Lies, Chapter 6: Her and His Circumstances

Her circumstances

As the masked invaders shouted orders to the Cyberbiotics employees, Karai quickly weighted her options. In closer quarters, she would probably be able to take on five fire-armed men without trouble. In an office taking up most of the building floor, with several potential innocents spread about…? Not so much—at least not without a weapon of her own (how did they get theirs past security?)

By now, two of the invaders were going cubicle to cubicle, rounding up the people in the floor. In a minute, they would approach hers. Hide, fight, or comply? All had their pros and cons, but in the end, she chose to comply—not only did she have her cover to think of, a successful raid would cover her own peccadilloes nicely. No sooner had she made her decision, when one of the invaders approached her cubicle. “You, out.”

As she was led into one of the floor’s corner offices, Karai noted that her attacker had made two mistakes: not only did he remain well within striking distance, his finger was not on his machine gun’s trigger. Good to know. Mistake number 3: the shades on the manager’s office were not drawn, giving her a view of most of the floor through the glass pane. Whoever these mercenaries were, they were hardly Foot Ninja material. Inside the office, Karai found Joshua with the rest of the hostages. “Please tell me they at least let you finished peeing,” she asked.

“And wash my hands,” Joshua joked grimly. “So what do we do?”

“What do you mean what do we do? We stay put.”

“You two, shut your mouths,” said the mercenary standing guard over the group. “And that goes for all of you—any talking or sudden movements, and you can join the no longer living. Stay quiet, and you can probably get back to work in an hour or two.”

One of the hostages, however, had more guts than smarts. Standing up, she ran towards the office’s fire alarm, and managed to pull it before being gunned down.

As the cacophony of the alarm and exclamations filled the room, Karai heard their guard talk hurriedly into his headset. “It was my fault, boss. Somebody tried to play the hero, I couldn’t stop her in time. Yeah, she’s down. Plan B, then?” He turned to the hostages, and in a tone that suggested he was trying to mask his nervousness, said: “Congratulations, boys: you’ve just been upgraded from innocent hostages to bargaining chips.”

Karai quickly reassessed her options. Judging by their guard, the mercenaries seemed ill-prepared for the current situation. They were growing frantic, and frantic people made mistakes, and mistakes could very well lead to more dead bodies.

Her father would have told her that the other hostages were irrelevant, and that only her survival and her cover mattered. Then again, he would have rather died than be placed in a position where he was powerless. Macbeth would have saved the hostages, even if he didn’t care for them—but he had that “couldn’t be killed” thing going for him. What would Karai do?

“Joshua, I need you to cause a distraction,” she whispered in English. “Nothing big, I just need the guard to stop paying attention for a second or two.”

“What, why?” Joshua whispered back Are you insane!?”

“Joshua. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. Please.”

Joshua said nothing for a moment. Suddenly, his eyes brightened with determination. “All right.”

The distraction came in a minute, as Joshua threw his watch, a rather expensive Rolex that Karai had given him as a present, at the mercenary. The improvised projectile hit its target right in his eye, which was more than enough; in an instant, Karai had crossed the distance between them and had elbowed him in the nose. She wrested the machine gun from his hands, and with one swift strike in the solar plexus, he was down.

Karai quickly searched the downed mercenary for any useful items. She found a handgun in a leg holster, and a flash grenade. She also removed the mercenary’s earpiece and placed it around her own.

With the hostages out of immediate danger, dealing with the mercenaries became a matter of course. Darting between cubicles to stay out of sight, Karai used hand-to-hand combat to take out first two attackers. Afterwards, she headed towards the office central mainframe, where, a merc furiously worked on a laptop that he’d attached to the larger computer, as well as a second hostile standing guard. Three shots later, and they were no longer in play.

The element of surprise now completely gone, Karai prepared to face her last, now unseen, attacker. Given what she knew of the mercenaries’ armaments, she could see several ways in which she could be attacked. Best case scenario, he could try to face Karai directly, which allowed her the chance to act first. Worst case scenario, he could say “fuck it” and decide to spray the entire office with gunfire in order to draw her out. Pressing her back against the mainframe, and hoping that the remaining mercenary would refrain from harming the computer they had been trying to access, Karai waited for her opponent to make a move. As she waited, she allowed a traitorous little stray thought to distract her for a moment: how would the day have turned out if she had decided to wear a corset?

As she tried to keep focused, Karai heard a hollow clanging beside her. In a second, Karai’s world was washed away in white as a flash grenade went off one feet in front of her.

