I was supposed to put up a Mai Hime story, but I decided that I'd like to do a story for one of the old-school anime series that I used to watch back when I was still a kid. I just got hold of all three seasons of You're Under Arrest and I was suddenly inspired to make a story for it.
Anyway, this story takes place after the third season (I haven't watched the last few episodes yet). All the characters' physical appearances are based on how they were portrayed in the third season (e.g. the eye color, hair color, etc.). If you've read my other stories, then you probably already expected that this is a shoujo-ai fic. Unfortunately, I'm not using the canon pairing of Natsumi and Miyuki. I prefer to work with Miyuki staying with Nakajima and revolving the story around Natsumi and an original character I created. I do love the pairing of Natsumi and Toukairin though! I just find them adorable, but then again he doesn't make much of an appearance so I decided against their pairing.
Hopefully, the story turns out well as I continue to come up with chapter after chapter. In the mean time, please enjoy reading this story!
Chapter 1: "Bad News and an Intriguing Stranger"
Has it been that long? It's only been a few months since that tragic accident, but it already seems like a lifetime has passed. Natsumi… why are you trying so hard to forget about what happened? Why can't you just open up to us… to me… and let everything out? Miyuki Kobayakawa released a long and frustrated sigh, her fingers halting its work on her computer's keyboard.
"What's wrong Miyuki?" The brown-haired girl sitting adjacent to her asked. "Why the sighing all of a sudden?" It was her usual cocky smile that was on her face, but to Miyuki and the rest of their close friends, they knew that it wasn't the same. "Ara! Don't tell me Nakajima hasn't asked you out on a date yet for this month!"
"T-Tsujimoto!" The bespectacled White Hawk of Bokuto Station bolted up to his feet and slammed his hands against his desk. Ken Nakajima was still as shy as ever despite the fact that everyone including Miyuki and himself has accepted the fact that they were both in a relationship. Thanks to Yoriko's stable supply of rumor and gossip, the Bokuto Station is abuzz with the latest news that Nakajima was getting ready to once again propose to the gifted mechanic and ace driver.
"Natsumi!" Miyuki scolded, feeling her face heat up in embarrassment. "Why must you always attach Nakajima to my sighing?" she demanded.
"Ah but Miyuki-san, you must admit that whenever you do sigh like that it's because it has something to do with Nakajima-kun," the buxom Aoi Futaba reminded the group who all worked in the traffic department of the police station. Despite being a transvestite, most of the people working in the department have come to accept that Aoi was truly a woman in her heart. "Isn't that right, Nakajima-kun?" She bobbed her head at the bike trooper, long dark hair bouncing from the movement.
"N-N-No!" Nakajima stammered, face already a smart shade of beet-red.
"Ehhh!" Yoriko grinned evilly at the tall man. "If that's not true, then why are you turning red?" she asked, playfully elbowing him at his ribs. Yoriko Nikaido was still the infamous chatterbox of the station. Despite her chronic habit of spreading rumors and gossip like wildfire, she was still one of the sweetest persons in their group of friends. "Well? When are you going to ask her?"
"H-Huh? W-What do you mean?" Nakajima stuttered, snapping his head from one person's face to another. He could not help but gulp as the rest of the traffic department's personnel joined in the fun. "I-I'll ask Kobayakawa… another time…" he muttered, bowing his head in humiliation.
"What?!" Noriko shouted. "Miyuki-chan will be an old maid if you keep procrastinating!" She slapped Nakajima hard on his arm. "Come on Nakajima-kun! All you have to do is ask her!" She smiled as the other police officers began to hoot and whistle.
"Alright already!" Nakajima shouted back, swallowing down his nervousness. Hesitantly and rather awkwardly, the biker approached the blushing blue-haired Miyuki. "K-Kobayakawa!" It came out in a near shout.
Miyuki looked up at the tall man and could not keep eye contact with him. "Y-Yes?"
"W-Will you… will you?" Nakajima stuttered out, clenching his fists hard at his sides.
"Hoy… Yoriko…" Aoi scolded her partner. "You did it this time. You're disrupting our work."
Yoriko flashed the taller Aoi a grin. "It'll be worth it!" She focused her attention once more at the couple before them. "Lucky! Who'd think that I'd be able to force Nakajima into proposi-"
"... go out on a date with me tonight?" Nakajima finally blurted out, making Yoriko fall to the floor in disappointment while a few others let out groans. "Huh?" He glanced at the disappointed faces around him. "Did you expect me to say something else?" It was just as everyone thought… Ken Nakajima may have been fast on a motorcycle, but he was still awfully slow in the relationship department.
Miyuki cleared her throat. "I'll call you, Nakajima," she told him with a warm smile. "In the mean time, we have to get going." She glanced at her watch and motioned for Natsumi to get out of her chair. "Come on Natsumi! Time for patrol!"
Eagerly, the green-eyed woman pushed away from her desk and got to her feet eagerly. "Ok!" she replied to her partner's call and followed her out of the department.
As the door to the traffic department closed, a collective sigh was released from the staff. "Ne… Aoi-chan…" Yoriko pulled on her partner's sleeve. "When do you think will Natsumi snap out of it?" she asked worriedly.
Aoi shook her head. "I don't know, Yoriko-chan," she replied. "These things take a lot of time to heal from."
"But…" Yoriko tried to reason out.
"If this has nothing to do with work then I suggest that you get back to finishing your reports," the middle-aged Kachou of the Bokuto Station informed everyone in a stern voice.
"Yes sir!" the staff chorused, busying themselves once more in their work.
Satisfied that there were no more distractions, the chief of Bokuto Station got up from his chair and turned to look out of the window. "Tsujimoto," he murmured, stroking his mustache. "This kind of behavior isn't healthy for you." He watched as the familiar mini patrol car drove out of the station.
"Ahhhh! Miyuki! Isn't it a nice day today?" Natsumi asked, checking the fit of her seatbelt as Miyuki drove Today down one of the busiest streets in their precinct. "Ne Miyuki! Let's drive by the school and say hi to the kids!"
"Hmmm?" Miyuki gripped the steering wheel and glanced at her partner.
