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Shizune - Hakamichi Industries

Oct 9th, 2012
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  1. (This story is over the top ludicrous, I realize. I just wanted to write it anyway, so here we are. Comments can be mailed to KSFFWriter@gmail.com. Also I accidentally deleted the original paste, whoops.)
  2.  
  3. It's disgusting how few people really try.
  4.  
  5. Maybe that's the wrong opening for a train of thought, even if it's the most common one I have lately. I run with it for now. Most people in the world don't understand what doing their best really means. Hakamichi taught me that. Most people think of it as something like what Emi Ibarazaki did. She ran, she tried her best to run on her prosthetics. That's not what doing your best is. Emi still had restrictions. She still allowed useless things like class and people to get in her way. I can't blame her, I was like that in high school as well.
  6.  
  7. I leave my thoughts behind for a moment. This is an important day, after all. My shoes click against the black marble floor, and echo on the similar walls of this uncomfortably long corridor. Black marble floors, black marble walls, stark white ceilings. Everything is cold, calculated, sterile, and corporate. So much like the founder and owner of this place.
  8.  
  9. I look to my bodyguard, walking beside me with military precision in his movements. Stitched into the lapel of his black dress uniform is my company's name: Arrhythmia Enterprises. It started as a silly joke, but it's one of the two most recognizable company names on the planet now.
  10.  
  11. The other five people surrounding me wear a different uniform. Black as well, but more utilitarian and functional than the dress uniform my company uses for meetings such as this. I can't see from here, but I know the back is stitched with the word "HAKAMICHI", as if branding the people for her own use. Hakamichi Interests and Holdings is the full title, though most people just call it The Hakamichi Corporation. Corporation, ha. As if Shizune would allow anyone else to hold even a single vote.
  12.  
  13. I think back to when this all started. The obvious entry point was high school. I remember sneaking around the school in the dark that one night, after our carnal desires had been sated. Hiding in a classroom while Shizune hashed out her future in one decisive strike, the only way she could ever do that sort of thing. She told me then that she would go into business, and rest only when she had so much money that she had no idea what to do with it.
  14.  
  15. It seemed reasonable then. It's a complete joke. When you earn your money, really fighting tooth and nail for every yen, you ALWAYS find something to do with it.
  16.  
  17. She never got to the philanthropy part of her plan. She was still fighting to be at the apex, as she had phrased it. Funny thing about that, she doesn't count the apex as hers if she has to share it even slightly. Her competitive streak had been transferred to me more than she had ever realized.
  18.  
  19. The group of guards turns another corner, the long, ostentatiously adorned hallway continuing. This is out of necessity. I'm certain we're walking past dozens of security devices and checkpoints. Hallways are very defensible of course, funneling anyone who dares try to reach Shizune Hakamichi through such a long gauntlet would be very effective.
  20.  
  21. Was highschool really the start? It may have been university. Shizune and I had kept in touch, still dating in the loosest definition of the word. We'd compete over every quiz and every exam. We'd play strategy games over the internet. Sometimes, we'd meet physically, and exert our dominance over one another in more physical and lustful ways. Over time, however, both of us noticed something.
  22.  
  23. We were the only ones attending university correctly. The other students, yes, they would try. But they were always held back. Social obligations, hobbies, side interests... these things all stopped them from being the top of their class. Shizune and I signed this to one another after a particularly exhausting night that I had won. It was then that we made our first real bet. Our first longterm challenge.
  24.  
  25. There were no stakes at first, just a friendly competition is the lie we told one another. The challenge was to have the best university scores at graduation. Grading was inherently somewhat subjective, so the element of luck and manipulation was there to keep everything interesting. Unstated was the tacit requirement of graduating summa cum laude and valedictorian.
  26.  
  27. The years after that passed in a blur of studies and work. We kept in contact but only barely, gloating over each success to one another. Misha got lost in the shuffle somewhere in our second year. Shizune and I both graduated early, at our respective universities. Both summa cum laude, with the highest grade points in our graduating classes. Both valedictorian, with Shizune speaking her nigh-militaristic speech through an interpreter.
  28.  
  29. That night, after celebrating with one another's bodies, Shizune pointed out that her average was a tenth of a point higher than mine. She asked, half-jokingly, what made me think I was good enough to keep her. She asked if I still intended to become a teacher at Yamaku.
  30.  
  31. Of course not. After so much effort and work, the very idea of succumbing to some parochial existence like that left a foul taste in my mouth. So another bet was made, the stakes now set as our continuing relationship, such as it was. There were still post graduate studies, after all.
  32.  
