City Series:Volume3b Chapter 3
Act 3: Bracket-Shaped Twin Vertical Lines (5:44)
Rin experienced the somewhat tight-pulsed doze of just before waking.
She had entirely lost consciousness before, but now she was dreaming.
The dream filled the back of her mind in just an instant of her doze.
The images in one’s brain felt no different from reality and this dream of hers felt especially realistic.
This dream was playing back her memories of the past.
This specific past was from the night the dragons had flown.
At one point during that night, she had been lying on the ground.
She had been collapsed in the courtyard of Hung Hom’s thermal power station with Nein Engels flying in the night sky.
Unlike in reality, her past self was conscious in the dream.
She opened her eyes and found her body collapsed near the center of the courtyard.
…Why am I here?
Her memory was gone, so she tried to recall it all in her dazed mind.
She remembered as far as the attack that had hit her from behind after breaking through the wall.
…I let my guard down.
She tried to prop herself up on her right arm, but all strength left it.
It was broken.
In an undeniably pathetic movement, she collapsed shoulder-first to the ground.
Strangely, there was no pain. Her body was tense and her sense of pain had numbed over.
…I can’t believe this.
She gasped for breath while lying face-down and she focused on different parts of her body once more.
Perhaps due to her body armor, she had not been too badly injured. She only felt an ache in her ribs.
It seemed she could move her left arm.
Her left leg felt numb from the shin down, but it seemed she could move it too.
She could not move her right leg from the knee down.
She had not looked at it, but she still knew why.
She could feel something lying on top of her right thigh.
It was likely a pile of concrete.
Since she could not feel the lower leg, it had probably been crushed.
“Is it broken? …No, or did I lose it?”
As soon as she spoke, intense pain shot through the leg.
It was the pain of the bone, flesh, and tendons snapping in the knee.
The pain crawled up her body while crisscrossing like a net.
The pain refused to even let her pass out.
She gathered strength in her left hand and clawed at the gravel.
And she got up.
She breathed out and looked back.
What she saw was exactly what she had expected to find.
A piece of a nearly fifty centimeter thick wall of reinforced concrete was crushing her leg.
She chose not to look at it any longer.
An unpleasant sweat poured from her entire body.
A salty, visceral smell reached her nose.
…This isn’t good.
Even she could tell she was on the verge of panic.
She was about to lose physical and mental stability.
She needed to gather her thoughts.
“Calm down,” she said while trying to catch her breath
“I need to defeat the enemy.”
She chanted that line under her breath over and over.
Finally, her vision brightened and her eyes focused once more.
She gradually caught her breath and spoke those magic words again.
“Defeat the enemy.”
As if to answer those words, she spotted a shotgun on the ground in front of her.
The collapsible stock was bent, but it looked otherwise unharmed.
She reflexively reached out for it, but it was too far away.
Her crushed leg restricted her movement.
Then pain raced through her again.
But she did not stop reaching out.
Her left hand and left leg clawed at the gravel as if trying to crawl forward.
Suddenly, the concrete pinning her right leg moved.
She heard moving rubble and a much more unpleasant sound.
It was a bloody snapping sound.
For an instant, her body was pierced by a sensation better described as scorching heat than pain.
She did not have it in her to think about what had just happened.
She still felt excess weight below her right knee, but the connection must have weakened because her range of movement had increased slightly.
She moved forward.
She reached out her hand and tried to grab the shotgun.
In that instant, a military boot cut into view and kicked the firearm away.
She blankly looked up and saw a man standing there.
The Galgallin in mirrorshades looked down at her.
She reflexively reached for the handgun in her body armor’s inner pocket.
“Don’t bother. That will have no effect on me.”
The deep voice stopped her.
Fei looked to the concrete crushing her leg.
“You will not last five minutes after losing that much blood. Would you like for me to finish you off? Answer me.”
His emotionless tone of voice brought Rin fully to her senses.
She used just her left arm to lift her body.
“Do you not remember me?”
“I have no memories of you.”
He opened his right wrist and a mortar stuck out.
Rin knew all too well how powerful the heat rounds it fired were.
“Are you serious?”
“Why? Why do this!?”
“To restore heaven.”
He briefly glanced over at the shotgun he had kicked away and he said just one more thing.
“I will eliminate the enemy.”
Rin’s shoulders drooped when she heard that.
She gave a heavy sigh.
“I thought I could take care of the misunderstanding…if our paths ever crossed…”
Fei did not reply.
He simply looked at Rin’s face and she looked straight back up at him.
“There is nothing I wish to remember.”
In the instant he aimed the mortar again, his large form was knocked to the side.
