Chapter 1


Most people had confined themselves to the comfort of their warm homes on that cold December day. Outside the snow fell in big, soft flakes. It was around 7 pm and most children had already gone home after a long day of playing in the snow. The streets seemed deserted, except for a shadow slowly moving along its way.

That shadow was a young man, dressed inappropriate for the season. Anybody who would have seen him would have been shocked, for he only wore a pair of black pants and a black shirt. But he didn't seem to feel the coldness. He had a vacant expression as he thought of what had happened.

His face was ghostly pale and his lips had turned a shade of blue, but he ignored it. He could only feel the pain, coming from his abdomen, and the feeling of betrayal, coming from deep inside his soul. Clutching the place where the bullet had entered his body he forced himself to walk on. Every step seemed to push a wave of protest, anger and pain through him. Despite that, he kept on going, almost showing a masohistical joy.

Images kept on flying through his mind, haunting him like ghosts. His arrival in Philadelphia, just yesterday, although it felt like years ago... The meeting with his best friend and business partner... The night spend in the club, with all the alcoholic drinks and women... Then, the betrayal... his best friend aiming a Beretta at him and shooting...

Vaguely he remembered the tight escape and the deaths of his companions. Now, that it was all over, he understood that it had all been planned. From his friends call for him to come to Philadelphia, the strange meeting the day before, the fact why he had kept on feeling mockery in his friends words, and in the end, the slaughter of his bodyguards and followers.

"You fool..." he murmured to himself. In the end, it was all his fault. Never had he trusted anyone and now, the first time he did, life coldly spat him in the face and laughed at his vulnerability.

All of a sudden, maniac laughter caused his whole body to shake. I, the biggest tycoon in Tokyo, beaten by a little rat? We'll see about that! As if to confirm that thought his eyes came to life with a strong blaze, as if his soul was on fire. In accord to that blaze his shoulders, which had been bent forward the whole time, straightened. For the first time in what seemed hours he surveyed his surroundings.

He realized that he had managed to put a couple of kilometers between himself and his pursuers, for he knew they were chasing him. They would, of course, have to eliminate him after what he had seen. Not that it matters, they were going to kill me anyway. He knew that he would have to find a safe hiding place to survive and the quicker he got of the street, the better. To his satisfaction he observed that there were no pedestrians, nor was anyone watching him from the houses.

"Damn it" he cursed under his breath, only now becoming aware of the coldness. He pressed his hand stronger onto the wound, trying to stop the blood flow. The traitors had not managed to break him, Kouji Inoue, but now the coldness and loss of blood would finish it for them.

Kouji Inoue.

It was a name that caused respect in the business world, even with him being just 22 years old. As a child he had been very intelligent. This earned him the nickname Nou, which meant as much as brain, talent or memory. He had quickly advanced to the higher grades and finished university in a, in his eyes, more than appropriate time. The reason why he had been able to finish school that early in his life was due to his father.

Takuro Inoue was a man with many connections, even more money and a notorious reputation. Early in his life he had learned that only the strong survive, while the weak disappear, due to the process of "natural selection", how he used to explain it to his children. So, he had brought to life an underground group named the Yogensha, or prophet. Soon after their creation the Yogensha became one of the three most feared criminal organizations in Japan. Now, at the age of 52, Takuro Inoues repertoire contained bribery, torture and murder.

Due to all of this Kouji and his siblings displayed only coldness towards their father. They would have even turned him in to the police, had they not felt respect for their dead mother , Louise Inoue, before her marriage known as Louise Roux. She was another reason for them disliking their father, for they blamed him for her death.

Especially painful was the fact that they barely remembered the woman that had given them the gift of life. She died while they were still very young. Still, Kouji could remember a graceful woman with beautiful copper colored hair, flowing totally straight down to her waist. He remembered her green eyes, white complexion and that unforgettable sound of her voice. The best he could remember the melodious sounds of her maternal language, French, intermingle with her Japanese. Mother...

With a jolt Kouji called himself back to reality. He had to concentrate on the matter at hand and not become nostalgic. Every minute now was precious, for it was only a matter of time before he would faint, either from hypothermia or because of his wound.

He was almost at the end of that long, horrid street, as it seemed to him, when suddenly a feeling of nausea caused him to fall to his side. He hit a car standing next to him and did his best to hold onto it, despite the chilling coldness of the metal.

Not now, damn it, not now! Is this the way it's supposed to end!? I'm supposed to die in such a pathetic state!? Those were the last thoughts that crossed his mind as heslowly sank into the snow. He could already feel his vision go blurry. He laid down onto his back and – froze.

Above him stood a person. He could only see the persons eyes, everything else was isolated to protect her from the cold. He knew that it was a female, for it was easily guessable because of the shape of the body. She wore tight fit winter jeans, with a pair of knee high black Dr. Martens pulled over her jeans, a dark brown coat, a black French hat and a scarf, tightly wrapped around her face. He guessed her to be between 16 and 18, due to the fact that she had an old looking backpack.

"Are you okay?" she suddenly asked. What a sweet voice... just like honey... he realized that that was a stupid thing to think about in such a situation, but he couldn't stop it.

"Help me..." Fuck! Where did that come from? He had not meant to ask that, he knew he had not, but something about her eyes made him do it. Even though it was snowing he could clearly see them. They were of a beautiful green, dark green, with a certain glow to them that was relaxing him.

By now he had closed his eyes. Somehow he knew, even though he couldn't see her anymore, that she was in a conflict with herself whether or not to help him.

"Please..." he whispered one more time. Immediately he knew, she was going to help him. Deep in his heart he felt it, she was a good person. Then, something unbelievable happened. Kouji, who had never trusted anybody truly, Kouji, who had nothing but loathing left for humanity put his life into the hands of a complete stranger.

With the last bit of strength he had in his body he opened his eyes and looked at the girl above him. She was bending over and starting to drag him along the street, all by herself. Before fainting, a last thought crossed his mind. I trust you. Then, he fell into perfect darkness.

Traces of a small smile still hovered on Kouji's face as the girl dragged him onto the veranda of the last house in that street. He had drifted off so far that he didn't realize how she pulled him up the steps and over the threshold.