City Series:Volume3a Chapter 5

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Act 5: Series of Phenomena (14:11)[edit]

Part 1[edit]

It was ten PM, the border between night and late night.

Hong Kong Yard was a bit busy because the second night shift was arriving to replace the first.

Akira had started working at six and she had returned from her patrol for some office work.

However, she now stood next to Rin’s desk in her patrol outfit.

Gunmal stood next to her and they both looked to Rin.

“I see. You want to spend the night shift out on patrol instead of in the office…and you want to go with Gunmal?”

“That’s right. If she’s with me, she won’t get lost.”

“That’s my line. You’re the one who was lost when I met you yesterday.”

“Quiet, both of you. …I don’t mind if you work together and Gunmal might find a key to the J-Gun case, so it could help our investigation. But…”

“But?”

“Get permission from Cleared Chief Yong. You get involved in our division too much, Akira.”

“But Cleared only lets me clean up the city. …And Rin, you can Tune better than anyone else in Cleared, so you should join us.”

Rin did not answer and changed the subject.

“Anyway, you need to take this up with your actual boss, not me.”

“I told the General about it, so it’ll probably reach him.”

“Probably doesn’t cut it. …And the General is too easy on you.”

Is he?

Gunmal must have read her thought because he spoke up.

“The General is that old guy with the tank, right? The one from the Fourth Divine Punishment War.”

“Yes, he may not look it, but he’s a hero known throughout Hong Kong. Normally, he would have a private office and command the entire Yard, but he insists on working alongside the rest of us.”

“What a nice old man.”

“Gunmal, you couldn’t read his Live, could you?”

He gave a small embarrassed smile.

“You could tell? I could see his Word Color, though.”

“Eh? Eh? You could do that with the General’s?”

Akira’s eyes opened in surprise because she was not powerful enough to read his Live, but Rin quickly cut in.

“Like I was saying, you need to take this seriously.”

“C-c’mon, Gunmal. She’s talking about you.”

“I’m pretty sure she’s talking about you.”

“I’m talking about both of you.”

Rin sighed and reached for a paper on her desk.

“What’s that?”

“A montage. It has to do with you two, so take a look.”

?

Akira did as she was told and saw a drawing of a woman’s face.

She had a slender face and well-shaped eyes.

Akira succinctly expressed her thoughts.

“She has me beat.”

“Hm? What was that?’

“Nothing. Just talking to myself.”

Akira looked back at the drawing of the woman and read the Live contained within.

The lines and shading expressed a Message containing the thoughts of the drawer, not the depicted person.

Her hair is long and brown.

She is beautiful and her eyes are clear yet sad.

She has a Caucasian facial structure.

And…

“Is this person a Nein Engel?”

“Looks like it.”

Gunmal and Rin both nodded.

“Come to think of it, my brother said something in his letter about maybe getting married. Is this the woman?”

“I don’t know that much, but Kouga’s investigation has revealed that she visited J-Gun’s house quite a few times. …Do either of you know her?”

“I…”

Do I?

“I don’t think I ever met her when I lived in Hong Kong Cave.”

“My brother never told me the woman’s name.”

“I see.”

Rin nodded again and there was no hue of disappointment in her expression or Live. She must not have expected anything in the first place.

Frustrated by that, Akira looked down at the drawing again.

“What do you think about that long hair?” she muttered.

“Eh? I like it,” answered Gunmal.

“That’s not what I meant. …It’s possible she’s cut her hair.”

“Why would she?” asked Rin.

Akira looked up at Rin’s long braided hair.

“You let your hair grow out, but that isn’t because you’re lazy, is it?”

“Eh? What are you talking about?”

It’s called women’s intuition.

“It’s a mystery.”

“Hm.”

Gunmal nodded and suddenly looked to the clock on the wall.

It was already ten.

“Shouldn’t we be going?”

“You’re right. Rin, we’ll be leaving, okay? Sorry we weren’t any help.”

“Don’t worry about it. More importantly, make sure you do what I told you to. …Oh, and Gunmal.”

“?”

“We should finish our investigation of J-Gun’s house tonight, so you can visit it tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

He smiled and lightly raised a hand in parting.

At the same time, the phone on Rin’s desk rang.

Who is that?

Akira turned around before leaving and she could tell who it was from Rin’s tone of voice when she answered.

It was Kouga.

“She seems busy,” said Gunmal.

Akira nodded.

There was indeed a lot they had to do.

Part 2[edit]

Lights of fishing boats could be seen in the distance.

The ocean wind carried the sounds of waves from far below.

Repeated splashes could be heard from below as well.

While soaking his feet in those sounds, Kouga walked alone through the moonlit night.

His voice joined the sounds of the waves and wind.

“Yeah, I’m on Lamma Island right now. I can really see the lights of Hong Kong Island since I’m up on a mountain.”

