Oh shit. This is feeling pretty bad: JJ and Tachibana split up and are running around the car park being pursued by Dragon Head goons, while Tachibana is reflecting on the fun times he’s had with JJ.
Which can only mean one thing.
And sure enough: he trips, encountering a Dragon Head goon, who shoots him, promising him he’ll get Death Scythe, too.
Meanwhile, JJ is hiding out, hearing the Dragon Head guys approaching, and he grabs his knife, thinking about the last time he used one.
Sure enough, the guys approach, and JJ kills the one who gets to the room he’s in. After all seems quiet, he’s feeling as apprehensive as I was at the start of this chapter about Tachibana, and he wanders down the corridor, wondering how come the lights are off again.
And holy fuck, jump scare extraordinaire.
Seriously, I was not expecting to see Ugajin, looking absolutely terrifying, but there you go… and as can be expected, Ugajin’s not playing around.
So, how I ended up here with Tachibana? An expected, but still bad end.
After a night of passion, JJ wakes up alone, feeling melancholy, Liz Phair’ s Fuck and Run style… only with more realising that he’s actually come to care about people in his life, and that since Azusa rocked up, and now that he and Andy the lovebird are gone, he’s all by himself… and he’s entirely unused to that.
Then he has a spidey sense that something is wrong.
Sure enough– and okay, it sounds far-fetched and coincidental, but in a game like this, I’m actually inclined to trust characters like JJ when their instincts tell them that something is up, given that so much of their understanding of the world is intuitive and reactionary– Tachibana is running upstairs, freaking the fuck out because Dragon Head are suddenly after them.
Can we all collectively say, “Oh, fuck,” ladies and gentlemen? Because that is what this is: shit has officially hit the fan, and Dragon Head do not mess around when they’re fucked off with someone.
They make their escape, and Tachibana admits there’s a price on his head, which probably has something to do with them icing all those drug people before the yaoitimes.
Tachibana is pretty sure this is connected to the people he was running from in Osaka– where he was before he hooked up with the host club drug dudes– who were basically the crime gang who took him in as an abandoned youngster. Again, similar to JJ’s situation, only with more mobsters and less jungle warfare, but roughly the same amount of sexual abuse and killing people.
Unlike JJ, though, Tachibana’s boss drugged him, which is pretty much where Tachibana’s distaste for drugs comes from. Because he’d had a problem with them, even though he unwillingly got into them, and as every addict who’s come out the other side knows, getting off drugs is majorly fucking nasty.
Also, Tachibana got roped into killing his boss… and then had a price put on his head for doing so: the expectation being that he was meant to have been cleaned up in that mess, too. But having the same sort of luck as JJ, he’s survived, and now there are mobsters after him.
Tachibana decides that the only way to deal with this is to go to Osaka and deal with the mobsters head on. And of course, he wants JJ to come with him.
…And while they’re discussing all this, a couple of Dragon Head goons, who are after the bounty, appear and decide they’re going to take them out. JJ and Tachibana deal with them, and then decide to high tail it to Epilogue Bar and see what Todo has to suggest they do.
Big problem, though: these sexy manbeasts are waiting for them. Not only are they Dragon Head people, they’re higher up Dragon Head people, which is very much Bad Fucking News for everyone.
They flee, only to pursed to the Black Market by Dragon Head mobsters. And of course they squabble on tactical solutions: JJ wants to move quietly and unseen, Tachibana wants to kill everyone in his path. Once again, I’m wondering how the hell Tachibana has managed to stay alive for as long as he has.
Anyway, they escape to an underground carpark, where JJ gives Tachibana a knife and asks if he knows how to use it. Tachibana gets annoyed, because he’s “the machine gun of Naniwa,” not some knife user, and JJ is very much “WTF?” because that combination of machismo and stupidity should not have allowed someone to survive as long as Tachibana has.
Maybe this is why I can’t get that invested in this ship: I can’t suspend disbelief here, because Tachibana seems too stupid to live, let alone hook up with JJ. And I’m also at the point where I feel like whatever choices I make, Tachibana is randomly going to do something collossally careless and dumb anyway, which will result in a Bad Ending for everyone.
They continue fighting, and JJ decides that he might as let Tachibana do whatever Tachibana’s gotta do. After all, the guy’s survived as long as he has without any common sense, right?
So, shit is hitting the fan. JJ’s at home with the dudes and one of the subordinates runs in, covered in blood.
Luka has been injured; he was seen getting pushed out of a car, and of course his attackers fled.
Kiryuu is understandably freaking the fuck out; Luka is in terrible shape, and it looks like Dragon Head have declared war on King Caesar.
Luka gets carried upstairs to his room, and medical assistance is sought. JJ stands guard over him; Kiryuu has gone to escort the doctor upstairs; pretty soon, the doctor’s there and setting up a makeshift operating theatre.
JJ feels a bit useless, until the doctor says they’re going to need a blood transfusion to save Luka. …turns out JJ has the same blood type as Luka, and is the only one who can assist; and Kiryuu is basically admitting, then and there, that he is really relying on JJ at the moment. JJ gets set up for the blood transfusion while the doctor removes bullets from Luka’s body… and then he slips back into unconsciousness and starts having Tiger related flashbacks.
And then we get another complication involving Tiger of the Jungle, and JJ: turns out that Tiger similarly saved JJ’s life with a blood transfusion years ago, too. According to him, he did it because JJ had taken a lot of time and effort to get trained up, but I think by now we all know better: every single one of the men in this game won’t admit that they actually care quite deeply about the people they care about– even if they’re treating them horribly at the same time. It’s so similar to what JJ did to Azusa… what Kiryuu did to JJ… hell, what just about everyone does to JJ.
JJ recovers in his room, and in the evening, Kiryuu comes to see him: it seems Luka is going to be okay, thanks to the doctor… and JJ. JJ’s genuinely happy that “even my tainted blood could save the life of another.”
Kiryuu seems a bit fidgety and nervous, for some reason, though given what he’s been through, I don’t think anyone’s expecting him to be behaving normally.
But Kiryuu’s crisis stems from the fact that he felt he couldn’t do anything for Luka. JJ offers him a drink, and even though Kiryuu normally only drinks beer, he starts chugging down JJ’s whiskey, and hoo boy, his face has gone all red and this is probably going to get awkward all over again.
Kiryuu is really beating himself up that he couldn’t save Luka. Eventually he explains that he’s in debt to the man, because Luka actually once saved his life, and starts giving his backstory: he was an investigator until some Mafia guys he was following caught up with him, and then Luka Bellini came in and offered him a job. And flirted with him. A lot. Luka basically asked for a punch on with Kiryuu, even offering to make the whole thing look above board… eventually, Kiryuu lost, but Luka had knocked him out… feeling a bit guilty about that, Luka took Kiryuu back to the King Caesar headquarters and allowed him to recover.
Luka helped him out, and Kiryuu got a sense of family… and warmth… and belonging… and one which fit nicely with his honour code too; and of course, there was Luka himself… which was how Kiryuu became a Kind Caesar member.
Just like JJ, Kiryuu had been a solitary person until King Caesar gave him a sense of family and cameraderie, too.
JJ hears all this… and reaches out to touch his hair, which makes Kiryuu go all cute and blushy, and decide he has to leave, but JJ wants to be real with him. He pulls him closer, and tries to get Kiryuu talk talk about their situation… and then admits that while he knows Kiryuu loves Luka, it makes him unreasonably jealous for some reason.
Kiryuu’s like, “But you should care about the Family, too!” and JJ is then like, “Pull back from this and look at what’s right in front of you, for god’s sake!” and then kisses him.
It’s unbearably sweet and adorable, and I think the first time JJ’s actually admitted that he has a thing for someone… you know, without too much weirdness or bizarre excuses.
JJ realises that he actually really wants Kiryuu, and not to just be a replacement for Luka, and Luka is all cute and blushy and everything, and Kiryuu is all conflicted because Luka is in the next room all injured and stuff, and JJ gets a bit more blunt and flirty.
They part ways, but it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here, and, well, dammit, they’re adorable.
Next morning, they’re in Kiryuu’s quarters discussing a game plan for dealing with Dragon Head, whom they’re certain are going to be trying to move in on them while their boss is down.
Kiryuu sends the others out and tells JJ he has a special role. When the rest leave and JJ is standing there, Kiryuu explains their diabolical plan:
They’re faking Luka’s death to lead Dragon Head into a trap. Sending out a hearse to make it look like Luka’s body is going back to the Old Country, in order to draw out Dragon Head and confuse them, and I gotta admit, it’s a pretty good plan. The only problem with it is that the people who come down to verify Luka’s body… aren’t actually the top executives of Dragon Head as Kiryuu and JJ were expecting they’d be: it’s Uozumi instead. Still, he falls for the trap– the old bomb-in-a-coffin thing– and Dragon Head is down one executive.
Though trouble is brewing back home: Dragon Head have attacked King Caesar’s headquarters now, and JJ heads back to fight alongside them. Out the front, Wong and Ida are fighting the King Caesar guys, and inside, down in the basement, JJ meets up with Kiryuu, who has gone into autodrive mode; they’ve moved Luka down here, too, and the doctor is with them, and they’re watching what’s going on via closed circuit TVs.
Seems like Ugajin’s rocked up to cause hell.
Kiryuu’s worried, and regretfully says JJ will have to fight alongside the other guys now that Ice Gallows has appeared on the scene and made things a bit more complicated: he’s staying downstairs with Luka.
Then he stretches a hand out to JJ. And again, it’s unexpectedly sweet: he shakes JJ’s hand, but is squeezing it, like he can’t let go.
Kiryuu’s not sure if they’re both actually going to survive this, and it’s fraught with tension and drama, and just… yeah.
“Come back alive, JJ.”
OMFG. How can JJ not come back alive after this? Seriously?
Wong’s up the front, outside, and King Caesar are in some seriously deep shit right now. Paolo, Franco and Ishimatsu are working out what to do to get them out of their hair, and Ida and Wong are shooting up stuff, destroying the facade of the headquarters.
Franco sees the Dragon Head guys and charges out at Wong, only to get mowed down: the dude’s got a machine gun on him. Paolo and Ishimatsu are horrified at what they’ve just seen, unluckily for Wong, he’s out of ammo, too. But Paolo isn’t… nor is Ishimatsu.
Ida’s there, too, and then all of a sudden Ugajin starts running up behind them, freaking out about what Wong’s just done, telling him he should have fought smarter– “like this.” Taking Franco as a hostage, he threatens to shoot him is they don’t cease shooting at him and his guys.
Paolo is unimpressed: even though Franco is near death, he still thinks it’s a low move, though it does give Ugajin more time to taunt everyone. Eventually, Ishimatsu and Paolo put down their guns, and Ugajin calls in Wong and Ida to dispose of them.
JJ sneaks up behind them and takes Wong and Ida out, sending Ugajin into a complete panic… especially when he realises JJ’s got the M16 pointed at him.
Yeah, that’s not going to end well for Dragon Head, and the rest of them scatter the moment JJ kills Ugajin.
Kiryuu calls JJ and they talk about the situation, and it looks like it’s all sorted and everything can calm down… until JJ hears a gunshot from over the line and freaks out.
The game cuts to Kiryuu, who is fighting off Dragon Head guys who’ve snuck in, and Kiryuu is thinking about what JJ said about valuing his own life, and about how annoying JJ was, and how there is no way in hell he’s dying before JJ.
But… it’s not an enemy: it’s JJ returning!
JJ grabs Kiryuu in an embrace and strokes his hair, grateful that he’s still alive.
A few days later, Luka is on the mend, and he thanks JJ and Kiryuu for saving the family. He wishes to leave some of King Caesar’s territory under Kiryuu’s control, since Kiryuu was the one who saved them; Kiryuu is all “I don’t want this!” but Luka assures him that it’ll raise his status, having such responsibility.
Luka is about to make JJ an executive, but JJ intervenes. he talks about how King Caesar feels like a family… but how he’s ultimately not used to it and can;t really stay like this, and how things are getting less safe out there, and how he really needs to go back to being a “stray dog.” He tells the other executives, explaining that it’s not so much about leaving the family as going out to collect information to keep everyone safe.
Kiryuu is all, “No way, it’s not safe!” but Luka agrees to it, provided JJ doesn’t take any insane risks… and provided he watch over Kiryuu.
JJ goes to pack, and Kiryuu follows him up to his room, where they talk and… just can’t quit one another, even though they acknowledge this will probably be the last time they’re able to be together in this way, since meeting together in future is going to pose considerable risks. They make love, and afterwards Kiryuu falls asleep, and JJ sneaks off into the night.
The scene cuts to JJ taking down a target elsewhere, later in time, receiving instructions via an earpiece, and he then arrives at a cafe the next morning, where everyone’s reading about how it seems that Wanibuchi, the politician involved in mafia conflicts, appears to have been assassinated.
Kiryuu comes into the cafe and sits near him, leaving him a case full of cash, and they subtly arrange a date that evening.
