“Tell me if it hurts, okay Boss?” Mao dug her cybernetic thumbs into Mei Xing’s shoulder muscles and squeezed, as if cracking a nut.
“Ouch! It hurts! It hurts!”
“Good. Now shut up and endure it.”
“Why!? You told me this was a massage, not torture!”
“You tricked me!” Mei Xing squirmed underneath her.
“Did I? How does it feel being on this side?”
“Still not over that? It’s been almost three weeks.”
While riding his lower back, Mao deeply traced his shoulder blades with her thumbs. The knots in his muscles crumbled under the abnormal pressure.
“Ow! Owww!!!” He kicked the bed to distract himself from the pain.
Absorbed by the feel of his bare skin, Mao’s thoughts wandered off.
Chen’s death had ushered in a number of significant changes. Mei Xing became established as the undisputed leader of the Chinese triads. Unity within the Soaring Serpent Society was at a new high. But to Mao, the most important change occurred within her. She had realized her feelings for Mei Xing, not as Zhang Wei Long’s son, but as a man.
However, he was spoken for. Mao had no choice but to bury her feelings and forget them.
At least she tried to. That task was much more difficult than she imagined. Before she had realized it, she was on top of Mei Xing after offering the tired leader a massage. She had tried to salvage the situation by jokingly kneading too hard, but the parts where they touched, her fingertips, her thighs, her buttocks, sizzled from a ticklish heat.
What the hell am I doing!?
Distracted by her musings, she accidentally poked a sensitive pressure point.
“Gahhh!!!” Mei Xing convulsed under her legs.
“S-Sorry! My hand slipped!”
He went completely still and silent.
“Hey. Hey! Are you okay?” Mao got off him in a hurry.
Mei Xing shot up, grabbed her arms, and pushed her down on the bed. “Now it’s my turn.”
What just happened?
When her thoughts finally caught up with the situation, she found herself pinned down. “You were playing possum?”
The topless Mei Xing was mounting her waist with a sinister smile. “Just living up to my devious reputation.”
“You do know I can throw you off in the blink of an eye right?”
“Let me see you try then.”
“You asked for it.” Mao gathered power in her arms and legs to free herself.
Mei Xing bent down and kissed her neck.
Her limbs quivered and lost all strength. “Wha… What did you just do!?”
“This.” He skimmed her neckline with soft kisses.
“S-Stop!” Mao tried to shake off his grip on her arms.
There was not much strength in his hold on her, but she could not escape for some inexplicable reason. No, the reason was obvious. She did not want to.
“You’re married, Mei Xing! We can’t do this! You can’t betray Setsu!”
He brought his face within inches of hers and gazed into her eyes. “Does that mean you’re okay with this if not for that? Tell me the truth. Dragon head’s orders.”
Mao opened her mouth to object, but nothing came out. She unconsciously raised her knees in front of her body, but he simply pressed his body onto and over that wall. Her mind went completely white when he slipped his tongue past her parted lips. Mao jerked from the contact. At first, she tried to turn her head away, but he persistently pursued her like a ravenous beast. Soon, his scorching caresses made her tongue dance to his tune. His skillful fingers unwrapped her chest as easily as untying loose shoelaces. Her raised legs turned to jelly and opened to welcome him.
Mei Xing released her lips after what felt like eons. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
Mao stared at him with glazed eyes, panting like an animal in heat. She could barely make out his movements but paid them little attention. So what if he took his phone out and started texting something? So what if he passionately peeled off her disheveled qipao? So what if he ran his tongue all over her body, leaving lines of saliva on her nipples, her collarbone, her armpits? So what if she returned his petting and fondling blow for blow?
So what if his wife entered the room?
Mao withdrew her moist lips from Mei Xing’s with a crisp smack and scurried backward on the King-size mattress. Her eyes were locked on the woman who just returned to her nest.
“This isn’t what it looks like, Setsu!” Mao frantically grabbed the sheets and covered her breasts.
Setsu crossed her arms. “I think it’s a little late for excuses.”
Tears beaded under Mao’s eyes. “I… I’m sorry. I’m sorry! I-”
Mei Xing muffled her apologizing mouth with a kiss.
This time, Mao forcefully pushed him off. “Are you crazy!? You’re wife is right there!”
“I know. I called her,” said Mei Xing.
What. The. Fuck.
He touched Mao’s twitching cheek. “Are you okay?”
“She’s just a little surprised,” said Setsu. “Mao, do you know why my husband and I are in an open relationship?”
Mao did not even know what to think anymore. Her head shook in denial before she could even process the question.
“It’s because of me.” Setsu hung her head in embarrassment while nervously holding her other kimono sleeve. “I… like watching my lover do it… with others.”
With a dumbstruck gape, Mao looked back and forth between the couple, eventually settling on Mei Xing for confirmation.
He nodded. “Actually, one of the reasons we kept the bait and trap plan a secret from you is to make you fall for me. Don’t glare at me like that. It was Setsu’s idea.”
“It worked didn’t it?” Setsu approached the bed. “He was worried you only saw his father in him, so I came up with a plan to show off his good points. That reminds me, I haven’t properly apologized for that yet. Sorry for tricking you into getting angry at Mei Xing. It was necessary for impact. Good things always leave a greater impression if they come right after something bad.”