The wind quickly swept away his voice as he spoke into his cellphone.

The wind carried the saltiness of the ocean below.

Lamma Island was just over three kilometers long and its tallest mountain was three hundred fifty meters. The powerful ocean wind flew over the forest and raced up the mountain ridge.

Not even the locals approached this place.

“But it’s strange. Why was the blood of Archs RDC’s president spilled here? Do you have any idea? …Yeah, I still have to visit Tsing Yi Island and Beaufort Island.”

Meanwhile, a small form rode the wind and flew down through the darkness.

The moonlight illuminated its two wings.

It was a bat.

When Kouga casually reached out his right hand, it landed on his white fingertips and vanished.

It had combined with him.

He gently swung his right hand and brushed it through his pompadour.

“I’m almost at the peak. I’m gonna start some real investigation, so I’ve gotta hang up. …Right. I’ll be careful.”

He ended the call and put the phone in his pocket.

He continued up the steep slope without getting out of breath and the slope suddenly vanished.

A flat space about the size of a small park appeared.

This was the peak.

Some volcanic rock protruded out of it, but it was relatively level and as flat as a stage. Perhaps due to the powerful wind, there were no trees to obstruct one’s view.

“You could probably land a helicopter here.”

Kouga looked around. As a vampire and human mix, he could see in the dark. The darkness of the night was not an obstacle for him. It was his ally.

“The north and south sides are sheer cliffs. I can see why the locals never approach the place.”

He looked back to the bottom of the trail he had climbed. The forest below resembled the kind of jungles unique to the tropics.

Past the forest were a sandy beach and the dark ocean.

The giant mass of light on the ocean was Hong Kong Island and the smaller lights were the other islands.

“That must be Beaufort Island. The scent is stronger over there, so it may be what I’m looking for.”

His nose detected the scent of blood his familiar had found.

That same scent filled this place.

Just as Akira and Gunmal could see Lives, Kouga could see the scent of blood.

The scent before his eyes here was thick and high quality.

It floated around the area with the density of a light mist.

Why can I smell so much blood? Did someone perform a Demon Summoning or something?

The scent of blood was strongest two or three steps ahead.

“?”

In the very center of the small peak, he saw traces of a large amount of blood.

The traces seemed to glow before Kouga’s eyes.

“It’s filled with the power of Yang. There’s no mistaking it now.”

This blood belonged to Huang Daquan, an Archs.

As he approached, the bloodstains became evident.

“But that Nein Engel committed suicide in his home, so why is his blood here? …Ah!”

He immediately found his answer.

He saw countless glowing words written there.

The words formed emblems.

Many different emblems made of Chinese characters were joined together into a circle on the volcanic rock ground.

It was six or seven meters across and no one but Kouga would have been able to see it.

“A Tune Emblem. And a huge one at that. …Is this one of the Death Technos lost during the Fifth Divine Punishment War?”

A Tune Emblem was like sheet music that encoded a Live’s Word Color and Tempo in writing.

It was arranged in a circle, it was activated by striking a point in the center called the Baton, and it would Tune the surrounding space according to what was written in it.

“If it’s Death Techno, the General would probably know what it does at first glance.”

Kouga spotted the Baton in the center and noticed it had already been struck.

This emblem had already been activated.

He pulled a Discord Bomb from his pocket and looked at it. A close inspection of the pencil-sized bomb showed it had an emblem drawn on it too.

That small Discord Bomb would destroy the Lives within five meters when it detonated, but the Tune Emblem in front of him was many times larger.

“When you make it this big… Well, the effective Octave of a Tune Emblem is equal to ten thousand times four to the power of how many meters it is, right? This thing has a radius of about six meters, so…”

Four to the sixth times ten thousand is an Octave of…40,960,000!?

That was a massive Octave.

Akira was the most powerful Tuner that Kouga knew and even she could only control an Octave of 1,280,000. Rin was called a genius for her 320,000 and a normal person did well to control 80,000.

What could be created or destroyed from controlling an Octave in the tens of millions?

Kouga wanted to call it insane, but he recalled a certain fact.

“There aren’t others like this on Beaufort Island and Tsing Yi Island, are there?”

“Well done. The ADs Device has already reached the depths of the ley line.”

“!”

Kouga turned toward the sudden voice just as his right arm vanished at the shoulder.

“What!?”

The attack had been too intense to feel any pain. Losing his arm threw off his balance and he fell to his knee. He held his right shoulder and found his hand was touching bone.

The ocean wind blew across the peak and onto his exposed bone. It felt hard, but even more…

It feels cold.

As soon as he thought that, blood spewed from his shoulder. It was too much to contain with his left hand.

A normal person would have died of blood loss from it all, but Kouga’s eyes remained strong as they faced forward through his sunglasses.

Two men stood before him.

