City Series:Volume3b Chapter 6
Act 6: Consciousness on June 30 (3:01)
The evening of June 29 arrived awfully slowly.
When Akira awoke, she was surrounded by darkness.
…Is it nighttime?
She quickly realized it was not.
The faint light of a cloudy day slipped in through the gap at the center of the thick curtains.
That light fell on her face as she lay below a single sheet. The bed was located in the corner of a wood-floored room.
She noticed her clothes neatly folded by the pillow.
…Where am I?
Her sense of smell answered her question. A slight scent of lubricating oil filled the room.
That was the General’s scent.
…Is this his house? He never tells anyone about his family, so did he really bring me here?
She had only just woken, so that question rolled around her blank mind while she heard distant cicada cries.
…Am I dreaming? His house would be in the middle of the city, so why would I hear cicadas?
That was when it hit her.
…There is no city anymore.
Hong Kong was no longer filled with rising smoke, sounds of movement, or human figures.
After confirming that fact, her mind gradually grew more alert.
And she realized something else too.
…I can’t hear any Lives.
She could not hear the city’s Lives that she always heard when she woke up.
She could only hear the cicada cries.
A large tremor ran through her body.
She started sweating.
She felt blood rushing to her head and her mind grew entirely clear.
She tried to get up from the bed.
She slid right back down.
She had been lying on her right side, so her right arm was numb.
She grabbed her numb arm with her left hand, crossed her arms, and stopped moving.
…How long was I asleep? My body won’t loosen up.
She silently asked her body, but she heard no Lives in response.
She only sensed something vague and elusive like with Gunmal.
But this time, it was with herself.
Just like a normal person who could neither Tune nor Bust, she could only hear the sounds reverberating in her ears and body and she could only see what reflected in her eyes.
That was not nearly enough.
She could not see the sounds dancing in the air and she could not hear the light or the shadow.
Her anxious pulse pounded loud in her ears and the shadows enveloping the room felt far too powerful.
The daily calendar on the wall said it was the twenty-ninth.
From somewhere else in the house, she heard a pendulum clock ringing at the top of the hour.
The bell rang four times, so it had to be 4:00 PM.
Hong Kong would be utterly destroyed the night after this.
Without saying a word, she sank into the bed. She used her will more than her strength to hold herself with her unmoving arms.
And she sensed something in those tense arms.
She held something hard in her right hand and her arms were wrapped around it.
She looked down.
It took a beat before her eyes focused.
But then she saw it.
She held something like a metal panel in her arms.
The metal panel had been molded into something like a musical instrument.
It was a Device.
She recognized it.
She tried to speak the name of the man associated with that Device.
But she could not.
The broken Device had no hilt and it showed no reaction to her emotions.
…Not that it would react to the Live of a Tuner who’s losing her powers.
She gathered strength in her brow and tore her gaze from Nein König.
Her eyes then turned to a certain point in the shadowy room: the wall.
A wooden vase hung from the white earthen wall.
A jinyinhua vine grew there with several yellow trumpet-shaped flowers.
Jinyinhua was a vine plant, so it needed to wrap around something to grow.
It was wrapped around a long, angular, and golden feather.
She recognized the color.
…Is that my feather?
“Have you woken up?”
The General’s voice reached her from beyond the room’s sliding door.
She looked that way but did not move her body.
She felt a little wary and remained silent. She pretended to still be asleep.
But despite her silence, she heard a sound from beyond the door.
She could imagine what it was, but first…
“My wife escaped outside this morning. But…here’s some simple boiled water and rice porridge.”
His voice was muffled by the door, but it still reached Akira.
She shrunk down in shock and closed her eyes.
…I’m being a nuisance again…
The General did not answer her thought.
After a while, she heard his slow, quiet footsteps walking down the wood-floored hall.
She had not heard those footsteps when he had approached.
“I can’t believe this…”
She gathered her will and embraced Nein König again.
She briefly recalled an unpleasant Live: the ensemble of countless screams as the Earth Burn had flown through the sky.
She tried to ignore it by closing her heart and sinking deeper into the bed.
