Vol. 1, Book 1 (The Vigilantes) – CHAPTER 1
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It seemed to be another typical night in the city of Tokyo, even if it was far from alluring. An endless cluster of gray clouds overshadowed the vastness of the sky, while the roar of thunder signaled the arrival of a storm. Amid such weather, a lone helicopter was flying below the blinding glare of lightning bolts, circling above the hundreds of red lights that flickered incessantly on top of the high-rises.

Among these was Cytek Headquarters, a thirty-story building located in front of the famous Shibuya Crossing. On its roof, a hidden figure looked upon the comings and goings of the vehicles moving along the wide streets. Not even the colorful marquees that stood in the middle of the concrete jungle were able to break his concentration; for the vigilante, who concealed its true nature through a long dark cloak, knew something unusual was going to happen that night.

Traffic lights in the area turned red, halting the flow of vehicles moving along the asphalt. A police patrol heading north along a wide lane in 2 Chome-2 Dōgenzaka could not avoid being the exception. Inside the black and white car’, Yoshiro Sugiyama drew in his breath while he waited for the lights to turn in his favor. In front of him, a crowd of people poured across all five crosswalks, lit up to a certain degree by multiple lanterns, the vehicle’s own headlights, and the shimmering neon-lit advertisements that attempted to reveal their faces and clothes. They were mostly pint-sized and dark-haired men wearing black office attire, walking in a hurry as they grabbed hold of the umbrellas they carried. As a strong gust of wind from the east filled Yoshiro's nostrils with the scent of wet earth, the young officer had no longer any doubts; it would rain soon.

But there was something far worse than the prospect of driving amid heavy traffic on wet Sitting to his left was Matsuda Sasaki, his lazy and ill-tempered companion. Only a whimsical God could have placed such an individual at his side, whose gaze was lost at the crossing of pedestrians while he yawned every so often. Yet as tedious as that night was, and however apathetic his companion was, a wordless ambiance was not an option for Yoshiro.

"Hey, I understand you're new to all this, but—"

"Look, Sugiyama," his partner interrupted, without even having the decency to address him properly, "you better save that rookie speech of yours, saying that I have to forget all I learned at the academy and whatever else, okay?"

Such a response baffled Yoshiro. Almost instinctively, he began drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, his eyes looking around the car as his mind tried to come up with a way to get some words out of his partner. "All right, but you could try being a little nicer, you know, Matsuda-san?"

"What for? Are you one of those assholes who always acts politely regardless of the circumstances?"

Yoshiro rolled his eyes. "So, what was your task the other day, during the earthquake drill?" he improvised. A nationwide drill took place the previous day, and Yoshiro helped with the evacuation of Cytek Headquarters staff, among other things. He did not enjoy such exercises, but his younger brother had always pointed out the importance of being prepared for such a situation. And he was right.

"You don’t want to talk to me about earthquakes,” Matsuda replied. "My grandpa was a fisherman in Miyako. He died during the Tohoku earthquake."

Yoshiro tried to put on a look of empathy, but all he could muster was a crooked smile. Of course, he knew what his partner was talking about. When he was still in his mother's belly, a high-magnitude earthquake had hit the northwest region of Japan. Tens of thousands of people had lost their lives, not to mention the damage that was caused on the coast. And yet, the most remembered occurrence of that day had been the incident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where his mother was working at that time.

"I'm sorry," Yoshiro said, empathetic. "My parents were in Fukushima back then, but I guess they had better luck."

Yoshiro was barely able to suppress the sadness in his eyes under his dark blue cap. "They died six months ago in the US embassy attack."

Matsuda’s face remained as hard as stone "Too bad for them, then."

Yoshiro gritted his teeth, glaring at his partner in frustration. It was at that point he wondered whether he had made the right call for his future. It had been over six months since he abandoned his career as a lawyer, forced to get a job given his financial needs and those of his younger brother. After his parents died, the corporation for which they worked for had taken over his brother's studies, but not his own. One unfair situation after another, without a doubt. But that was the way things worked in the world, and the quicker he got used to it, the better.

