Out for Justice
Chapter 1 - An Act of Violence
Having put a great deal of thought into the gift that he had planned to give her for her birthday, which was fast approaching, Takumi was ecstatic that today he would finally take possession of it after making the final installment payment. Having stumbled upon a quaint little shop slightly off the beaten path only three months earlier, Takumi had found what he thought would be the perfect gift for Akira. Even though it was way more than he could afford, he was still determined to do everything he could to acquire it for her. And since everyone at school was envious of his homemade bento lunches, Takumi figured that he could earn some extra money by selling them to some of the students. It turned out to be quite a lucrative endeavor on his part as the demand wound up being way more than he had ever imagined, usually having to turn people away when he ran out. It was quite a bit of extra work for him every morning in having to prepare them all, but the end result he figured would be worth it. Making several trips into town during those months, Takumi diligently put more and more of his hard earned money down on a weekly basis towards its acquisition. He felt a great deal of satisfaction as the shopkeeper handed him the item after making his final layaway payment, knowing that it would put a smile on Akira's face. Checking his watch after making the purchase, Takumi realized that he was running a bit late since he had promised Akira that he would have dinner ready for her promptly at six. Plus, he still had to stop by the local market to pick up a few ingredients. Quickly making his way out of the shop, he looked at his watch yet again and then figured that he could catch an earlier train if he took a shortcut through a nearby alleyway. With a small bag in hand, he hurriedly made his way down the narrow and seemingly abandoned corridor.
"What's your hurry, little man?" a dark figure asked, popping out of the shadows and causing Takumi to stop dead in his tracks.
"I… I'm in kind of a hurry," Takumi nervously explained as he tried to get by.
"Whoa, slow down there, pal," the tall leather vest clad figure advised, blocking his path as he then threateningly remarked, "Don't you know it's not good for your health if you rush around like that. Now then, what's in the bag?"
"Uh, it… it's a present… for a friend."
"Present, huh? Well let's have a look at it," he insisted, aggressively grabbing the bag from Takumi's hands.
"Wait, what are you…"
"Relax pal. Ooo, what have we here?" he said with intrigue after reaching into the bag and pulling out a sharp metal object. "Quite an unusual present."
"P… please, give it back," Takumi helplessly pleaded, reaching out attempting to retrieve it.
Now holding the object up over his head in a taunting manner, the thief remarked, "Not so fast, my friend, I just want to have a look at it. So who exactly is this supposed to be a present for?"
"M… my girlfriend."
"Your girlfriend? Hahahahahaha! Oh that's rich," he mocked.
"Can… can I please have it back now?"
"I don't think so, pal. Besides, I don't think this is a suitable present for your girlfriend anyway. So I think I'll just hang on it to it for you."
As he now turned and began to walk away, Takumi became frantic at his loss. Determined, he decided to come up from behind the thief, hoping to be able to subdue him by using a defensive technique that Akira had shown him. Grabbing a hold of his left arm, which had a large and frightening dragon tattoo on it, Takumi proceeded to twist it behind his back. Unfortunately, the thief easily broke free, and, with the stolen object still in his right hand, he spun around and stabbed Takumi in the arm with the object.
"That was really stupid," he menacingly replied, now holding Takumi from behind in a headlock with the object pointed directly under his chin. "I ought to…"
Noticing a crowd of people at one end of alleyway, Takumi's attacker decided not to stick around and hastily retreated, but not before reaching into Takumi's pocket first and relieving him of his wallet.
Collapsing to the ground on his knees and into a pool of his own blood, Takumi gripped his right arm, desperately trying to stop the bleeding.
"Hey, are you alright?" a passerby came up and asked, noticing his injury and that he was losing quite a bit of blood.
"He took…" Takumi weakly tried to get out, quickly starting to lose consciousness.
"Just take it easy," the kind samaritan replied. "An ambulance is on the way."
"For… forgive me… Akira."
"Thank you for dining at Linden Baum today," Mai graciously acknowledged her last two dining patrons.
"Oh, Mai?" Akane called to her fellow waitress, holding the telephone's handset out to her. "There's a call for you. I think it's your brother."
