171 – Maji ka?!
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[Play: Air Soundtrack: Track 20: Two People]

Near Roppongi Hills, wandering around the streets by the mall, a certain formerly one-eyed yakuza member let out a deep sigh and leaned against the side of a building. Unwrapping a cherry lollipop, he tossed the wrapper aside and popped the candy into his mouth, sucking on it. As he did, he frowned. "Dammit. Kiri you bastard..." He moved the lollipop around with his tongue, trying to get a comfortable position on it and then sighed. "This ain't a substitute for smoking."

11:45 AM. The morning rush for their udon shop was over, and the three former yakuza legends were on their break.

Kiri was out getting more noodle ingredients, Taiga was off negotiating with some local butchers for the best cuts of meat, and Maji...

Well, to be honest he had already been on break since early in the morning.

Maji sighed and then pushed himself off the wall. Adjusting his typical snakeskin coat around him, he started walking. Not to anywhere in particular, but just to keep himself busy.

And do his best to not think about Yuri.

"Dammit." Maji sighed and switched his lollipop around to his other cheek.

The girl was reckless, just like her mother had been. After Maji said that he wouldn't have her as an apprentice until she finished school, that damned girl dropped out months before she graduated.

Obviously, that was bad. But it was already too late to convince her to go back to school, so Maji tried to shift her focus to getting a proper job first. Something to pay the bills now that her grandpa was tied up in all the red tape from being the former chair of the Torabu clan. Only, he underestimated just how bad that girl's social skills were.

Maji pulled out his lollipop and then frowned. "That girl... Tch. What was that old man doing raising her up like that?"

Her mother hadn't been anything like that. Maki had always been sweet, kind, and caring. Not up stuck and bossy like Yuri.

Maji wanted to think that it came from Yuri's dad... but from what he could find out about the guy, Yuri's father had been a kind-hearted foreigner who did nothing but support Maki's cooking career.

So it could only be that old man's fault.

Maji scowled and flicked his lollipop to the ground. After that, he stuck his hands into his pockets and grumbled. "That dumb girl. If she hadn't flipped her lid at the boss's recruiter, she could've had a job."

He had been worried at first when a crazy strong guy showed up at the café, but calmed down when he saw it was the dragon guy that John brought in to help last time.

That dragon guy also dragged a smoking hot babe with him, but considering what he probably had to deal with being John's cleaner, Maji didn't blame him.

But still...

Maji stopped and let out a deep sigh and then looked up at the sky. "Maki-chan. Your girl's a hell of a troublemaker..."

She was out of school, out of a job, and now probably in full panic mode after that mess of an interview.

Maji lowered his head and then muttered, "Maybe I should talk to the Boss about it?"

John owed them a few favors... and even if he didn't, he was the kind of guy weak to sob stories. Maji was sure that he could get the guy to give Yuri *something*.

Then again, maybe it would be a good chance for the girl to grow up and be independent.

But Kiri had said that Yuri's strong sense of taste was because she desperately wanted to remember her parents... So she was definitely messed up in the head. And probably had low self-esteem... Which meant that this was a hell of a lot more hassle than he thought it was.

Maji groaned and covered his face. "That damned Kiri had it good."

His gal had a daughter, but that kid had been made of stern stuff. Hell, she didn't even flinch that one time Maji kidnapped her to use as bait to lure Kiri out for a fight.

If Yuri had even a fraction of that girl's mental strength...

A faint tug on the back of his shirt. No, not just one tug, but two.

Maji lowered his hand and turned around, a scowl on his face. "Who the-"

When he saw who had done it, he bit back the harsh words he was about to say.

[Play: Air Soundtrack: Track 13: Twin Stars]

Two identical young girls were behind him. Both only reaching up to his chest. Not only that, but they were beautiful. Almost like a pair of carefully sculpted porcelain dolls.

"Sir." That was the girl on Maji's left, wearing a pure white dress with black twin-tails styled by a pair of rainbow ribbons.

"Mister." That was the other girl, on Maji's right. She looked exactly like the first, except that she was wearing a black dress and her hair was white, kept in loose bangs that framed her face.

Turning to look at Maji at once, both of the girls said, "Might we ask your assistance?"

Creepy. But at the same time, not.

"Twins, huh?" Maji muttered and stared at the girls.

They were young... Probably at the end of grade school. Not only that, but they were cute enough that most guys would be tempted to commit a crime just by seeing them walking around alone.

And the fact that they were wandering around alone like that pissed Maji off. "Oi. Where the hell are your parents? Didn't they teach you not to talk to strangers? Especially scary guys like me?"

The girls paused and turned to look at each other.

The black-haired one tilted her head and said, "Sister Wu. Does the man seem scary?"

The white-haired one shook her head. "No, Sister Xuan. Miss Yue was much more frightening."

The black-haired girl, 'Xuan', shivered and said, "I agree. She was... scary."

Maji blinked and let out an exasperated sigh. "Fine. I'm not scary. Sure. But where the hell are your parents? And why are you two girls walking around alone?"

Dammit. Didn't they know that it was dangerous to let kids walk around by themselves? The yakuza might be dismantled, but that didn't mean that there weren't any criminals. And it was too easy to just make cute young girls disappear.

Maji would know. He'd seen it done in the past and had to beat the crap out of the guys to get the girls out.

'Wu', the white-haired girl shook her head and said, "We have no parents."

'Xuan', the black-haired girl with twin-tails, nodded and said, "We only have each other."

