City Series:Volume3b Chapter 7
Act 7: Gunmal (1:23)
By the time Akira arrived at her apartment, night had already fallen over Hong Kong.
After checking on the destroyed workshop, she had walked to the Yard and to the inn at which Gunmal was staying.
The Yard’s base had received her with silence.
She could tell someone had been there just a few hours before, but she had found no one there. Gunmal’s inn had also been empty to the point that it was a mystery who had been staying in which room.
She was currently walking back to her own home without using an umbrella.
The clouds violently swirling through the sky kept her from telling the exact time, but the darkness descending from that sky had nearly grown as deep as it was ever going to.
She looked north as the rain hit her.
She could see the mountains of the Kowloon Peninsula beyond the shortened buildings.
Dark clouds were falling from directly above them. The ink black clouds were soaked with rain and the night.
A closer look showed some brightness on the bottom of the clouds.
The lights of the Chinese mainland were reflecting off of them.
After watching that for a while, Akira looked straight up.
Dark clouds wandered above Hong Kong as well, but they remained entirely dark.
She realized what was causing that difference, so she hung her head and remained silent.
She was soaked with rain, but she said nothing and trudged forward without running.
The next thing she knew, she had finished climbing the stairs to her apartment.
The corrugated plastic roof was audibly trembling from the rain.
Her soaked shoes produced wet squishing sounds as she walked down the corridor.
She soon arrived before her own room, stuck her key in the knob, and unlocked the metal door.
She opened the door, stepped inside, and closed the door behind her to cut off the sounds from outside.
She could now only hear the pitter-patter of rain on the roof.
She silently took a step from the entranceway to the empty kitchen.
But that was as far as she got.
With a small sigh, she fell to her knees.
She hung her head, bent over, and placed her hands on the floor.
Then she gave a much deeper sigh.
At the same time, the bathroom door beyond the kitchen opened and bright light shined out.
Finally, Gunmal stepped out.
With a bath towel over his shoulder, he spotted Akira.
“Hey, welcome back. The bath’s ready.”
She slowly looked up at him.
She asked “why?” with only the look in her eyes, so Gunmal answered while sticking his hands in the sink.
“You didn’t have a fridge and you’d left the water on for a while, so I figured you wouldn’t mind.”
With a splash, he pulled out two cans of beer.
He placed on in front of Akira and kept the other one for himself. He opened the pull tab and the carbonation audibly escaped.
All he had to do was drink it.
After two gulps, he took a breath and looked to Akira.
“…What’s the matter? What’s that look for?”
She opened her mouth and tried to say something, but only a sob escaped.
She silently released a few things she wanted to say and they were all summed up what spilled from her eyes: tears.
Gunmal seemed to panic.
“W-wait, wait. What’s this about all of a sudden?”
She did not respond, so he brushed a hand through his damp hair and tilted his head.
“C’mon, cheer up. Look, I’ll bet you’ll like this.”
He moved to the back room for a few seconds and returned with a Yard cap in his hand.
He placed it on Akira’s head so it hid her tearful face.
“I got a little carried away and blew up the workshop, so I carried my stuff back to the Yard. But the place was deserted, so I had no choice but to come here about two hours ago.”
“And y’know what? Those kids you were teaching Tuning to? A bunch of them showed up and left some stuff here. Like a picture frame and a sanxian.”
“A picture frame…and a sanxian?”
She let out a shaky voice when she heard the names of the objects she had thought were lost.
“They said something about their dads and some other people trashing this room, but they were talking so fast I didn’t catch it all.” He sighed. “Well, one of them left that hat.”
Akira lowered her head at that.
Then she sobbed and let out a choking sigh.
After a beat, she started crying again.
“Damn, it had the opposite effect.”
Sounding troubled, Gunmal sat down.
“Really, what’s the matter?”
Akira called the name of the man who asked her that.
“Yeah, what is it?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah?”
“I get it, I get it. Hey, quit rubbing at your eyes.”
He grabbed the hand she was pressing to her face and that action gave her the opportunity she needed.
She moved up the arm grabbing her and collapsed into his chest.
“Hey, wait! And I only just got changed into dry clothes…”
She wrapped her arms around his back to cling to him and refused to let go.
And she spoke to no one in particular.
“You really do show up when I call for you…”
By the time she finished muttering those words, his arms had wrapped around her back as well.
Her tears began to dry up and he asked something.
“What’s the matter? What happened?”
“…You can’t see my Live, can you?”
He remained silent and that was enough to answer her question.
So she smiled bitterly.
“That’s what happened. …Yeah.”
“I don’t mind.”
He spoke quietly and moved a bit back from her.
