Chapter 14:

Smoke and Mirrors

Crimson Core

Red Thread of FateBookmark here

Some people are connected with it, some are bound. Some use it as a rope to reach new heights, some use it as an excuse to sit down and do nothing.Bookmark here

Some imagine they are in circus and walk on the threads of others. Some view them as clowns and jesters, others as manipulators and opportunists.Bookmark here

It's a thread that is thin enough to be cut by a single movement of a knife, but such knife doesn't exist. Bookmark here

It endures the weight of emotions of people connected with it, as well as of others who put additional luggage. Some do it intentionally, others by accident.
Bookmark here

It is indestructible, it won't wear out from the sun nor the rain.Bookmark here

No one gets to choose their bound partner, but you get to choose whether you will participate in the ride or not.Bookmark here

It won't snap, even when death do us apart.Bookmark here

And even if it does snap for some obnoxiously dumb reason, (cause let's be honest, you're pretty clumsy), don't let the thread choke you, make a sweater out of it.Bookmark here

Catch you later, Choms.Bookmark here

RyunnaBookmark here

„ ...“Bookmark here

„You're still reading that letter?“ asked Cyn while taking a sip of a tea on the top of the Lotus Institute.Bookmark here

Beside her stood Dr.Chom who was holding the letter tightly as he followed puffy clouds that moved slowly on a bright sunny day.Bookmark here

„Everything I need is in that letter,“ he sighed, „and now it's our turn to help those kids in any way we can.“Bookmark here

Cyn smiled.Bookmark here

„If only Ryu could see you now, you wouldn't hear the end of it,“ gentle but frosty breeze caressed Cyn's long vanilla-colored hair.Bookmark here

„I wouldn't want to hear the end anyway,“ he carefully folded the letter and put it in his pocket.Bookmark here

„So? What's the plan?“ she asked.Bookmark here

„Simu-Prism is directly connected to main server, which means that higher-ups had already found out about everything as soon as we finished the simulation,“ Dr.Chom moved his hands around.Bookmark here

„Then just let Ren talk to her daddy, he ordered that test anyway. Luckily for us, Kappa willingly showed up,“ Cyn threw the plastic glass into a trash can from an admirable distance.Bookmark here

„You could talk to him too, you know, for Omicron's sake as well,“ Chom scratched his nose out of annoyance.Bookmark here

„Me and August are not on a same page ever since what happened to Ren's sister, but fine, if I can be of assistance, I'll do my best,“ Cyn smiled gently.Bookmark here

„Thank you, so much,“ doctor relaxed his shoulders, „and don't worry about the boy, I prescribed some medication that will calm his nerves. He should be fine for a while.“Bookmark here

„For a while,“ Cyn repeated after him.Bookmark here

„...“Bookmark here

Few miles outside of Zarconia City stood a giant estate with historical significance. Large metal doors with engraved lotus symbols on each side separated the menacing old-style Japanese building from the rest of the modern-style architecture.Bookmark here

A huge complex consisted of a main house that was the largest and a smaller house on each of it's sides. Carefully placed stones colored in all kinds of shades of green paved the path that stretched from the main gates all the way to the main house. Bookmark here

Alley of cherry trees followed the path all the way to the top. The path finished with a set of stone stairs with a tall scarlet torii.Bookmark here

This is the path Ren was taking each day after school. Her father consistently organized a personal chauffeur for her, but she would take a different route and use the bus instead.Bookmark here

She was aware of how childish she acted but that micro decision was the only sign of rebellion against her father. She would send her chauffeur to drive other pupils at school instead.Bookmark here

This was yet another day of walking back home, but the difference was that she was about to her own father for the sake of her club members.Bookmark here

When she climbed atop the stairs, she took a break beneath the torii. She take a look at the house on the right.Bookmark here

It was a residence for house help, but in one of the rooms her sister Miyako lived.Bookmark here

Pale face with blank expression was staring through the window at the sky during the day and night, until it was forced to sleep by her exhausted brain. Bookmark here

She was neither a human, neither a doll. Just an existence somewhere in between.Bookmark here

It knew no sadness, there wasn't a single time her face made a sad expression, but it knew no happiness either.Bookmark here

Ren was reminded of her mission each time she would see herself in immovable irises of her beloved sister.Bookmark here

„Hold on a bit Mia, I will save you. Definitely.“Bookmark here

Ren wouldn't pass a single time without gifting her sister a kiss on her forehead, dried from the sun.Bookmark here

„I'm home,“ she said after opening the creaky door of the main house.Bookmark here

Usually she would go to her room that was located at the far end of the long hallway, but this time she took a deep breath in the middle of a hall.Bookmark here

„Miss Ren, is everything all right?“ One of the maidens that help around the house approached Ren.Bookmark here

She was dressed in characteristic housemaid attire. The polite version, of course. Indecency in this house was strongly forbidden.Bookmark here