A gunshot from behind seemed to answer her question.
The roaring of a motorcycle engine joined it.
With that cry, Kouga charged into the courtyard on a motorcycle.
The roar of the engine sounded all the louder as it echoed off the buildings.
Out of the corner of her eye, Rin saw Fei slowly standing back up.
Kouga was driving in from straight ahead.
“Boss! Take my hand!”
He intended to snatch her up as he passed by.
She looked to Fei.
He was already standing and he was staring at the spear of light stabbed into his right arm.
That anti-demon round could slay a tiger, but it had done little damage to the Galgallin.
The spear had stabbed deep into the right arm of his custom body, but he had not shed a single drop of blood.
His expression gave no hint of injury either.
He looked ready to begin fighting immediately.
If she was to run, this would be the time.
…What should I do!?
Her hesitation was interrupted by Kouga’s shout.
“We can try this again later!”
She reacted by pulling the handgun from her body armor’s pocket.
The Colt New Service was a .45 caliber which focused more on impact than penetrative power.
When it fired an anti-demon round, it provided little rotation and the spear of light would fly in a completely straight line.
Rin aimed it at her own right leg and she fired.
She severed her right leg at the knee.
At the same time, Kouga scooped her up and continued on with a one-handed accelerating turn.
The motorcycle spun around while throwing gravel everywhere.
“Boss! Your leg!”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Saying that was the most she could manage.
She supported herself by clinging to the raised back of the backseat.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Fei looking her way.
She did not speak her thought aloud.
He briefly seemed to sway and then he grew more distant.
The motorcycle had started away.
He did not pursue.
Instead, he pulled out the spear of light sticking into his right arm.
It was a casual action.
He then threw it toward Rin and Kouga as they fled.
It was an accurate throw.
The spear flew straight toward the motorcycle as it escaped on a curved trajectory.
Kouga had tilted his body in the direction they were headed, so he had not noticed the danger.
…I have to go to so much trouble for him.
She managed to think that in her hazy mind and she raised her New Service in one hand.
The gunshot rang out and the recoil knocked her hand from the grip.
The spear of light she fired collided with the one Fei had thrown and cancelled it out.
A solid sound shook the air.
“!? What was that, boss!?”
Rin did not have the strength to answer.
The New Service was hanging from her finger by the trigger guard, so she picked it up and looked at it.
The ejector rod had bent.
It must have broken when she had been crushed by the wall, so she was surprised it had worked at all.
…And this isn’t actually mine. Dad isn’t gonna be happy.
With that carefree thought, she placed the New Service back in her pocket.
The motorcycle made it behind one of the buildings by taking a sharp turn around the corner.
She braced herself and clung to the back of the seat to make sure she was not flung off by centrifugal force.
This speed would normally have been nothing to her, but her body had grown far too weak.
…I can’t believe this.
She closed her eyes and felt an intense urge to sleep.
However, that would be a dangerous slumber.
She knew that, but she still gave into the temptation.
It was not tension, pain, or even the fear of death that ruled her body.
It was nothing more than a heavy exhaustion.
And as soon as she closed her eyes and gave herself over to that peace, reality demanded that she wake.
Suddenly remembering when she had woken in the middle of the night before, Rin opened her eyes.
It was now daytime. Her vision was still not clear, but she could sense the light.
It took her an awfully long time to realize the white fog before her eyes was the color of the ceiling.
…This isn’t good. I’ve been sleeping so long that my body’s grown dull.
She smiled bitterly and heard a set of slippered footsteps rushing down the hallway.
…Is that a nurse? Do they know I woke up?
“Are you awake!?”
The young nurse who entered the hospital room could not hide the joy in her voice.
Rin nodded and tried to get up.
“Don’t force yourself. You probably won’t be able to move much yet. You slept for eight days, after all.”
“Eight days?” Rin asked in a scratchy voice.
She remembered checking the calendar on the bottom of the clock face when she had woken during the night before.
“But didn’t I go to sleep on…the seventeenth?”
She dug back through her memories and looked at the clock on the wall.
The display that had said June 17 now said June 24.
There were only six days until Hong Kong was returned to China on June 30.
On that night, an Earth Serpent would likely be activated and it would destroy the entirety of Hong Kong.
Shocked, Rin forced her body up.
Her back, stomach, and thigh muscles let out a scream and the nurse hurried over.
“Please don’t move! You’re seriously injured!”
Without listening to the nurse, Rin looked to the clock with strength filling her gaze.
She then spoke the same words she had thought just before having that dream.
“I’ll take action once this exhaustion leaves me, huh? Well, that certainly took a while.”
