City Series:Volume3a Chapter 8
Act 8: Talk Show (6:18)
The white-walled meeting room on Hong Kong Yard’s second story was large enough to fit two hundred people.
It was designed much like a university lecture hall and it was indeed being used for a lecture.
A teacher and assistant stood on the stage up front where their voices could reach everyone else. Rin and Kouga wore their Yard uniforms in front of the large display they were using instead of a blackboard.
And if there was a teacher, there had to be students. About eighty percent of the meeting room’s seats were filled.
The model students did not utter a word or produce any noise at all and, other than the police superintendent acting as the director, they were all from field units. There was a total of one hundred fifty eight from the Tank Force, the Custom Force, the Ninja Force, and the Hounds.
They were all prized members of the Yard and they displayed their diligence by filling the front half of the meeting room’s seats.
On the other hand, Akira, Gunmal, and the General sat on the very back row.
They all silently listened to Rin and they were taking this seriously.
After all, Rin started with this:
“I am mainly here to explain the process by which Hong Kong will be destroyed and sent up to heaven.”
She then began talking about World War Two.
“You are all familiar with Aerial City’s self-sacrifice, I assume. At the end of the war, the Germans fired a Wort Bombe at England. To save England, the bomb was taken to heaven and heaven was utterly destroyed.”
She went on to say that the Nein Engels were attempting to Tune Hong Kong, carry it up to the destroyed heaven, and create a new heaven.
From there, her explanation continued to build.
“If Hong Kong’s Kowloon is seen as the center, then the Tune Emblems in question have been drawn at the northwestern Tsing Yi Island, the southwestern Lamma Island, and the southwestern Beaufort Island. Also, Earth Burns have been seen in the ocean near those islands.”
A map of Hong Kong appeared on the large display behind Rin and red circles expanded from three points on it.
“Based on the size of the Tune Emblems, Earth Burns made from Lives with an Octave of 40 million have already fused with the land within these red circles.”
The three red circles seemed to pin down the map and they were each about ten kilometers across. The three of them covered most of Hong Kong.
If they became dragons and suddenly ascended into the sky, the casualties would be more than just one or two hundred thousand.
Everyone gave a stiff gasp, but a voice broke that tense atmosphere.
The casual, questioning tone came from the General.
“There’s somethin’ I don’t get.”
“Yes, I had a feeling you would ask about this.”
“Quit flatterin’ me,” he said before continuing. “Well, I’ll start with just one thing. If someone made these three Earth Burns, then why’d they only have them swim in the ocean and disappear on the night those dragons were spotted?”
“Yeah, one more. With Tunin’, the Lives’ll end up back here even if they are taken up to heaven. Tune arrangements are nothin’ but healin’ after all.”
“I see.” Rin gave a deep nod to show she had understood his questions. “The answer to that is found in J-Gun’s Devices that the Nein Engels wanted and in how Huang Daquan died. Why did they create four identical Devices and yet want another device now? And where did Huang Daquan’s blood end up?”
“When the Tune Emblems were activated and the Earth Burns appeared, one of those Devices was driven into each of them. The blades must have been soaked in the blood just like the Tune Emblems…and those were J-Gun’s Devices which could withstand an Octave of several dozen million.”
She turned toward the large display just as a new circle appeared.
It was centered on the eastern Kowloon Peninsula, near Hung Hom.
Its position created a square with the previous three circles.
The four red circles covered almost everything.
Rin turned sideways to let everyone see the screen.
“The Earth Burns obeyed the Message of their creator and vanished into the sea before their bodies could fully develop, but that was to use a Bust System.”
“You mean the four elements of wood, fire, earth, and water, plus the element of metal that is created from the combination of the other four?” asked Gunmal. “So my brother’s Devices acted as the key to the three Earth Burns and they will…um, resonate with the ceremony to bring out an Earth Burn in that new circle in Hung Hom, which will Tune all four Earth Burns at once?”
“Yes. The identical Devices will act as a resonating whistle. …But that isn’t all.”
“You said the element of metal is created when the other four are combined, right? We should assume the ceremonies they’ve completed or will complete correspond to those four elements.” Lamma Island’s rainforest land made it wood.
Tsing Yi Island’s name meant “blue clothes”, so it was water.
Beaufort Island’s bare volcanic rock made it earth.
