Chapter 19:

Downpour at the Fourth

This Year Again, We Meet at the Round Table

-Fior Deniev, 19 years old-Bookmark here

As the rain beat down on the tiled roof of the Vicet summer home, so did the guilt weighing down on me. Thanks to my failure to negotiate for weapons, I had been stripped of the title of Prince Imperial, and with that came assassins vying for my life. I was unable to go through the coming-of-age ceremony, as the Emperor had interrogated me the morning after I returned, and the jubilation of the nobles in Erik’s faction could be heard throughout the castle as I left.Bookmark here

Now without the protection of being in the line of succession, I had fled under the wing of the Vicets, but even there I wasn’t in the clear. It wasn’t inherently a faction belonging to me, but the Vicets, so many of the Duke’s followers blamed me for the loss of political power they had. Thankfully, the imperial archivists had yet to discover the law that would allow them to arrange a marriage between Cella and Erik, so the Duke had begun an operation to try and scrub it from all the law books with the help of some covert vandalism.Bookmark here

I stood there alone in the building, waiting for the door to Japan to unlock with my hand on the knob. Nervously, I felt the lump in the pocket of my robe: an envelope containing all the Japanese money I had saved up over the years. It totaled 300,000 yen - quite the sum, supposedly two months’ worth of wages in the Land of the Rising Sun, but if converted to the currency of the Empire using the price of raw materials as a standard, it was easily enough to live lavishly for years.Bookmark here

However, I didn’t want to live lavishly with the Vicets. They had already done enough for me, and I couldn’t possibly ask them to provide for me forever when I had failed to meet their expectations and caused them so much trouble.Bookmark here

In the span of six hours that the door would be active, I would be spending all 300,000 yen, so I had to hurry to get from Ebisu to the heart of Shibuya. To be able to make the most out of the time I had, I would have to go through the door as soon as I could.Bookmark here

Click.Bookmark here

There it was, the sound that would start my frenzy to grab the supplies I needed to make the trek through several countries and a warzone to a seaside town, where I would hide my identity and begin a new life. As soon as I heard it, I quickly turned the knob and pushed against the door… only for it to not move.Bookmark here

Eh?Bookmark here

Though I pushed progressively harder and harder, the door didn’t open; I was beginning to hear creaking noises, though I didn’t know whether it was the door panel or the hinges that were going to give out. For a last-ditch effort, I backed up while keeping the knob turned, then slammed into the door with my full body weight.Bookmark here

Colliding with the cold concrete floor of the warehouse in Ebisu, I laid there as I caught my breath. The gray sky I saw through the open window told me all I needed to know: the door had swollen due to increased humidity. Though it was only a drizzle for now, it would prove to be a bad omen.Bookmark here

-Vell Eden, 17 years old-Bookmark here

Ah… It’s raining. That’s a shame. I hadn’t brought an umbrella, so all I could settle for was holding my shawl over my head as I stepped out into the alley.Bookmark here

Just to confirm my suspicions, I headed for the festival grounds, which only cemented my dismay. No stalls, no lanterns, no festivalgoers, it was completely desolate, a far cry from the warm and welcoming place it usually was. At the very least, I thought that perhaps they would pitch a large canvas over the festival grounds so that the festivities could continue, but perhaps it was not worth the cost to acquire one.Bookmark here

Then, logically, there won’t be any fireworks? I suppose there is nothing to celebrate this year, since I’m not meeting Fior or Alistair this year. No meeting between delegates of the other world - I wonder if the clouds know of our circumstances?Bookmark here

Now without something to occupy my time in Japan, I sighed. I didn’t have much Japanese currency on me, so there was no point in browsing the bookstores or looking for a restaurant to dine in, which left the public libraries. However, it would have to wait; my shawl was sopping wet, and acquiring an umbrella was in order.Bookmark here