JJ’s had to keep everything with Kiryuu very discreet, but it’s fairly clear that they still care about one another.
Please note: this is one seriously long chapter. Do not do what I’ve done, and pick this one up just before you’ve got a Finance exam on the horizon: there’s a lot going on here, and you’re not going to get away from it quickly, or if you do, you’re going to miss out on a lot of cool shit.
Ugajin and JJ walk through Dragon Nest, and we invoke that mafia trope where the higher-up is basically revered by onlookers as some kind of god amongst mortals as he navigates the streets.
Well, that’s Ugajin, anyway, who gets that treatment, making it quite clear to JJ how much respect– or fear– and how much power– the guy has. Maybe he will be able to take down Dragon Head? After all, he’s the one doing the majority of the puppeteering and practically does run the organisation anyway.
The reach the inside part of Dragon Nest, where Wong is about to go upstairs to take some booze up to Liu Jien. Ugajin insists on doing it himself, even though Wong is his underling, and tells the other guys to basically keep an eye out for trouble or anyone planning on messing up their private meeting upstairs.
They go up, and we catch a glimpse of Liu Jien.
And… it’s weird. Really weird. Liu puts an arm around Ugajin, who seems almost disgusted by the gesture and shirks away; and JJ notices that Liu’s Japanese is perfect, and that Liu and Ugajin are so similar in terms of body language and speech that it’s like the two of them are watching a reflection in a mirror.
Ugajin wants to pour Liu a drink, and Liu insists JJ drink with them.
Liu, of course, knows who JJ is, and finds it interesting that Ugajin would want to take him on as an associate. But the entire situation is interesting, if, by interesting, you mean really damned odd, where there’s this sort of relationship where it looks like Liu has both groomed and copied Ugajin, there’s tension between the two of them suggesting that the relationship goes a lot deeper than just a crime lord and his right hand man– it seems both paternal AND full of sexual innuendo at the same time, and knowing what we do about Liu holding Ugajin’s dad hostage somewhere just makes the whole thing even more complicated. Then there’s the fact that JJ has been all but pulled in as a third wheel… and that we’re, by now, fully aware that Ugajin isn’t just some simpering yes-man, but utterly terrifying, and scheming, and that he can hold his own in his own right.
Ever walked in on a couple that you sort of know socially, but not well, but you can tell they’ve been fighting and they’re trying to make everything look normal? It’s kind of like that sort of weirdness, only a whole lot more fucked up.
JJ is given a drink by Liu, who then says that Ugajin is allowed one as well, and as we can see from the picture, Liu has no problem with getting a bit handsy with JJ in the way he has with Ugajin.
Ugajin tries to avoid having a drink, until Liu literally forces the drink on him. And, okay, maybe we’re starting to get a little insight into where Ugajin gets his inspiration from as a crime lord.
It gets weirder; Ugajin coughs up his drink as JJ starts to feel its affects, and again, we see Liu touching Ugajin in a somewhat intimate fashion, stroking his cheek, while Ugajin becomes a bit embarrassed and shirks away. Is this him not liking people touching him, or is this because JJ is there?
In addition to Liu Jien being said to be unkillable, and in addition to all his secrecy, you know what is truly terrifying about this dude? He is pretty much the only person able to reduce Ugajin to something close to well-behaved: he’s likely the one person Ugajin is actually almost scared of, and having seen how damned scary Ugajin is, that is seriously huge.
And he seems to be able to read Ugajin’s mind, and predict his responses so well that it’s uncanny. It all but renders Ugajin completely benign, even though the whole rest of the Dragon Head route makes it very clear that he’s not.
Turns out Ugajin’s been a naughty boy, hiding a few key things from his boss: his acquisition of JJ, for one, and keeping Azusa, heir to a fortune, it seems, as hostage. Liu is pissed, and is feeling betrayed. It seems he knows what’s going on, too- how?– and he’s wanting to know, basically, wtf Ugajin’s game is.
We get that “I gave you everything, why would you do this to me?!” betrayed mob boss trope come up, and to be fair, aside from the fact that Ugajin’s dad is being held hostage, I can kind of see Liu’s point. Ugajin wields pretty much the most power of anyone across Big Nest and Dragon Palace, having 2000 people under him, he’s pretty much allowed to do whatever he damn well feels like without Liu intervening or questioning him, and he’s got that sweet apartment in the nicer part of town.
Liu’s planned ahead, too, and has Red Pole dudes stationed outside the door; somehow he’s overridden Ugajin and managed to set this up this without him knowing. JJ and Ugajin take down the Red Pole guys when they storm the room, and then Ugajin quite coldly and indifferently shoots Liu.
To be honest, it all feels a little bit anticlimatic, but it turns out that Liu is still very much alive, and Ugajin plans on asking him a few questions.
“What makes you think I’ll just answer?” Liu asks, to which, Ugajin pulls out a heap of filled syringes.
“Perhaps after this?” Truth serum.
Liu is basically still fairly uncooperative, to which Ugajin decides he’s had enough of that and slices underneath one of Liu’s fingernails.
Ever got your finger caught in a door? Ever had a very-well-bonded acrylic nail get forced off after it’s been attached to your finger for a few months? I’m thinking that’s maybe a two on the smiley-face-pain-scale, compared to what Ugajin just did.
This pretty much gets rid of Liu’s cool, and Ugajin quite chillingly just carries on in his perfectly detached, mildly disgusted “how-dare-you-look-at-me” haughtiness.
Ugajin continues, but Liu actually isn’t giving him anything, which is just another one of those moments of “OMFG, how badass and scary is this dude, anyway?” Ugajin asks him about his father, and pulls off a third fingernail, and Liu… starts laughing.
Which seems entirely crazy, but sometimes, shit like that happens. Something so entirely hideous and disgusting is happening to you, you have no way of fighting back or running, so what happens? You start laughing uncontrollably. Even if what’s going on really isn’t very funny. Of course, it can be entirely destabilising towards whoever’s trying to destroy you, but it’s not even necessarily a planned reaction. It’s not that Liu is masochistic or that it isn’t hurting him, it’s just that… some part of him, whether consciously or otherwise, has risen above it.
Just think about that: this is some next-level terrifying badassery.
Liu then taunts him about how what he’s doing is so “weak,” and asks if he really thinks he’ll crack. Good question: Liu’s already reacting like this, but seems to be well aware that Ugajin is capable of far worse, but on Ugajin’s side… people gonna break eventually. Ugajin continues torturing Liu. Liu starts screaming, then laughing again. Ugajin starts laughing, for an entirely different reason, most likely.
JJ is standing there watching the whole mess, completely tripped out, as you would be. And here we were thinking the situation when they first turned up was uncomfortable and weird and awkward.
“I can’t tell who’s crazier here. Somehow, it’s both of them.”
Ugajin continues torturing Liu, and Liu continues holding out. Even JJ is very much aware that Liu might, you know, die before saying anything, and eventually, Liu gives up two words: “Island hotel.”
Turns out Ugajin’s not heard of that one, on a small, abandoned island (I wasn’t exactly thinking the prisoners were living it up in Ibiza, but this sounds a lot worse) but Liu explains that it can only be reached by boat and where abouts it actually is.
Liu then tells Ugajin that he’s done what he wanted, and asks Ugajin to kill him, because yes, he really is that badass. Ugajin’s sort of stuck: he doesn’t want to kill Liu now that he’s asking him to. He dies, anyway.
Yeah, Liu just died, and still didn’t entirely give in, and was still a complete badass who held his own as he was going down. Watch and learn, kids.
Ugajin says they’re heading off, and that they only witnessed the incident and were powerless to stop it, so casually that again, his indifference is completely chilling.
JJ tries to talk to Ugajin about his father, and Ugajin ain’t in the mood for discussion, or to be insulted with the suggestion that he actually loves someone. They head downstairs, only to be approached by Uozumi, and Ugajin basically sends him out to find out who these horrible people were who did this, and to keep it under wraps, lest others find out as well. Typically elegant, and typically strategic, from Ugajin, I’ll say. He gives Uozumi, who is obviously quite freaked out, leeway to kill whoever needs to be killed, and they head off.
The get on the boat and head towards the island, and this is where JJ reflects on the similarity of their situations.
They reach the deserted island, and, seeing a building hidden on it, decide to go in and investigate. There are guards, but JJ and Ugajin deal with them fairly quickly, and Ugajin directs JJ to go on ahead. Not finding any guards, they do, however, find the prisoners, and then…
Azusa is there.
Ugajin is pissed. He’d organised for Azusa to be held somewhere else, not here, and it seems like there’s absolutely no sign of his father anywhere, either.
Azusa explains that everyone needs water, and to let them out, pointing to where the guard with the key is. But Ugajin cracks the shits: he wanted to find his dad, he didn’t, and now he’s prepared to take it out on the rest of the prisoners, and JJ. JJ manages to talk him down, and reluctantly, Ugajin agrees to help the hostages. They get food and water to them, and then Azusa challenges Ugajin directly, asking if Ugajin forced JJ to join Dragon Head. Ugajin’s a bit flustered, and has a kind of… anger with Azusa… but JJ intervenes and everyone stays cool. They investigate the island in search of more buildings, only to find nothing.
And I’m feeling quite sorry for Ugajin now: he’s gone to all of this effort, all of this craziness… and for what? Nothing, really, plus he’s seen JJ get what he was looking for, knowing completely well that JJ will probably cut loose now. His disappointment is enormous. All that work, all that risk… for this?
JJ says they’ll find Ugajin’s father, though, and Ugajin is genuinely, “Why do you care?” But that’s the thing: in a weird kind of way, JJ just naturally does, and has admitted to himself that while he can’t quite forgive Ugajin, he aslo can’t quite hate, or, it seems, abandon him. And then Ugajin starts having a panic attack.
Earlier, when the weird meeting with Liu was happening, Liu made reference to “those pills you take” to Ugajin, something which was kind of overshadowed by the general tension and oddness and then the carnage that went down afterwards. But Ugajin reaches into a pocket and takes out some medication. Problem is, he can’t take the stuff because there’s no clean water around. JJ thinks about what to do, and asks what the meds are for: anxiety. “It’s not like I’m going to die if I don’t take it,” Ugajin explains, but given what he’s like when he’s frantic and panicked, JJ probably worries about other people dying if Ugajin doesn’t chill the fuck out.
Ugajin asks JJ why he didn’t just kill him (no, his anxiety isn’t affecting him that much, right? < / sarcasm >) and JJ tells him to just calm down and wait, even though he himself doesn’t quite know why he didn’t kill Ugajin. He goes and finds water, and returns, only to have Ugajin saying he won’t touch the water since JJ has drank from that bottle. Which he hasn’t, but Ugajin is being panicky and not making any sense, even though JJ has gone to all this effort for him.
Frustrated by now, JJ takes a sip and presses his mouth to Ugajin’s and makes him swallow the water. And it kind of has become an awkward kiss, and Ugajin eventually pulls away, all flustered, and “WTF did you bother and not just kill me after finding Azusa?”
JJ wonders if Azusa being transferred there was actually some part of a trap laid out, hoping that JJ would do that, and basically Ugajin is all nervy and blushy and confused as fuck and trying to maintain some composure even though he’s basically his head is a mess, and he now believes his father dead… it’s the same hopelessness JJ had earlier in the game.
Ugajin admits he hasn’t heard his father’s voice in a decade, but he needed the hope of believing him to still be alive, to keep on going. And this is where we find out how Ugajin wound up in the whole mess he’s in… His dad owned a trading company, which fell into insolvency. Liu offered to assist financially, which allowed Ugajin to be able to complete university and get a law degree, but basically, from, there on, Liu all but owned Ugajin Sr. …and his son.
In much the same way as Ugajin kept JJ in debt to Dragon Head, Liu did the same thing to the Ugajins, and then threatened to kill Ugajin Sr if Ugajin didn’t submit to his whims and be the perfect little associate. (And, let’s face it, we’ve seen how Ugajin sees fit to treat his associates, so what the hell did Liu subject him to?)
And… it’s all occurred to him, now, really, that he’s turned into the exact same monster who did exactly what he was fighting against himself, to JJ. Along with his general hopelessness, his pride is smashed. But JJ wants to help him out, and assures him that he’ll stand by his side and help him until it’s all over. A bit overtaken, he offers to do something for JJ for all that he’s done for him.
Given that we’re getting the ‘Hate-you-and-love-you” love theme now, I think everyone knows just how Ugajin intends to “repay” JJ for looking out for him, but, um, seriously? Ugajin, you are a mess, sweetheart… where did you get the idea that sex was a form of payment for someone being a decent person to you, dude? I mean… what shaped his thinking on this?
JJ basically gives him the chance to back out, and says if he keeps up with it, he’ll actually take him up on the offer. And then Ugajin basically admits that, okay, he wants JJ.
