Tea Leaves and Opal Necklaces


Match Seventeen: Vozrozhdeniye:

They are called Vozrozhdeniye. They operate in the shadows. Rumor has it that Vozrozhdeniye works for Putin. Who are they really?

Ivan Braginski joined them six years ago. It was his boss’ idea, really. He wanted Russia to be on top when the End of Days came. They’ve made their own preparations. For now, they would play nice with Tandeki and Mam. Those two were needed to lay the ground for them after all. Granted, Vozrozhdeniye did their own work in their part of the game. First of all, they controlled all of the news online. The public could be so easy to manipulate when the right emotion is struck. They wanted someone to share their voice.

Ivan read some of their articles. Tantalizing garbage to him as far as he could see. These were the stories that even the tabloids wouldn’t take. People actually bought this trash? His boss told him not to question it. So, Ivan didn’t ask. In fact, he wondered why his boss cared so much about this game in the first place. To the Russian man, it all sounded like a pain. He himself saw enough war in his lifetime. And who was to say Old Man Winter wouldn’t come along and screw everything up again?

Vozrozhdeniye’s isn’t too concerned. Why? Oh. Because they had science on their side. In fact, a Vozrozhdeniye meeting was just a bunch of scientists talking to each other. Ivan always sat in the back of the room, looking so bored.

Tonight was the same thing.

Ivan looked at his phone. This was going to be a long night too? The leader stood up and cleared his throat.

“The Tadpole Project is going well,” he said. “But Kitano won’t budge on our offers.” The other seven men and two women frowned.

“This will not do,” their leader said.

“So what do you suggest we do?” Ivan asked. He lost count of how many times this back and forth kept going. Clearly, Kitano wasn’t going to give up his precious tadpoles. Granted, the Russian man understood what made them so desirable. These tadpoles were smart, sociable, quite gifted, and really attractive. Their powers grew each day. All three sides desired them so much. Tandeki refused to share them. Vozrozhdeniye and Nam would have to fight to take them from Tandeki’s grasp. What did Ivan think of the whole struggle over possession of the tadpoles? Well, he would be lying if he said he wasn’t interested on how this could turn out.

“That, I am not sure of,” the leader said. “But we are working on ways to weaken their powers long enough to get them to Russia.” Ivan raised his eyebrow.

“How?” he asked. “Any drug we try on them won’t work.” Alexander turned his head.

“Ivan, are you doubting us?” he asked.

“No,” the tall Russian man said. “I’m just saying you all keep using the same tricks you’ve been using every time loop.” The leader took a step forward.

“What do you suggest we use?” he asked. Ivan shoved his phone back into coat pocket.

“The dullahan neutralizes them, yes?” he asked.

“Yes,” their leader, Vladimir, replied. “What about it?” Ivan walked up to him. The other members of Vozrozhdeniye’s inner circle could never stop being amazing at how their muscle man towered over their boss. Ivan looked Vladimir in the eye.

“Why not make a counter to those tadpoles?” he offered.

“Go on…” Vladimir said. Ivan looked around the boardroom in his house. A spotted a figurine of Godzilla sitting on his bookshelf. He picked it up and examined it.

“Will that be a tadpole?” Karp asked.

“Sure, why not?” Ivan said, brushing him off. He looked around the room another particular figurine caught his eye. Kiku gave him a nude winged bird-like woman five Christmases ago when he was better. Ivan looked at the small brown and red lady for a moment before setting Godzilla in front of her. He ran his finger on the tops of their heads.

“If you want to subdue one monster,” the tall Russian man said. “You have to bring in another man, da.” He watched as Vladimir and the other members of Vozrozhdeniye’s faces slowly lit up.

“So, we need to come up with something like the tadpoles to seize them for ourselves?” Karp asked.

“Yes,” Ivan said. Vladimir turned and patted him on the back.

“This is why I like working with you!” he said. The leader turned back to his colleague and they dove into the brainstorming. Ivan took his place at the back of the room. At least they were talking about something other than the same subject of taking the tadpoles for themselves like they have been doing over the past few time loops.

