BGC Post 2040 File 7 – 8: Web of Lives
The Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 Continuation Fanfic Series
by P. Kristen Enos
Most of these stories take place AFTER the TV Series! So DON’T blame me if I ruin the ending for you because you read these stories first!
Lesbian/Yuri/Shoujo Ai Warning! (Non-explicit — at least in the “PG13″/”R” sort of way.) Just not written for children because they probably wouldn’t get half of it.
All rights belong to JVC/AIC, ADV Films and the other creative powers that be. I just want credit for writing the story.
Chapter 29: Moving Forward
5:28 p.m., June 17th, The Pit of the Silky Doll
In only her underwear as a small token of modesty, Reika was stretched out in the tank, completely immersed in a thick blue liquid. Along with a breathing mask, several tubes were connected to her body, especially at the stump of her right arm. A thick blindfold covered where her eyes had been. The faint beep of her heart beat came from one of the monitors nearby provided
Very grim and pale, her grandfather clutched his chest as he stared silently down at her.
“As you can see, Sir,” Nigel explained, “She does have a steady heart beat now, even though it’s faint. When we had first hooked her up, she had almost no readings for her vital signs. Irene’s blood helped stabilize her.”
He nodded. “You made the right decision, Kirkland. I’m certain she would have died if you had taken to a regular hospital. At least now she seems to have a chance. So how many injuries did she sustain?”
“Apart from her eyes and arm, she has an extremely low amount of blood and shattered right leg. And she has high toxicity levels from something foreign that may have been injected into her. We’re still performing tests so there may be more damage we haven’t discovered yet.”
“Besides Irene’s eyes, is there anything else we should retrieve?”
“I think it would be a good precaution if we could also have as much of Irene’s stem cell matter as possible…” Nigel looked clearly uncomfortable in making the comment but the priority of trying to save the living was more important at times likes these.
The old man nodded to his assistant, who immediately started to call their contacts.
Jun glanced around at the equipment that put the Chang and Watanabe labs to shame. She glanced over at the young man who was focused on a monitor hooked up to the frozen Anri. And as she glanced around at her companions of Grandfather Chang, his assistant and Densuke, she seemed to be the only one who was in awe of her surroundings, even though she tried to hide it. The only other person nearby was the statuesque, beautiful woman she had recognized as Nigel’s other assistant.
Then her mind turned back to the night of Densuke’s rambling drunken vent about Sylia being more than just a shopkeeper made her wonder if he knew about this all along.
The old man then glanced around the lab, as if taking in the surroundings for the first time. “Where’s Sylia-chan? I wish to speak with her.”
“She had been wounded so she should be upstairs resting in her bed. I’ll check to see if she’s awake.”
* * *
Henderson closed the door behind him to ensure the two had the maximum amount of privacy for their talk.
“I’m sorry, Grandpa, that I can’t get up to greet you properly,” Sylia said softly as she remained in the bed. She wore her bathrobe to cover the fact her torso was wrapped in gauze and bandages. Now that her adrenaline rush was over, she was incredibly physically and emotionally drained.
The old man chuckled from the chair positioned by the bed and said, “You are hardly the one to be apologizing to me all things considered, Sylia-chan. And thank you for everything. I admit I was disappointed to hear that you had bowed out of the wedding completely but I guess it turned out to be a good thing in the end.”
Sylia blushed slightly and gave an acknowledging nod. “I am truly sorry to hear about Irene. And Kou. I know you had considered him to be like a son.”
He winced. “Yes, yes, far too much has happened today. While I must take care of those matters, I must also firmly believe that Reika will pull through and yet make preparations in case she doesn’t. It’s the horrible position of being a leader, as you well know.”
“What about Nozomi?”
“Her father is clearly devastated but luckily there are several people available who can help take care of the baby for the time being. We have time until we have to figure out what must be done for her future. With everything that has happened, I can’t take chances with her safety.”
Sylia gave him a firm look and said, “Reika will pull through. I can feel it.”
The old man met her gaze and then chuckled. “Your love for her is as strong as always. Perhaps I should have approved a marriage between the two of you since the beginning. None of this would have happened, and my granddaughter would have led a happier life in general.”
She laughed, but then winced at the pain. “Would you have honestly approved such a thing?”
“Would you agree to it?”
Sylia blinked at the realization of the change in his tense. Her smile immediately faded. “I’m honored, Grandpa, but…”
“Yes, yes, I know. Kirkland is clearly a good man. You’ve done well for yourself.”
He was quiet for a long time, clearly trying to focus his thoughts. “Life is a very unexpected journey. I had my heart devoted to another young man in university, though we never took it to physicals levels. But I had chosen my family responsibilities over him. And now I am glad that I made that choice given the children, and their children, that I’ve been blessed with, even if almost all of them were taken away too soon. Yet, every time tragedy strikes, there’s always a part of me always wondering if I had made the right decision. And I’m sure I would have felt the same doubts if I had my dilemma had involved a woman that my family would not have approved of.”
