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Korii Kiyohito
Ichikawa Kiyohito was the first of two sons. Their father worked on a fishing boat that hauled in a daily catch from the sea. Their catch competed for attention in a huge market that catered to high-end chefs from Tokyo. Kiyohito cleaned fish from an early age in order to provide fleshy samples to the would-be buyers. His mother was a cook and ran a modest food cart outside the fish market that primarily catered to the workers more than anyone else. Eventually, Kiyohito would learn his father’s trade, and by the time he was ten, his fileting skills were remarked upon by everyone in the market. He dreamed of becoming a chef.

A commotion pulled Kiyohito’s attention away from the tuna occupying his focus these last few minutes. The fish market was at the height of its selling hour, and Kiyo had been busy carving slender samples of the fleshy fish to sample. His knife skills were not to be overlooked. For a boy of ten, he could dismember a fish almost to the standard of any chef. A crowd of black suits made its way closer, eventually settling in front of Kiyo’s little stand. His father’s best fish was packed on ice on display. He’d been dreaming about schools of fish emerging from the silt of the ocean floor. When he saw the men in suits, a strange sense of familiarity overtook him.

He bowed his head for the men and offered a perfectly carved piece upward. 
“Sample?” A moment later, the napkin was lifted from his hand and sounds of chewing followed. A man with a face of stone swallowed the meat raw.

“Did you do this?” a voice asked. Kiyo nodded. There were a few thoughtful murmurs and words spoken among themselves, and the men in suits purchased all their lot. 

Next day

The sky was still black when Kiyohito snugged his cheeks against the folds of his scarf. Plagued by nightmares lately, he’d slept poorly and stifled a yawn. The ocean breeze smelled of brine and vinegar this morning. The oddity of the combination reminded him of his mother’s sour soup, which in the chill air he was suddenly craving, but despite the twinge of familiarity, it still smelled off.

At his side, his eight-year-old little brother yawned and sank to sit on the dock planks.
“Get up,” Kiyohito told him. “You’ll soak your pants, be miserable all morning and have to sit in school with a soggy bottom,” he added. But despite the warnings, Ayo stubbornly rested his face on his knees like he was about to go back to sleep. Kiyohito let him sit there without further protest, remembering the difficulty of transitioning to these before-school hours. He quietly wished for some more sleep himself, but getting used to the routine now would only help Ayo get used to it sooner. Kiyo let his brother rest anyway. Their father’s boat should be only minutes out.

Every morning before school, Kiyohito met his father at the dock as the boat arrived. By 5 AM the market would be bustling with would-be buyers brokering fish for fancy chef clients in Tokyo. Kiyo had never seen the city for himself and was content to stay away from it. If he was going to apprentice to a sushi chef, it would be in their city. Tokyo was too much. About then, a thunder rumbled in the distance, and Kiyohito’s frown surveyed the dark, empty horizon. No lightning illuminated the sky, but thunder was unmistakable. At his feet, Ayo whined about pending rain, but Kiyohito was too distracted to correct his brother’s shameful attitude.

That was when he realized another sound changed, or rather, disappeared. The ocean’s rhythmic lapping against the dock had softened to nearly nothing. Kiyo walked to the edge and lowered his flashlight over the side to survey the water, but there was none. He frowned with growing worry. Then the thunder rumbled again and he hurried to the end of the dock, chasing after any hint of the ocean, but in his heart he knew he became increasingly afraid he would find none.

Instead, the sea floor was a soggy bed of sand and lost crabs. A word rumbled in his mind and seconds later, sirens sounded. He dropped the flashlight and sprinted toward his brother.

Two weeks later, Kiyohito picked through the mud and muck left behind by the tsunami to find his life in ruins, and he was not the only one. While the horrific disaster decimated the coastlines and left their part of Japan in darkness and despair, he came to realize the scale of destruction was bigger than his young mind could comprehend. Earthquakes followed for days. Fires, flooding and nuclear meltdowns threatened the whole land. He grieved alone at night for the family he lost, but it was hunger that drove him to a makeshift shelter for the children of the lost. Relief workers wrapped him in blankets and fed him soup not unlike that his mother once made.

