City Series:Volume3a Chapter 4
Act 4: Corresponding Pair (7:11)
Mong Kok’s Ladies’ Street was busy even early in the morning.
That shopping district was filled with stores for women and a single Live dominated the area.
That was everything.
Hong Kong’s return to China was only half a month away, but the city showed no sign of decline.
That may have been because the current system would continue for fifty years after the return. Or perhaps they were confident they could move to some other land even if they lost their stores.
At first glance, no one would suspect the return was so near.
But a closer examination showed posters put up around the streets.
They said things like, “Attention! Find great bargains at the night festival celebrating the coming return to China!”
To the people living in the city, the change of ownership was apparently nothing more than an excuse for a festival
Excitement was clearly filling the city as the event drew near.
The city’s Live performance grew day by day and it would occasionally give off a sharp, firecracker-like Live.
This was a problem for anyone sensitive to Lives.
“Can’t they keep it down?” complained Akira while lying in her apartment’s bed.
She had the night shift today, so she had to leave at six PM. It had only been one the last time she had checked the clock, so she wanted to sleep some more if she could.
…I drank way too much last night.
After the General had taken her back in his tank, she had been stuck writing one hundred pages of written apologies for destroying Tsim Sha Tsui so spectacularly.
Partway through, she had taken a dinner break and eaten with Gunmal as he briefly skipped out on his questioning.
After finishing the written apologies, she had left to go drinking with Gunmal who had returned from the catacombs.
After eating, drinking, and enjoying herself, she had cheerfully parted ways with him at past five in the morning.
…I feel like I spent all day yesterday complaining to him.
Remembering it cleared her head. Reality returned to her senses.
The white sensation of the sheets felt good on her bare skin.
She always slept in the nude. In the past, she had worn special Nein Engel pajamas with a hole in the back, but she had not liked how they felt.
…And anything that covers the wings is out of the question.
With that thought, she gently moved her wings.
That pushed away the blanket covering her.
That seemed to be telling her to get up.
…Come to think of it, I haven’t been taking time out for morning training recently.
She had watched what her mother did when she was younger and started training her Tuning every morning.
When washing her face, she would Tune the water flowing from the tap.
She would make birds or beasts from the water and blow life into them.
Even if it was simply training, it was no easy task. Even now, she sometimes ended up with water covering the room.
…If I keep doing that…I won’t end up like mom or dad.
To ensure that, she had to gain even more skill than she had now.
And if she did that…
…I can send out a dragon, heal the city, and bring everyone together. And…
She remembered the night before last.
She remembered feeling the death of J-Gun’s Live as she held his hand.
His Word Color and Tempo had vanished and grown clear. It had all been replaced with death.
She had seen it with her eyes, heard it with her ears, and felt it in her heart.
It had felt like eliminating the refreshing side of water and being left with something heavy, flowing, and impossible to grab.
She subconsciously clenched her fist and felt that same sensation inside it.
…If that happens again…will I be able to save them?
At that point, she felt a chill that seemed to sap her of all strength.
She reflexively sat up to shake off that chill.
She was out of breath.
She started to sink deep into the Italian bed she had splurged on, but she let out a long sigh and restrained herself from going back to sleep.
She rested her head on her hand and faced forward.
She saw Gunmal there.
He was reading a newspaper that he must have bought on the roadside.
“Hi. Good morning.”
In place of a greeting, her reflexes threw a kick back at him.
Hong Kong’s municipal office was in the Kowloon administrative district.
The old brick building had one major characteristic: it did not trust the people.
That was immediately obvious upon entering. The counter between the lobby and the clerks was covered with ten centimeter thick bulletproof glass colored blue so no one could see inside. The exchange of documents was carried out through a small hole in the gap between glass and counter.
Similarly, all fifteen of the data lookup computers in one corner of the lobby were thoroughly chained down.
Gunmal and Akira were at one of those computers looking up some information.
“Don’t blame me for that one. Rin told me to ask you for help with this kind of thing. I didn’t mean any harm.”
“Anyone would view that as harmful, you pervert!”
Akira’s Device leaned up against the desk and she looked over at Gunmal.
“Don’t give me that angry look,” he responded. “And who are you calling a pervert? Well?”
“You. Think carefully about what you did.”
