Scene VI: Onward
Shoki (Concordia), Void of Chaos. 2021, September
“I’m glad to hear it, Furu.” Taiyo nodded.
It was no secret that Juden had trouble sharing the same space as Meka. Even now Taiyo could see the way Juden was rubbing her knees together and her eyes kept jumping over to the eccentric man leaning against Mada. Alas, Juden was prepared to set aside personal matters to achieve her goals – which was precisely why Kuki was not sitting here today.
“With that said and done, Tsuki will not tell you about your next assignment.”
Tsuki smiled, stepping out to stand between the sofa and Taiyo’s chair. He cleared his throat and raised his arm, revealing his wristwatch. He pressed the pad of his finger against the so-called watch’s face and a holographic screen emanated from it, lighting the room in a cool blue tone.
“We need one more necessity before we can cross the barrier into the Dabbler world.” Tsuki began, turning his gaze from the squad on the sofa and up to the screen, watching the pictures of their sonars set up around Shoki’s town. “Only a very powerful Sorcerer is capable of triggering the tablet to align the barriers and tear a gap. Their strength and Magick must be as precise and effective as The God of Chaos to make it work, since the programme was originally for him-”
Kaze lifted his hand above his head, pausing the lecture. “What does this have to do with us?”
Taiyo rolled his eyes and propped his elbow up on the arm of his chair, dropping his chin against an open palm. “Maybe if you let Tsuki finish, he’ll tell you.” He sighed.
When Kaze fell silent, crossed his arms over his chest and leant back against the sofa with a loud huff, Tsuki continued.
“Ahem – there is only one possible Sorcerer who matches this description. Her name is Chikyu and she lives outside of Shoki to the North, in the mountains.” He pursed his lips into a thin line, flexing a forefinger to the squad. “This is where you come in.”
“You want us to travel to the mountains and bring Chikyu back?” Juden spoke up, crossing her leg to get comfortable should the conversation be a long one.
“Oh, you don’t have to bring her back,” Tsuki laughed. “You see, we just need her to simply conjure a spell to trigger Shoki’s sonars and enhance the frequency tablets. It should be enough to unlock the trigger considering how powerful the spell needs to be. She won’t have to come back to Shoki at all.”
This time, Meka raised a finger and turned his chin upwards. “Might I ask why this woman doesn’t live in Shoki?” He lilted.
Tsuki bit his lip and turned away. The previous spark of enthusiasm in his eyes had dulled and his shoulder slumped the moment he dropped his hands at his sides, turning off the holographic screen.
“The King banished her when he was in reign.” Taiyo replied in Tsuki’s place.
Juden shifted with discomfort. “Does this make her dangerous to approach, Captain?” She asked in a low tone before an awkward silence could dare rear its ugly head.
“Not so much dangerous as, well, stubborn. She’s powerful, that much goes without saying, and she’s never been fond of the idea of leaving Concordia so it may take some convincing before she agrees to lending her strength.” Taiyo pursed his lips.
“Honestly, the easy part will be getting there,” Tsuki added. “Taiyo will talk to her afterwards and hopefully she’ll be willing to comply.”
“Wait,” Juden frowned and raised her good arm, palm pressed to the open air for a timeout. “I thought you said we weren’t going to bring her back here?”
“That’s right.” Tsuki nodded.
“So?” Juden raised her brows. “How will the Captain be able to speak with her?”
“Ah, well – ” Tsuki intertwined his fingers together and turned, motioning back to Taiyo who stood from his chair to address his squad.
“It’s because I’ll be going on this mission with you, as team leader.”
The room was engulfed in silence shortly after his statement. Juden was the one who seemed the most unsettled and her hands clenched into fists, despite the fact her shoulder was throbbing under the tension she was putting on herself. She had never gone on a run without being the squad leader.
“You are all dismissed to go and get prepared. Meet me at the gates before sundown.” Taiyo instructed; hands clasped behind his back. “We leave tonight.”
Kofun relished the lingering taste on her tongue as she ate her evening meal. She tucked her chestnut hair behind her ears and swung her legs against the sides of the stool she was perched upon. Too often she spent her money buying meals in the tavern as opposed to making stuff from scratch at home. It was almost routine to catch her out on the town after four in the evening.
When the stool beside her was taken by Juden, Kofun turned and the lingering taste of her food turned sour when she saw the purple cheek and slung arm.
“Woah, what happened to your arm?”
“Nothing,” Juden shook her head. “We’ve been assigned a new mission and we leave tonight. It may take a while so I thought I ought to let you know.”