-Wang Ja-

The Hong Kong butler knelt by the door. Ever since he got that phone call for his boss when he was alone in the house, Wang Ja had been secretly learning Russian. He hoped this would be his ticket to get him and Li Ying out of this hostage situation. The butler began combing through Ivan’s office when he wasn’t home. He got the perfect chance when the boss and his wife went to Japan.

Wang Ja wasn’t prepared for what he would find.

What was this about the end of world? Tadpoles? Angels? What was all of this? Wang Ja dug faster through the files. His Russian wasn’t as strong when it came to reading, but he could pick up certain words. Ivan complained about the butler writing in his native language.

“I cannot read Mandarin,” the Russian man would say when he would read over the messages that Wang Ja would take down. The Hong Kong would have to translate what he wrote down. As he read through the notes, one word kept popping up.

“Who is Tandeki?” Wang Ja asked himself. He quickly wrote down the name for himself and stuffed the files back into the desk.

One Google search later, the butler ended up further down the dark and twisted rabbit hole. On the surface, the Tandeki Group looked like a cutting-edge biotech company research drugs and medicine for mental illness. They didn’t win any big awards. No deed of public charity. This group appeared to keep to themselves. Something inside of Wang Ja told him not to believe the hype. There had to be more to this story.

He took a deep breath and started searching through the deep web.

The line between truth and myth started to blur with the first results. The myth about the Woman in Red kept popping up when he plugged in the “Tandeki Group” the first time. Yao talked about this lady with dread. His siblings couldn’t understand what about this woman had him so terrified. Wang Ja thought it was all just an elaborate ghost story. Now, Wang Ja didn’t feel so sure anymore.

Suddenly, there was a knock on his bedroom door. Wang Ja whipped his head around.

“Who is it?” he asked.

“It’s only me,” Toris said.

“What do you want?” Wang Ja asked.

“Ivan’s back,” the Lithuanian man said.

“Okay…” The Hong Kong man didn’t blink. Toris tilted his head.

“Did you leave the light on for him?” he asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” Wang Ja muttered. His colleague gave him a strange look.

“I don’t get it,” he said.

“Get what?” the Hong Kong man asked.

“Ivan doesn’t scare you at all?”


“But why?”

Wang Ja lowered his eyes. “Because I will take my sister and escape from here.

“What did you say?” Toris asked. The Hong Kong man walked past him with a cold look on his face.

“Wang Ja?” Toris asked, running after him.

Tonight, the Hong Kong man listened by the door. If he could get more information about Tandeki and this apocalypse game, he would have a way to break the contract with Ivan and free himself and his sister from this hostage situation.

-Li Ying-

And what the dear wife in the middle of this? What say does she have? Not surprisingly, she doesn’t know what is going on. It’s probably for the best. Ivan prefers to keep it that way.

Li Ying is still adjusting to her surroundings. It’s been a year, but she still feels out of place. She cries less now and appears to be less numb about her misery. The young housewife has started to come out of her room more often. The only people she will talk to is her brother and older sister-in-law. But, the girl still won’t smile. Ivan gives her nice presents and doesn’t try to push her sex. However, the situation hasn’t changed. She won’t smile. She accepts the gifts with apathy.

Ivan wanted to help her, but didn’t know how to deal with a woman’s affections. He turned to Katyusha for help.

“I’ll see what I can do,” she said as her big boobs bounced. “Dear brother, you just aren’t good with dealing with a woman when she is upset.”

“Thank you,” Ivan said. “Actually, there is other reason I need your help with her.”

“You don’t want her to find out about your ties with Vozrozhdeniye, am I right?” Katyusha asked. Her brother opened his mouth, but she put her finger to it.

“You didn’t think I knew, did you?” she asked. “I’ve known for quite some time. Why else would you be going to Ikebukuro every year? I figured it wasn’t to sight see. So, I did a little digging around. Don’t worry, I won’t tell your wife or anyone about what you are doing. I will just try and make Li Ying happy, okay?” Ivan reluctantly drew his mouth closed as he slowly nodded. Katyusha drew back her finger.

“Very good,” she said. Ivan stared at her with big eyes as she walked up the stairs to look for Li Ying. Somehow, I just made it all worse, Ivan thought.

But at least he may help his wife in this way.

Outside, Wang Ja had his ear pressed to the door.

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