Chapter 9:

The night before

Jet Black Rock

“Ah! That hits the spot! This parsnip soup is as good as I remember!” Haiiro shouts satisfied after having tasted Abraham’s soup again. “Now I can die in peace!” Sen smacks him in the head. “Don’t joke like that!” Yami laughs. “Last time he tried to make this, he burned the soup!” Annoyed by Haiiro’s inability to cook Sen sighs.

After dinner and clearing the table, the group talks just a little longer. Sen is drinking a good amount of wine and tells about the day she met Haiiro. Apparently, he was in town for a research assignment and fell in love at first sight. It was Abraham who married the two after only a few months together.

While Abraham loves to reminisce, he stands up and prepares to go back to his study. “I want to overlook the research papers once more to ensure that there’s no other solution, so I’ll take my leave for tonight.” Ari follows after him. “You don’t mind me joining you, right father?” “Of course not! I appreciate the help.” He responds.

Sen starts pushing Haiiro out of the dining room. “We’ll go to bed early tonight. Haiiro needs the rest. If anything comes up, please let us know immediately. We’ll be in the room at the far right.” She waves behind her as she disappears around the corner. “Have a nice evening juniors!”

Yami, Akari, and Aurora are left sitting at the table. Akari’s busy drawing something. It’s hard to make out what exactly but it looks like a police officer holding a child’s hand. “That must be Ari who brought her to safety.” Yami thinks to himself. He didn’t notice it but it became quiet and Aurora was sitting in front of him staring.

As he looks up, Aurora’s face is flushed. She quickly explains herself. “Ah! I… I was wondering why you didn’t live with your sister in the upper parts.” Yami looks at Akari, who’s focussing on her drawing and is in her own world.

“It’s not a fun story but I don’t mind sharing it with you if you’re curious.” Aurora nods, listening closely. “Five years ago, our mother was starting to make a name for herself in the arts of high-end tech modifications. Father was very supportive of her and spend a decent amount of money to provide parts.”

“Then, one night in March of 2072, our place got robbed. We weren’t that rich but the guy who did it was looking for modification parts. The police told me afterward that he wrecked one of his internal mods during a failed heist the week before and the wound had started to infect. He was desperate and needed to replace them.”

“When he broke in, he wasn’t that quiet and my dad went to check out the noise. Supposedly he didn’t come back and mom went after him. I found their bodies the morning after. My dad was stabbed in the neck from behind and must’ve died instantly. My mother, on the other hand, must’ve seen my dad on the floor and tried to go back upstairs. She was beaten and strangled, with one of her mods ripped out of her chest.”

Aurora gasps in disbelief.

“They found the guy in an alley a few weeks later. He died using the mod that he stole from my mom. It malfunctioned when he tried to use it as a weapon and stopped him from breathing entirely, so he suffocated. After all, I wasn’t having the greatest mindset and must admit that I was hard to be around.”

“Since I was almost eighteen, I went to live alone. I had no money so this was only possible in Suramachi. I couldn’t take Akari there and she was taken in by a lovely couple that was friends with my mom. I heard from Sen that they perished during the kidnapping.”

“I’m so sorry Yami”- Aurora says with teary eyes.-“ It really must’ve been tough.”

Akari jolts up. “Finished!” She yells as she holds her drawing in front of her with her arms stretched toward Yami. The drawing is of today’s moment, back when Ari was carrying Aurora and holding onto Akari’s hand. There are big Z-signs near Aurora as if she was napping. Yami’s in the back riding a mechanical dinosaur.

“Mhhh”- Yami goes-” I don’t remember the dinosaur.” “I thought you needed a friend since Aurora was asleep!” Akari defends holding the drawing closer to her chest. Aurora chuckles. “He’s cute! I’m glad he was able to keep Yami safe.” Akari runs around the table and hugs Aurora, who’s surprised. “Ah!”

It’s gotten quite dark and Yami looks at the clock. “I think it’s time to turn in for the night. Shouldn’t you be asleep by now too Akari?” Yami asks. “I’m not…”- Akari yawns-” tired!” Yami gets up and walks her to one of the rooms. She thwarts a little but starts falling asleep almost right away as Yami tucks her in. Aurora is watching them from the doorway and wishes them a good night. “Goodnight Aurora, see you tomorrow!” Yami answers as he kisses Akari’s forehead.

Finally in bed himself, he’s finding it difficult to sleep. So much has happened today and so much will happen tomorrow. “Hopefully, nothing goes wrong.” Knock! Knock! There’s someone at the door, did something already go wrong? “Yes!?”