Blinded, her ears ringing uselessly, Karai forced herself to remain calm. Waiting for her eyesight to return was not a option: the remaining enemy would easily find and kill her in the five seconds that it would take for her to recover. She would have to find another way to defeat him. Her mind went back to one of her first martial arts lessons, where her instructor, whose eyes had been blindfolded and ears plugged, defeated five attackers with ease. The senses, he had argued, were no different than a sword: terribly useful, but something the true master did not need.

“Little man,” she said, trying to emulate the tone her father’s voice took whenever he dealt with subordinates he was displeased with. “Do you have any idea who you are dealing with? I am Karai, daughter of The Shredder, and heir to the Foot Clan. Attack me at your own peril.”

Through her still-ringing ears, Karai heard the most beautiful sound in the world: “I’ll risk it,” the mercenary said.

Now or never, Karai thought. Sprinting at full speed towards the source of the voice, Karai heard two shots ring out before she made contact. Going on pure instinct, she felt around for the mercenary’s neck and pulled her own gun’s trigger.

As her sight returned, Karai took a look at the downed mercenary, whose blood now spilled over the office carpet. She had survived. Now came the hard part. Karai returned to the office, where, after a quick victory smooch, she entreated Joshua to join her in escaping the office building.

The building’s emergency staircase proved to be mercifully empty of either mercenaries or law enforcement officials, and Karai and Joshua were able to lose themselves among the evacuating workers and make it to the parking lot without incident. As they raced through the twisting hallways, Karai calculated: her cover was blown. She now had no choice but telling the truth, or a suitably edited version of it. Knowing this felt somewhat comforting: however things worked out, her ordeal would be over. Finally, they made their way to a nearby park, where both could be away from prying eyes.

Her adrenaline quickly dissipating, Karai could feel her neck throbbing. She felt around and saw that her palm had been almost entirely soaked in her own blood. “Are you okay?” Joshua asked.

“It’s fine—it’s just a flesh wound. I’ll have it checked out later.” In truth, the combination of the wound and the outside cold was making her feel woozy. But now was not the time.

While Karai knew exactly what she wanted to say, her mouth could not form the words. Finally, after an excruciating minute of silence, she stalled: “What do you want me to say?” She tried to look at Joshua’s eyes, but couldn’t: they had lost all their shine, and now looked simultaneously alien and wholly familiar, although she couldn’t say how.

“For starters, you could tell me who you are,” Joshua said, with disconcerting calmness. “Somehow, I don’t think too many psychology students can singlehandedly take on armed mercenaries.”

“What can I say? If you want to believe that I am some sort of spy…well, you would not be far from the truth. I was sent to spy on you.”

There it was, the (incomplete) truth. Telling it did not make her feel any better, nor did it seem to have any effect on Joshua. For an eternity, he remained silent. His face spoke volumes.

“So what? Is everything you’ve told me a lie? Is Karai Himeru even your real name?”

“No.”

Another interminable pause. “Why?”

“It was what my employers wanted. I cannot say any more than that.”

“Well, who are you, then? I think I deserve that, at least.”

Yes, you do. “I cannot say.”

“Dandy. My parents will be pleased. Dee-fucking-lightful. I supposed you never really loved me, then.”

So much for getting out of this without getting hurt—whether intentionally or not, Joshua was going for the jugular here. “I…cannot say.”

Karai felt a chill, as her sweat grew unbearably cold in the winter weather. Joshua, on the other hand, seemed to be fine, despite having left his jacket back at the office. More silence.

“So, what now?” Joshua asked. “We go our separate ways and never speak to each other again?”

“That is the plan. By this time tomorrow, Karai Himeru will disappear. There will be no legal evidence of my existence.” Already all traces of her legend were being systematically erased.

“Lovely. So you get off free and clear, then. Suppose I tried to bring you in to the authorities right now? I bet they’d be quite interested in knowing who killed all those people up there.”

“You would fail. You would end up hurt, or worse.”

“I’d still give it a whirl. You’ve already done your worst. Plus, you deserve it.”

There it was. The single inescapable truth. Try as she might, she could not bring herself to disagree. “You may not believe me, but I never wanted to hurt you.” The words rang hollow, but she still had to try. If only he could understand…

Joshua exploded: “Didn’t want—didn’t want to hurt me? Jesus fuck, Karai, would you listen to yourself?” he ejaculated in English. “You show up in my life, feed me a bunch of bullshit designed to make me fall for you, pull the rug down from under me and expect me to think it’s okay? If you didn’t want to hurt me, you should have just have said, ‘I’m not interested’, you heartless bitch. You knew exactly what you were doing, so stop lying to me.”

Karai had no response. Even if Joshua was wrong about her choice in the matter, he was still right.

“Joshua…”

“Get out of my sight.”