One was a six-winged Seraph wearing a white combat coat. He held a Device-like sword, so he had likely been the one to sever Kouga’s arm.

The other wore a black combat outfit over a Custom Body. A closer look showed his Custom Body swelling out tightly around the neck and shoulders.

He had a lot of alterations done around the neck and back? Does that mean…?

Kouga had his thoughts cut off.

“Yes, only a winged-race would need to modify that area. That is what happens when you remove your wings.”

“!?”

The Seraph had read his thoughts.

Before he could ask how, the Seraph smiled and spoke.

“It would be best not to think. I can read your Live quite easily.”

That told him who this was, but if this Seraph could read his Live…

“Ha! So you know Akira. I see, so the Yard has already made it this far in pursuing Huang Daquan’s death, have they?”

The Seraph read Kouga’s thoughts again and stepped forward.

Kouga shuddered at his unhesitating movement.

He held his right shoulder, stood up, and backed away, but the Seraph only smiled.

“I can’t have you viewing me on the same level as Akira. I am not a mere child playing around with Tuning Lives into small animals.”

The Seraph stopped and lightly raised his Device toward the night sky.

“The moon is nice tonight,” he whispered.

He gave a short and simple call to the surrounding Lives using an Over Up.

“Word Accel! Oh, you Lives of 160,000 Octaves.”

The wind immediately produced a shape. It was a leopard colored the blue of the wind.

“That was fast!”

Normally, Tuning took some time.

To transform a Live, one had to learn the target object’s Live, have the Live hear you, and fuse it with your own Message.

Kouga remembered it taking five or six seconds for Akira to create a dog or a cat.

But this Seraph had created a leopard in under a second.

This isn’t good.

Kouga let go of his shoulder and let it bleed as he dug through his pocket.

He pulled out his handgun: a Webley & Scott 6-round revolver.

While backing away, he pressed down the hammer.

He heard the metal locking into place.

At the same time, the leopard began to run. And it did so along the wind in midair.

Its roar sounded just like the roar of the wind.

He stopped and held up his Webley & Scott in one hand. He stiffened his entire body to brace against the recoil of the .45 caliber round.

He fired and the blast cut through the wind.

The recoil hit him hard. The blood must have loosened his grip because his arm flew upwards and the Webley & Scott slipped from his hand.

But the shot had been accurate.

The bullet flew straight and light wrapped around it in midair.

Just like the Discord Bomb, it had an emblem drawn on it.

The light trailed behind it like a comet and transformed into a spear.

This was a German anti-demon round.

“!”

The Seraph gave a gasp of surprise.

The leopard stopped, but it could not evade. The spear hit it right in the face.

The weapon stabbed in up to the base.

The leopard rolled along a nonexistent midair ground and roared.

However, that cry ended it.

The floating leopard quickly expanded and burst.

It made a “sh” sound as it did so.

Only the spear of light remained and it fell. When it reached the volcanic rock, it stabbed in with a white sound.

Kouga stared forward while shaking the fingers he had hurt when the gun had slipped from his grasp.

The Seraph still held his Device in the same place as before.

“I see. I suppose you are part of the Yard that protects Hong Kong. That was quite the strange bullet.”

“But unlike the ones used by our forces, it had not been refined.”

There was no inflection to the cyborg Galgallin’s voice. He must have eliminated his emotions when altering his body.

Kouga sighed and realized the blood flowing from his shoulder was slowing, so he brought his hand back to it.

“What are Nein Engels doing here?”

“We detected someone investigating our ceremony, so we stopped by to…eliminate them.”

“Your ceremony?”

That would be the Tune Emblem drawn on the ground here.

That big an emblem is a ceremony?

He suddenly remembered something.

“The General mentioned rumors of an Earth Serpent out at sea.”

“An Earth Serpent?” asked the Seraph.

Kouga frowned and the Seraph continued.

“People thought that was an Earth Serpent? A ceremony that small can only awaken an Earth Wyvern. …Then again, I am the only one that can create something even at that level.”

The other Nein Engel tapped the Seraph on the shoulder.

He seemed to be saying not to say anything more.

“I know, Fei,” answered the Seraph.

Kouga reacted to that name.

“Fei!? You mean Fei the Galgallin!?”

That was the man Rin was searching for.

The man referred to as Fei turned toward Kouga. His false eyes glowed red behind his mirrorshades. It was a cold, emotionless light.

Kouga instinctually put up his guard just as Fei charged in.

He was fast. He immediately covered the ten step distance.

Kouga immediately made a counterattack.

“Headbutt!”

He did exactly as his shout suggested.

It hit!

With that realization, a great shock reached him.

His body was blown away and his bones cried out. Instead of simply breaking, they were smashed to pieces.

!?

For just an instant, he saw Fei standing next to him despite having charged in straight ahead.