"Miyuki…" Natsumi glowered at her best friend. "Were you even listening to me?"
"Ah Gomen! I sort of spaced out there for a second," Miyuki apologized, feeling a little bit sheepish that she allowed herself to get distracted while behind the wheel. "What did you say again?" she asked, watching Natsumi let out a sharp breath.
"I said that we should drive by the school and visit the kids," Natsumi patiently repeated herself. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked out of the window. "Awww… you're still off balance from what happened a while ago with Nakajima-kun," she accused her dearest friend, the slightest hint of a smirk forming on her lips.
Miyuki flushed as she steered the patrol car onto a side street. "Natsumi! Stop teasing already!" she told her dark-haired partner as angrily as she could. Try as she might, she just couldn't bring herself to get angry at her partner… especially after what happened. "Natsumi…" she said her friend's name in a softer voice.
The famous strongwoman of Bokuto Police Station turned her head to regard her suddenly sober looking friend. "What is it Miyuki?" she asked, looking a bit worried for her. "Are you angry about what I did a while ago?"
The blue-haired mechanic shook her head. "It's not that at all, Natsumi," she assured the older woman. It was hard to tell, but Miyuki was a year younger that her green-eyed counterpart. "It's just that…" she frowned hard and slowed the car to a stop at a pedestrian crossing. "Natsumi… how are you?"
"Eh?" Natsumi blinked those green orbs back at Miyuki. "How am I?" she asked herself aloud before dropping her fist into her open palm. "I'm doing great! I'm in top physical condition, I managed to get the three lunch meals I lined up for in the cafeteria, I'm close to saving enough money to buy that Ducati bike that Daimaru-san recommended to me-"
"Stop acting like you don't know what I'm asking!" Miyuki raised her voice at her suddenly surprised partner. Feeling a bit ashamed, Miyuki turned away and said, "Gomen… I didn't mean to yell at you." She glanced back at the brown-haired woman and saw that seriousness replaced the surprise that was on Natsumi's face. "Natsumi… you know that I worry about you."
"I know that Miyuki…"
"Then why are you behaving this way?" Miyuki demanded, amaranth-colored eyes boring into Natsumi's forest green orbs. She looked down at the clenched fists on Natsumi's lap and caught the bright glint of silver. "You're still wearing it…" she murmured, reaching out and grasping one of Natsumi's slender shoulders.
Natsumi unclenched her fists and raised her right hand to her face. "It's just… so hard to let go, you know," she admitted to her friend. "It seems like it was just yesterday when he slipped this ring onto my finger." She tried to smile, but it ended up as a tight-lipped one. "We were planning to," she paused, swallowing a lump that suddenly formed in her throat. "-planning to… tie the knot at the end of this month."
"Miyuki…" Natsumi looked seriously at her friend then pointed at the stop light. "It's been green for quite some time now."
Miyuki slapped her forehead and drove the patrol car to an unused side street. "You're still upset about what happened," she continued after parking the car and turning off the engines. She took in a deep breath. "It was bound to happen, Natsumi," she told the other woman in a gentle voice. "You knew that the job he took was one that exposed him to danger frequently."
Natsumi bowed her head as her shoulders began to shake uncontrollably. "I know… Miyuki," she whispered. "It's just that…" she grit her teeth. "It's just so unfair," she choked out, hot tears finally eking out of her eyes and trailing down her cheeks.
Without hesitating, Miyuki unbuckled her seatbelt and leaned over to gather her friend in her arms. This was so far the second time Natsumi cried ever since they got the news the Shouji Toukairin had died during a rescue mission in Mount Tate in Toyama. Her partner had shed the most tears when the dreadful news arrived at Bokuto Station with the chief delivering it. "Shhh… it's alright Natsumi," Miyuki crooned. "I'm here…"
Six months ago…
"So why did you call me up here all of a sudden?" Natsumi questioned the black-haired climber. The sun was slowly dipping down behind the Tokyo skyline as Natsumi clambered up the ladder and settled herself beside her smiling boyfriend. "I was just about to head to the locker room to change out of my uniform," she complained.
"Don't worry!" Shouji Toukairin assured his lover. "This will be quick! You'll be able to change out of uniform before it's Aoi-san's time to use the locker room!" He grinned at how Natsumi laughed heartily before running a hand through his hair. "I've got three sets of news for you actually," he told her.
"Good or bad?" Natsumi asked.
"A combination of both actually," Shouji replied, putting his arm around Natsumi's shoulders and pulling her close. "What do you want to hear first?"
The green-eyed woman scrunched her face up. "Let's hear the bad news first then," she decided, snuggling closer to Shouji.
"I'm received my orders again and I'm bound to go back to Toyoma tomorrow," he announced, giving Natsumi an apologetic smile. "I know I've only been here for a week, but I'm needed back at Toyoma to lead the mountain police," Shouji explained. "The peak season for tourists and climbers is coming up fast and there's a need for the mountain rescue team."
"That sucks," Natsumi let out bluntly, scowling hard at her boyfriend when he merely laughed at her as a reaction. "So what's the good news then?" she asked when Shouji finally got himself under control.
The dark-haired man grinned down at his counterpart in strength and appetite. "I'm getting promoted," he told her, reaching up with his hand and pinching Natsumi's nose playfully.
"Seriously?" Natsumi asked in excitement, almost bouncing in her seat on the roof. "Let me guess! You're being promoted to chief of the Toyoma Police!" Her eyes glinted happily at the thought of having the chief of the Toyoma mountain police as her boyfriend.
Shouji could only laugh in amusement. "Don't get ahead of yourself, Natsumi." He playfully ruffled her hair with one hand before restraining her from attacking with a tight hug. "I've been promoted from lieutenant to captain of the mountain rescue team," he explained. "So technically, I'm the leader of the mountain rescue team," he continued. "The chief is still my superior though."
Natsumi looked a bit disappointed and pushed her daydreams out of her head. "Well, it's not what I expected, but it's still great news that you've been promoted!" She reached into the simple tent and pulled out a two cans of beer that she had bought for Shouji when they both went grocery shopping a few days ago. "We should celebrate your promotion!" She tossed one can to him.
