Duke - The Changing Of The Guard

Description: The Yamaguchi-gumi has found itself torn to ribbons; its future is bleak. With the gang losing members faster and faster, an unlikely benefactor comes in the form of Duke of the Southtown Syndicate. The crime boss seems content to absorb the gang within the syndicate without a hitch, save for a single, troublesome figure within the organization....

It's a fortress.
That's all one can really think of the Yamaguchi-gumi leader's mansion when approaching from the street. Granite lines the driveway up to the reinforced steel gate of the complex, itself raised up by stonework and circumscribed by a granite and stone boundary walls. Security cameras and ample lighting further deter unauthorized access to the compound.

None of these are issues to an invited guest, however. Shortly after pulling up to the gate, security personnel will usher the private conveyance of their esteemed guest into the inner courtyard, and - if permitted - a valet will be happy to park the vehicle in a secure location. The grounds themselves make the exterior pale in comparison; five side buildings are available for the use of guests and other important personages, while a sweeping three-story building serves as the mansion proper. As with the front facades, landscapers have more than earned their luxurious pay rate, with a small bamboo grove off to the left, and a restful Zen garden complete with pond to the right.

The mansion itself is majestic in its grandeur. The estate is just as extravagant on the inside as without, with a running waterfall in the initial entrance foyer, with the water running along in rock-lined channels along each side of the the spacious greeting area. A 5'2" woman dressed in a black pantsuit and a contrasting white coat, appearing to be in her mid-twenties, stands behind a glass counter. Those who work here would attest that the Yamaguchi-gumi's top administrative assistant, Rena Toyoda, is never allowed to sit, and rarely does she show any expression aside from fawning adoration. Blue contact lenses and mocha-rimmed glasses set off her cheerful eyes from the rest of her soft and unblemished face.
"Welcome to the home of Yasuo Ishida. We have been expecting you, sir, if you'll come follow me?"

The security staff would be shadowing their guest all along the way -- not too closely, but present only to ensure that their guest is treated fairly by the rest of the estate staff. The hallways are, somehow, just as grandiose as the rest of the estate -- though it may seem a bit odd that the building also has a -lower- floor, and possibly several; while the elevator shows no buttons for the lower levels, Toyoda and the security staff are able to provide access to the third sub-level via inserting keys in two separate cylinders.

It's here that the lighting is markedly different -- dark, crimson underlighting rims each of the extravagant bookshelves, while faux candlelight provides the bulk of the illumination in the room.
Mr. Ishida is seated in the far end of the cavernous room, behind a massive mahogany desk. "Ah. It is a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance. Please, come in, and take a seat if you like." The man is taller than average, but by no means as physically impressive as his guest. His face is evidence of sixty years' time passing, and it's clear the man does not begrudge fools. But for now -- he is polite.
Toyoda and the security guards stand watch near the entrance to the elevator. Toyoda's smile is... disarmingly bright.

No Fortress could stand against his might.

The black Jaguar pulls up into the courtyard, chauffered by a civilian member of the organization. As it comes to the grounds before the mansion, the chauffer emerges from the driver's side. Stepping out from the car, he passes the keys to the property's valet; the car was expendable, and so was himself. But as he does so, he comes to the passenger door. With that, he opens the door, stepping aside as he holds it open.

And Duke emerges.

The crime boss was dressed in his suit of red and black, a crimson three piece suit of stark fashion. Designed by the world famous fashion designer Tatsuhiko Kanaoka, the outfit was the peak of fashion throughout all the criminal underworld. An ermine-trimmed cloak, thrown over his shoulders, hangs over the crime boss as he rises, looming high over the staff. In his hand, he clutches a black mahogany cane, with a tungsten handle at the head of it. He doesn't say anything to the staff. He doesn't need to. They speak to him. The towering figure moves through the interior, the staff leading the way. He only was half interested in the features of the people; they were little people. For Duke to arrive, meant this was the audience for kings. By the time he reaches the atrium of Mr. Ishida, he almost bursts into the room through the sheer presence of the crime boss, emerging from the elevator.

And he is greeted.

Duke removes his gloves, one by one, as he steps through the room. Pulling them both off, he flexes those strong hands. He pulls off his own cloak, and folds the gloves into his cloak, he reaches the chair. Looking at Mr. Ishida, his expression was a glower. As he takes his seat across from Yasou Ishida. Placing the gloves, cloak, and canea cross his lap, the crime boss stares across with his burning yellow eyes. The expression was grim, in the face of the crime boss. But he did not hold a presence of fury amongst him. Only the pure seriousness of what it meant to take up his time. He didn't need any more words now, except only the barest minimum of manners.