She sighed without answering the nurse’s confusion.
And she had a certain thought.
…If I’m up against a Galgallin with a full custom body, I guess I have no choice but to fight fire with fire.
Gunmal looked up in the seemingly never-ending expanse of Hong Kong’s clear blue sky.
“In another six days, Hong Kong will be returned to China, hm? I wonder if Akira has calmed down some now that she’s left the hospital,” he said. “I kind of want to go to the beach before that final ceremony Rin mentioned.”
He began to walk.
He was in Mong Kok, which had received relatively little damage during the Sixth Divine Punishment War despite being on the coast.
“Supposedly, most of the coastal factories were swallowed up.”
He looked around his surroundings while continuing to walk.
Even if it had received relatively little damage, the scars of destruction were visible all over.
All of the barracks had been crushed as if by a giant foot.
Most of the houses and stores had lost their windows and even the seemingly unharmed buildings had cracks in the walls.
That was enough to prevent anyone from living there anymore.
“Hm,” he muttered as he looked up into the sky.
A round VTOL aircraft slowly moved by far overhead.
Its external speakers were producing words in what sounded like Cantonese.
“An announcement from the government, hm?”
For the past few days, aircraft like that were more common sights in the skies than birds.
Investigation teams, rescue squads, volunteers, and some military from different counties had been visiting and leaving.
A shelter had been set up in the New Territories and a simple airport had been built there.
Some Chinese were leaving to live overseas and some non-Chinese were returning to their homelands.
The residents of Hong Kong were scattering throughout the world.
“The only people still here in central Hong Kong are the doctors, the patients, the eccentrics, and…”
He smiled bitterly.
“Saying ‘and us’ would sound awfully cool, wouldn’t it?”
He sounded fairly pleased with himself and he looked forward once more.
Akira’s apartment building was there.
A white crack ran through the concrete side wall like someone had made a diagonal sword strike.
He looked up at it and whistled.
He approached the side of the apartment with a light step and he quickly arrived at the bottom of the old black metal stairs.
He then slowly climbed a step at a time, while making sure not to make a noise.
Silence followed for a several seconds, but that was enough for him to reach the top of the stairs without incident.
His tall form stood on the second story corridor, but he had stopped.
His legs had been moving so casually before, but they had come to a quick stop.
Even his expression had stiffened at some point.
The only thing that had not changed was his silence.
His eyes looked straight ahead.
His gaze stabbed into the area of the corridor in front of Akira’s room.
There was trash piled up there.
A tablecloth and glass shards were packed inside trash bags.
Wood pieces of a bed frame and a refrigerator were lying on their side, blocking the corridor.
“Did Akira move? No…I guess not.”
He spoke but soon closed his mouth again.
His gaze moved slightly down.
The corridor floor was wet in front of her room.
The glass shards and scraps of cloth that had escaped the trash bags were flowing with the water spreading across the corridor.
His eyes moved toward the source of the water.
He soon found it: the door to Akira’s room.
Water was flowing from between the door and the floor.
He spent a few seconds staring at that spot.
The light reflecting off of the flowing glass shards grew duller.
They had sunk into the water.
That meant water was continuing to flow from the source.
“Is she training? No, her Live is too weak for that. …Then why?”
He shook his head.
His expression was still stiff and he sighed.
He remained silent.
He simply watched the movement of what lay before his eyes.
After a few breaths, his legs began to move.
He did not step forward.
He turned around and away from Akira’s room.
“Is she doubting?”
He took a breath and looked to the hand inside his glove.
That was his prosthetic right hand.
Still staring at it, he descended the stairs as silently as he had come.
For once, strength filled his gaze and eyebrows.
Without ever looking away from his hand, his lips twisted slightly.
They formed a small smile.
The high-rise structure that had once been the Archs RDC building was now entirely empty.
There was no sign of human life.
There was, however, sign of nonhuman life.
It could be seen in a corridor of the underground factory of Archs RDC’s headquarters on the twenty-third basement.
Genius stood below the fluorescent lights with her shoulders leaning on the wall.
Her arms were crossed and a door was located next to her.
Unlike the soft material of the wall, the bulkhead door was made of exposed metal.
The solid door was about as thick as it was wide and something had been carved into the center of the door.
It was an emblem of two dragons playing together and forming a spiral. That was the Wild Emblem of the Maldrick family.
The emblem indicated that this was a Maldrick family workshop.
Genius was waiting for the man inside.
The corpse that now functioned much like a machine had spent three days holed up inside.
Creating a Device with Busting produced intense noise, but no sound escaped the bulkhead.