"I have nothing against your suggestion, but wouldn't you want to save the celebration until you hear the last set of news I have for you?" Shouji asked.
"Ehhh? There's one more?" Natsumi demanded, pulling her fingers away from the can's tab. "Well, let's hear it quickly! I happen to like this brand of beer!" She stared at the unmoving climber for a full minute then began to scowl at him. "What is it? Are you going to tell me or what?!" she demanded impatiently.
Toukairin shook his head vigorously and stuck his hand into his pocket. "Sorry about that," he apologized, turning a little bit red. "I was just a bit distracted when I thought about how daunting this task is to me," he admitted, taking his hand out of his pocket and taking Natsumi's hand into his own. Looking a little bit nervous, he said, "I've thought about this for quite some time now and I already consulted with them about this." He paused and cleared his throat. "Natsumi," he said in a serious voice. "Will you… marry me?" He held the bright silver ring up, pinned between his thumb and index finger.
"M-Marry?" Natsumi stammered, staring first at Shouji's face then staring at the simple ring he held.
The climber frowned, obviously misinterpreting Natsumi's reaction. "Is it too sudden?" he asked, hiding the ring behind his hand. "It's been a year already and I thought that-" He could not finish the sentence because Natsumi had knocked him onto his back with an enthusiastic hug. "So that means yes?" he asked, holding the ring up once more and slipping it onto Natsumi's ring finger.
"Of course you idiot!" Natsumi replied, wrapping her arms around Toukairin's neck and kissing him passionately. "By the way, what did you mean when you said that you already consulted with them?" she asked after pulling away and helping her boyfriend sit up.
"My parents of course and our friends," Shouji replied with a content smile. "Miyuki said that now would be the best time to propose especially with my promotion." He reached out and pulled Natsumi onto his lap.
The policewoman smiled and leaned back into Shouji's strong chest. "Miyuki said that?" she asked as she looked up at the darkening skies. "But what about us? What about the wedding and-"
Toukairin reached around and covered Natsumi's mouth. "You needn't worry about it as of the moment," he told her. "I'm not exactly in a hurry to tie the knot. I have some things to take care of first before we actually get married," he explained. "I want to make sure that I'll be able to support you when that time comes." He took his hand away and propped his chin on Natsumi's shoulder. "I've been saving up and with a few months working as captain of the Toyoma mountain rescue team, I'll have enough to buy a house for us."
"Shouji! You don't have to do that!" Natsumi said. "We could both pay for the house eventually!" she told him.
The climber shook his head vehemently. "It's alright Natsumi," he assured her. "I've had my eye on this house for quite some time now. You could buy the furniture and appliances when that day comes." He nuzzled Natsumi's neck for a few seconds before tipping her head up and giving her a kiss. "Until then, I need you to be patient and just wait for me."
Natsumi smiled softly. "I can wait until forever," she told him.
"That's my girl!" Toukairin chuckled.
Three months ago…
"Tsujimoto, Kobayakawa," Kachou called from his desk.
"Yes!" Both police officers got to their feet and saluted their chief from their desks.
The chief looked at the two officers briefly before making up his mind. "Come to the meeting room," he ordered, ignoring the strange looks his staff gave him. He stood up and headed into the small meeting room with the police duo following closely behind him. Sitting in the only armchair in the room, he gestured at the couch before him. "Please take your seat."
"Kachou…" Natsumi fidgeted as she settled onto the couch. "Are you going to punish me for the being late this whole week?" she asked nervously. "You didn't have to ask Miyuki to come along if you were going to do that," she explained. "I could take care of myself!"
The chief shook his head. "No, I didn't call you here to punish you for that. Besides, the only punishment you'd get from me for being late would be the usual reprimanding and writing an apology letter," he replied, trying to keep his voice neutral.
"Kachou, there's something wrong… am I right?" Miyuki asked, easily reading the chief's face.
"Ehh?" Natsumi let out. "Nonsense Miyuki! The chief couldn't have called us here for anything else!" She glanced and saw the grave look on the chief's face. "I guess this isn't about giving us an assignment."
"Tsujimoto," the chief let out a sigh. "Have you or Kobayakawa seen the news recently?" he asked.
"Like how recent?" Miyuki asked, wondering what was wrong.
"This morning's news," Kachou replied, crossing his arms over his chest and nervously bouncing his knee up and down. "Particularly about that storm that touched down in the Toyoma prefecture," he clarified.
"Oh you mean the snowstorm," Miyuki said, amaranth-eyes narrowing at the realization.
The chief nodded and focused his attention on Natsumi. "A group of adventurers were stranded on Mount Tate during the storm, but normal air rescue wasn't possible due to its severity." He took in a deep breath before continuing. "The chief of the Toyoma mountain police sent Captain Toukairin and his team to rescue the adventurers and risk the bad weather."
"Kachou," Miyuki tried, feeling her gut clench at the bad feeling she was getting from this conversation.
"Were they able to rescue them?" Natsumi asked, still blissfully unaware of what the chief was trying to get to.
"Thankfully, they all made it safely thanks to Captain Toukairin."
Natsumi smiled and stretched her arms towards the ceiling. "I knew that all would go well if he handled such a dangerous rescue mission!" She got to her feet and made her way towards the door. "Well Kachou! Thanks for telling me the news! I'll try calling Shouji up now and ask how he's doing." She managed to get a hand on the doorknob when the chief spoke again.
"Tsujimoto…" he started, looking all the more grave. "There was an accident," he finally let out, watching his police officer react.
Natsumi froze and slowly turned around to stare at the chief with dread. "There's no way that could have happened," she said in disbelief. "Shouji… Shouji's an expert and would have been able to avoid any accidents!" She didn't notice but her voice was steadily rising with each word and becoming shakier.
The chief continued to regard her with those sloe-black eyes of his. "Accidents are bound to happen, Tsujimoto," he gently reminded her. "Witnesses, the adventurers and the team members of the captain, said that Toukairin was leading one of the victims who strayed from the path away from a snowy bank near the cliff, when the ground suddenly gave way."