Thankfully, an 8-Eleven was nearby, and I quickly took refuge from the downpour under the awning. Greeted by a cheerful chime from the automated sliding door, I sauntered to the counter where I purchased a cheap umbrella for 200 yen.Bookmark here

Ahh… This is the same 8-Eleven that I left Alistair in last year, isn’t it?Bookmark here

Using the last of my yen to buy a cup of fries from the counter, I sat down in the same seat as last year, looking out into the passerby. From the elevated seat, all I could see was a sea of colorful umbrellas, bobbing up and down with each step. Last year, the joyful faces of the festival-goers could be seen, but this year their emotions were obscured by a canopy of plastic.Bookmark here

I wonder what propelled me to treat Alistair like that that night… It wasn’t his fault that he was unable to continue trade with me, and yet I just stood up and left him without a word… Even if I were to give an excuse, could I find one adequate? Bookmark here

If I met him today… If he’s still alive… would I be able to apologize enough?Bookmark here

And to Fior, as well… he probably had circumstances that forced him to ask for weapons… and the two of us left him sitting there alone on the rooftop garden… What could I possibly say to him?Bookmark here

With the two of them and Filaine gone now… who will be around to lend me an ear?Bookmark here

Is there any way I could bring them back?Bookmark here

“Like your potato wedges with extra salt?”Bookmark here

It was strange - the fries I had bought did seem saltier… and soggier. Having turned my attention away from my thoughts, I realized that tears had begun to trickle down my face into the cup of -Bookmark here

Eh?Bookmark here

I snapped my head up to face the source of the voice, a tall, black-haired boy who looked roughly the same age as me. He wore a cheerful look on his face, and extended his hand out to me.Bookmark here

Reluctantly, I shook the hand of this stranger. “Um, who are you, if I may ask?”Bookmark here

“Me? My name is Lowell Westoff, and you see, I’m from another world.”Bookmark here

-Fior Deniev, 19 years old-Bookmark here

Out of breath, I stopped to take a break under one of the nearby bookstore’s awnings. This was proving a much more difficult task than I expected - though I had arrived in Shibuya on a taxi in a timely manner, the trendy fashion center simply didn’t have the things I needed. I had to run from one end to the other of the city, asking people along the way for places where I could buy certain things.Bookmark here

So far I had managed to procure a backpack with a sizable capacity, as well as some essentials like water purifiers, multipurpose knives, and a strange folding pot that I thought could come in handy. However, for durable clothing meant to traverse the wild, Shibuya’s stores were far too much the opposite. Some of the fashion was so outlandish that I could only imagine the laughter it would elicit back in the Empire.Bookmark here

“Hey there! You with the blue hair!” came a male voice from somewhere off to my side.Bookmark here

I had already gotten accustomed to passersby asking me for pictures for years now, since my light blue hair made them think I was a character of this world’s entertainment. With a sigh, I replied, “Make it quick, will you?” and looked up.Bookmark here

“Make what quick?” asked the tall and black-haired boy with a quizzical look on his face. He wasn’t wearing the festival attire, although his clothing vaguely resembled western clothing that I had seen in the journals in the Vicet summer home.Bookmark here

“Well, a picture, right?”Bookmark here

“No, no, you’ve got it all wrong! I’m here to talk with you!” The boy rummaged in his pockets and produced a business card, which he presented to me. “I’d like to initiate trade negotiations with you!”Bookmark here

Accepting the card, my blood ran cold as I read the words embossed in the paper.Bookmark here

Lowell Westoff, Representative of the State of Redjuve.Bookmark here

“You see, my father, the new leader, told me that I was to look for a blue-haired boy and a blonde-haired girl whose clothing was different from the rest, and that they were from different worlds too. We hope to establish a long-lasting trade relationship with your worlds,” he stated with pride.Bookmark here