"Thank you."

Ishida bows his head as Duke takes his seat. It has been quite some time since he has met someone he could consider an equal who was not also royalty. "Thank you for coming out all this way. As you may know, the Japanese are a proud and noble people, and we do not ask for assistance lightly."

Miss Toyoda quietly bows to the Yakuza boss and steps back into the elevator. The doors close silently behind her.

"The time is grave. I humbly apologize for the setbacks you and your organization have suffered due to my subordinates' rash actions, and I will take responsibility for the necessary compensations. These can be discussed at a later time, however."

A low rumbling sound can be heard upon Duke's left: A bookcase rolling out of the way, to reveal a hidden chamber. Within: Four executives, bowing their heads in Duke's general direction.

"I shall get to the point. I am sure you have noticed the increased security arrangements -- these are necessary precautions, as many within my organization feel it is time to... pass the baton, so to speak. My second has been slain, as have my fifth, and seventh." He speaks not of children, of course, but of executives subordinate to him. "Complicating the matter, there were once 72 factions within the Yamaguchi-gumi. Well over half of those have severed ties."

Ishida laces his fingers together, his face a mask of discontent. He does not smolder, like Duke; rather, he is resigned to his fate.

"Men like those standing here represent an army the envy of many world powers -- their honor and nobility, unlike those of my former associates, is unquestioned. But we stand here not as threats, but rather, as potential allies. Infiltrators in our organization are numerous -- and we feel that you have been similarly aggrieved and seek an end to this senseless chaos. Have I presumed correctly thus far?"

Duke remains quiet.

After the initial Thank You, there was nothing more Duke needed to say. He only steeples his hands, interlocking his fingers together as he turns his piercing gaze to the secret passage. Mr. Ishida may feel like he is with an equal. But Duke did not have such a high opinion of Mr. Ishida. When the Yamaguchi-gumi was at its height, it would be different. But Yamaguchi-gumi was not at its height now. It was dying.

And with it, Mr. Ishida's standing.

Mr. Ishida gets to the point. Nothing new was given to Duke, however, as the grim-faced Crime boss keeps his mouth shut, his eyes deadlocked on to the Yakuza boss. His expression did not change. He was a glowering statue, a gargoyle glaring down upon a dying man. And finally, the wasting Mr. Ishida asks Duke a question. There is a moment of silence. And finally, the titanic make lets out a deep, tearing growl.

"Mr. Ishida, let me make it clear about how the Syndicate feels about what has happened."

The smoldering heats up, as the crime boss tenses up more and more. And yet, his words are precise. "After careful intelligence gathering, we have decided that the Yamaguchi-gumi is not provoking us into an open war. We have decided that the Yamaguchi-gumi is not going out of its way to attack and humilate the Syndicate. We have decided that this is the result of individual, rogue agents conducting operations due to the actions of an unknown, outside third party. We have already surrendered our losses to Interpol over the results of your rogue members." There is a spasm across Duke's arms, power surging over his body. "The Syndicate will not collect any tribute from your organization over your individual members misgivings. But let me make something clear, Mr. Ishida."

"You have lost control of your organization."

Duke casts a glance around the room, looking at the few loyalist still around. "It is the nature of the beast, Mr. Ishida, the nature of the role of leadership, that you must be strong. Always strong. And if there is any moment of weakness, it is the nature of every single underling beneath you to fill that power vacuum. Loyality is loyality, but business is business." He looks back to the Yakuza leader, shaking his head. "You must be strong in this position. But you are not strong now. It is the decision of the Syndicate that we do not simply seek an end to this chaos, Mr. Ishida."

"I have come to -end- it."

Differences between Western and Asian culture can occasionally lead to gross misunderstandings. The Japanese culture, and indeed the language itself, is predicated on mutual respect and politeness, which necessitates indirectness in almost every aspect. When meeting someone new, indirectness is to be embraced as a means of opening dialogue.
In the Western world, indirectness is viewed as weak.
In the Japanese business world, shows of emotion are discouraged, even detrimental.
Ishida understands the differences well. He knows the power of emotions, and he realizes that his politeness has potentially ceded too much ground in this negotiation. Against a Western rival, polite deference is crucially weak.
He will not make the mistake again.