"No…" Natsumi whispered, taking a step back. "It can't be…"
"Captain Toukairin was able to snag the person's coat and managed to grab hold of a handhold on the cliff face," the chief continued despite the looks Miyuki was giving him. "He managed to pass the victim to one of his team members and was climbing up himself when the rock crumbled away." The chief paused and rubbed his eyes. "I'm sorry Tsujimoto…"
Natsumi stood there like a statue with the meeting room in complete silence. A few minutes had passed when Miyuki got to her feet and worriedly walked towards her best friend. She didn't even manage three steps when Natsumi suddenly bolted out of the meeting room and back into the traffic department. "Natsumi!" Miyuki cried out, running after her.
"You can't be-" Natsumi choked as she ran to her desk and grabbed her cellphone, trying her best to ignore the worried looks her coworkers were giving her. "It just can't be true!" She furiously dialed Toukairin's number. He always brought his cellphone along with him even on his missions. "Come on Shouji! Please answer!" She held the phone against her ear and waited.
"The number is currently unavailable. Please try your call again later."
"Damn!" Natsumi cursed and tried again, still getting the same result.
"Natsumi please," Miyuki begged her delirious friend.
"No!" Natsumi yelled, shocking all the staff present in the department. "I won't accept it!" She dialed Shouji's number once more, held the phone against her ear and grit her teeth. Suddenly, she heard the familiar ringing tone in the background. "Come on Shouji! Please pick up!" She waited as it continued to ring for a few more seconds.
Then suddenly, the ringing stopped and then came the sound of Toukairin's cheerful voice.
"Shouji-kun!" Natsumi cried into her cell phone's mouthpiece, feeling relieved. "I thought that you were dea-"
"I'm currently not available at the moment due to work or other matters."
Her heart suddenly wrenched painfully as she realized that it was the answering machine. "No way…" she whispered, the tears coming down harder now. "This can't be happening!" she gripped her cell phone so hard that her hand shook.
"Natsumi! If that's you calling, I'll be sure to call you as soon as I'm free! Well then, you know the drill!" With that, the voice recording stopped followed by a beep then silence.
"Natsumi…" Miyuki called out to her friend in a gentle voice. "That's enough now." She reached over and took the cellphone out of her best friend's hand. "That's enough…" the blue-haired mechanic switched off the cellphone and placed it back on Natsumi's desk.
"I-I…" Natsumi stuttered, clamping her eyes shut and banging her gloves hands against her table with tremendous force. "You said you'd come back!" Her knees finally gave way below her and she slumped to the floor. She let out a sob and buried her face into her hands. "D-Don't leave me! Please!"
Miyuki was teary-eyed during the whole confrontation, but it was only now that she shed tears having to see her best friend in such a sorry state. "I won't leave you Natsumi," Miyuki whispered to her friend as she dropped to her knees and fiercely hugged her. "I won't ever leave you…" she repeated as Natsumi desperately clung onto her.
At the present…
"Sorry…" Natsumi sniffed and pulled away from her friend. "It was… just remembering," she explained, wiping the tears away from her eyes. "I guess I needed that." She smiled at her best friend and took the offered tissue from her.
Miyuki gently smiled back at her partner and waited as she blew her nose. "You shouldn't have kept it inside for so long," she scolded her. "I know I'd probably be depressed if I was in your place, but still you have to move on." She gestured at the ring on Natsumi's finger. "You're still young and with that said, you could learn to love again."
The brown-haired woman shook her head and put a hand over the ring. "I'm not ready to let go yet," she decided, her face a mixture of pain and sadness. "I'm not ready to look for another person to fill in the hole he left."
Miyuki nodded her head in agreement and caressed Natsumi's face with a gentle hand. "Nobody's asking you to decide right now," she told her. "What I want from you is to get out of your depression and try going back to becoming the usual Natsumi we knew." She gave her a warm smile. "Alright?"
Natsumi blinked back the unshed tears and took a deep breath to calm herself. "I'll try my best Miyuki," she answered.
"That's my partner!" Miyuki let out, giving her one more hug just as her radio signaled an incoming call from headquarters.
"Mini-patrol car number 3, mini patrol car number 3," Yoriko's voice called. "The chief has new orders for the both of you."
Grabbing the receiver, Miyuki spoke into it and said, "Mini patrol car number 3 reporting. What are the chief's orders?"
"The Bokuto mall is holding an outdoor event today and is requesting for some assistance with crowd control."
Miyuki glanced at Natsumi who nodded her head and disposed of her used tissue. "Roger that then. We will be heading over to the Bokuto Mall to assist in the outdoor event. Thanks Yoriko!"
"To the mall then?" Natsumi asked, checking her face using Today's rearview mirror.
"Buckle up," Miyuki ordered as she started the car's engines. "We're doing crowd control for today!" She drove the patrol car out of the side street and made her way towards the main road.
"Yes Natsumi?" Miyuki asked, keeping her eyes on the road.
"Thanks for being there for me ever since."
There was a pause. "You know that I would never leave you alone."
The taxi driver looked nervously at his passenger through his rearview mirror. He knew that it was unbecoming for him to be judgmental of his passengers, but this particular one was making him anxious. Fortunately enough, his passenger seemed to be asleep, probably because of the long and tiresome flight she was recently in. He had gleaned some information from her when he tried to strike up some polite conversation after guessing that she was a foreigner. Apparently, the young woman who looked to be in mid-twenties or late-twenties, had come from California and was in the country to do some vacationing. That was the only information he got aside from the destination she wanted to go to. She had already fallen asleep when the taxi driver tried to continue their conversation.
The taxi driver this time twisted his head around to regard the sleeping figure in his vehicle. She didn't look menacing, but she certainly stood out especially if she was put to the streets with the Japanese people. The woman was certainly not appropriately dressed for Japan's autumn weather. She wore thin and loose khaki cargo shorts, a pristine white long-sleeved polo shirt with its sleeves careless rolled up to her elbows and a pair of worn out sneakers. As for physical appearance, the driver estimated that the woman was around five feet and eight inches and around a hundred and thirty pounds. She was in top physical condition especially since he could see the visible line of muscles on her arms and legs, which made him wonder what exactly did she do to have such a toned body.