JJ, is pointedly thinking that it would be so easy to kill him right now, but… he doesn’t want to. He actually is a bit into the guy, too… even though Ugajin is nervous and says JJ will probably regret things. Seems a bit weird, but then he gets naked and we get a full reveal: Ugajin has been, erm, sorry for the pun here, but consumed by the dragon that JJ was warned about, his entire body pretty much taken up with the Dragon Head tattoo.
He built on it, Jack-in-Mass-Effect style; every time he killed someone, or achieved something Dragon Head related, he added to it. He tells JJ about the tattoo, about its connection to who he is as a Dragon Head member, about how it’s becoming him, consuming him.
And then the most OBVIOUS THING EVER, which I will admit I entirely missed until JJ mentioned it and Cro’s notes in the translation did: it’s, like, the perfect metaphor for how Liu has gotten under his skin and become part of him, and threatens to destroy him. Cro cleverly notes, too, that “Ryu” (which would have very similar pronunciation to “Liu”) means “dragon” in Japanese! So in addition to having killed the guy, Ugajin is undeniably connected to him… and has been for a long time. Dude’s gotta have some major conflict issues going on there.
JJ’s got conflicting issues, too: he realises he doesn’t hate Ugajin, and there’s actually some understanding and warmth he has to the guy… but he just can’t forgive him for everything he’s done to him, either, so basically he’s dominating him hard as a way of relieving his frustration at the whole situation.
Ugajin seems to understand what’s going on and is perfectly fine with “apologising” to JJ like this, too, especially since he kind of really really really wants JJ as well. JJ seems aware that this isn’t exactly a first for Ugajin, and starts getting unreasonably jealous– even he realises he’s being unreasonable– about the fact that Liu has been having sex with Ugajin. And that annoys him, too. Anyway, they finish up having this weird apologetic/healing/understanding-one-another/power-exchange/relieving mutual tension sex, and Ugajin lets his guard down enough to actually fall asleep in front of JJ. They wake up the next morning, and I have to admit, it’s pretty damned cute.
They head outside, where the wind is raging wild, and where Ugajin has another confession, worried that JJ is going to regret having slept with him.
It seems that someone might be watching them in the distance, but Ugajin confesses regardless: he was the one who killed Azusa’s parents five years ago.
He’d found out about King Caesar’s hit on Wanibuchi, and tortured the King Caesar contact into ringing up JJ and lying about the details of where he was to go, essentially setting him up, planning on taking Azusa with him.
JJ is in complete shock that basically the entire situation that’s turned his– and Azusa’s– life into this mess was pretty much engineered by Ugajin. I mean… it’s not exactly unbelievable when you consider it: Ugajin’s a pretty damned good little strategist who’s whipped up some fairly crazy plans before, but, like JJ wants to know–
Because it’d save Wanibuchi, and put him in Dragon Head’s debt, and he’s useful, for one, and it was what got him promoted to top position at Dragon Head. He’d proven that Death Scythe could be beaten, that he could fix things so that Death Scythe’s lethal accuracy could be averted.
And because he wanted the Tono fortune and Azusa.
But JJ, in getting Azusa to leave with him, and then Azusa, in staying by his side, had kind of fucked up that part of the plan.
JJ is basically in shock: he can’t forgive Ugajin for this, either, even though there are feelings involved, and Ugajin has basically done the honorable thing and come clean.
Azusa, however, has overheard everything, and tells JJ to step aside, rushing at Ugajin with a knife he’s grabbed from one of the dead guards.
…only to stab JJ, literally in the back, when he’d jumped in front, to protect Ugajin.
Poor Azusa is furious and confused, especially when JJ tells him to back off and that his job right now is to protect Ugajin. And JJ even gets it, but he’s dealt with his rage towards Ugajin, even though he can see how frustrated poor little Azusa is. He tells him they’re leaving the island, but to wait there, and that he’ll ensure someone comes to collect him.
JJ and Ugajin have a little exchange then, where it becomes apparent that they are both extremely concerned about one another, and Ugajin advises JJ on how to get assistance to the people on the island. And that they’ll go for Dragon Keep, a cruise ship off the coast, where possibly Ugajin’s dad is. JJ reminds Ugajin that he’s effectively now the head of Dragon Head, and that he can pretty much do anything.
They leave on the boat, contacting Todo at Epilogue to get help for Azusa and the rest of the prisoners, and make their way to Dragon Keep.
Yay, another mobster movie trope: the luxurious cruise ship, though JJ seems to think of it as “an enormous seabound fortress” rather than some sort of rich drug baron’s playhouse.
Ugajin admits that this is where Liu usually hangs out, which would explain why no one sees the guy, like, ever, but it all adds to his mystique, and keeps him safe, so it all works out quite nicely. Something troubles Ugajin about the whole boat situation, and he expresses this to JJ, to just keep on going, no matter what the guy sees, which feels a bit cryptic and weird, but oh-fucking-kay, there’s so much weird going on with Dragon Head that there’s probably nothing too shocking on the boat. Since this is a yaoi game and we know the sorts of things the leader get up to, I’m half expecting some sort of mad drugged up mobster gay orgy, but on second thoughts, I don’t think that would bother Ugajin too much.
The lookouts on the ship treat Ugajin with the reverence he is usually treated with, and he says he’s meeting with the boss and basically walks off. It’s a bit weird that Ugajin talked about meeting the boss since we all saw what happened to Liu, but perhaps he’s assuming word hasn’t gotten back to to the guys on the ship?
It all gets weirder, when who should rock up but, er, Liu.
Dragons are this guy’s thing? Should be phoenixes. The dude looks perfectly unscathed, and, completely chill, says he hasn’t seen Ugajin for awhile. Ugajin seems equally chill, as though the whole start of this godamned chapter never actually happened.
Liu calmly says he knew Ugajin was coming, and acts as though he’s a mindreader who knows everything about him, which inspires some anger– and possibly jealousy– in poor JJ, who is also dealing with the monumental headfuck that has just taken place. Liu then says hello to JJ, saying he’s heard so much about Death Scythe, which is also really weird… he invites JJ to go into a guest cabin, because he’s got important private stuff to discuss with Ugajin, to which JJ looks at him, all “WTF do I do now?” and Ugajin just nods and tells him to go to the guest cabin.
Ugajin and Liu have their Secret Men’s Business discussion in Liu’s cabin, where Ugajin says that he’s been avoiding Liu because there’s been mutiny back on the mainland and he’s trying to sort out what’s been going on. And then Liu sniffs him, and says that for a clean freak, it’s funny that he can smell something on Ugajin.
And then he comments that Ugajin seems to be “quite infatuated with that man.”
Ugajin denies it, but Liu is like, “You reek of him,” which makes me think of that episode of Queer as Folk where Justin’s been cheating on Brian with that dude the entire fandom christened “Fiddle Fuck,” whose name has evaded me.
JJ’s outside, wandering about, trying to get his head around the entire situation, which is kind of understandable, though he’s also worried as all hell about Ugajin, and decides to go in after him. He looks around for an alternative way to get into Liu’s suite, and hear’s Ugajin’s voice from an open window… and peers in to see Ugajin giving Liu the same sort of “I’ll make it up to you” blowjob reminiscent of what Ugajin did with JJ the previous night at the Island Hotel.
JJ’s standing outside the door, thinking about going in and killing Liu, only to be called in by Liu himself, after a few taunts from him to Ugajin about how “that slave of yours belongs to me, too.”
JJ goes in, to see Liu and Ugajin, naked, Liu holding a gun to Ugajin’s head while raping him. Liu taunts both of them, JJ’s more like, “Still alive,” and Liu completely evades the question and tells JJ to get naked and join in, or else he’ll shoot Ugajin.
Yeah, starting to see just how Ugajin developed all these fucked up ideas about keeping his staff under control.
Liu taunts JJ some more, basically saying that Ugajin’s just a giant insatiable slut, and Ugajin basically agrees with him, asking JJ to violate him as well. JJ isn’t aroused: JJ is freaking horrified, and turns away even though Ugajin is basically begging him to cooperate. Eventually JJ winds up having sex with Ugajin at Liu’s command, probably in the hopes of having divided them, as he presumably did with relocating Ugajin Sr. and Azusa, so Azusa was found at the island. Then Liu starts raping JJ, so it’s basically turned into this horror nightmare threesome from hell and more of a terrifying headfuck designed to break Ugajin, than anything even remotely sexy. Liu gets bored after everyone climaxes, and tells them to piss off.
JJ tries to talk to Ugajin, but Ugajin wants to be left alone, and then holes himself up in his cabin. JJ tries to see him there, but assuming JJ despises him for what’s happened, Ugajin is basically closed off on him, too. Finally, Ugajin lets JJ in.
“Why is Liu still alive?”
“Because he’s immortal.”
This is the point where I am wanting to start headdesking. It reminds me of years ago when I was in a Criminology class and we had a visiting forensics lecturer talk about why a murderer might sexually interfere with the body of a victim post-mortem.
“Why would someone do that?” the lecturer asked. Someone’s hand goes up. The lecturer nods. “Because they’re a necrophiliac,” replies the student. “Yeees…” the lecturer continues, sort of looking for a bit more than that. “But why would they do that?” “Because they’d get off on it,” someone else says. “Yeees…. but… why would they get off on it?” Like, this poor lecturer was doing what he could to try and get people to understand what was happening and think about criminal motives and deviant behaviour and all the rest of it. The dude was trying so damned hard.
The look on his face, when someone else then said, “Because he’s a necrophiliac!” was probably the same expression I just made when I saw the above exchange between JJ and Ugajin.
They discuss, sort of, what’s happened since and how Ugajin being left along with Liu was just a terrible idea. Ugajin miserably admits that, well, now JJ knows what the relationship between them is really like, and that he goes to pieces when left alone to kill this dude who has so much hold over him. JJ says he gets that and forgives him and his terrible past, and it’s actually really damned sweet and they’re totally in this together despite the horrible circumstances.
Turns out Liu has overheard everything, and he taunts them via the in-room speaker. He tells them their plan is a failure, and that JJ should have killed Ugajin, since he’d gone to all the trouble of returning Azusa to him… basically, he’d counted on JJ not having empathy or decency towards Ugajin, given his reputation as a ruthless hitman.
And, well, wasn’t that what threw a spanner into the works with the original plan? People discounting JJ’s empathy?
Liu then promises a decent reward for whoever brings down JJ and Ugajin, as long as they’re taken alive.
So they’ve now got a ship full of people hellbent on getting them after them, and we get badass Omerta theme music playing, and they start popping off guards while running around and trying to find where Liu now is, grabbing their discarded weapons. Ugajin finds hand grenades and has some fun with them.
Were Ugajin to become my enemy, it would be rather frightening. But right now, I find it reassuring.
JJ comments that they might as well sink the ship since they’re already blowing up stuff, and Ugajin thinks that’s a great idea and mentions that there’s some plastic explosives on board.
They head out onto the main deck area, only to be confronted by more dudes trying to kill them, and Ugajin goes a bit hectic with an uzi he’s picked up along the way.
Unfortunately, as they’re about to leave, Ugajin gets shot in the thigh and can’t run, and tells JJ to take back the Gulf, to save his dad, to kill Liu. JJ makes a run for it, only to encounter Liu himself, and some other dudes trying to kill him. Liu kills them, and forces the others in the area to retreat. See, Liu wants to take down Death Scythe himself, doesn’t he? There’s some taunting, and JJ basically is ready to kill Liu, until Liu kicks down a door to see a familiar-looking face behind it.
Ugajin Kyoichi, aka Ugajin’s dad.
He’s a grey-haired version of Ugajin, except that he looks like life has all but kicked the guts out of him, and Liu says he’s useless for pretty much everything except as a human shield, which he decides to use him as.
JJ is stuck, and isn’t sure what to do as Liu shoots at him, so he retreats a little– and then.. Liu collapses as they both take aim at one another.
Ugajin has found his way over there, and just hit Liu. He continues shooting him until he’s certain that he’s dead, and rushes over to his father.
They have a father-son bonding moment, but it seems that Ugajin’s dad is pretty much paralysed and has been living on the ship in this state for the last ten years because of Liu. Muscle atrophy has all but destroyed him, and Dragon Head have used him to sign documents, they’ve used his photo to marry him to foreign women, they’ve basically turned him into a tool of their trade. He’s a criminal; he’s become one, because of this.
Ugajin’s like, “I’ll get you to a doctor… and… I’m a lawyer… I’ll defend you,” but his father basically has had enough, and was only really holding out in hope that he’d see his son again: it was the one thing that allowed him to keep on keeping on. And all he wants is for his son to end it all for him.
At which point… just… how much worse and more unfair can this get?
It gets worse.
Ugajin hands him a gun, with a single bullet in it, and there’s a “I am so proud of you son” “Thank you, dad” moment, until Ugajin Sr. turns the gun on Ugajin, babbling something about giving his son’s life to Dragon Head. JJ is about to kill the older man… but before he is able to… Ugajin has.
