Chapter 19:

Chapter 14: Intertwined Wings (Part 1)

Flight of The Blackbird

“...and that’s how Dane Perry invented the hovercar. Your homework for tonight will be pages one thirty-five through one forty-two, on the first commercial space exploration company. Read it and take notes, because they will be on the test.”Bookmark here

Mrs. Hina finished up her history lesson, the last class for the day, and the class all closed their holocomputers rather loudly in unison. The rustle of cloth, fabric, and metal resounded throughout the room as the students, including myself, tossed their things into their backpacks and zipped them shut. I stifled a yawn and looked out the window at nothing in particular. The courtyard was particularly pretty in fall, the trees with their changing colors dotted the green grass. I leaned my head back in my chair, closed my eyes, and thought to myself for a moment.Bookmark here

Life’s been particularly quiet recently. After the disaster four days ago, it’s been a nice few days of relative peace. My next mission isn’t until tomorrow afternoon, so I guess I have the whole day off. It’s odd, really. I haven’t had a day off in a long time. Maybe our work is finally starting to make a difference in Genesis.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

No, we haven’t been around long enough to do anything like that. Guess I’ll just have to work harder.Bookmark here

With my inner-monologue coming to a close, I opened my eyes, only to be greeted by a very large face above mine. Actually, it wasn’t so much as large, only really close.Bookmark here

“Woahg!” I raised my head far too fast for the other to react.Bookmark here

Our craniums connected and the other person’s head was knocked backward. A stinging pain entered my forehead.Bookmark here

“Gah, dammit,” I groaned. Bookmark here

A similar remark was uttered from the other person. Then, a laugh came from that same person.Bookmark here

“Nice one, genius,” Tomoe joked sarcastically. “Some reflexes you’ve got.”Bookmark here

“Hey, I wasted all my brain power with yesterday’s affairs, I’m like a zombie right now,” I responded in a futile attempt to defend myself.Bookmark here

I put my arms up as if to block an attack, but she simply laughed off my admittedly terrible excuse. The pain in my head was immediately accompanied by pain in my soul.Bookmark here

Critical Hit!Bookmark here

After our hearty exchange, I shook my head a bit, as if to dislodge the shame from my brain. It was only then that I realized Tomoe probably had something to say or ask, which was the reason her face was hovering inches above mine. I turned to her and asked.Bookmark here

“What was it that you wanted?”Bookmark here

Her face took on a slight shade of red as she responded. Bookmark here

“Uh…” She began, ditching her previously sarcastic demeanor. “I was wondering if you wanted to go down to the shopping district with me? You know, look for some… stuff.”Bookmark here

It was then that I decided to go on the attack.Bookmark here

“Oh, you mean like a date?”Bookmark here

Her face went from “slightly red” to “Heinz Tomato Ketchup” in a matter of seconds.Bookmark here

“D-don’t call it that, you dumbass!” She said a little bit too loud.Bookmark here

“Oh, then what else would you like me to call an outing between one male and one female, madam?”Bookmark here

She groaned in a mix of embarrassment and irritation. I was getting on her nerves and enjoying every second of it. Some students from other parts of the classroom laid their gazes upon us, amused by the only not-boring thing happening.Bookmark here

“This is why I didn’t even want to ask,” she grumbled.Bookmark here

“Ah, but you did, and so, I must answer,” I smiled and changed my tone of voice entirely. “Yes, of course, genius. When do you want to meet?”Bookmark here

“All that for one simple answer,” she complained.Bookmark here

She’s cute when she complains…Bookmark here

She chopped me on the head again, this time with considerable force. A bit of pain flowered from the bruise she’d already put on my head.Bookmark here

Shit… maybe not so cute...Bookmark here

“Can we leave our bags at Benny’s? I want to go right after we finish our work.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I can work something out.”Bookmark here

A collective “aw” was uttered by the students, though whether it was out of happiness or jealousy was yet to be determined. We spent the next few minutes speaking idly about nothing in particular until the bell rang. Along with Kota and Shiro, Tomoe and I grabbed our things and left the classroom. Bookmark here

The walk to Benny’s was really no different than any other day. We joked about things, made fun of Andy and his wimpy bodyguards, complained about the workload, and just enjoyed the company of each other. By the time we made it to the restaurant, our stomachs were sore from laughing about a certain joke Kota came up with, involving that frog he named Ralph. Bookmark here

Our time at the restaurant was shorter than usual because of Tomoe and my plans for later. Kota jokingly complained about us leaving him and Shiro.Bookmark here

“You guys are just gonna leave us to die here with all this work? That ain’t fair, man,” Kota sighed.Bookmark here

“Oh you’ll live,” I shot backBookmark here

“I can feel myself rotting from the inside already. My guts are turning to mush.” He put on a little spectacle of holding his stomach like he was going to vomit. Bookmark here