To say he has lost control over the organization -- that is a critical loss of face for the clan leader. His face turns red with rage, and yet he's able to keep from exhibiting other signs of his repressed anger.
Perhaps Duke is not wrong. He gives the man the benefit of the doubt.
And is rewarded for his patience, as Duke explains exactly what he means by his position.

Ishida does not glance at his subordinates. They are here to listen -- as frustrated as it may make them. He wants them to bear witness. And he knows, and trusts, his men.

"It is, as you say, business." He does not contest the charge that he has lost strength, lost face. But neither does he -address- the charge.

"Ending the chaos will benefit us both. Even in our current state, we can open doors that the Syndicate cannot -- provide information about power structures that the Syndicate would take years to collect. The question, then, is how does the Syndicate plan to combine its resources with ours to end the chaos?"
His stern look is upheld -- a bitter refusal to admit that the Yamaguchi's methods clearly have not been effective.

Duke understood the difference between east and west.

A Russian himself, he was on the border between both worlds. Duke well understood just how much face, how direct, how bluntly rude he was. He could see how red the face of the other man was. And yet, his cold eyes were locked on, no reaction from the towering crime boss. Mr. Ishida may be showing weakness by western standards. But whether east or west, there was a simple fact of the matter.

He was weak.

"The Syndicate's plan is absorbing the remains of the Yamaguchi as the newest member of the Syndicate." The rumble comes precisely, with the same candence as it was before. Duke's grip tightens between the two hands, as he answers directly. "Let me make this clear; The Syndicate still holds a great deal of respect for the Yamaguchi, and the vast expanses of resources you still hold." Duke looks towards the subordinates, leaning back in the chair. "The existing structure will not be changed. Lieutenants will remain lieutenants. The Syndicate is not interested in dismantling and reorganizing the Yamaguchi structure. There would be only one individual that will need to step down in this arrangement." Duke falls silent, tilting his gaze back to Mr. Ishida, those yellow eyes burning into the other man.

He makes it quite clear who that individual would be.

Make no mistake -- Duke has something of a reputation when it comes to his temper. He's shown his full fury on camera, with full telemetry on his vital signs. He's shown exactly what lengths he'll go to secure victory. And Ishida knows full well how -explosive- those tendencies can be -- and respects the Russian for keeping his temper in such a situation. Two giants with vast criminal empires beneath them.

And what's more, Duke -respects- the existing power structure. Respect is clear. Respect is obvious.
Right until that point at which it is obviously -lacking-.

Does Duke not know who he's =dealing= with? The single most powerful man in all of Japan, short of only the Prime Minister and the Emperor themselves? Yasuo Ishida, godfather of the Yamaguchi-gumi for the past twenty years, slams his fist on the desk. Veins bulge out in his forehead and his rage -explodes- as he leaps to his feet.
Even in the midst of his seething, he never once glances to his subordinates. Duke said it himself -- a leader must be a strong. A leader must show power. A leader must be fully willing to exercise every iota of his authority. And this foreign animal has -no- understanding of what it means to cooperate with an equal!

"Then the Syndicate has no business with us!" he howls with the fury even a lousy cur from the West wouldn't misunderstand. As his subordinates draw their sidearms, holding them at hip-level so as not to be -openly- confrontational, the Yamaguchi-gumi godfather stands back from his desk, two white-knuckled fists falling to his sides in a barely-restrained show of respect -- contrasting sharply with his hot-headed words. "Now get out of my office!"

The lieutenants are not aiming their sidearms. The guards at the door step away from the door, openly non-confrontational so as not to impede the powerful Syndicate crimelord's safe egress.

Duke does not react as the man explodes.

He expected that the godfather would lose his composure. He could sense that the man was afraid, terrified. He could see the fear in the long journey upwards. A truly confident man was immune to any insult. Any leader knows that you need to show power. A weak leader believes they must. A strong leader does. Duke stares down the godfather, ignoring the guns trained in his direction. There is a pregnant silence, as the crime boss sits there.

And then, Duke begins to laugh.

It begins as a chuckle, a rumbling chuckle, before it turns into an open guffaw. The deep baritone causes the foundations to shutter. The laughter makes it clear that Duke was not going to be leaving this place, until he made the choice that it was time to leave. He was not afraid of these men. There was nothing to fear from a gang of frightened rats."Tell me, Mr. Ishida." The enforcer of the Southtown Syndicate growls.

"Is this how the most powerful man of the criminal underworld acts?"