"Hoy…" The woman cracked an eye open and regarded the driver with a sleepy amber orb. "It's getting uncomfortable to have you staring at me like that," she told him in a weary voice. She spoke fluently in Japanese, but anyone could spot that she spoke the language with an accent. "Is something wrong?" She straightened in her seat and ran her hand through her layered black hair. Despite it being slightly mussed from her long flight, the woman's raven-black hair, which fell just until the nape of her neck with one long fringe often falling over one eye gave her a mysterious look.
"Ah gomen!" the driver apologized, thinking that this was one of those emo kids that he heard about on television. The hairstyle complimented the so-called emo style and there was also the variety of piercings on the woman's right ear. There were a total of three simple silver studs lined up along the earlobe and a silver ear cuff with what looked to be a black serpent of some sort attached to the helix of her ear. "Pardon me for asking, but are you one of those emo kids from America?"
"Huh?" The woman blinked at the driver and began to laugh. "Well, I must admit that I understand your reason for saying that," she told him with a chuckle. "I may look like one, but I certainly don't act like one. Well, not all the time I suppose, but my personality often gets mistaken as that of being emo."
"Perhaps you're just a very serious character and that's why people think you're of that sort," the driver guessed, feeling more relaxed as he halted the car at the entrance of the Bokuto Mall. "Here we are at Bokuto Mall," he announced, thanking the woman when she handed him the payment and got out of the car. "Perhaps you should purchase a jacket," he suggested as a cold blast of wind entered the cab.
"Not to worry," the woman said, taking a dark blue sports jacket from her large duffel bag and slipping it on. "I'll manage with this." She smiled at the driver once more and bowed in thanks.
"Enjoy your stay in Japan!" With that, the taxi drove off in search of another passenger.
As the woman zipped her duffel bag close, there was a sudden feeling of peace that fell upon her. Looking up at the overcast skies, she let out a sigh. "At least I can find peace here for the moment," she murmured to herself. "Good. No one recognizes who I am here." She slung her duffel bag onto one shoulder and made her way towards the crowded outdoor event of the mall. "Now where's that café? She said that it was just outside of the Bokuto Mall." She looked around and scowled. "I won't be able to find it in this crowd. I might as well go around and pass time." Having said that, the raven-haired woman disappeared into the crowd.
"Man, this is a really big crowd!" Natsumi remarked as she and Miyuki stepped out of their parked patrol car. "Did you find out from Yoriko why this outdoor event is being held?" Taking her dark blue blazer from the backseat and quickly put it on.
Miyuki nodded her head. "It's just one of the annual events the mall holds," she told her partner as they walked into the crowd. "I did find out that one of the main attractions in this event is a eighteen-storey or nearly two hundred foot man-made climbing wall." She bit her lip hard when she saw Natsumi's face sadden at what she just said. Putting a hand around the slightly taller girl's shoulders, Miyuki said, "Come on. Let's get to work."
"Yeah…" Natsumi answered, shrugging off her friend's arm and taking the lead. It was only natural for her to react this way, after all Shouji was an expert and avid rock climber. "Hey Miyuki," she called. "Do you want to do some shopping too while we're here? There are quite a lot of bargains."
"Out of my way! I need to get to the all day discounted sale!" A stout woman in a gaudy pink jacket pushed past Natsumi and Miyuki and shoved other customers and sightseers out of the way.
Both Miyuki and Natsumi stared at the retreating figure and shrugged their shoulders. "What did we expect? The scooter mama is always at hand when there's a sale," Miyuki said, checking the fit of her white gloves on her hands. "I guess we can afford to do some shopping," she admitted sheepishly. "As long as the chief doesn't find out that we shopped during work."
Natsumi grinned and led the way to a group of stalls that sold clothes. "Ok! I see some clothes that look really nice!"
While Miyuki and Natsumi looked through the clothing stalls, a fit man in comfortable shorts and a sleeveless shirt approached the 200-foot man-made wall. "Hoy Hisashi!" he called out to his assistant who was currently doing his role as a belayer. "I told you not to open the wall to customers until I got back from the store!"
The young man grinned at his boss and continued to pull the rope out of the self-locking mechanism called the Gri-gri as the customer, a junior high school girl by the looks of it made her way up the wall. "Sorry boss, but the girl and her friends were really eager to give the wall a go!" he explained, waving his hand at the honey brown-haired girl. "You're doing great Miki-san!" he called up to her.
The boss scowled deeply. "You mean you opened our attraction because it was an opportunity to hit on a bunch of under-aged girls," he accused his employee, nevertheless walking over and checking the equipment over. "I swear you're lucky that you have me as a boss. I'm way more easygoing compared to othe-" he paused with a deep frown as he grabbed part of the rope his employee had used for the girl's particular climb. "Where did you get this?" he demanded, hurriedly checking the Gri-gri and carabiners as well.
"Huh?" The employee looked at his boss in confusion. "I got it from the trunk of your car, boss," he replied. "Although I was surprised that it wasn't even coiled properly! It took me quite some time to unravel it," he continued.
"Idiot!" The boss bellowed and slapped the man hard at the back of his head. "Who told you to use that rope?" he demanded, looking up at the girl who was a little bit halfway up the wall and approaching the overhang. "The equipment at the back of my car is the ones I was going to dispose of! The equipment you were supposed to use are all in those boxes!" He gestured at the group of boxes at the back of the wall. "And why the hell did you let the girl take the expert course of the wall?"
The boss cursed and yelled up at the girl. "Hoy! Don't attempt the overhang!" He signaled for his employee to get ready for the descent. "It's too hard for you!"
"What? But I already paid for this!" the girl yelled back, digging her fingers into a hold known as a jug since it provided a hole for the climber to slip his fingers into.
The man frowned at the fact that he'd be letting the girl climb two walls with just the standard payment, but then again either it was money or her safety. "We'll let you climb the less difficult wall free of charge!" he yelled back. "Now slowly make your way down the wall!' he ordered.
