Tea Leaves and Opal Necklaces


Match Thirteen: Apokalipsis:


Ivan sat in the back of the car, eyes narrowed. Estimated time to Rampo Biotech, an hour, thirty-nine minutes, and fifty-five seconds. Lin Yi slept on the plane. Ivan dropped her off at Kiku’s house an hour earlier. He gave her money to do any shopping while she was in Ikebukuro.

“If you have any problems, call me,” the Russian man told Sena.

“Right,” she said. Ivan gave his wife a kiss before he turned to leave.

The Russian man moved his hands behind his head. He couldn’t understand his boss’ obsession with the Tadpole Project. They practically threw most of Russia’s economy at this project every year. Granted, Kitano-sensei and Asato-sensei produced sound results every year Vozrozhdeniye came to visit. But to Ivan, it didn’t mean much to him. His boss, on the other hand, dreamed of a giant battlefield covering the earth. The sky would turn red and rain blood. If they had their way, one tadpole would crush all armies of the world, bring the dying countries to their knees, Vozrozhdeniye making the rulers of the new world.

None of it meant anything to Ivan.

He looked at the other people in the car. Eight men and two women. Three men in the middle talked about seeing the tadpoles again. Each had a personal favorite. One of the men, Alexander, turned and looked back at Ivan.

“Ivan, if you had to choose one to be the ultimate victor in war, who would it be?” he asked. The taller Russian man shrugged and shook his head, uninterested.

“Don’t mind him,” Adrik said. “He’s just here with us because the boss wants muscle in our group.” A third man, Karp, turned to light his wife’s cigarette. A woman with glowing green eyes took a puff.

“How can you say that Midori isn’t a good choice?” Alexander asked.

“How can we be sure she won’t go back in time to stop us?” Adrik asked.

“True. But I think that can be ironed out some.”

“I say my vote is Tetsu.”

“You just like fire.”

“Hey, what can I say? Fire is the best discovery known to man. We cook with it. We build things with it. We keep warm with it. We can destroy things with it. Fire is a beauty of nature.” His colleagues groaned.

“What?” Adrik asked.

“We get it, you love fire so much,” Karp said. “You talk about it every chance that you get.”

“And I suppose the science of evolution is more exciting?” Adrik asked.

“Hey, that’s why we are all here on this planet,” Karp argued. “And it’s why these tadpoles exist in the first place. Natural selection.” His wife rolled her eyes.

“If you say so,” Adrik said. Ivan looked out the window. Those three talk about the same thing every year. Their picks never change either. Eleven more minutes until they reached their destination.

A Japanese woman and a Japanese man in a long black coat with fur-trim greeted them at the front doors. The younger Russian woman in the group seemed drawn to his charms. Karp’s wife on the other hand didn’t look impressed. She flicked out her cigarette on the pavement. The Japanese man spoke with the leader of Vozrozhdeniye. Ivan caught some of the conversation through his zoning out.

“Good afternoon, Katko-san,” the Japanese man said in his perfect Russian. “Did you have good flight?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Katko said, waving him off. “Are the test subjects ready inside?”

“Yes. Kitano-sensei’s with them right now.”

“Take us to them.”

“Okay. Right this way.” The group followed the Japanese man into the building. Ivan counted down to everyone eyeing the tadpoles like a new museum exhibit.

-North and South Korea-

Im Yong was quite popular with the girls in his school. Most of them found it easy to talk to him. Some even had crushes on him. And who could blame them? Short brown hair, nice jaw line, nicely muscular, and looked great in anything that he wore—traditional or modern. His free-spirited nature was like the ribbon to a perfect package.

Still, he had his sister to deal with.

They went to different schools, but they were next door to each other. Im Yong would look over at the prison-like school and see Mi-Soon coming and going every day. This morning was no different.

The younger twin kept her eyes down as she began her silent walk into the building. Im Yong wanted just once to walk over and ask her why she kept firing off missiles. Maybe, he could do that today. The Korean boy turned and walked over to the fence.

“Im Yong!” a girl yelled behind him. He turned to see one of his classmates running over to him.

“Oh, Jin-ho,” he said. “It’s you.” A girl with long reddish-brown hair jogged over to his side. She peeked over the fence as Mi-Soon went inside.

“You’re always looking over at that school,” Jin-ho said. “See any cute girls over there?” She nudged him in the side as she asked. Im Yong gently pushed her off.

“No,” he said. Jin-ho tilted her head.

“Then… why do you always look over at that school day after day?” she asked. “Their school can’t be better than ours. I mean, look at it. It’s looks like an empty prison.” Im Yong lowered his eyes.

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said.

“Then help me understand,” Jin-ho said.

“My sister goes there,” Im Yong muttered.

“What?” his classmate asked as he walked into the school. It started out as good day, but Jin-ho had to go and ruin it.

That was just morning.

