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Ivana smiled gently at the woman opposite her. Since she was a volunteer for this organization who helped the poorest, she spent much of her free time listening to others in the association’s office. ‘Despite the money I make, I can no longer feed my baby. Help me please?’ Her name was Matilda and she was barely 20 years old. She lived with her child in a small flat, they were unhealthy and only ate once a day. According to other volunteers, Ivana could make miracles. She restored courage to the needy and was able to make them smile. She was kindly nicknamed ‘Maker of smiling tears’ and because of this, everyone in the charity would send her those who needed more than just help and equipment.

Ivana looked deeply into the eyes of Matilda. The first sensations she felt were not for long. An immense despair mingled with a sense of shame gripped her heart. She felt every feeling experienced by the young mother. Ivana calmed the flow of incoming information by letting it run through her mind. Then, she took the hand of the young woman and whispered in her ear. ‘Everything will be OK, I will not leave you without some form of help’. Then she waited a few seconds, allowing enough time for the sentence to echo in the young woman’s mind. Ivana used her ability to repeat it mentally, superimposed on the echo. She knew that the synchronized and rhythmic repetition of this thought would leave a positive imprint in Matilda’s mind. Ivana could now see a glimmer of hope reborn in her desperate eyes.

Matilda began to cry and laugh simultaneously. She dropped Ivana’s hands and said ‘I’m sorry. I cry for no reason, like a little girl. Thank you for listening. I feel a little better. Thanks to you’. Ivana then replied ‘I did nothing special. Your courage comes from deep within you. Please, don’t forget to see my colleague. She will give you some money and food’.

Matilda smiled as she rose from her chair. Ivana watched her go and then gave a little nod to Rudolph, the volunteer in the office next door. The ‘little sign’ combined with an amused grimace meant in secret code ‘I need to relieve myself’. The young man returned her smile with a similar expression meaning ‘when you need to go, you need to go’. Ivana left her desk and walked towards a green door. She took care to lock it behind her, then sat on the floor in the corner of the small room. Her gaze suddenly broke and she began to weep. Her hands, washed by the incessant tears were shaking. She wanted to scream, but no sound came out.

***

Hiraku Kanamori was re-adjusting his glasses when the door opened. He had waited all day for this moment, all day in the hallway of this building in Tokyo. He had requested an interview and was waiting for the invite for him to enter. When it came, he was greeted with a Yakuza woman wearing sunglasses who was sitting with her feet on a varnished wooden desk. He glimpsed the shadow of the man in the back of the room, but did not dare to turn his head in that direction. The Yakuza beckoned him to approach. Hiraku complied.

‘You have requested an opportunity to join our clan. Your wish may come true today. Firstly, we must be sure that your loyalty and your trust belong only to us’. The Yakuza rose as quickly as a lion jumping on its prey, coming very close to Hiraku. ‘Do you accept? Can you make this promise to us?’ Hiraku nodded his head as an indication of his acceptance. The woman took off her glasses, revealing deep dark eyes, then stared at him intently. Hiraku felt a tingling in the back of his mind, then the feeling disappeared as quickly as it came.

‘We need a man like you for a new project. Firstly, do you speak French?’ Thinking that someone had misinformed her, Hiraku panicked and lowered his gaze while shaking his head. ‘Perfect’ the woman withdrew her stare. She went back to her office, seized a small metal box and placed it on the desk. ‘Open the box and swallow its contents’ she ordered.

Hiraku approached and opened the box slowly. A white pill sat inside a sealed plastic case. He grabbed it, placed it in his mouth and began to chew. ‘Fool, only the pill’. Confused, he spat out the packaging into the palm of his hand, then retrieved the pill and swallowed it in one gulp. The Yakuza approached him and sat on the desk. The following two minutes of silence seemed like hours for poor Hiraku. He wondered what the woman expected, but dared not utter a word. With an intentionally slow gesture, she looked at her watch, then glanced towards the man in the corner of the room. The man nodded. The Yakuza woman approached Hiraku and ordered him ‘Parle-moi en francais’ (which meant, ‘talk to me in french’). Hiraku opened his eyes, ‘Je suis désolé, mais je ne parle pas un mot de français’. The Yakuza looked toward the man in the shadows and grinned.

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