Sylia reached over and squeezed his hand. “But I’m certain that once the initial pain has passed, you’ve come back to the conclusion that you did make the right decision after all.”
He squeezed her hand back and said, “Too true. I suppose hard decisions do make life richer… I’m sorry, you need rest rather than hear an old man babble on. We’ll talk again soon, Sylia-chan. Sleep and recover.”
* * *
6:11 p.m. Yamazaki/Vanette Apartment
Lisa sighed and turned off the television as soon as the special broadcast ended. She looked down at Linna, whose head was on her lap with Fluffy stretched out on hers.
“You’re not going to ask me any questions, are you?” Linna asked as she looked up at her. She knew her wife’s article for tomorrow’s edition of the Tokyo Sun was already written and sent to the editors.
Lisa ran her fingers through the thick, short hair. “Am I allowed to ask them if they’re off the record?”
“How are you feeling?”
Linna blinked, clearly not expecting that one from the Vanette reporter arsenal.
“I’m worried about Reika. Still in shock about Irene. I mean, I just had lunch with her last week. — But mostly I’m feeling selfish about being very glad that I’m here with the person I love and who loves me.”
“Me too,” she said with a gentle smile. “Have you talked to Sylia at all about this?”
“No, I’ve been staying clear since she needs her rest. But Priss said they’re worried about her. Even if Reika pulls through, Sylia is going to feel guilty about this for the rest of her life. Priss also said that she’s never seen Nigel hover the way he is around Reika right now. There’s no doubt in her mind that he’s really doing all of this for Sylia. I had to admit I agree with her.”
“I guess he really does love her after all. I have to admit I never really could tell, being the minimally expressive man that he is. But apparently that works for the two of them.”
Linna sat up and gave Lisa a gentle kiss, one that was heartfelt rather than passionate.
“Everything that happened today made me really aware of how life can change abruptly and without warning,” she said. “I feel like I was caught off guard, and I don’t like that feeling.”
“I know what you mean,” Lisa commented, sensing though that there was more she wanted to say.
Linna gave her a focused look and said, “You know, we never seriously talked about having children even though I think both of us just assumed it would happened somehow. And since accidental pregnancies aren’t really in our future…”
She smiled. “So are you asking to talking about it now?”
“Are you okay with that?”
* * *
8:27 p.m. The Watanabe Grand Hotel
Standing out on the balcony, Yoshiko stared out at the lights of the city before her.
Largo walked into the dark suite and used the draft to focus his attention on her silhouette. He walked up side his twin sister and put his arm around her shoulders.
She remained stiff to his touch but he didn’t let go.
“I am so sorry, Yoshi,” he said softly.
Perhaps hearing the worry in his tone, she relented and leaned against him. “Mei’s mother has agreed to having the funeral at the end of the week.”
“Do you want me to come?”
“No. Our family has been shamed enough… I should be able to wrap up my final report to Mr. Chang by then too. Once that’s done, I’m going to head back to Rome. I’ve had my fill of this city.”
“You’re the strongest one of us. You’ll get through this.”
“What about Densuke? Have you talked to him?”
“A little bit. He said there is hope for Reika for as long as she’s in Sylia’s care. I think he’s rattled and just needs time to process it all. I think we all do.”
– End Chapter 29 –
* * *
Chapter 30: At Peace
12:16 a.m., June 21st, The Pit of the Silky Doll
At the sound of the elevator ‘ding’, Mackey glanced up from performing maintenance work on Priss’s Moto-slave. He grinned at Sylia, who grinned back.
Well rested and, thanks to her hyper-healing, almost completely recovered from her wounds, Sylia was dressed in her t-shirt and overalls. It was now her routine to end the day by checking in on Reika, who was still in the stasis tank.
Returning his attention to his task at hand, Mackey was pleased that his sister seemed to have emotionally and mentally recovered as well. She no longer gave off the intense, obsessive vibes that she had prior to the incident. It was as if an emotional calm had finally returned to her now that Reika was in their care.
Sylia looked down at the sleeping woman for a minute. She started to reach down to touch her face but stopped when her fingertips touched the thick liquid that separated them. As if woken from her reverie, she then focused her attention on the nearby monitors and started to pushing some buttons. A couple of seconds later, Sylia frowned slightly.
“Mackey, when was the last time this monitor was calibrated?”
“We did it when we set it up for her,” he answered. He grabbed a rag to wipe his hands as he walked over. “Why?”
“According to this, her weight has increased by a couple of milligrams since yesterday. That shouldn’t be possible.”
He looked to see what she was pointing out. “Hmm. Well, let me run a full scan to see if I can pinpoint where this mass increase is being detected.”
Just as he was about to initiate the program, the monitor lit up with an incoming call status with Leon’s name on it.
Leon blinked in surprise to see Sylia and Mackey answering the call. He had a haggard look of someone who had been up far too long as he was clearly calling from somewhere out on the Tokyo streets.
“Hi, Sylia, Mackey. We just got an incoming call that a couple of street gangs are trying to settle a turf war at a construction site. Apparently they’re using the equipment to settle matters and they’ve already caused a lot of damage. We’d send someone out but we’re overextended with two standoffs and the aftermath of the Watanabe Hotel siege.”