“So, you’ll be taking Mada away from me again? How mean!” Kofun downed half her glass of ale and pouted. “At least I know Meka won’t be able to get his creepy china hands on him-”
“Actually, Meka has been assigned to my squad in Kuki’s place.” Juden commented plainly.
“What?!” Kofun squealed. “I’ve been trying to get into Captain Taiyo’s squad for years! Why the hell did Meka of all people get picked before me?”
Juden shrugged her good arm. “Well, apparently he was called in personally. Who knows, maybe the fact you tried to assassinate Doctor Memori and his wife in the past has something to do with your rejection to the squad?” She suggested, snagging a chip off of Kofun’s plate.
Kofun rolled her eyes and swirled the remainder of her drink. “It isn't fair. Hikari and I are like joined at the hip now! I mean, we gotta be after living with Mad Dog all those years ago, amirite?” She hummed, nudging Juden.
“I didn’t stick around long enough to know.”
“Yeah,” Kofun sighed, swallowing the rest of her drink before setting the glass aside. “I should have gone with you the night you snuck into Concordia.”
“Too late to worry about stuff like that. We’re together now,” Juden hopped down from her stool and held out a fist. “I’ll see you when I get back.”
Scoffing, Kofun returned the fist bump before hopping down to hug Juden; mindful of her slung arm. “That’s no way to say goodbye to your sister!” She laughed.
“That’s how we say goodbye,” Juden rolled her eyes before patting Kofun’s back. “Don’t cause too much trouble, ’kay?”
“I should be telling you that, killer.”
“Don’t pull that shit, bitch.”
Kaze shifted the strap of his bag securely around his shoulder when the view of Shoki’s gates reached his sights. Mada was walking nearby as per usual and they shared an odd sort of silence that would consist of curse words muttered under Kaze’s breath whenever he happened to trip up or mumble to himself.
Their pleasant silence would always be broken at some point, even on good days. Today it was the abrupt sound that sliced through the air like a hot knife through butter, coming from none other than Kipa screaming at the top of her lungs.
Neither Kaze nor Mada could actually see the girl from where they stood in the dusty street, but they knew well enough that the shrill, bothered voice belonged to no other person in Shoki.
“You can’t go and leave me all on my own! What am I supposed to do when you’re gone?!” Kipa continued to shriek, clearly untroubled by anyone who may find it annoying.
Exchanging an awkward glance to one another, Kaze and Mada moved onward before they could get slammed for eavesdropping. Their anti-radiation suits clung to their bodies as they moved against the fiery sky above, the clouds were black and the sky was turning purple as they walked past Hanzai’s flower shop and stopped to see the florist kneeling beside his various flower pots situated on his porch.
“Off on a mission?” Hanzai chirped, snipping away dead leaves with his gardening scissors.
“Yeah,” Kaze replied. He moved to sit in the shadiest part besides Shoki’s gates, savouring the feeling of cool air wafting against his neck. “Probably won’t be back for a couple days.”
“I see,” Hanzai turned his head. “Good luck to you.”
Kaze turned silent thereafter, waiting an hour before Meka managed to persuade Kipa she would be well and looked after by Shoki’s townsmen. She had followed him down the street, small arms cross over her chest. Though she appeared foul and furious at her brother, she had come all the way from their shop to wave him off; so there was some goodness in her little china doll heart. Or so Kaze told himself to make things easier to bear under the tension.
When Juden arrived, Taiyo was beside her. Seeing the captain talk with her so casually put a dampener on Kaze’s thoughts. Without paying mind to his actions, he had begun to glare - to the point Mada reached out to slap the back of his head just to snap him out of his murderous staring.
Rubbing the sore spot, Kaze turned to yell at Mada when Taiyo stopped just short from where he sat, dismissing any further dispute.
“Good. We’re all here.” Taiyo nodded, more to himself than anything. He looked up the wall and signalled the watchtower. “Open the gates!”
Not a moment too soon came the loud sounds of moving metal and a heavy groan of straining motion. A warm breeze flowed through the air, bringing the end of the hot day through their hair and faces. It would be cold tonight; bitter even.
“If it gets cold, we can hug for warmth.” Meka hummed, placing his hands on Mada’s small shoulders. “What do you say, Mada-kun?”
A small huff was made on Kipa’s behalf as she watched her brother move out of the gates. When Meka turned to wave goodbye, Kipa chose to turn her head and raise her eyes to the sky; refusing to show any kind of affection for him.
Hanzai chuckled and waved his single hand into the air to send off the squad and then turned away to close up his shop for the night, mumbling something to Kipa about offering her a hot meal before walking her home.
Finally, the gates were pulled shut and Taiyo and his squad were left on the outskirts of Shoki to begin their journey with feelings of little confidence, a small pinch of hope and plenty of discomfort.