And Hung Hom’s thermal power station was fire.
Symbols of the four elements had been gathered.
And that meant…
“If the four dragons are Tuned here, the foundation needed to activate the element of metal will be created at the central point! Look, if these four elements are activated, what land is left!?”
Rin indicated a single point on the large display.
It covered the Kowloon Peninsula from the center to the very end.
“Hong Kong Cave.”
A stir ran through the audience like a wave.
Rin’s shout eliminated the stir and silence returned.
But this silence was different. The audience was intentionally suppressing any noise and Rin’s voice soon reached them.
“Look carefully. How much power will the metal Live have as it ascends along the path created by the other four elements?”
As soon as she spoke, an even larger red circle appeared over northern Hong Kong Island on the map.
It encompassed the other four circles and grew even larger.
“Wait, wait, wait,” said some of the Yard members, but the circle only continued to grow.
“The Four Elements Acceleration of the Tune System squares the power of a single element, so some simple math tells us that all land within a one hundred kilometer radius will be Tuned as an Earth Serpent!”
The circle did not just cover Hong Kong Island, the large Lantau Island to the west, and the Kowloon Peninsula. It also included a portion of the ocean and China.
“Using a form of Death Techno, Huang Daquan’s blood was used to fill the dragons with the power of Yang, a heavenly element, so even if the Tuning is dispelled, it will not return to the earth. …Heaven will be restored and Hong Kong will be destroyed.”
Everyone silently listened to her and looked at the screen.
But Rin only lowered her head slightly and smiled.
“Sorry for frightening you,” she began. “This is why I summoned you here today. Do you all understand the nature of the mission given in the documents you hold? Do you understand why we are breaking into Hong Kong Cave when even the governor continues to ignore it and everyone writes it off as ‘nonexistent’ or ‘outside their jurisdiction’ due to the past Divine Punishment Wars?”
She took a breath.
“We are up against two of the three secret Tune Bust techniques. If we don’t seal off the four elements today, the metal dragon will eventually activate. …No, it’s sure to happen before the gate to heaven vanishes from Hong Kong’s sky in two weeks’ time!”
With that said, she once more looked to the meeting room’s back row.
No one had said anything, but the Nein Engel sitting there had stood up.
The girl was Akira.
Akira scratched her head and started to leave the meeting room.
The only ones to notice this were the others in the back row and Rin. No one tried to stop her and Gunmal simply watched her go.
She was part of Cleared, so even as a participant, she wasn’t part of a field unit.
Also, Rin had seen Akira’s Live.
Her Live had contained a difficult color that had stopped Rin from calling out to her.
“Hey, kid. The meeting’s gonna keep goin’, but what’ll you do? Go after Akira?”
“Well, I have a bit of a thought.”
“And what’s that?”
“To put it in a literary way, my sensible right brain just chopped my impulsive left brain to stop it.”
“Hm. Well, I already knew you were a special kind of person, but how ‘bout you take this more seriously?”
“You sure are rude. What part of me isn’t taking this seriously?”
“Every single part of you as a whole.”
“Yeah, well, each of those parts is taking it seriously individually.”
“Hey, quiet down, you two. …And General, you’re supposed to be our leader, so please take this meeting seriously.”
“See? You just got her mad at us.”
“Akira needs to be more honest.”
“At this rate, it might crush her.”
“Yeah. Gunmal, what do you want from her? You hate Bustin’ and Tunin’, but you still went to save her.”
“I’m not trying to use her for anything like you seem to be thinking.”
“Then I shouldn’t save her? Well, I have to. I still haven’t gotten the answer I want from her. Not the whole answer, anyway.”
“Answer? What answer?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“Just tell me. And if it’s an awful joke, I’ll kill you.”
“What if it’s a funny joke?”
“I’ll make sure you die.”
“You aren’t honest either.”
“That’s what makes me cool.”
“Fine, fine. …But try to think about this. This is probably the first time Akira’s seen Tunin’ used to take lives. …She may be talented, but she wasn’t able to protect the city from destruction.”
“And even accounting for how nice the Device is, she’s still suddenly found out that her brother has gotten powerful enough to summon an Earth Burn. Man, there are a ton of problems for her here, aren’t there?”
“It’s true Akira has no chance against those Tune Emblems based on what I’ve seen.”