This entire situation happened because of Ugajin’s desire to rescue his dad… and it turns out like this, with him being forced to kill the guy? Ugajin got what he wanted… but there was no reward, really. The only plus to the whole thing is that he’s found JJ, whom he still seems to be worried is disgusted with him because of things that have happened to him and things he’s done in pursuit of his father.
It’s fucking heartbreaking.
And I think, too, folks, that this is actually the good Ugajin end.
JJ has still planned ahead, and has put the plastic explosives in place, to be detonated in an hour. He gives the remaining Dragon Head dudes a brief sample of what’s going to happen to the rest of the ship with a smaller explosive, and everyone starts going batshit crazy, scrabbling to get off, fighting over lifeboats, that sort of thing.
All of a sudden, screaming for blood, comes Liu, bloodied and pissed off.
An almighty gun battle breaks out, with Liu getting filled with bullets, but still not dying, and then Ugajin grabbing him, and doing what I was wondering noone had thought to do awhile ago– and throwing him overboard…
Unfortunately, Ugajin falls into the water as well.
JJ thinks it would be foolish to jump in after them, and does. While Liu seems to be dead, he’s still entangled with Ugajin, and JJ fights desperately to free him, noticing along the way that Ugajin is wearing so much protective armor– and have even had it surgically implanted into him– which might be causing the whole “immortal” thing.
Basically: we thought JJ and Ugajin and Azusa had some tenacity and will to survive. Turns out Liu had even more, and then when he couldn’t, he was going to bring down Ugajin with him.
JJ finally breaks him free, and gets to an empty lifeboat that’s floating around. Thankfully there’s medical supplies on there, and not far from them, Dragon Keep explodes in the night sky.
JJ is very much “WTF?” but just wants to get moving. They sail along, and Ugajin wakes up and asks what’s happening. JJ asks if he somehow managed to blow up the ship. Turns out… well, Ugajin wasn’t fucking around when he said he wanted a fireworks show. He’d snuck off and grabbed some C4 and popped it in a few places on board while everyone was focussing on JJ.
Ugajin and JJ talk; JJ’s happy to take Ugajin’s mind off all the awful shit he’s been through and what he’s lost, not to mention the pain he’s in from being, you know, shot in the thigh. Ugajin asks about Azusa, and JJ says he doesn’t expect to see him again, but knows he’ll be okay, that they’re essentially going to be living in different worlds from now on.
They have a brief sort of “Where to from now?” and JJ says that he’s basically sworn to protect Ugajin from now on, that he’s chosen him as his master. Ugajin’s all very, “You disappear on me and I will follow you to the ends of the earth.” It’s kind of sweet, in a very much “What the hell have you just signed up for, JJ?” kind of way.
Dawn breaks, and they get to land, and talk about the future. Ugajin says he has some tentative plans, and that he’d like to start up something, with JJ at his side. He proposes a contract of sorts– JJ should be scared shitless, because not only is Ugajin a total badass who has basically proven himself to be the ultimate schemer, he’s all this with a law degree– but JJ agrees, and they kiss.
A year down the track, and Dragon Head has all but collapsed, throwing the city into a new kind of chaos, though King Caesar has mopped up a lot of the issues and kept things reasonably under control. Todo advises JJ that Azusa has gone into an architect’s office to learn the trade, that he’s busy, but occupied and working hard. He’s living with Todo, and seeking out an education and a future… rather than weapons training. He doesn’t ever want to see JJ again, though, which I think makes a whole lot of sense.
“Now that he’s taken a different path, please pray for him from a distance.”
Damn, Todo, you utter class act. He assures JJ that he will still be there for him in the future, and willing to listen when JJ can tell him what’s happened, too.
JJ gets a phone call from Ugajin, and departs the Epilogue Bar, and goes to him. He’s now Ugajin’s driver: Ugajin had to pull some strings to get him a license, but basically, JJ has been restored a normal-enough life. Ugajin is an attorney, his revenge plan extending beyond merely taking out Dragon Head on the streets: he wants them out of the legal system and politics, too, to restore his city to it former glory.
JJ keeps in the back of his mind that the law very well could catch up with both of them, and remembers that Todo did offer him sanctuary, and basically resolves to do whatever he can to protect Ugajin and their relationship. Ugajin is sworn to protect JJ with whatever legal tricks he can; both of them are aware of their pasts and trying to atone for what they’ve done, while still realising that they can’t undo any of what they have.
Both of them are well aware that the peaceful democracy Ugajin is fighting for will probably be what destroys them. But they’re okay with that, and will come to deal with it when they have to.
Just like he said he would, JJ goes down to the docks.
Interestingly enough, there actually is a Toyosu Docks in Japan, which used to be a shipyard, but was turned into a shopping centre complex in the 80s. We have something like that here called Docklands, where a former dock area was turned into a shopping centre and apartment complex, only unlike LalaPort, Docklands is a depressing and dull and looks vaguely threatening and like something out of a dystopian video game.
JJ is pissed off, and asks where the fuck Azusa is. Tachibana taunts him a little, telling him that he’s sold Azusa to Dragon Head, there’s some taunting and rage from both of them, and they both draw their weapons…
Interestingly enough, and this was something I wondered about last time he drew his gun: could this have been been the weapon that killed Azusa’s parents? JJ noted at the crime scene that the bullet holes were much larger than the ones his Beretta would have created, and in his following description it seems that the Walther P38 takes the same ammo as him… so however annoying and irksome and downright horrible this dude is, he’s probably not the Tono murderer. (Even though he’s just told JJ he’s sold Azusa to Dragon Head.)
There is a bit of a gun battle outside the warehouses at the docks, which then gets taken inside… more running around and shooting at each other, and we learn that Tachibana, irritating as he actually is, is also alarmingly competent.
When it looks like it’s all over, and only one is going to leave alive, we get a spanner in the works, in the form of a group of other dudes who rock up in search of Tachibana.
Turns out they’re former associates of his: Tachibana was working as a host and his buddies in the industry also had some raging drug problems, too. Shit hit the fan there, people wound up dead, and Tachibana was on the run and in some degree of hiding, like JJ, and he’s got these host dudes with heroin problems chasing him down, after having killed a whole lot of them, but having left their ring leader alive. Explains why Tachibana would rather have a hot knife plunged into him than to use smack, I guess… or not. I dunno. But what we do know is that Tachibana’s up to his neck in some seriously deep doo doo.
JJ feels a pang of sympathy for the dude: after all, he’s running from his past as well, and Tachibana shows a rare moment of remorse at getting JJ involved in the whole mess, and even apologises to him. And that is the pivotal moment where JJ realises that he no longer wants to kill Tachibana.
Tachibana then tells JJ that he’ll return Azusa to him, and is now weirdly coy about things with JJ, which suggests the blossoming of TRUE YAOI LOVE as every fangirl knows.
I wish I was more invested in Tachibana and JJ as a pairing, but I’m really not, though I’m curious to see what exactly happens.
They rock up at Epilogue, and Todo seems surprised that they’re there together. JJ seems surprised that Tachibana and Todo are familiar with one another (seriously, JJ, it’s not that much of a stretch) and it turns out that Todo helped out Tachibana in the past, too… something Tachibana wants to not talk about.
Tachibana asks where Azusa is, and Todo is evasive. JJ, meanwhile, is very much “WTF?” about Azusa being there, and, not, well., sold to Dragon Head, to which Tachibana admits that the whole thing with Azusa was a setup so JJ would want to fight him.
Turns out that Azusa has nicked off somewhere. Todo gave Azusa some connections and decided to allow him– something JJ never did– to choose his own fate, hoping he’s “returned to a respectable life.”
JJ has a moment of reflection about the whole thing, deciding that his time with Azusa has come to an end, and if Azusa decides to kill him later, well, he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it.
Tachibana, meanwhile, decides that he’s going to take out his old former host buddy turned crazed drug addict. JJ decides, when he realises that Todo is converned about Tachibana, that he’ll help Tachibana kick some host/drug addict butt, too.
They kick said butt, and Tachibana is faced with dealing with the leader of the group, his former buddy now gone mad with paranoia. Tachibana does, and they return back to the hideout, and have a bit of a discussion, JJ realising that he actually cares about Tachibana and knows how he feels, to a degree, having had to kill people whom he knew back in the jungle.
Tachibana is a total touchy feely type, and JJ finds himself comforting him… which of course leads to NSFW imagery. A little clue with this game: you’ll get this sort of lead-in piano music that sounds vaguely reminiscent of the love theme, and guess what that signifies? Yaoi times. It’s sort of like in Hadaka Shitsuji where Tomoaki makes that smile, and you just know something really fucked up is going to happen.
Anyway, they have sexytimes, and then it’s the end of the chapter, which is marked with “receiving items”– ie, adding the Skorpion and the Walther p38 that Tachibana uses to the gallery of goodies which is accessible from the main menu.
When you return to the main menu and click on “Extra”, there are three menus: “Graphic” gives you random CGs you’ve unlocked from playing the game; “Scene” gives you the sex scenes when you unlock them, and “Item” is your collection of “unlocked items”– predominantly the firearms used by the various characters in the game, but also random other items, which leads me to another point: some of the characters– namely the leaders of the factions– need to have their “underlings” unlocked/played through before you can get to them. In the “lone wolf” example, you have to “unlock” the stuff in Tachibana’s route before you can play for Todo’s route. And each character you “unlock” teaches you a little more about the settings and the storyline over all.
There’s another screen worth pointing out, which doesn’t really do much until you’re on a particular route, under “Status.”
This is a nice lil tally of where you stand with the dudes: when they’re dead, they’re crossed out, when you are on their route, bullet holes will appear in their picture… and when you’ve gotten their good ending, the portrait changes to them smiling.
Anyway, onto the wrap-up of Tachibana’s route, I guess…
So if it’s not bad enough that bothersome houseguest Tachibana just won’t piss off now that he’s all well and healed, and that he’s somehow mixed up with the drug trade and Dragon Head, JJ returns to the hideout to inform them of the impending move, only to hear a pained cry from Azusa.
And the door closed and locked with a security chain. JJ peeps inside, visibly worried about Azusa… who appears to be being raped by Tachibana.
And… this was basically where I was just like, “Okay, I don’t think I’m ever going to like this guy.”
There’s some conversation between them which is somewhat vague, including mentions of JJ, and we’re left wondering exactly how things got to this place while JJ was out chatting to the friendly neighbourhood information broker.
Tachibana then expresses something akin to rage with Azusa; that he’s been ruined as a hitman because of taking him on; it’s surreal to the point of making me wonder if there’s some jealousy on Tachibana’s part, of the JJ/Azusa relationship, even though it’s basically one gigantic train wreck. Envying those two is a bit like saying you really want a relationship like The Joker and Harley Quinn have. Most of the time, they don’t even like one another.
Seeing what he’s seen, JJ gets a flashback to the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Tiger of the Jungle, shooting through the chain on the door, and busting in. After a bit of an argument– apparently he’s promised Azusa something— the two have drawn weapons at one another, and JJ suddenly learns that Tachibana isn’t just all talk, that he’s quick.
JJ is just about to shoot Tachibana… only to be stopped by Azusa. And then attacked by Tachibana, who promptly leaves.
It’s Azusa, despite the state he’s in, who comes to JJ’s aid with a dampened towel, only JJ is furious, and slaps him away. Azusa’s clearly pissed off, and tells JJ that he’ll be stronger if he goes with Tachibana rather than stays with JJ, which only seems to cement what we know about Azusa being hopelessly clueless about the big bad world out there.
And then he… actually leaves. JJ’s stuck with his own thoughts, in a suddenly very empty hideout. And that’s when he admits to himself that he’d become attached to Azusa. And starts having flashbacks about Tiger of the Jungle. And starts thinking of himself as weak.
The next morning, JJ’s phone rings, and it’s [another player choice]. I went with “Tachibana” and after some phone conversation, Tachibana says to meet him down at the docks in the evening.
We then get a cutscene to Epilogue Bar, where Tachibana is asking Todo to keep an eye on Azusa. It makes sense that Tachibana knows the place, I guess, and that he might have some sort of relationship with The Professor, but Azusa is unimpressed with the whole situation. Todo very reluctantly agrees, and thus concludes this somewhat short chapter.
So, JJ’s about to get initiated into Dragon Head. He’s had to remember particular answers to ceremonial questions, and he’s gotta go into the hall to be inducted with a whole heap of other intakes. It all reminds me of a very twisted group job interview, combined with something vaguely cultish.
JJ secretly thinks to himself about how he’s doing it all as an act, and is a tad creeped out by the fact that Ugajin, performing the blood ceremony, only touches his lips with the ceremonial blood… even though he appears to strongly dislike touching other people, wiping his hands afterwards.
JJ approaches Ugajin after the ceremony, desperate to get some information about Azusa’s whereabouts or wellbeing. Ugajin tells him “Come alone, at midnight.”
Because that’s totally not some creepy-arsed shit. Especially when he’s whispering in JJ’s ear that it’s a very private welcoming party.