  33. We turn another corner, breaking my line of thought for a moment. This hallway must spiral around before reaching our destination. We pass a portrait on the wall, Misha. Shizune found her again some time after grad school. She runs most of the shipping from the east coast of America for Hakamichi I&H these days. We've met once or twice, in a business context. She's less bubbly now, and a lot of Shizune's fire has rubbed off on her. When we meet, however, her old self returns. She's fun to be around, even if her eyes always still have that hint of sadness from being on the other side of the world from Shizune.
  34.  
  35. She never really got over her. Neither have I.
  36.  
  37. Graduate school passed in the same manner as university, and with the same results. Both of us finished early, both of our even-more-subjective grading points within tenths of a percentage. But this time, I won slightly. Shizune made a point of signing that my doctoral program was easier, but she didn't believe it. She wouldn't detract from a victory like that.
  38.  
  39. But I had won the right to continue dating her, and we spent two weeks as a vacation, proving it to one another that we were still together. But all good things must come to an end. Those two weeks ended on another feigned breakup from Shizune, that dangerous smile on her lips once again. Where was my ambition, she asked? Spending two weeks in bed like this was not leading to any kind of future, was it?
  40.  
  41. So another bet, same stakes as the last one. We would start companies, the field wasn't important. The first to post a factual profit of a billion yen would be the winner. It was a tall order, and we both knew it. We promised to keep in touch this time, and even set up a secondary rule requiring a similar two week vacation yearly, with no business allowed during that time.
  42.  
  43. Hakamichi Industries was founded the next day. Nakai Medical Research was as well. The next year was... humbling, for the both of us. If being rich was easy, everyone would do it. Still, after our annual vacation, we reapplied ourselves. My company finally pressed a breakthrough through the endless red tape that surrounds medical advances. Hakamichi Industries opened up new manufacturing plants in several developing nations.
  44.  
  45. Shizune was not amused that my company's first major breakthrough was a cure applicable to several forms of deafness. Hakamichi Industries, however, won the bidding war to manufacture the devices required. Shizune smiled as we shook hands at the formal declaration of this victory.
  46.  
  47. Our bet became void the following year, when we both posted profits in excess of a billion yen. Shizune was frustrated by the lack of a clear winner, of course, but pleased that we had both done well. It wasn't over, of course.
  48.  
  49. A painting on the wall catches my eye as we pass. A Tezuka original, I believe. Blue period. Shizune and I tended to enter bidding wars over her works from time to time, the prestige of owning one was rather notable. It wasn't surprising to find it hung in a hallway, almost dismissively. Shizune never really did care about her possessions, just the acquisition of them.
  50.  
  51. What was the next wager? I believe it was 'largest international holdings in three years'. A time limit this time, instead of a race. I recall vividly Shizune's smug smile as she adjusted her glasses after speaking this challenge. It had only taken her six months after gaining her hearing to be able to speak coherently, with her typical fervent pursuit of any goal.
  52.  
  53. The first time I had heard her speak was her telling me that she loved me. My heart had skipped a beat. I responded in kind, of course, but that instant was the instant I decided to change direction for my company's research. It also was the instant I decided to change my company's name to Arrythmia Enterprises. My heart was not going to taint any more special moments. I have since cured my condition, as well as many people who once shared it.
  54.  
  55. Three years later, Hakamichi Interests and Holdings was some paltry few hundred thousand dollars more in foreign interests than Arrhythmia Enterprises. Shizune was again frustrated. She had won, but the margin was too small for her to count it as a victory. Our yearly vacation was canceled in favor of focusing herself more on the goal. We were in love, yes, but that wasn't to get in the way of glory.
  56.  
  57. Our last night together, I had asked her if she ever intended to pursue philanthropy as she had planned. I spoke in sign, our method of showing one another that what we were saying was important. She smiled wistfully, shaking her head.
  58.  
  59. [What do you want, then?]
  60.  
  61. The answer came without hesitation. A familiar glint appeared in her eye, that dangerous grin that spread across her lips remains in my mind even today.
  62.  
  63. [Power.]
  64.  
  65. I pass another portrait. Jigoro Hakamichi, with his birth and death dates listed under the painting. This incident had caused a rift between Shizune and I. It wasn't an order of mine, nor directly my fault. After we had stopped seeing one another yearly, the morality of Hakamichi Interests and Holdings had begun to slip. Jigoro had become one of their prime enforcers and agents. Apparently his 'consultant' position previously had trained him well.
  66.  
  67. But everyone makes mistakes. Jigoro was caught in one of my isotope synthesis plants, in a restricted area. The guard fired before asking questions, and even the best agents don't fare well against bullets to the head. He had been stealing research information, and several explosive devices had been found in his wake. The death was kept quiet, all involved parties were paid and reminded severely to keep it that way.
  68.  
  69. Shizune and I didn't speak for a year after that. She knew, academically, that it wasn't my fault. It still took her some time to forgive me.