Aurora gently opens the door. With her hand on her chest and an uncertain flustered look across her face, she asks. “C-can I come in?” Yami’s unsure why she’s acting so strange and asks her if something happened.

“N-no… nothing happened. I just wanted... I thought we…” She enters the room. “Back at the conference center, I felt there was a connection between us. And having seen how you cared for Akari today, I…”- She sits down at the side of the bed, looking Yami in his eyes-” I think I like you.” Yami feels flattered and blushes. “I like you too.” He responds. Aurora leans in and they kiss. She gently stroked the back of his head and he has his arm wrapped around her waist.

Some time passes and the door opens yet again. Aurora quickly slides to the end of the bed. “Brother?”- Akari asks while rubbing her eyes.-” I had a bad dream and don’t want to sleep alone. Can I sleep here?” Her eyes adjust to the darkness in the room and she sees he’s not alone. “Oh! Aurora! Were you scared too?”

Aurora flustered yet again. “Y-yes! But I’m fine now! I’ll leave the two of you.” She gets up and quickly attempts to leave the room, but Akari grabs her shirt, stopping her from leaving. “Please stay Ms. Ari.” She asks half asleep. Aurora, moved by her innocence, pats her head. “Sure thing, sweety.”

Venturing deeper into the night and without a care left in the world, Akari’s deep asleep, mumbling a little. She’s in between Yami and Aurora, taking up as much space as her tiny body can. It’s hot so she’s on top of the blankets. Yami fell asleep as well but Aurora can’t seem to do the same.

Badum! Badum! Her heart is going like crazy. She was bold before and entered his room without thinking, but now that they’re sharing a bed, she realizes what’s happening. Even if Akari’s there as well, this isn’t something she’s experienced with and can brush off easily. She turns to her side and tries to calm down but for the moment, she’s clear awake.

Skrrrrr! The door squeaks as it opens gently. The light from the corridor is creeping in. As there’s no one there, Aurora assumes the door wasn’t shut properly and a breeze of the wind must’ve opened it. There’s a shine of moonlight on the door and it moves just slightly.

As Aurora turns around to see where the light is reflecting from, a scythe is coming down towards Yami’s chest from the bed’s end. Being only half under the blankets, Aurora spins her legs and reacts fast by kicking the scythe’s handle back. She blocked it just a few centimeters away from Yami’s chest. In the dark, there’s a shadow, holding the weapon.

Even though she’s wearing a loose sleeping dress, Aurora’s always equipped and pulls out a throwing knife that was attached to her upper leg. She throws it in the direction of the shadow’s head but misses as the shadow jumps back. The scythe disappears for a moment.

“Yami!” She shouts as a second scythe attack is coming in from the side. She jumps over Akari and lands on top of him, waking him up abruptly. Using her pillow and pure grip strength, she manages to catch the scythe between her hands. The blade is sharp and went through the pillow with ease, but at least she managed to stop it from piercing Yami.

Yami is confused as to why Aurora is suddenly on top of him. “Aurora?” He asks, not realizing what is happening. Drip, drip. Aurora didn’t come out unscathed and her hands are cut open. The thick liquid is dripping on Yami’s chest as he finally notices. “Aurora!” He tries to grab the scythe, but it is pulled back into the shadows. It’s quiet. Aurora is carefully watching the room, checking where the next attack might come from. Yami’s protecting Akari, who’s sobbing behind him, making sure she is not being targeted.

The door flings open and Ari comes in with her Five-Seven drawn. She had heard the screams and came as fast as she could. Akari runs towards Ari and outside the room. Aurora is still focusing on the dark corners on the opposite side of the room and Ari understands. She turns on her flashlight and aims at the shadow. A hooded woman with a scythe comes into view.

Bam! Bam! She shoots twice but her bullets are reflected by the scythe. Both of them were blocked with extreme speed and precision. In the chaos, Akari escapes through the door. Bam! Bam! Bam! Without hesitation, she empties her magazine. The first few bullets were reflected yet again, but another went through the side of her stomach, leaving blood spatters on the wallpaper behind her.

The remaining bullets left a distortion in the black smoke where the hooded figure once stood. An afterimage! Almost immediately after, the window shatters and the scythe drops to the floor. Ari runs up to the window and aims outside, but there’s no one in sight. There’s a blood trail on the windowsill. That fifth shot was definitely a hit.