The amateur employee grumbled under his breath as he belayed the girl inch by inch. "I still don't see the problem, boss," he said.
"Fool! Did you even bother to check the rope while you were setting up?" the older man asked, keeping a careful eye on the customer. "It's already starting to fray and the core's starting to deteriorate," he said in a soft voice, hoping that the girl's friends wouldn't hear. "One good fall could snap the rope and from that height, it's either she'll break quite a number of bones or worse she'll die."
His employee began to sweat.
"Now don't panic. As long as she makes her way down the wall just like that," the boss started, pointing at how the girl descended hold by hold. "Then we can pretend that this never happened. We'll just change the rope before we let the next customer climb the wall."
"Hoy! Oji-san!" the girl called, nearly eighty feet above the ground. "Shouldn't I be coming down by kicking away from the wall?" Without waiting for a reply, the girl set her feet against the wall and kicked at it, her body swinging away a good six feet away from it. She was swinging back to the wall when the rope suddenly gave way. Screaming in terror, the student slammed into the wall, fell a few feet down before managing to grab onto the various holds on the wall. "H-Help!" she shouted.
"Damn it!" the boss curses as the broken rope fell to the ground. "Hurry and unload one of the new ropes! We have to get it onto the pulley system quick so that I could climb up and save her!" He watched as his employee detached himself from the belaying system and dashed to the back of the wall. "Just hang on!" he yelled, frowning at how the girl's group of friends began to scream in terror while other people began to gather. "I knew I should have gotten more employees to work today!"
"Oji-san! I'm calling the police and the fire department!" One of the girl's friends waved her cell phone at him. "Maybe they could get a ladder here in time!"
The owner of the wall could not reply as he kept his eye on the girl who was visibly trembling against the wall eighty feet up. "Of all times for this to happen!" he muttered. "Hisashi! Where the hell are those ropes?" he shouted at his employee.
"I have to unroll it, boss!" came the reply.
"Damn it! Hurry it up! The girl won't be able to hold on for much longer!"
Further away from the wall, Natsumi and Miyuki were paying for their purchases when a crowd of people began running towards some other destination. Calling out to no one in particular, Natsumi shouted, "What's happening?"
"There was an accident at that 200-foot climbing wall. The rope broke and this junior high school girl is stuck eighty feet up!" some random person shouted back to the green-eyed woman before disappearing into the fast-moving crowd. Forest green orbs flashing in worry and determination, the policewoman turned to her partner. "Miyuki!"
The blue-haired mechanic and driver briskly nodded her head. "Excuse me, but could you hold onto our purchases for the time being? We'll come back for it after we handle the situation at the climbing wall." After getting the stall owner's agreement, both she and Natsumi dove into the crowd and ran towards the distinct wall.
"Sorry! Please excuse us! Police coming through!" Natsumi yelled, taking care not to shove people in her way too hard. After a few more minutes, both she and Miyuki found themselves at the base of the wall. "Woah! I thought it was only one wall!" Natsumi remarked, shading her eyes with a hand and looking up at it. It indeed looked like a single wall until 60 feet up. After that, the wall split into three columns with the middle one ending at sixty feet, the column at its left at 120 feet and the one on the right a full 200 feet.
"The girl is on the tallest one," Miyuki observed, worriedly looking up at the scared victim. "Just hang on! We'll get you down from there!" Walking towards the pair of men dragging a lengthy piece of rope on the ground, Miyuki demanded, "Why isn't anyone scaling the wall to get her?"
The older of the two men frowned. "The rope broke and we need to thread it through the pulley system before we could actually climb up and get her," he replied, glaring at his employee. "Depending on how fast my idiot of a subordinate can move, it might take some time for us to get everything ready."
Miyuki opened her mouth to reply, but was interrupted by another scream.
"Damn it! Just stay there!" Natsumi yelled, pulling up her fit skirt and discarding her blazer.
"What are you doing?" the boss demanded dropping the rope and grasping Natsumi forearm hard. "Even if you were ridiculously strong, you wouldn't be able to scale up the expert course without any safety equipment!"
Natsumi slapped the man's hand off her arm and glared hard at him. "What should we do then? Just stand here and wait for her to slip?" she challenged. "There's no time left!" She threw her arms up in the air in frustration just as the large crowd gasped and pointed at the wall. "Is she falling?" The strongwoman of Bokuto Station whirled around to check what the fuss was about.
"Natsumi! Look!" Miyuki pointed 20 feet up the wall.
The boss and his subordinate could only gawk as a raven-haired woman clothed in khaki cargo shorts and a dark blue jacket effortlessly but steadily made her way up the wall without any climbing equipment. The older man watched as the slender woman used a variety of climbing techniques spanning from arm and elbow bars, crimping, mantling, heel and toe hooks. "Who is that?" he wondered aloud.
"Must be an expert, boss," his subordinate replied, keeping his eye on the unknown climber. "Although there's something different with her climbing style," he added.
"How so?" Miyuki asked, curious to know that these climbers noticed a difference in the woman's climbing style.
The subordinate shrugged. "Well, there's only so much a climber can utilize especially when he or she is attached to the safety equipment," he began. "That climber on the other hand," he pointed at the woman who just breached the 60-foot mark. "She does look like an expert but she looks comfortable scaling the wall without any equipment!"
The boss clapped his hands loudly. "That's it!" he let out in excitement. "We've got a boulderer!" he announced.
Natsumi tilted her head and let out a confused grunt. "Boulder-what?" she asked.
"A boulderer," the man repeated himself. "In other words, we have an experienced climber who doesn't use ropes or other equipment to scale a wall, boulder or rock face." He nodded his head and brought out a small towel from his pocket to dab at his sweaty face. "Bouldering is a style of climbing emphasizing power, strength, and dynamics," he explained.
Natsumi nodded her head. "So it's about brute strength then?"
"Yes but not quite," the man replied. "Bouldering does emphasize more on power and strength but it takes a lot of problem solving skill too. A boulderer about to scale a man made wall or a real rock face needs to map out his route carefully and utilize the right techniques in order to complete the course." He put tossed the towel onto a nearby-unopened box. "We're quite lucky that this woman's here, although I'm quite worried."