Only then did Kouga realize he had been kicked.

He saw the sky and the moon and stars filled that night sky.

The only thing he felt was his body falling. He fell from top to bottom and from back to stomach.

To his left was a rising cliff face, so he had apparently fallen from the cliff.

For a few seconds, he felt like he was floating, but he soon completed the nearly one hundred meter drop and his back slammed into the ground.

The ground below was the bare volcanic rock of the mountainside.

His body burst like a melon and his vision went dark.

Part 3[edit]

Even Hong Kong grew a little quieter by two in the morning.

Even with plenty of nocturnal Glossolalians, the majority of the population was still human.

But one place was reaching its peak business as the final challenge for the day.

The Bird Garden was a famous market west of Mong Kok Station.

The squawking of birds created a great din. Many birds, both large and small, were chirping and tweeting together.

The eaves of the shops on either side of the narrow road were close enough to bump into each other and bird cages were hanging from them all. The smell of birds, chirping, the scissoring and mechanical noises of bird cages being made, the smell of varnish, and the lights all mixed together into a vague heat.

The combined Live of the market was naturally a bright yellow.

The people walking down the road were nocturnal Glossolalians as well as Hong Kong residents and tourists who did not want to waste the night sleeping. A closer look revealed that there were children there as well as adults. Most of the children were locals who were used to being up at this time, so they showed no sign of weariness.

The entire market was filled with bright and lively Lives.

But there was a single gap in that Live performance.

In that one place, the Lives did not advertise their presence. The birds, people, and other things that entered that gap were all focused on the individual at the center.

It was a female Nein Engel with four wings.

It was Genius.

Everyone’s eyes were focused on her wings.

They were wings that no one could ever create and no bird could ever gain.

They were wings that could only exist in one’s imagination.

The birds and people were all focused on those wings.

But Genius did not mind. When the birds stopped chirping and looked up at her, she would look them in the eye and sometimes touch their cage or smile.

She was taking a walk through the city for the first time since leaving J-Gun.

“His younger brother is using the Urban Name of Gunmal, too?”

She smiled bitterly.

J-Gun had me call him that when we first met.

The two of them had walked through this area back then.

Even while working at Archs RDC, she had almost never gone out into the city of Hong Kong. She would leave Hong Kong Cave using a dedicated transportation vehicle and she had been able to spend the night in her office.

Also, the idea that Nein Engels were hated by the people of Hong Kong was a fact, not a persecution complex.

That was evident even now.

There was a strange look in the eyes of the people she passed by. They saw her as something that should not be here.

She could sense it all the more when walking alone like this.

“How can Double Lee’s sister manage to live here?”

Genius had never met Double Lee’s younger sister who went by the Urban Name of Akira, but she had long heard the rumors.

She was a Seraph, but she had only two wings due to the deformities all too common in Nein Engels.

She was a tuner just like her brother.

Three years before, she had suddenly left Hong Kong Cave.

And Double Lee had not forgotten her.

“He must have a reason.”

Genius touched a nearby cage. A white dove stared at her from inside the bamboo cage.

She stared back for a while, but finally removed her hand from the cage.

“Sorry,” she said before resuming her walk.

That was when she heard a strange sound.

It was a loud and intense, but it was only a single sound.

It came from a shop that had a rest bench sticking out into the road.

“?”

The sound came again.

It was the chirping of birds, but it was too coordinated. It sounded like they were beginning to sing on some kind of signal. Someone could possibly teach a myna to do that, but this included the voices of much smaller birds.

Curious, Genius walked forward.

A man sat on a bench. He had his back to Genius, he was facing the birds and local children inside the shop, and he held a yueqin.

The birds and children inside the shop were all looking to the man and waiting for him to do something.

“Listen. Basically, the birds just have to make the sound you want. Akira taught you about Tuning, right? This is the same. You let the birds hear your Live.”

The man’s voice sounded a lot like J-Gun’s.

He played a note on the yueqin and the birds sang the same note.

“See? Neat, isn’t it?”

The children nodded and expressed their surprise or amazement.

“From what you said, Akira taught you like this, didn’t she?”

The children voiced their affirmation.

“Then continuing like that would probably be best. At the very least, you won’t become the boring kind of Busters or Tuners that your parents would think of. So when you get home and your mom gets after you, tell her you’re doing it because it’s fun. Ask her what’s wrong with that.”

He laughed and answered someone’s question.

“Me? I’m Akira’s… well, I’m kind of like her friend. We were doing stupid stuff together a bit ago.”

He handed the yueqin to a nearby child.

He seemed to have borrowed it.

When the children saw he had returned the yueqin, they grew excited.

The man rubbed one boy’s head and slowly stood.

Genius recognized the profile she saw.

It was J-Gun.

You’re kidding.

“That’s… his brother?”