"I remember when you could walk out in front of the Ministry of Justice, to collect your round of protections from the courts themselves. I know what strength means to the Yamaguchi. And now, what is the The Ginza Dragon doing? Hiding in your palace, Mr. Ishida, as your kingdom crumbles." And now, Duke rises. A slow, delibrate motion, not a sudden, threatening one. He even places his cloak, gloves, and cane back in his chair. Coming to his full height, the crime boss crosses his arms. "I have not come to praise a fallen king, to be a sycophant in the face of the Yamaguchi's utter annhilation.

"You know what the fate of your empire is, Mr. Ishida."

Duke looks towards the side of the room, gesturing a finger towards it. "Right outside now, the combined efforts of Interpol and Delta Red are circling on your organization. As I understand it, they already have some of your members in custody. All your former allies in the government are being publically shames, publically humilated by your mismanagement of your organization. You have lost half, =half= of your membership. Not because of infiltrators. But because you have failed to stop your empire from falling apart. Your empire is not failing, Mr. Ishida."

"It has failed."

Duke glowers down at the gangster, his eyes burning now, actually burning alight. "I came here, Mr. Ishida, to end this chaos. And as long as you are the failed head of the Yamaguchi, cowering within your fortress as your empire crumbles, the chaos will continue. The Syndicate offers a dignified exit from your command, within the protection of the Syndicate. You will be taken care of, you will keep your face, and most importantly, you will be safe."

"And of course, what are your alternatives?"

Duke shakes his head. "Yamaguchi will fall. You are not going to reverse your losses. You will lose more, and more, and more, and more, until you only have the scant few loyalists. And then your rivals will kill you. Or, maybe, you will be dragged into a prison by the government allies you've humilated by your incompetance, as you will be their scapegoat, their only way to save face. Your last legacy will be a failure as a leader, and a failure of a gangster. And you will rot alone in a cell, until one of your rivals has you murdered you unceremoniously in a prison shower, if you haven't been murdered beforehand. You will not save your empire, Mr. Ishida. Only the Syndicate can save your legacy. The Syndicate can be your dignified exit." And Duke reaches into his jacket, daring the lieutenants to open fire. And from within, he draws out a tempered blade, forged for an Ainu chieftain named Shakushain, who long ago was killed by the Matsumae clan. He places it upon the desk.

"And you well know there is only one other dignified exit you have in all this, Mr. Ishida."

Ishida stares back at Duke, his eyes molten lava. Silence? Fear? What is it that he sees back in the crime boss's eyes for that one deliriously long moment?! It is as difficult as ever to read the Syndicate leader's emotional state.
And yet, right before Duke makes a sound, Ishida knows.
He's being played the fool.
As Duke laughs, he literally -quakes- from rage, his lower lip shuddering. It's not just the underground room itself shaking, or the heavy concrete pillars which support the building above -- it's the Yamaguchi-gumi leader himself. The so-called 'Ginza Dragon'. He glares over at his lieutenants -- why are they not opening fire? Why are they not -slaying- this outsider for his impetuous insult?! Why instead, are they keeping their guns at hip-level, staring with incredulity?!
Has he not... taught them -better- than this?!

Just when his lips part with the order to open fire, Duke pre-empts him with his own statement, forcing him to take a step backwards. The -sacrilege!- The -treason- of this outsider, to say such words!

And yet, in the pit of his stomach, the outsider is only saying the things he's been telling himself all along. Repeating the phrases that have been haunting his evenings, scratching at his weary eyelids, and utterly robbing him of the decisive power that he needed to exercise weeks ago.

The empire has failed.
No, that's wrong. Yasuo Ishida has failed his empire.

He stares back at Duke, incredulous. The rage bleeds off, the crimson fades from his skin. -All- color gradually fades from his skin, in fact, with each passing sentence.

'Sentence' is a curious word.
He looks down at the sword. He does not recognize the crest. He does not recognize the pure geometric shapes woven into the hilt, so foreign and yet so familiar at the same time. The blade is Japanese. The designs inlain upon the weapon's haft are not.

He looks back up at the Syndicate leader, his skin so pale, showing every bit of his age. His face contorts into rage.

He turns to look at his lieutenants again. All but one has now raised their gun. Out of fear of the unknown, out of selfish desire to advance at the cost of a man who failed them, they aim their weapons not towards Duke, but towards Yasuo Ishida. It is just business -- the outsider speaks the truth.
Ishida believes in his men, even as they betray him at the last -- but it is just another proof of the correctness of Duke's words. He has failed his empire.
Resignation flickers across Ishida's face as he turns instead to the remaining man -- his current second-in-command -- proven to be the most loyal and trustworthy of his legendary organization: Hideyoshi Hashimoto.

