Out for Justice

Chapter 2 - Akira with a Vengeance

"Bye, thanks for coming," Mai acknowledged several of her friends as they departed her dorm room.

With Akira's birthday party now winding down, Takumi promptly began cleaning up the room. Insistent on helping her brother, Mai was most facilitating with the party arrangements. Feeling bad for what had happened to Takumi the week before, she happily obliged to take care of everything for him. Not wanting to put her through too much trouble, he insisted on at least baking the cake as well as preparing all the other food for the occasion.

"Phew, they're finally all gone," Akira expressed, sounding somewhat relieved. "I appreciate all the trouble you went through in throwing this for me, Mai, but was turning it into a karaoke party really necessary?"

"I warned you about getting her that karaoke machine for Christmas, Akira," Takumi reminded her.

"Guess it did run a bit long, huh?" Mai confessed. "Sorry. But seriously, Akira, you really have a pretty singing voice. I'd love to have you over for the next party I throw."

"Uh, I'll think about it."

"Takumi, just leave that," Mai indicated to her neat freak of a brother who was still busy tidying up. "I'll clean all that up later."

"You sure, I don't mind."

"Yes, I'm sure," she said rolling her eyes, then placing an arm around her brother and pulling him in close, she confidentially whispered, "It's Akira's birthday so why don't you go do something special with her, if you know what I mean. Just don't do anything that I wouldn't do."

"Sis!" Takumi said in embarrassment.

"Just kidding. Now go on, I've got everything covered here. Oh, you want to take some of the leftover food and cake before Mikoto gets to it?"

"No thanks, sis. Akira? Oh, you already made yourself an extra plate," Takumi observed as she held a plastic wrap covered plate in her hand.

"There's no way I'm letting that gluten scarf down all this delicious food by herself," Akira noted. "By the way, where is she?"

"She's taking a nap in the other room," Mai informed her.

Gathering all of Akira's gifts and placing them in a shopping bag, Takumi offered to carry them for her as they then made their way to the door.

"Well, guess I'll see you guys later," Mai said holding the door open for them.

"Bye, sis, and thanks for all your help."

"My pleasure."

Then catching Akira off guard, Mai threw her arms around her and proceeded to give her a big bear hug.

"Uh, M… Mai, you're choking me," Akira gasped, attempting to catch her breath.

"Happy birthday, Akira."

"Th… thank you."

"Bye! Have fun you two!" Mai called after them.

Heading upstairs and stopping off at Akira's dorm room, Takumi set the bag with her gifts down on her kitchen table as Akira put the leftover food in the refrigerator. Staring at the bag, Takumi began to feel a bit self-conscious as he realized that none of the gifts were from him.

"Takumi," Akira said waving a hand in front of his face, trying to get his attention. "You okay?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, sure."

"Alright, what's bothering you?" she demanded to know, realizing full well that something was eating at him. "Come on, out with it."

"Well, the thing is I really feel bad that I wasn't able to get you anything. I didn't have any money left since he took it all and I didn't want to ask my sister to…"

"Okay, stop," she interjected. "Takumi, I told you, I don't need any presents to make me happy."

"Yeah, but…"

"Takumi, don't you know by now that…" Becoming flustered, Akira suddenly took Takumi by the hands and assured him, "Your being here with me is the best gift I could possibly ever ask for."

"Akira."

Leaning in and planting a loving kiss upon his lips, Takumi then reciprocated the gesture, pulling her in close to his body and tenderly embracing her.

"Mmm, thank you for such a lovely gift, Takumi."

"You're quite welcome. But you know," Takumi began, now spoiling the mood, "I just wish you could have seen it; I'm sure you would have loved it. The shop actually has one that's similar to it but it was twice as expensive and…"

"Alright, let's go," she insisted, throwing her hands up and sounding extremely frustrated.

"Huh? Where are we going?"

"You're obviously not going to let this go until you've shown me this thing. So let's just go down to this shop right now so you can get it off your chest."

"N… no, I didn't mean it like that. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. I was just…"

"Oh, it's alright, really," she reassured him in a more relaxed tone. "But seriously, let's just go down there. Besides, you've got me kind of curious now."

"Really? Okay, sure. Oh, but wait. It'll be pretty dark out by the time we get down there. Plus, it's not exactly on the main strip with all the other shops so it could be a bit dangerous down there this late in the day."

"Are you forgetting who you'll be with? Relax, you'll be perfectly safe as long as you're with me."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. Okay then, let's go."