Before she could accept that fact, he turned his back and she had no way of checking on him any further.

He began to walk away with the children surrounding him.

Even though he was leaving, she took a step back.

He mentioned Akira, didn’t he? It can’t be…

Or could it?

Without answering her own question, she bit her lip.

She turned her back on the man.

She ignored everything and hurried away.

She left that market as quickly as she could.

Part 4[edit]

There was no such thing as a peaceful night at Hong Kong Yard.

Even in the middle of the night, the headquarters had its lights on.

The white fluorescent light shined on a few night shift workers… and Rin.

She faced a desktop computer and wore the same clothes as when Akira and Gunmal had left.

She had been here dealing with this or that for over six hours.

“I finally got the search macro built… Now I just have to gather all the data.”

She removed her hands from the keyboard and stretched lightly.

“You work hard,” commented an elderly worker at a nearby seat, so she gave an arbitrary response and wiped away the tears in the corners of her eyes.

She finally looked to the window. It was growing brighter and a blanket with wings lay on the sofa below it.

That was Akira.

“I can’t believe she can sleep face-down like that. …Of course, Kouga can only sleep inside a coffin.”

She tilted her head.

“But when did she pair up with Gunmal like that?”

The two of them had patrolled the streets of Hong Kong ever since then.

Akira belonged to Cleared which more or less dealt with the citizen’s troubles. They would get rid of poltergeists created by disturbed Lives or Tune destroyed houses to fix them.

“That’s a lot like a mother’s way of thinking.”

Well, I doubt it will end as pathetically as with me and Fei.

She then changed the look in her eyes and the direction of her gaze.

She looked to the monitor beyond her glasses. The cursor on the screen followed the movements of her eyes thanks to the sight device in the edge of her glasses.

The cursor moved along the displayed results of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and searched for the company names that matched the conditions she gave.

“So Archs RDC really is going to break up at seven tonight. The stocks of the inheriting companies are rising, so the insider traders must already be at work.”

She muttered her thanks for that as she closed the stock exchange page.

The screen now showed the system’s OS.

She looked to the icon on the far left that led to the Yard’s databank.

The cursor moved there and she clicked on the keyboard.

As soon as the databank server’s screen opened, she began typing.

She displayed the business details of the companies from her previous search and saved them.

Overlapping windows of text appeared on the screen. More and more appeared at a pace of about one every three seconds.

“Hm, this is a lot.”

She grabbed her coffee cup and took a sip. It was cold, but she did not care.

She could barely taste anything this late at night, so she only tasted the bitterness.

She thought about the flavor of the bitter coffee while connecting the computer to Hong Kong’s network line.

It immediately asked whether she wished to use any assistance software.

“…”

She silently inserted the MD-ROM she had prepared.

The computer read in the communications assistance software approved by the Governor of Hong Kong.

Once the official title popped up, she forcibly ejected the MD-ROM.

She then pulled a different MD-ROM from her pocket and shoved it in.

“No matter how much the corporations go crying to the governor, they can’t come up with a way of keeping me from doing this.”

Without waiting a moment, the computer resumed reading the MD-ROM.

The title on the screen blacked out and the network map appeared instead.

The commands were displayed on the upper right, but the display was different from the legitimate program.

“These Japanese programs are frightening. This thing can even destroy pursuing programs. …ID spoofing, ID changes every hour, decoy creation, and the option to transfer into a decoy. And it’s all automated from a single command.”

She went through all of the commands and began working.

That was when the headquarters’ door opened.

?

She turned around when she heard all of the night shift personnel quickly stand and she found the General standing in the entrance.

“Ah.”

Surprised, she stood too and saluted.

Before she could greet him, he gestured for them to sit. As they all did, he walked over to her.

He looked toward her and Akira who slept over by the window.

“Oh, what’s this? A young girl like you shouldn’t be workin’ so late. It ain’t good for you, Rin.”

“This is my job.”

“I see. …Are you usin’ that machine to search for that cheeky Huang bastard? Oh, you’ve got a lot you’re searchin’ for there.”

Rin looked to the text already displayed on the screen and nodded.

“I always have these in reserve for dummy searches. If they can tell what you’re focusing on as soon as you get your footing, they put their guard up a lot quicker.”

She brought her hands back to the keyboard.

“I’m going to input the search terms I need now.”

She looked at the text lined up on the monitor.

The very top of the search list was the name Fei Garland.

That was a dummy search.

That name had yet to return any search results.

I haven’t found anything in five years now.

Just as she began to type, the General spoke up as if he had just remembered something.

“Oh, right. Hey, Rin. If you’ve got the time, could you search for ‘Device’ and ‘J-Gun Maldrick’ too?”

“Are you referring to Akira’s case?” she asked with a bitter smile. “I’m doing those searches at the same time here. The two of them asked me personally, but…as they said, you shouldn’t hope for much.”