“Go throw up somewhere else, I’d like to keep my shirt clean,” Shiro said in a monotone voice.Bookmark here

A little while after our little comedy routine, Tomoe and I finished up the last bits of our homework, then got up to leave. Kota felt the need to fire off one last zinger before we were out the door.Bookmark here

“Have fun on y’alls date! Don’t get caught in the bushes!”Bookmark here

Shiro responded to this by stomping on his foot, but was obviously holding back laughter. I groaned audibly, and Tomoe whispered “you’re just jealous, moron” loud enough only for me to hear. Bookmark here

We exited the building and made our way to the shopping district. I noticed her looking into the windows of buildings at her reflection, trying to fix herself up when she didn’t really need to. I could have teased her, but I chose not to.Bookmark here

She’s already been through enough these past few days. Hell, ever since she met me she’s gone through a lot. More than the average person, that’s for sure. I’ve really gotta make a decision about her soon. I don’t want her to lead my life, but if it means I get to work with her… it’s starting to sound better and better by the day. Shit… I’m getting selfish. I need to find the time to bring this up to her. I keep ignoring the issue because I don’t want to drop any more on her… but she’s a lot stronger than I give her credit for. And she still cares for me, even after she’s seen me become a monster. So I need to-Bookmark here

My train of thought flew off the rails when I nearly ran her over. We’d made it into the shopping district when I was thinking, but I hadn’t noticed until now. She stopped in front of the store, and I didn’t notice that either. Bookmark here

Note to self, pay attention, dumbass.Bookmark here

She was looking at… an old record shop? She had her back to me, but slowly turned around until we were face to face. Her face was bright as the sun, her eyes full of stars. She went to say something, thought for a second, and changed her mind.Bookmark here

“We’re going in here!” She announced before grabbing my hand and dragging me into the little store.Bookmark here

Shit, she’s strong!Bookmark here

A bell strangely reminiscent of Benny’s restaurant bell dinged as we walked through the door. The smell of old wood and dusty bookshelves tickled my nostrils, but it wasn’t exactly unpleasant. The walls were lined with records from the old world that had either been saved or salvaged after the fall. Things as old as the nineteen-sixties BF.Bookmark here

Damn… this is impressive. How did I not know this place existed before?Bookmark here

“Ooh, look at all of these!” Tomoe dragged me around the store, delighted.Bookmark here

“You’re such a music nerd,” I teased with a laugh.Bookmark here

“And so are you! Now at least act a little more interested, it’s like I’m dragging around a dead body. I mean… look at this place! It’s so cool here!”Bookmark here

Like a kid in a candy shop, as they used to say.Bookmark here

I followed her around, attempting to put a little more life into my steps. It was actually a really cool place, somewhere I could see myself returning to frequently. While not nearly as much as her, she was right about me being a music nerd. I noticed a shelf stocked entirely with old Led Zeppelin records.Bookmark here

I need to get Oakman to buy me a record player. Extortion is cool, kids.Bookmark here

I glanced over at Tomoe and my eyes nearly popped out of my skull.Bookmark here

“You’re buying FIVE?!” I nearly shouted at her. “Good Lord!”Bookmark here

“I have the money though.” Bookmark here

“And obviously no self-control.” Bookmark here

“What, would you like to buy me a gift, good sir?”Bookmark here

I mean… kind of, yeah.Bookmark here

“Well, I wouldn’t want you blowing all your money on this, so yeah, sure.”Bookmark here

I took two of the records off of the stack and marveled at her choices. Bookmark here

“Ride The Lightning and Seasons in the Abyss?” I said, appreciating the taste.Bookmark here

Just then, the doorbell dinged. A boy who looked to be about our age stepped in. I made a mental note of him, not wanting to let my guard down. He looked like someone who belonged in a store like this, immediately going to one side as if he already knew what he wanted. Bookmark here

Huh, guess this store has a few repeat customers… interesting.Bookmark here

I tried not to focus on him too hard. I wanted my little date with Tomoe to be enjoyable. Bookmark here

He’s nobody, just another customer.Bookmark here

I took the rest of the records off of her hands and carried them to the front, then reached into my pocket to grab my wallet. Tomoe, however, smacked my arm.Bookmark here

“I was joking about the gift thing. I want to buy these myself,” She whispered.Bookmark here

“But-”Bookmark here

She knifehanded me in the head again.Bookmark here

“But nothing, let me pay for my own thing,” she said.Bookmark here

I sighed and backed up. While she paid, I looked around the shop once more. The boy was still looking in the same area, and there was an old man in the back who’d been in the store since before we entered. I heard the register beep, and close, meaning that Tomoe’s transaction had been completed and signaling the end of my survey of the room. Together, we thanked the woman behind the register and exited the small shop. I made a mental note of the building’s name.Bookmark here