So there it was. The truth was revealed. It did not, contrary to popular belief, set her free. Intentionally or not, she had helped destroy the life of a person she cared for deeply, and in doing so, she had finally obtained the answer to the question she had been asking herself for the past week. Takeshi, it turned out, had been wrong.

His Circumstances

As he exited the bathroom stall, Joshua was surprised to be staring at the barrel of a machine gun. “Oh, hello there,” he said, he said to the gun’s owner, a man stocked to the gills in assault gear.

“Come with me. Silently.”

“Sure. But can you let me wash my hands first?”

The armed man led Joshua to the manager’s office, where most of his co-workers were apparently being collected. Karai was nowhere to be seen, however, and would not appear until all the hostages had been stripped of their cell phones and communication gear. To his surprise, she didn’t seem scared at all. “So what do we do?” he asked her.

“What do you mean what to we do? We stay put.”

“You two, shut your mouths,” barked the lone mercenary left to stand guard over the group. “And that goes for all of you—any talking or sudden movements, and you can say hello to the no longer living. Stay quiet, and you can probably get back to work in an hour or two.”

As soon as their captor said this, one of Joshua’s co-workers, whom he had always thought of as a spineless simp, ran towards the office’s fire alarm, and managed to pull it before being gunned down. As she died, her face contorted into an expression of supreme surprise, as if her last action had also taken her unawares.

As the room exploded into chaotic chatter, it struck Joshua as funny how the typical Japanese stoicism disappeared in the face of automatic weaponry. At this rate, he wouldn’t be surprised if they were all killed—their captor certainly looked flustered enough to try it.

“Joshua, I need you to cause a distraction,” he heard someone say in English. It took him a moment to realize it had been Karai. “Nothing big, I just need the guard to stop paying attention for a second or two.”

Joshua’s first thought was that his girlfriend was insane. “Are you insane!?” he asked.

“Joshua. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. Please.” She said this with a look combining exasperation, and complete confidence. What else could he do but agree?

Joshua took quick stock of everything he had on him, searching for anything that would serve Karai’s purposes. Unfortunately, most of his stuff was back in his cubicle, and the attackers had taken his cell. He felt around in his pockets as discreetly as he could when he felt his watch get tangled up in the folds of his pants. His five-hundred dollar, stainless steel watch. Karai had given it to her after she’d accidentally broken his old one. Bingo.

Hoping that for once his aim wouldn’t suck, he lobbed his watch at the goon’s face. Miraculously, it hit him square in the face—it even drew some blood. However, this wasn’t half as impressive as Karai, who in a second had bridged the gap between her and the armed man. Two lighting-fast blows later, and he was down.

Joshua could do little more than stare, astonished, as Karai—cute, sexy, smart Karai, who had just proven that she kicked ass literally as well as figuratively, issued a rapid-fire stream of instructions to the hostages: close the door, call the cops and explain the situation, use the desk as a barricade, lay down on the floor and for god’s sake stay away from the windows. It wasn’t until she handed him their fallen captor’s machine gun that he actually realized what she planned on doing.

“Wait, you’re not planning to take on them, are you?” he said, feeling stupid as he said it—of course that’s what she planned.

“I have to, sweetie. Things are going badly for these people, and if I don’t stop them they’re liable to start killing people.”

“But…”

“I’m glad you’re concerned, but really, I have to do this.” She smiled and kissed him. “Trust me.”

After Karai left, and the room properly barricaded as per her instructions, there was nothing to do but wait. Within seconds, he could hear the Cyberbiotics office fill with the sound of gunfire, even over the still-blaring fire alarm. But he couldn’t focus on that. His mind was still focusing on the fact that his girlfriend was apparently…apparently what?

It was incredible, in all sense of the words. Sure, plenty of people learned martial arts or some other form of self defense. However, not many could find a practical use for it, much less use it with enough confidence and skilled to take on armed men. Clearly, Karai had not been entirely forthcoming about herself.

Joshua’s mind turned to the Ashishizoku—the so-called Foot Clan. On of the many rumors associated with the crime group was that they often employed actual honest-to-God ninjas. Could Karai actually be one of them?

An eternity later–although his recovered watch outrageously indicated that it had only been a minute—Karai called the hostages out. It was over.

“Joshua, we have to get out of here,” said a visibly tired Karai, in English, as the now-freed hostages raced out of the office. He noticed a look of total satisfaction in her face, reminiscent of the look she usually had after sex.

“What? Why? We’re safe, aren’t we?”

“Sure, but I rather not have to answer questions about how I killed four armed men, capisce?”

“Point.”