No matter how skilled a Buster swordsmith he had been, she could not imagine a personal workshop would have a connection to Archs RDC. Still, she could at least use it as a dummy search.

“What, are things not goin’ well?”

“Why do you think I’ve been up all night? …And does this mean you’re curious about Akira’s case too?”

“Yeah, a little. I suppose.”

After hearing his answer, she continued.

“General, you told me before that Akira’s father was your subordinate, right?”

“…”

“And just between the two of us, her father died in the exact same way as Huang Daquan.”

“Oh?”

“By any chance, do you secretly know everything going on behind the scenes in this case?”

“Why would I know that?”

She hesitated but answered.

“I feel a connection here. A human and a Nein Engel died in the exact same way and you have the exact same scar on your cheek as that human.”

“A connection, huh?”

“You may not have noticed, but you’re a bit of a mystery. What were you doing before the Fourth Divine Punishment War, why do you never call anyone over to your house, and does your wife actually exist?”

“I hear everyone’s bettin’ money on the truth of some of that.”

Hearing that, Rin looked taken aback and quietly cleared her throat.

“I-I apologize. I got carried away just now. …I haven’t gotten enough sleep.”

She then looked to Akira’s sleeping form and gave a deep sigh to shift her focus.

The General looked over, too.

“Is somethin’ the matter with Akira?”

“Apparently she wasn’t able to do anything when J-Gun died.”

“Well, there’s no helpin’ that. Not even a Tuner can just walk up and Tune someone who’s about to die.”

“But she’s kept her Device by her side ever since then. She used to keep it safely in her locker”

That had changed over the past few days.

“I think it’s a good change. Recently, she’s been teaching the local children about Tuning and she’s changed in a number of other ways too.”

“Sigh. I see you’re really watchin’ closely, Rin.”

“That’s just the kind of person I am.”

Rin looked back to the monitor and gently licked her lipstick-covered lips.

“Now, I’m about to make my way into Archs RDC’s databank. This is probably my last chance at this.”

She then hit the enter key to set it all in motion.

It only took five seconds for something unexpected to happen.

Part 5[edit]

A loud warning sound came from Rin’s computer and the General gave a shout.

“Danger!?”

The fifth window had been caught by a defense program.

Rin quietly frowned and had the fifth window displayed on top.

Her search program was on the run and the defense program was in pursuit.

“That’s a special type. …Does it pursue a specific search term?”

The security check had reacted to the search term instead of her entry into the databank.

“This isn’t good. I’ll scatter dummies and jump to a decoy waiting outside. If I go through a slow local network, I can launch the destruction program while the data’s being consumed there.”

She gave a number of commands and started the process.

The commands ran in an instant.

“Meanwhile, I’ll gather the data I can with the surviving programs. Once I have it, I’ll escape.”

The contents of the fifth window changed as per her instructions.

All the while, the other windows were rapidly completing their searches.

“What was that? This is some security company’s databank, right?”

“Yes, the one in charge of Archs RDC’s security. That company is why Archs RDC doesn’t need the Yard’s help.”

“Kah. That cheeky bastard’s cheeky company sure is cheeky.”

“It goes back to that ‘cheeky’ company’s rival breaking the law and angering them.”

The eleven windows finished their searches and closed.

All of the necessary data had been extracted.

As for the fifth window…

“Did it escape?”

Rin immediately switched networks and jumped to Japan via satellite connection.

“I’ll take it inside Zenon City – Tokyo’s market and…”

She deleted the program there.

The display instantly blacked out, but the system OS screen soon returned.

She had fully escaped from the network.

She sighed, removed her glasses, and rubbed her eyes.

“That last one was definitely a surprise.”

“I don’t know anythin’ about this stuff, so I couldn’t follow any of it.”

“I doubt you could.”

She put her glasses back on and began operating the computer with only the keyboard.

She opened a programming editor and placed the data inside.

In less than a second, she eliminated the test from the dummy searches and began to read.

“…”

Her breath contained a hint of disappointment.

“None of it has anything to do with the case.”

“Did you find any dirt on Huang?”

“If it was that easy to find, no one would do that kind of thing in the first place. …The information you want tends to be the hardest to find, General. Look.”

She made a single search as a test.

Search : “J-Gun” : Run

The name was not found anywhere in the data.

“Hm. You’re right.”

“This is pretty common.”

With that short answer, she went ahead and checked the other search term: Device.

Something suddenly popped up.

?

She checked the screen and saw one of the corporations was a trader that dealt in decorations. Devices were sometimes used as gifts instead of for their power.

“Not quite. J-Gun would have made them on his own.”

The Devices the corporation dealt in were all special orders from jewelers, shops for nobles, or sporting goods companies. The orders were mostly sent to factories, used units of dozens or gross, and had numbers like ten or twenty.

