Iori groaned as he pulled himself up off of the fractured pavement.  That last slam from Yashiro felt like it had broken some ribs, in addition to leaving a small crater in the ground.  He rolled to the left, barely managing to avoid a sledgehammer like blow from one of Yashiro's fists.  A quick thrust to one of Yashiro's legs bought Iori just enough time to regain his feet and take stock of his situation.

    Iori had been prowling the streets of Tokyo to alleviate his boredom.  The rather sudden destruction of the Ultradome had left him with a large hole in his schedule.  Unfortunately, wandering about Tokyo aimlessly had left him open, wide open.  That was a fact that Yashiro Nanase hadn't failed to capitalize upon, and Iori's body was now paying the price.

    Iori tried to bring his guard up to fend off Yashiro, but to no avail.  Yashiro charged and bellowed like a beast, blowing through any sort of resistance Iori tried to put up.  Iori grunted in pain as he was repeatedly slammed headfirst into the ground.  His vision blurred as blood, his blood, seeped into his eyes from a head wound.  He absently noted that he was being lifted off the ground by the collar of his shirt.

    He tried to say something, but his mouth wouldn't obey.  He tried to do something, but his body was in a similar state of revolt.  His mind was barely functioning, somehow he knew he had a concussion, but it was as if another person was telling him that, so disconnected he was from reality.  Someone was speaking to him.  Iori struggled against the ringing in his ears to hear what was being said.  He barely registered Yashiro's seething voice whispering into his ear.

    "I know you're vicious, Yagami.  I know you're of the Orochi.  I know you don't like us, but what you did to Shermie.." Yashiro paused as he recalled the scene.  "If she ever opens her eyes again, it will be a miracle.  For that, Iori, I'm going to kill you, and kill you slowly, the Orochi's will be damned."

    Iori vaguely knew that if he didn't do something right this moment, his life was over.  He tried to strike at Yashiro, but the feeble blow was easily knocked aside.  He saw his tormentor draw back a clenched fist.  Iori reflexively closed his eyes, waiting for the blow to land.

    Iori never did have the privilege of receiving the strike. Instead, he was dumped unceremoniously to the ground while Yashiro grabbed his bloodied hand and yelled in pain. He stared at his hand in shock.  There was a dagger with a foot and a half long blade sticking through it.  He recognized that dagger.

    Yashiro turned around to face a grinning Ryuji Yamazaki.  One could easily read the incredulity on the young Hakkeshu's face.

    "What...? Why?" Yashiro managed to squeak out.

    Yamazaki didn't give him the chance to say anything more, and immediately began fulfilling the rest of his obligation to Iori.  When he was done, he dropped a barely breathing Yashiro to the ground, and leaned over to whisper something in his ear.

    "You know, Shermie lets out the most endearing squeak when you crack her ribs.  I thought you'd like to know that."

    Yashiro's eye bulged in his socket as he realized who had worked over Shermie.  His other would have, but the eyelids were swollen shut.  He tried to move, but he was in a far worse state than Iori was, who was just now beginning to regain his feet.

    "Nice... *hack*... work, Yamazaki.  I was.. *hghkk*.. lucky that you were in the area."  he struggled to say while coughing.  That his spittle was tinged with red did not go unnoticed.  "You know, it's lucky for you that you showed up. If you *hrngh*...h..hadn't, well, I don't think you would have been able to collect your fee.  So, now that you've done your job, why don't you just *hack*... move along and I'll pay you once I get back to my hotel room?"

    Yamazaki looked up from his handiwork on the ground.  He glanced at Iori in a fashion similar to how a butcher would size up a side of beef.  He chuckled briefly before speaking.

    "Luck had nothing to do with it, Yagami.  I was following Yashiro all night while he was tailing you.  I've got to say, the both of you are amateurs.  Fortunately, he never noticed me.  It made my job that much easier."

    "You... you what?!"  Iori struggled with the significance of Ryuji's statement. "You used me as bait?  You worm, when I hired you, I told you to.."

    "Take out Yashiro and Shermie as viciously as possible.  You never said anything about protecting your scrawny little butt.  If you're thinking about calling the deal off, believe me, I have no problem with that.  I'll get what I want, one way or the other."  Ryuji followed that statement up with a predatory leer that chilled even Iori's jaded soul.  It was clear that Yamazaki would love nothing better than to tear into his employer, if for no other reason than the simple pleasure of doing so.

    "No, you'll get your stinking money.  However, you're a marked man Yamazaki.  You'd do well to watch your back, for you have earned the enmity of the Yagami, and our anger is eternal." blustered Iori.  He knew a bad situation when he saw one, and knew when to cut his losses.

    "No sweat, chump.  In fact, I look forward to it.  Well, it's been real, and it's been fun, but it hasn't been real fun."  Yamazaki stopped for a moment to laugh maniacally, "Who am I kidding?  I'm loving every minute of this!  See ya around Iori.  Don't forget to pay up!"

    Yamazaki walked off into the darkness of the night.  His laughter echoed for a long time after he had disappeared from sight.

    Iori looked down at Yashiro's limp form. He could barely hear ragged breathing coming from the fallen man's body.  For a moment, he entertained the idea of finishing him off, but thought better of it when his body protested any motion at all.  Instead, he concentrated on limping to somewhere he could secure medical treatment.

    "Damn that freak.  Damn him to hell." he repeated in his head as he limped into the gloom.