Another day had passed by, yet the lights in the city of Tokyo never rest. Kenta woke up at exactly eight o’clock in the evening to prepare once again for work. As always, he would stare at the ceiling for a few minutes then move his gaze to the meteorite bracelet he was wearing on his left wrist. After a few blinks, he would close his eyes and doze off again. Just a few minutes more, he would usually say.
His roommates had already woken up earlier than him. They had to prepare for the usual night events at the brothel. They had to make themselves look as flashy and dashing as possible—not to the extent that they would look like some expensive hosts—but enough for them to please their customers. It was really a must for them to look young and handsome so that they could stay in this industry for a long time, or else, the boss could just easily dispose and replace them with younger and ‘fresher’ ones.
Kenta was deeply favored by the boss, whom regarded him, in some way, as his own son. He was really hardworking and had proven his loyalty to the group countless times. Because of this, even though Kenta was not working as a prostitute in their brothel, he enjoyed the same benefits as his roommates. He could also get free room and board just like them.
Though it was a bit cramped for six grown men to stay in the same bedroom, it was more than enough for them since they did not have many items within their tiny room.
At the White Lotus, he served as an all-around waiter and dishwasher. A few years back, he was offered by the boss to work as a prostitute, since he looked really good himself. He had gray bushy hair that made him stand out, a tall stature of 185 centimeters, radiant and deep hazel eyes, and a solemn expression on his face that could make the onlooker want to know more about what he had in mind. He had this deep and aloof personality, yet people were always drawn to him. In some way, this aloofness and mysterious disposition he had made people want to get to know him more. It was, in a way, a charm that was inherent to him. Due to his firm conviction about his values in life, he politely declined the offer from their boss to become a prostitute, even though the pay was way better for those in this line of business.
In the morning, he worked as a helper in a bookstore. Sometimes, he would even deliver ramen for customers in the neighboring noodle shop. He would do everything that he could do as long as he was capable of accomplishing it. He lived a very frugal life for his age of twenty-two. The old flip phone that he was using was even gifted by his friends in the brothel during his first birthday in the brothel. The clothes that he owned could not even go beyond the number of fingers he had on his hands. He was a very simple, determined and obedient guy.
Sometimes, people would even take him as someone who was lazy since he would usually take some time before he would get out of bed. This was not because he was lazy. It was all because he had a lot of things running around in his mind and he was always worn out from all of the part-time jobs that he took. He would always consider himself lucky if he could get at least four to five hours of sleep a day.
“Hey, Amamiya, you piece of shit! Wake up already. The boss will give us a beating again if we’re late,” Shō called then threw a towel on Kenta’s face. “Even now, you sure you don’t want to be like one of us? The pay is better. You can buy your old farm house back faster if you do it that way. You don’t even have to do morning jobs, I’m telling you.”
Kenta groaned then sluggishly got up. “No, thank you…and stop calling me by my family’s name.”
Shō sighed then sat beside Kenta’s bed. “I’m just worried about you, Kenta. I’m your best friend.”
Kenta scratched his back and yawned, then he replied, “Worried? Pssh, if you’re worried, you wouldn’t want me to get exposed to some nasty disease because of your job…and besides, I want to earn clean money to buy our farm house back.”
Shō rolled his eyes then said, “So are you saying I’m dirty? Kenta, there’s no such thing as clean money. Always remember that. Now enough yapping and get your ass out of that bed, asshole.”
At the brothel, Mr. Yamamoto, the boss, asked each and every employee to line up for the daily inspection. He was a very hands-on leader and always wanted everything to be thorough, well-planned and organized. He could be very strict, impatient and harsh, that is, if you would not obey him and work efficiently; but if you would follow his directions and show how hard-working you could be, he would give you all of the benefits and affection that you deserved—this had always been the case for Kenta.
“Listen up. Let’s make sure to get more guests tonight, even if we’d have to steal them from other brothels. This is business we’re talking about. You know me, money is everything. I don’t want to see anyone slacking nor do I want to hear any negative feedback from your customers that you’re not performing well, you understand? If you can’t follow what I said, be sure to prepare for the consequences.” After giving out directions that sounded like a warning, Mr. Yamamoto sourly looked at Kazehaya, who was one of their janitors. He used to be one of the top prostitutes in their brothel, but after he attempted to run away from the group, his face was ruined by Mr. Yamamoto’s henchmen and his benefits were stripped away from him. Though those ghastly cigarette burn marks on his face were still visible, there was still a vague trace of beauty in his face. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That was one of the policies that everyone had to remember by heart in their group.
Hearing him say this and seeing his disgusted look, everyone broke into cold sweats and chose to stay still where they were standing.