"You know, I'm just trying to have a conversation here, so this doesn't turn into something tedious," he barked.

Matsuda finally turned to face him. "The light is already green."

Unfortunately, that was true; cars were already accelerating all around the police vehicle. Yoshiro intended not to fall behind; he switched to first gear and hit the gas. But the conversation was not going to end there. Oh, no. Yoshiro was not accustomed to being made light of, and his partner ought to show some respect. "Are you going to continue behaving like an idiot?" he said, without taking his eyes off the windshield.

"Are you going to concentrate on driving so we don't end up having an accident?" his partner replied, as Yoshiro reduced the speed of his car given the sluggish pace of the heavy traffic.

"Nowadays they allow any idiot to become a police officer."

"Says the one who ended up a policeman because he was so useless, he couldn't find any other job."

Yoshiro grimaced. It reminded him of the countless interviews he had gone through not so long ago, along with the fact that having earned good grades in a decent high school had helped him little to nothing at all in the matter. And he did not like to fail. "Hey! It's not that simple if you didn't attend a well-known college."

At that moment, a sudden statement squawked through the police radio. "Attention to all units," a rather attractive female voice said, "It has been reported that a possible member of Amaterasu has caused disturbances in the reception of Cytek Headquarters. It seems he has a prosthetic right arm."

"Bad customer service?" Matsuda joked, but Yoshiro was not amused. They were talking about the terrorist organization that caused the attack in which his parents had died six months ago. "At least it looks like this won't be such a tedious night after all."

The patrol continued its way along the rest of the vehicles. "God only knows how long its been since he left the building," Yoshiro reflected, his bad mood now somewhat appeased. "It's not as if we were going to get in his way all of a sudden."

How unfortunate those words were…

A man appeared out of nowhere in the path of the patrol, as if it were a ghost. Desperate, Yoshiro plunged his foot on the brake pedal, his body rammed forward as he caught sight of the smoke boiling up from his tires from the rearview mirror. Once his vehicle stood still, he straightened himself, coming upon nothing but a splintered windshield. The first thing that crossed Yoshiro's mind was checking the condition of the man, so he exited the police car right away. To his surprise, he was in perfect condition. It looked like he had placed his body in such a way his mechanical prosthesis had taken most of the shock—

A prosthetic arm.

While the voice on the radio had spoken of a subject carrying one and causing disturbances, how many men used such things these days? It was not as if he could label anyone who possessed one as a suspect, but his gut told him there was something different about this man, something suspicious. Maybe it was the fact that he had his face obscured by a dark olive sweatshirt's hood, or that his yellow eyes cast a somewhat gloomy look. Was he letting himself get carried away by mere prejudices? It seemed that way at first, but when Yoshiro's gaze found that of the one-handed man, their eyes fixed on each other for a few moments, he began to suspect he might have hit the nail on the head.

As the young officer's mind worked the pieces of the rather simple puzzle before him together, his heart stopped in his chest. It was then that, in a flash, the one-handed man sprinted back to the Shibuya crossing.

"Hey!" Yoshiro yelled. He started after the suspect just before his annoying partner raised his objection.

"What the hell do you think you're doing? What if that guy is armed or something?" Matsuda barked as he left the vehicle, strikingly concerned about Yoshiro.

"Just report the position of the guy and call for backup, would you?" was all he said to his partner as he ran past him, already in pursuit of the one-handed man. There was no use to argue. He had to fulfill his duty as a police officer, not to mention he could prove to himself that he had chosen the right path in the process. Moreover, he could show Matsuda that he was not so useless. While it could be risky and even a bit illogical, that's what he believed. And he would act according to that, especially when he had in front of him the opportunity to get some kind of retribution for what had happened to his parents.

His partner merely shook his head. "Jeez, what a reckless dude."