Though she knew it was rude to not reply to an apology, Mao could only blink in response.
“I went off topic. Where was I? Oh right. Basically, I came to watch you two.”
“…Just to be sure, what do you wanna watch?”
Setsu blushed a little. “You know… Have sex.”
Mao cowered at the corner of the bed, raising her guard even further. “I didn’t think you two were this twisted. Do you always do things like this?”
“You’re the first, Mao,” said Mei Xing. “Maybe the only one.”
Setsu sat on the bed. “He’s too picky when it comes to women. I can actually get off even with professionals, but he insists on choosing someone he truly cares about. It feels a little complicated to say this, but he loves you, Mao.”
From within the mess of emotions inside Mao, a blazing fire sparked to life. It lit everything else aflame, consuming her confusion like rocket fuel.
He feels the same about me?
Mao focused on Mei Xing’s face, not hiding her overflowing curiosity. He scratched his head and smiled.
She felt a surging heat fill her chest, yet at the same time, it was tender and soothing. The awkward and unsure Braids finally felt comfortable with herself.
She could no longer deny it. She wanted Mei Xing, more than she ever wanted anything in her life.
“Is it really okay?” mumbled Mao. “Is something like this really okay?”
I don’t have to lie to myself?
I don’t have to bury these feelings?
I don’t have to hold back?
“That’s my question,” said Setsu. “Are you fine with me watching? Even if you’re not, I won’t stop you and Mei-”
Mao scrambled towards Mei Xing and coiled herself around him.
“At least let me finish.” Setsu made a resigned smile as she undressed herself.
“Where are you calling from?” asked Nick.
“Payphone,” said Ken.
“Good. At least not everything I taught you went to waste. What took you so long to contact me? I thought you were dead.”
“I was injured. No chance to call.”
“Where are you?”
“Be more specific, you imbecile.” Nick knew Ken was not good at speaking English, but he was not in the mood to be patient.
“Outside a cafe. Name is Wag… Wagnar-”
“I know that place. Is anyone else listening?”
“No. Mashiro is inside. With a guy.”
“Mashiro? Who’s that? What happened to Shikimi?”
Ken explained the details of his foiled attack and how he was rescued by Mashiro Oogi. “She want info on Ageha. She want to arrest him.”
If Ageha recognized Ken, he’ll be pissed at Ria.
It’d be great if those two freaks get rid of each other.
“Should I go back there?”
“No… I just looked up who this Mashiro Oogi is. Stay with her for now, but keep your mouth shut about everything related to me. You haven’t told her anything, have you?”
“No. What about Ageha?”
A wicked smile formed on Nick’s face. “Help this Oogi girl catch him. Then kill him when you get the chance.”
“Can you keep it a secret for a little longer?” Max put his empty coffee cup back on the saucer.
“That’s what you said last week, and the week before that.” Mashiro leaned over the table. “I have solid evidence against Ageha Shikimi. If I talk to my father-”
“Like I told you, I don’t want this getting out of hand. I understand Shikimi is a criminal. I also believe there’s a good chance Kaika is involved. But I want to handle this on my end.”
“What are you planning?”
“I tried doing this on my own, but I can’t get anything out of Kaika. I’ll discuss it with Mom. She needs to know now that things have escalated this much. We traveled together to Tokyo, so I can speak with her right away.”
“If you need resources, my father can help-”
“Please, Senpai. I want to take care of this within the family.”
“…I understand. Tell me if you get into any trouble. I’ll come running.”
“Thank you. Don’t worry, I’ll handle this. Enough about me. How is Makoto doing?”
“I had him transferred to the Tokyo Medical Center. The doctors in the states couldn’t tell why he’s still unconscious. Dad told me about his doctor friend in Tokyo who specializes in brain trauma. Honestly, I’m at my wits end. I just don’t know what to do if he never wakes up. Maybe I dragged him all the way here just to keep him close…”
Max handed her a handkerchief. “He’ll be okay. I’m sure your father’s friend will help him.”
“Thanks Max.” She took the handkerchief and dabbed away her tears. “How was the coffee?”
“Better than the one you treated me to before.” He smiled kindly.
This time, Max paid the bill and left first. Mashiro stayed for a few more minutes, pondering Max’s request.
I guess I’ll sit on this a little longer.
I don’t want to cause trouble for Max.
Senator Garvey might be able to deal with Kaika.
If that doesn’t work, then I’ll make my move.
Mashiro exited the cafe with her entourage of suits. Ken was waiting at the sidewalk while holding a struggling Japanese man by the collar.
What do we have here?
The proud look on Ken’s face reminded Mashiro of a young Makoto. Makoto used to look so smug whenever he learned a new karate move.
“What happened?” she asked while pointing at the restrained man.
“This guy was taking pictures of you from the other side of the street. I caught him for you.” Ken handed her a camera.
“I don’t know anything! I swear!” said the photographer. “I just got a letter!”
Mashiro furrowed her brows. “Letter?”