Im Yong wore his mask today. He hadn’t done that in a long time. His therapist helped him through the separation and estrangement of his younger sister. Im Yong had just started to be his old self again. But still, the school day had to go on.

Classes and the video gaming club wasn’t going to stop for one day ruined. Jin-ho tried her best to make it up to Im Yong.

“I’m so sorry that I upset you, Im Yong,” she said.

“It’s fine,” he said as they headed down to the computer lab for their video game club. “I was just a bit upset this morning. I’m okay now, really I am.” Nothing like mashing buttons and using a joystick to kill enemies to take away the pain. Today, the club was playing a new sci-fi war game. Jin-ho tried to sneak up on him with her player, but Im Yong made his man turn around and fire at her.

“Aw, darn! You got me again!” Jin-ho said. Im Yong laughed.

“I keep telling you,” he said. “Your sneak attacks won’t work on me.” The Korean boy noticed another enemy coming for him, but he shot it just in time.

“Wow!” Jin-ho said.

“Thanks,” Im Yong said.

Video game highs can only last for quite some time, however.

When club was over, the students left for home. Im Yong looked over at the school next door. He didn’t see Mi-Soon walking home today. Nothing shocking, she probably wasn’t in any school clubs like the older twin was. He needed to talk to Mi-Soon and find out what she’s up to with her missile tests. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to potentially open old wounds. But her actions raised cause for concern.

He would get that chance when he got home.

Im Yong had just opened the gate to his house, he froze at what he found. Mi-Soon sat on his porch, eyeing him. Every inch of his being screamed “run away.” But, he couldn’t do that this time. He wanted this chance and now he got it. Sadly, his body wouldn’t let him move.

“Hello, dear brother,” Mi-Soon greeted him. Im Yong dragged his shoulders walked down the path. He stood inches away from his twin on the steps.

“Hello,” Im Yong said in a low voice.

“Why are you acting scared of me?” Mi-Soon asked. “It’s me, your own sister.”

“I don’t understand you,” he said. The younger twin tilted her head.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Why do you keep firing missiles so much? Is your boss forcing you to start another and kill us all?”

Mi-Soon shook her head. “Not a war.”

Im Yong looked confused. “Then… why are you doing this.” His twin sister rose to her feet. Despite the older brother being taller and more muscular, the Korean boy found himself intimated by the small girl. She looked up at him before put her arms around him. Mi-Soon had to stand on her tip toes to reach his ear.

“We’re trying to kill it,” she whispered. Im Yong looked over at her.

“What do you mean?” he asked. Mi-Soon looked him in the eye. Her next request sent him reeling.

“Come back with me, dear brother,” she said. Im Yong looked so hollow once her words reached his brain. The younger twin gave him a sweet, innocent look.

“The world is about to end anyway,” Mi-Soon said. “How low do you think Kiku has before he succumbs to her? I’m just trying to find a way to stop it all. What I’m doing it finding a peaceful way to end his suffering.”

“And you call firing nuclear missile peaceful?!” Im Yong shouted.

“There is no other way to kill her,” she reasoned. “We’ve been watching her for years and nothing comes close to hurting her.”

“And missiles are the only option you have left?”


Her words truly stuck the knife in him. What she was saying that killing her brother was the only way to save the world. Mi-Soon ran dainty fingers along his left cheek.

“You don’t have to give your answer right away,” she said. “But, you have to answer quickly before the Woman in Red is freed and kills us all. You would be better off if you came back with me.” Mi-Soon let go of her brother and walked over to her house next door. Im Yong ran into his house with the color drained from his face and got on his phone.

“Doctor Ryom, I really need to talk to you,” the Korean boy said. “It’s really bad. Mi-Soon says that she wants to us to get back together, but she’s been testing missiles. I don’t know what to do. Can I come over to your office tonight?” He flopped back onto his couch and breathed out.

“Thank you,” Im Song said. “I’ll be over there in forty-five minutes.” The boy hung up and looked at his phone. He could feel it all coming back.


Vozrozhdeniye all walked out of Rampo Biotech. Their leader was satisfied with the progress that the Tadpole Project was making. Kitano still wouldn’t sell the tadpoles to him, but the leader wasn’t deterred by this. Ivan didn’t care. He just needed to pick up Lin Ying and head back to Moscow. He stopped by the Honda household. Sena and Lin Ying were outside waiting.

“How was your visit?” Ivan asked his wife.

“Good,” Ling Ying said. “How was your business meeting?”

“Boring,” the Russian man said. “Ready to go?”

“Yes,” his wife said. Ivan turned to Sena as his wife walked over to his side.

“How was she?” he asked.

“Good,” the older woman said. “She was really delightful to be around.”

“How is Kiku doing?” the Russian man asked in a low voice. Sena lowered her eyes.

“He’s just tired lately,” she lied.

“I see,” Ivan said, nodding. “We’ll call you when well land in Russia.”

“Thank you,” Sena said. Both parties bowed and Ivan and Lin Ying headed back to the car.

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