I think everyone can see what’s coming here, with the unholy trinity of a desperate person, an established kichiku megane, and a request like that? No. If not, I’m just gonna say, “Major fucking trigger warnings,” people.
Midnight falls, and JJ has arrived at Ugajin’s nice apartment building, in a better part of town, noticing that everything is meticulously tidy, and starts wondering if Ugajin is a germaphobe. Certainly seems like it. with the wiping of his hands, and wearing those white gloves all the time.
Ugajin initially pours JJ a drink and congratulates him on making it into Dragon Head, pointing out that he’s an exception to most of the people who signed up for their own reasons of greed. JJ had to be acquired. He demands that JJ hand over his gun, pointing his own at JJ when JJ plays dumb. Again, he is kind of terrifying, which only makes you wonder how damned scary Liu Jien is going to be when he finally turns up.
Ugajin produces a large photograph album with what appears to be a private school insignia on the cover, and encourages JJ to flip through until a particular point, where he is staring at photos of… himself… as a student. Of course JJ doesn’t remember this period, nor that Ugajin attended the same school as him– so in a way, it’s more of a complete headfuck than anything else.
That said, Ugajin does seem disheartened by what’s happened to the city they both grew up in. And curiously… he expresses a twinge of resentment towards Dragon Head.
Ugajin continues his conversation with JJ, the two of them trade back-and-forth thinly-veiled barbs, and it becomes apparent that both of them are trapped by Dragon Head. Curiously, though, Ugajin is happy to discuss JJ’s past matter-of-factly, and he’s done his research… as though he’s trying to push a button somewhere in JJ. JJ’s defenses drop, and he consumes the whiskey Ugajin poured for him, and to be honest, the whole thing turns out to be a lot less creepy than I assumed it would be.
JJ asks about getting down to business, assuming that the business will be in the form of a hit. But, er, Ugajin has a whole other interpretation of “getting down to business.” Yeah… right after he was actually coming across as interested in JJ as a human being, and actually not very creepy at all.
…and that’s when the fact that JJ’s whiskey was drugged becomes disturbingly apparent.
This is the point where it becomes apparent that any notion that Ugajin was somehow not creepy was a really silly one, and that nope, the dude’s a fully certified sadist who’s quite deliberately enjoying playing with JJ’s injuries while he’s handcuffed and restrained. The dude’s like fanon Kristoph Gavin and Virus (from DRAMAtical Murder)‘s and Nakajima (from Gakuen Heaven)’s unholy bastard love child, only with an extra added dose of completely terrifying, especially when you consider that we’re talking about JJ here, who is damned smart and resilient.
Seriously, can we imagine him doing this to the stereotypical sweet innocent yaoi protagonist who isn’t basically the ruthless cold-hearted survivor that JJ is? He would utterly destroy someone like that.
Anyway, he’s not finished: he undresses JJ, to play with his injuries some more and examine his tattoo, all the while taunting him about his relationship with Azusa, talking about how Azusa had incredible loyalty towards him, which only makes you wonder what the hell has happened to Azusa out there.
And then he films himself raping JJ, admitting he’d slipped an aphrodisiac into the whiskey, so even though JJ is horrified at what is happening, his body is reacting in a way that is betraying his sentiments. Ugajin tells JJ that he’ll be sharing the tape around as a form of black mail when he gets bored of him, too, so I guess he’s got that to look forward to.
Whoops. There I had been, thinking the guy wasn’t actually that creepy and that the worst of it was dredging up some bad memories. He then shows JJ some video of exactly the same thing happening to Wong, just in case JJ thought he was bluffing… which just makes Wong’s “loyalty” to Dragon Head– since Wong didn’t seem to have been roped in by greed or a fear of not surviving out there, and since Wong seems to have genuine respect for Ugajin– even more complicated and weird.
After a week of using JJ as his personal sex slave, Ugajin’s pretty certain that he’s broken his spirit, and releases him back to life on the frontline, back to doing mobster things. JJ grittily thinks to himself that nope, this shit hasn’t broken him, and that he’s got to hang in there so he can save Azusa and get the fuck out of Dragon Head.
JJ is rather blase about his mobster activities. He has no real interest in the success of Dragon Head or really supporting their activities, just in not being caught in the crossfire somewhere. Wong seems to notice that, and chastises him, pointing out that his job is to be more than just a sole survivor, but really, JJ has no fucks to give when it comes to getting shit done for Dragon Head; he’s always seen himself as an outsider to the group anyway, and he secretly kind of wants to see them go under: he’s just not prepared to sabotage anything himself.
I think this is something we can all relate to on some level: how many of us have worked shitty jobs where we’re treated like crap and where, really, any benefits that come to the company don’t actually trickle down to us, and where you’re sort of standing to the side thinking that if something bad happened to the firm, as long as it didn’t get you fired or worse, it really doesn’t matter and might actually make things a little bit more interesting? JJ basically has the position of being an emotionally uninvested checkout operator in a crappy, disorganised retail job where everyone is treated as disposable and the only reason everyone’s there is they need to make a living.
And just like in the real world, trickle-down economics doesn’t work in Dragon Head, either. JJ might be busy standing over guys for money and extorting local businesses, but pretty much everything is utter shit for everyone.
Wong, on one occasion, while they’re out mobstering, briefly addresses their shared situation with Ugajin, though JJ thinks it’d be better for everyone if they don’t really discuss it. So there’s a funny sort of connection there, like they’re both acknowledging what’s happened, and that they have it in common, but they’re just not going to talk about it. It makes me really love Wong as a character, as well as wonder about him a whole lot more.
But before we can think about that too much, Wong takes JJ off to Uozumi, for what they presume is bodyguard work in protecting the Dragon Head sex workers.
JJ asks Wong about Liu Jien, and if he really engages much with them; Wong says he doesn’t, and that Ugajin pretty much runs the show, which is kind of disturbing considering we know just how unbalanced Ugajin is. JJ asks a little about the hotel where Azusa is being held, and Wong sharply advises him not to ask questions, explaining that he doesn’t have enough clout to know shit like this. Wong’s another one of the typical Omerta dudes: survived trauma, damaged, and hardened, but still a decent guy at the and of the day.
We then meet Uozumi: a grumpy dude who runs the restaurants and bordellos that Dragon Head controls. He briefly suggests that JJ go into pimping, to which JJ is mildly unimpressed, and then explains there are some bad dudes making life a bit difficult around his businesses.
Sure enough, bad guys appear, JJ deals with them. But he messes up towards the end, telling the onlookers that the cops are on their way, to which Uozumi is pissed because it’s going to mean a reduction in business. He casually mentions that he thinks JJ’s been ‘one on one meeting’ with Ugajin, which is a bit disturbing, and drops the hint that perhaps he has an understanding of the situation all too well himself. …but he mentions that without being noticed by Ugajin, there’s no hope in moving up in Dragon Head… which at least explains why all the higher ups in Dragon Head are very attractive.
JJ tentatively asks Uozumi about the “contract hotel,” and Uozumi plays dumb, so JJ doesn’t push it.
He returns back to the hideout, reflecting on his time there previously with Azusa and basically the mess his life’s become. He’s been isolated from everyone he cares about, and Dragon Head is consuming him. He’s gotten to thinking about how Ugajin has basically engineered everything so he’s in the man’s debt and at his mercy, when the phone rings… Guess who?
Ugajin wants JJ to come over to discuss the job he briefly mentioned when JJ first showed up at his apartment, which JJ has understandably forgotten about given everything else that’s happened to him since then. While it looks like an obvious trap, there’s not a great deal else he can do, and yet he doesn’t want to go over there (more than understandable given what happened last time he did that).
Turns out JJ didn’t need to head out: Ugajin has already turned up on his doorstep.
I’ve seen some discussion around how Ugajin is like, a total yandere character, willing to basically go batshit crazy and take out anyone else who gets in the way of his object of affection, just as I’ve seen him called a total tsundere, the cold-on-the-surface-cute-beneath-that type.
I can’t see him as either. At the moment, JJ is not the object of his affection: he’s interesting to Ugajin because of his past and his skills and his relatively unusual status, and possibly because of their shared past. Ugajin has referred to him as attractive and raped him– neither of these things suggest any kind of affection, particularly given that Ugajin has done the same thing to Wong and others (including, presumably, Uozumi). At the moment, all I’m getting from Ugajin is that he sees JJ as an implement: something that can assist him and is valuable to him because of his skill– not because he has any particular concern about him or attraction to him. He’s just useful to Ugajin in his rise to power or as some amusement, plus there’s the novelty status: he’s not just any old gangster, he’s Death Scythe, and maybe there’s a bit of an ego-stroke in it for him to be able to take down and control the guy? Ugajin might have kept JJ at his apartment for a week for amusement, but he isn’t trying to control or protect him: he has no problem with JJ being at risk doing regular mobster activities, or having the ability to pretty much do whatever he feels like doing.
Basically, the emotional engagement and concern Ugajin shows towards JJ, especially right now, makes him, I dunno, no kind of “dere.” But that’s precisely why I see this relationship as so interesting, because it develops against Ugajin seeing JJ as just another device for his use.
Ugajin has done his research, though, and ties JJ to a bunch of instances where JJ’s work as an assassin lead to political movements around the neighbourhood, which have shaped and changed the region. And then, there’s the mention of the man who was JJ’s target those five years ago: Wanibuchi. With Ugajin’s rage at what his childhood neighbourhood has become because of the growing influence of criminal gangs, does he blame JJ, in part for this? He’s certainly done his research on JJ, and it’s clear why he wants him as staff: the guy’s a good hitman, right?
But you get the feeling there’s more to it than Ugajin wanting to have expert professionals on his team and being a meticulous researcher.
He asks to sit down, and does, in a way that seems uncharacteristically polite, especially what we now know of him– but then complains, indifferently, that he’s bored of this no-longer-gives-a-fuck, defeated JJ. This enrages JJ– he’s in this state precisely because of what Ugajin has done to him– and he has the urge to kill the guy. It’s Ugajin’s cool boredom and completely dispassionate reaction to the whole thing which is utterly fascinating to me: he’s complaining about JJ not giving a fuck, while, well, look at him. The dude is completely dead inside and to the point where he truly doesn’t seem to know how much this is a major problem. He’s mildly amused that he can make JJ react to the point of wanting to kill him, but that’s it.
Ugajin taunts JJ a bit more, inspiring his rage, and then admits his real interest in JJ.
“I’m going to kill Liu Jien, and take back the hostage he took… my father.”
Well this changes a few things. It doesn’t suddenly undo all the awful things Ugajin has done or make him non-sociopathic, but it does explain his drive and ruthlessness and completely “ends justifies the means” attitude about the whole thing… and might partially explain why he’s just about insane, too.
It also, interestingly, puts him on the same level as JJ, even though he’s directly responsible for JJ having to worry about a hostage himself. But you can’t dispute his tactic here at least: he knows exactly how motivated one is to do someone else’s bidding when there is a hostage at stake.
JJ is completely tripped out about Ugajin’s plan to essentially take down Dragon Head. And this is what I fucking love about Ugajin: that drive. That ambition. Who else would feasibly try to do something so damned crazy, with the cool, honest belief that he just can?
JJ threatens him, and then there’s something else interesting that happens: Ugajin seems to have realised that JJ is on equal footing with him, that while he’s prepared to go along with him, he’s not actually scared of him.
And I adore pairings like this, where you’re essentially looking at two people who are both on the same level and rubbing up against one another. (It’s why I love Phoenix/Miles from Ace Attorney so much, too.)
JJ follows Ugajin out of the hideout, deciding that he doesn’t trust him, and that he’s going to be the one who kills him, and thus concludes the chapter.
As I think absolute NO ONE is surprised at, Azusa does not take nicely to being left with Todo while JJ goes off to do Important Mafia Shit.
You can sort of understand it; he’s been treated like a child, he acts like one, JJ then gives him lessons in firearms and expects him to do grown up shit like assisting with killing a home invader, and all of a sudden, maybe he’s getting trusted to be mature with JJ. And then JJ ditches him like he’s a foster child he’s grown tired of.
To be fair to JJ, it’s all perfectly reasonable, but let’s think about Azusa’s point of view for a second: it’s abandonment that he’s had absolutely no lead-up to or control in. Again. Hopefully, Todo is going to be a more stable role model and provider for him, but still, at this point, Azusa doesn’t know that. And the poor kid is cracking it. He thought they were doing something adult and going to a bar. Instead, he’s getting transferred.
Todo is extremely nice about the whole thing, as Todo is, and points out that he’s sick and that he can’t really rely on JJ now that he’s no longer a child. Azusa is simultaneously crying and saying, “You’re scared of me, now, aren’t you?” to JJ, who is… not dealing well. He knocks Azusa out, catching him as he falls, and tells Todo he’s a handful. Todo’s all, “You haven’t been exactly easy, either,” to which JJ’s all, “Touche,” but he agrees to keep coming to the bar.