Her teary eyes and his eyes met at the same level.
“I’ll be borrowing those lips.”
“You really are forceful.”
Akira smiled a little and closed her eyes.
Gunmal’s lips met with hers.
She could not sense Lives at the moment, so it was just the one sensation.
The action ended after a mere two seconds.
The removal of her vision let her sense the dampness of his lips all the more as they left hers.
She heard his voice from close enough that it drowned out all other sounds.
He let out a sigh and she asked him something.
“I understand a lot now. …And I’ve learned my lesson too.”
“Well,” he hesitantly replied. “I can’t have the woman I kiss thinking my breath reeks of beer.”
“I-idiot, you don’t have to read that much!”
“Shut up. And don’t worry. Your Live isn’t dead yet.”
“Really really… You’re pretty argumentative today, you know that?”
“What’s wrong with that? I want to make sure of some things, okay?”
She sounded relieved and she rested her head on his shoulder.
He stroked her wet wings.
“You’re going to catch cold. Go take a bath.”
“C’mon, get going.”
She agreed again but did not move, so Gunmal tilted his head.
“Y’know, you do feel pretty cold right now. You need to get going before you really do catch cold.”
“I know that, but…”
“Didn’t you read what I was thinking before?”
“What might that have been?”
“Out with it.”
“Ah. …Is that any way to speak to a woman?”
“Don’t get mad. So what is it you want to say, Akira?”
She frowned at that question.
“You mean you really didn’t read it earlier?”
“I mean I really want to know what you’ve been trying to say since earlier.”
Her cheeks flushed a little and she turned her head away from Gunmal.
“I’ve been thinking, and this is the best way of doing it. I don’t have any ulterior motive.”
“Best way of doing what?”
“…I want to learn a lot about you.”
“Ohhh. And what is this ‘best way’ you were talking about?”
She stopped moving when she heard his tone of voice.
“…You’ve caught on, haven’t you?”
“Oh, you noticed?”
He let out a bitter laugh and she dug her fingernails into his back while blushing.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow! I’m still not fully healed, you know!?”
“I don’t care! You shouldn’t tease people!”
“Sorry, sorry. …You’re quit the romantic for a woman, Akira.”
“Don’t guys normally read too much into things instead of too little!?”
“Yeah, but I’m a realist.”
“You could have balanced this out if you were a feminist instead.”
“Anyway, enough with the jokes.” He nodded and his tone grew suddenly serious. “Why do you want to read my Live?”
“You didn’t see that when you kissed me?”
“…Are you serious? As you’ve realized, Tuning can easily become a dangerous weapon.”
“But I don’t think that’s all it can be.”
Gunmal fell silent, but she felt strength fill his arms on her back.
Then she heard his voice.
“You saved me.”
Akira’s eyes widened at that.
“Um, Gunmal, make no mistake here.”
“What I want…really isn’t just the practical side of things.”
“Yeah, I saw that too.”
“Like you said, I’m a romantic.”
“Then let me give you my opinion as a realist.”
Gunmal quietly and heavily answered her questioning tone.
“Hurry up and take a bath.”
Akira jabbed her nails into his back.
Gunmal’s things were piled up in a corner of the bedroom.
Two of his sleeping bags were spread out to form a simple mattress by the window.
The only other things in the room were the darkness of the night and the sounds of the storm coming from the roof and window.
That was all.
As Akira sat on the sleeping bags, the supposedly familiar room felt strangely large.
She wore a single Nein Engel shirt and Gunmal was embracing her from the side.
“How strange… When I first met you, Gunmal, I never thought we would doing this.”
“Really? I kind of had an inkling.”
“Why? Because you believe in destiny?”
He lightly shook his head.
“Because…I’m a pervert.”
“You can make jokes, but please make it something better than that. …Hey, quit unbuttoning my shirt.”
Nein Engel clothing was made to hang from the neck so it would not obstruct the movement of their wings. Removing the button at the bottom of her neck was enough for it to fall to her waist.
She held the falling collar up with her hands.
“Did you turn over that picture frame you showed me earlier?”
“Yeah. Your parents were looking disgusted with their delinquent of a daughter.”
“That would be nice…”
Her voice trailed off.
“Wait, Gunmal. Don’t move your hands like that. It’s too lewd.”
“That’s kind of the point, you know?”
“You really don’t know how to set the mood, do you? …Ah.”
“Don’t ask that. Be quiet.”
“C-c’mon. Say something when you’re touching me. It’s scary.”
“Um… I think the greatest problem facing modern European industry is the regional disparity in education. Being good at soccer isn’t everything.”
“Shut up, you idiot.”
“So am I supposed to say something or shut up?”
