Tea Leaves and Silver Rings


Match Twenty-Four: Elend:

Ludwig looked at Lydia Harel’s file.

Why did she look so much like that woman that kept appearing around him? He couldn’t find anything else about the Harel family. The genealogist branch didn’t have any more information on them. (After checking four times, they came up with nothing.) How could a family vanish without a trace?

Ludwig looked at Lydia’s photo again. She looked like a typical eighteen-year-girl with a bright smile and the future in her eyes. There’s no way she could be that woman that the German man kept running into. What happened to her to make her look so worn out and frightened?

What have you seen in the days of the war?

Ludwig flipped the picture between his fingers. What did Lydia want with him if she was indeed Lydia? The German man didn’t believe in ghosts. He ran on a pragmatic mind. Superstitions met nothing to him. Maybe Lydia had a granddaughter?

He lifted his head when his cell phone rang.

“Ello?” he asked. A woman’s screams came out choked-up on the other line. Ludwig held the phone away from his ear.

“What’s wrong? Who is this?” he asked. The screaming went on for five minutes before the other line went dead. Ludwig looked at his phone. What was that all about? His phone rang again.

“What is it now?” he asked.

“Germany?” Feliciano asked on the other line in a trembling voice. Ludwig looked at his phone, puzzled.

“What is it, Feliciano?” he asked, softening his tone. He heard sobbing over the other line. The Italian man was whimpering so fast, but Ludwig managed to pick up on “brother”, “shot”, “nightmare”, and “fear”.

“What are you saying?” the German man asked. “Did you have a nightmare about Lovino shooting you?”

“Yes!” Feliciano cried. “I don’t why he would do that! I don’t understand it!”

“Okay… Why would this happen?” Ludwig asked.

“I don’t know! I don’t know!”

Ludwig rubbed his forehead. What was going on with them? Kiku seemed to go back to his reclusive ways. He stopped coming to the world meetings and Sena wouldn’t allow anyone to see him. He did one glance of Kiku when he went over to the Japanese man’s house. His friend looked like he hadn’t slept in days. Ludwig wondered if he had been eating.

“Is he okay?” he asked Sena the other day.

“No,” she said. Her tone reminded him of his dogs when he took away their bones. Sena’s look in her eyes shouted at him to get off of her property. The German man tried to peek into the house.

“Anything else?” Sena hissed. Ludwig shook his head.

“No, have a good evening,” he said. The German man turned and walked away. Still, he wouldn’t give up on his friend. Back in present day, Ludwig leaned back in his chair.

“Hey, Italy,” he said. “Are you alone right now?”

“Yes…” Feliciano said. Ludwig took in a deep breath.

“There is something that I need to tell you,” he said. “I can’t do it over the phone.”

“What’s the matter, Ludwig? You’re scaring me,” the Italian man said.

“I will be over in about half an hour,” the German man said. He hung up before Feliciano could say a word. Ludwig looked at his cell phone. His eyes trailed back to Lydia Harel’s photograph on his desk. He couldn’t help but think of that young woman that appeared to him twice. Why did she want to go back 6972 Polanów so badly? It didn’t exist anymore no thanks to the bombs from the Second World War. Ludwig doubted that the woman wouldn’t find whatever she was looking for there. That bombed house was probably a parking lot by now. The more he stared at that photo, the more questions he had. She didn’t seem to give him a straight answer either. That was another thing. Why did that woman look so scare all of the time?

Ludwig sat up when he heard a knock on his door. Gilbert stood in the doorway with a pale-looking face.

“Something the matter, Gilbert?” the German man asked his brother.

“West, there is something I need to tell you,” he said in a low voice.

“What?” his younger brother asked. The Prussian man closed the door behind him.

“Before I say it,” he said. “You have to promise something after I have told you everything.” Ludwig slowly nodded once.

“Alright,” he said.

“Okay,” Gilbert said. He opened his mouth to keep.

Sena lay beside Kiku in their futon. Ever since last night, he had been lying motionless in his bed. His empty eyes looked like they had seen all of the realms of hell before reaching the emptiness. Her husband kept muttering something over and over again. Sena rested her head on Kiku’s chest.

“I will get you back to normal dear,” she whispered. “We will get through this.” This time, something else caught her ear.

“Hm? What did you say?” she asked. The woman moved her ear to her husband’s mouth. His words didn’t come out so clear.

“Honey, what are you saying?” Sena asked. Her ear came within inches of his lips.

“Chaos will reign,” he murmured. “The three beggars… They will come and blood will fill the streets of Ikebukuro again.” Sena drew back all color drained from her face.

“Honey, what does that mean?” she asked. Kiku’s hand reached up and grabbed her by the wrist.

“Baby!” she shouted as she tried to pull away. “Let go! Let go, you’re hurting me!” Kiku’s hand finally went limp as he took in slow breaths. Sena rested her head against his chest again. His faint heartbeat calmed her down enough to think. She sat up, looking at her husband. What was he talking about? Doctors and therapists weren’t helping him. Sena frowned at the next option that she would have to consider. Her fingers caressed his cheek.

“Baby, it looks like we might have to get a priest to get you back to normal,” she muttered. Sena breathed in and puffed up her cheeks.

“Yeah…” she muttered with a bitter taste in her mouth.

On the same night, Feliks sat in his office playing with his empty gun. He paused and glanced behind him.

“Ah, so they are here already,” he said. Feliks closed up his gun.

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