She wanted to fall asleep so she could accept the facts that had stabbed into her over the past few minutes.
“It’s going to rain soon,” said Double Lee as he sat in his chair.
He was in a room on the fifteenth basement of the former Archs RDC building. He was using it as a simple residence, but it contained nothing that would let him see outside.
He had determined that by listening to the Lives of Hong Kong.
“Typhoons are proof that nature can take some pretty drastic measures. Don’t you think, Genius?”
He rotated his chair toward the room’s entrance.
The automatic door was the same flat white as the wall and Genius stood in front of it.
She remained silent.
“Is something the matter?”
Double Lee tilted his head and smiled thinly.
“You were the one that came to my room, so we can’t start speaking until you ask me something.”
“I’m sure you already know what I want to ask,” replied Genius.
Double Lee closed his eyes with the smile still plastered to his lips.
Then the smile moved to produce words.
“I want to hear it in words, Genius. I am not your translator.”
“That’s what I want to know. If you aren’t even willing to say it out loud, why do I need to say anything? So why are you asking me with a Message carried by your Live?”
Genius’s shoulders drooped.
“I suppose you’re right.”
“I always am.”
“Then go ahead.”
“Aren’t you going to accuse me?”
“Of showing off. I told J-Gun’s brother and the Yard’s General about the final ceremony.”
“I do not mind. It’s not like they can stop the ceremony.”
Genius frowned at how casually he said that.
“But I need to make up for acting against our interests.”
“Then how about you go without any dinner? The ceremony is coming up, so a fast wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.”
“I’m not talking about something personal. I mean something to help the organization-…”
“Do you see an organization anywhere around here?”
Double Lee cut her off.
“All I see is myself walking at the forefront of the words Master Huang left us.”
His smile had vanished.
“I must guide everyone else. And I do not believe I ever required that the rest of you follow me.”
Genius lowered her gaze a little.
“Why are you so intent on this?”
“On continuing this ceremony even though it will kill so many people. You even returned badly injured after fighting J-Gun’s brother. …What are you thinking?”
“If we were an organization, that would be a decent criticism.”
He gave a slight bitter smile and sighed.
“Hong Kong’s history contains several wars that killed many people. I am sure everyone lamented those losses as you are now. …But I do not mind and I can heal myself even if I am injured.”
“That doesn’t answer my question. …Why are you so intent on this?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“You can read my Live, but I can’t read yours.”
“A fair answer. …But I would like to hear a more direct answer.”
She hesitated at that.
She loosely crossed her arms by her waist and looked him in the eye.
“I want to know why J-Gun died.”
Double Lee sighed and sank deep into his chair. The tips of his main wings, the longest of the six, slid on the linoleum.
He continued looking Genius in the eye.
“That was not mentioned in Master Huang’s instructions or in his predictions. His instructions simply said to have J-Gun make the Device.”
“Isn’t that because Master Huang’s instructions aren’t absolute?”
“Are they not?”
“Perfect predictions are impossible. He couldn’t possibly account for everything.”
“But what if he could?”
That question confused Genius.
“This is an old story, but a human man and a Nein Engel woman once fought a Nein Engel man and read the Live of time.”
“Before, they had only been able to read the past, but using a certain individual’s instructions, they read the future. …Master Huang was one of those who read the Live of time.”
Genius uncrossed her arms.
“Do you…do you really believe that!?”
“I do. And as proof, Master Huang died. As an Archs, he was the closest being to god and thus should have had a long, illness-free life. And yet, he aged.”
“How is that proof? Are you saying that was why he died!?”
“It is simple.”
“Master Huang realized Hong Kong’s future was headed toward destruction, so he resonated with the other two who had read time with him and they broke down the Lives of Hong Kong.”
He took a breath.
“Then, the three of them swapped out their own lifespans with Hong Kong’s lifespan.”
“Master Huang in particular received a large portion of the destruction, so he did what he could to keep his own destiny from overlapping with the other two’s. Those other two left a prophetic song in the time period they found themselves in…and then they returned to their original time period.”
Double Lee kept his eyes on Genius the entire time.
And Genius kept her eyes on his.