Making their way out of her room, Akira seemed to have a mischievous grin on her face as she closed the door behind her, almost as though she had an ulterior motive for wanting to go.


"It's just up ahead, Akira," Takumi motioned with his hand, indicating to a small antique shop on the next corner, then suddenly realizing that he had lost her a few feet back. "Akira?"

Stopping in front of a darkened alleyway, Akira became transfixed as she stared suspiciously at a group of four males who were gathered about halfway down the corridor near a Dumpster, chatting away and smoking.

"Akira, what are you looking at?" Takumi came over and asked.

"Just checking things out." she nonchalantly replied. "Guess you weren't kidding when you said that this wasn't exactly in the best part of town. So is this where it happened?"

"Um, yeah," he responded sounding rather uneasy.

"And you say that it was just the one guy and that there was no one else around?" Akira questioned him as she continued to eye the scraggly group of teens.

"Yes, I already told you. Now please, let's just go; they're starting to stare at us," Takumi apprehensively observed.

"Alright, relax. I'm coming."

"Hey you!" a deep male voice came from the alley, as a figure appearing to be in his late teens now began to approach them.

"Akira, hurry! Let's get out of here!" Takumi anxiously beseeched, grabbing her arm and tugging on it to try and get her to move.

"Just a minute," Akira requested, taking several steps into the alley.

"Akira! Come on, you promised you wouldn't go looking for trouble."

"Relax, I just want to see what he wants."

"But…"

Takumi's objection went unheeded as a rather muscular male, his head shaved and sporting numerous tattoos and body piercings, approached the two and menacingly remarked, "Yeah we saw you two snooping around. You looking for trouble?"

"N… no, we don't want any trouble," Takumi nervously replied. "We were just leaving. Come on, Akira."

"Not so fast there, pal," he warned, stepping in front of them and folding his arms, blocking their exit from the alley. "I didn't say you could go just yet. You're on our turf now, so if you want to get out of here in one piece there's a little matter of an exit fee. Now come on, cough up some dough."

"And if we refuse?" Akira calmly asked.

"Then we have a problem," he threateningly stated, reaching into his back pocket and revealing a switchblade. Flipping it open he began to wave it directly in front of the two in an intimidating manner.

"Akira," a most frightened Takumi fretted.

"Take it easy, Takumi, I can handle this thug," she assured him.

"Oh you think so, do ya sweetheart?" the hoodlum remarked, continuing to wave the blade before them. "Look, this isn't a toy and I ain't playin' no games, so you best hand over your money."

Shaking her head, Akira then warned, "I really don't think you want to mess with me right now, so just step out of the way and let us pass."

"Ha! You're hardly in a position to tell me what to do. Now either make with some cash or I'll see to it that both you and your friend here receive matching scars."

Sighing heavily, Akira then firmly stated, "Now you went and crossed the line. It's one thing to threaten me, but when you threaten Takumi…"

Before she could even finish her statement, the teen was caught totally unawares as he all at once felt a sharp pain on the bottom of his hand. For in a flash Akira had made a swift kicking motion towards him, causing the blade to fly out of his hand. Now once again standing alongside Takumi, almost as if she had never left, Akira then reached a hand into the air and effortlessly caught the airborne knife.

"How… how did you?"

"Now, I'll tell you one more time," Akira demanded. "Step out of the way and let us pass."

"What's the matter, Kyoichi?" a familiar voice came as he mocked his associate. "This little girl giving you trouble?"

As the tall, leather vest clad teen approached along with his other two comrades, Takumi took a step back behind Akira hoping that he wouldn't be recognized.

"Ikari!" Kyoichi addressed his so-called leader, now clutching the hand that Akira had just injured. "It's not like that. This girl, she's… some kind of martial arts expert. Better not underestimate her."

"Give me a break, you're just soft because you're afraid of hitting a girl. Well let me tell you… hello, who have we here?"

Recognizing Takumi, he took a step closer to get a better look but stopped short when Akira extended her arms out as a sort of warning to keep away from Takumi.

"Well, well, look who it is," Ikari was surprised to see, addressing Takumi. "I never expected to see you around these parts again."

Terrified at seeing his attacker again, Takumi cowered behind Akira who herself wondered how he knew him, then began to notice something familiar about him. Spotting a dragon tattoo on his left arm, she suddenly remembered Takumi's description and realized who he was.

"Takumi, is this the guy who attacked you?" she questioned in a most serious tone.

Still very frightened, Takumi just simply nodded, acknowledging her.

