A/N: Yes, yes, I know, Tai's finally posting? It's hard to believe, but I promise, I won't scrap this one. Please rate and review! This one's for you PacifistYaoiShipper, who helped me so much on the plotline and scenes, and for AidenRose who first got me into writing! Hope you chickadees like it! By the way, this is the second version of this chapter—PacifistYaoiShipper told me that three years isn't adequate time to achieve a master belt of any kind, so I changed some numbers around—Thanks for that, Din!
Disclaimer: Tai owns nothing, 'cept for Corinne, the reader's notebook she stole from school in which this story is being written down in, and the sexy Skeleton Jack pen she got from Disney World which it's being written with. Got that? Please don't sue. Now, on with the show—or, er, fanfiction rather!
To Finish What's Begun
Chapter 1: Complete Strangers
"Damn it," Corinne muttered to herself as she glanced at a sign with a map of the crowded streets of Aoyama. She noted a large red X that stated, 'You are here!' but didn't recognize where 'here' was. She looked around nervously, already paranoid of the huge, chaotic crowd and the hundreds of streets in which she could get herself hopelessly lost in. Stop that, she snapped to herself. Her imagination was being allowed to run wild without check or boundaries. She turned down a slightly familiar-looking street, but it turned out to be a dim back alleyway. Corinne grimaced at the obvious poverty of the way, but decided to see where it led out to. She noticed a bum sitting against the brick wall to the left of her, his knees curled into his chest. He seemed to be asleep, unmoving, but Corinne couldn't truly tell because his Oriental rice paper hat blocked his eyes from her view. He seemed to stir under her gaze, though, so she quickly averted her stare, passing him by without another glance.
Corinne soon saw that the end of the alleyway was blocked with another brick wall, topped with spiky chicken-wire. Turning around, she considered knocking on a door to the left or right of her and asking an occupant of one of the small run-down apartments to point her to the nearest train station, but after looking at the state of the homes again, she discarded the thought.
She saw a group of four men, walking towards the dead end, nudging each other and laughing boisterously. They took up most of the narrow space in the tight street, walking side by side, and Corinne took to one side to give them space so she wouldn't bother them—and they wouldn't bother her.
It didn't work.
One of them said something that Corinne didn't hear to the others, and their pace immediately slowed as they were about to pass by. She shook her head stiffly, lips tight, as one of them looked directly over at her and said, "Hey, girl."
They snickered when she didn't answer, and called again, louder this time. They asked if she was lost. She shook her head once again. Corinne then felt a heavy hand land on her shoulder. She yelped, looking up to see a ruddy face leering down at her.
"Hey, now, girlie, we only wanna help." His speech was slurred; the air around her reeked of cigarettes and stale beer. She tried to say something, anything, but her voice had deserted her.
Traitor throat, she thought angrily.
She, instead, merely brushed his hand off her arm. When he tried to make contact again, she slapped it away more fiercely. "Stop it, okay!" she managed to shout, and speed up. When they clearly moved to follow, she pivoted around, and yelled, "Look, I don't want to mess around! Just leave me alone. I don't have anything at all on me—no purse, no wallet, no cell phone, nothing!"
The four men sneered and laughed her feistiness. One said, "Ha! A spitfire, she is now!" and another: "We don't want your money, girl." Corinne stopped where she stood. Oh, God…, she thought, quivering internally.
She bent her legs slightly and raised two curled fists in front of her. "Listen, I have black belts in Wushu and Jiu Jitsu. Don't come any closer!" She meant it, and it was true, but her voice had cracked on the last syllable of 'any,' and the effect was ruined. They scoffed at her claim.
"You sure talk big, girl." "You play poker, bluffer?" one jeered.
"I'm not bluffing! I'll kick your asses if you come any closer. Stay the hell away, damn it!" The other side of her vocabulary kicked in as she began to spring into full-blown desperate panic. "Stay away!" she repeated, damning herself internally when her voice came out weak and whimpering.
"No," the man who was evidently the leader said.
But he stopped when a cold, sharp edge pressed against his Adam's Apple firmly and suddenly.
"Do you want to consider that answer?" a polished, menacing voice inquired softly.
His eyes widened. "Hey! What the hell man? Lay off!"
The voice of the blade's owner was mocking as he threw back the other man's earlier comment. "No," he said it quite simply. The gang's leader was panicking at the face of what he had been about to do to another.
"W-we were just joking around. We didn't mean nothing, swear!"