The lieutenant returns the nod with minimal delay. His expression is solemn. The Ginza Dragon addressed him with a trusting look -- an unstated question, laced with an urgent demand. The conviction in his lieutenant's eyes answers it, in spades. Hashimoto walks forward to accept the sword from the desk -- and in doing so, accepts the most solemn of all ceremonial duties he could ever be asked to perform.

Yasuo Ishida turns to Duke. The hotheadness of a weak-willed man has fled the room -- it has no place here. He stands as tall as he may, a noble gentleman, his dignity restored. The Yamaguchi-gumi will -not- bow to the Syndicate. The Yamaguchi-gumi will -not- die in an ill-advised fist-fight against a nuclear bomb in human guise. The Yamaguchi-gumi will -not- leave without honor and dignity.
The empire will no longer bring shame to its most loyal servants.
Ishida's jaw is set firmly. His eyes, clear. "I will," he states with absolute conviction, "hold you to your words."


A short time later, in the very same room, the white kimono of Yasuo Ishida -- never before worn -- blossoms with dark crimson, ensuring that no one else will ever take up this particular mantle. Plunged into the man's belly by his own hand is a ceremonial dagger with markings dating back to the reign of the Tokugawa.
Hashimoto, himself a practiced swordsman, completes his service to his closest friend in one frighteningly short instant. The outsider's Ainu blade clutched is drawn back, blood from the carotid artery glistening upon it as the lieutenant's hands tremble. It was not the weapon he would have chosen, but the provenance of the blade was not a matter he could trace in the limited time. The Japanese craftsmanship sufficed.
Rena Toyoda heaves wracking sobs into the dark grey kimono of the house chef -- her closest confidante -- having provided the last meal and ceremonial sake to the last leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi.
The lieutenants who had betrayed Ishida's trust lower their heads in tacit grief and acknowledgement -- only those in this room now shall be able to speak of their shame.

Those of the Yamaguchi-gumi are wracked with grief and unable to move another muscle. Only gravity is left to perform the last act, allowing the legendary Ginza Dragon Yasuo Ishida to perform in death what he could not in life -- to bow his head to the fearsome outsider.

Duke is patient.

He had every reason to be patient. Waiting for the rite of honor to complete, he had taken to smoking a single cigar. This was not his business. This was their business, their ritual. His business was bringing everything that the Yamaguchi could offer into the Syndicate, in a mutually beneficial relationship. Mr. Ishida was the only scapegoat that everyone needed. The Yamaguchi would be honorable again, soon enough. Ignoring the sobs of the woman, the despair of the lieutenant, he waits for the only person important to him. Hideyoshi Hashimoto. There was no time to waste, he wouldn't even wait until the body was cold. Once the deed was done, Duke turns to him, his expression just as grim as before.

"You are now the leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi."

"The word will be out soon, that Mr. Ishida has stepped down, and leadership has transferred to you. The Yamaguchi-gumi is now a member of the Southtown Syndicate. Any further actions against the Yamaguchi-gumi will be actions against the Southtown Syndicate, and will result in ten-fold retaliation. Ryuji Yamazaki is on standby should he services be required in enforcing these expectations. We will also be rounding up every single member, former or otherwise, who has humilated the Syndicate and the Yamaguchi for their rogue actions." Duke lowers his eyes down, staring at the new, young godfather of the Yamaguchi.

"You, however, have more pressing business."

"You will send out an invitation to the remaining members. Current and.... former lieutenants as well, along with trusted soldiers. I am true to my word; the Yamaguchi will not be replaced by Syndicate officers; you may keep your own control. Because of the circumstances, we will allow a grace period for tribute and collections, as the Yamaguchi reorganizes itself. I am authorized to give you 3 months to restructure yourself. We will see where the Yamaguchi is by the end of those 3 months, and decide what the next steps will be."

"Let me make something clear."

"What comes next depends solely on your charisma and leadership. We may regain members. We may lose some. But what we must do is draw the line in the sand. The chaos has ended. And we must inform our members of the new leadership, and the brave new future... as well as the consequences, of any 'independent' actions you take as members of both the Yamaguchi-gumi and of the Syndicate." And with that, the crime boss tosses away the cigar. Duke extends two hands. One for his sword. The other, for the other's hand. "Hideyoshi Hashimoto."

"Allow me to be the first one to welcome you into the Southtown Syndicate.

Log created on 13:42:01 03/11/2016 by Duke, and last modified on 21:03:56 03/12/2016.