Chapter 13:

Red Eye


The fireworks mattered just as little as the bell's drumming or Ken's shrieks. The only thing that mattered was keeping Ken rooted to the concrete so that he couldn't leap over the ledge after her. He clawed, kicked, and scratched, but Roy held firm until Rocks appeared, out of breath, and took over.

Felix and Hai stepped over the shattered Suntory and fell backwards into it upon looking over. Their cries sung a horrific harmony with Ken's, and the only thing keeping Roy from passing out was his navi's voice, though the words registered as nothing more than muffled wailing.

Sirens overtook them all, calling Roy to the ledge where he confirmed it. At the same time he saw what could no longer be considered Ellie, the concert-goers discovered her. Among them were Gabi and Dmitri, who joined in the compounding of screams.

Roy looked for an outlet, a way to curb the screams or fix something. Rocks held Ken while his own eyes were on the verge of popping out, and Hai tended to Felix's bleeding hands despite his own tears. He couldn't bear to look at Ken, so he staggered back down the stairs and through the empty concert hall.

The pandemonium was only worse outside, but he couldn't take on every person's distress. So, he found Dmitri and Gabi and pulled them in close, welcoming their hysterics. They ended up on the ground, and were the only ones still there when the red eyes flew open the door to the ambulance. They did what none of them had been able to, and jumped over the girl, sullying their fatigues only to confirm there was no pulse. A useless gurney came, followed by a much more useful blanket that allowed them to look again.

Ken burst through the door, and dropped to his knees before Rocks caught up. Instead of screaming again, though, he simply watched with a hollow expression as one of the red eyes questioned Roy, who handed Gabi and Dmitri off to Hai and Felix.

The questions lacked any scope, and served only to establish what happened, leaving out the why. He was done in minutes, and before he walked away, he leaned in and asked the red eye something. The woman nodded, and he approached the gurney as it was about to be loaded up as cargo. With furiously trembling hands, he withdrew a miraculously untouched hand from the blanket, and attached a vial to the capsule protruding from her thumb and index finger.

He took only as much blood as his device needed to give him a reading, and he blinked at the display with an open mouth.


He turned to see all eyes on him, and couldn't hide the device in time, so he tiptoed over and beheld their swollen eyes one by one. "Her levels were abnormal… as if she'd missed a dose.."

A click brought his gaze to Ken, who'd ripped a pistol away from Rocks' jacket, and pointed it at Felix. "She's taken every dose, I know for a fact. That means somebody used a placebo, and it could have only been the person checking her levels for the last week."

"No…" Felix muttered, his green eyes fluttering on the brink of turning. "I swear they never showed an abnormality. And I would never… I could never hurt her..."

"It could have been the baptism dose," Roy said as he turned to see the red eyes watching with their hands on their holstered guns. "Or the placebo didn't change her levels until now."

The pistol trembled, but stayed its aim on Felix. "Then who did this…?" Ken muttered, teeth clenched as the tears streamed down his cheeks.

"I'll look into it, Ken," Roy said, fighting the water building in his own eyes. "Please, now isn't the time for this. Go back to the hideout and stay with everyone. Rocks, you'll keep him safe, right?"

Rocks nodded, barely quelling his own tears as he laid a hand on Ken's shoulder. The gun slowly lowered until it lay on the ground. Roy rushed to Felix, and offered him a hand up. "Let's go," he muttered, and led him away from Ken.

He glanced over his shoulder to see Gabi watching him with pleading eyes, and Dmitri shaking like a leaf against Hai. Rocks concealed his pistol and sat next to the glassy eyed Ken with a hand gripped tightly around his shoulder.

"I'm so sorry…"

He walked past the red eyes, who returned to the ambulance and drove off. Without a word, he walked Felix home, and took the longest route to his apartment he could think of.

Roy, I think you can break your agreement with Ken and go back on aesthetics, now…

Not now, Navi.

…I just don't want you to end up in confinement. I don't think you should be alone.

Bian… I need to tell her.

She got to his apartment at the same time as he did, out of breath and missing her raincoat. The two shared few words, and leaned on one another until the sofa had its fill of their tears.

When Roy finally slept, he was met by a dream that he knew was a memory he'd been long repressing. There was a tired group of people nailing boards over the windows of a gym, while others tended to a furnace surrounded by children. One of them, a thin black-haired boy with a mole on his throat, lay curled in a ball, all alone.

Roy watched the boy's never-changing hollow expression until a woman with pink eyes, and a man, one purple eye and one red, stood in front of him.

"Roy, what happened isn't anyone's fault," the woman said as she caressed his hair. "Your father did what was needed to get us closer to Aesthetica.

"We'll do whatever it takes to get you there, son," the man said, his one red eye burning brighter than the furnace. "And that means listening to our navi. They wanted that boy's parents to join them, and the only way to make it happen was to make them fear each other. You may not like it, but manipulating others is the only way to ensure survival in this world."

He woke up with his face pressed against the wet sofa, but it was his own sweat permeating it this time. Bian was already gone, and his navi couldn't stop him from chewing his nails until they bled. Regardless, he showered, got dressed, and braved the overbearing sun and the overbearing smiles on the road. Luiza's music consumed the air, the upbeat instrumentals overwhelming the sweet voice that she pretended was hers.

They have no idea…

No idea a precious life was lost.

How long can they remain ignorant…

No, that's what Aesthetica is…

Ignorant to the lives sacrificed in order for it to thrive.

For its people to be strong…

But Roy, it's still beautiful, right?

…Of course

That's right. So much was sacrificed to get you here, so—

But being beautiful doesn't make it right.

The green glass office building begged him to stay out, but he went in anyway, and found Felix at his cubicle, his reluctant green eyes spelling a lack of sleep. He sat down at his cubicle, and his mouse-hand moved on its own.

Roy, it's me, Bian.

Bian? What is it? Did you find something?

Yes… Roy, I can't do this anymore, okay?

I know…

This is the last time I'm going to help you, because it's for Ellie.

I understand. Please, go ahead.

I dug into her medical records. A placebo was requested. Felix couldn't have known.

Who would request that… Knowing it could mean her death?

Roy, if I was able to find this, Ken probably knows, too.

Yeah… But who was it, Bian?

"Good morning, Roy," a woman's voice called behind his chair. He turned slowly as Bian's words were muffled in his head by the woman in front of him.

"I was expecting you to come to my office and confirm your promotion, but I see you're getting right to work." His gaze fell on Aldheim after she winked at him, her open eye glowing as purple as ever. When her winked eye peeled open, however, its red hue burned brighter than the rising sun glaring through the window behind her.