“Fine, but you explain yourself logically first.”
“You entered my room without permission and watched me sleep. And while I was naked too. How about that?”
“Hmm. You sure do like to argue.”
“What!? You’re the one that asked me to explain it!”
He gestured with his hand as if to say he understood.
“So to not be a pervert, instead of watching you sleep, I should’ve touched you?”
“No! That makes you even more of a pervert!”
She raised her wings in anger and Gunmal gave an exaggerated show of being flustered.
“Th-then what am I supposed to do?”
“Don’t force your way into my room! Your very first step was wrong!”
“I couldn’t help that. And I didn’t force my way in. The doors just opened on its own. They have a way of doing that when you break the lock.”
“You just casually confessed to something insane, didn’t you?”
“Don’t worry about it. I made sure to give your landlord a present.”
It was now Akira’s turn to be flustered.
“W-wait! What’s this about my landlord and a present?”
“Since I’m a young man visiting a young woman, I thought I should at least bring a box of sweets and give a quick greeting.”
“Wait. What kind of greeting?”
“Just that they’d probably be seeing a lot of me from- ow!”
A powerful elbow jab sent Gunmal tumbling from his chair.
“Owww! What’s wrong with seeing you naked? It’s not like it hurts you or anything. Besides, your breasts were pretty bi-…”
“Don’t say that so loudly!”
She frantically covered his mouth and looked around to find everyone in the large lobby – whether in flashy casual clothes or business suits – was looking at the two of them.
They likely all had their own thoughts on the matter.
While looking at Akira and Gunmal, they all sighed and then returned to what they had been doing.
Akira frowned at the Live Message that came with that sigh.
“Um, we really drew a lot of attention just- hyah!”
Akira shrieked, grabbed her palm, and drew back.
Meanwhile, Gunmal wet his lips with his tongue.
“Looks like you used too much oyster sauce to season your breakfast. And are your hands dried out?”
“No, they are not! And what was that all of a sudden!? You really are a pervert!”
“A pervert? That’s just being rude to my gourmet spirit.”
He then sighed and continued in a tone that made it clear he was ready to end this.
“Besides, you didn’t refuse when I entered your room.”
“I can’t refuse when I’m asleep!”
He crossed his arms and thought deeply.
After a while, he announced his conclusion.
“I see. So if you’re asleep, I have a blank check to do whatever I want.”
“No, you don’t, idiot! I know you can read my Live, so pay more attention!”
“What? Do you have something to say?”
“You had better remember thi- ow!”
She kneed him.
He fell from the chair again and she turned aside to pretend she did not know him.
…Why do I have to deal with this idiot?
Gunmal would be able to read her exaggerated thought.
“Rin really is shoving extra work onto me.”
“What’s wrong with this? Getting data on my brother is part of the investigation, isn’t it?”
The Maldrick family had sent over data on J-Gun the night before, but they still needed the data from his life in Hong Kong.
That data was in the municipal office’s databank, so someone had to visit the municipal office when it was open and sit at a computer like they were doing.
“If we don’t have time, we can always ask Rin to get it for us, though.”
After a few more comments back and forth, they began the search.
“That just leaves the address… Hey, Gunmal. Why did you decide to gather the data? This may not be the best way to put it, but you could have left it all to the Yard.”
“I want to finish up the job my brother left for me.”
He paused for two or three beats before answering.
“Destroying his Device.”
He said it lightly while holding out the envelope with J-Gun’s address written on it.
She took the manila envelope.
“Why would you destroy his Device?”
He gave a fake-sounding groan of thought, suddenly looked her in the eye, and spoke too quietly for anyone but her to hear.
“To put it simply, because people will die.”
Gunmal’s answer was so short and simple that Akira was slow to react.
She placed the envelope on the desk and took a breath.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“As a Tuner, you must know the history of Tuning and Busting.”
“But what about that history?”
“Tuning and Busting are techniques to destroy the world. Busters destroy Lives and Tuners can only act as healers to support those Busters. The gentle and Tuner-oriented Wind Up used to be at the base of it all, but now the simplified Over Up used by Busters is the standard, right?”
They both looked away from the other.
That created a gap in the time and the sound.
The silence was enough to emphasize the surrounding noise and it continued for a little while.
But before it could grow awkward, Akira spoke.
