in the main conference room immediately following." He then turned his attention towards the three of us. "If it is satisfactory to you, I will meet you in the conference room following your tour to go over any questions you may have."
"We'll see you there," I replied and then the three of us followed Minato to the elevator.
Minato was extremely knowledgeable and I took in an abundance of information. Harashima Enterprises is on the cutting edge of technology and several projects piqued my interest. I was truly in awe at the demonstration of the anti-oil device. Instead of oil, it used water to power engines. Remarkable. I could hardly contain my excitement as we sat down to drink our tea. I went through two cups before Daijiro showed up.
"I humbly apologize for keeping you waiting." Daijiro sat at the head of the table. "I trust the tour went to your liking."
"Yes," I said and then yawned. All the walking combined with the excitement wore me out.
"Any questions I can answer for you, Mikado?"
"I was curious when the anti-oil device would be available for mass manufacturing?" I yawned again and my head nodded. "Sorry Daijiro, I'm not trying to be disrespectful. It's been a hectic week."
"I understand," Daijiro smiled, "and in response to your question, four months."
I regained consciousness with a migraine headache that would put a jackhammer to shame. The room I was in only had the mattress I was laying on as far as furnishings and it was hot. I had already begun sweating through my clothes due to the sweltering heat.
"What the fuck happened?" I wiped my eyes before opening them, now realizing I said that to no one. I was awake now. "Ayano? Tsukiumi?" I ran for the door to find it locked. I pounded with cruel violence on the non-yielding door. "Let me out of here! Where's my wife?"
A voice that spoke a language, one that I didn't understand, answered my call as I heard the jingling of keys on the other side of the door. I stepped back so I wouldn't be hit and an Arabic man entered with an automatic weapon in his hands. He waved it, encouraging me to step into the hallway. He took me to a room down the hall. The odor of cigar smoke filled my nostrils and there was a black sheet hanging the length of the room, shortening the width of it by six feet. Near the back wall was a desk with a short, overweight, balding man with a peppered mustache sitting behind it along with a big muscled bodyguard standing behind him.
"Welcome to Qatar my friend." He had an accent but his English was surprisingly good. "I'm Sheik Abdul Nebi."
"Where's my wife?" I stared him down.
"I see you are not wearing the ring." The Sheik took a puff of his cigar.
"I asked you a question," I demanded.
"Please Mr. Baldwin, sit down." The Sheik gestured toward the chair in front of the desk. "We are negotiating right now."
I was forcibly sat in the chair by the brute behind me. "Negotiating for what?"
"You have a ring I want, Mr. Baldwin. I'm sure there is something I have that would be of interest to you. Money, cars, belly dancers if that is what you like. Just tell me where to find this ring."
"Not interested," I was steadfast.
"Nothing materialistic?" The Sheik gestured to the sheet. "How about a loved one?"
The bodyguard tugged the sheet and revealed Tsukiumi tied down to a chair.
"Where's Ayano?" My patience was gone as I insisted.
"I do not know." The Sheik chuckled. "She was not part of the deal to bring you here."
"I'll give you the ring for both Tsukiumi and Ayano." I didn't care about the world anymore. I was concerned for my spouse and bodyguard. "I'm sure someone of your position can arrange for my wife to be brought to me."
"I can get you anything else but her."
I stood up. "Then you will never have the ring."
"I see she has you, what is the term, pussy whipped. Mr. Baldwin, I'm sure you can find another. Someone like Kate Upshaw perhaps?" The Sheik laughed. "Where are you going?"
I took a couple steps towards Tsukiumi. "Without Ayano, I have no fear of death. I'm releasing my friend and leaving. You can shoot me if you want."
Tsukiumi immediately leaned forward and to the right, all her weight one her right leg and the front right leg of the chair. I almost stopped in awe of her balancing act. The Sheik said something in Arabic and I heard footsteps coming behind me. In an instant, I was shoved to the left by Tsukiumi's left shoulder as she dropped the left part of the chair to the ground, planting both her feet to the floor. Using them as a springboard, she pushed forward into the bodyguard who was right behind me and drove him into the Sheik. She spun quickly and slammed the chair against the wall. The man with the automatic weapon came running around, but didn't make it passed my outstretched foot. Oops. He went barreling into the wall.
Tsukiumi stood and she looked as dangerous as ever. Tied to her hands and legs were broken pieces of wood from the chair. In front of her was the Sheiks bodyguard and behind her was the man with the automatic weapon. She swung her right hand at the man in front of her and missed with her punch, but the piece of wood pierced his face. At the same time, her left leg shot back and jabbed the man behind her and he staggered back. The bodyguard, however, was unfazed by the attack and appeared pissed. With a loud grunt, he dropped his elbow to her back, causing Tsukiumi to fall to one knee. She immediately bolted back up, landing an uppercut under his chin. The impact of the wood sent him into his boss. The Sheik started yelling for what I assume was assistance as he couldn't get the big man off of him. The man that was behind her wrapped the strap from his weapon around her neck and tightened so hard that I could see the whites of his knuckles. Tsukiumi began struggling, her hands clutching at the fabric restricting her air supply. I charged toward him, but I was instantly shrugged off with a laugh as his elbow caught my jaw. I hit the floor and felt powerless as I watched him hold her small frame in the air. Tsukiumi's legs came together and in one motion, they came back and up. Her feet, and the wood attached to them, impacted into the thug's groin. He collapsed to his knees. If he wasn't trying to kill my friend, I would've felt sorry for him as that hurt me just seeing it. As soon as her feet hit the floor, she spun, and with her left leg, clobbered him across the face. As the bodyguard woozily tried to stand, she flung both her arms towards him and with the wood, sandwiched his face at the temples. He was done for. She then grabbed a letter opener from the desk.