"That's all I wanted to know," Akira responded, now giving Ikari a most stern look as she admonished, "You made a big mistake, pal, and you're going to regret ever laying a finger on Takumi."

"Ooo, I'm so scared!" he mockingly replied as he then turned to his two colleagues, "Daisuke, Shinji, let's show our friend here what we do to little girls who give us lip and don't do as they're told."

Following his instructions, the two disheveled teens began to approach Akira from each side as Ikari simply looked on with an expression of delight upon his face.

"We're going to have some fun with you," Daisuke eagerly expressed, now standing before Akira and clenching his fists.

"Yeah, and your little boyfriend here can watch," Shinji added.

"Akira!" Takumi said in a panic.

"Don't worry, Takumi, I told you I could handle them. I know I promised you that I wouldn't go looking for a fight, but as you can see they're not exactly giving me much of a choice. Now stand back, this could get ugly."

"Oh it's going to get ugly alright," Daisuke concurred as he grabbed a hold of Akira's left arm. "For you! Grab her other arm, Shinji!"

Anticipating such a predicable move, Akira allowed their little entrapment scheme to progress as they both now had a firm grip on each of her arms. Then, without warning, she rapidly leapt back and brought her arms together out in front of her, causing her attackers to slam headfirst into each other.

"Now it's your turn," Akira cautioned Ikari as his two friends now lay unconscious before her.

Being so preoccupied with taking them down so that she could focus on their leader and exact her revenge, Akira neglected to notice that Kyoichi had taken hold of Takumi during the skirmish.

"I don't think so," Ikari confidently replied, indicating over to Kyoichi who had a firm grasp of Takumi with one arm around his neck while his other hand was clasped over his mouth to keep him from screaming.

"Damn you! Let go of him!"

"I told you I wasn't playing games," Kyoichi vengefully shot back. "Now you're gonna pay for that little stunt you pulled before. And don't think that just because I don't have my blade anymore that I can't still hurt him. I can break his little neck right now if I wanted to."

Demonstrating that he'd make good on his threat, Kyoichi began to tighten his grip around Takumi's neck.

"Bastard! If you harm him so help me I'll…"

"You'll what," Ikari nefariously remarked as he approached her. "Unless you want to see your little friend beat to a pulp, you'll do exactly as we say."

"Fine! Take my money," Akira desperately gave in, handing her wallet over to Ikari. "Just let him go!"

"Oh it's too late for that now," Ikari informed her. "You had your chance earlier but you just had to play all rough and mess with us. Now we're going to teach you a lesson."

Realizing that she was helpless to do anything at the moment, lest she risked putting Takumi in danger, Akira could now only cringe as Ikari came up from behind and started to fondle her.

"That's more like it," the controlling Ikari said with great pleasure. "Now if you're a good little girl and do as we say, nobody will have to get hurt."

"Mmmmph!" Takumi tried to cry out as he struggled to break free from his captor's grip, horrified at what he was witnessing.

"Hahahaha!" an amused Kyoichi responded with an evil laugh. "Don't worry kid, we'll let you watch."

"Kyoichi, bring him over here," Ikari instructed, indicating over to the Dumpster as he forced Akira along. "No one will see us there."

Takumi was now frantic as he desperately tried to think of some way to help Akira. Even though he had previously failed when he tried using an Aikido move that Akira had taught him, the situation was different now. And besides, he figured, there was no way that he could just stand around and watch without doing anything.

"Huh? Hey, what are you stopping for, keep moving," Kyoichi forcibly said when Takumi stopped dead in his tracks before reaching the Dumpster.

Giving him a shove caused Kyoichi to let up slightly on his grip, which was what Takumi was counting on. Using that opportunity, Takumi slipped a hand between his neck and Kyoichi's elbow. With a firm grasp on it, he pushed out on it just enough to allow him to slip his head through. Now free, he began to rotate his body three hundred and sixty degrees, causing Kyoichi to lose his balance. Takumi then grabbed onto Kyoichi's wrist while his other hand still maintained its hold on his upper arm. With his body now completely off balance, Takumi was able to effortlessly force him down to the ground.

Witnessing this, Akira watched as a stunned Takumi now stood staring down over Kyoichi's body in amazement over his defensive abilities.

"Takumi! Run!" Akira shouted, realizing that Kyoichi would immediately be getting up again.

Snapping out of his daze, Takumi quickly bolted towards the entrance of the alleyway.

"You idiot, don't let him get away!" Ikari shouted.

With Takumi free, Akira knew that she no longer needed to hold back and immediately turned on her captor, slamming Ikari's body hard up against the Dumpster.