“So because of that past…”
She hesitated before quietly asking her question.
“You’re going to destroy that Device?”
He nodded once.
“With a powerful Device, both Busters and Tuners will end up killing-…”
Before he could finish, a great sound came from his cheek.
The solid sound gathered the attention of the surrounding people once more.
Akira felt their Lives of curiosity stabbing into her body, but she ignored it.
She did not care.
Instead, she spoke without looking him in the eye.
“Gunmal, do you really think that?”
He did not answer.
“Do you think I’m that kind of person too?”
She regretted the words as soon as she spoke them.
…That was too much. I got carried away.
This would only escalate things further.
Another slight silence fell and nothing but awkwardness filled it, so she frantically opened her mouth.
She meaninglessly apologized on her own, nodded, and continued.
“I-I’m a little sorry. I want to calm down, so I’m going to step outside for a-…”
She stood, but a tug came at her hand.
She turned around to find Gunmal’s gloved right hand holding her hand.
He immediately looked her in the eye and scratched his head with his other hand.
He gave a one word apology.
His hand felt hard and cold through his glove and she finally realized something about him.
…His right hand is a prosthetic.
The hand inside the glove was a machine, so it did not send out a Live or anything else. But this was enough to tell Akira she had relaxed.
…He must have his reasons.
She still could not see his Live.
She nodded for no reason and sat back down.
She then resumed the search.
In only took a few seconds.
Once they started, they found J-Gun’s citizen data right away.
“The Yard’s name is pretty powerful, isn’t it?”
“Y-yes, it is.”
Once he finally spoke again, she quickly agreed with him.
She also typed on the keyboard.
“Should I get a printout for you?”
She turned to ask and saw a red mark on his cheek. She could vaguely make out the shape of her hand.
She sighed in her heart just as the printer on the side of the desk began spitting out paper.
“My brother hadn’t been working for about the last three months. He was paying a fixed amount of taxes.”
“Will this data help?”
“Who knows. But this is no surprise when it comes to my stupid brother.”
There was not a hint of ill will on Gunmal’s face.
Akira breathed a sigh of relief and smiled a little.
“He must have been a good brother. …Unlike mine. All we ever did was fight.”
“I’d say that’s a nice sibling relationship, too. …What’s your brother doing now?”
“I don’t know. I was the only one our mom trained as a Tuner. He had apparently self-taught himself Tune Emblems, but I don’t know what he’s been doing since reaching an Octave of 160,000.”
“Tune Emblems? That’s unusual.”
She nodded and gave an additional comment.
“Rumor has it my parents were amazing Tuners. They could supposedly control an Octave in the tens of millions. They apparently met about twenty years ago and retired after having my brother.”
“I see. So your parents taught you. …That would explain why you slapped me.”
“That isn’t what I was taught Tuning is for and it isn’t what I think it’s for.”
“Then what do you think it’s for?”
He asked in a teasing tone, so she thought about it and gave a short answer.
“That’s a secret.”
“It’s a secret?”
“I used to tell everyone, but no one believed me.”
She kept her Live as restrained as possible so he could not read her thoughts.
“And I don’t want to make it look cheap.”
Gunmal looked down at the paperwork and sighed a comment.
“They must have been good parents.”
“I saw the photo in your room and I could tell. Especially your dad.”
“He looks like the General, doesn’t he?”
“Like the scar on the cheek.”
That seemed to give Gunmal a sudden thought.
“Yeah, they do have similar scars. …Is it a sign of something?”
“I don’t know, but my dad would laugh and say something cryptic about it being Hong Kong’s most important scar.”
“I see.” Gunmal nodded. “Hey, this may be sudden, but what if I said I wanted to see you Tune?”
The sudden question confused her and he turned toward her.
“How is your Tuning different from the Tuning I know?”
Hong Kong Cave was a large hole.
It was a massive pit about a kilometer across and three kilometers deep. When standing on the edge, the other edge was so distant it felt like a cliff.
But it was more than just a large hole.
The inside wall of the hole was divided into layers about ten meters thick to form three hundred stories of residential areas. This was a “manmade hole”.
But man had long since abandoned it.
The pit sank down below the dark night and it was almost entirely blocked off by reinforced concrete barricades. Avoiding those and descending below would reveal two facts.