A soft chuckle was heard. "Of course you didn't…" But the grip on the knife only tightened, and the blade only pressed closer. Corinne watched a bead of sweat run its course down her stalker's face.
"Hey, hey, we'll go, okay? Y-you don't have to… We'll leave her alone!" he stammered.
"Damn right, you will," the voice murmured, and she saw two long, pianist's fingers pinch a nerve in the man's neck, and he slumped to the ground unconscious.
With him on the ground, Corinne's rescuer was no longer hidden from view, and she was shocked to see the supposed 'bum' she had noticed earlier. She wanted to thank him, but he silenced her with a sharp glance that clearly said, 'Wait—we're not out of this just yet.' The other members of the gang hadn't moved throughout this exchange, and now was no exception. They seemed to be frozen in place, before the 'bum' spat out, in the same dangerously quiet voice, "Scram, dirt,"
They complied, rushing out of the alleyway, not even sparing their leader a second glance. Corinne immediately launched into a long-winded thank-you, before he stopped her, holding up a hand and saying that it was quite alright. Corinne couldn't see how she'd missed his plain, but fine, clothes before—the top a traditional black Chinese tunic, the custom tight-fitting pants white. His skin was pale: one shade away from being an almost sickly shade of white-yellow, and his face was long and intelligent, eyes feminine and sharp, missing no small detail.
Corinne's apology died off, and she merely said, "...Thank you," quietly, bowing her head down so her chest-length dark brown hair created thick, hanging curtains on either side of her face.
He chuckled, shaking his head. "It's no problem, really," he assured her, shutting the army pocket-knife and stowing it away carefully in his pants' pocket. "But could I ask you something?" His eyes landed on hers suddenly.
Corinne nodded. "Um, sure."
She felt awkward responding in such a manner. His voice and speech were beautiful; he spoke in unfamiliar cadences that seemed more appropriate for a turn-of-the-nineteenth-century novel than modern Japan. His English seemed completely natural. Most people in Japan now-a-days could speak English, but it was usually easy to tell if it was a person's first language or not when they spoke it.
The man continued, "So do you actually have two black belts, or was that big talk like they thought?"
Corinne brushed back the 'curtains' and admitted, "I do, but I haven't taken classes in five or so years. I'm nineteen."
The man nodded again, looking preoccupied. "I see, Miss...?" His voice trailed off in an open-ended statement. Corinne flushed and bowed her head again briefly. "Sorry, my mistake. My name is Corinne. Corinne Mandel." She tacked on her last name for politeness' sake, remembering how important respect was, in even current Japan. "Mandel-san." He offered a hand out to see her, and his name. "Dashi," was all he gave her, and she supposed it had to be his first name. What kind of last name would Dashi be? She smiled and moved to shake his hand, embarrassed when she held out the wrong hand, immediately switching.
"So you know the arts also?" It took her a moment to grasp that by 'the arts' he meant martial arts.
"Yes, Dashi-san. My mother, she enrolled me in classes at six years old and I kept at it until I was fourteen. Once I earned my black belts in Wushu and Jiu Jitsu, I stopped. Dashi seemed to ponder this for a moment before saying,
Corinne choked out, "I'm sorry?" Did he just say what I think he said? she thought to herself incredulously. "Fight me, "he repeated. "Now that I think of it, your beginning stance from before was strong; advanced. I am learned extensively in the techniques of Wushu and Jiu Jitsu. I would wish to compare our styles." If he had said it any other way, he would have been boasting, but Corinne noted that his tone of voice was kind, merely curious, not looking to injure or offend.
"I'm sorry, Dashi-san, but I couldn't possibly—I haven't practiced in ten years, like I said. Plus," she laughed, "I don't want to embarrass myself in front of someone I barely know."
The 'person she barely knew' grinned good-naturedly. "Then let's you and I get to know each other, over a bowl of ramen."
After she finally agreed, he seemed in a euphoric mood and began to lead their way out of the alley. He seemed to know the way well, as if he had traveled the streets very well throughout his life. She heard a loud cuss word, a shriek, and a bang at one point and stopped to stare at the door behind which it had seemed to come from, in alarm. Dashi stopped when he no longer heard her pattering sandal-steps accompanying his own. He turned to see Corinne frowning at a doorway and teased gently,
"Once you're done admiring the woodwork, would you be coming... stranger?"
Corinne laughed, shook away any cloudy thoughts that had passed through her mind, and caught up, walking beside him again. She matched their strides.
End Chapter One! Yayness!