"I'll deal with you later," she promised, as Ikari lay unconscious momentarily.

Realizing that her main priority was to save Takumi, Akira swiftly ran after Kyoicihi who was giving chase. She noticed his arm reaching out, ready to re-apprehend Takumi.

"Oh no you don't!" Akira objected as her body now floated gracefully through the air, her left leg fully extended out in front of her.

Kyoichi suddenly felt a hard blow to the side of his body, which was then propelled up against the concrete block wall.

"I told you not to mess with me," Akira remarked standing over his now inanimate body.

"Akira!" a relieved Takumi cried out as he came running up to embrace her. "Are you alright? He didn't do anything to you, did he?"

"No, Takumi, I'm fine," she reassured him.

"Oh I'm so glad. You were just amazing!"

"You weren't so bad yourself," she commended him for his quick thinking. Then in a more serious tone added, "Listen, you need to get out of here. Go into one of the shops where you'll be safe."

"But, aren't you coming?"

"I have some unfinished business to attend to," she informed him, looking back to where Ikari was who had just regained consciousness.

Being helped up by Shinji and Daisuke who had also just come to, the three now quickly made their way towards Akira.

"Hurry up and go!" Akira urged.

"But what if they…"

"Relax, I'll be fine. Trust me."

"Alright," he finally relented, "but be careful."

"Don't worry, I'll try not to hurt them too much," she slyly remarked. "Now go!"

Watching as Takumi safely made his way out of the alley and inside the antique shop, Akira was now free to direct her full attention on her three adversaries.

"Shinji, Daisuke, go after the kid," Ikari instructed.

"Not so fast," Akira countered, standing with her arms folded and blocking their exit.

Charging at her with his switchblade fully extended, Shinji was dumbfounded when there was no one at the receiving end of his attack.

"Where'd she go?" he asked in bewilderment, looking every which way around him.

"You idiot! She's right behind you!" Ikari admonished.

"Huh?"

Constantly changing her position, one second being in front of him while the next reappearing behind him, Akira effortlessly kept him off his guard.

"Can't you see she's messing with you?"

"Don't worry, I'll get her," Daisuke offered who now began to charge at her while she stood between them.

"No, wait!" Ikari tried to warn.

"Too slow," Akira playfully said, casually stepping off to the side where she delighted in seeing Daisuke collide into Shinji.

"Idiots!" a disgusted Ikari remarked over their once again unconscious bodies.

"Guess it's just us now," Akira said with a smirk while cracking her knuckles. "I'm actually going to enjoy this."

"Likewise. And don't think that I'm some sort of pushover just because you were able to defeat those three so easily. I'm in a totally different league than them."

"Oh yeah? And what league would that be? Dumb and dumber?"

"Make jokes if you want, but that smart mouth of yours is going to be your undoing. And I intend to shut it… permanently!"

Turning his body sideways, Ikari's right leg came at Akira in a horizontal sweeping motion forcing her to deflect his kick with her arm. Not letting up, Ikari then propelled the clenched fist of his left hand toward Akira's ribs following up immediately thereafter with a backhanded lash strike at her face. Surprised at his speed and agility, Ikari was able to keep up with her every move. Akira now found herself on the defensive, being forced to dodge and block every one of his attacks.

"I told you I was nothing like them," Ikari reiterated, suspending his onslaught momentarily.

"Very impressive moves, I must say," Akira acknowledged. "Been studying a bit of karate, have we?"

"If you consider a second-degree black belt a bit, then yes."

"Oh, so you're one of those I see."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ikari seemed to take offense at.

"You're the kind of person that takes up karate, or any other form of martial arts for that matter, strictly for the purpose of bullying other people, going against every principle of its true intention. It's guys like you that give this sport a bad name."

"You're wrong. I do it because it's fun," he countered. "And if I have to step on a few people along the way to get my kicks, then so be it."

"You make me sick!" Akira snarled, now going on the offensive and lobbing her own style of attacks upon him.

Rigorously defending himself, Ikari soon saw an opening and, with his left arm extended out above his head, he grabbed hold of Akira's right wrist while blocking the other with his leg. Taking advantage of the small window of opportunity, Ikari's right hand then went straight for Akira's throat.

"You're in way over your head, missy," he said with malevolence, maintaining a chokehold on her.

"You… really… shouldn't…" Akira attempted to get out while gasping for breath.

"UUUUHHH!" Ikari suddenly screamed out in pain when Akira's knee made contact with his groin.