“Then what was J-Gun’s death?” she asked.
“Proof that the future is changing.”
“To something different from the future Master Huang saw…and different from the one he was trying to create?”
“Yes. Most likely…”
Double Lee closed his eyes.
“We are paving the way ahead.”
As soon as he said that, his eyebrows moved slightly.
“Genius, J-Gun is coming to a stop.”
“Yes. Based on his Live, he is slowly adding the finishing touches to his work. It should take…another half day.”
Genius reacted to the word “work”.
She frantically turned toward the automatic door behind her.
“Genius, you are getting ahead of yourself. He will not be done until tomorrow morning at the earliest.”
“It’s never too soon or too late to start waiting.”
She reached for the button to open the door.
“Did Master Huang’s instructions about the future or destiny or whatever… Did they mention the bottle of his blood breaking?”
“Do not worry. I have a way of acquiring blood filled with the power of Yang.”
“Yes. I have a sister, so everything will work out.”
“Please do not look so shocked. Besides, your blood or Fei’s would not work.”
Genius steadied her breathing and let out a deep sigh.
“I don’t understand you.”
“I can never tell if you mean what you say or not.”
After nodding, Genius pressed the button.
The door quickly opened and she passed through the newly-formed opening.
She walked forward.
The hour hand and minute hand were both approaching the top of the clock, meaning it was almost midnight.
The General was facing a guest in his house.
The guest was Rin.
Hey sat in a Chinese-style wood-floored room containing only a television and a round table.
Like a true Hong Kong resident, the General was dressed in a polo shirt and chino pants.
Even though it was summer, Rin wore a black combat suit and a black leather jacket over that.
She had swapped out her glasses for mirrorshades with a similar design.
She was dressed to head off to battle somewhere.
The General kept his eyes on her.
“Want some tea, Rin?”
He held out a teacup filled with tea he had made.
She smiled bitterly and gently raised a hand.
“No, letting me in your home is enough.”
“You sure are cold.”
“Am I?” She nodded. “But I am surprised.”
“That you let me in when you’re usually so secretive.”
“Don’t be surprised by that. I knew your old man… I even knew when you were born.”
“But you always held training at my house.”
“I like houses with big yards.”
“…You really are kind.”
“Hm? You say something?”
“You’re trying to change the subject.”
“Is it because tomorrow is the end?”
He answered her with silence.
And that lack of a response was a sort of response.
So Rin nodded again.
“June 29 is ending.”
And tomorrow at midnight, Hong Kong will be returned from England to China, but the metal Earth Serpent still hasn’t been created. The Sixth Divine Punishment accelerated the four elements, but they have yet to be activated.”
“Why are you here, General?”
“I’m not plannin’ to die, if that’s what you’re askin’.”
“Are you planning to fight?”
“There are some weirdos in the Yard who’ve stuck around to see me in action.”
“You have some excellent subordinates, don’t you?”
“So do you.”
“You mean Kouga?”
“Yeah. He found the Device that Akira seems to have dropped. And he brought it to J-Gun’s workshop to help out Gunmal.”
After confirming what that meant, Rin spoke up.
“Do you think Gunmal can make Devices for himself and Akira?”
“I don’t know what he thinks he can make in just five days.”
“What did he say?”
“That if he couldn’t make anythin’ in five days, he’d be so embarrassed he’d head back home. The bastard’s probably makin’ a run for it right now.”
The General turned back toward Rin.
“Rin.” He sighed. “I’m gonna change the subject and lecture you, okay?”
“A woman shouldn’t be makin’ her chest flatter. Got that?”
“You can tell?”
“You’re standin’ on two legs, aren’t you? …Plus, I’m your master.”
“That’s true,” she said with a slight smile.
She reached for her mirrorshades and shifted them out of the way.
Beyond the two mirrors, her right eye was green and her left was red.
“How do you like it? I took my time choosing just the right colors.”
“They look like candy.”
“Sorry.” Rin smiled bitterly. “But modern body customization technology has advanced farther than you know.”
“Where’d you get it done?”
“A virtual workshop in Detroit. There, I could have myself digitized rather than going through a surgery. I left my body here and had the customization done in the computer.”