„I am fine,“ Ren answered shortly and asked, „is Father home?“Bookmark here

„Yes, he's in the studies room, want me to tell him that you want to talk?“Bookmark here

„No need, I will go there myself,“ Ren walked towards the opposite side of the hallway.Bookmark here

„Miss Ren...“ Bookmark here

Maid followed Ren slowly, worrying about her well being.Bookmark here

Studies room was the only room in the house that had a tiny bell bell sitting on a small stand beside it. One would need to ring it before entering the room.Bookmark here

Ren rang the bell and waited a few moments.Bookmark here

This was an old house so every room was divided by shoji, the sliding doors. After a couple of minutes, door slid to the side and a tall man with long grey hair in a lab coat appeared before her.Bookmark here

„Good evening, Father,“ Ren bowed slightly.Bookmark here

Expression on his rough wrinkled face with a strong jaw line dropped upon seeing his daughter in front of him. Bookmark here

„Ren, you're home,“ his eyebrows raised significantly.Bookmark here

„I want to talk to you, it is important,“ said Ren politely without looking him into the eyes.Bookmark here

„Of course, come in,“ he slid the door further to the other side so Ren could walk in.Bookmark here

It was a big room completely covered in books. There were bookcases all around the room with scattered books on the floor and on the chairs with a giant amount of stickers that were pointing out from them.Bookmark here

„Here, let me make a room for you to sit,“ he kicked the books from one of the chairs.Bookmark here

„It is fine, I will stand,“ Ren didn't enjoy the mess her father worked in, it only made her more uncomfortable.Bookmark here

„So, how is school?“ he asked Bookmark here

„Fine. But that is not the reason I am here,“ Ren added quickly.Bookmark here

„Oh, please, do tell me,“ her father sat on the edge of an old wooden desk.Bookmark here

It was but one of many desks but the rest were as you guessed it, completely drowned in booksBookmark here

„It is about my friend, Shiki, the Kappa.“Bookmark here

Her father jumped from the desk.Bookmark here

„Ah yes! He is an extraordinary subject, I've never encountered anything like this, perhaps ever,“ he spoke enthusiastically while flipping the pages of various books around him.Bookmark here

„Shiki is not a subject!“ Ren shouted.Bookmark here

„Yes, of course, but his Prime Aura converted so much of external Mana...“ Ren cut her father in the middle of a sentence with words, „he is a living person.“Bookmark here

Her father dropped the book he was holding and looked at Ren's pained expression.Bookmark here

„Is this about Miyako again?“ he sighed.Bookmark here

„No! That is why I am here, I won't let you do to my friend what you did to my sister!“ small teardrops slid down Ren's chin as her eyes became red.Bookmark here

Her father rolled up the sleeves and walked to the other side of the room.Bookmark here

„I am still doing my best to help Miyako.“Bookmark here

„Please do not, I see every day for the past five years what „Your best“ has done to Mia.“Bookmark here

Ren wiped off her tears and calmed herself as much as she could.Bookmark here

„How was I supposed to know what would happen to her? I am studying emotional health of humans my entire life and I've barely even scratched the surface of it all,“ her father complained.Bookmark here

„I have never asked you to be a scientist. Just a father of two girls. I guess I asked too much.“Bookmark here

Her father was speechless. His breathing quickened as he was trying to find the correct words.Bookmark here

„Anyway, I want you to stay away from Shiki,“ Ren said while looking straight into his eyes.Bookmark here

„But he..“ Bookmark here

„I do not care. You are the headmaster, delete the files from the system I could not care less. He stays in the school, with me. With his friends,“ Ren kept a firm posture. Bookmark here

After a few seconds of thinking, her father had finally spoken up.Bookmark here

„Fine, if that will bring back at least one of my daughters back, I will stay away from him,“ he answeredBookmark here

„Do not jump on a gun, Father, I have told you already, but I will say it again. I will NEVER forgive you. But this way at least you will have a privilege to see me around here,“ Ren slid the door behind her.Bookmark here

When Ren left the room, her father took a phone from his pocket and dialed a number.Bookmark here

„Good evening, yes, we proceed as planned. Just let the boy home for now.“Bookmark here

„...“Bookmark here

Butler grabbed a napkin from the tray he was carrying and handed it over to Eden.Bookmark here

„So, since you're the new guy let's take this from the top,“ Eden took a white napkin decorated with golden vines all over it's edges and put it neatly on a table before him.Bookmark here

„It has something to do with the napkin?“ Omi wondered.Bookmark here

„Nah, I don't like to touch objects with my bare hands, so..“ Eden rested his hands on a napkin.Bookmark here

„Amazing,“ Omi seemed annoyed.Bookmark here

„I, as you can see, am pretty rich. My family is only shadowed by Lotuses but their money is filthy money so it doesn't really count does it,“ Eden giggled.Bookmark here