The one-handed man raced along Inokashira-Dori, sweeping away anyone who dared to cross his path. Twenty meters behind, Yoshiro picked up speed in his effort to try to catch up with him. Along the way, he ran into unfortunate people who found themselves on the ground all of a sudden, victims of the fugitive's frenzy. Several passers-by took a moment to help them. They were considered individuals, without a doubt, unlike those who merely decided to observe the recent development instead of the many clothing stores placed throughout the street.

Yoshiro took a break to refill his lungs with quick gulps of air, the vastness of the crowd before him threatening his possibilities to spot the one-handed man. Yet his sight was sharp as a razor, and he eventually caught a glimpse of an olive hood turning an alley one block before the Shibuya Crossing. A subtle grin was outlined on his face, as he was aware of the fate of his fugitive. After all, he knew the streets of the city like the palm of his hand.

Once he himself turned toward the short alley, Yoshiro bumped into the man being trapped and without any sort of way out. Some meters above the ground, a train roared by at full speed, the tunnel below the railroad pass closed while an a narrow short-lived street that stretched parallel to the tracks was also blocked.

As the train ceased its short and deafening run, Yoshiro's words echoed in the narrow alley and took the fugitive by surprise. "Stop there! Tokyo Metropolitan Police! On your knees and with your arms behind your head! Now!"

The man before him seemed willing to comply, his hands already moving slowly towards the back of his neck. The young officer approached him, drawing his pistol and aiming at his head. It was a matter of minutes before the backup arrived, but he still decided to pull out his radio. He moved with caution, one step at a time…

But the one-handed man reacted out of the blue.

With lightning-like speed, he pounced on Yoshiro, who was only able to fire his gun once. The man deflected the shot with his right arm, leaving nothing but the sound of the bullet bouncing against his metal prosthesis. He then grabbed hold of both Yoshiro's left wrist and his other arm, forcing him to release the weapon. While he fought back at first, the hooded man stuck down on Yoshiro’s right wrist in one sudden swoop. The young man suppressed the cry of pain between his teeth, but just as the one-handed man released the grip of his wrist, he struck him in the face. Yoshiro fell against a wall and hit the ground. And before he had time to rise to his feet or complain about his pain, the man grabbed him by the neck with his prosthesis and lifted him up, exerting pressure on his trachea with a force greater than that of an ordinary human being.

Yoshiro made an effort to breathe, but the strength of the prosthetic arm was too much for him. He even tried to cling to it in a vain attempt to free himself, stamping his right foot on the ground as he contorted his torso. Where was Matsuda? Where was the backup? Nothing mattered anymore. With every second that went by, Yoshiro saw his death draw closer and closer. He had neither time to grieve over his short and miserable life or to wonder what would become of his younger brother. What a fool he had been. Foolish and reckless, always willing to take risks without showing the slightest sign of fear to prove to himself that he was brave.

And now, he was alone. As his eyes reddened, Yoshiro had time to look over the shoulders of the one-handed man, realizing that nobody was walking the street he had left behind a few moments before. It seemed not even the passers-by he had bumped into on his way there would come to his aid, probably frightened by the sound of the shot. After all, why would they put their lives at risk for a stranger? The situation was beyond their means, Yoshiro knew, and they would not hesitate to place their safety above that of someone like him.

And still, he longed for them. He was beginning to feel weak, almost as fragile as a leaf. His face had acquired a purple tint, the toughness of his arms and legs almost vanished. He could no longer cling to his executioner's arm. He no longer had the will to breathe, to remain alive...

It was then that he heard it.

At first, it was nothing more than a mere whisper. But it did not take long for the constant pulse of the blades' snap to give place to the loud rotors of a helicopter roaring by over the alley. Yoshiro felt the one-handed man's hand pulling off his neck and began coughing as he tried to catch his breath. Had that sound just frightened his executioner? It definitely seemed so, but what mattered to him the most at that moment was the fact that his life had been spared. Maybe that unpredictable God he used to imagine had some pity reserved for a miserable guy like him.

Or maybe not. After all, he had lost a lot of oxygen, and almost without noticing it, he had fainted in the middle of the alley.

1st Edition (June 9th, 2019): Fixed some grammatical errors and minor issues.