“Hmm. Well, that’s about what I discussed with Gunmal. …That had to have cost a fortune and you didn’t tell your old man.”
“I’ve been working as a detective for five years without marrying, so I can afford this much.”
“Hm. …Well, is it all workin’ out all right?”
“That’s why I had the original data stored away. That took some time since I swapped out everything but my head and torso, but if something happens, it won’t be hard to return to my original body.”
“I’d recommend not returnin’ that one leg to normal.”
“True. But I got a look at the hardened Lives from the lost leg, and it looked like another Tuner might be able to heal it.”
“You don’t find Tuners on your level every day.”
“You’re one, aren’t you? Not to mention Akira.”
“I’m too old and Akira has bigger things to worry about.”
The General pointed toward the wall behind him.
Rin frowned at the gesture.
“Is Akira here?”
She tilted her head.
“Why do you always watch over her?”
“You can be a lot like Gunmal sometimes.”
“But…could you maybe answer me? You’re famous for hating Nein Engels, so why do you look after Akira and why do you always hide anything about your family or home? I’ve always wondered about that.”
“Would a made-up story suffice?”
“If the truth is hidden in it.”
The General looked out to the yard.
He heard rain and Rin looked in the same direction.
“It’s not a bad rain.”
“Are you going to quit talking?”
“No, we can keep goin’.”
They faced each other again.
After a breath, the General opened his mouth with the growing pitter-patter of rain in the background.
“Then listen up.”
“Is it possible for someone to be born the same person but end up as two different people?”
“So. What if I was born as Lee Hu?”
“Why would you say that?”
“I saw Lee Hu die. Akira was with me…and so were you. We buried his remains in his grave,” explained Rin. “So you couldn’t possibly be Lee Hu.”
The General nodded.
“Then this is my final question.”
“If you wanted to travel through time and change the past, would you need to entirely rewrite the time period or would you simply need to add a single new element brought from the future?”
“Here’s a hint. …I made sure the mistake I made would never be made again. When I was born, there was no Flight Song in Hong Kong.”
“No Flight Song? But that song has existed since Hong Kong Cave was made.”
“And that’s my hint. A hint only me and my wife know now.”
Rin frowned a little.
“Can I answer that along with your previous question?”
“Are you saying Lee Hu travelled to the past without returning to the present, did something to become known as ‘the General’ during the Fourth Divine Punishment War, and corrected the next Lee Hu’s actions so he would not end up the same?”
“C’mon, now. You’re not makin’ any sense.”
“No, that makes perfect sense. When your next self was going to travel back in time, did you tell him to create the Flight Song that would support Hong Kong? And after returning to the present, Lee Hu left the rest to Akira and the others and died, so you felt you owed him something.”
“Like I said, it’s a made-up story.”
As soon as he said that, the clock on the wall began to ring.
It rang quietly but deeply twelve times to tell them a new day had arrived.
“It’s the thirtieth now.”
“That was pretty loud. I hope it didn’t wake Akira.”
“Are you sure she isn’t already listening in? She’s pretty sensitive to Lives.”
“No. She can’t use Tunin’ at the moment.”
“Can’t use Tuning? …You mean like how I used to be?”
The General nodded.
“Yeah. She’s so freaked out that she doesn’t like havin’ her hand touched. …And ridiculously enough, she thinks she’s hidin’ it, but it couldn’t be more obvious.”
“That’s because…Tuning is a weapon. A handgun is less of a burden.”
“I hate to dig this back up now, but what happened with you was an accident.”
Rin fell silent and he took a sip of tea.
“And it was the proper punishment for those fools who go out huntin’ Nein Engels.”
“Then why was I punished too? All I did was try to save Fei…”
She sighed, and…
“Akira is probably feeling the same thing.”
“What do you think we should do?”
“The best plan would be to abandon Hong Kong and flee. …Akira’s brother, Lee Leed, is going to activate the metal Earth Serpent. And the only way to fight back…”
“No, it’s too reckless.”
“Out with it.”
“Aren’t you already thinking the same thing?”
“That’s why I want to hear you say it.”