Records Misplaced In Time, huh? Has a certain ring to it. I shall be back.Bookmark here

Returning my focus to the girl by my side, we continued our quest for enjoyment. Our journey brought us to a few clothing retailers, a bookstore, and an antique store. By the time we finished our little shopping spree, our hands were full of bags and our pockets empty of Tendar. We groaned in unison.Bookmark here

“Next time, let’s not go shopping,” she complained with a forced laugh.Bookmark here

“Yeah, my wallet can’t take any more direct hits or it’ll keel over and die,” I agreed. Bookmark here

Then, my brain acknowledged what she’d just said.Bookmark here

“So you want to go on another one of these outings, eh?”Bookmark here

She stopped walking and turned to me, her face somewhat red.Bookmark here

“Well… yeah. We both had fun, right? I know I did,” She began. “If you don’t want to-”Bookmark here

I stopped her there.Bookmark here

“Of course I do… I'm just new to this,” I confessed. Bookmark here

“Yeah… I’ve noticed,” she teased lightly. Bookmark here

I groaned in embarrassment.Bookmark here

“Was it that noticeable?”Bookmark here

“No, I’m just joking. I’m new to this too, so let’s keep having fun and do it again sometime soon,” she said, erasing the usual sarcasm and replacing it with her true feelings.Bookmark here

“Yeah… alright,” I agreed.Bookmark here

We started walking again and ended up in front of a restaurant that had just been built a few months prior. We talked it over and agreed on going inside for dinner, to end the date right. We were seated within a few minutes and given some menus to order off of. The restaurant, called The Oak ironically enough, was a restaurant with a variety of items on the menu. We chose our drinks, a cherry cola for me and lemonade for her, then lamented on the various choices plaguing us.Bookmark here

Ordering something from a three-page menu is harder than any mission! How the hell am I supposed to choose one thing from a list of sixty?!Bookmark here

I could tell Tomoe was stuck in the same dilemma. I let out a small sigh and let my eyes lazily drift around the room. The restaurant was packed with people, families out for a Monday night dinner, salarymen finally off of work for the day, teenage couples flirting in the booths, a whole array of different lives. Then, I noticed someone that wasn’t supposed to be there. Bookmark here

“You,” I whispered to myself, noticing the boy from the record shop sitting at a table by himself. “Why are you here?”Bookmark here

I’ve felt a strange, uneasy feeling all day. Ever since we left the record shop. He’s been following us, but he’s good enough for me not to notice. I’ve gotta figure out what his deal is… but this entire place is packed. No way for me to just walk up to him and ask. Gotta be smart about this. Think, Reiji, think. Bookmark here

My brain switched to assassin-mode briefly. I had to solve this problem quickly.Bookmark here

I need a distraction, a way to get him to follow me without alerting Tomoe or anyone in the restaurant. The problem is, Tomoe notices nearly everything. The bathroom won’t work, I’ve gone through that already. What else could I do?Bookmark here

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Got it.Bookmark here

I put my hand in my pocket and slipped out my cell phone. Oakman had installed a program into it for this exact situation. Under the table, I went into the application and pressed the button looking like a rotary phone from before the Fall era. I tapped it, and my phone started ringing. I raised my cell phone above the table and acted surprised.Bookmark here

“Oh, shit. I have to take this one.”Bookmark here

“Oh… okay! Be back soon or I’ll drink your soda,” She warned in an oddly attractive voice.Bookmark here

“Uh… yeah. I’ll keep that in mind.”Bookmark here

I stood up in a somewhat awkward manner, then went to the door. I glanced backward and saw the seat the boy was in had been vacated.Bookmark here

Fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Let’s see who you really are, kid.Bookmark here

I “answered” the call and put it to my ear, then stepped out the door and started walking down the street. I turned into an alley and jumped, then latched myself to the alley wall about eight feet off the ground. A few agonizingly long seconds passed, then the boy turned into the alleyway and looked around.Bookmark here

Showtime.Bookmark here

I released my latch from the wall and landed on the kid’s shoulders, sending him toppling to the ground. I held my knees onto his arms so he couldn’t try anything.Bookmark here

“Who are you, and why are you following us?” I growled at him.Bookmark here

“W-wait!” He suddenly shouted. “I’m not here to hurt you! I’m an ally!”Bookmark here

H-huh? Bookmark here

“What was that?” I asked assertively, still not buying it.Bookmark here

“I was sent by the one who wants you dead the most, but I’m not with him!” Bookmark here

The boy continued shouting, still panicked from my surprise attack. He spoke again.Bookmark here

“You lost someone to them too, didn’t you? I want to kill them just as much as you do! Andy and Nicholas Russell, I want to help you kill them, for my sister!”Bookmark here

To Be Continued…Bookmark here

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