It was entirely sealed within.
…Although the neighbors often complained when he used that workshop in the city.
Only a few months before, she had been living with J-Gun.
It had been different at first.
“I was so afraid of going to the surface. I wouldn’t have done it if Master Huang hadn’t directly ordered me to.”
She had only moved around at night.
Birds that flew the skies at night would fly off before dawn arrived.
And at some point, she had become a bird that returned to its cage when night fell.
The hierarchical relationship of client and hirer had vanished between the two of them.
The others in the neighborhood had realized she was there, but they had said nothing.
As if to show off what kind of person he was, their peaceful life had continued.
But that peace had been destroyed by a photograph she had found.
The old photograph had been of a woman who looked a lot like Genius.
“I felt like that had opened my eyes to what I was doing.”
She smiled bitterly.
“Why did I think something so silly?”
After she spoke to herself, she heard a slight noise.
She looked to the bulkhead door.
…Is it opening?
But that hope was not fulfilled.
She heard the same noise again.
It came from the speaker in the corridor ceiling.
“Genius, I would like to hold our usual meeting. Is that okay?”
It was Fei’s machine voice.
His custom body was connected directly into the central management system and his mind was directly forming the voice.
Genius sighed, and…
“This is my post. Are you sure I should leave?”
“Double Lee says he still hears a Live ringing from within. The work is still ongoing.”
“I see,” she said quietly. “Hey, Fei?”
“Are you listening?”
She smiled bitterly.
“Can you tell me something?”
“What do you want to know?”
“What condition was used for the necromancy that resurrected J-Gun?”
“You should ask Double Lee.”
“I can’t. He won’t tell me.”
“You have yet to ask him, so it is too soon to conclude that.”
She crossed her arms and hung her head a little.
“Have you ever been afraid of something, Fei?”
“Because you lost your memories of the past during your Psyche Outer surgery?”
“Yes. My thoughts are derived from my accumulated knowledge, not from emotion.”
“Of hearing Double Lee’s answer? That is what is leading to your hasty conclusion.”
“That sure is a coolheaded deduction.”
“I am merely rational.”
I suppose being coolheaded is also a type of emotion, she thought while moving from the wall.
She then suppressed her emotions and spoke.
“Fei, I slept with J-Gun, just like Master Huang told me to.”
“It was necessary for the mission.”
“There is no need to thank me.”
Genius gave a thin smile that did not reach her eyes.
“That may be why J-Gun used my light before.”
“Cherubim can control light. …It’s probably a form of Busting, but he emitted it as his Live.”
“So you exchanged Lives in a Live Session?”
“Do you think Busters and Tuners gain each other’s abilities when they sleep together?”
“An exchange of Lives could create evolution or degeneration.”
“Doing it with me…may have brought degeneration.”
…If it wasn’t for that, he might not have died.
Her walking pace slowed as she thought.
“I wonder why,” she said.
“If it meant exchanging our Lives, then when J-Gun slept with me…”
She took a breath.
“Wouldn’t he have read my Live…and thus read my thoughts and memories?”
Fei did not answer, so Genius continued.
“There are so many unknowns.”
“I never thought I would hear you say what you did to Double Lee.”
“What did I say?”
“You called him pitiable.”
She finally began walking again and his voice grew more distant.
“That was a statistical evaluation. It was not my personal decision.”
“Once you say it, there’s no difference. And…what is Double Lee thinking?”
“He is thinking about a contradiction between the Flight Song and Hong Kong.”
Fei gave a simple answer.
“The Flight Song says Hong Kong connects heaven and earth, but in reality, Hong Kong still separates heaven and earth.”
“Normally, people sealed inside the earth would not create a song that approves of their enemy.”
“Does Double Lee have an answer to that?”
“He does have an answer, but he will not tell us what it is.”
“Do your statistical evaluations give you the answer?”
“I have an answer, but I do not understand it.”
“Double Lee thinks the Flight Song is a definite hope that was created at one point in history.”
“What does that mean?”
When Fei replied, his voice came from a different speaker in the corridor.
This one was directly over Genius’s head.
“It means it was something only one with knowledge of the future could create. To use a similar word…it was a prophecy.”
“To be more accurate, it was a recording of future fact with one hundred percent accuracy.”
Hearing that, Genius stopped walking and frowned.
“I…can’t believe that.”
“But all of the instructions that President Huang left us in his report have matched what has happened.”
“What proof do you have that it’s a prophecy? Are you saying Master Huang knew how this would turn out for us?”
“That is the most consistent explanation.”