“So you want to see if a Knight Saber or two can settle it,” Sylia said.
Even in the dark, he looked clearly embarrassed. “Well, yeah. If you’re able to find someone who’ll do it.”
“Well, no one is here right now,” Mackey answered. “I’ll have to see if someone is available to come in –“
“I’ll do it,” Sylia said.
Both men looked clearly surprised.
“What? I am a Knight Saber, too, you know,” she teased them.
“Great!” Leon blurted as he quickly recovered. “I’ll send you the info now!”
While the phone call continued with the other two, Mackey used another terminal to prep the hardsuit for launch. He couldn’t help but smile as he did that.
* * *
11:07 a.m., June 23rd, Chang Enterprises, Tokyo
Jun paused at the office at the sight of Densuke clearly immersed in reading files on the computer screen. She had to admit she was a little amazed at how natural he looked in Reika’s office.
It had only been a day since it was publicly announced that Reika would be on indefinite medical leave, and business seemed to be moving forward as usual.
She cleared her throat and tabbed on the door frame lightly.
A little startled, he blinked and looked up at her, smiling in response.
“Is there anything I can do or get for you so far?” she asked. She couldn’t help but feel a little strange at making such an offer to him as she thought about their confrontation on that hotel balcony but she forced it out of her mind.
“No, not right now. Just trying to recharge the business side of my brain.”
She was genuinely surprised by that comment because she had completely forgotten that he had a business degree from Todai. She had wondered if there was another reason why Grandfather Chang had given him the role of Acting CEO instead of doing it himself. And as Reika’s fiancé, no one questioned him taking over the figurehead position even though he had almost no exposure to the company’s business matters.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll catch up. As you know, my office is just around the corner. The green button on the speaker phone is my direct line to both my desk and cell phone.”
Just as she said that, both of their cell phones buzzed with an incoming text message.
The message was from Sylia and marked urgent: Reika’s eyes seem to be growing back. Will provide another status when we have more information.
While Jun was glad and relieved, she couldn’t help but wonder how that was possible. She knew they were holding off implanting Irene’s eyes until they felt Reika could handle such intense surgery. She didn’t know they were possibly doing other experiments on her.
“Don’t question anything. Just accept it,” Densuke said at the puzzled expression on her face. There was mild jadedness in his tone.
He quickly put the phone away and asked, “Actually, do you have lunch plans?”
Even though the answer was no, Jun was clearly a little reluctant.
He held up his hand in oath. “I swear, just business. I assume you’ve got your finger on the pulse of everything around here. And I’d think such a conversation would be more worthwhile over good food.”
While she knew the conversation could be kept to business only, she wasn’t comfortable at the thought of having such focused one on one time with him. But she’s a big girl, right?
“I’m free to leave whenever you are.”
* * *
9:07 a.m., June 25th, The Pit of The Silky Doll
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think we have a choice,” Nigel said to Sylia. “The leg is too mangled. Her body is already overtaxed with recovering. Having it also work on a limb that can’t be useable will just cause unnecessary complications. The latest scans show that the nanobot activity level drops considerably just above the damage. It’s as if the body already knows her leg can’t be saved. We could get some other doctors for another opinions if you want. Maybe there are other medical treatments that I’m not aware of, even if they’re in experimental phase still.”
“No, I understand,” Sylia said grimly. It was the first time since that day that she seemed a little unsure. “Let me talk to Mr. Chang to see what he wants to do.”
Wanting to say something else but not knowing what, Nigel put his hand on her shoulder.
She brightened at his touch and embraced him in a full hug. “Nigel, I know you’re doing everything you can. Thank you.”
* * *
2:11 p.m., July 7th, Off the Coast of Bali
Under the bright sun, Yoshiko took off her scuba gear and allowed herself to walk around the deck of the yacht in her bathing suit. With her gun out, she made the final rounds that indeed everyone on board was dead, especially her target.
Satisfied that she was the only living person on board and within several kilometers of open water, she used the ship’s satellite connection to send an encrypted message that her task was done. She then relaxed in the captain’s chair and regarded the Hou-Bang ring she had taken off her victim. This would be the end of the list of Clan traitors who had participated in the wedding attack.
Normally, she would have minimal emotion in carrying out her assignments. But this time it was personal.
She felt tears start to form in her eyes. Instead of holding them back, she allowed them to silently fall.
It was probably the first time in her life that she allowed herself to cry.
* * *
11:10 a.m., July 9th, The Silky Doll
“ — See, you cut them into bite size pieces,” Cynthia instructed Anri as they stood by the kitchen counter over a pile of carrots and potatoes. “They don’t have to be exactly the same size. Just big enough that someone can put it in their mouth and chew comfortably.”
Clearly not understanding what still seemed like imprecise instructions, the other boomer stared back at her while holding up the kitchen knife in preparation for tackling her task.
