Chapter 13:

Becoming Karma

who I am is not who I want to be

In the year 2016, an eighteen-year-old Akane underwent a small jaw surgery while residing abroad. Her jaw had suffered damage due to the physical violence inflicted upon her in her father's house. Tragically, this injury led to oral health issues that required correction, affecting her ability to speak loudly and to laugh freely.

Having experienced the exploitation of vulnerable emotions firsthand, Akane had, over time, become proficient in the art of manipulating these same vulnerabilities. While abroad, she continued her search for young hackers who could aid her in her quest for revenge. Akane was a member of numerous online hacker communities, each one a potential source of allies to help complete her mission. Her anger and desire for retribution had grown immensely, but she knew she possessed the formidable skills of hacking that her father had forced her to develop. She intended to turn these skills against Mr. Manzo, vowing to become Karma and relentlessly pursue him for his lies. She pledged to herself that she would destroy everything her father held dear, using the power of anonymity to strike fear into his heart.

After a year abroad, Akane resolved to return to her hometown of Kyoto to exact her revenge. Her grandmother, however, was deeply concerned about her safety and initially opposed the idea.

"Your life is not safe here," her grandmother warned. "Your father is your enemy, and you know he has the resources to find you. I fear for your well-being. You are all I have left, and if anything were to happen to you due to my misguided decision, I could never forgive myself."

Akane, however, employed emotional persuasion, imploring her grandmother to allow her to return. "Grandma, I can't bear this lonely existence any longer. I just want to be near you. You mean the world to me, and my only wish is to live with you. Please, let me come back."

Her grandmother eventually relented but set forth three conditions for Akane's return. First, she would not live in the same house, only visiting her grandmother after informing her. Second, while outside, she must wear a mask and cap to conceal her identity. Lastly, she could not engage in any job and must rely on her grandmother for financial support.

Akane agreed to these conditions, determined to carry out her plan for revenge. In the year 2017, she arrived in Kyoto, stepping off the bus and heading toward her grandmother's home. In her haste, she inadvertently left a book on the bus. A stranger noticed and picked it up, following Akane to return it.

The man called out, "Hey, young lady! Wait, turn around! Who are you?"

Fear gripped Akane as she hesitantly turned to face the stranger. She responded with trepidation, "I'm afraid that who I am is not who I want to be. I'm Karma."

Perplexed, the man chuckled and reassured her, "I didn't mean to frighten you. I'm not a threat. You seem afraid of me. I just wanted to see if this book belonged to you. It had no name on it, but I thought I saw you leave it on the bus."

Relieved, Akane confirmed, "Yes, that book is mine. I must have forgotten it. Thank you so much for returning it to me."

With the book safely back in her possession, the man continued on his way.

Akane settled into a small house her grandmother had purchased years ago, concealing her true identity. She repeatedly reminded herself that she was no longer Akane Toru but Karma. Due to the danger of being discovered by Mr. Manzo and the rumors surrounding her involvement in his wife's murder, she dared not seek employment. Her grandmother provided financial support.

Akane was a skilled hacker and could have participated in bug hunting programs to earn money independently. However, she sought a partner with some connection to the Cyber Detectives organization, hoping to gain insights into its inner workings. She approached various young teenage hackers through social media, offering them the opportunity to work as bug hunters. Some agreed for the monetary gain, while others were uninterested in bug bounties. Unfortunately, none of them provided useful information or followed her commands. Akane realized she needed to adjust her approach.

A hacker must be patient and invest time in the target before launching an attack. Akane's inability to work openly in any organization or office as an ethical hacker or penetration tester, due to the risk of revealing her identity, limited her options to bug bounty programs. This was the only safe way for her to earn income, as it allowed her to remain hidden.

In the year 2015, when Akane left her home, she deleted all her social media profiles and any trace of her former identity. She created new fake profiles to maintain her anonymity.

Meanwhile, Saho and his father relentlessly pursued Akane for a year but eventually gave up when they couldn't find any leads. Saho moved on with his life, free from guilt over defaming Akane for the data breach. Akane, however, was far from done. She was preparing to exact revenge on Saho and his father for their lies.

For Akane, the world had turned dark, and the path to her survival led through that shadowed realm. She believed there was no place for the pure-hearted; instead, everyone ended up in shades of gray or black.

In her eyes, justice was a concept inseparable from karma. Justice existed as an abstract notion, a construct devised by humans, much like other aspects of human society. It was established by those in authority, and those without authority were expected to adhere to these rules, facing punishment for transgressions. Akane believed that true justice could only emerge through karma, as human societies enforced rules and norms that were not equally applicable to all. The powerful and influential often remained untouched by the consequences of their actions, while justice remained an elusive ideal.