"Why is that?" Natsumi demanded, clenching her fists as she continued to watch the woman make her way up the remaining fifteen up to the girl. She was in awe with how effortlessly and skillfully the woman made her way up the wall in just a span of five minutes. "She's almost there!" she shouted to trembling student. "Just hang on and don't look down!" Her eyes widened as the girl's body slightly relaxed so that she could peer down at her rescuer. "Don't look down!" she shouted, watching in horror as the girl lost her grip on the holds and began to fall. Sprinting to the base of the wall, Natsumi hoped that she could catch the girl and withstand the force of her fall.
A collective sound of relief and awe emanated from the audience as they pointed their fingers to the sky. Natsumi was not able to see what had happened but she could tell from the looks of the spectators faces. Looking up, she could only manage a breathy "Kami-sama." It was almost just like in the action movies, but it wasn't a stunt and there weren't any stunt doubles or safety equipment. With three points of contact on the wall, namely her feet and one hand, the unknown woman managed to grab hold of the student's wrist and kept both of them from falling to the ground. "She's strong," Natsumi said aloud, watching the woman's arms and legs flex from the effort of keeping herself on the wall and single-handedly holding the young girl up. The policewoman heard the stranger grunt loudly as she lifted the girl up bit by bit. She could barely hear what the woman said to her charge due to the crowd's noise, but she picked it up anyway.
"Wrap your arms around my neck and hold on!"
Natsumi heard the whimper of the girl and repeated the boulderer's orders in a shout. "Do as she says! You'll be alright!" she assured the girl, feeling relief wash over her as the student wrapped her arms around the woman's neck. "Can you climb down?" she asked the boulderer.
"I could climb down if it was only myself, but having the extra weight will make it more dangerous," the stranger replied, fixing her grip on the holds on the wall. "It'd be better if I climb up."
Natsumi waved her fists at the climber. "Are you crazy?!" she yelled. "You can't possibly climb to the top of this 200-foot wall!"
"Natsumi! Calm down!" Miyuki ordered her partner. "You're not helping by shouting your lungs out at them!"
The climber chuckled. "Who says I'm going to climb all the way to the top?" She looked up the wall and analyzed the arrangement of holds. Looking down and to her left, she saw that the middle wall, which she expected was the beginner course had no platform at the top. Scanning the advanced course wall, she saw that at the top of the 120-foot wall was a platform and behind it a window. If she could reach that platform, she'd have access to one of the mall windows. Making up her mind, she took a deep breath and began to climb up.
"Hoy!" Natsumi yelled.
"Don't distract me!" the stranger muttered as she paused at the 110-foot mark and looked at the other wall. She calculated that the 200-foot wall and the 120-foot wall were separated by a 2 and ½ meter gap and she could probably make the jump even with her burden. It was risky and she usually executed a Dynamic Maneuver or Dyno, which was any movement that requires the climber to jump or to swing from one hold to another, only when necessary. The risk attached to such a climbing technique was high. Technically, the Dyno was a move that if not completed successfully would result in a fall. In this case, it would mean broken bones, paralysis or even death for her and the student she carried.
"Hoy! Why are you stopping! You're going to wear yourself out!"
"Natsumi! You're just distracting her!" Miyuki grabbed her partner and pulled her away from the wall. "But I do wonder why she's looking across that gap between the advanced and expert walls," she added, eyes widening in realization of what the stranger was about to do. "She's going to jump it!" she told the male climbers at her side.
"Ohhhh… she'll be doing a Dyno," the older man said, the look in his eyes more of interest rather than worry. "It makes sense that she's choosing to do that to get to the platform of the advanced wall. With climbing to the top and climbing down no longer viable options, this is the only thing she can do to save both their lives," he explained. "Unless the fire department arrives."
Natsumi grit her teeth. "I don't like it. It's too risky."
Miyuki sighed. "But what choice do we have? Sooner or later she's won't have enough strength," she told her partner. "We'll just have to trust her Natsumi." She looked up just in time to see the raven-haired woman prepare for the complex maneuver. She watched as first the student now wrapped her legs around the climber's torso then stared worriedly as the boulderer began to swing her body from right to left.
It seemed like an eternity passed when suddenly with one mighty swing, the climber with her human burden flung herself across the gap and managed to grab hold of one particularly large hold that she wrapped her hands around. The crowd cheered as the woman climbed the final 10 feet up and pulled herself onto the small platform atop the wall. The raven-haired woman then helped the girl into the opened window of the mall, which the mall workers had opened for them.
"Natsumi! Let's go!" Miyuki called, running towards the nearest mall entrance with her partner following closely behind her. They moved past the sliding doors and ran towards the escalators. When they finally got to the window, both police officers noticed that something was different. The junior high school student was there but her rescuer wasn't. Another thing that they noticed was that the girl had the familiar blue jacket of the boulderer around her shivering frame.
"Where did she go?" Natsumi asked the mall workers and the young girl seated on the floor.
One saleswoman shook her head. "We actually didn't realize that she disappeared. One minute we were helping both of them through the window and then at the next moment she was suddenly gone." She gestured at the trembling girl before her. "We didn't even notice that the climber had given her jacket to her."
While Miyuki tended to the girl, Natsumi scanned the premises for the mysterious woman who solely accomplished the rescue. She knew that it was not likely for her to spot the woman in the mall's dense crowd, but she could not help but let her mind wander. The dark haired policewoman replayed how the boulderer had deftly scaled the wall down to that last risky maneuver she used. Natsumi had caught a glimpse of the woman's face and as that moment of contact replayed in her mind, there was a white flash and she saw gentle blue eyes, a warm smile and that familiar shock of black hair. "Shouji…" Natsumi whispered, putting a hand over her heart and letting her fingers dig into her chest. The boulderer may have rescued the girl, but provoked unwanted feelings and memories in Natsumi.