As they raced through the twisting hallways of the building’s emergency stairway, Joshua calculated: Karai had lied—or at the very least omitted some major details about herself. While on one hand the idea that his girlfriend was secretly a ninja was awesome, the whole made him wonder—what else didn’t he know? His conclusions were not satisfactory. Finally, they made their way to a nearby park, where, according to Karai, they would be allowed to talk in peace.

As he regained his breath, Joshua noted that Karai had been bleeding, rather seriously, from the neck. “Are you okay?” he asked, concerned.

“It’s fine—it’s just a flesh wound. I’ll have it checked out later.” Her eyes, Joshua noted, contained none of the easygoing accessibility that they usually did. Instead, hers had become indistinguishable from the mercenaries’.

His next words should have been easy ones. Even so, Joshua found himself unable to talk. Karai showed the same inability (or unwillingness), until finally she broke the minute-long silence.

“What do you want me to say?”

“For starters, you could tell me who you are. Somehow, I don’t think too many psychology science students can singlehandedly take on armed mercenaries.”

“What can I say?” Karai said, with a steel on her voice that matched her eyes, and one he had never heard her use before. “If you want to believe that I’m some sort of spy—you would not be far from the truth. I was sent to spy on you.”

And with that, the world Joshua had built for himself in the last couple of months came crashing down around him.

For years, Joshua had considered himself to be fundamentally unlovable—that he had a fundamental flaw that made him instantly unattractive to women who knew him for any longer than a day. There was, in his mind, nothing irrational about this conclusion—it was as scientific as the theory of evolution. However, as he left adolescence, he abandoned this theory, coming to believe instead that his troubles stemmed from not having met the right person: once that happened, everything would fall into place.

Although his relationship with Karai was still young, he already felt it in his gut that she was the one; after a week with her, the recriminations had disappeared like so much morning fog.

Now, however, Karai’s words had brought back the emotional fog with a vengeance. It was irrefutable: the only way he would find love would be if somebody arranged for him to find it.

“So what? Is everything you’ve told me a lie?” he blurted, once he found his voice. Is Karai Himeru even your real name?”

“No.”

A thousand words crossed Joshua’s mind. Only one managed to make it to his tongue. “Why?”

“It was what my employers wanted. I cannot say any more than that.”

“Well, who are you, then? I think I deserve that, at least.”

“I cannot say.”

“Dandy. My parents will be pleased. Dee-fucking-lightful. I supposed you never really loved me, then?”

For a moment, Karai’s eyes softened. “I…cannot say.”

More silence. Joshua noticed that Karai was shivering—having an open wound exposed to the cold November air could not be fun. In fact, he was feeling a chill as well—he’d forgotten his jacket back at the office. He felt like vomiting.

For a minute, neither said anything. “So, what now?” he finally asked. “We go our separate ways and never speak to each other again?”

“That is the plan. By this time tomorrow, Karai Himeru will disappear. There will be no legal evidence of my existence.”

“Lovely. So you get off free and clear, then. Suppose I tried to bring you in to the authorities right now? I bet they’d be quite interested in knowing who killed all those people up there.”

“You would fail. You would end up hurt, or worse.”

“I’d still give it a whirl. You’ve done your worst already. Plus, you deserve it.”

“You may not believe me, but I never wanted to hurt you.”

At hearing this, Joshua’s anger, which he had tried to keep controlled simmer, exploded into a scalding boil. He wanted to punch her. “Didn’t want—didn’t want to hurt me? Jesus fuck, Karai, would you listen to yourself? You show up in my life, feed me a bunch of bullshit designed to make me fall for you, pull the rug down from under me and expect me to think it’s okay? If you didn’t want to hurt me, you should have just have said, ‘I’m not interested’, you heartless bitch. You knew exactly what you were doing, so stop lying to me.” His cheeks felt cold; he realized it came from the freezing tears.

“Joshua…”

“Get out of my sight.”

Joshua watched as the steel returned to Karai’s eyes. “As you wish. Goodbye, Joshua.” With those words, Karai—cute, sexy, smart, heartless, traitorous, Karai—disappeared into the streets of Tokyo, leaving him alone in the winter chill.

The two youths then went their separate ways: Joshua returned to the office, were firemen and the police and newsmen had converged, while Karai went to the nearest clinic that would treat her without asking uncomfortable questions.

The years that followed would be eventful ones for Karai. Soon after her mission was completed, she was made head of the Foot’s Japanese division. Soon after that, she restored order to the New York Foot, met a quartet of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, lost her father, and began a relationship with one of her employees. Joshua, on the other hand, would eventually fall in love and marry Hana Miyuzaki, a vegan library science student who used “boku” and “omae” instead of “atakushi” and “anata”, tightlaced, unabashedly classified herself as an otaku, and went crazy over boys with shaggy hair. The two would not see each other again for seven years.

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