Henderson, meanwhile, stood quietly off to the side and focused his attention on preparing the rest of the lunch. He wasn’t about to get in the middle of a discussion between two combat boomers armed with kitchen knives unless he had to.
“If you do a direct link – “
“No,” Cynthia said firmly, following the agreed upon method by everyone of teaching Anri better social and verbal communication skills. “Here, open your mouth – “
Suddenly, Anri looked distracted, her attention was clearly focused inward for a moment.
Cynthia waited. She knew the only thing that could cause this kind of interruption would have to be some new information from her secondary feed to Reika’s monitors.
Anri then reported, “Reika’s brain activity has suddenly increased to ten percent of human normal levels… Explain why am I opening my mouth.”
* * *
4:06 a.m., July 19th, The Silky Doll
Reika slowly became aware of an overwhelming mixture of haziness, stiffness and pain throughout her body. It was dark but she felt warm, as if she was immersed in a nice bath. She wanted to open her eyes, but something didn’t feel right, like a mixture of intense pressure and pain. She also started to feel the something covering her mouth and nose even though she could breath clearly.
Still, with these confusing jumble of sensations, she started to focus on the realization that she was indeed alive.
With that final thought, she allowed herself to drift back into to a deep sleep.
– End Chapter 30 –
* * *
Chapter 31: Healing
8:14 p.m., July 20th, The Silky Doll
“So how did you find me?” Reika asked from the bed with bandages over her still healing eyes. She was understandably thin and weak, and her long hair was braided into a single pony tail down the side.
“It was as if you were calling to me,” Sylia responded as she sat on the edge of the bed while holding Reika’s left hand in hers. “Like an S.O.S. I mean in hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised she took you there. But obviously that wasn’t the first thought on our minds.”
“Can you feel me calling you now?”
“… No, but I’m right here. So you probably don’t feel like you need to.”
Reika was pleased to hear the slight smile in Sylia’s tone.
“Well, I have to admit that while I don’t remember a lot of what happened, I do remember wishing you were there… That place was where she had been injured the first time, right?”
Sylia reddened in embarrassment, grateful that no one else to see it. “Yes. It has originally been an office building under construction before a boomer rampaged and drew us there. They had since torn it down and turned it into a factory before abandoning the site completely after the last big earthquake… The wounds she gave you were parallel in the damage she had received, though I think a lot more brutal. I guess it all made sense as fairness in her mind… I am truly sorry about this, Reika. I – “
Reika stopped her by squeezing her fingers. “I know you are, Sylia. And I forgive you. For the whole thing. Even the parts that weren’t really your fault.”
“That’s a lot to forgive in such a short time.”
“I think the lesson I learned from Mei is that being stuck in the past when you’re still alive is the worst place to be,” she said with a weary sigh. “Forgiving doesn’t mean that I won’t try to keep learning from this. And it doesn’t mean forgetting. I’ll keep wondering how much of my own actions led to this to some extant. I just need to not let anger and obsession consume me the way it did her. I’m not saying that I’m going to be perfect at it, but I realize I need to try otherwise I’ll end up like her.”
“Well, then that means you need to forgive yourself, too.”
“… Yes, you’re right. Besides,” she held up the stump of her arm as a point, “just this is enough to show I can’t go back to being the old me without some significant effort. I wonder if I wasn’t trying to live in the past myself. I need to define who I am going forward with an unbiased view of all possible options.”
“Does that mean you’re still going to marry Densuke? Nigel feels the nanobot attack damage to your uterus will probably fully heal, once your body has finished with your eyes.”
Reika was silent for a moment before saying, “It’s fair that he knows everything so he can determine if he still wants to continue with the engagement. After all, having children was the one thing we both knew would be the most important thing out of our union.”
Though it wasn’t what Sylia wanted to hear, she tried to be positive by commenting, “Well, I do hear that he’s done a good job managing the company in your absence. Perhaps this will let you stay Reika Chang, private citizen, for as long as you need to.”
“True… And it would be nice to go back home as soon as possible.”
The comment caused Sylia to be momentarily stiffen in alarm.
Reika felt it and teased, “Now what was that about? Were you expecting me to continue to stay here?”
Sylia once again blushed. “Well, what are you going to do about your arm, and your leg?”
“I’m a rich girl. I have servants. And they’ve had to take care of before when both of my arms were incapacitated… Did you want me to stay?” she asked in a gentler tone. “Sylia, I told you that I forgive you. I don’t want you hovering over me any more than necessary while I’m trying to recover. Besides, this is your home, not mine… Now I’m starting to feel like I need to sleep again.”
When Reika was once again asleep, Sylia stood by the bed and continued to stare down at her. Her expression remained grim with a hint of pain and longing.
* * *
7:01 a.m., July 21st
“… Oh, okay,” a stunned Jun responded as she paused in taking notes in her datapad. She hadn’t expected Reika’s order to continue to be Densuke’s personal secretary.
Hearing this reluctance in her tone, Reika cocked her head curiously. “Are you having problems with Densuke? Has he been behaving himself?”