"…let your guard down," Akira satisfactorily concluded.

"You bitch!" he infuriatingly cried out in a hunched over position trying to lessen the pain. "That was a cheap shot."

"Oh please," Akira said rolling her eyes, "don't even go there. Like you're one to talk about fair play after shaking down who knows how many innocent victims."

Able to compose himself as he now managed to stand up straight again, Ikari reached inside of his vest pocket and pulled out a rather unique looking knife.

"You're going to pay for that!" he angrily scowled, slowly beginning to unsheathe the rather dated looking ten-inch blade.

Taking particular notice, Akira thought that there was something unusual about it. Observing the intricate detail work on the scabbard as he unsheathed it, she had a peculiar feeling about it. Although the finish appeared quite worn, the craftsmanship in its painted image depicting two opposing samurai was unquestionably apparent. Likewise, the intricate carvings in the gold adornments on the scabbard's tip as well as the blade's handle were quite meticulous.

"Interesting looking blade you've got there," Akira observed. "So what's a low-life like you doing with such a fine instrument?"

"Oh, you like it? It was… a present."

"Really. Somehow I doubt that."

"Actually, now that I think about it, I believe he said it was… a birthday present," he tauntingly stated. "Said it was for his girlfriend, but I didn't think it was a suitable gift so I… liberated it from him. Heh heh."

"You bastard!"

"Ooo, looks like I hit a nerve with that one," he delighted in her reaction. "But believe me, I'm going to hit more than a nerve with this thing. Appropriate too, don't you think? Your boyfriend obviously wanted you to have this, so I guess I shouldn't disappoint him. I'll even deliver it for him… personally."

Vengefully lunging at her in a full frontal assault, Ikari raised his arm and attempted to strike her with the blade from an overhead position. Instantly leaping off to her left as he began to plunge the knife down, Akira then struck her assailant's knee with her right foot, throwing him off his stride. Coming at her again, this time managing to grab a hold of her shirt lapel with his left hand, Ikari then attempted to deliver a direct blow with the knife in his other. Taking a step back away from his intended strike, Akira slashed her hand downward on his forearm, forcing him to relinquish his grip upon her. Immediately countering with a swift knee kick, she quickly deflected it simply using the palm of her hand before leaping backwards, placing a good five feet between them.

"What's the matter, getting too much for you?" an overconfident Ikari presumed, sounding a bit out of breath.

"On the contrary. In fact, this is starting to bore me," Akira nonchalantly remarked, not seeming the least bit fatigued. "Up until now I've been going way too easy on you."

"Ha! That's a good one. Well if you think you can…"

Suddenly losing sight of her as she mysteriously vanished, Ikari was unfazed and held his ground as he then began scanning the alley with his eyes to try and spot her.

"I know what you're trying to do!" he called out to her. "And it's not going to work! You think that just because you're fast that you're going to be able to psyche me out! Well you may have been able to put one over on those three idiots but you can't fool me!"

"Oh darn it," Akira said with a touch of sarcasm, now reappearing before him, "you're on to me. Guess I'm just too smart for you. Whatever shall I do?"

"Don't… MOCK ME!" an incensed Ikari roared as he uncontrollably began to lunge at her with the knife.

Vanishing once again as the blade came within a foot of her, Ikari then spun around three hundred and sixty degrees desperately trying to catch a glimpse of his elusive opponent.

"Damn it!" he cursed himself under his breath. "Now where the hell did she go?"

"Hey! Mr. Yakuza wannabe!" Akira's voice taunted from above. "Up here!"

Casting his eyes upward, Ikari was flabbergasted when he saw Akira standing on the ledge of the roof of the three-story building, her legs spread and her hands confidently placed upon her hips.

"How… how did you…"

"Oh I'm sorry, did I lose you?" she mocked. "I thought you could keep up. But I forgot, you're just a lowly second-degree black belt. Here, let me make it easier for you."

In a flash she reappeared, startling him as she now stood within two feet of him, staring into his bewildered face.

"Wha… what the hell are you?" a rather shaken Ikari demanded to know. "Some kind of freak ninja?"

"Actually, I prefer the term kunoichi," she casually remarked, once again taking her leave of him and now appearing directly behind him while effortlessly relieving him of the knife. "I'll be taking that."

Akira then forcibly spun his body around so that he was once again facing her and proceeded to slam him up against the concrete block wall.

"Wha… what are you going to do?" Ikari desperately cried as she now held him by his collar with one hand while pointing the knife within an inch of his throat with the other.