"Where do we find Ayano?" Tsukiumi held the letter opener to the neck of the Sheik.
"I don't know," The Sheik nervously responded, "She wasn't part of the deal."
"I don't believe you." Tsukiumi poked the letter opener into his neck slightly, causing a small stream of blood to flow. "The next movement will be much deeper so I would answer me."
"She never left Japan. Our contact at Harashima Enterprises said her safety was purchased by someone else." The Sheik then smiled. "It doesn't matter. You two will be de..."
Tsukiumi smacked him hard on the back of his head and the Sheik slumped into his chair. "I want you to head east to Port of Doha." She handed me an end to a larger piece of rope. "I'll meet you there."
"What am I supposed to do with the rope?" I was perplexed.
"Out the window. I will ensure you make it safely to the ground."
"What about you?"
"Someone has to stay to deal with the swarm of guards that are responding to the silent alarm he triggered. We have 46 seconds until their arrival."
As I meandered my way east, all I could think about was the well-being of Tsukiumi. I fell the last three feet from that window because she had to start fighting. What did I do to become worthy of such devotion?
It took me over three hours to arrive at Port of Doha. It wouldn't have taken so long if I actually knew where Port of Doha was. It took a myriad of inquiries before someone pointed me in the right direction. The world needs to adopt a universal language. I don't care which one, but it would be nice if we could all communicate with each other.
"What took you so long?"
A smile adorned my face as I turned to find Tsukiumi holding a couple bags of food and water. "You made it." I ran over and hugged her.
"Sir, I appreciate the sentiments but the next ship leaving for Japan is departing in 30 minutes. I found our way aboard, but we need to get moving."
It took us a week to get to Chiba Port in Japan. Hiding away in the belly of a container ship is not the ideal way to travel. Once there, we met up with Kuzuki. A quick bite to eat, a change of clothes, and a set of weapons for Tsukiumi later and we were back to business. We wasted no time in locating Daijiro Harashima residence. We waited in his living room for him to come home. It was well after midnight when he stumbled in smelling of alcohol and having a just as intoxicated woman giggling on his arm. They were literally holding each other up.
"Good evening Daijiro. Where's Ayano?" I asked from my seated position in the black leather chair, announcing our presence.
Daijiro fell back against the wall with a look of disbelief strewn about his face. The woman he was with appeared to sober immediately. "I'm glad I got paid in advance." She extricated herself from the high-end apartment hastily.
"Come on Daijiro, where is my wife? Or would you prefer Tsukiumi ask you?" Tsukiumi strode forward and the weasel caved.
"Her father, Hideki Nakamura has her." Daijiro slid down to the floor, cowering under Tsukiumi's shadow. "Please don't hurt me."
"And why are you, a high ranking member of Harashima Enterprises, a company developing the anti-oil device, in league with Middle Eastern oil?" I interrogated as Tsukiumi dragged Daijiro along the floor until he was in front of me.
"You don't understand. My father hates me and is giving everything to my brother. Money, the company, everything. So I made a deal." Daijiro pleaded his case. "All I had to give them was you and my future would be secure. I needed it. I had no..."
Tsukiumi knocked him out. "I apologize Sir. I could not handle listening to his drivel a second longer."
"I agree. Shall we make our way to the Nakamura household?"
We arrived at the home of my father in law at three in the morning. I'm amazed at Tsukiumi's level of being undetected. A person would need a security system that rivals Fort Knox to prevent her from entering and even that may not be enough.
"Hideki Nakamura," I stated sternly and then waited a moment as I startled both him and his wife from their slumber, "you have some explaining to do."
Hina really was surprised to see me. "Is that the Mikado? You said he was dead."
"Be quiet," Hideki snarled back.
"Dead?" I chuckled. "No, Tsukiumi and I obviously got away from the Middle Eastern faction your husband sold us to."
"He did what?" Hina shouted and then put her hand to her mouth.
"I said be quiet!" Hideki yelled back. "And as for you," he put his hand under his pillow, "I am disgusted at the sight of your visage. You are not good enough to be the Mikado and you are not good enough for my daughter."
"Ayano and I love each other. If you cannot handle it, so be it. But why are you against the anti-oil device?"
"Stupid child. Technology comes and goes. My goal was to be the Mikado. I used the device to make alliances to get rid of the Tanaka family so I could come into power. Then you had to stick your nose into business that didn't concern you."
"Hideki, when did this become you?" Hina began to cry.
"It was you, Father?" Ayano appeared in the doorway, betrayal and tears in her eyes. "You tried to kill my husband?"
"I did it all for you, Ayano. Can't you see that?" Hideki shook his head.