‘Too well’ was what Jun wanted to reply but thought better of it. True to his word, the man had never made reference to the stifled attraction between them, which was both a relief and point of frustration for her, embarrassingly so.
“Yes, things are fine. He’s been a perfect gentleman. But you are planning to return to take over?”
“Eventually. I just don’t want you to be bored while waiting for me to recover. He and the company needs you more than I do at this point.”
“I wouldn’t be bored!” Jun proclaimed. “I-I’m here to be your personal secretary. Not his, or anyone else for that matter.”
Reika actually chuckled at this. “All right, that’s very cute but I know you don’t have a crush on me, otherwise I might reconsider. Might. I’m not saying that I won’t still need your services on occasion. And speaking of which, did Yoshiko complete tracking everyone down who contributed to the siege?”
“Yes. As suspected, she found out Genom was the ultimate supplier of the helicopters and their crews. If she hadn’t used her connections, I don’t think we would have been able to uncover that.”
She mulled that over for a moment, clearly not pleased with the information, but not surprised either.
“Are you also bowing out of Clan activities too?” Jun asked, realizing that she needed the clarification since the Hou-Bang Clan and Chang Enterprises were really two different operations.
“Yes, Grandpa is going to continue representing me to the Elders… Can you also call Densuke for me and let him know that there’s something I need to discuss with him in person?”
“Oh, all right. Is it urgent?”
“Probably not. But better to be done sooner rather than later… And while you’re at it, I’d like to speak to Yoshiko when it’s a reasonable time for her in Rome.”
* * *
Densuke couldn’t help but stare at the stump of Reika’s right arm and leg. It didn’t look right at all. At least the bandages over her eyes seemed temporary, but the missing limbs felt very… permanent.
Realizing that she would have to endure such scrutiny going forward, Reika waited patiently until he had really absorbed the reality of her condition.
Her fiancé suddenly became aware of the silence and blushed in embarrassment, glad that she couldn’t see it.
“Um, are you still in pain?” he asked softly as he sat down in the chair by the bed, not sure how else to start their conversation.
“I get an occasional twinge but I’m sure I’ll feel more when I start being more active. My eyes feel numb and tingly but Nigel theorizing it’s because they’re still healing. I think that was the one benefit of having been in an coma during the time my body needed to do the most critical healing.”
“Oh… So Jun told me that you don’t remember much of what happened. That’s probably a good thing… I haven’t really spoken to Yoshiko about it,” he said of his sister. “But I have to admit I don’t know what to say to her. I can tell she feels deeply ashamed of what Mei had done. She even apologized to me, which she’s never done in her entire life. Not that she ever had a reason to, of course.”
“That’s good to know. I had planned to call her later. I want to let her know that I don’t blame her at all. When I heard that she was the one who… stopped Mei, I couldn’t imagine the discipline it would take to do something like that.”
“Yes, my sister is an incredible woman,” he said sincerely, with a distinct note of pride. “Largo will be the first one to admit she’s the true embodiment of the Watanabe family spirit and honor.”
“Speaking of honor, thank you for stepping in as acting-CEO. Both Grandpa and Jun have told me you’re doing an excellent job.”
“I am merely being a figurehead,” he said with uncharacteristic humbleness. “Your company is a very well-oiled machine in terms of its operations. I think my other role as your fiancé was an incentive for everyone to go out of their way to work with me.”
“Actually, speaking of our engagement, I do want to have a serious conversation about that. To make all things fair.”
He frowned at not knowing what this was leading to. “I am still fully committed to it, if you are able to forgive my family in this matter.”
“Well, this time, isn’t about you as much as it’s about me. When you came to my bedroom that night before to ask for a truce, I wasn’t as upfront as I should have been about my condition.”
“What do you mean?” He was now genuinely confused.
Reika took a strengthening breath before explaining, “A couple of days before, Sylia had let me know that she had a physical condition that she had passed on to me some time when she and I were together. There were no symptoms and we didn’t know if it could become something more serious later on. I was not happy about the news because it made me concerned that I shouldn’t bear children and pass it on to them.
“Obviously, in hindsight, this condition was probably what kept me alive through that ordeal as well as heal my eyes. But with that, Mei did something to me that almost destroyed my uterus. Nigel thinks there’s a good chance that once my eyes have finished healing, my body may try to heal that as well, but obviously we don’t have any guarantees with that. Having my eyesight come back was unexpected enough. Plus, while this condition that I got from Sylia turned out to be a good thing for now, we don’t know how it may affect any children I have. I could end up producing mutants for all we know.”
Reika felt her voice falter as she heard herself articulate what had been in her mind about her current physical state. “So what I’m saying is that I don’t think I’ll be able to hold up my part of this arrangement, which is to produce heirs. And if you want out of this engagement because of that, I understand. With everything that has happened, I don’t think there would be any animosity between our families should we choose to dissolve this amicably. But I want you to know the truth since this affects you just as much.”
Densuke was silent for a long moment as he tried to process everything she just said.