“Don’t blame me… I-it’s my first time, so…ah!”
She cried out as Gunmal’s hands quickly removed her shirt.
She shrank back in surprise.
“O-oh, no. Do you think someone could see me through the window?”
“It’s frosted glass.”
“Then the lights. Turn out the lights.”
“They’re already off.”
“Th-then don’t look.”
“Don’t ask the impossible. Besides, you might want to use your hands to hide something other than your face.”
“But I don’t want you to see my face…”
“You’re only flushed because of that beer from earlier, right? Oh, and from the bath.”
“Well, there you go. That settles it.”
He grabbed her hands and tore them from her face.
Her cheeks was an almost desperate shade of scarlet and her eyes were squeezed shut.
Gunmal’s lips met hers.
But he did not end with the kiss.
His lips moved down to her neck, her collarbone, and her shoulder.
“Don’t suck on me there.”
“My clothes don’t cover my shoulders.”
Meanwhile, his flesh-and-blood left hand touched her nervous body.
As his lips moved down the nape of her neck and to her back, his hand slid forward from her thighs and stopped on the most important part.
His hand tickled and his lips kissed parts of her skin that were normally never exposed to the open air.
As his fingers traced along the curve of her waist, she grew short of breath, so she held her breath to hide it.
She found she could not move her body and realized Gunmal was using his prosthetic right hand to hold her in place.
Her heart skipped a beat at that fact.
She let out a breath and asked a question.
Even she was surprised by how weak her voice was.
And as soon as her question smoothly flowed out, Gunmal bit one of the smaller deformed wings on her back.
His teeth reached the bone connecting the small wing to her back and she even felt the bone bending.
A tremor ran through the core of her body.
Her heart throbbed and sweat soaked her.
She cried out and moved her wings.
The two main wings rose in the dark room, knocking his arms off of her.
Gunmal sounded surprised and like he did not know how to react.
Akira gasped for breath and curled up in his lap.
“What was that about?”
“Did I surprise you?”
She took small breaths and gave a small nod to the question asked behind her.
Her sweaty shoulders rose and fell and she slowly got up.
“Y-you’re going too fast, Gunmal. …This is my first time, so don’t restrain me.”
He honestly apologized for once and she placed her hand on his right one.
The solid prosthetic hand felt cold and dull, but she placed it on her left breast.
She let out a breath.
It was a deep breath.
Her pulse was racing, but she was breathing deeply with only a bit of heat mixed in.
She closed her eyes and spoke.
“It’s okay. I’m not afraid. …So you don’t have to hold back.”
“…You won’t break?”
“It’s a Tuner’s job to fix anything that breaks.”
As she said that, her face grew so warm she could not ignore it.
She breathed a sigh of relief and nodded.
“Are you sure? I can be forceful, remember?”
“Ah, b-but… No, not there all of a sudden.”
“You’re contradicting yourself.”
He tilted his head.
“Hmm. Hey, Akira?”
“Can I ask something to help this go a lot smoother?”
She tilted her head while breathing a little heavily and he asked a quiet question.
“How do you do it on your own?”
“Wh-what do you mean ‘hm’!? Read my Live any further and I’ll stop you by force!”
“I see. So you start with the right breast.”
“O-oh, come on!”
“Don’t worry. I’ll change it up a bit to keep things interesting.”
While he followed the usual process she had briefly pictured in her head, his lips also sucked at the areas she could not normally touch: her back, her wings, and even the smaller wings.
It took her a moment to realize his lips moved so smoothly across her skin due to her sweat.
“You really are perverted…”
Despite what she said, she did not move her wings.
Time passed as she let out a few breaths and syllables.
By the time the sweat beaded up on her skin, she was breathing heavily.
And without bothering to catch her breath, she spoke to Gunmal.
“…My Wild Name.”
“Yes. …Combine the two characters and you get a character read as ‘Akira’ in Japanese.”
“Are you sure you should tell me that?”
She let out another heated breath.
She seemed to follow the breath down and left Gunmal’s arms. She then lay face-down on the soft sleeping bags.
She gave a meaningless nod to his call.
Without looking back, she gently lifted her hips toward him.
“I mean, I have wings, don’t I? So…I couldn’t do it on my back.”
“You understand. You understand, don’t you? …This is a position of submission. And…”
“Don’t say it.”
She felt Gunmal leaning over her back.
He embraced her from behind as he did so.
She closed her eyes and spoke.
“Please give me…”
She continued after a moment.
“Please give me your Live.”
There once was a certain boy.
But Akira did not know how long ago that “once” referred to.
And before even reaching that question, she did not understand what she was seeing and hearing at the moment.
