"You don't want to miss this. 6th Street Tigers' territory and a marigold man on the run from the Lotus. You interested?"
If a picture has a thousand words, then a life would be priceless. Except in 2020, everything has a price. Shigeko Oe, nineteen, a hitter for the bosozoku gang, the ‘Banzai Bangers’ understood this quite well. It didn’t matter what needed to be taken care of, Oe would be the first on the call list. The streets whisper her name in fear of crossing her path. They call her ‘Hannya’, as the last thing you see is her sadistically sharp smile. Her reputation for being a cold-blooded killer has garnered attention across New Chiba. Everyone knows the ‘Hannya’ demon girl and her hunger for blood and coin. Oe like many children was once an innocent child with wondrous goals and dreams. And like dreams, they end. She was no different. Chewed up and swallowed by this vile city. The child became just like all the others, another product of vice. Who could blame her? In this city of corruption, the streets starve, and well, a gal’s gotta eat. As the weight of her name continues to grow, one thing remains clear, Oe is untouchable, and nothing could possibly break her.
KLACK. The sound of metal impacting skull was absorbed by the bass that blasted through the concrete wall beside them. Oe smashed the butt of her pistol on the back of an unsuspecting man’s head, as he urinated on the concrete wall. The man with his pants down fell and banged his head. He spun around as he slid down the stained wall. On his hands, he scurried to his left until the side of his face met the cold shell of a dumpster. He threw his hands up as blood trickled down his forehead,
“Waaait! I have the money!”
The Hannya’s grin glowed a pearly white amidst the darkness. An unsettling quiet followed which lasted an eternity as Oe stepped towards him.
“I know,” said Oe, dragging the vowels that left her lips.
Tears welled in his eyes, haunted by the final words. Oe shot her arm out and squeezed the trigger. The man slumped to the alley floor. She towered above him as his lifeless eyes met hers. Snapping a photo with her phone, she sent it off to Sunny Teshima, the gang leader. Her phone vibrated as the call display glowed with white letters, ‘That Dickhead Sunny’. Ears still ringing from the gunshot, Oe answered the call. “Moshi Moshi.”
A weaselly voice slipped through the phone’s speaker, “Hey hot stuff, good work. Got some extra cash for your trouble when you get back. But I got another job. You don’t want to miss this. 6th Street Tigers’ territory and a marigold man on the run from the Lotus. You interested?”
Oe barked in the receiver, “Cut the shit Sunny, you know I am.”
Sunny wheezed at the remark, “Congee Corner, the restaurant by 6th Street Station. This scab owes the Lotus a lot of money and is no longer doing them favours. He’s last seen there smokin’ up behind the restaurant. Word is he is still there and waiting. Little punk has money for congee but not for the Lotus? Hah! Wait for him in the alley, he will have a flower on his lapel, you know the kind. Zero him, just like you did with this fella. There’s a bonus in it too.”
With a click, Oe stood for a second under a giant neon sign. In big tube-like letters ‘Zoey’s’ glowed in hot red. The loud thumps of the bass synchronized to her heartbeats. Her mind raced with the thought of ending a marigold man, the same people who ruined her family’s lives. A sudden pressure pushed against her temples causing her hands to shake. Habitually, the girl dug for a glass vial in her pocket and did a bump of powder while closing her eyes, waiting for the rush. As the substance dripped down her nasal canal, the smell of burnt rubber perforated her olfactory senses. After a minute, the pressure released, and through her eyes a warm radiance hovered overhead. The sign transitioned to a turquoise green as if to beckon her away. She pressed the mag release on her pistol and inspected the magazine, four rounds, she only needed one. Oe slid the magazine back and holstered her gun. She ran and hopped on her Mitsumate MSX motorcycle. Saddling it, she put on her helmet and ignited the engine. With the heel of her boot, she disengaged the kickstand and accelerated. The engine roared as the bike propelled her onto the road. Oe weaved in between cars and trucks on the way to her next target. The streetlights above illuminated her path, as shadows summoned buried memories.
The Shigeko’s owned a noodle shop where they lived and worked. After months of debt, her parents along with her two siblings sought help within the seedy underworld of the city. The help came in the form of a large sum of money from ‘The Lotus Road’, a crime syndicate comprised of dozens of gangs. Until the debt is paid, the family would be visited by the marigold men and were handed mysterious boxes in brown paper bags. Oe vividly remembered this time, strangers would arrive in the shop and pinned on the left lapel of their suit was a silk marigold flower. They would approach a family member and recite a haiku:
“A world of dew, and within every dewdrop…”
Oe and her family would feel their hearts sink as their kin replied with the poem’s end,
“A world of struggle.”