However, one odd number caught her eye.

“An order for five. …With four cleared for production? And a request for more?”

All the other deals involved more than a hundred Devices, but this one order was for a mere five.

“The order was placed by…Genius Elias?

She recognized the name.

It was the name J-Gun had called just before dying.

Rin stopped moving for a moment.

“…”

She suddenly gave a large nod, turned toward the General, and voiced her thoughts.

“I don’t have any real proof, but there’s a good possibility this Genius woman was the connection between Archs RDC and J-Gun.”

The General tilted his head, so she pointed to the monitor.

“Look. This order was made about three months ago, but the number of Devices is just right for making in an individual’s workshop. At the very least, it’s different from the other wholesale deals made by the dozen or gross.”

“Hm.”

“And look at the phone number. The three leading digits don’t exist in Hong Kong and the rest of the digits are too short. I bet if you add something…yes, like a ‘#’ in front of those three leading digits, you would get an internal Archs RDC number. Also…”

“Also?”

“According to Gunmal, there’s a good chance J-Gun hadn’t returned home in the past three months.”

At that point, the cellphone sitting on her desk began to ring.

“Hm?”

Akira showed signs of waking by the window, but Rin ignored it and answered the phone.

She recognized the voice she heard.

“Kouga? You’re late. What have you been doing?”

“Sigh. Rin, don’t get too mad at him,” said the General. “Men have a lot we’ve got to deal with.”

After listening to Kouga, she summed up the situation for the General.

“It seems he died a little.”

“Oh? But he got better?”

“Yes. He apparently turned to ash once. …What? You’re heading back there to retrieve your right arm? I wouldn’t. You might get killed again. Go drink some blood at the Human Meat Bar to recover. …Don’t worry. I’ll take it out of your welfare expenses.”

“Ahh, what do we do about his clothes? Last time he came back with bloody clothes, I gave him a hundred lashes.”

“Then he’ll need some new clothes. No, General, I’ll take them for him. …So how’d it go? I assume something happened since you were killed.”

Her expression changed as she asked that.

It stiffened and she slowly asked something else.

“A Tune Emblem…and a Nein Engel with a Device?”

“What about me?” sleepily asked Akira from behind.

Rin ignored her and gasped at what Kouga said next.

“Fei?”

She adjusted her grip on the phone.

“It was a Galgallin!? Yes, white hair and about as tall as you…. He’d Customized himself and…eh? He killed you? …Kouga! Don’t be ridiculous!”

The call ended there.

She briefly heard a quiet electronic tone, so Kouga’s phone had likely had its battery die.

She stared at the phone in her hand and sighed.

She realized the General and the other nearby personnel were looking at her.

“Ah.”

“Sounds like this has gotten kinda tricky.”

“Sorry. I shouldn’t be dragging private issues into this.”

“Really? But this Fei you’ve been searchin’ for all this time was at that place Kouga went to. What was it? Where he found Huang’s blood?”

“Please don’t say that!”

Rin shouted and crossed her arms as if holding her body.

“Give me some time to think about what this means.”

She closed her eyes and mouth.

Silence fell and a chilly atmosphere filled the area.

Before long, something broke that chilliness.

“Huh? What is it, Rin?”

She turned toward the voice and saw Akira standing there with a sleepy look in her eyes.

“Rin, your monitor.”

She turned back around and saw the data on the corporation from the fifth window that had gone through the chase.

It had not managed to even start its search, so only the initial search term was displayed.

The defense program had been triggered by that term.

“Fei Garland? Isn’t that the guy you’re…?”

Akira fell silent when she saw Rin staring at the screen.

The woman remained silent without caring that her thoughts could be seen in her Live.

After a while, she forcefully stood from her chair and put on her coat.

“I’m going to meet up with Kouga.”

“Rin!?”

She did not answer Akira’s cry.

Her footsteps rang throughout the office, a stark contrast to her Live that was oddly still and filled with hesitation.

It was a painful Live to see or hear.

Interlude 2[edit]

Tedious and deep darkness slipped past several metal beams and fell down through a giant pit.

On its way down to the bottom of the hole, the darkness was blocked by some faint light.

There was a small light source on Hong Kong Cave’s 163rd floor down.

It came from Hong Kong Cave’s reserve lights.

A comparatively large number of Nein Engels lived in that area.

The edge of the hole was used as the main pathway and some could be seen walking here and there even though morning had yet to arrive.

Among them, a Nein Engel rested her elbows on the railing and stared at the metal beams far overhead.

It was Genius.

She had been born on this level and seemed to be known around here. A passing Nein Engel would occasionally greet her and she would wave back.

It was a common scene.

“Today is the day of the second repatriation ceremony,” she muttered while looking up at the dimly-lit heavens.

She held her left hand toward those heavens and she wore a plain ring on that hand.