It’s… incredibly bittersweet.
Kiryuu’s there waiting for JJ, and advises him that when they get to King Caesar’s place, he’ll have his own room, which we can only hope is a bit nicer than the hideout after all of this. Kiryuu seems to think it is better than JJ deserves, anyway.
“…Don’t feel smug just because the boss likes you.”
Always the charmer, aren’t you, Kiryuu?
They drive through Dragon Palace to get stopped at a checkpoint– more nastiness from Kiryuu– though he has, at least, gotten JJ a fake ID.
They arrive at King Caesar’s place, and it’s already dusk, but Luka is entertaining some businesspeople– King Caesar runs legitimate business, imports and restaurants and stuff– and he excuses himself to personally greet JJ. Kiryuu is seriously pissy, especially when Luka talks about inviting JJ to join the family, and tells him that he’s going to be away on business, so to just let JJ settle in and rest up for a few days.
They go inside, and JJ runs into a couple of other King Caesar members, Paolo and Ishimatsu. They seem about as friendly as Kiryuu has been, taunting him about that incident five years ago. There’s a bit of snark, and then Kiryuu comes back to inform JJ that his room is ready, and takes him downstairs.
“I’m living here?” JJ thinks, but doesn’t say anything.
Kiryuu then punches JJ after insulting him a bit, and then calls a couple of mafia goons to hold him down while he continues with the punching.
And this was where I really started loathing Kiryuu, because it was such a completely shitty, underhanded thing to do. But then again, I’ve played Tachibana’s route and Ugajin’s route and both of them did particularly shitty and underhanded things as well, and both of those things involved rape.
I think what really gets me is that he bothers acting like he’s doing it for the sake of the “family,” asking JJ questions about loyalty and stuff, and then just punches the guy before giving him a moment to answer. Neither Ugajin (creepy predatory fucker) or Tachibana (shifty I-do-what-I-want fucker) tried to make out that what they were doing was for some sort of noble cause, or really use their position to do what they did. Whereas Kiryuu is pulling this out because he’s been trusted by Luka to just show him to his room and be decent, and he knows JJ has no idea wtf is going on, too.And then he’s dragged his underlings into it, too, solely because he has the authority to do so, which somehow just makes it a seriously, seriously low dog act.
Kiryuu beats him up and basically insults and attacks JJ’s character a bit more, and JJ just puts up with it, having the pride (or stupidity) to not break under him. It’s only when JJ goes to retaliate, and stops midway, and when Kiryuu asks why, that JJ says he’s not hitting his superior. That seems to be something for Kiryuu, who still doesn’t trust or like him, though. He also says that if JJ were to tell anyone what happened, no one would believe him, which again, somehow makes him a bigger prick than anyone else. I mean, Tachibana? Was basically childish and selfish. Ugajin was basically a sadist who gave no fucks. But this…? This whole “I can abuse my power and you’d better not tell anyone” thing really hits a sore point with me. Even JJ noted that it wasn’t even torture and had no purpose, it was just violence for its own sake.
Kiryuu then announces that he’s going upstairs for dinner with Luka, and asks his lackeys to take care of JJ’s injuries and escort him to his room.
JJ’s survived, but he’s miserable. No one trusts him, so he’s being treated like an apprentice, no one likes him, and it’s somehow lonelier being around other people when you don’t fit in than just being by yourself.
JJ starts to think he can do it, until his cohorts start squabbling about the ethos of the organisation and Luka’s leadership style. “Don’t say that in front of him– the pet tattles.”
Pet? Poor JJ hasn’t even seen Luka since he arrived!
JJ was literally on the verge of thinking these guys had some honor, but bitterly thinks they’re just like Dragon Head anyway, with their need for violence, and he isn’t giving two shits about their silly whinging and gossip.
JJ finally sees Luka about, though Kiryuu is with him. But JJ asks for a moment alone with him, while Kiryuu glares daggers at him, and tries to hurry Luka along, probably assuming JJ is going to talk about the unorthodox welcome party he got. Luka is chill and says that he wants to talk to JJ, too, and maybe it’s time JJ was introduced to everyone else. Kiryuu doesn’t seem pleased about this, either.
JJ asks what the politics are like within the organisation, and Luka knows exactly what he’s talking about, and says it’s really no big deal and that he is what he is, but King Caesar wouldn’t cease to exist if he died or something…
Cue Kiryuu getting concerned again.
Luka then tells both of them that he wants them to work together, which neither of them are enthralled about, but they go along with it anyway.
They then jump in Luka’s car– Kiryuu is miffed that JJ comes along– and go to their preferred dining establishment, a posh Italian restaurant owned and operated by one of their associates. Seems a whole heap of King Caesar are there and everyone’s drinking, and merriment is being had. JJ is uncomfortably the centre of attention a few times and feels a bit awkward. He winds up leaving early, walking home… he’s just not great in social situations… I don’t blame the guy.
A few days later, Kiryuu and JJ get The Job; they’ve got to go into a Dragon Head building and kill everyone. Kiryuu is typically “Do not question my authority!” and they go in.
The light is dim, and we learn that Kiryuu has an eerie sixth sense for being able to place– and then hit– enemies in darkness.
Gotta hand the guy some respect there, that’s pretty damned awesome.
He explains that in his previous job he was doing stuff like this, which makes JJ wonder what the hell he was previously doing. JJ thinks like me, “Yeah, he’s a jerk, but you’ve gotta admire his marksmanship.”
They’re about to leave when a car pulls up outside, and Kiryuu tells JJ to hold back.
And then in walks Ugajin.
JJ, who last saw that guy five years ago, asks who the hell he is. And Kiryuu’s all, “Dragon Head’s second-in-charge and probably the dude who fucked up your life five years ago, dude.”
Kiryuu explains that when Dragon Head was smaller, Ugajin helped them out on a lot of civil disputes with legal stuff, since he’s a lawyer and all…
They flee upstairs only to get chased by some more Dragon Head dudes, and JJ realises this mob are actually prepared, and slowly cornering them. Kiryuu sends JJ out as a decoy (again, so nice of him!) and they pop off some more Dragon Head dudes, and then Ugajin flips out a little and decides to leg it, and the remaining Dragon Head dudes retreat.
(This is the point where I’m thinking how easy it would be for JJ to shoot Kiryuu, and then return to King Caesar and say he was killed by Dragon Head– or just not return to King Caesar– and that honestly, if he did that, it would be understandable given what a prick Kiryuu’s been to him. I’m glad he doesn’t do that, but I couldn’t help but think that if he’d wanted to, he had all his ducks in a row there for that to be a possibility.)
Kiryuu is actually quite pleasant after this whole drama, though, and seems genuinely disgusted that Dragon Head used one of their dudes as bait to be hit by JJ so they could locate him… even though he all but did the same thing in making JJ play decoy.
Suddenly, something lands on the floor near them… and… holy shit it’s a grenade, run run run, guys… They jump out a window and land in a rubbish skip, and escape to the car, having a brief conversation. Funnily enough, JJ verbalises something similar to what I was thinking, only about what Kiryuu could have done with him, but Kiryuu’s all, “I considered it, but I prefer total victories.”
They return to Luka and the others at King Caesar’s place, and Luka is… a little bit evasive, though pleased they got the job done. Kiryuu is apologetic that they didn’t get Ugajin, but Luka points out that killing him would have resulted in retaliation, and that they’re trying to keep Dragon Head contained, rather than annihilate them completely.
It’s here where we get the impression that Luka isn’t really the fluffy dumb blond he sometimes comes across as… he’s just very easy going and social. Doesn’t mean he can’t be good at assessing threats and coming up with strategies.
Speaking of which, he casually tosses his mane and says, “Hey, Kiryuu, there’s something you haven’t reported on,” so chilled out that you almost find yourself feeling sorry for Kiryuu.
Kiryuu is confused, and then Luka takes a swipe at him.
Make no mistake, the dude can do those completely out-of-left-field attacks, just like Kiryuu pulled on JJ.
JJ is sort of standing there, watching in shock and confusion as Luka lays into Kiryuu, telling him that he asked everyone about JJ’s injuries, and that the story came out. Kiryuu tries this whole “I did it for the Family,” but Luka ain’t buying it. And it turns out that instead of implicating Kiryuu, his goons took the blame themselves for assaulting JJ. Kiryuu is standing there, in shock, feeling like a piece of crap. To his credit, rather than seeing his subordinates take the blame, Kiryuu coughs up to what he did.
JJ is then put in the incredibly awkward spot of having to confirm/deny what happened. Thanks, Kiryuu. He’d wanted to see the guy get his comeuppance, but now… he’s conflicted. Writing the whole thing off as a “prank” that “got out of hand,” he’s very casual about it. Kiryuu is freaking out to Luka, but Luka is all, “Dude, don’t apologise to me” about it.
“Show every aspect of your sincerity,” Luka tells him… and he kneels down in front of JJ.
Which sounds already a bit interesting, but then the guy admits it was all due to… jealousy. He doesn’t really elaborate on what he’s jealous of, by the way.
He’s on the floor, apologising and begging JJ to punch him. JJ is a bit uncomfortable now, but the other executives are telling JJ to hurry up and punch him so he can retain some pride and this whole humiliating chapter can be over.
One of the other executives, this dude named Franco, basically offers– and then punches– Kiryuu himself– and everyone else is all, “Dude, no.” JJ realises he’s been pushed into a corner and has to punch Kiryuu, which he does, and then Kiryuu asks if that’s adequate. JJ is like, “Yeah, I have no interest in punching someone who’s not going to fight back,” which is pretty much the best JJ burn ever.
Luka says that he had initially planned for a harsher punishment for Kiryuu, but since it appears that he and JJ are now starting to get along, that’ll be enough for now. He then proposes a celebration of their reconciliation… and then turns to Kiryuu and tells him to look after the injury he’s obtained from JJ.
Now, I think something is perfectly clear here, but it was something I realise my judgement is often clouded on: Luka and Kiryuu are a thing. See, I kind of wanted to believe that, because I have a bit of a weakness for those ships, as well, but I know that every time I’ve noticed subtext nodding to ships like that, nothing ever eventuates and I just get disappointed, so I kept telling myself that no, Kiryuu was just a loyal employee to The Family, that his love for Luka was perfectly platonic, and that his jealousy of JJ was as an associate, not as the object of Luka’s affections.
After this, though, I was sitting there like, “Okay, Yandere!Kiryuu makes a whole lot of sense.” Actually, it almost makes him sympathetic.
I’ve seen fandom arguments calling Ugajin “yandere,” and Kiryuu “tsudere,” but, no. Maybe Kiryuu isn’t being all yandere about JJ, but for fuck’s sake, he nearly killed JJ and did everything he could in order to get him to leave, because he was jealous of Luka’s attention towards JJ, which may have been strictly professional. (Ugajin, in comparison, is just an icy sadist with a lot of emotional baggage. But you didn’t see him, say, plotting to kill off anyone who even so much as looked at someone he was involved with.)
And Luka, for all intents and purposes, seems very much into Kiryuu in a way where he appears to get worried about him, where he seems to go easy on him, and where he seems to be very affectionate towards him, in a manner that he is not towards any of the other members of King Caesar. It’s actually a really, really adorable relationship. (Even the manga vaguely suggests that they’re together!)
The next couple of moments basically a) cemented my yandere!Kiryuu theory, b) made me scream because it’s not my imagination and Luka totally does seem to be into Kiryuu too, and c) made me hope like mad that there’d be a Kiryuu/JJ/Luka threesome somewhere in the game.
Luka then announces JJ’s initiation ritual is going to happen, which seems a bit random since he was just proposing a celebration, but hey, part of me is wondering just what sort of “initiation” this is going to be.
Okay, it’s the joining-the-family Mafia kind of initiation, without the burning pictures of saints.
JJ is remarkably chill about it: you join the Mafia, you join for life. Or, well, the rest of your life. If you’ve ever been locked into a time shares contract and thought that was hard to get out of? Mafia is a hell of a lot harder to get out of. JJ is like, “Hm, am I willing to give up my liberty and autonomy to join these guys? Yeah, whatever,” which just made me go, “Oh. Fucking. Kay.”
Your life, JJ, but that’s one hell of a decision.
Anyway, they clean up (they were rolling around in the rubbish, remember?) and the ritual begins. Kiryuu vouches for JJ, and suddenly everyone looks at him differently.
JJ swears to them, and they do this blood oath thing which would probably horrify most medical workers given the risks of blood transmitted diseases.
Luka then concludes the ritual, and introduces everyone to JJ, heading off for a business call, and there’s a bit of executive banter, and they head on over to Antonio’s restaurant to continue the party.
JJ gets told that Luka was a bit of a wild one back in the day, and that he even got himself locked up, and that it’s generally best not to mistake his friendliness for being complacent.
Luka eventually rocks up at the party, even though JJ is starting to feel a bit awkward, and the merriment continues.