In a large café adjacent to the Bokuto Mall, a woman in her late fifties walked around her near-empty establishment, wondering why there weren't as many customers as usual. The woman had shiny black hair that fell past her shoulders, a soft face, well-shaped nose and full lips. She wore a pair of simple slacks and a blouse, which differed from the outfits worn by the rest of the café's staff. "Hey Jiro! Do you know why we aren't entertaining as much customers as usual?" the woman asked one of the waiters.
The blonde-haired man shook his head. "I'm only guessing, but I'm guessing it's because of that accident that happened at the wall-climb attraction at Bokuto Mall's outdoor event," he answered, cleaning the surface of one of the tables with a swash of cloth. "How about you Mitsuko-san? You've been waiting for that guest to arrive for a few hours now."
Mitsuko Soryu let out a long sigh and settled herself at an empty table. "It's been years since I've seen that girl," she mused. "I told her that the café's easy to spot because it's named after her, but she hasn't even arrived yet."
"Perhaps she's lost?" Jiro suggested. "You did say that she's a foreigner," he pointed out.
"She is a foreigner, but she's half-Japanese," Mitsuko replied. "My younger sister is her mother while her father is an Irishman born in the United States of America. She speaks quite fluently in Japanese thanks to my sister, so I'm quite sure that she hasn't lost her way." She was twirling her hair with her fingers when the café door opened admitting a tall raven-haired woman with a duffel bag. "Welcome!" Mitsuko greeted, getting out of her chair and walking to the door. "Table for one-" she paused abruptly and stared up into those familiar amber orbs.
"Hi Auntie Mitsuko." The raven-haired woman bent down slightly and pecked her stunned aunt on the cheek. "Sorry for being late," she apologized, smiling broadly at her mother's sister.
"Aki-chan!" Mitsuko threw her arms around her favorite niece's neck and fiercely hugged her. "How have you been? Was your flight delayed?" She pulled away from her niece and grabbed hold of her hand, towing her to a nearby table. "Jiro! Go make some tea and give me a club sandwich!" Turning to look at her weary looking niece, she asked, "Are you alright?"
"You ask to many questions," Aki accused her. "No my flight wasn't delayed and yes I'm alright," she answered the questions, wincing as she eased the strap of her duffel bag off her shoulder. "On second thought, I think I strained my shoulder from a while ago."
Mitsuko's honey-brown orbs regarded the younger woman with worry. "What did you do to strain it?" she asked just as Jiro came over with the sandwich and the tea. "No matter, I'll have my doctor come over tomorrow to look you over," she waved Aki's reply off. "I'd rather hear why you suddenly decided to leave your home and your career to come here."
Aki shook her head. "It hasn't been aired on the news yet?" she asked, looking thoughtfully out of the window. "I'd rather not tell you here Auntie Mitsuko." She stared down at the cup of tea in her hands. "Especially since I haven't been recognized yet," she added.
"Recognized?" Jiro came to their table. "Sorry to interrupt, but I'd like to introduce myself." He offered his hand to Aki and smiled. "I'm Jiro Yasamura. I'm the head waiter of the Aki Café."
Aki shook hands with the friendly man and returned the smile. "I'm Logan Aki Walsh. My American friends call me Logan but my family calls me Aki."
The waiter blinked at the raven-haired woman. "Logan Walsh?" he murmured. "Sounds quite familiar. Ow!" he cried out when his boss punched him on his arm. "What was that for?"
"You have work to do remember?" Mitsuko reminded her subordinate. "And as for the familiarity of Aki-chan's name, it's probably because you heard me mention her name before." She scowled at the young man when he refused to move. "Well? What are you waiting for?" she demanded, watching as the young man paled and scurried back to the kitchen.
Aki chuckled as she downed her cup of tea and began to work on the club sandwich. "You're still as fierce as I remember you," she mused.
"I'll take that as compliment!" Mitsuko replied. "So where are you planning to stay?"
"Probably I'll go look for an apartment somewhere and look for a job."
Mitsuko raised her delicate eyebrows at her niece. "You come here just to separate yourself from your dear Auntie?" she asked in a whiny voice. "You can come live with me!"
Aki shook her head. "I'd rather not. I want to live on my own here in Japan," she told her. "I don't want to have you looking after me especially since I'm a twenty-seven year old woman who's quite capable of taking care of herself."
"I don't have a doubt that you could take care of yourself," Mitsuko said. "But I still want to help you." She took a deep breath. "If I can't convince you to live with me then I can at least offer you a job at this café."
The raven-haired woman bowed her head in thanks. "I'd truly appreciate that and I'd be glad to help around in your café."
"Great!" Mitsuko gestured for Jiro to come to their table. "I know we have some spare uniforms at the back, but it looks like none of the female uniforms will fit her," she told the waiter. "So I want you to give Aki two of the black vests for the moment. I'll take her shopping for slacks and white polo shirts tomorrow."
"Yokai!" Jiro replied playfully and went to do his boss' bidding.
"So when do I start work?" Aki asked.
"Tomorrow if ever after the doctor checks your shoulder," Mitsuko replied.
"By the way Auntie Mitsuko, I noticed that your bar is damaged. What happened?"
"Oh we had a mishap with a hold-upper a few days ago, but some kind policewomen saved us from any more damage." The café owner got up and walked to the cash register to answer the ringing phone. "Oh, I'll help you find a nearby apartment as soon as I finish going over the financial reports."
Aki leaned back against her chair and twiddled with the piercings on her right ear. "Sure Auntie… sure…" she murmured, reaching into her shorts' pocket and pulling out a hand-woven blue and silver friendship bracelet. I still can't forget… The guilt will never cease existing in my heart after what happened.
Phew! That was quite a long first chapter although I'm quite content with how it turned out! Anyway, I know that it was a sad end for Toukairin, but then again I'd like to see Natsumi in a close-distance relationship that's more serious than the one she has with Toukairin.
Regarding Logan "Aki" Walsh, I actually based her on a good friend of mine who's an avid boulderer and she was the reason why I got the idea to make a You're Under Arrest fanfiction story.
As of the moment, I'm also in the process of making another story, so I won't be able to update as fast. Until I manage to make another chapter, I'd like to hear your opinions and suggestions after having read the first chapter.