“Are you okay?!” Ari asks while turning towards the bed. Aurora is trembling, her hands clenched. Yami takes hold of them gently and asks to have a look. As Aurora opens them up, a deep cut is shown to him. Yami rips the already ruined pillow sheet and starts bandaging the wound, trying to stop the bleeding as much as possible. Ari yells that she’ll get one of the sisters, but Akari had already brought Sen, who rushes in to help out. It was chaos but a few minutes later, Aurora’s hands are stabilized and treated properly.

At the same time, Haiiro is being informed by Ari of what happened. Abraham and Sen are listening in as well. “So there was another one? And what a strange choice of weapon to use too.” Haiiro says while inspecting the scythe. “She was a powered one.” Ari indicates. “She had some sort of teleporting ability. After she used it, her physical body seemed to disappear and all that was left was some smokey afterimage. I did hit her once though so that must mean that she can’t keep that state up permanently.”

Haiiro continues. “She still had to break the window to escape too, so she shouldn’t be able to teleport through walls or maybe she can only cover a short distance? You mentioned that she could deflect bullets. It might be that we’re looking too much into it and that she’s just that fast?” “Could be.”- Ari answers-” At least she won’t be able to move much with that wound.”

In the other room, Yami and Akari are pampering Aurora. Yami is feeling quite guilty and instead of thanking her for protecting them, he apologizes. “It should’ve been me who was hurt. She was clearly after my life, not yours.” Rather crestfallen, he thinks back to how Rocco died and the image of Celeste’s body under the blanket crosses his mind. “She could’ve ended up the same.” He thinks to himself.

While Akari is fetching a fresh wet towel, Yami’s on his knees sitting next to Aurora’s bed. She understands how he feels and reaches out to him, pulling his head towards her chest and embracing him even though her hands hurt while doing so. “We’re both still here and that’s what matters right now.” She says while trying to comfort him. “This kind of thing is unavoidable when fighting for justice. I’m sure neither Rocco nor Celeste have any regrets.”

Akari had come back but saw them have a moment and decided not to enter. Aurora kisses him on the top of his head and he looks up at her. She blushes. “Besides, when all of this is over, you’ll just have to make it up to me.” She looks away and quietly suggests a date. Yami smiles and answers that he would love to.

Walking through the corridor, Sen sees Akari sitting outside Aurora’s room. She’s on her bum with her back against the wall, and close to falling asleep. She gives her a little head pat and is met by a sleepish cute sound before knocking on the door. “Come in!” Aurora answers.

Sen pops her head through the door frame. “Since we’re all fully awake, Haiiro suggested we’d start the plan right now. He said that Nate won’t be able to ignore Jet’s signal. Are you guys ready to do this?” Yami stands up, determined to an extreme level. “Yes. We’re ready.” After about half an hour, the team is ready to depart!

Back at the conference center, Nate is relaxing while having a glass of bourbon in what used to be Kumoda’s chair. His legs are on top of the desk and a cigar is smoking in the ashtray. Neto is sitting in front of him, playing with a Newton’s cradle that is placed on top of the desk.

Nephthys stumbles inside, tired out and leaning against the door post. She’s in pain and pressuring her wound, trying to stop the bleeding from her side. “You’re late.” Nate grumps as he puffs out a smoke ring. “That b*tch of a cop shot me!” “Did you take him out of the picture?” Nate asks. “I need your help! Fix me up dammit!” She demands.

“And why would I do that? You can’t even follow a simple order.” He stands up and menacingly walks towards Nephthys. “Y-you! I did this all for you! Use your power and heal me!” Neto is still playing with the cradle, not caring about their interaction at all. “You dare to order me?”

He grabs her by the neck in a rough manner. “You’re like the others! You will rebel against me eventually!” With fear in her eyes, Nephthys tries to gasp for air. “ You are of no use to me anymore.” She tries to plead and fight back, clawing at his arm and face but she’s been weakened too much. She can’t even use her power in this state.

Using his flat hand, Nate cleaves through her chest, piercing the artery near her heart. As he drops her to the floor, she starts coughing up blood and her lungs are filling up. Struggling to breathe, she dies drowning in her own blood.

Nate is crouching above her, waiting for her to stop moving. And as soon as she does, he penetrates the back of her neck just deep enough for his fingers to touch her brain stern, devouring the Jet that was inside of her.

“Look, Zane! It stopped moving!” Neto yells excitingly while pointing towards the cradle. He didn't even notice Nephthys dying. They both truly are unable to feel even an ounce of empathy, solidifying the fact that they’ll do anything to reach their objective.