  70.  
  71. By then, both of our companies were in the news, daily. With interests and investments in nearly all fields and industries, we competed in nearly every way. Anti-trust legislation and monopoly holdings fell like wheat before our legal teams. I was the richest man in the world, she was the richest woman. Neither of us enjoyed a single cent of our money, however. We focused on the task at hand.
  72.  
  73. The wager was the most important thing to both of us. The stakes were the same, the heart of Shizune Hakamichi. The goal, well...
  74.  
  75. An ornate doorway faces me, the doors made of similar marble to the corridor, but inlaid with gold designs of the most exquisite style and artistry. In Japanese characters, the name 'HAKAMICHI' adorns the door, etched in stunningly beautiful calligraphy. I haven't been this close to Shizune in five years. Our companies work together on some projects, of course, but nothing requiring our meeting. We're both too busy, usually.
  76.  
  77. I've mentioned the morality of Hakamichi I&H having slipped. I suppose my own company has been a bit amoral lately as well. Restrictions like that only slow growth, after all. Medical advances are much easier to push through when this senator or that prime minister has a family member developing symptoms. Sometimes people were too outspoken against me, and needed silencing. How many people had I stepped on during my rise to power?
  78.  
  79. It was unimportant, of course. These people weren't of the same caliber as Shizune and I. They were not important in the least. I recall Misha chiding me for thinking like that, what feels like a lifetime ago. Too late now.
  80.  
  81. The press and the media of dozens of nations have been scrambling for hours, trying to get a lead on what this meeting is about. The heads of the world's most powerful companies, undoubtedly the most powerful two people on the planet, were meeting face to face. Not on neutral ground, either, but in the very seat of Hakamichi's power.
  82.  
  83. Shizune's personal attendant knocks firmly on her door. A voice sounds within the room, the slight echo belying the size of her office. "Bring him in."
  84.  
  85. As though I were a captured agent. Always so smug.
  86.  
  87. The door opens to her ludicrously well-appointed office. Soft music plays through hidden speakers, water runs nosily over an artificial riverbed full of small stones. The office itself is larger than many suburban houses. In the center of the room, sitting at a desk that even a king would call extravagant, is Shizune Hakamichi.
  88.  
  89. She sits alone in the huge office, writing by hand on some nondescript paperwork. She holds up a single finger as we approach her desk, and points silently to the conference table arranged nearby. She has to finish her work before seeing me, of course. A needless insult, but her common modus operandi in business lately.
  90.  
  91. After only a moment more, she stands, papers in hand. She looks at me, that familiar, beautiful fire in her eyes. "Welcome, Doctor Hisao Nakai, to Hakamichi Interests and Holdings. I hope my employees have treated you well."
  92.  
  93. She looks radiant, in that sharklike CEO manner. Her hair just long enough to pull back into a tight bun, her stark and professional glasses resting on her nose. Her suit was immaculately clean, pressed, and expertly tailored. A black base with charcoal pinstripes, hugging every curve perfectly. Despite being in her mid thirties, her body is firm and toned in every way that it was possible to be. Everything about her is tight, controlled, and measured. The kind of person you can see and immediately know you could never touch.
  94.  
  95. Even after all this time, seeing her speak is slightly strange. "They have, thank you, Doctor Shizune Hakamichi."
  96.  
  97. So formal. She gives a tight smile, and adjusts her glasses. I don't know why she still wears those, she repaired her sight years ago. Her penetrating look turns to her guards and attendants. "Leave us. We are not to be disturbed during this meeting. Any interruption regardless of reason will see your entire department terminated and replaced."
  98.  
  99. The tone in her voice brooks no argument, of course. Her attendant immediately turns and walks toward the door at a brisk pace. Her guards hesitate. They don't want to leave her alone with what amounts to an enemy, a reasonable response. A slight shift overtakes Shizune's posture, her penetrating stare becoming withering. The guards pale, and part quickly. I nod to my bodyguard as well. A few seconds later, we are alone.
  100.  
  101. Shizune walks slowly across the marble flooring. Her heels click against the hard tiles, loud in the quiet room. Her pace is measured, deliberate. This sort of thing probably intimidates lesser people.
  102.  
  103. Shizune takes a seat at the head of the table. I seat myself on the opposite end. A moment of silence passes, aside from the water and the soft music. Finally, a genuine smile flits upon her lips, obviously unused to the gesture these days. She raises her hands, and signs. [I won.]
  104.  
  105. I find myself smiling as well, despite my defeat. [Only by three days. Your UN hearing was moved up unexpectedly. Congratulations.]
  106.  