Voices streamed day in and day out, but young Kiyohito closed within himself a filter that excluded the pain from reaching too deep within. It was only when there was a break in the noise – a touch of strength amid the pattering endlessness of despair – that he glanced up. He recognized the man immediately. He looked down as he had when he offered the sample of tuna belly at the market, but the face followed him. It was filled with sadness, he slowly came to realize, but not pity. Kiyohito and another boy were adopted that day, one who would come to be like the little brother he lost to the sea.

Twenty years later

The Tokyo restaurant was full. A crowd lingered in the hall as Kiyohito and his adopted younger brother emerged from the elevator. It took a moment before the first person saw the two men. Dressed in matching black suits, both had their hair styled conservatively, although Kiyo’s was longer around the ears than the man at his side, and both were in their mid to late twenties. Awareness slowly spread and the chatting softened ever so subtly, and a path opened to allow them passage. Kiyo nodded his head respectfully for those nearest him, but Haruto flashed a smile that was met by more than one attractive woman. Kiyo had warned his shatei about his behavior before, and he only half-heartedly prodded the other man onward.

“Do not get distracted, Haruto,” he said with a head shake, knowing the warning would fall on deaf ears. “Please be on your best behavior,” he yearned.

The hostess promptly showed the two men to a private room having expected their arrival. It was surrounded by beautifully decorated screens. Water flowed from fountains and lights glowed along the walls. The place was very upscale, and with a small pang of nostalgia, Kiyo couldn’t help but wonder about the caliber of the executive chef. They were not the first of their party to arrive, but they were probably the least important of those in attendance. The table was surrounded with four kyodai – big brothers that oversaw the tasks and jobs demanded by the family. It to the high-ranking lieutenant that sat at the head of the table that Kiyohito and Haruto paid their respects before taking their places around the floor’s perimeter. The men returned to their conversation. Sake was served to them, and Kiyo only sipped out of respect for the bosses. Haruto was more liberal.

An hour passed before a job was assigned the two kobun. It was not unlike any others they had been given before.

“Let’s hurry this up so we can go out tonight,” Haruto groaned as soon as they were alone in the elevator.
Kiyohito folded his arms. “I don’t like it,” he said.

“You are in a sour mood today, Kiyo,” Haruto replied with a humph.

“Maybe I slept terribly last night or maybe a good-for-nothing swindler has shamed this very family. How many—”

“How many times do we have to do this? Come on, Kiyo. Let’s snatch the boy so the gashira can make him piss his pants and send him back to Osaka when they’re satisfied we won’t be bothered again. That’s why we have this,” Haruto pat his jacket pocket and continued, “And you complaining about sleep is nothing new,” Haruto laughed.

Kiyo grabbed his hand. “And you complaining about my mood is nothing new either. Besides, don’t even breathe a word about that,” he said. Haruto seemed to finally accept his big brother’s sentiment and nodded. He wasn’t kidding when he said he’d slept badly. In fact, the string of restless nights had been building for months now, and Kiyo knew it was beginning to affect his patience. Usually, he was much more entertained by Haruto’s humors.

But Haruto couldn’t stop without having the final word, “Even in Custody regulated Japan we do not worry about guns. Why be so concerned with this this little thing?” he said with a peek under his suit jacket. They were both carrying firearms, although Kiyohito was better with a knife, but the aerosolized pistol was something entirely different. For decades, strict gun laws kept firearms on short supply. After the Custody integration, the laws were largely unchanged even with the rise of the new Yakuza families supported by Custody Privileges and Patrons. Together, the Yakuza (and Custody) returned much needed stability to the Dominance. It was desperately needed after the disasters of their childhood. Yet the weapon Haruto mentioned was something between a tranquilizer and a gun. Just holding the thing gave Kiyo the shivers, which was why he was content to let Haruto take it.

Despite his distaste for the weapon, his little brother’s antics made him laugh, but the lightheartedness was short-lived. All traces of Kiyohito’s amusement were smoothed away when they exited the elevator. 

Twelve hours later

The flickering lights of first responders flashed red and blue across a decimated scene in a very public street. The building before them was a hollow shell now. Smoke still curled toward the night sky in a Tokyo neighborhood otherwise controlled by the family. A haze of halogen lights from signs and advertisements flooded the smoke-strewn sky. When a paramedic thrust an oxygen mask upon Kiyohito, he did not resist. His eyes still burned. It was the kind of aftermath shock that he hadn’t felt since he was ten years old, and the same lack of comprehension had shattered his reality. They had indeed found the swindler they sought, but it all happened so fast, Kiyo didn’t even know how to react. All he knew was how Haruto reacted when the confrontation clashed.