I think I’m starting to see, from this illustration, why Kiryuu might be feeling a touch threatened by JJ’s arrival, if you know what I mean… Kiryuu is looking most unimpressed, to the side, while Luka is being a friendly partyboy and particularly welcoming towards JJ.
Poor Kiryuu. He’s been teased a bit by the other guys, and now, well, this is going on.
Luka talks a bit about his own history, and his love for Japan, and Japanese people, with a description which seems to describe Kiryuu perfectly. And then JJ sees it:
“I know that Kiryuu is yearning for Luka. And it’s probably not pleasant for him that Luka is getting close to me, a newcomer.”
Oh, ouch. Poor Kiryuu. And… poor JJ. It’s not really his fault that this is going on, and he’s stuck slap-bang in the middle of this.
They head home, and JJ goes to his room, and then there’s a knock on the door…
It’s one very pissy Kiryuu, who tells him to “Come” and escorts him to Luka’s quarters: Luka wants a word with him.
If you know what I mean.
At this point, I’m really feeling for Kiryuu now. It’s so obvious he has feelings for Luka, and that Luka has indulged him, and now… this? He’s been cast aside for the new guy? Not only that, but he actually had to deliver the new guy to Luka? That’s gotta hurt.
Luka asks about JJ’s relationship with Azusa, and when JJ says there wasn’t one, implies that possibly Todo might have hooked up with him, leaving JJ feeling a bit uncomfortable, though dismissing it with “Hey, if they wanna go for it, that’s their business” pretty much.
Luka quite obviously flirts with JJ, and then propositions him.
At this point, I’m like, “Who’s route am I on here, anyway?” and am just about falling over from all the stuff that I’m so used to seeing as mere subtext but which is completely blatant in this game. In this instance, I had JJ politely let him down, and he’s about to leave, when Luka kisses him on the lips and proposes they enjoy some champagne together.
JJ’s like, “Why not ask Kiryuu?” which doesn’t impress Luka at all, though they do finish off the champers, and then JJ heads back towards his room. On his way there, he goes past Kiryuu’s room, and ragged breathing behind the door that makes him investigate further: he thinks Kiryuu might have that terrible cold which Azusa had…
And he winds up seeing a whole new side of Kiryuu that he had not seen before, to put it lightly.
JJ’s sort of stuck: Kiryuu is very much distracted by what he’s doing, to the point where he doesn’t notice JJ. But JJ is mesmerised, unable to take his eyes off Kiryuu, well, being a wanker in an entirely different way to how he has been in the past.
And as much as I want to keep up with the joking, it’s kind of sad: he’s getting himself off precisely because he knows he’s lost Luka; he’s even talking about Luka while he’s at it. JJ is sort of stuck in a dilemma: he’s hearing and seeing something he really wasn’t meant to, and as he’s about to leave, the door creaks, and Kiryuu suddenly now knows that JJ has seen him. Holy secondhand embarrassment.
Kiryuu calls JJ in, and is suitably humiliated. JJ tries to reassure him, and it really doesn’t work, and Kiryuu is very much obviously distressed and still horny and just feeling kind of shit, and he asks JJ if he had sex with him when he went to Luka’s room.
JJ confronts him about his jealousy and asks him how much he loves Luka. It’s just painfully awkward with Kiryuu trying to deny it, but it being so bloody obvious that even JJ can see what’s going on.
Worse yet, Kiryuu is still aroused, and JJ feels guilty for interrupting him and leaving him hanging… and so he decides to take care of things for him. It’s sort of a subordinate service, I guess, he sees it as, which makes me wonder if that’s how JJ sees Kiryuu’s infatuation with Luka.
They have a brief chat afterwards, and the whole thing seems to have changed Kiryuu… he seems calmer and… nicer.
A week into JJ’s official family member status, and he sees Antonio, the restauranteur, hanging about near the headquarters. It seems he’s got some different food, and he mentions to JJ that he’s got a different supplier to Grosso Imports– ie, the King Caesar import company, and it also seems that he hasn’t told anyone about it.
Um, who else can see this ending badly for him?
Turns out that Antonio’s little secret involved buying from one of the competitors’ businesses: Dragon Head’s, and everyone is pissed off. But of an insult, really, when you’ve helped someone set themselves up and you get slapped in the face like that, huh?
PLUS, it seems that King Caesar has gone down a notch in the community reputation stakes, and that someone in the family is leaking information about their activities to Dragon Head. Kiryuu and Luka are out together when all this goes down, due to return the following day, and the rest of the executives decide that the situation needs to be sorted out tonight.
After trying to find their leak and not being able to, they pop into Antonio’s and ask for some munchies, though they’re suspicious at all the seafood dishes Antonio is serving up, since Grosso Imports don’t usually deal in that stuff.
And then Antonio admits he went through a different supplier. But he says he told JJ, and then saw Luka afterwards and that Luka was cool with it, and that it’s going to expand his variety in the restaurant, etc, etc, and it’s basically all good.
Except that it isn’t, really. Antonio gets a funny feeling about JJ, who doesn’t seem as receptive to his story and friendliness as the others are, and just before dawn breaks, slightly intoxicated, he leaves the restaurant to head home… only to be stopped by King Caesar, who are fully aware of where their traitor is now.
The guys confront Antonio, and he tries to dodge their accusations, until he realises he’s done for and pulls out a gun.
All of a sudden, Kiryuu and Luka show up; Luka is disappointed, but also a bit heartbroken; he’d actually put the wheels in motion to gift a second restaurant to Antonio, he saw him as family, etc, etc. Luka asks what they did to upset him; Antonio says he wanted independence, to run his restaurant his way, not King Caesar’s way, and that he was selling King Caesar information to fund his restaurant and to go independent.
Kiryuu isn’t buying it; whatever his reasons, Antonio screwed over King Caesar, and betrayed the family’s trust in him.
Antonio is executed, and Paolo reminds JJ that this is the world he’s living amongst now, and it’s all a bit awkward and sad for awhile, since they actually did like Antonio and it hurts that he was selling them out.
So, having played to one of the Tachibana Bad Ends and the Ugajin Good End, I figured to have a go with the third option: the King Caesar route. This is partly because a) I wanted some variety, and b) I realise that the higher-end routes haven’t been translated yet. And anyway, Kiryuu is sort of wonderful.
Anyway, this was Chapter Three, after JJ said “Yes” (accepted, hence the “A”) to the King Caesar request.
JJ gets a Godfather, this time, from The Professor, plus instructions to come back tomorrow night to meet the KC people, and steps out when it’s closing time, thinking about his predicament… about what taking the job, and the last five years means to him. Because things have been kind of nuts. And for the first time, so far, JJ suggests an alternative that he hadn’t followed: simply leaving Azusa with the police.
Then again, there seem to be about as many cops in this game as there are in Pulp Fiction. Which basically results in a universe where badass motherfuckers run around doing pretty much whatever they gotta do. (Closest thing to the cops we’ve seen so far is Dragon Head: they’re powerful, terrifying, they kill people, and you basically want to stay out of their view if you think there’s even the remotest chance you might piss them off. And they have their own hierarchial system and sort of follow the rules without questioning them.)
Anyway, what should happen w/hile JJ is thinking about his predicament? You guessed it: action!
Well, not much; a thug and some homeless people having a bit of a verbal argument. It’s not really up there with seeing Tachibana get shot of watching Ugajin and his crew deal with a couple of non-performing underlings, but hey.
Arriving on the scene, entirely unimpressed, comes this delightful fellow.
Remember Kiryuu from the first meeting five years ago? He was the hot-headed, entirely devoted to newly sworn-in King Caesar leader Luka Bellini, and he was already trying to manhandle Tachibana for wasting his boss’ time.
And we get the King Caesar music! I love it; it’s accordians and mandolins and violins, and it’s cute… but there’s also something a touch tragic about it. It actually reminds me of the Professor Layton music, and, well, I dunno, I found Professor Layton kind of weirdly heartbreaking and lonely, and found that the music really set that up.
Kiryuu has no time for these punks, and gives them a warning that they’re on KC turf, and draws his gun. Probably not a great idea to upset this guy.
He eventually does pull the trigger, to fire off a warning shot when the kids involved in the altercation starts asking about joining The Family. When they clear off, it’s just Kiryuu and JJ, looking at one another, before JJ decides he should piss off.
JJ heads back to the hideout, where Azusa is asleep, though he seems to be coming down with a cold. JJ makes him up some saline mineral water and tells him that it’s all for his benefit, because if he makes JJ sick, then that’s going to cause JJ issues.
(And this is actually where Chapter Three starts, oddly enough: the previous ones started earlier than this.)
JJ wakes up, checks on Azusa (who has a bit of a fever), looks after him a bit, and then heads out to meet King Caesar, all the while thinking that he and Azusa are verging on going their own separate ways, anyway.
JJ goes in, and Kiryuu, the King Caesar exec he was set up to meet, is sitting there, waiting for him, still wearing that look on his face that makes you want to say, “Well who pissed in your cornflakes, dude?” Kiryuu is so cold and just… efficient that he makes Ugajin look like an over-the-top bad guy with cheesy one-liners.
I’ll admit, seriously, when I first started playing Kiryuu’s route, I was initially very much, “He’s a hot lil number,” and he was so cold an lacking in anything even remotely relatable that I started being quite indifferent to him. And then stuff happened and I hated him. And then MORE stuff happened and I was shipping this nearly as much as I was about the Ugajin/JJ.
Kiryuu wants to get started, and JJ is having a few apprehensions about him, though Todo says he wouldn’t introduce JJ to unreliable people.
They get into Kiryuu’s car (seems they like Alfas) and head off. The tension is pretty nasty, so JJ tries making conversation, only to have Kiryuu basically treat him like dirt.
Like, seriously, what is this guy’s problem? JJ is doing you a favour here, sweetheart, and you’re being a little bitch to him when he hasn’t been at all unfair, mean, or even vaguely threatening.
JJ asks about the mission– a simple escort job while a deal is going down– and wonders why he’s needed. Kiryuu is fairly “What, you’re saying you can’t do this?” about it. He then admits this is a personal, not KC-related job, and JJ casually asks a little about the organisation, and blurts out that maybe Kiryuu’s boss mustn’t be that nice.
Kiryuu’s reaction is to pull a gun, while he’s driving, on JJ. JJ instinctively grabs his own, but… can we just say “Holy overreaction, Batman” here for a moment?
Kiryuu, it seems, is very protective of his boss, and does NOT like hearing him insulted. He also seems to dislike hitmen, which might explain his problem with JJ, but then again, he might just be sneery about hitmen because he knows that’s JJ’s deal.
JJ suggests that maybe it might be an idea if Kiryuu tried to at least cooperate with him otherwise the job’s probably going to be a mess, and Kiryuu very reluctantly agrees.
Turns out the job’s probably not going to go well, anyway, because Kiryuu basically has planned to massacre everyone at the site, and put JJ in charge of doing so. Lovely.
But the docks are quiet, except for a dashing blond who rocks up and drunkenly asks for a light.
JJ is just as snarky to “the drunk” as Kiryuu has been to him, but Luka is still fairly good natured about it, and eventually goes away. Good think JJ doesn’t have Kiryuu’s hair-trigger temper, or things might have really become a mess, right?
Anyway, Kiryuu calls JJ into the warehouse where a deal is being sorted, though it seems that Kiryuu has no time for the wares on sale. King Caesar don’t deal in the drug trade. Kiryuu kills the trader after insulting him, and an almighty gun battle breaks out. And even though Kiryuu has a revolver, and is up against dudes with machine guns, he seems to make a fair degree of mess before the dealer’s guys start getting near hitting them.
Kiryuu ducks out of the way to reload, and JJ is somewhat mesmerised by his accuracy and speed when ti comes to shooting bad guys. This was possibly the point where I really wanted to start shipping them; they’re almost psychic towards what one another needs to do during the gun battle, and it’s kind of glorious.
But JJ also sees it as a time to best Kiryuu by taking out more bad guys.
Yeah, I’d still ship that.
Anyway, something really unexpected happens: the cops actually show up. JJ wonders if it’s all been a setup, because who expects the cops to rock up in Dragon Head warehouses in the middle of the night unexpectedly. Talk about a spanner in the works, hey, these guys seemed to not exist. But they do and they’re here, and JJ and Kiryuu need to GTFO.
They make an escape as the cops and the drugs guys get caught up in a gunfire battle, and JJ is very much “Dude, WTF?” Kiryuu’s all, “Job’s over, go home,” and JJ is pissed, and Kiryuu sneers that everything went down as it was supposed to, and it’s really none of JJ’s business anyway.
One of the drug guys has escaped, too, and made his way over to Kiryuu, threatening him wildly. JJ wants to get the guy before Kiryuu does, and pops him off.
A cop then shows up, and JJ is inwardly freaking out, worried that if Kiryuu gets busted, there’s something else King Caesar are going to be pissed with him about, but Kiryuu walks off to talk to the cop and tells JJ to calm down. They exchange words, the cop tells him not to do this shit in future, and then they walk away from one another. JJ is a little bit stunned.