  107. [Three days is still a victory. The Hakamichi Islands are now a reality. Nearly half of the Caribbean is under my control.] She signs this with familiar smugness. I can't blame her. It's a hell of a victory.
  108.  
  109. She signs again, smiling smugly. [Your control of that portion of the middle east has not gone unnoticed of course. You are always very close behind me.]
  110.  
  111. [The Nakai Republic, yes. In all but name, anyway. With a few more days' time, I would been first.] The first to form an independent nation. That was our final wager. Same stakes as always, the right to keep dating Shizune Hakamichi.
  112.  
  113. Shizune moved her hand, her slender fingers running the lapel of her exceedingly expensive black and charcoal pinstripe suit. I saw those fingers move down along her collar, and undo the top button. I caught her gaze. She signed, with a devious smile. [I do not allow any surveillance or monitoring devices in my office.]
  114.  
  115. ...
  116.  
  117. Half an hour later, we rested on our backs on the table, our libidos momentarily sated. Not an unexpected reaction to meeting again, all told. We silently go about dressing again, and I assist with putting her hair and all the details back together. No one will know what happened, of course.
  118.  
  119. After we are presentable again, she resumes her position at the head of the table, and I sit down again as well. I am the first to speak. "I lost. Does that mean this is the last time we come together like this?"
  120.  
  121. Shizune's smile hasn't faded from before, but she attempts to hide it behind a professional facade. No one else in the world would hear the smile in her voice as she speaks. "The agreement was simple, Doctor Nakai. If you won, you would keep your right to continue dating me. You lost."
  122.  
  123. Pointed wording. We never decided on the penalty for my losing. I had always assumed it would be the cessation of our already limited relationship. "That's true. So what do you propose?"
  124.  
  125. She raises an eyebrow at my question, and answers in sign. [A merger.]
  126.  
  127. My shock at the idea must show on my face, judging by her silent laughter. She still keeps that silent, even though she can hear and speak properly now. I sign after a moment's recovery. [A merger? That's insane. The paperwork and planning alone--]
  128.  
  129. A thought interrupts my denial of her request. This means something to her, she wouldn't respond flippantly to my loss. I have poured everything I am into my business. So has Shizune. Arrhythmia Enterprises is my life's work, more than that. If I had to say it succinctly, I *am* Arrhythmia Enterprises.
  130.  
  131. Shizune Hakamichi *is* Hakamichi Interests and Holdings.
  132.  
  133. I look to her after my pause in signing. She can see my realization of what she meant. That smile flickers on the edges of her lips, but there's something else creeping into her expression. Something that I doubt anyone has seen there for the better part of a decade. Doubt. Nervousness. She's afraid of what I might answer.
  134.  
  135. I smile at her, and her posture relaxes immediately. [Yes.]
  136.  
  137. Merging Hakamichi I&H and Arrhythmia Enterprises is more than just a corporate maneuver. It's merging Shizune and I, everything we've built, all of our legacy in this world. It's a marriage. Shizune is proposing to me, in her own exceedingly ludicrous way. I did lose the wager, of course. This isn't dating anymore. Now it's betrothal.
  138.  
  139. Shizune smiles, and allows herself another smug adjustment of her glasses. [We will announce it after your hearing. There will be a great deal of work involved.]
  140.  
  141. [Which will end with both of us having more money than we know what to do with.] I look at her with something approaching her old analytical stare from Yamaku.
  142.  
  143. She hesitates, and then smiles at the memory of her words from so long ago, standing and taking the few leafs of paper still sitting on the table in front of her. [Yes. I am tired of business. I think it may be time to slow down. We've competed enough. Let's work together.]
  144.  
  145. Shizune sets the papers down in front of me. They are old, the ink fading on the slightly yellowed paper. The Yamaku Academy letterhead immediately catches my eye. 'Application for Club Membership'. My name, my old dormitory room number. This is an application, filled out in a highschool Shizune's handwriting, for my inclusion into the Yamaku student council. She must have been keeping this paper in her possession for years now.
  146.  
  147. [I never finished filling this out. There was always something new that imposed on us. I intended on waiting until you proved yourself to actually make it official. I believe you have proven yourself by now.]
  148.  
  149. She signs this with a smile.
  150.  
  151. I look down to the bottom. A signature in fresh ink, Shizune Hakamichi, with today's date.
  152.  
  153. Below that, an empty line for the applicant's signature.
  154.  
  155. Shizune regards me with her confident expression, and hands me her gold-lined pen.
  156.  
  157. I look at this woman, who I have been in a silent war with for years. Who I have been in love with for years more. This is crazy, and after today the world will reel and quake under our combined power. But that's not what I'm thinking about. Finally, after all this time, Shizune and I will admit to the world what we are to one another.
  158.  
  159. I press the pen to the paper, and I sign my name.
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