“Eh? This was a little sudden. …What’s going on?”
She looked around and found darkness.
She tried holding out her hand, but she could not see it.
This was pure darkness, so she began to panic.
“…Oh, no. Gunmal was embracing me from behind…and then…”
She trailed off from there.
…And then I found myself in this darkness?
A certain fact rang in her mind as if to answer her.
There once was a certain boy.
That fact stabbed deeply into her mind.
Only then did she realize what she was seeing and hearing.
“This is Gunmal’s Live.”
She tried closing her eyes, but the surrounding darkness remained unchanged. It really was pure darkness.
…I’m directly seeing this with my mind. …This is like a replaying of his memories.
She could not possibly have a body here.
Once she understood that, light appeared in the darkness.
Far, far ahead, a horizontal line of light appeared like the sun appearing behind the horizon.
And with that light as the horizon, the expanse of the sky appeared above and the expanse of the ground appeared below.
Both expanses contained an awkward stream.
A few wave-like motions filled them both and they approached above Akira’s head or below her feet. A closer look showed these waves of the sky and earth were not like the waves formed in water. Thousands or even millions of domino-like blocks drew out the sky and earth and those blocks created the waves as they fell over.
And these dominoes formed more than a flat plane.
Whenever they seemed to crawl vertically like caterpillars on a wall, they would produce clouds or buildings. Whenever they seemed to tilt diagonally, they would form rivers or slopes.
A few of the blocks fell from the sky and become wind just before reaching the earth.
“Gunmal’s Live is a lot like a pop-up book.”
Meanwhile, the stream of dominoes passed by Akira’s vision.
In that instant, she felt the wind.
She sensed the wind’s Live, something she had not done in what felt like a long time.
She felt a chill.
…There’s no doubting it now.
“Gunmal is showing me his Live.”
She spoke her thought aloud and the position in which she stood grew clear.
The sky was visible overhead and a small village was visible below.
She was positioned high in the sky.
“That won’t do. I can’t see anything from up here.”
She relaxed her mind to keep herself from worrying.
An odd sensation shook her mind to its core.
Deep in her mind, she felt like fingers were tickling her inside her stomach.
A voice escaped her mind.
…Oh, no. The sensation from reality is getting mixed in.
“Something incredible must be going on outside of my mind right now…”
She twisted her mind to reject the somehow pleasant sensation.
She then relaxed herself in a different way. Instead of leaving herself defenseless, she cleared her ears and closed her eyes to place herself amid the silence.
That was the correct decision.
The next thing she knew, she was standing in a strange world.
The remnants of an unfamiliar village spread out before her eyes.
She saw broken pillars, crumbled walls, scattered roofs, twisted and broken roads, and things that were so smashed their original forms had been lost. Gathered altogether, they created the ruins of a village.
She was standing in the center of it all.
She knew this scenery.
…This is the same as the final Live that J-Gun showed me. So am I seeing this through Gunmal’s eyes!?
Her question was answered by seeing a boy standing in front of her. He looked to be seventeen or eighteen and he had the same hair color as Gunmal.
This was J-Gun when he had been a boy.
Two Devices had fallen at his feet.
One was simply cracked and the other was shattered.
J-Gun picked up the fragments of the shattered one and spoke.
“Our Devices lie in the center of the war. …Brother, which one of us will succeed the Maldrick family?”
“My Device shattered after clashing with yours.”
J-Gun pulled a ring from his pocket and looked to his younger brother’s face.
After a pause, he smiled a little.
“It’s fine. Like this, they won’t even find the bodies buried in graves. …People who wish to live together didn’t need deadly Busters or Tuners in the first place.”
J-Gun threw the ring into the ruins and said more.
“Don’t end up like me.”
As soon as he said that, the footage changed.
As Gunmal, Akira stood in a large stone blacksmith workshop.
It was dark inside.
Gunmal’s gaze was positioned a little higher than in the ruins.
That gaze looked gently across the workshop, looked down about a step ahead, and stopped.
A stone pedestal sat there.
A single Device sat on the pedestal: Nein König.
Gunmal’s right hand grabbed Nein König’s hilt.
The hand was still made of flesh at this point.
He stared intently at the bladeless sword.
“I won’t need to use my Wild Name now that I’m leaving my family.”
He slowly moved Nein König to his left hand.
He placed his right hand on the stone pedestal and raised Nein König in his left.
He kept his eyes on his right hand the entire time.
At that point, Akira realized what he was about to do.
Her mind cried out just as he swung Nein König down.
He placed a bit of his Live inside the Device.
It was amplified inside and gained a calm Tempo.
In place of a blade, a brave, steel-colored Live burst from it.