“That city connects heaven and earth, hm?”

She clenched that hand into a fist.

At that very moment, a voice replied to her previous comment.

“But you do not have anyone to smile with. And neither do I.”

She turned around to find Double Lee.

He gave a self-deprecating smile and said more.

“But reviving the destroyed heaven is still necessary.”

Genius put her guard up, hid her left hand by crossing her arms, and gave a deep sigh.

She replied while making sure Double Lee could not read her mind.

“Heaven was destroyed and returned to nothing during World War Two, but you’re going to revive it by destroying Hong Kong. …Which will take more lives? The past return to nothingness or the present destruction?”

“Instead of comparing the two, you must continue adding everything in the positive direction. That will lead you to the proper answer.”

“Are you turning this into a holy war?”

Double Lee smiled bitterly at that.

“Can you call it a holy war before the battle even begins? The distinction between holy and evil is decided by the outcome.”

“That may be true, but…”

“From here on, anyone but a Nein Engel will die if they are caught in the repatriation ceremony. The only ones who can withstand heaven’s air are us and the souls of the dead. …That is why I did the most I could to help. I broke up Archs RDC and matched the timing with Hong Kong’s return to China. Also…”

“Today’s second repatriation ceremony will blow away nearly half of Hong Kong?”

He nodded at her question.

“On the night of Hong Kong’s return in two weeks’ time, the final repatriation ceremony will take place and the entirety of Hong Kong will be destroyed. …This second repatriation ceremony is merely the prelude, but it will be enough of a demonstration that only the truly foolish or indecisive will not leave.”

“Are you sure?”

“?”

“I think the people who love this city will stay.”

“What a sentimental idea.” Double Lee seemed to cast aside the words. “Only the people with nowhere left to go will stay. Those people who have resigned themselves to death will be caught in the ceremony, but that is a net gain for the world.”

“Hong Kong’s greatest Tuner certainly sees things differently.”

“I simply know what is truly important.”

He spoke with a powerful tone and looked up into the sky.

“Once the four Earth Wyverns and the Earth Serpent guided by them reach heaven, that destroyed place will regain its land. The surface will simply lose one small city, but in exchange, the many angels, Nein Engels, and wandering souls will gain a home.”

Could he see the door to heaven in Hong Kong’s sky?

That door would vanish once England returned Hong Kong to China.

“We have no time. This will likely be called the Sixth Divine Punishment War, but it must be done. If J-Gun is resurrected today and he creates the Device in the next two weeks, we can hold the final repatriation ceremony on the night of Hong Kong’s return.”

He took a breath.

“We will only just barely make the time limit.”

“You’re right,” said Genius. “Double Lee, you’re resurrecting J-Gun with necromancy, aren’t you? Fei just left again.”

“Do you resent me?”

“Of course not. …Have you seen his past? A murderer’s soul could certainly never go to heaven. And…”

“And?”

“I was walking through Hong Kong for the first time in a while and I saw J-Gun’s brother.”

“Really?”

Double Lee gave an exaggerated look of surprise and she continued.

“He seems to know your sister.”

“!?”

“J-Gun’s younger brother and your younger sister. …Do you think we’ll end up fighting them?”

He pulled a report from his pocket and glanced at it.

“Yes, just as it says here, Master Huang said someone would oppose me if I tried to connect this city to heaven with Tuning.”

“I heard him say that, too. Whenever he said it, he would give this satisfied smile like he knew everything that was going to happen. …But was he referring to your sister?”

He did not answer her, but he did say something else.

“It seems we really do need the help of Hong Kong’s #1 Buster.”

His expression was as calm as ever and he gently tapped the bottom of his coat so she would see.

It produced a quiet metallic sound.

The ADs Device that J-Gun had created was there.

“He was immensely skilled, just like me.”

Genius had a feeling he was avoiding the previous subject, but she did not pursue it any further.

Meanwhile, he continued.

“Busting is the destruction of your opponent’s Live, but that requires more than simply slamming your own Live against them. To effectively strike their Live, you must have a thorough knowledge of it.”

“J-Gun could do that.”

Double Lee nodded.

“But he was not talented.”

“…? Then what about you, Double Lee? Do you claim to have inborn talent?”

He did not immediately answer.

He frowned and seemed to choose his words carefully for once.

“Do you know the difference between normal people and those known as talented or prodigies? Do you know why he left the formal Maldrick family and moved to this mixture of a city?”

“Well…”

“It is not a happy thing. …And I more or less understand it.”

He once again looked into the narrow sky.

“It is all known by the Flight Song, that single beautiful song passed down from the founding of Hong Kong Cave.”

“The Flight Song?”

“It is a wonderful song. …A wonderful song that’s meaning contains a great contradiction that only I know at present.”

His words were directed at someone other than Genius, but only he knew who that person was.


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