Maji frowned. "Only each other...? Orphans?"

He remembered hearing about a bust on a few soaplands recently. And some places that definitely deserved to be shut down with how young some of their 'features' were.

Seeing how beautiful those two girls were... and seeing how they were dressed even in this cold weather...

"Tch." Maji quickly took off his coat and placed it around the girls. "Here. It's dangerous to be wearing just that in this weather."

"Ah." Xuan blinked and then let out a bright smile. "Thanks."

"Yes. Thank you, Mister." Wu smiled and then snuggled into the coat alongside her sister.

"Tch." Maji shook his head and said, "Don't thank me for something obvious."

People were starting to stare. Seeing that, Maji smoothed his expression and then said, "Follow me. I don't know where the hell you two came from, but it's not good to be out in public like that."

"Yes." Xuan nodded, causing her black twin-tails to bounce.

"Understood, Mister." Wu nodded as well.

Like that, the strange pair of young girls started toddling behind Maji.

Maji kept a neutral expression on his face as he thought about how to deal with the girls.

Boss was definitely weak to sob stories, so if Maji asked, he was sure to take the girls in. But Boss was also out on a honeymoon with his wife. And considering that he earned that honeymoon, Maji didn't want to bother him.

So...

"We are lucky, Sister Xuan." Wu smiled, idly brushing a strand of her white hair away. "The first person we met after being freed is a kind and sincere man."

Xuan nodded. "Yes. We really are lucky, Sister Wu."

'Freed?'

Maji's left eye twitched and he subconsciously reached for his knife. But he calmed himself.

Even if there were people sick enough to take girls like those, he shouldn't go wild. Especially not when he had two innocent girls following after him like that.

So he calmed himself down. And then after that, he glanced back and said, "Why're you two kids wandering around by yourselves anyway? And why'd you stop me? You looking for someone?"

Xuan nodded. "Yes." She smiled and then fiddled with her rainbow ribbons. "We are looking for someone dear to our hearts."

Wu nodded as well and said, "It has been a long time since we met. And since our contract has been destroyed, we wish to see him."

Maji took a deep breath and then nodded. "Alright. Can't make any promises, but I can help you girls look. What's the guy like? Got a name?"

"Of course." Xuan gently closed her eyes and said, "A great man like the golden sun."

Wu let out a soft smile and said, "A kind man who reached for us in the darkness."

Xuan opened her eyes and smiled as well. "A caring older brother."

Wu placed her hand over her heart and said, "A beloved father figure."

The two looked up in sync at Maji and then finished with, "John Smith."

Maji froze. And then he burst out laughing.

The girls tilted their head, confusion filling their eyes.

Maji shook his head and said, "Damn. Boss always gets wrapped up in ridiculous drama, huh?"

"...Boss?" Xuan blinked.

Wu's eyes sparkled and she said, "You know John, Mister?"

"Yeah, I know the guy. He's out of town though... And I think it'd be awkward if I just brought you guys over to his place..."

The situation with John and his wife seemed a bit messy, and Maji didn't think it'd be a good idea to show up with two girls who might or might not be more of John's kids.

Just as Maji was wondering what to do, a suave voice called out.

"Maji." Kiri walked over carrying a pair of grocery bags in his arms, filled with noodle ingredients and vegetables. He took a look at the two girls wrapped up in Maji's coat and said, "They yours?"

Maji groaned.

-----AI|IA-----

[Play: Clannad Soundtrack: Track 16: A Pair of Idiots]

Back at Rin's house, Asako was setting things up for her stream.

Seated in Rin's room and borrowing her laptop, Asako tapped out a brief description for her stream and scheduled it for noon.

"...A bit late for morning, but the hell if I care. Morning is whenever I say it is... and it's morning somewhere in the world, right?"

Rin walked into the room, carrying a thermos of green tea. She set it down next to Asako and said, "Are you sure you're fine with this setup, Aneue?"

"Thanks Sis." She grabbed the thermos and took a sip. After that, she waved her hand and said, "And it'll be fine. Those bastards don't give a damn as long as I show up anyway... Ah, see? They're already talking in the prestream chat. See?" Asako pointed at the screen.

-----AI|IA-----

[Just Chatting] Asa doko? Asa koko. *Where's the morning? Right here.*
Aoko Ryuusei Ch.
Live in 15 minutes.
Wednesday, November 27, 12:00 PM JST
17K waiting

[redparrot - Aoko doko?]
[orangerat - Asa doko?]
[Sofa_KingII - She had to hop in the freezer to get her ice queen persona ready.]
[pinkcat - XD]

[maroonwombat - *So we all agree that four hours is now officially one Aoko?*]
[nightowl - *Yep!*]
[littlelion - *Works for me.*]
[killerwhale - www The overseas bros are using Queen to measure time.]
[oiledeel - Really? www]
[americaneagle - kusa]

-----AI|IA-----

Rin giggled after reading the chat and said, "Well, good luck, Aneue. I think you're going to need it."

"Hm?" Asako looked at the chat and then groaned. "Goddammit."


Asaco- I mean, Asako's stream chapter tomorrow. Secret live chatbox here as usual, or you can leave your comment with a name! Now... to find out if I'm rusty at writing the stream chapters or if I can still channel my inner chaotic chat. >.>

Also, Aoko's decided she'll be doing a Superchat reading portion too, so if you've got some to send her way, you know the drill!

Rough draft of Xuan and Wu.

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