“It was a job request that came in my mail. The letter came with a down payment and said more money will come for each picture of you I send via email. I’ll tell you the address! I’ll pay it all back! Please just let me go! That’s all I know!”
“And the files?”
“…I’ve already sent them. Please don’t kill me! I’m just a normal guy! …That right! I’m a family man! I have a wife and kids! Please!”
“Relax, mister. Let him go, Ken.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. If he was sent by that girl, there’s no way we can trace anything to her.”
Ken released the man’s collar. The photographer ran off without looking back.
She gave Ken a pat on the shoulder. “Thanks.”
He shyly rubbed his nose with the knuckle of his index finger.
Mashiro called the leader of her personal strike team on her mobile. “Why did Ken have to catch that guy? He’s still recovering from his injuries! What are you people doing?”
“That isn’t our job, Ms. Butler.”
“Weren’t you supposed to protect me?”
“You never told us to watch out for surveillance.”
Was it a mistake calling these guys?
Mashiro had gotten the idea of using the experimental U.S. military armored soldier unit after seeing an inferior model in action at Donald Mitchell’s residence. Her father had easily agreed when she said they were for her protection.
However, the unit members were too rebellious and bloodthirsty.
But I need them to fight against Ageha.
“That was my mistake. Please be wary of surveillance moving forward. If possible, capture them without harming them.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Can I come in?” asked Kaika.
Ageha sat up from the bed. “Next time, ask that before you actually come inside. And knock too.”
“If I did that, I wouldn’t be able to catch you slapping the monkey, would I?”
“I don’t do that. I have Saya.”
“She’s not here right now.” Kaika trotted over and peeked under the bed. “Hmm… Nothing here.”
“What did you expect? Porn mags? I don’t have anything like that. Even if I did, what makes you think I’d hide them in this room? Saya sleeps here too.”
“True. But I bet you have stuff on your computer. Maybe I should hack it and check?”
“I’m sorry for lying.” Ageha bowed his head. “Please don’t do that.”
Kaika chuckled impishly as she sat on the bed. “What’ll you do to stop me?”
“Kill you, chop up your body, and dump the pieces into the sea.”
This time, it was Kaika who bowed in apology. “I’m sorry. I won’t do that ever.”
They burst into laughter at exactly the same time, as if they had rehearsed it. That was a common scene between them. The two pranksters had a very similar sense of dark humor.
“So, what do you want?”
“Am I that much of a bother?”
“Yes. I have a throbbing headache, so I wanna get some rest.”
“A headache? Since when did something like that bother you?”
Kaika knew about Ageha’s abnormal pain tolerance. If something bothered him enough to force him to rest, it would be unbearable for most people.
“…This is a bit different. It’s nothing to worry about.”
Her face revealed her concern, and it was completely unintentional. That scared her a little.
“I will, as soon as you get out.”
Kaika shifted her legs to a seiza and patted her soft thighs. “Your head goes here.”
“What’s this about?”
“I’ll give you a head massage. I have headaches all the time, so I know a few tricks.”
With a skeptical look, Ageha shifted his body and gently lay his head face up between her thighs. His thick hair tickled Kaika, but she did her best not to show it.
“This is… very comfortable,” said Ageha as he closed his eyes.
“Why not have Saya do it next time?”
“Her legs are metal.”
“This is my unique service then.” Kaika skillfully massaged his forehead, tracing around his eye sockets and squeezing his temples.
“…Why are you so good at everything?”
“I think of it as a price for being born like this.”
“I know you do.” She dug her thumbs into the pressure point between his jaw and ear and made tiny circles. “You like this, huh?”
“I’m gonna fall asleep at this rate.”
“Before you do, I have something to report.”
“I found out who sent Ken Minami.”
Ageha opened his eyes and tried to sit up, but Kaika held his face down with both hands.
“Stay. You can listen while lying down.”
His body relaxed again.
“One of my freelancers got lucky and ran into Mashiro by accident. He sent me pictures showing Mashiro and Ken together. You can check them later.”
“Mashiro..?” Ageha’s eyebrows wrinkled in displeasure.
With her delicate fingers, Kaika smoothed out the creases on his face. “She isn’t the hero you thought her to be.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“I don’t know the details, but it’s a fact they were together. Maybe she and Ria are working together behind the scenes. Maybe she found Ken some other way.”
“Someone like her couldn’t have done that. Ken was mutilated and drugged. His body is just like mine, Kai.”
“You of all people should know what humans are capable of given enough motivation.”
“You mean I pushed Mashiro into doing this?”
“No.” She firmly pressed on his pressure points again to calm him down. “I mean she was capable of something like this from the start. I’m not gonna beat around the bush. I want her out of my way, and you’re necessary for that. She’s an enormous risk to my plans.”
And I hate her guts.
“…Let me think about it.”
“That’s all I ask.” Like a pottery artisan molding a masterpiece, Kaika carefully manipulated his facial muscles. “But not right now. Relax. Stop thinking and rest.”
Ageha’s breathing slowed down until it fell into a constant rhythm. Slowly reducing the strength in her fingers, Kaika switched from massaging to caressing his sleeping face.
Is this what you wanted, Saya?