Kiryuu pays JJ, and JJ says if he expects him to work in jobs involving cops again, he’s out, even though Kiryuu doesn’t see it as much of a big deal. But he does, at least, compliment JJ on his skill; he’s almost actually nice. They drive back to Epilogue, because that’s the least Kiryuu can do, and then things hot up a bit…
On the way back, Kiryuu actually initiates conversation with JJ, even.
“You don’t serve any master, nor do you have any comrades to protect. Do you find that lonely?”
JJ hasn’t really thought about it, and, I dunno, JJ strikes me as a bit of an introvert anyway (INTP or ISTP would be my guess), though he says if he found the right someone to serve…
At this point, I am completely shipping them, because the subtext here is deafening. Make that ice queen melt, JJ!
They arrive back at Epilogue with an unexpected complication: Luka Bellini is waiting there for them.
Luka smashes Kiryuu, to which JJ, who hasn’t realised who Luka Bellini is, reacts to defend the man whom he was working for. He just thought Luka was that drunk at the docks coming in for more wine. Kiryuu, blood running down his face from Luka’s punch, actually defends Luka… and then introduces them.
Luka is impressed with JJ’s restraint, and is about to give Kiryuu some kind of tongue-lashing for going off on his own and risking his life and KC’s reputation. He chastises him, explaining that it’s just not on to get involved with cops and pull this shit, and poor Kiryuu is a little bit embarrassed.
Luka then orders coffee for them because at the end of the day, he’s still glad they got back safely.
They sit down in a booth, and Luka thanks JJ for protecting Kiryuu. Then he introduces himself as the KC boss, and says he and Todo go way back, and then he casually refers to JJ as Death Scythe.
JJ is a bit freaked out, but Luka means know harm: observing his skill earlier, he knew he’s made the right decision in getting him to do that job five years ago, and explains what happened on that night: the King Caesar executive who called JJ was captured an tortured and forced to give JJ inaccurate information… and the Tonos were executed because Dragon Head was interested in their wealth… and saving the guy who happened to be King Caesar’s intended target that evening due to his ties with them.
They then tell JJ that Azusa is a wanted man, too, and it’s something of a miracle that JJ’s managed to keep him hidden from Dragon Head for this long. And then, they say that the snafu five years ago was partially King Caesar’s fault anyway, so they can’t blame JJ, and that their executive, who succumbed to torture, betrayed them. Which is, IMHO, kind of disturbingly unfair (especially if you’ve played the Ugajin route and have some idea what might have happened to the guy) but the point is, JJ’s off the hook.
Interestingly enough, they look like this across the table: Luka friendly and serious, and Kiryuu death glaring JJ down big time.
Kiryuu’s expression certainly doesn’t take a turn for the more cheerful when Luka offers to take on JJ and in return, give him protection and somewhere to live. Actually, that’s putting it mildly: he cracks the shits, insults JJ, and then threatens him when JJ finally cracks.
It’s Todo who calms Kiryuu down, and JJ is still reeling from the offer itself, only he’s worried about Azusa, because he can’t just, you know, leave him there. Todo offers the perfect solution: he can stay with him. JJ agrees, thinking it might be best for Azusa if he were to live with Todo rather than with him, and that perhaps maybe Todo will explain that JJ didn’t actually kill his parents.
JJ leaves with his pay, and goes to the hideout via the black market. JJ stocks up on ammo, but then decides to buy a watch– with a quarter of his paycheque!– as a parting gift to Azusa.
When he gets in, Azusa is saying he’s feeling better, and is typically grumpy, and JJ gives him the parcel. There’s an overall sense of things about to change for the maudlin right now, and I’ve got to say, the music playing right now only adds to that.
Azusa is clearly unimpressed with the watch, and JJ is… actually a bit hurt at that. He punches Azusa in reaction, and thinks there’s really just no point in being nice to him… which only just adds to the whole air of melancholy.
JJ thinks about how he’s essentially dumping Azusa with Todo tomorrow, that Azusa is not going to react well, and that even though he doesn’t particularly like the kid, he can’t sleep too well when he thinks about the fact that he’s spending, at the moment, his very last night with Azusa.
This time, I decided not to make a choice, opting for silence– lol, omerta, if you will– instead of explicitly rejecting or selecting to work with King Caesar.
Logic dictates that if accepting the job means going on the King Caesar route, and if not accepting it means staying on the same sort of lone wolf path JJ is already on, then the third option can only lead to one place: Dragon Head.
Todo seems quietly accepting of JJ not making a choice, wryly commenting that sometimes “silence speaks louder than words.” I guess we now can be assured of something: he doesn’t have to worry about King Caesar setting him up for a trap as he might have if he’d accepted– or said no to the offer: they’re definitely no friends of his, and there’s no doubt about it.
But the worry I have here isn’t so much about King Caesar, it’s about JJ’s relationship with Todo, the ever-present, constant, just neutral and good buddy JJ has. Like, seriously, how’s the guy really feeling about all this?
He gives JJ a whiskey, and JJ drinks at the bar a little too long, and then steps out into the night, and–
JJ hears gunshots, and realises that he’s actually on King Caesar turf, which is pretty bad news when you’ve just snubbed their offer of work and you’re scared they’ve been wanting you dead for the last five years.
Yet again, we get the awesomeness of the soundtrack coming into play: The Chaos of Tokyo Bay isn’t just serious and mobstery background music; there is something really depressing in it, that seems to perfectly capture JJ’s isolation and vulnerability. There is this undercurrent of something forboding, of danger, and of inevitability. It. Is. Perfect.
But JJ is in for a possibly nastier surprise than King Caesar, and despite trying to hide out of harm’s way, watches a ruthless, cold-blooded execution courtesy of Dragon Head, with Ugajin rolling by in a Toyota Century limo, and ordering one mobster to shoot his brother, and then ordering another guy to kill them, and then killing him, because he hesitated.
The mobsters actually ask JJ to intervene and call the cops before they’re killed, JJ won’t, because snitches get stitches, and he really has no reason to; and he gets to see the whole thing in technicolour horror.
Ugajin, by the way, is terrifying. I’ve heard a few criticisms of his voice actor, that the guy sounds “bored,” but to me, it’s that utter cold indifference that is partially what makes him so damned scary: he lacks the warmth of, say, Luka Bellini or even the anger of Kiryuu, or the casual silliness of Tachibana, or the angst of Azusa; this is truly a man who gives no fucks about anything except ruthless efficiency.
You know, the moment that he shows up, that the two terrified and squabbling mobsters are utterly screwed, and that JJ probably is as well.
Throw in the cold, majestic Dragon Head theme music, and it’s utterly chilling.
This is what you get for not making a decision, JJ.
After Ugajin and his crew have dealt with the mobsters, the limo pulls around, and JJ is literally caught in the headlights. JJ is left with three choices: “Feign ignorance” “Play it cool” or “Remain silent.” Given the theme of not saying anything, I guess I’m keeping it consistent by doing that. Also, Ugajin is terrifying.
Everyone opens fire on JJ anyway, and JJ tries to flee and then shoot back, to which Ugajin gets interested, realising he’s “of the underworld” as well. Completely undaunted, he asks a subordinate, Wong, to take care of things.
Yeah, pervy!me is kind of remorseful at the fact that Wong isn’t on the potential list of hookups, because daaaamn, Wong is fiiiine. And slightly less scary than Ugajin.
And… also pretty good with melee attacks, as JJ’s about to find out. But JJ manages to shoot back… only to get a pissed off Ugajin now pointing his gun at him.
Yeah, these guys really don’t fuck around.
The fight continues, and JJ is knocked unconscious.
While out, he has more Tiger of the Jungle related flashbacks: we see Tiger recognising JJ’s resolve in battle, that he can see all sorts of horrors and still coldly continue in order to survive. And we get flashbacks of JJ’s will to survive, and almost strategic reasoning behind surviving, the sexual abuse at the hands of Tiger: being his “favourite” means gaining access to firearms.
“I will do whatever it takes to survive. I remember all the lives I’ve taken up to now, for the sake of survival. I remember how I had let the Tiger into my body, for the sake of survival. This time is no different.”
This is the thing about JJ: he’s alarmingly self-aware of why he is what he is, and to be fair to him, there isn’t much else he feasibly could have done; he hasn’t just survived physically, but partially, at least, psychologically, and the reason he’s managed that much is because he has pretty much been aware of every damn thought process and had a reason behind his actions. He analyses his own reactions and responses to things; and discards or forces himself to put up with and minimise anything that impedes his survival. He wasn’t born “badass,” he had to learn how to switch off what he needed to, and work out what he needed to keep going, in order to survive psychologically.
And by the time he was rescued, he realised that his ability to survive had turned him into something that was barely human. And that to survive that, he needed to flee and use the skills he’d learned to survive physically. And it’s left him hollow and yet not amoral, and he’s still disturbingly aware of just how fucked up he is; it’s the perfect heartbreaking paradox: he can still connect with others and empathise with them, even if it’s just to see where they’re coming from so that he can handle them strategically.
JJ comes to, in an unfamiliar room, seeing Ugajin talking to some of his cohorts about dealing with him. Ugajin’s realised that he’s Death Scythe, and that he’s more valuable alive than dead, it seems.
He wants JJ to do a job for him, which JJ isn’t interested in… until Ugajin presents Azusa, who has been kidnapped by Dragon Head’s people. Ugajin’s also figured out that despite what both of them say, Azusa and JJ do in fact care about one another, and he’s basically acquired himself the perfect bargaining chip.
Taking JJ out to the limo, Ugajin asks why he cares so much about Azusa– something even JJ doesn’t entirely understand, either– and they drive off, while Ugajin gets a call from his boss. JJ wants to fight back, but realises he’s going to have to cooperate somewhat while Azusa is being held captive.
They drive to the docks, and Wong and another accomplice keep an eye on JJ and whatever’s meant to be happening, as Ugajin drives away. JJ’s been put with a bunch of other guys as a new recruit. Of course they ask a few questions, including what he did to earn Ugajin’s interest since he was riding in the car with him. They’re the low-level “enforcers” of Dragon Head, known as the Red Pole. While they’re busy giving JJ a hard time, JJ is inwardly freaking out at how disorganised they are, carrying on like this when a deal is going down nearby and they should be a united team.
JJ’s right: a sniper begins picking the other Red Pole members off from a distance, and it’s JJ’s wits and reaction time that has him scrabbling for safety. Finding a cumbersome rifle– better than nothing– he manages to locate the sniper on a rooftop and a gunfire battle ensues, in the course of which, JJ is grazed by a bullet. The rest of the team dead, JJ heads into the warehouse where the deal has been finalised; Wong and Ida seem to be in disagreement about him: Ida believes he’s a possible saboteur, Wong is at least grateful that he survived. He’s paid for his efforts, and Ugajin calls, to advise him that Azusa has been kept out of harm’s way in a “contract hotel.”
Ugajin strongarms JJ into working for them, and hangs up; Wong advises JJ that he’s going to have to work hard to keep Azusa alive and safe in the hotel. JJ, optionless, is now working for Dragon Head to ensure Azusa’s safety.
The head over to Big Nest, the heart of Dragon Head, built onto an old convention centre, now enhanced with illegal additions and small market shops on the lower levels. It’s run and populated by Dragon Head, and it’s utter fucking chaos, crowded and messy and full of unsavoury happenings.
“Don’t meet their eyes. Just think of them as part of the walls,” Wong says of the other inhabitants, “Living, moving walls.” And while Wong said it, JJ was thinking it.
Wong takes JJ upstairs to see the doctor who treats his gunshot wounds, and also insists upon him getting a tattoo as proof of his allegiance to Dragon Head. Of course, this all comes out of JJ’s paycheque, too.
I make no secret of the fact that I love tattoos, and I love mobster movie and game tropes. Tattoos in Japanese culture are interesting: there’s a deep symbolism and sense of the body art having almost a life of its own: and JJ is warned that he needs to learn how to deal with having “another creature living under [his] skin.” The creature, in this instance, is a dragon, for Dragon Head, and the notion of it symbolically “consuming” its bearer is fascinating as much as it’s intense. I can’t help but think that even outside Japan, tattoos very much do represent the story of their bearers, and to some degree, have a “life” of their own. With one exception (it’s cute and pretty) all of mine pretty much speak for themselves, probably giving outsiders some sort of idea about what I am… and I love seeing this explored in fiction.
The doctor/tattooist tells JJ that many of the Dragon Head men have much more elaborate tattoos, that they carry bigger dragons with them. He suggests JJ come back to him for more work should he manage to tame this one.
JJ thinks about the idea of the “dragon” both literally and metaphorically, consuming him, and swears to himself that this particular “dragon” will just be another enemy to be toppled by him, once he finds its weakness.
Yet again, I’ve gotta express admiration for his problem solving and strategy. And the unbreakable will.