After everyone had made the necessary preparations, the brothel was ready to open once again. Weekends were always the highlight of the week for this district since there were a lot of customers—most especially married salarymen—who would come and enjoy the night life here in Shinjuku Ni-Chome. Their brothel mostly targeted foreigners, unlike other brothels who only welcomed Japanese nationals. As long as they would earn a big amount of money, it was more than good enough for the boss.
“Honored guest, here’s the list options you have.” Kenta handed over the ‘menu’ to their very first guest of the night.
The guest, who appeared to be a middle-aged salaryman, checked out the list of urisens in the so-called menu. After giving much thought about it, he clicked his tongue then looked at Kenta, “How about you, young man. How much are you?” He then rudely touched Kenta’s bottom and pulled Kenta close to himself.
Kenta felt very awkward but still maintained a wooden look on his face. He was really calm. “I’m sorry. I’m only a waiter here. Please check the menu some more. There’s no need to hurry.”
The guest sneered then forced Kenta to sit on his lap. “You’re the one I want. Do you have a problem with that? Or do you want me to talk to your manager?”
Seeing the commotion, Mr. Yamamoto approached them and said, “Excuse me, honored guest. Is there a problem here?”
The guest distastefully looked at Mr. Yamamoto, then to everyone’s surprise, he spat on his face. Mr. Yamamoto remained expressionless for a few seconds. He took the handkerchief that one of his men handed over to him and wiped his face. After that, he smiled at the guest and added: “This one is ill, so he’s not fit to work. You wouldn’t want to get sick because of him, would you?”
The guest pushed Kenta away then stood up: “He’s what I want. Can’t you understand me? Are your ears full of shit or are you just plainly stupid?!”
Shō, who was watching silently from the side, could not take it anymore. He pressed forward and punched the guest in his face. The guest immediately fell over. He held on his face because of the pain, “Why you…”
Before the guest could even continue what he wanted to say, Shō had already cut him off, “Fuck off! We don’t need customers like you!” After he finished saying that, he kicked the guest. When he was about to kick him for the second time, the bouncers already intervened. The guest was thrown out of the brothel and Shō was subdued by Mr. Yamamoto’s men.
Mr. Yamamoto stood in front of Shō who was kneeling on the ground, then asked, “Who gave you the permission to go against my rules?”
Shō was huffing and puffing out of anger and fear. He tried to compose himself as he responded: “…but, but Boss. He disrespected you and Kenta. I can’t just stand there doing nothing!”
Mr. Yamamoto smiled but his smile soon turned into a deep frown, “Who told you to be worried about me or anyone here? Only I can decide if the guest is right or wrong.” After saying that, he extended his right hand to the side. One of his men took out a whip and placed it on Mr. Yamamoto’s hand. “Everyone, you know what happens if you disobey me. Now watch carefully as this lowlife gets punished.”
He walked behind Shō and unrolled the whip, then he snapped it at Shō’s back. The cracking sound made by the whip as it touched Shō’s back only stopped after everyone heard it five times. The bouncers pushed Shō to the ground, leaving him there as he curled in pain. Kenta immediately approached him. Though his knees were trembling, he still bent over and consoled Shō: “Are you okay?”
Shō looked at Kenta then smiled at him. His voice was shaky but he still replied, “I’m okay. Don’t worry about me. As long as you’re alright.”
“Wait, let me go buy something to treat your wounds,” Kenta worriedly said.
Shō gasped then raised his hand, “No, don’t. The boss will get mad at you.”
“I don’t care.” After saying that, Kenta hurriedly went out of the brothel. It was a good thing that Mr. Yamamoto left in a hurry for a business meeting with the other yakuza members, or else Kenta would have been punished as well since he left the brothel during work hours. Kenta rushed to the nearby convenience store to buy a medicine kit.
As he left the convenience store, he took a deep breath and looked at the hazy starless night sky. “Everything’s so different here. I wanna go home soon,” he said to himself.
He took a step forward to the brothel. He walked past the busy streets of Shinjuku. The night lights lived up to the dreams of those who sought for the extravagance of the night life. The streets were packed with crowds of locals and even foreigners. As he hurried back, he suddenly bumped into someone who appeared to be in a rush as well. He vaguely caught sight of this person’s face as they both fell over. Everything happened in the twinkling of an eye, but it felt like time stopped and everything around them slowed down just like in the movies. When they finally fell to the ground, the moment that Kenta fell first, he woke up from his daze when he felt the pain on his back as he hit the concrete pavement. The person who bumped into him appeared to be a man. He had a charming face, though he looked a bit older than Kenta. If the people around them did not witness what just happened, they would have thought that the man pounced onto Kenta because of their position.
“I’m sorry. Are you alright?” The man asked.
It took a moment for Kenta to respond, but those words that he uttered finally transmitted into his brain, “I, I’m fine.” What could this be? The man’s voice was like electric waves that excited Kenta’s body. He had not felt this way since the first time he met his childhood friend Yuu.