Chapter 8:

A Breath of Fresh Air

Bullet Loop

Looking down at the unmanned base which was the objective of tonight’s mission, I felt nothing but uncertainty in my gut. There was something distantly and eerily familiar about this but I just was not sure what felt so wrong.

Captain signalled for us to approach the location and commence a sweep, while it was unmanned we were expecting the presence of equipment scattered around, potentially even resistance from security.

I chose the left wing to clear, flanked by others in the organisation; the hallways long, absent of any life or equipment. The air was still, I made long strides down the hallways noticing that dust was stirred up by my movements.

Checking the entry and exits, with my gun out, making turns and looking into each room that branched out at intervals down the hallway.

“Clear!” I called out, only to hear the others return similar calls on our communication channel.

I couldn’t shake off this bad feeling in my gut- this had been too easy, there hadn’t been any contest, this base was abandoned- and as far as I knew, this was not supposed to be part of the plan.

“Let’s get everything ready for the countdown, plant your charges” came the directive, snapping me out of my thoughts.

Recalling the marked objectives on weight bearing pillars, I placed the charge on the pillars near where I was. I radioed into communications to report that the pillars marked in my wing were planted with charges.

Similar calls were returned by the others in Dragon’s Breath signalling that the charges to take down the base had been planted. Potentially a lot faster than we had anticipated due to the absence of security or any military presence.

I made my way to the original cliff I had approached the base from and made my way up far enough to have front row seats to the demolition.

“Fire in the hole!” came Captain’s voice through the communications channel as the charges lit simultaneously.

It started as small flares of light through the windows going off simultaneously, a shockwave shattering the glass as the explosion started and you could see the building collapse upon itself in a ball of flame as the columns holding the military base up began to crumble.

Returning to the base, I bumped into Tatsuya in the training room in the company of a younger Johna. Tatsuya told me he had to rush right into another meeting and gestured for me to watch over Johna.

Maybe this is my chance to change who he is in the future. As much as I’m still hurt from what he did, he’s always been there for me and I believe I can change who he is.

There’s gotta be some reason he helped Eric that night, I intend to find out why…

I watched from afar as Johna attempted a roundhouse kick, similar to what you would see in cage fighting. I could see the sweat pouring down his brow.


The punching bag made a large thud as Johna’s right foot collided with it, then followed by another as he promptly fell to the floor.

Tatsuya and I looked at each other before he continued on to the office.

I walked over after seeing Johna try and catch himself from his self-inflicted daze.

“Your technique looked pretty good.” I said as soon as I reached him, casting a shadow over him for the only time I could ever recall. “But, you’ve gotta make sure to keep more balance over your back foot and let gravity roll the front. You’re forcing it too much.”

I helped Johna up to his feet.

“I can’t help it, miss, I’m too small and have no power…”

I patted him on the head as our eyes reached the same level, “I’m sure one day you’ll be even taller and stronger than I am and I’ll help you become the best Dragons Breath has!”

Other than me of course…

I saw his eyes widen at the proposition of finding a teacher, his face widened in the biggest grin forgetting the pain he had felt just mere moments before, “YAY! Thank you miss! I promise I won’t let you down!”

I smiled and continued to rub his head.

“Now, I’m sorry I can’t stand around but I have to go see Mr Tatsuya.”

“Oh he must be finishing the meeting with my dad.”

Come to think of it, Johna has never spoken to me about his family. I wonder what he will be like?

Rounding the corner from the training room, Johna and I continued in the direction of Tatsuya’s office.

With two swift taps on the door, we pushed it open only for me to come face to face with Eric. He did look younger and less dignified, but there was little to no doubt in my mind.

As younger Eric and Tatsuya looked up in response to Johna and I bursting in through the door, I noticed that they had saucers and teacups on the coffee table and had clearly been having light hearted conversation. It seemed like I had interrupted them mid-laugh as Tatsuya cleared his throat and replaced his expression with a more serious one.

They both stood, exchanging pleasantries, Eric thanking Tatsuya for the tea and financiers, and Tatsuya responding with his polite conversation, “–not at all Eric, it was my pleasure.”

Eric turned to face Johna and myself at the doorway.

“Oh hello there, I’m Nightfall.” I noticed Tatsuya’s eyebrow arch in question, promptly dissipated as he introduced me similarly as his best operative to the younger Eric I saw before me.

“Ah yes, Nightfall, I have to thank you for minding my son, I hope he did not cause too much trouble.” Eric extended his hand for me to shake.

I feigned humour as I chuckled at his statement, similarly extending my own hand to shake his, taking the opportunity to slip a tracker on his cuff. Eric had some answers and I had questions.

After bumping into Eric, I felt solemn, a stark reminder of the future now in the present. I mulled over whatever recollections I had from the past, and whatever I had been told before as I wondered how I could change the future.

There had to be a purpose as to why Captain from my timeline sent me here.

“Yin, come along- let’s spend the afternoon in Shinjuku!” I looked up to see Mizuki pulling Jane along, eager to hear my response. I welcomed the steady distraction from the thoughts invading my mind.

For a moment, I paused before my eyes welled up with tears, as I happily nodded, hastily trying to blink away my emotions, what I would have ever given to hear my mother say that.

