Tea Leaves and Sapphire Earrings


Match Seventeen: Family:

Kiku’s family started to feel the effect of the Apocalypse game. It came in small waves but they felt it all the same.


She was the closest to him. And she saw the Woman in Red. She is Okinawa after all. Many thoughts ran through Sena’s head.

Are we going to be ground zero?

Sena looked at the mirror. She almost didn’t recognize herself. Her face looked so pale and sullen. The bags under her eyes looked ready to drag them down. Sena thought that her cheeks would break if she touched them. She also looked ready to cry. The woman took a step back, stomach turning.

“No… no…” Sena said. Suddenly, the doorbell rang. She whipped her head around.

“Who is it?” the woman asked. Sena ran all the way to the door. She looked out the peephole. An old lady stood outside. Confused, Sena opened the door.

“Yamamoto-san?” she asked. The old lady leaned on her cane as she looked at her neighbor.

“My dear!” she said. “What has happened to you?” Sena gave her a tired laugh.

“Aren’t we all dead inside?” she asked. The old lady stared at her.

“Are you feeling okay?” she asked. Sena had a twisted smile on her face.

“No,” she said. She leaned in close to the neighbor’s face. “We are all going to die. All of us. Can’t you feel it?” The old neighbor tilted her head. She reached forward and put her hand on Sena’s forehead. The younger woman didn’t even resist.


She’s been the least involved. But when she heard that Kiku was put in assisted care, Vietnam had to get in contact. Yao took the time to fill her in.

“And you are sure the Woman in Red is back?” Vietnam asked.

“Not yet,” Yao said in a hushed tone. “But she is coming.” His sister had a nervous look on her face.

“Are you starting to have the dreams too?” Yao asked. His sister shifted her eyes away from him.

“Yes,” she admitted.

“How bad?” he asked.

“Could I have more tea?” Vietnam asked. Yao picked up the tea pot on the table and poured her another cup. The Vietnamese woman downed her cup.

“Thank you,” she said. Vietnam took a moment to put her words together. “I hear babies crying in my dreams. I can also smell burning flesh.”

“Crying babies?” Yao asked. Vietnam noticed the look on her brother’s face.

“I want to believe that it’s nothing,” she said. “I don’t usually take stock in dreams but these felt different somehow.” Her hand trembled with her empty cup.

“Do you want more?” he asked.

“No thank you,” she said. Another thought crossed her mind. “How is your baby?” Yao looked a bit nervous.

“Fine,” he said. “Ju is fine too. She’s not sleeping too well be she’s fine though.”

“Is Ju having dreams too?” Vietnam asked. Yao froze.

“I don’t know…” he said. The room grew quiet.

-Wang Ja-

It’s been cold in his master’s house lately. That doesn’t stop him from looking. Wang Ja needed to void this arrangement in some way. He went back to Ivan’s office. The Russian man was out at the time. Wang Ja had to make this quick.

He took the key from his pocket. The butler took a deep breath and unlocked the main desk drawer. When Wang Ja looked inside, a puzzled look came over his face.

“Huh?” he asked. “Where is it? Where did they go?” The drawer was empty. No papers. No files. Everything was gone. Wang Ja sat back and puffed up his cheeks. Had Ivan caught onto his scheme? No, that couldn’t be. Wang Ja took a breath. Right. He shook his shoulders lose and dove back in. Most of the drawers were empty. All except for the one in the top right. Thank goodness for small wonders. Wang Ja opened it up and looked inside. The only thing he saw was a black cassette.

“Hm? What is this?” he asked. The butler looked at the tape front and back. There was no label on it. What was this tape?

“I’m home!” he heard from down the hall. Wang Ja shoved the tape into his pocket and closed up everything. He stepped out into the hall. The butler cleared his throat when footsteps walked closer to him.

“What were you doing in my office?” Ivan asked.

“Cleaning,” Wang Ja lied.

“What did I tell you?” his boss asked in a tired voice.

“Yes, yes,” the Hong Kong man said. “I’m leaving now.” Wang Ja turned and walked down the hall. He should’ve been gloating. This was easy, too easy. All Wang Ja had to do was get a tape player and play the cassette. He might finally get what he needed. He and his sister might get to go home depending on what he found on this tape.