The paramedic released a pressure cuff from Kiyo’s arm, noting the lines of tattoos normally covered by his sleeves.
“Are you Yakuza?” he asked, voice a mix of reverence and fear for even bringing it up. There were more tattoos, a tradition that returned after the Custody’s laws released the Yakuza from the intense regulation earlier in the century.

Kiyo didn’t even look at him but the lack of answer was answer enough. There was no shame in his family allegiance, working legally in Custody eyes, but even in the modern world, Yakuza were still a shadow society with a sordid past. Until tonight, he’d never considered otherwise. Now, he wasn’t so sure.

The paramedic gave way to a police officer and Kiyo was promptly seen away in handcuffs.

By morning, Kiyo was bailed out of jail. Not even a kobun like himself would be allowed to sit behind bars when justice should be served by the family directly. He assumed the worst, and was willing to submit to it, as he was led inside headquarters. The Tokyo high rise was a splendid shard among their glowing city, and the powerful Yakuza family’s offices occupied the best floor. He was still smeared with smoke and his suit marred by ash when he laid eyes on their family’s highest leaders, and it took very little effort to make Kiyo submit to his knees and wait for judgment.

Instead, the oyabun himself came before him. The same gaze of steady strength, pitiless, but sad, looked down upon the boy he rescued all those years ago.

“My lieutenants think you should submit to seppuku, Kiyohito-chan. A building is bombed. There was an attack on a public street. Murdered citizens are strewn about. And your little brother is missing. Nothing like this has happened in Tokyo in a long time. Tell me what happened. What happened to Haruto.”

Kiyohito’s head remained bowed, though swimming with shock, he did not deny the claims. “It is as you say, oyabun. I take full responsibility.” Whispers erupted but they may as well have been the screams echoing inside his head that he could still hear. It all felt so familiar, yet he’d never contemplated something like this could happen. Haruto had seemed almost as surprised as himself.

A long silence followed, and finally Kiyo braved a glance upward. The oyabun’s face was etched in stone, and Kiyo began to worry that his adopted father suspected more than the admission that Kiyo had offered. It was like their patriarch could see through the false shroud of guilt that Kiyo attempted to claim for himself. Haruto had escaped, that was all that mattered, and his little brother’s secret was preserved, but neither did Kiyo want to kill himself over the matter. There was no body to claim as Haruto’s death, but they couldn’t expect much to survive the wreckage. Could they? Did they really expect him to atone with his life? 

“I give you a choice, Kiyohito. You return Haruto to me and I will accept his life as payment for this shame against us. If you do not, I will accept yours in his place.”

The declaration silenced any potential defiance among the lieutenants. Kiyo had been a favorite of the oyabun for a long time, but not even an adopted son could be forgiven so much.


Korii Kiyohito has had prophetic dreams since he was a child. He is almost 30, and while he is a favorite of their Yakuza family boss, he is still a child in the organization. He keeps the street businesses clean of thugs and criminals otherwise bothering their loyal community members. If a bar has a problem with regulars growing too disruptive, Kiyohito set things straight. He drops in on their business partners on a regular basis to ensure standards are being met. He is occasionally sent to deliver messages too sensitive for digital avenues.

His adopted brother is Korii Haruto. Three years his younger, Haruto was found the same day as Kiyohito from that relief-worker station following the tsunamis of the 2020’s. The man who adopted them was a Yakuza boss overseeing the organization’s relief efforts in the area. That man since rose through the ranks and some years ago took over as oyabun or patriarch of the Korii-kai family.

Past Life

Kiyohito was previously a dreamwalker and somewhat infamously stoic Shienaran warder named Vladamir. His personality is relatively the same across rebirths: serious, dedicated and honorable. He’s generally a good fighter when trained to be, but he craves peace. He is generally bound to a higher-cause and almost always duty-filled toward self-sacrifice.

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Korii Kiyohito - by Kiyohito - 09-12-2022, 01:56 AM

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