“You would have to activate an equally powerful Earth Serpent. In other words, a Yin one equal to Lee Leed’s Yang one. If the two counteracted each other, it would all come to an end.”
“Is that…really the only way?”
Rin gently lowered her head.
“But that would be impossible,” she said. “Earth Burns of the four elements are needed to activate the Earth Serpent, but even if we could activate new Yin-oriented water, earth, and wind ones, we lack the catalyst needed to activate the fire one. Also…”
“Who would we draw the Yin power from?”
“Yes. The Lives of Yin and Yang are one of the three secret techniques of Tuning and Busting. There’s no one in Hong Kong we can draw that power from anymore. Besides, the Live of Yin is based in the moonlight that opposes the sunlight, but…”
“Unfortunately, General, this rain is supposed to continue for several days.”
The General frowned at that.
“Um, Rin, I’m not sure I like the idea of decidin’ Hong Kong’s fate based on the weather forecast.”
“Try to face reality. A powerful typhoon is approaching from the east-northeast. The winds apparently reached High Powered City – Taiwan about an hour ago.”
“It’s true the winds are pretty still right now. …That would explain why the cicadas have been so loud all day.”
“Rain will further remove the chances of finding a catalyst for the fire element. …There’s no saving Hong Kong now.”
Rin stood up.
“You said Kouga is at J-Gun’s workshop, right?”
“No, I told him to head to the Yard. I have some business with him. …You want to say hello?”
“Yes. Him at least…I don’t want to die.”
“He’d cry if he heard you say that. And he’d say he’d follow you until the day he dies.”
“Yes, and that’s why I won’t say it to him.”
As soon as she said that, a gust of wind hit the window.
The sound of the wind filled the room.
And a moment later, rain sprayed against the glass.
The rain seemed to fall sideways.
The Genseral looked to the window as it rattled from the wind and rain.
“Weather forecasts these days have a real attitude.”
“Could I borrow an umbrella?”
“Thanks. …When my custom body gets wet, I feel like it’s soaking directly into my Live.”
Rin left the wood-floored room and the General called after her.
“You’d better return that umbrella.”
She did not respond.
The underground workshop J-Gun had holed up inside had grown silent.
The workshop was a square with twenty meter sides and it rose to a height of three stories. It was the largest of the building’s underground rooms.
After pushing open the bulkhead-like door, Genius saw darkness enveloping the large space.
There was no light.
It was underground and J-Gun did not need light since he could see Lives.
She found absolute darkness.
She hesitated and checked the clock.
It was 6:00 AM on June 30.
“It’s probably okay if I come in now.”
She muttered to herself and took a step inside.
The darkness enveloped her as well.
“Let there be light.”
She snapped her fingers in the darkness and light appeared.
A glowing halo appeared a mere thirty centimeters above her head.
It resembled a transparent fluorescent light, it appeared to be quickly rotating, and sharp pieces of light would occasionally scatter from it.
Genius caught the halo on her fingers and grabbed it.
When she passed her hand through it like a bracelet, it continued to rotate but stayed around her wrist.
She looked around with it on her right arm.
The white light illuminated the workshop.
A few concrete pillars, the gate for the elevator that brought in supplies, a lathe, and large steel panels for materials all became visible in the light and shadow.
Also, a single figure could be seen in that space of metal and stone.
It was J-Gun.
He sat on one of the I-beams lined up in the center of the workshop and he had his back to Genius.
She walked forward as she muttered his name.
Her heels rang loudly on the concrete floor.
After about a dozen of the hard sounds, she stood behind him.
The man’s back was right in front of her.
The back of his combat blouson was bent from his hanging head.
He almost seemed to have fallen asleep while sitting, but corpses did not sleep.
He had simply stopped until he felt he had a new mission.
“Just like a machine.”
She did not smile as she said that and circled in front of him.
J-Gun was still wearing his glasses and the eyes behind them were closed.
He did not move or even breathe.
She looked away and noticed something on the floor.
What Double Lee had requested was placed on the concrete.
Two swords were there.
One was what J-Gun had been using. Its colors had grown clear and all of its previous scratches were gone, but that was the side effect of forging another one with it.