"Thanks, Akane," she replied, taking the phone from her. "Takumi, is that you? So did you finally pick up Akira's… What was that, I'm having trouble hearing you. Takumi, you sound like you just got out of bed, so speak up. It's kind of noisy on your end, where are you at anyway? Uh, huh. I'm sorry, but it sounded like you said… THE HOSPITAL?"
"Sis, I'm telling you that I'm alright," Takumi tried to reassure his overprotective sister as he sat up from a bed in the hospital's emergency room.
"What were you thinking?" she frantically shouted from his bedside. "You should have just let him have it! It's not worth risking your life for some…"
"Wait, you can't go in there!" a nurse's voice was heard yelling from the opposite side of the privacy curtain, attempting to chase down a helmeted stranger.
"Takumi!" the stranger cried out in a familiar voice, pulling aside the curtain.
"Uh, is that…" Takumi began in a puzzled tone until being interrupted by the nurse.
"Sir, you'll have to wait outside," the nurse scolded, sounding out of breath.
Removing the helmet, the young intruder proceeded to flip her green hair off to the side.
"Akira?" Takumi was surprised but happy to see.
"It's okay," Mai reassured the nurse. "She's with us."
"Sorry, but she tends to overreact at times," a tall, dark-haired girl clad in tight leather, having just entered, tried to explain to the nurse.
"Let me guess," Mai surmised, "she begged you to bring her here."
"More like threatened," Natsuki replied, turning to Akira. "She really freaked out when you called and broke the news to her."
"I'm sorry, but you can't all stay here" the nurse insisted. "Two of you need to wait in the waiting room."
"It's alright, we'll go," Mai offered as she then turned to her brother. "Call me when you get back to your dorm room. I'd lecture you myself, but I think I'll just leave that to Akira."
Leaning over and giving her brother a kiss on the cheek, Takumi suddenly felt a sense of uneasiness at having to explain himself to Akira.
"Go easy on him," Mai requested of Akira.
Nodding, Akira then proceeded to hand Natsuki her helmet and awkwardly acknowledged, "Uh, thanks for the ride."
"My pleasure," she said with a smile, departing the room with Mai.
Now turning and looking down at Takumi's bandaged right arm, Akira didn't appear angry at all like he had feared, instead, she seemed to have a more worried look about her.
"I'm sorry, Akira, I know I probably shouldn't have…"
Before he could finish, Akira tearfully threw her arms around him, taking Takumi quite by surprise.
"Thank god you're alright!" she happily cried. "When Mai called and said that someone had stabbed you, I thought…"
"Well," she continued, sounding a bit more composed after dabbing her eyes, "I'm just relieved that you're okay. So how are you feeling?"
"Other than feeling a bit weak after losing so much blood, I'm starting to come around. The cut on my arm was kind of deep so the doctor had to give me ten stitches. I don't mind that so much, it's just…"
"What is it?"
"I'm just still really upset that he got away with…" Takumi then stopped himself, not wanting to spoil the surprise, even though it seemed a moot point now. "Never mind, it's not important."
"What? Got away with what? You mean your wallet? I wouldn't worry about that."
"Didn't my sister tell you the details?" he worriedly realized.
"Only that someone had attacked you," she professed. Then, in a more vengeful tone she demanded, "So who did this to you? Did you get a good look at him? If you describe him to me I can draw a sketch that might be of some help in finding him."
"Uh, I already gave the police a description. I don't think that there's anything more that you can do."
"Don't be too sure," she said with determination. "If you can give me a good description I'll track this guy down myself and make him pay for what he's done to you."
"No, Akira, I… I really think we should just leave this to the police."
Before she could object, Akira noticed a concerned look upon his face and sympathetically offered, "Look, try not to worry about it so much. If it's the money that he took that's troubling you, I could just let you have…"
"No, it's not that," he insisted. "In fact, I actually got my wallet back. He discarded it a few feet away after taking what little money I did have in there. But that's not what's bothering… Look, just forget it, okay."
"What? No! I can't do that," Akira contended, then urged, "Takumi, please, what is it that he took that's got you so upset?"
Realizing there was no point in hiding it from her any longer, he confessed, "Your birthday present. He took the birthday present that I had just bought for you."
