Lilian Kunimasa



Tano helplessly knelt down, not knowing if he has to bow and place his head on the block for easier neck chopping, or wait for the next instruction.
Feebly, he heard Ana’s frightened sobbings as she, herself, was forced on her knees.

Ana… Tano remembers the first time he met her.
As a teen-age rebel, he has been approached by different Yakuza ward groups and gangs to join them.
He knows he is an asset even then, because of his street-smart, daredevil escapades. Ana was talking with the group’s head hunter and wanting to know her more, he immediately accepted Kato’s offer.

Tano went through difficult but common trainings he expected from a Yakuza group. At the end of the physical trainings and initiations, he was then presented to the ward leader, for the last test.
He was shocked to see Ana then besides the leader, signifying their leader’s ownership of the woman he fell in love with.
His mind, reeling, Tano almost did not hear the words being spoken by the leader.
Vaguely, he realized they were of morality and honor vows attached to being a part of their group.
Tano recited the memorized reply which is of most formal style and felt foreign in his tongue.
He was then treated by his fellow yakuza members to a karaoke bar, where they got him so drunk. Tano could not even remember how they managed to have the ward’s insignia tattooed on his right biceps! It was a big one and he sighed dejectedly then, knowing his tight black sleeveless shirt days are over.
Yet, he still would do anything just to get at least few glimpses of Ana.

“But Boss, you know how much Tano suffered in his childhood. That has been his weakness, and we have all decided to help him because of it.”

Ah! That has to be Kato trying to mediate in his favor again.
Kato was his friend since childhood. Kato had been a witness and a support, protecting him from his parents’ abuses.
Father was always in a business trip and Mother, busy with her community volunteer works. Both of them unconcerned for his welfare, and often left him alone to tend for himself. He often had an instant Ramen or any canned food he can find in the cupboards for his meal. Until Kato’s mother taught him how to steam rice and fry without getting burned.
The only time any of Tano’s parents were at home, was when they are irritated with something and needed someone to beat up.

Those made him quit school and do part time jobs hauling bottles and boxes for a wine shop nearby. He used the money to buy himself real food, new clothes and other daily necessities and sometimes, luxuries.
But it was not enough to pay monthly bills and rentals which his parents often conveniently forget when they heard about his job.
So Tano learned to steal, scam, and be friendly with old lonely women.

That was until Kato decided to step in and change his life style.

“Boss, I am sorry, but I have seen the woman in question seducing Tano right from the very first day. I know how Tano tried to avoid her, but you know how she can be so sweet and nurturing. He loving and caring that Tano has always wanted from a mother. And He would not have even dared, if Ana had not gotten him drunk that night. Tano respected you so much as a father!”

That was the night Tano had the chance to be with Ana alone. She knew how much attracted he was with her.
She caught his stolen glances and often smiles and winks at him when no one was looking.
How was Tano to know that the leader had eyes behind his back?
Tano and Ana had a few glasses of Japanese cold sake that night. He was not really drunk that time, but Tano was willing to pretend to be anything, just to have a few free kisses.
Ana, he discovered, was not thinking of just kissing and harmless necking.
Tano had the best sleepless night in his life!
But the leader came home before he was able to slip away and caught them, still at it, the next morning.

“Tano may have been a handful, but he always accepts disciplinary beatings meekly and never did the same mistake twice.”

The disciplinary beatings with bamboo sticks, metal knuckles and pool dippings which Tano got for his ‘mistakes’ due to his temper and pent-up anger.
Tano remembered the first beatings he got, for mugging his father and his father’s business partners in the bar where he collects the monthly ‘protection money’.
The owner of the bar was able to contact the leader before he and his team almost killed his father.
That was when he got the hundred bamboo strokes on his back.

But, he did not mind it! Relishing the ecstatic feeling he had, as he kicked his father, already down and moaning on the floor. How his father’s pleas sounded like music in his ears.
Now he knows why his father kept hitting him, even when he could no longer sit on their tatami floor.

The next one was when he was caught harassing his mother’s community groups.
Making them cower and slapping his mother’s face in front of her ‘high-breed’ friends.

The leader was so furious then, screaming, “Where is honor in avenging yourself on helpless people? You are a coward for picking fights with weak ones who can not fight back!”

So, he went and picked fights with the rival ward groups, trying to prove that he is not a coward to the leader.
And for that, he got the pool dipping. For five days, he stayed in the pool, and with few times having his head dunked under the water.
It was Ana who secretly gave him food wrapped in Nori paper then.
Yet Tano endured it all.
Kato even tried to explain that the leader was trying to input in him the Bushido code of honor.
‘To Protect, Respect and Persevere.’

“Boss. You, yourself, told me how much Tano reminds you of your dead son.”

Tano unconsciously jerked his head up. Son?

Tano remembered then, how the leader would often insist on bringing him along to those secret trips.
The secret whorehouses for illegal aliens, the room where the leader kept that infamous Filipino, convicted for forgery.
He again got beaten then for opening a window so the prisoner can, at least, have fresh air.

“The secret room was for the old man’s own safety!”, the leader screamed at him.
“As far as his countrymen know, he is supposed to be already dead. If anyone sees him, they would have to take him back to their own country. Here, he at least has the comfort of anything he wants. Food, toys, money for his family in their country and all he desires except freedom. But he is alive. Can you not appreciate that?”

Still, the leader smiled and hugged him after he nodded his understanding.
And the different politicians the leader meets, introducing him to them by his first name.

Tano did not understand the leader then and his actions. Now, too late, he does.
He has never wanted anything, more than to have a real father to love and honor.
Tano felt his tears flowing and bowed down to hide his face and shame from everyone.

“NO!”, Ana screamed from his left side, then Tano heard a slashing and chopping sound.
Tano closed his eyes as he heard a thump and rolling sound on the floor.
Tano knows that Ana’s family will never hear or see her again forever.

Tano bent his head, stretching his neck out open as he slid his forehead on the chopping board.
He placed his hands palms down at the either side of his head, making sure his wrists are aligned to his neck for easier cutting.
The henchman’s assistance grabbed Tano’s hair pulling him back to kneeling position and with another hand held Tano’s left hand on the board pushing his palms down hard so his fingers were spread wide apart.

Surprised, Tano looked up and saw the leader and Kato, smiling with tears in their eyes.
Transfixed, he did not even feel the katana coming down and felt a bit curious to see his three fingers, wriggling, at their separation from his left hand…

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