“He took good care of this for so long.”
With a bitter smile in her voice, Genius looked to the other one.
It was quite different from all the Devices she had seen in the past.
It was a short sword.
J-Gun’s Device was long at a meter and twenty centimeters.
The ADs which had activated the four Earth Burns had been over a meter.
But the final Device in front of Genius was only about sixty centimeters, including the hilt.
It was shaped like an expensive paper knife.
But Genius could not take her eyes off of it.
She stared at the light reflected from its short blade.
“It’s like a mirror…or the water’s surface at night.”
As she spoke, the light flowed along the blade.
And that was not a metaphor.
The blade reflected the light wrapped around Genius’s wrist and caused the Lives of light to flow toward the blade’s tip.
The light took a droplet shape at the tip, dripped to the floor, and vanished.
“So this is what you’re really capable of.”
She picked up the Device.
The light reflected sharply from the blade and sprayed outward.
For an instant, letters appeared on the blade like a watermark.
“Pd.? Period? Is that the Device’s name?”
No one answered her.
She tilted her head and looked away from the light emitted by the blade.
She sighed and placed the short sword back on the floor as light continued to scatter from it.
It made a light, metallic sound.
As she did, her fingers felt something hard on the floor.
She found a ring there.
It was not a mechanical component like a washer or nut. The surface was polished and processed. It was made from the same light-manipulating metal as Pd.
J-Gun had made it.
“It can’t be…”
She looked to her left hand.
She had once worn a ring there, but she had abandoned it in J-Gun’s workshop on the surface.
She turned around and found J-Gun’s head still slightly lowered. His eyes were closed and he said nothing.
But she did spot a small smile on his lips.
“Am I imagining that?”
She shook her head to reject it.
Still, she took the ring from the floor.
She hesitated for a moment, but she slowly placed it on her left ring finger.
The ritual-like action did not take much time.
The ring fit in place and silently reflected the light.
“I don’t understand. I was too afraid to ask…but what did Double Lee say to you to resurrect you?”
She faced J-Gun while sitting on the floor.
“You had to have been able to read my Live, so why did you stay with me?”
She took a breath.
“Will you tell me someday?”
There was of course no one to answer or respond to her question.
J-Gun simply accepted her words without moving.
Akira listened to the rain outside the dark window behind her.
She had changed into her Yard uniform and she sat below the vase containing the jinyinhua and feather. She placed her left arm on the wall and felt the characteristic damp chilliness of an earthen wall.
About an hour had passed since she had woken and been able to move her arm.
She had spent the time eating the food the General had left in the hallway.
It was dark outside the window, but the clock had rung nine times earlier.
It was now 9:00 AM of June 30.
…The Earth Serpent will fly tonight.
…There’s nothing I can do. I wouldn’t be any help…and my room was ransacked.
The light meal seemed to have given her some energy.
The room was dark from the typhoon, but she looked around while holding the broken Nein König.
Her senses had grown more sensitive to her body and her surroundings.
She could hear the wind.
She could hear the rain.
But those were mere noises.
Neither the wind nor the rain showed its Message.
The same was true of the darkness in the room. The daytime darkness brought by the storm clouds felt no different than having her eyes go bad.
…What am I supposed to do now?
As soon as she wondered that, she heard a sound through the walls.
She heard footsteps.
They belonged to the General.
They were approaching her down the hallway.
Akira faced the door with her eyes still closed.
…Is he bringing breakfast?
She frowned in her heart because that made her feel like a freeloader.
But as if to ignore her thoughts, she heard something being placed in front of the door.
Then she heard the General’s voice.
“Oh, yes,” she answered.
She heard a quiet laugh from beyond the door.
“Good. You youngsters have so much energy.”
She tilted her head and heard more from beyond the door.
“You’re hidin’ your Live pretty well there, Akira.”
She looked up at those unexpected words.
…I’m hiding my Live? Now?
She was not doing so consciously, but he was telling her he could not see it.
The words beyond the door continued.
“Yet I could still see plenty when you woke up yesterday.”
She gasped, but he was not done.