“I don’t like that way of thinking,” she said as she started walking again. “Besides, a prophecy?”
“The Lives of space and time are one of the three secret techniques of Tuning and Busting. One only needs read them.”
“But…I’ve never heard of a Tuner who could read time.”
“Double Lee said no Tuner that powerful currently exists in Hong Kong.”
“During the Fifth Divine Punishment War, there was one other Nein Engel in Archs RDC besides President Huang.”
His words came from far behind her.
“That Nein Engel was Luna Azuel, Double Lee’s mother.”
Genius reached the end of the corridor as she listened.
She turned right and Fei’s voice came from both up ahead and behind.
“She began developing a Tune Emblem.”
“The one Double Lee uses, right?”
“Yes. And that knowledge was erased after the Fifth Divine Punishment War.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I am simply stating facts.”
“And you’re asking me to think about what they mean? You’re not just a puppet, you know?”
Fei did not reply and she said more as she walked.
“And unfortunately, I tend to view things pessimistically.”
“That is a very human way of thinking.”
She smiled a little at that.
“I think Double Lee is the same.”
The elevator hall came into view.
“What is this meeting about?”
“Double Lee believes J-Gun’s brother and his own sister are dangerous.”
“This is only a prediction, but we need blood for the next ceremony, correct?”
“You mean he’ll use his sister’s blood?”
“I do not know, but a Seraph’s blood should make a sufficient replacement.”
“A pessimistic view, hm?”
…But it is true we don’t have any bottles of Master Huang’s blood left since J-Gun destroyed one.
“I wonder if Master Huang had predicted this part of the future as well.”
Fei did not respond to her musing.
That silence seemed to envelop her surroundings.
Night reached all parts of the land equally.
How they dealt with that night was up to the individuals living on that land.
Some would reject it with lights and others would let it do as it pleased.
Akira did neither.
In her apartment’s kitchen, she neither rejected it nor let it do as it pleased; she ignored it as simple darkness.
The descending moonlight turned the north-facing window into a pale blue sheet.
Everything else was dark.
A single Live with a bright Tempo ran through the heavy Live of the darkness.
It was the Live of water.
The water poured from the tap and into the sink. Its Live tore refreshing and enjoyable gaps into the darkness.
As if responding to it, Akira’s Live pulsated from where she was sat below the sink.
She sat there with her arms wrapped around her spear.
Even her wings and hair had sunk into the darkness.
Her Yard uniform had also lost its luster.
The ring of her Live was weak.
The Live emitted from her entire body had grown damp.
Its Word Color had sunk coldly and its Tempo was deep and muffled.
One’s Live accurately represented their mental and physical state.
Akira was soaking wet.
Her hair, wings, and uniform were all so soaked that one would have thought she had run through the pouring rain.
The kitchen’s floor was similarly wet.
The poorly-made wooden floor was absolutely covered in puddles.
The dark blue, chilly Live of the unmoving water drifted through the darkness.
Suddenly, a voice joined it all.
Akira had muttered something aloud.
“I can’t believe this.”
She had no idea how often she had said those same words this day.
“I…can’t Tune anymore.”
At the same time, a metallic sound rang out.
She was squeezing the spear in her hands.
A rough sigh fell to the floor.
“What should I do?”
Some time passed.
For a long while, the sound of dripping water ruled the area.
Regardless, the moon slowly moved in the sky.
It was not visible from the window, but the faint light of its pale blue air did enter through the window.
The Live of moonlight filled that air a little.
That vague, clear, and pale Live illuminated her through the rectangular window.
The color of her skin, hair, and wings became hues of blue and white.
The water soaking her had not dried.
It was still falling as drops from the corners of her eyes and down her cheeks.
“Was it because of the one week blank? Now I can’t manage anything past an Octave of about 600,000.”
If one’s maximum Octave dropped, their power would drop accordingly.
“That’s half of my original power.”
Her gaze moved to the floor where the moonlight had yet to reach.
There, she saw the end result of the animals she had been creating for her Tune Education since the previous day.
Not even one of the water animals had been able to leave the apartment.
She sighed once and corrected her previous statement.
“This might be less than half of my original power.”
She hung her head, and…
“Why? It isn’t…”
She started to say more but stopped.
After a few seconds, she tried to close her slightly opened mouth but lightly shook her head.
She closed her eyes, frowned, and spoke the words as if placing them on her lips.
“It isn’t any fun.”
She touched her lips with her fingers.
She brought the hand back to her Device and held a thought in her heart.
“What has happened to me?”
That was all she said before sinking back into silence.
Despite her body growing chilled, she closed off her mind.
Sleep came quickly.
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