With a heavy strike, a curve of steel raced out.
Before her mind could reject the image, Gunmal had Busted his right hand with Nein König.
There was a solid sound and pain.
The pain reached Akira’s mind as well.
The pain resonated in her mind and created a Live resonance.
Gunmal’s Live – which included his memories and abilities – burst inside Akira.
It was hot.
And with that sensation, the image being shown to her blacked out for a moment.
It was cold.
Gunmal’s Live felt hot as it burst within her mind, but the exterior of her mind felt cold in comparison.
With that movement of heat, she felt her mind returning to reality.
She was waking up.
Her mind hesitated to do so and she quickly yet thoroughly experienced his Live inside her before it cooled.
With a quiet voice, she experienced Gunmal.
What remained inside her body was a thought he sent her and it began with a certain sentence.
She spoke that sentence aloud.
“There once was a boy named Logan Maldrick, hm?”
She smiled bitterly and her mind returned to reality as she asked a question.
“Does that boy…still exist?”
Clouds covered Hong Kong.
Below them, the rain had let up and the wind had calmed.
The typhoon had not left Hong Kong. The city had merely entered the calm eye of the storm.
Compared to the clouds circling so intensely in the sky, the night looked heavy and still.
The weight of the night darkly filled Akira’s room through the window.
Inside, Akira and Gunmal’s viewpoints and gazes had returned to their original positions.
Akira was wearing her Nein Engel shirt and she sat in Gunmal’s lap.
She held the sanxian the children had brought for her.
Her father had given it to her as a memento.
Her fingers were strumming it and her voice was singing.
She sang the Flight Song.
She finished the mere four lines of the song and the sanxian grew quiet.
Both of them let out a sigh and Akira spoke.
“I think it’s been ten days since I sang. …I used to sing up on the roof a lot.”
“I know. I saw your Live too.”
“Can you hear the Lives now?”
She cleared her ears a little and shook her head.
But she gave a small smile.
“But I think I’m going to go.”
“To where your brother is?”
“No. That isn’t what I meant.”
“I’m going to go find the answer… The answer to a lot of things.”
“But Akira, you can’t Tune, so…”
He sounded worried, but she cut him off.
“You have something too, don’t you? You showed it to me. You have something you’ve always, always trusted in…even if you try to cut it away from yourself.”
With that, she stood up and began to walk.
She walked to a corner of the room where Gunmal’s things were piled up.
Hidden by the travel bag and attaché case, were two objects wrapped in black cloth. They were both about as long as Akira was tall.
She grabbed one of them.
The object inside was metal.
It was surprisingly light and she could stand it up on the floor with only one hand.
Then she took a breath.
After a moment, she untied the cloth wrapping.
In the darkness of the night, the black cloth fell away like an empty shell and a pale light filled the room.
What stood on the floor in front of her was a spear-shaped Device.
The hilt was rounded and long.
The blade was wide to better produced Lives.
The giant spear’s overall mold resembled a musical instrument.
“Kouga brought me the one you forgot in the hospital.”
“And you Busted it to remake it?”
“Yeah. Look, this one actually has a blade.”
She looked as instructed and saw a single-edged blade on the end of the spear.
She briefly gasped at the light of the large blade.
“The one I made for myself has a single-edged blade too.”
“Are you going to kill someone?”
“That’s not the point,” he said quietly. “To protect and to hate are two sides of the same coin.”
“You really are strong.”
“It was a certain woman that taught me that.”
“That winged woman never rejected her own power no matter what happened.”
“I just wish I’d met her sooner.”
Akira removed her hand from the cloth wrapping and let it fall the rest of the way to the floor.
It made a soft sound.
The Device had been precariously balanced on the floor, but now it started to tilt.
She reached out while holding her breath and grabbed the metal hilt.
The roundness of the cold metal caused her pulse to race.
But she did not let go.
After a few seconds, her hand got used to the feeling.
She wrinkled her brow a little, let out a breath, and spoke to Gunmal.
“Hey, don’t you think we would make a good team? That’s the point of these two Devices, isn’t it? The two blades make a single whole.”
“What are their names?”
“That one is Wild Königin and mine is Wild König.”
As soon as he said that, a distant sound reached them from the direction of the ocean.
It sounded like a great mass of metal had been dropped onto the ground.
It was the low sound of shellfire.
“That’s the old man’s tank, isn’t it?”
“!? So the battle’s started!?”
“No. He’s going to Hong Kong Island…on a boat, looks like. The tank is on the boat. That was probably the sign that he’s leaving.”
“Let’s go, Gunmal.” Akira’s voice was quiet and weak. “Everyone’s…waiting.”
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