“Gunmal wasn’t showin’ his either. …Is that the latest fad with you youngsters?”
“Then is it not some short-lived thing?”
She did not answer.
She simply looked at Nein König in her arms.
The mass of metal told her nothing, but she still stared at it.
The beautiful steel Device looked like a musical instrument. She noticed slight scratches and chips on its surface and corners.
Those were evidence that Gunmal had used this Device for years.
As it received her gaze in the dim light, the Wild Emblem of the Maldrick family glowed dully. She could see two dragons dancing within the round relief.
And as she looked at it, her lips began to move.
“Why am I… No, why does Gunmal hide his Live?”
Her own words confused her.
…Why am I saying this?
But before she could find out, a voice reached her.
“He’s makin’ Devices right now. At that workshop.”
Just as she looked up in surprise, her shoulders touched something.
It felt raw and soft, almost like lips.
The surprise caused her pulse to race.
She looked over at her shoulder and found some yellow flower petals.
It was a jinyinhua flower.
It had fallen from the vine growing in the wall-mounted vase.
She stared at it.
After a few breaths of silence, she moved.
She suddenly but slowly moved.
She took her time to hesitantly stand up.
And as she took the first step forward, Nein König slipped from her arms.
When she let out a voiceless scream and crouched down, she heard a voice from beyond the door.
“I’ll be goin’.”
She did not answer, but she did nod.
She heard the front door slide open and the sounds of the storm grew louder.
“Don’t bother lockin’ up when you leave.”
Finally, she heard the door slide shut.
She was cut off from the outside world once more.
She was alone in the house.
She held her breath and stared at Nein König and the yellow jinyinhua flower on the floor.
She picked up the flower and placed it on top of the Device.
She sighed and stood back up without smiling.
The vase was at eye level.
It contained the jinyinhua which had dropped a single flower and the single feather.
She started turning away to face forward, but…
She noticed something.
Her eyes stopped on the feather that shined a golden white in the dimly lit room.
She spoke the truth before her eyes as if reflecting on the fact.
“It isn’t mine.”
…What does that mean?
She had no way of answering that.
She kept her eyes on it while slowly walking away.
She arrived in front of the door and steadied her breathing.
She slowly opened it to find the entranceway.
The door to leave this house appeared before her eyes.
As she started toward it, she found something left in the entranceway.
It was what the General had left for her.
She had expected a tray carrying breakfast, but it was an umbrella.
“It’s storming outside, isn’t it?”
She picked it up and nodded with a tense expression.
“Everything might be blown away.”
The rain had grown stronger.
So had the wind.
It was past noon, but Akira stood in the thick darkness, wind, and rain created by the storm.
She was in the center of Yau Ma Tei, where most of the buildings and homes had collapsed. J-Gun’s workshop was there. Or more accurately, had been there.
The workshop had been destroyed.
There must have been an explosion inside because it and the attached home had scattered fragments of stone and wood outwards.
A small mortar-shaped crater had formed where the workshop must have been.
Needless to say, there was no one there and rainwater had pooled to knee height at the bottom of the crater.
“…I can’t believe this.”
Akira’s shoulders drooped as she held the umbrella in both hands.
“I can’t believe this.”
She repeated herself.
She looked down.
The stone of the workshop had shattered to the point that the ground looked like the rocky bank of a river.
A fist-sized emblem had fallen among the stones there. The black stone was engraved with two dragons spiraling around each other.
That was the Wild Emblem of the Maldrick family.
“And after I came all this way in the rain…”
She kicked the Wild Emblem stone.
With a solid sound, it split down the middle.
One dragon fell in the crater and sank into the water.
The other was covered by the umbrella Akira had been holding.
She did not bother picking up the dropped umbrella.
She crossed her arms as if embracing herself.
And then she looked up at the rainy heavens.
Clouds covered the sky, creating a stormy darkness.
Water was falling from them.
The clouds moved in a number of arcs as the storm clouds made Hong Kong their home.
And Akira spoke into that sky.
Her voice was drowned out by the storm and never reached the heavens.
The day continued within the darkness of the storm.
Night would soon arrive.
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