"Oh Takumi, I don't care about that," she assured him, then tearfully professed, "I'm just thankful that he didn't take… your life."
Wiping her eyes she reassuredly added, "So don't worry about it. Your life is way more important than some material object, so it's just as well that you let him have it. You didn't struggle with him I hope."
"Uh, well the thing is…" he awkwardly began.
"Oh, Takumi, you didn't. You should have just given him what he wanted. It's senseless to fight over mere material goods especially if it endangers your life."
"Yeah, I know," Takumi realized but then tried to justify, "Still, I had saved up so long to buy that for you. So I figured when he turned his back and started to walk away that I could use one of those defensive moves that you showed me."
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," she said in disbelief. "Are you telling me that you attacked him first?"
"Um, kind of," he hesitantly confessed, then argued, "But I was just trying to get your present back from him. I had no idea that he'd use it ag… against me. Uh oh. Look, Akira, before you say anything…"
Shaking her head, Akira was flabbergasted at this revelation, causing her to admonish, "Takumi, what were you thinking? How could you be so reckless? That move that I taught you was to be used to defend yourself, not the other way around. Plus, you had no business going after him. I don't care what he took; it's never worth the risk."
"You're right," he said rather downtrodden, hanging his head in remorse. "I guess it was pretty stupid of me. I just kept thinking about your reaction and the look you'd have on your face once I gave it to you. My emotions just got the best of me I suppose. I'm really, really sorry."
"Look, I don't mean to yell at you. But honestly, can you blame me? I'm just worried about you that's all."
"Yeah, I know, and I appreciate it."
"So what was it that was so important that you thought it was worth risking your life over?"
"Well, since the surprise is already ruined I might as well tell you. It was an antique tanto knife from the Edo period. It once belonged to a kunoichi who loyally served Tokugawa Ieyasu."
Rather astonished at his impressive, yet expensive, taste in weapons of the era, Akira remarked, "Why Takumi, that must have cost you… Wait, is that what you were doing with all that money you were earning from selling those bento lunches?"
Takumi simply nodded, acknowledging her.
"Oh, Takumi, that was so sweet of you, but you really shouldn't have. I don't want you spending all your hard-earned money on me."
"But I wanted to," he professed. "And working to earn the money for it was rather gratifying knowing that the end result would put a smile on your face. Of course, that's not going to happen now that I've made such a mess of things."
"What are you talking about? You did no such thing. Besides, I already told you that I'm happy just knowing that you're alright."
"So, are we feeling any better, Tokiha-san?" an elderly gentleman wearing blue scrubs inquired. Then, placing a stethoscope upon his chest and listening to his heartbeat he asked, "Is your strength starting to come back or are you still feeling a bit weak?"
"I'm actually feeling much better now, doctor."
"Glad to hear it," he replied as he then took a hold of his wrist and checked his pulse. "Still a bit weak, but that's to be expected after losing all that blood. You're lucky that you didn't need a blood transfusion. It'll be a few more hours until your body replenishes it all. Just make sure that you get plenty to eat; your body needs all the energy it can get right now."
"Don't worry, doctor," Akira assured him, "I'll make sure that he does."
"Excellent. Then I'll send the nurse in with your discharge papers and a prescription for an antibiotic and you can be on your way. Oh, and don't forget to check in with your regular physician in about two weeks. He can reexamine the wound and will probably be able to remove the stitches for you by then."
"Thank you, doctor," Takumi acknowledged as he departed.
"Well, what do you feel like eating?" Akira questioned him. "I'm kind of hungry myself, but I'll let you choose the restaurant. My treat of course."
"But Akira, I was going to make you dinner tonight."
"Well forget that, you've been through too much already. Plus you need to build up your strength, so I certainly don't expect you to cook dinner after all of that."
"Alright," he reluctantly conceded. "But it's just that I had a special meal all planned out for us."
"Well, don't worry about it. You're always cooking for me anyway so I think it's only fair that I treat you for a change."
"Yeah, I guess," he finally relented. "Still, I'm sorry that it didn't work out. I guess I should have just taken a later train instead of taking that shortcut through the alleyway to try and catch an earlier one. I would have still been able to make it for you, but it just would have been a little bit late that's all. Oh well. Anyway, I really don't know what I want so why don't you choose the restaurant."