I left the base with Mizuki and Jane, as they eagerly pulled me along to what they promised would be the best cafe with their favourite cakes.

They pulled me into a shop with a dainty white awning that looked foreign, with an array of cakes in a refrigerated display. Mizuki nudged Jane and myself towards a table as she ordered for us- a selection of 3 cakes and a round of iced tea.

“Try each of the cakes! Let me know which you think is the best!” Mizuki beamed and she slid the forks towards us.

Jane went right for the darker coloured chocolate and coffee cake and smiled in satisfaction. Mizuki chuckled lightly, it did seem like that was a common thing she had come to witness. Jane offered a corner for me to try and the chocolate icing just melted in my mouth and the cake was light and fluffy.

I must have let out a smile as Jane nodded in understanding and agreement. I reached out for the white cake slice covered in strawberries; marvelling at the sweetness of freshly whipped cream and strawberries.

The last slice of cake was another smaller stacked cake with a slice of red in the centre sandwiched between layers of cream and sponge. I dug my fork into it and I was surprised at the crunch of watermelon in the centre of the cake.

The sweetness of the cakes was pleasant and I felt a swell of joy in my heart being able to enjoy some time with my mother and Jane. I felt a little disjointed as this was too stark a contrast from what I was used to back in the timeline I was from, an afternoon tea was way too far out of reach.

The iced tea was cold and a refreshing treat, slightly sweet but not too overwhelming to distract from the cakes but floral enough to stand out from the fruit. I appreciated the afternoon and basked in the company of my mother and Jane as they bickered over which cake was their favourite.

After tea, Mizuki grabbed Jane’s hand and my own, “I have to show you girls the shrines in the area!”

She beamed as she showed us around Shinjuku- I glanced up at the skyline and in the calmness of the moment, I could spend my time studying the buildings that often were silhouettes in my time. I pointed out one of the taller buildings in the city, the design an intricate webbing over the surface much like a cocoon in awe.

Architectural wonders much like that were absent, or perhaps just never noticed in my time- just a haze of lights and separation of the wealthy and commoners.

We left the bustling station area and headed to a quieter part of the city. I never knew that Tokyo could be this quiet. The Tokyo I knew was busy, filled with peddlers, militia combing through the masses and crowds without a moment of peace, and the contrast was almost surreal.

Passing through a small tree lined area we arrived at what can be only described as a wonder I had only dreamed about.

The beautiful oversized red Tori Gate towered above us. Children played around the base as people prayed below. I’d only heard stories since all the shrines in the future were destroyed before I was old enough to remember.

Mizuki turned around to look at me, beaming as she held a charm in her hand, “Could I buy you a charm so that you would think of me often?”

I reddened as I looked down, blinking back sentimental tears as I turned to look at the array of charms on the racks- “Only if you would let me buy one for you too.”

The smile on her face made me wish I could live in that moment forever.

I held the charm she had given me to my chest, gently wishing for only the best things for her, hoping somehow to defy what I knew would be.

The charm I held was small and unusually clean, free from the marks and stains it had gradually accumulated along its lifetime with me. I turned it over in my hands as though I hadn’t already memorised what it had looked like through our journey together.

While I held the charm in my palm, a sudden thought flooded my mind- was this the moment that Eric came to power?

Night soon came and I knew there was no better time to get answers than under the cover of darkness.

With my hood up and mask on, I made my way down the streets around Shinjuku, the peaceful silence was resounding and unusual, making me more tense than usual.

I found myself at the location in question as I found myself scaling the building to settle on the rooftop once again, patiently waiting for Eric to reveal himself.

As if out of a playbook, the one I was looking for arrived.

Just like in the future, he strode out by himself with all the confidence in the world.

“No need to hide from me Yin, I know you’re here… Seriously, did you think Tatsuya was the only one who knew you came from the future? I found the little handy tracker you planted on me too.”

I felt a chill go down my spine.

He knew…

“Tatsuya was always a trusting one. Same with Mizuki or do you still call her mum? Must be hard for you to interact with her without giving it away?


In a flash I was up in his face muzzle against his forehead, “I’m done playing games with you Eric. It’s time for the future to change!”

Eric seemed surprisingly cool as he smiled mockingly right in my face, “Oh Yin, always thinking everything can be changed and that you can be the hero. You blew up that military base last night and now, here you are, taking a defenceless man at gunpoint.”

“I did what I did last night to set the world free from those who rule with an iron fist. I’m done listening to people like you!”

I whipped Eric with the muzzle and backed him into a corner as he lay on the ground, gasping for air as he looked up at me. Despite his position, his eyes cause a jolt of fear to shoot through my veins as I paused. I realised with a jolt of horror that there was no way that Eric had amassed this much strength in such a short period of time for our fights in the future, and as someone who had faced him in combat numerous times, this was impossible.

Then I heard the sound of my own voice on all the billboards below.

“You blew up that military base last night and here you are, taking a defenceless man at gunpoint.”

“I did what I did last night to set the world free from those who rule with an iron fist. I’m done listening to people like you!”

As though it was right on cue, the corner of his lip twitched upwards as the screens of Shinjuku once again lit up behind him, footage of the unmanned base blowing up looping, accompanied by a picture of my masked expression and my voice.

Déjà vu.

Sirens began to blare and I found myself running once again.