Journal Entry Dated 10-23-22

The first time I recall seeing one of the Yakuza was in the dressing room of the Angelus Coliseum. I was getting dressed for the night's matches, putting on my armor, when my trainer came up to me. He was accompanied by another man, which is not unusual, as many times the trainers and owners would bring visitors into the rooms to meet the fighters. The human fighters often met with publicists, reporters, and fans with influence and wealth. Clades like myself were usually shown off to investors, although I know a few of my fellow fighters were rented out after the fights to certain business interests in an effort to buy favors. Being a combat-class Clade over six feet tall, that never really happened to me. I think my height and strength intimidated most men.

Usually the men (and some women) brought down into the dressing rooms spent some time gawking. As a rule we had little need for modesty, and the designers had seen fit to give almost all of use nigh-perfect bodies, so there was a lot to look at. This man, however, didn't seem to pay attention to the expanse of nude flesh around him, although I'll admit his blue-lensed sunglasses made it hard to tell what he was looking at. I know he was fairly tall, nearly as tall as I am, with long black hair and a long black coat. My trainer introduced him as Mr. Mifune, which I have since found out is the standard name given whenever a Yakuza would prefer to remain anonymous.

"Mister Mifune" spent some time looking me over, talking to my trainer in a soft voice, and occasionally asking me to stand, stretch, and flex. I did as asked, and thought little of it, as I had long decided there was no point in resisting. I figured the more "complacent" I was, the less likely the trainers and owners would be to place me under any sort of extra guard.

Eventually Mifune turned to my trainer and spoke with him. I didn't hear much of what they were saying (I wasn't paying attention and my trainer had an idea of how well I could hear), and the man left on his own. My trainer then had me sit and then told me that I was scheduled to fight a new-comer tonight. She was a Lynx-class by the name of Komiya. A spear-fighter who I'd barely heard of. I shrugged and told my trainer not to worry, I'd win. That's when he shook his head and told me no, I was going to lose tonight. That confused me. I had always been told to fight well, to fight hard, to win, as my owners had a lot of money invested in me. And now I was being told to lose. It made no sense to me. And I told my trainer so. For his part, he was patient and understanding. He said "I know what you've been told, but tonight you're gonna lose. Make it look good, fight the way you usually do, but don't go all out. Don't make it obvious that Komiya will win, but when the fight's over, she needs to be the one who's standing."

I have thought long and hard on this. On why I was asked to "take a fall" as they say. I think my owners were being blackmailed by the Yakuza. I know that afterwards my stable was sold and I suspect someone had run up debts they couldn't pay, and my loss to a virtual first-timer was meant as a way to repay that debt. The Yakuza would bet heavily on Komiya (probably through proxies), since she was a long-shot to win, and then clean-up once she did. As for me, well, I was property. The loss might cause me to drop in the rankings, but I was never so popular that it mattered (I was, and still am, too much of a technical fighter to ever have reached the top ranks among the fans).

When I stepped out into the arena against Komiya I felt confused and uncertain. Up until now it had all been simple: win. When I'd first started in Lace & Steel my opponents were to eliminated with, as the saying goes, extreme prejudice. But as time passed, and I became more aware of the outside world, my fights became a means to an end. A way for me to gain sufficient worth to my owners they they'd keep me active, and the longer I was active, the better my chances of finding a time where I could escape. So while I'd reveled in virtually destroying an opponent when I started, by the time I faced Komiya I tried to win as quickly and efficiently as possible. Victory meant more life, plain and simple.

My fight against Komiya was terrible. I couldn't exploit openings, had to force myself to miss easy blocks, and probably looked like a rank amateur. Which proved to be Komiya's undoing. She sent me to my knees, and while I tried to recover my wits, she charged. Dizzy with pain, my natural reflexes, honed by years of arena fights, took over. I took her legs out from under her with sweep of my weapon, and then brought the solid rubber blade down on her head. She hit the mat, bounced, and lay still, out cold. In matter of seconds I had turned a certain defeat into victory... and brought down the wrath of the Yakuza.

The second time I saw the Yakuza was also in the dressing room. I'd limped in, bleeding from a scalp wound to find my trainer furious. I tried to apologize, but he wouldn't listen. Upon reflection I honestly cannot find fault with my actions. I had been built for combat, programmed by my trainers to fight and win. I had little understanding of what was being asked for me and unlike some Clades in the arena, I no longer obeyed requests unquestioningly. And when the moment of truth had come, I had acted purely by reflex, not with malicious forethought. But it didn't matter.

Standing there, still dressed in my armor, blood running down my face, I'd like to think I didn't cringe under the verbal abuse my trainer unleashed. Not that it mattered. For behind my trainer appeared not Mr. Mifune, but another Asian man. Short, with a trim build, stubble, and a scowl. He didn't bother to speak, but simply raised his hand and fired into my trainer's back, killing him almost instantly. He then stepped over the body, gave me a contemptuous look, and raised his hand again.

I have read of something called wu wei, or non-action. It can be defined as being able to act without making a conscious decision. The greatest masters of Taoism are supposed to posses it, and never have to think, they simply do. I am not a Taoist master, but at that moment I had my moment of wu wei. As the Yakuza raised his hand I lashed out with mine, catching him (and myself) by surprise. I hit him hard enough to send him into the wall, and then I ran, not waiting to see if he was alive or dead.

I think now that the Yakuza must been deeply entrenched in Angelus's Lace & Steel tournaments, as the usual door guards were not in evidence. So when I burst out of the dressing room it was into an empty hall. I didn't wait, and perhaps wu wei was with me, as I kept running. I ran, and ran, and ran, out of the Coliseum and into the streets of Angelus.

I'm not sure how I avoided capture. I know that APD and XSWAT units were soon on the scene, but they didn't seem all that eager to find me (or so I guess). I suspect Director Renuka's hand in some of this, as she seems to think that escaped Clades are not XSWAT's problem, especially since she actively encourages Clades to join XSWAT itself. In any case, I was found by two Clades and quickly whisked away to Rho Sector, where I was hidden for a time.

The third time I saw the Yakuza I was an XSWAT officer, dressed in my long coat, and carrying a tai-dao with a blade of steel, not rubber. We were in Epsilon Sector, investigating rumors of Yakuza extortion and mahatsukai activity. Parts of Epsilon are a maze of side streets and back alleys. The APD doesn't like to come here, and Director Renuka has declared XSWAT must pick up the slack. It was in one of these side streets the Yakuza ambushed us. I have no idea how many of them there were, only that they had guns. A lot of guns. They sprayed the street with bullets, firing endlessly, shattering windows, wrecking vehicles, and hitting both XSWAT officers and unlucky civilians. I saw Officer Saxon fall, shot through the body with an armor-piercing round. And then it was my moment of wu wei again. I rushed forward, tai-dao held high, and leapt a spinner blocking the street. I landed amid three of them. I'm not sure they expected to see a six-foot Clade armored with eight feet of tai-dao, which is why I think I'm still alive. I buried the blade of General Kwan's sword into the shoulder of one, and then kicked another in the chest. The third fired, but the shock of my attack sent his aim wide, allowing me to wrench my blade free and then send it smashing into him.

I don't think the Yakuza like me. But then, I am XSWAT, and the Yakuza don't like any of us. If captured, I suspect they will send me back to the arena, unless they decide to kill me immediately. So, in some ways, it is like the arena again. There will be no quarter asked or given. It is win at all costs, with no second chances. Once again, a foe stands between me and my freedom. Once again, I will eliminate them with extreme prejudice. Once again, victory will mean more life.

Officer Chrysine, XSWAT