„Yeah I don't like that creepy old dude either, he reminds me of my neighbor Sullivan that lives with twelve cats,“ Nana played with her cup of tea while talking.Bookmark here

„Right, so, my parents, especially my father, wanted me to marry a girl from a high prestige family, but not richer as us, that would seem kinda degrading,“ Eden laughed mockingly.Bookmark here

Prism on a table started emitting a pale bluish light. Eden observed the pale light which made his seemingly calculated posture loose a bit.Bookmark here

„I don't really care about women, nor men for that fact, I only feel butterflies when I am by myself.“Bookmark here

Prism started illuminating deep blue light that filled the room. Both Nana and Omi closed their eyes and relaxed.Bookmark here

„...“Bookmark here

„Hey Omes, wakey wakey,“ Nana whispered extremely close to Omi's ear.Bookmark here

He woke up as if wolves had started to chase him and hit the mirror in front of him.Bookmark here

„Wow! Nice reflex, I love it!“ she said mockingly.Bookmark here

„Oh dear lord what is this,“ Omi shouted when he looked around him.Bookmark here

Wherever he looked there was a mirror and the only thing he could see is his naked reflection. He touched all over his body to check if he has clothes on and soon after the realization that it must be some sort of a perverted magical mirror, his adolescent eye jumped on the mirror that stood near Nana.Bookmark here

„Don't let your hopes up, in these mirrors you can only see your naked self,“ she stretched her arms and hopped happily in front of the mirrored glass.Bookmark here

„What is this, a circus?“ Omi complained as he studied the room they found themselves into.Bookmark here

„Classic Eden, there is a literal circus in his head, but hey who am I to judge, I've never met a single fully stable person in my whole life,“ said Nana while admiring her thin waist.Bookmark here

Omi didn't know what to say to that.Bookmark here

„You've been here before, know the way out?“ Bookmark here

„In this particular version of a wold, no, but I am sure that we need to break at least seven mirrors to exit the room,“ Nana said without making a fuss.Bookmark here

„Breaking mirrors? Isn't that bad luck?“ Omi spread his arms.Bookmark here

„There is no such thing as good and bad luck, we make our own luck,“ Nana pulled a tiny plastic hammer that kids use while playing in a sand.Bookmark here

Omi was astonished at her when he saw Nana hitting the mirror with a tiny hammer in front of her.Bookmark here

„What are you going to achieve with that thing?“ he asked.Bookmark here

„Wait until the seventh strike of course!“ Nana shouted a hit the mirror for the final time.Bookmark here

The sound reverberated across not just that one, but all the mirrors as her hammer gradually enlarged into a seemingly ten-ton sledgehammer used by vikings.Bookmark here

„You're messing with me!“ Omi laughed.Bookmark here

„Not at all, now watch this!“Bookmark here

Nana jumped on the handle of the hammer and using her legs slammed the giant object directly into mirror in front of her.Bookmark here

The mirror broke into thousands of pieces and six mirrors beside it met the same fate.Bookmark here

After that, their reflections returned to normal and a path amongst the mirrors opened so they could proceed further into the hall.Bookmark here

„How did you know?“ Omi asked.Bookmark here

„Eh, everyone needs to shatter their ego once in a while,“ said Nana while resting a giant sledge hammer on her shoulder.Bookmark here

„Woah, isn't that thing super heavy?“ he asked.Bookmark here

„Only if you make it heavy, darling,“ Nana answered playfully and waltzed over the shattered glass.Bookmark here

„I officially don't understand women,“ Omi muttered while walking behind her.Bookmark here

When they left the mirror room, they found themselves in front of the door which had a green-lit EXIT sign on the top.Bookmark here

„And now, the main dish,“ said Nana while hitting the door with her hammer.Bookmark here

What prostrated in front of them was indeed a circus. There was a giant turquoise tent with gaudy ornaments, a heavily overdecorated merry-go-round with unicorns instead of horses. There were several unknown machines covered in amethysts and emeralds that carried a bunch of shadows and launched them high into the air.Bookmark here

Amongst all the machinery many shadows were running around with mops and cleaning products, constantly scrubbing every piece of gaudy decoration.Bookmark here

„Over-the-top circus from hell?“ Omi looked at Nana that drew the map of everything before them on the ground using her hammer.Bookmark here

„So, we're here. We should draw the maps every so often in case this mad thing loops. It looped on couple of occasions before,“ said Nana while pointing at stick figures she has drawn in the ground.Bookmark here

„Wait, how many times were you here?“ asked Omi.Bookmark here

„This is my seventh time, why?“ Bookmark here

„Of course it is...“Omi muttered.Bookmark here

„It just means I had to endure six useless Primes until I met you,“ Nana smiled gently.Bookmark here

„Is that so? Then let's get started,“ Omi turned his back around and started walking.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.