Finally, he swallowed and said carefully, “I appreciate your offer to let me out of this, but to make such a decision when so much is still unknown would not be honorable. Perhaps we should have this discussion again should it turn out that you cannot have children at all?”
It was her turn to be silent as she thought about his response. “… I appreciate your support,” she said after moment. “But, Densuke, I also want to make sure your own guilt about what happened in L.A. isn’t a factor in your decision to remain committed.”
He was genuinely surprised by that. “Honestly, Reika, that wasn’t a factor in my response. Though I admit it still haunts me on occasion.”
She sighed. “Then, I think it’s good we cleared that up. And you’re right in that perhaps it’s too soon to have such a discussion. We’ll talk about this again when things are more settled.”
* * *
Even though she couldn’t see Yoshiko’s image in the phone screen, Reika could hear the very distinct tone of passivity and weariness in the once proud and regal woman. If she had her eyesight, she wasn’t sure she would have noticed it as much.
“Your Clan traitors have been executed per your grandfather’s orders,” Yuko reported softly. “I did discover a couple of business rivals who had minor participation and Largo is in the process of dealing with them by orchestrating takeovers that should be completed within a year.”
“So it seems all loose ends have been taken care of. Thank you.”
“I am just grateful that you do not feel it is a poor reflection on my family’s involvement in this mess.”
“Of course, I don’t, Yoshiko. I know how much you love Mei. And Nigel explained to me that she was probably driven to her final state by long term and excessive exposure to boomer bio-matter.”
“While that is true, and not to dismiss responsibility, our flaw was that even though we could develop the hardware to match Genom’s, the source material still came from them, with all of its flaws included. And given your own relationship with Genom and Rosenkreuz, that would my warning to you if you are considering boomer prosthetics at all.”
“Understood. Even before Mei, I never wanted to take that option for those reasons…”
Reika let out a weary sigh of her own and said, “I feel like I’m having déjà vu. It was exactly this reason why we decided to create Anri. Genom always seems to be the reason behind everything… I have a personal favor to ask of you, and I need it to be done in absolute secrecy, if you’re willing.”
“I am willing.”
“It’s regarding my parents’ deaths. I want something confirmed.”
* * *
“Good news is that non-boomer prosthetics technology has become much more sophisticated in the past fifty years,” Nigel said as he scanned his datapad before the two women, “Not at all my area of expertise but Sylia or I might be able to hook you up with a trustworthy doctor for consultation.”
As he spoke, he was trying not to be distracted by the sight of Sylia sitting on the edge of the bed while holding Reika’s hand. He didn’t like the unnerving feeling he was trying to ignore.
“It’s probably just as well I become accustomed to that,” Reika said softly. “It’s not like I really need as much dexterity as I had. Even with a boomer prosthetic, I don’t see myself ever playing the piano again.”
Sylia immediately frowned in alarm.
Reacting to sudden tension in her hand, Reika said, “Sylia, it’s all right. Given the scope of everything that has happened, that’s on my list of small losses. I’ll be happy enough when I reached the point of being mobile again.”
As if an idea hit her, Sylia opened her mouth but then paused. She glanced at Nigel, apparently thought better of it, and remained silent.
Nigel stifled his frown. He had never seen her look so hesitant before, but he chose to let it go.
“According to the scans, I think we should try to see how your eyes are doing by the end of the week,” he said, turning his attention back to the datapad. “You may not have full 20/20 vision right away but I’m curious to know what you’re eyesight is compared to what the scans are showing us.”
“Of course… And, Nigel, thank you for everything. I know you weren’t suddenly expecting to be my personal physician.”
He looked at her and to Sylia, and then said, “You’re welcome.”
* * *
1:26 a.m., July 24th
Alone in the stillness, Reika finally felt the loss and despair hit her. She started to cry and soon found herself completely sobbing uncontrollably.
She may not have remembered a lot of Mei’s abduction, but the vivid sensation of witnessing Irene’s murder could still be felt in her remaining hand. It was enough to make her wish that it had been torn off too.
Then she heard the door slide open and close, but she wasn’t alarmed at being exposed in her most vivid moment of weakness. She knew who had arrived.
Knowing that she didn’t need to announce herself, Sylia sat down on the edge of the bed and embraced the woman, who collapsed willingly into her arms as she continued to sob.
– End Chapter 31 –
* * *
Chapter 32: Turning Point
9:32 a.m., July 29th
Though still remaining in bed to conserve her energy, Reika carefully cradled her baby niece, who looked up at her with a curious gaze. She no longer had the eye bandages but she still had to squint to make out details.
Sho quietly looked over them. He had a certain haggardness about him as shown by his beard that was there due to lack of shaving rather than an attempt to be fashionable. His clothes were still pristine, but more due to having servants to do laundry rather than any extra effort on his part.
The proud father said, “She’s a doll. Everybody adores her, and she seems to adore everyone… I hope it doesn’t change when she becomes old enough to understand what happened to her mother. I would like her to grow up strong, but not bitter.”
“That’s a good goal… How are you doing?”