“You sound certain. Do you know something about the Emblems?”
“Anyway, this city is just filled with mysteries.”
“Oh? Like what?”
“Like why you and Akira’s old man have the exact same scar on the cheek.”
“Hu and I are different people.”
“I thought as much. The glimpses I’ve seen of your Live don’t show any compassion toward Akira and she said she watched over her old man’s last moments with you and Rin.”
“See? It’s filled with mysteries. So can you answer me this one?”
“It goes back to the Fifth Divine Punishment War twenty five years ago.”
“Yeah, you mentioned that in the workshop. The Fifth Divine Punishment War was a fight started by Hong Kong’s mafia and it was led by a British spy, so it goes back to Hong Kong’s scheduled return to China, right?”
“Sounds like you don’t know what that British spy was tryin’ to accomplish with all that.”
“You don’t mean…”
“I do. There’s an original version of that Tune Emblem and it was created by Lee Hu and Luna Azuel, Akira’s parents.”
“Well, a lot happened. Officially, they were makin’ a local destruction Tune Emblem to use in the battles against the Chinese military. But Hu and Luna ended up tryin’ to seal it away. They fought a lot to that end…and they were fightin’ against Huang Daquan.”
“Against Huang Daquan? That big shot of the financial world…and the underworld?”
“They had their reasons. Hu, Luna, and Huang ended up steppin’ into a realm I never could. It was that fight that caused Huang to age all at once like he did and it also made Hu quit the Yard and Luna quit Tunin’.”
“Did Akira and her brother inherit something of theirs?”
“How should I know? But I do know the last thing Hu said after comin’ up to the surface that last time: ‘This city will eventually connect heaven and earth.’ He also asked me to look after the children who would follow him.”
“I have no idea what’s goin’ to happen to Hong Kong. …J-Gun said you’d be the one to save the city, but make sure you at least protect Akira.”
“…How ‘bout it?”
“Well, I think it should work out. I am kind to women after all. But only if they’re no older than twenty-eight and no younger than sixteen.”
“If it weren’t for that flippant side of you, I might be able to trust you.”
“Shut up. That’s just who I am. …Oh, it’s this late already?”
“I was just thinking I should get going to Akira’s place.”
“Why are you goin’ after her now?”
“I thought it would be best to give her some time first. …I like to calculate everything out.”
“It doesn’t look that way to me.”
“That’s cause I was just kidding. …Well, good luck, old man.”
It was four in the afternoon and the sun was starting to sink.
The wind blowing in from the sea had vanished and a wind blowing in from the mainland replaced it. The scent of greenery and sand filled that thick continental wind.
The wind was stronger in elevated places and it dropped down from those heights at night.
In Hong Kong, the wind was strongest and night fell fastest on the roof of the former Archs RDC headquarters.
Someone there was experiencing the faint Live of the night with his entire body.
A six-winged Seraph stood on the railing at the edge of the roof and his shallow gaze stared into the distance.
He was Double Lee.
He faced forward and he stood firm despite the wind.
He was looking to Hong Kong Cave, that great hole in Hong Kong Island across the distant ocean.
The Nein Engels lived there and no one else ever set foot inside.
Tilted shadows bordered the entrance to the hole thanks to the angled light of the sun.
Double Lee held a hand to his forehead as if the sun was getting in his eyes, but he suddenly thrust that hand forward.
He then swept the hand to the side as if scooping something up.
“Not enough,” he muttered while clenching his fist. “And yet I sought heaven as I had promised.”
He stopped speaking there.
He closed his eyes a little and turned around just in time for another Nein Engel to descend from the sky.
The four-winged Nein Engel was Genius.
She alighted on the rooftop and looked up at Double Lee.
“Everyone has finished moving. They have all escaped through Hong Kong Cave’s underground tunnels. The boats all left Hong Kong Island’s western port almost simultaneously half an hour ago. They should be in position in another two hours.”
“I see.” Double Lee nodded. “They will not be used to the boats and, when looking through the list, I saw the elderly Zhu family on Boat D4. Make sure they link the boats as instructed before heading out to sea.”
“Understood. ..Also, the Yard called an emergency meeting.”
“What will your sister do?”
“Oppose us, I would imagine.”
His emotionless tone led Genius to ask something else.