First, most of the three hundred stories of residences were unused.
And second, the only people inside were Nein Engels.
Even they were not a common sight. The only signs of them were a few lit houses on the inside of the cylindrical cave.
Following those lights down would eventually bring the bottom level into view. It was a stone-paved space about one hundred meters across.
It resembled a park lit by torches.
It was three kilometers below ground and the barricades covering the top of the hole prevented any sunlight from reaching it even during the day. The park was filled with moss instead of trees, but even that could not just grow as it pleased. It was maintained into something like a yard.
If there was moss, there had to be water.
No water could be heard, but it could be smelled. There was a pond in the center of the park.
It was a Western-style pond surrounded by stone.
A single monument stood to the side of the pond. When compared to the pristine stone paving, the monument looked intentionally aged and mossy, but the reason for that could be read in the inscription.
“1842. Blocked by the water, the construction of the cave will end here.”
Below that, the Flight Song was inscribed.
The first inscription had a name underneath it, but the Flight Song’s author had been chipped away for some reason.
But comparing the two inscriptions suggested the Flight Song had also been inscribed there in 1842.
That was the year Hong Kong had become British territory.
Evan after approximately a century and a half, the pond still had water.
There was no sign of the water flowing away, but it was not overflowing the stone either. It had likely come up from below just like a well.
The pond’s water was clear. It must have been moving because it would sometimes ripple a bit.
A single white feather rocked as it floated in one of those ripples.
It was a Nein Engel’s feather.
Three Nein Engels were gathered by the pond.
The six-winged Seraph named Double Lee sat on the stones.
He flipped through some documents and read them by the torchlight while looking at Genius and Fei who stood in front of him.
“I see. Even as a crumbling corporation, it can still be useful. And you say J-Gun’s younger brother has arrived in Hong Kong?”
“J-Gun called him here. To, well…”
“Attend his marriage with you?”
Genius frowned at Double Lee’s comment.
“No, not that. He had always had his brother destroy the attack Devices he created.”
“If that is why he is here, he is our enemy. We must kill him.”
“Yes, but from the picture, he looks like your average good-natured person. Also, he was eliminated from the Maldrick family’s records and he keeps his Wild Name hidden, so he seems to have been driven out of the family.”
“Well, a one-handed Buster would be useless,” concluded Double Lee.
He stroked each of his six wings.
“With 622 Nein Engels in total, I cannot believe that we are the only ones with no deformities who are willing to risk our lives for this mission.”
“Double Lee, that isn’t the only reason you’re the leader.”
“I know that. That has more to do with the technique I inherited from my parents. And if I had never joined Archs RDC, I would have only ever thought they were normal Tuners.”
He gave a meaningful smile and reached for the monument next to the pond.
“Hong Kong Cave was built by man, but the Nein Engels will use it to ascend into heaven. This city truly does connect heaven and earth.”
“Another one of your interpretations of the Flight Song? You always have been obsessed with that song.”
“Yes. Even now that I know its significance, I am still obsessed with it.”
“It only seems like a nice song to me,” said Genius.
“I will tell you everything eventually,” quietly answered Double Lee. “But it is a shame. …Just as Master Huang said, Nein Engels and humans won’t be able to smile together. It’s no different from one hundred and fifty years ago.”
“History here is filled with unfortunate events. After the biological weapon was released here during the Second Divine Punishment War, angels just so happened to have a better resistance than humans or your average Glossolalian, but that led to suspicion and retribution during the Fourth Divine Punishment War. Who do you think made the vaccine back then?”
“The excellent are always targets of envy.”
With a gritty sound, Double Lee tore the moss from the monument.
“We cannot get along with humans as well as most demons and monsters, but we are not revered like an angel who has just descended from heaven either. We are…”
He swallowed his last words and tossed aside the moss in his hand.
The damp moss fell in the pond, producing a small splash and ripples.
Suddenly, Fei spoke quietly.
Double Lee and Genius turned to the Galgallin in mirrorshades.
He gently pointed at the back of his neck.
“Double Lee, someone has arrived at one your three ceremony locations.”
“The southwestern one on Lamma Island. They are definitely investigating us.”
“Oh? They are skilled enough to have sniffed us out already?”
Fei nodded and concluded what they had to do in just a few words.
“We must fight.”
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