He shrugged and tried to blink back tears. “Every once in a while I find myself wanting it to not be true. So I guess that must mean I’ve finally started to accept that she’s gone. I am so grateful that we were at the compound when it happened, when there were so many people who could take care of Nozomi when I couldn’t.”
“What are you going to do now? Grandpa told me that he did not want to continue with the new identity plan now that Nozomi truly is the only real heir to our family line and needs utmost protection.”
He looked at her for a moment and then said, “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’ve thought about it seriously for the past couple of weeks that I’d like you to consider adopting her and raising her here. You and the compound families could protect her so much better than I can, as well as provide her a rich home life. After all, I’m still a wanted man by Genom’s standards.”
Reika fell silent as she seriously contemplated his words.
“I’m not saying you have to pretend to be her mother,” he continued to try to persuade her. “I want Nozomi to know about Irene. But perhaps that’s information she doesn’t need to know about until she’s old enough to handle it… And I’m sorry to spring this on you when you have so much to deal with now. I guess the problem is that I’ve had longer to think about this than you have.”
She gave him a sad smile. “True, I feel like I’m a month behind everyone.”
He hesitated a moment and then said, “Can I ask you a question? Did you feel like you had died?”
“… For good or bad, I don’t remember a lot of what happened. I get an occasional flash but nothing that feels like I walked down a dark tunnel towards a light or anything. And I’m not sure I want to try to go out of my way to remember more. I’m satisfied enough to view it as a month lost. Well, we lost more than that, but you know what I mean…
“Back to your request about adopting her, thank you for feeling like I could be a good substitute mother for Nozomi, Sho. But you’re still my brother no matter what happens in the future. And she needs you as a father, especially in Irene’s absence. Why don’t you both move back to the compound? I think we need to evaluate all of our security issues anyway. If you still want me to give me shared guardianship for her, I am fine with that. So unless you have another reason to want to go to London, or to continue with the plan to go to America, please come home.”
Sho seemed deeply relieved as he shook his head. “Thank you, and yes, I’ll move back.”
“Contact Jun to make the arrangements. I’m certain we have plenty of room. And it’ll be something for me to look forward to when I’m back on my feet — er, foot. This also means you can continue with your work in boomer technology, if you wish.”
He let out an even deeper sigh. “More and more I’m finding my work less rewarding with everything I’d witnessed lately. Maybe I should get out of this field eventually.”
“Yes, you might leave, but I don’t know if that means they’ll let you go as a target.”
* * *
7:11 p.m., July 30th, K’s Garage
At the ding of someone coming near his private entrance, Nigel looked up from working on Linna’s scooter. He went to a nearby terminal, saw that it was Sylia carrying a picnic basket. He couldn’t help but be a little stunned and pleased.
Minutes later, Sylia placed the picnic basket on his kitchen table. “I’m very certain you haven’t had a meal recently that wasn’t a sandwich that you ate in the garage.”
That was certainly true. “So what did you bring me?”
“A very nice meal, cooked by Cynthia and Anri… As a precaution, I did take a preliminary taste and it is delicious.”
“Who would have known that decades of being immerse in boomer development would have such a reward.”
Then he spied the chess set that was the signal that Sylia had a lot more on her mind than just eating. A lot more.
“So what’s going to be at stake tonight?” he asked.
Sylia shrugged playfully and said, “Whoever wins gets to be on top?”
“You’re giving me a very good incentive to lose.”
“Did I?” she responded just as playfully as she started to set the table.
Nigel didn’t move as he watched her for a moment. It was as if she really was here to spend time with him, and just him. He didn’t feel any sense of distraction from her.
And that was more than good enough.
* * *
5:06 p.m., August 7th, The Chang Family Grave, Hong Kong
Able to stand with her new artificial leg and crutch, Reika stared at the grave markers for the ashes of her immediate family. She looked over at the waiting spots for her and her future family.
Sylia stood quietly by and held her hand for support.
To give them maximum security and privacy, a dozen bodyguards, including Anri and Cynthia patrolled the area as open and camouflaged presence.
“I honestly don’t know what I should do, Sylia,” Reika said softly. “I mean, I can’t claim that I’m honestly surprised by what Yoshiko found out. But as leader of the Clan, I feel honor bound to initiate a hit on Rosenkreuz — which I must admit is not an unpleasant idea.”
“Is it the idea of ordering a kill bother you?” Sylia asked softly.
“… I’ve done it before. Admittedly when I felt like I had no choice. In fact, I was called weak for this very reason. But a person who has the amount of power that I have shouldn’t have to keep making decisions as if they’re out of my control. And I can’t let revenge become an obsession for me, otherwise I didn’t learn my lesson from Mei.
“I just know that the answer shouldn’t be that simple. With Rosenkreuz gone, another type of Rosenkreuz will take his place, just like he did with his own grandfather. And it will all happen again, just with different people.”
“So is it that you want to destroy Genom?”