"I find that it's most effective to sever the carotid artery just below the left ear," she said in a menacing tone, making a slow slashing motion from side to side with the blade. "Death is usually instantaneous. Of course, that might be too good for you. I want you to suffer like you've made others suffer."

"You… you're crazy! P… please, please don't kill me!" he pleaded with her, appearing quite terrified. "I… I'll give back everything that I've ever taken. Just don't kill me! Please, I beg of you! I don't want to die! I DON'T WANT TO DIE!"

"Akira!" a stunned Takumi called out to her, reappearing at the alleyway's entrance and accompanied by two uniformed police officers. "Wha… what are you doing?"

"Miss, please put down the knife and step away from him," one of the officers demanded of her.

Releasing her grip on him, Akira now looked down at the simpering Ikari who was practically groveling at her feet.

The two policeman just looked at each other rather stunned as one of them finally inquired of Takumi, "Uh, is this the guy that attacked you?"

"Yes," Takumi acknowledged, indicating then to the still unconscious bodies of Kyoichi, Daisuke and Shinji, "along with these three."

Leaning over, Akira began to grab a hold Ikari's vest, frightening him further.

"Wha… what are you going to do to me?" he hysterically cried.

Not even bothering to acknowledge him, Akira simply reached inside of Ikari's vest pocket and retrieved the knife's scabbard.

"Miss, please step away from him!" another of the officers ordered.

Complying, Akira took a step back and then just looked down upon the sad and tragic figure.

"Humph! You guys are all alike," she said in disgust shaking her head. "You get a kick out of acting all tough and bullying innocent people. But in reality you're just using that as an excuse to make up for the fact that you yourself are nothing but a weak, miserable coward. Pathetic! And then to waste your skills by using it against others to try and control them, that's totally reprehensible."

Now sliding the knife back into its companion scabbard, Akira looked it over rather closely, admiring it just as Takumi slowly made his way back over to her side.

"Akira, are you alright? Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine. I told you I could handle them," she reassured him as she then began to hand the knife over to him. "Here, I think this belongs to you."

"The tanto blade!" he was surprised to see. "Oh I'm so glad. I thought he might have pawned it. But then really, this belongs to you. Happy birthday, Akira."

Handing it back to her she gratefully acknowledged, "Thank you, Takumi, I really appreciate it. It's beautiful; I absolutely love it. You have exquisite taste."

"Excuse me, miss" an officer approached, "but I'm afraid I'm going to need to take that. It's evidence."

"But that was her birthday present," Takumi argued, seeming at a loss.

"Don't worry, she'll get it back in a few days," the officer assured him as Akira handed it over to him.

"Thank you. Now if you could accompany us to the station, we're going to need to get a statement from the both of you."

"Of course," Takumi concurred.

"Whatever it takes to get these guys off the street," Akira added as she observed the four being escorted out of the alley in handcuffs by several other officers who had now arrived on the scene.

As they sat quietly in the back of the police car on their way over to the station, Takumi seemed deep in thought.

"Akira?" he curiously asked. "I've been thinking. If I hadn't shown up with the police when I did, were you really prepared to…"

"What? It's okay; you can say it. Was I prepared to kill him?"

"Well, were you?"

"Hmmm," she thought for a second. "Honestly, yes. Yes I was."

"What? No!" Takumi reacted rather shocked and dismayed. "Akira, are you serious?"

"I won't lie to you, Takumi, the thought did cross my mind. However," she stipulated, "while I may have contemplated it, the real question should be would I have actually followed through on it? And to that I would have to answer… no."

"Oh," Takumi said sounding quite relieved, "well that's good."

"The truth is, in all good conscience, I don't think I could ever take the life of another human being no matter how much I may loathe and detest them. Still, it makes me wonder. If I had never met you and had faced a similar situation, I'm afraid the outcome may have been quite different."

"Oh, I don't think so," Takumi confidently stated. "Regardless of whether or not I may have had an effect on you, I refuse to believe that you were ever capable of such an act. I mean sure you may act tough, but deep within, under that gruff exterior, lies a kind and thoughtful soul who cares only for the welfare of her fellow beings, whoever they might be."

"Aww, thank you, Takumi. That's really sweet of you to say that," she gratefully replied, then hesitantly added, "But ah, you do realize that I have a reputation to uphold, so I'd appreciate it if you kept this between us."

"Of course, you have my word," he happily replied, placing a gentle hand of reassurance upon hers. "So while others may see you as this bad-ass ninja, in my eyes you'll always be my most loving, kind and compassionate kunoichi."