At that moment, the nurse came in with some papers for Takumi to sign and then handed him a small slip of paper for his prescription. Meanwhile, Akira just had a stunned expression on her face as Takumi's last statement began to sink in.
Noticing her bewildered look after the nurse had left prompted Takumi to ask, "Akira? What's wrong?"
"Are… are you saying that you took that shortcut because of me?"
"Well I just wanted to have dinner ready for you at…" Takumi then suddenly realized that she might be feeling a bit responsible for what had happened. "Oh, oh no, Akira, I hope you don't think that…"
"If you hadn't been trying to hurry home to make me dinner," she began to comprehend, "this never would have happened."
"Akira, please, you mustn't blame yourself. I made the call to take that shortcut, so it's my fault for not using better judgement."
"Akira, no!" Takumi objected as he got up from the bed, then placed his hands upon her shoulders. "I won't let you do this to yourself."
"Look, I made a mistake," he confessed, looking her straight in the eyes. "I have no one to blame but myself. So let's just leave it at that, okay?"
Akira smiled, rather proud at his responsible attitude. As she then went to embrace him in a hug, a loud gnawing sound could clearly be heard emanating from her stomach.
"Well, somebody certainly sounds hungry," Takumi noted. "Say, did you even eat lunch today?"
"Uh, to tell you the truth," she reluctantly began to admit, "I actually skipped lunch because…"
"Well, I… I was kind of saving room because I know how delicious your home-cooked meals can be."
"Aww, that's sweet. Thank you, Akira. But really, you still shouldn't skip lunch just because…"
Takumi was then interrupted by an even louder grumbling sound coming from his own stomach.
"You were saying?"
Takumi was pleasantly surprised at Akira's restaurant selection, yet at the same time shocked when he saw the menu prices. Although he felt somewhat uncomfortable when she lavished him with expensive gifts, he reluctantly held his tongue and simply accepted her reasoning of settling on the nearest eatery due to their hunger, even though he knew that they had passed several less pricey places during the subway ride over. But besides that, he was just too hungry to object and happily accepted her gracious offering to partake in such fine cuisine.
"How about now? Does that look more like him?" Akira persistently questioned as she showed Takumi her recent sketch, seeming fixated on getting an accurate rendering of his attacker.
"Uh, yeah, that's a pretty good likeness of him," Takumi replied somewhat disconcerted as he sat helplessly in her dorm room, feeling that her dogged questioning felt like an interrogation at times.
"You sure? How about the tattoo? Are there any other features that you can remember that seemed to stand out?"
"Akira, please, enough already," he said in frustration. "I've told you as well as the police everything I can about him. I don't know what you hope to accomplish with this anyway, so just leave the matter to the police."
"The police? Are you kidding? This crime is small potatoes to them; they're not going to do anything," she maintained. "Besides, even if they do manage to catch him, he'll just be back out on the street in a couple of days, and there's no way that I'm going to let that happen. I refuse to just sit back and let this crime go unpunished."
"What, so you intend to take the law into your own hands? Akira, I don't want you going out on some kind of manhunt for this guy."
"Takumi, he could have killed you!" an overemotional Akira cried out.
"I… I'm sorry. I know I may be overreacting, but it's not like he simply robbed you, which I might have been able to overlook. But the fact is he… he hurt you. And that… that I can't forgive."
"Oh Akira, I wish you wouldn't take this so personally," Takumi wistfully replied. "I mean, sure my injury could have been a lot worse, but it wasn't. And don't forget, I'm partly to blame too. After all, I did sort of provoke him."
"That still doesn't excuse his actions."
"I know. Look, all I'm saying is that this whole eye for an eye mentality is simply not healthy and won't solve anything. So please, I beg of you, promise me you won't do anything foolish and that you'll let the police handle the matter."
Akira was all at once placated when she saw the look of concern upon his face. Unable to argue against his sweet-tempered nature, Akira reluctantly relented.
"Alright, I promise. I promise you I won't go looking for him."
"However, if our paths should ever happen to cross one day, I swear to you I'll… well, let's just say that I won't be responsible for my actions."