“Again, that goal feels too… simple. Even though we have our personal issues with the company, there’s a lot of people in the world who benefit from the services it offers. Genom has the monopoly on boomer technology for a reason… Sho made a comment that he didn’t want Nozomi to grow up being bitter but strong. And that’s the kind of role model I’d like to be for her but I’m not sure how. It’s like there’s a bigger picture out there that I’m just not seeing.”
“… Or perhaps being purposefully blind to it?”
Hearing the leading tone in Sylia’s words, Reika looked at her and asked, “What would you do?”
She opened her mouth to answer but then paused. She then said, “I don’t have your perspective. When I created the Knight Sabers, it was inspired out of revenge. You know that.”
“But it’s evolved into something better now.”
She shrugged. “Not out of my purposeful actions, I assure you. It had more to do with the others than me… But it seems you’re looking for the better option. And I don’t think you would be looking for it if you didn’t know on some level that you had such options available to you.”
“Are you going to tell me again that I should make my own rules?”
“You’re the boss.”
“Am I?” Reika said with distinct doubt in her tone.
* * *
4:14 p.m., August 12th, The Hou-Bang Compound, Tokyo
“It’s awkward but better than nothing,” Reika said as she showed off her new prosthetic arm in the dining room. “Once I get the chip implant, it’s supposed to increase response and flexibility to near natural behavior. And the chip should work on my leg too. They’re supposedly the best non-boomer prosthetics on the market.”
Even though he was clearly uncomfortable, Densuke tried to keep his staring to a minimum. Jun stood quietly to the side and found her attention immediately drawn by the buzz of her data pad.
“When are you planning to do the surgery?” he asked.
Reika winced at the thought since she had just moved back home for good last week and wanted to relax. “I have to admit I don’t like the idea of having someone cut me open again so soon. And since I don’t really need that much mobility and flexibility, it really is just an optional enhancement if I want it, that I could continue with just physical therapy to see how far I could get my mobility back without the chip. But I was told that without the implant, using these limbs will be a lot more physically tiring for me because control is being done via body movement compensation rather than a mental signal or two. So I should do it, and the sooner the better that way I can take back my job of CEO from your hands.”
Densuke raised his eyebrows in response as Jun looked up from her data pad.
“… Unless you want to keep the job?” Reika teased him.
The man was momentarily stunned by her tone. In his entire life, he’d never been the target of her playfulness before.
He blushed and said, “No, no. It’s yours. I’ll be happy to hand it back when you’re ready.”
Jun watched the two of them and felt her heart tighten, which made her extremely uncomfortable, but then the message on her data pad distracted her attention again.
“Excuse me,” she interrupted carefully, and probably a little happily, “Reika, there’s something you need to see on TV right now.”
The three of them immediately moved to the nearby living room and turned on the television. Jun had grabbed the remote control and moved to the couch to sit down, which Densuke immediately stood to give her prime seating. His movements were apparently too close for her comfort and she jumped back a bit. They both momentarily fumbled around each other’s body space before finally sitting down with very forced casualness.
Reika noticed this awkward waltz but said nothing as she waited for Jun to find what she wanted to show them.
While Jun searched for the channel in question, the room became a little more crowded as some other curious members of the household wandered in, including Anri, who had been helping out in the kitchen.
Then Jun found the broadcast in question. It was a Japanese Business Information show with an interview between a newscaster and Genom’s Quincy Rosenkreuz. The bottom text on the screen read: “Genom announces new line of pseudo-human bodyguards and other high level security services.”
“—So you admit that you’ve actually had these products and services available only to special customers?” the dapper newsman asked of Quincy.
“Yes, we had developed these products at the request of special customers, included some government agencies for Japan and other countries, like the U.S. We felt it was high time to offer these products to the general public so that they know such security and protection can be available.”
“But your prices will still be for the elite level of consumers?”
“True,” he conceded. “These are not cheap products for creation or maintenance. Each one is customized to the special needs of the customer, including the capabilities and features required. The average consumer wouldn’t need such services to begin with.”
“Then why go ‘public’ so to speak? You’ve obviously been successful providing such products to your private client base.”
“Well, that’s just it. They’re a private Genom client base. We want to offer our products to consumers who are not our normal customers. They are people who may need such services but not know we have them readily available for the asking. Or at a price they may consider reasonable.”
The interviewer then took on a sly tone and said, “I have to admit when I first read this briefing, I immediately wondered if the timing could be related to the disastrous Watanabe/Chang wedding that took almost a dozen lives on top of very expensive property damage. Could you comment on that?”
Quincy actually paused briefly, as if for effect, and said, “I won’t deny that our private clientele placed several orders directly after that event. It then led us to realize that perhaps we needed to market our products to others who may have developed concerns after that… incident.”
“Are the members of the wedding party your clients?”
Quincy held up his hand. “I am not allowed to reveal my clients’ identities… But I can say that if Genom had been involved, those lives would not have been lost. And Ms. Chang would not be on medical leave right now.”
Whatever else was said from that moment onward was lost to Reika. As the rest of the room tensed up in awkward silence, she carefully stood and stiffly walked out of the room. She gripped her crutch so tightly that her fingers looked white.
– End Chapter 32 –