“R-Redjuve?” I stammered, “I thought your nation was a kingdom?”Bookmark here

“Ah! It was a kingdom, up until today. The monarchy was overthrown just a couple of hours ago. I heard that the monarchy had a trade relationship with your two nations from the man in charge of overseeing the transfer of products - we’d like to continue that, but this time you would be trading with the State of Redjuve, rather than the Kingdom.”Bookmark here

“A-and what will happen to the monarchy?”Bookmark here

“Well, they will be executed, of course. King, Queen, Prince, all three of them. Can’t have the symbols of the old government interfering with the new one,” Lowell said with a straight face, as if he were unaffected by the blood that would be on his father’s hands.Bookmark here

It was as if time had frozen still as my mind raced to accept what he was saying. Alistair would be killed? But why? What had he done? The Alistair I knew was so peaceful that he had even refused to sell me weapons. Surely, he could be spared from whatever mistakes his father had been complicit in?Bookmark here

However, the presence of the boy in front of me who claimed he was from Redjuve cemented the truth. Someone had hijacked the door to Japan and crossed through from that world, and it wasn’t Alistair. The boy said they would be executed, meaning they hadn’t been yet. What could I do?Bookmark here

Why would you need to help him? said a voice from inside my head. It was his refusal to sell you weapons that landed you in this situation. He doesn’t deserve your help.Bookmark here

“Hello? Are you there?” Lowell waved his hand in front of my face.Bookmark here

But… does that really mean he has to die? Alistair, the boy with so much curiosity and ingenuity, has to die because of something the monarchy did?Bookmark here

Bah! exclaimed the voice. It’s just the natural cycle of politics. Your own brother’s faction has sent assassins after your head, have they not? Bookmark here

Even if that’s true, and the fact that he refused to sell me weapons exists, does that mean he was in the wrong?Bookmark here

Hah?! You have the stupidity to defend the boy that ruined your life back home? The voice inside my head began to take the form of another me, sneering. Bookmark here

He had every right to not sell me weapons! I wouldn’t either - to become a merchant of death is to sully one’s hands.Bookmark here

“Excuse meeeee, is anyone in there?”Bookmark here

So what are you going to do about it? You have your own issues to deal with - if you don’t prepare for your trek now, you’ll die trying to go through a warzone. Can you really drop everything to save someone that turned their back on you?Bookmark here

Can I? What would happen if I tried?Bookmark here

What do you think would happen?Bookmark here

Ah. I’m hesitating again.Bookmark here

Clenching my fist tight, I struck the metal shutters behind me, dissipating the apparition of my superego.Bookmark here

“W-Woah! Are you alright?!” Startled, Lowell backed away. “We can discuss setting up a trade relationship later, j-just please don’t hurt me!”Bookmark here

Without replying, I dropped everything then and there. My umbrella, my backpacks, all the tools I had bought, I left them all on the ground as I ran through the rain in the direction of Shibuya Station. Water streaked my face, though I didn’t know if it was the rain or my tears - all of it was warm.Bookmark here

I don’t know if I can save him. Dismissing my hesitations has had a 50/50 chance of success… but if saving his life is a coin flip… I might as well take it.Bookmark here

Sliding on the wet pavement to a halt, I arrived at the railway station - one of the exits, at least. To say that there were many doors would be an understatement, though at the very least, it had to be outside of the gates, since to exit them you would need a token. I sighed deeply, mentally preparing myself for the task I was about to undergo.Bookmark here

“Fior? Is that you?” Vell stood behind me, just as soaked as I was. Bookmark here

“... Did you meet Lowell too?”Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

“And are you going to save Alistair?”Bookmark here

I didn’t need to hear her answer - she had rushed to Shibuya Station for the same reason as me. With that silent acknowledgment, we got to work opening doors, garnering strange stares from passerby and staff alike, until we converged on the last door, a utility closet tucked in the back, hidden away from most eyes.Bookmark here

Exchanging looks, it was but a moment before we rushed through the door with reckless abandon.Bookmark here

Real Aire
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