The interloper then pulls them aside, handing over the package containing instructions and leaves just as quickly as they arrived. Oe was never approached, as she learned from her brother that the Lotus considered her too young. She would consistently ask what they had to do. Her family never revealed anything of the sort, only pained expressions. It had never occurred to her then, but the image of them returning home would be etched in her mind forever. Her father and her brother Daiichi often came home smelling like vinegar and meat and would ferociously scrub their hands in the sink, every time. Her mother and her sister would return smelling like sweat, with tear swollen eyes running to the bathroom. And for the rest of the day the shower would run. Oe could never get a full night’s sleep, as her sister would constantly barge into her room to beat her while she slept. Her sister resented her deeply for her misfortune, and yet the only difference was their age.
Oe recalled how her family members began disappearing. One by one over the course of four months, they stopped coming home. It has been a while since she thought about this and Oe has since forgotten their names, almost as quickly as she started drinking after their disappearances. She could never forget their faces though, especially in their last moments. The image of Daichi’s stuck with her the most. She still remembered how she felt then, when her stomach started to twist at the sight of her brother’s face. He had paused at the threshold of the entranceway and looked upon her with a warm loving smile and a glimmer in his eye. Except a tear ran down his cheek, as if he knew that he was never coming back.
Everything blurred together after. Over the next year, she hit the bars hoping to drink herself to death. It was at one of them that Oe first killed a man. She still cannot recall what he looked like, but she remembered Sunny being there. His arms crossed with a wild grin as if he enjoyed the sight of death. He insisted that she joined his gang, with the promise of vengeance and money. And the rest became history.
Oe’s motorcycle chugged to a halt as she shut off the engine. She removed her helmet, surveying the area. Above, a flickering red sign greeted her. The Congee Corner was a shanty restaurant with a damp exterior, a consequence of 24/7 ready to eat congee. Conveniently, Oe parked her bike in the alleyway, obscured by the building’s shadow and its piles of trash. Her head started to ache again, and she reached in her pocket. As she was about to do another bump, the door beside her burst open with the sound of neglected hinges. Startled, she dropped the vial and the powder spread on the ground clumping to the congee kitchen runoff. In a fit of rage, she brandished her pistol, and aimed at the uninvited guest.
Ahead, illuminated in an orange glow by lights behind him, stood a man with a marigold flower on his lapel. Cigarette in hand, he brought it to his lips inhaling deeply. With her demonic grin she lined her sights. Her hands began to shake as the pain on her temples worsened. Her heart sank and her iconic grin faltered to a frightened scowl. Oe’s eyes fixated on the features of his face, the wrinkle in his cheek and the glimmer in his eye. It was unmistakable. Daichi stood in front of her like an angel, except he was dressed in a wolf’s skin.
“A WORLD OF STRUGGLE!” spat Oe, shaking to the core.
“I knew you’d come.” Whispered Daichi as he took another drag, “I heard rumours, but I didn’t think they were true, yet here you are. My how you have grown.” Daichi flicked his cigarette to the side and looked forward, letting out a sigh, “And I know what you have to do. I have a gift. To your right, behind the garbage can is a brown paper bag with a box in it. Everything in there is for you.”
She continued to hold the gun at his face as her voice quivered and her body shook in withdrawal, “Why didn’t you come find me?!”
Daichi turned to face her with a warm smile as he shed a tear, “Oe, I – “
A thunderous sound erupted as Oe pulled the trigger and replaced the glimmer in her brother’s eye with hot lead. “I know,” she cried as his body collapsed to the ground, “I gotta eat too.”
Oe towered over Daichi’s body as she snapped a photo for Sunny. The girl bent down in search of the gift in the trash. Upon discovery, she tore the paper bag open. A black lacquer box, an envelope, and three stacks of cash fell to the ground. In the box, a plastic bag of white powder carrying the familiar scent of burnt rubber. She quickly pocketed the bag and the stacks of cash. As she peeled open the envelope what waited for Oe was the warm kind smiles of her and her family captured in a polaroid as they stood in front of their old noodle shop. The girl felt an immense pressure on her entire body as the feeling of anger overcame her, crushing her as she gripped the photograph. The cellphone vibrated in her pocket as ‘That Dickhead Sunny’ waited for her to answer. With a press of a button, the same weaselly voice slid through the speakers.
“Hey cold killa! Good work, I got that bonus when you get back. You don’t need me to tell ya, but don’t take this job that seriously. After all, we are your family now! Heh heh. Speaking of, I just so happen to have three more marigolds for you to collect. Interested?”
A cold tear trickled down her cheek as the demon girl propped the phone between her ear and her shoulder doing another bump as she checked her gun, three rounds left.
“Cut the shit Sunny, you know I am.”