“You said that before, but are you actually hoping that will happen?”
He did not answer.
Instead, he turned his back on her, so she spoke to the six white wings spread before her eyes.
“Hey, I have another question. To resurrect someone using necromancy, you need to remind their soul of something they regret or have left undone. …What did you tell J-Gun’s soul?”
“Fei performed the necromancy, not me.”
“Someone who underwent a Psyche Outer surgery couldn’t persuade a soul. You must have told him what to say. For example…”
She took a breath.
“Maybe you were giving him a chance to get back at the younger brother who was more skilled than him.”
“So what if that was it? If we had not resurrected J-Gun, our plan would have fallen apart. We are willing to use any means necessary for our plan, aren’t we?”
“How can you say that!?”
She just about said more, but something stopped her.
Double Lee spoke in a lower and calmer tone than hers, but there was much more power hidden below his words.
“Genius, do you think every question needs an answer?”
“Long ago, some people asked a great question but were unable to come up with an answer. Sadly, they fell in love with the same woman and then fought to save Hong Kong.”
“But they did not entirely succeed and Hong Kong was left in its current state. …And while hoping the future would find true salvation, they died without finding their answer. It is a truly hopeless fact,” he muttered. “All that remained was that great question and a great answer that is all too difficult to reach.”
As he spoke, Double Lee took a step forward.
He moved as casually as someone heading out on a stroll, but in so doing, he entrusted himself to the sky.
“Genius, it is about time to get ready. We need to hurry.”
With those words, he spread his six white wings which shined in the light of the setting sun.
The color purpled filled the sky.
Night was fast approaching. Scattered lights covered the city and the bustling movement of the streets was different from that of the daytime.
But even in Hong Kong, one area attempted to gain the stillness of night: the public graveyard of Kowloon’s administrative district.
The British-style graveyard was mostly covered by grass and had no lanterns. The only lights were those in the sky.
There was some slight sound there.
It was music played in the high notes of a sanxian.
The music rang long and short from near the center of the park filled with rows of gravestones and crosses.
A girl with white wings was playing the instrument and she sang the lyrics of the Flight Song.
Akira’s high-pitched voice flowed and resounded with the notes of the sanxian…but then it stopped.
Once she finished singing, she placed the sanxian in the grass.
With a sigh, she turned around to face the polished slab-shaped gravestone there.
The brown stone was engraved with two names: those of her parents.
“I can’t believe this,” she said quietly while touching the gravestone.
…For once, I really am not sure what to do.
Her slender fingers stroked the smooth stone surface, but she suddenly stopped.
Her fingertips wrapped around her father’s name and she asked a question.
“Gunmal? …You’re here, aren’t you?”
Her question led a figure to move along the grass.
The figure sighed and spoke in an exasperated tone.
“How did you know? I was suppressing my Live even more than usual.”
“It wasn’t your Live. I just thought you were probably there.”
Akira turned around and found Gunmal there.
She then asked him a question with her thoughts.
…Why are you here?
“Why do you ask?”
“Because it would seem a little too contrived if you were just here by chance.”
“Too contrived? Isn’t there a better way of putting that?”
He smiled bitterly and sat on the grass to put him at eye level with her. His blue eyes looked down to the sanxian next to her. She could not read anything from his still gaze.
“My dad taught me how to play that.”
Hearing that, he looked up with a hint of surprise on his face.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Well… It’s just that you answered the question I was thinking. …Could you see it?”
She shook her head.
“Of course not. I’m not as talented as you.”
…Lately, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn what level I’m on.
“Yeah, you probably would think that right now.”
“It isn’t just right now. That Tune Emblem uses Yin and Yang Lives, which are two of the secret Tune Bust techniques which include the space-time Lives, and it can even summon a dragon. That was kind of a shock.”
“So you feel kind of beaten?”
Gunmal sighed, let his shoulders droop a little, and looked down at the sanxian again.
“That thing sounded nice. …What was that song?”
“The Flight Song. My mom taught it to me.”
“Hm, she must have taught you well. And she must have been a good mom.”
…What was your mom like?
He did not answer and she sighed.
“You didn’t get along.”
“Because she pissed me off. I haven’t forgotten a thing about those parents of mine.”
…What were they like?
He crossed his arms to put on a show of thinking.