So why did his stomach drop thinking about it?

-Li Yin-

She’s been kept out of the loop with good reason. But does she sense that something is coming?

“What’s the matter, dear?” Ivan asked her last night. Li Yin didn’t know how to answer her husband. She stared at her plate.

“It’s nothing,” she lied. Ivan gently put his hand on hers. She glanced up at him.

“It’s okay,” he whispered. “You can tell me.” Li Yin could feel her heart jump in her chest. Could she say it? Would he believe her?

“You would think I was crazy,” Li Yin said at last.

“Try me,” Ivan said. She felt like she didn’t have a choice at this point.

“Well, I have been having strange dreams lately,” Li Yin finally admitted. The expression Ivan’s face didn’t change.

“What kind of dreams?” he asked. She takes a minute to think.

“I can barely see anything. But I am always hear babies crying. Plus, there is the smell of burning flesh,” the wife explained in a low voice.

“How long have you had these dreams?” Ivan asked.

“About a month now,” Li Yin said. He set down his fork.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked. His wife shook her head.

“It just sounded crazy,” she said. “I thought I was losing my mind.” Ivan pulled her into his arms.

“Don’t you worry,” he whispered. “I will keep you safe.” His wife trembled in his arms.


He had plans to send her out of the country. Li Yin didn’t need to be swept up in this game. Ivan might not have a choice. Tandeki and Mam were already advancing in the game. The former was taking the lead. This would not do for Fyodor.

“The leader is not happy,” Alisa told him.

“Yes, I know,” Ivan said. Again with the leader talk. How come they never saw his face? Who was this Fyodor anyway? The boss wouldn’t let him ask questions.

“You just have to further our cause,” he was told. Ivan had no choice but to agree. What else could he do? Get his wife out of the way of course.

That wasn’t Ivan’s only problem though.

Wang Ja seemed to know that something is going on. The Russian man could tell that he had been snooping around in his office.

This would not do.

-Im Yong-

He’s in crisis. His sister keeps pushing him to join her. Im Yong kept feeling smaller every day. His friends had no idea what was going on. The Kiku situation just made things that much worse. The Korean boy stared at his laptop.

What should I do?

His cell phone buzzed. Im Yong looked down at that screen. Another text from a classmate. Why was he ignoring them? They had nothing to do with his family drama. Why put them through this? Im Yong opened up the text.

“Are you okay? Call me.”

Who was it from this time? He didn’t bother to look. They all start to look the same after a while. Im Yong leaned back in his chair and sighed. Sleep didn’t come easy to him these days either. All the young man could do was surf the internet and watch videos on YouTube. Even that started to lose their appeal.

Another IM popped up. Im Yong sighed and rolled his eyes. Here they went again.


Why couldn’t he see that she was trying to save him? The world was going to end. Countless people were going to die. The effects of the game had already started to bloom in Japan. They were going to spread to her brother. Mi-Soon could not sit by and let that happen.

But he won’t listen.

This was not the time to live in the past. Time was running out for all of them. Mi-Soon could only take to her dear brother at nights. Lately, the pressure to work around the clock grew tighter. Still it wasn’t going to stop her from trying to get to him before it was too late.

Mi-Soon logged into instant message and started to type.

-Yao and Ju-

They are starting to see it too. Yao just had to confirm it for himself. He found her resting on the couch. She was about to go to sleep when he shook her arm.

“Huh? What?” Ju asked as she jerked awake. She saw Yao’s face inches away from hers. The clan blinked.

“What?” she asked.

“I need to ask you something,” Yao whispered.

“What?” Ju asked. Her husband hesitated at first. Maybe it was just Vietnam having these dreams. He hadn’t talked to the other females in the family yet. There’s no way Ju would be keeping something this big from him, right? Right?

Yao slowly drew in a deep breath.

“Are you having weird dreams again?” he asked. Ju froze. She tried to give him an answer but no words came out. Yao’s stomach dropped as he received the answer that he dreaded with that silence.

That just opened up a whole host of problems.


Meanwhile, things grew worse for Kiku.

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