“Let’s see… I think one was a man and the other a woman. Oh, and I have a feeling they were older than me.”
“You idiot. You’ve forgotten plenty.”
“Then what were your parents like?”
“Do I have to answer?”
“You can give a joke answer if you want.”
“I can’t believe you.” She scratched her head. “It’s a little complicated. Because of a weird illness, my dad died of old age when he was still young.”
…When I was a child, I was separated from them.
“And not long after I left for the surface, my mom died of Balance Fall…I think.”
“You think? So she might still be alive?”
“No. She noticed when I snuck out at night. And I found her braided hair on the table as all that remained.”
“And that’s in here too?”
He turned to the gravestone behind her and the Nein Engel girl nodded.
She then looked at him and eventually started laughing.
“What’s with that look, Gunmal?”
“The General knows about all this too, so it’s fine. And my parents left me with more than the sanxian. They taught me about Tuning and plenty of other things, so I’m pretty satisfied.”
“About Tuning too?”
“Yes, but didn’t I tell you they only taught me that?”
She looked away from him.
…When I was a child, I tried to Tune in a weird way and I was never able to do much.
“A weird way?”
“When releasing your Live, you usually use a single note, but I was singing the Flight Song. My mom told me to learn the basics before using that method, so she taught me how to use the Wind Up method and I just got better and better from there.”
“And that’s how I got to where I am now. …But now my progress has stalled.”
She stopped speaking there.
…Am I talking too much?
“It’s a lot better than sitting in silence.”
“Then what about you, Gunmal? You aren’t saying anything. Your brother is on the enemy’s side, so don’t you want to stop him?”
She turned toward him as she asked and their gazes seemed to audibly collide.
The silence lasted three full breaths, but Gunmal finally spoke while still looking her in the eye.
“I’m a pacifist, so instead of fighting…”
“I prefer love and peace. Watching them from afar is best.”
…Are you serious?
Her expression was harsh.
Puzzlement filled his face and he waited for her to speak, so she lowered her head and did so.
“With your talent, couldn’t you stop J-Gun?”
“Y’know, if my brother and I went on a rampage, it wouldn’t just hurt the city. It would hurt the people living there, us, and everyone else too.”
…Aren’t you just running away?
“Yes. And you’re using everything around you as a shield.”
“I see.” He nodded and replied in a rather frivolous tone. “And what’s wrong with that?”
Akira briefly bit her lip and suppressed the Live containing the words she impulsively wanted to say. Instead, she chose her words carefully and spoke slowly.
“I think that would be the least of our worries if Hong Kong is blown away. Something much, much worse would happen. And if the Nein Engels go to heaven, they’ll never again live alongside-…”
She suddenly stopped saying the words that she seemed to want someone to hear.
Her hand touched the gravestone behind her.
She quickly looked up and at Gunmal.
“I should have been saying all of that to myself.”
…Did you read my Live and play along?
He smiled bitterly, reached out, and rubbed her head.
She closed her eyes and let him.
And at that moment, sound raced across the sky.
The two of them looked up and saw a Live.
The sound raced by again.
The sound-producing Live was a brilliant red and its Tempo was high-pitched and almost earsplitting.
This was an alarm.
“The fifth alarm!? That’s the Divine Punishment Alarm!”
As if to answer Akira’s cry, her cellphone rang in her pocket.
She answered it quickly.
“Hello!? This is Akira! …Rin!? Why is the Divine Punishment Alarm going off!?”
“It’s an emergency! The Nein Engels have vanished from Hong Kong Cave!”
Despite the blaring alarm, Rin’s voice was perfectly clear over the phone’s speaker. She seemed to be placing her Live and a powerful Message in her voice.
“They aren’t going to wait until the Tank Force gets back! We need to head to the predicted spot! Will you be coming!?”
Akira turned to Gunmal.
…What should I do?
He gave a deep nod.
“Don’t worry. I’ll protect you no matter what happens.”
“Y-you idiot. Where did that nonsense come from?”
“Can’t you appreciate it a little?”
She smiled bitterly and spoke into the phone.
“I’m coming! Besides…it’s a sister’s job to stop her brother! Tell me where!”
“The Hung Hom thermal power station in eastern Kowloon!”
Rin then shouted something that truly went without saying.
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