Chapter 20:



As the blood formed a puddle over Aldheim's limp body, Bian's purple eyes slowly trickled with spots of red until they were a full scarlet. Everybody stood, frozen, as she caught her breath and lowered the gun. Sable sat down without looking, watching her with wide eyes. The other soldier dragged Egen behind the bar and out of sight, while Felix stood up, holding his bleeding head as he stared in shock at Aldheim.

"Bian…" Roy muttered. "What have you done…"

"What you couldn't," she said in a whisper, her hands shaking with the gun resting on the floor.

"We saved you from Derangement Syndrome so that you wouldn't have to kill…"

"And I thank you for that," she replied, unable to look away from her victim. "I thank you for giving me the opportunity to make the choice myself."

Roy shuddered, unable to respond. Gabi and Sora held their mouths, quivering as they looked on in utter disbelief.

"We need to get out of here," Sable said. "Somebody's sure to have heard that. I'll stick with you, and get you to the Outer District if that's where you want to go."

It took far too long to get everybody out of the cobwebs holding them still, but they snuck out the back and followed another set up stairs up to another exit. Roy and Sable started down the alley, but Bian didn't follow.

"I'm going back into town," she said, holding the pistol at her hip. "I have people I want to save, too." Roy squinted at her, while Sable chuckled.

"M-me too," Sora replied, nodding.

"I'll stay with them," Felix said, smiling weakly at Roy. "There are people I'd like to check on, too."

Roy gave a hesitant nod, avoiding Bian's gaze. "Please, be careful. Don't throw your lives away. After all of this is over, we might be the only ones who can change Aesthetica."

"Before this ends, you need to make a choice for yourself," BIan said, pointing her red eyes mercilessly at him. "Keep your self-righteous principles at the risk of losing everyone, or be honest with yourself and sacrifice something if you want to save even one person. If you don't figure yourself out, you're not going to change anything."

Roy looked down, before meeting her blood red eyes head on. "I will. I promise."

Sable led Roy and Gabi to the gate with little interference, and before long they found themselves at the crossroad of alleys where a neon haze once filled the air. Now, a cabin-sized fort made of bright stained glass panes greeted them, the colors on the glass surging with light. A buzzing sound invaded Roy's head, followed by a chorus of robotic voices.

Roy, be careful. These radio waves are just like the tower!

"You two stay back!" Roy cried, throwing the door open. Gabi pleaded for him to wait, but Sable held her back. Roy stepped into the completed fort, which glowed brighter than the chapel walls.

Roy, I'm sorry if I act rashly again… The waves make it hard for me…

In the middle of the room, Rocksroy stood, several cords connecting his arms and neck to large computer terminals. Roy took careful steps over the glass, watching as Rocks turned his head and smirked at him.

"Your navi is suffering because it wants to return to Heaven."

"What are you talking about? Rocks, what are you trying to do? This isn't for Ellie, is it?"

"It was also for her," he said, chuckling. "But it's too late for that. Now, there's only one way for me to help him."

"How?" Roy cried, his head convulsing with pain as the voices bounced around the room with the waves like a tornado. "Are you trying to destroy the navi system by sucking all the navi into this makeshift tower?"

"That would be nice, but I don't think my little fort is stronger than the entirety of the walls around Aesthetica," he replied. "But right now, all the new navi being created by the mass killing in the city… They're all coming to this place."

"And why do you need that?"

"To serve as a beacon, unregulated by Aesthetica's engineers."

"A beacon for what?"

"To bring him here."

"Bring who?" Roy cried as he lunged at Rocks, only to be pushed away by the invisible waves thrashing around the room.

"The scapegoat for Ken's crimes," he replied, smiling a cold smile. "The one person who can take the blame for all of this."

"You don't mean him… Rocks, Mika's only going to make things worse for Aesthetica!"

"Haven't you figured out that I don't care about Aesthetica?" he replied, shaking his head. "I only care about Ken."

"Ken didn't want Mika to get inside Aesthetica, Rocks!" Roy cried, struggling to stand up. "No matter what he's done, he told me he wasn't going to work with Mika! I still believe that. You're going against his wishes!"

"That's fine," he said. "I'm still going to protect him. That's what parents do. Even failures like me."

"Ken's parents died… My parents turned them on each other."

"So you finally remembered?" Rocks muttered. "Did you remember everything? How you sacrificed Ken and your entire convoy so that you alone could get into Aesthetica?"

Suddenly, the regained memories he saw in his dreams coalesced, and images flashed over the glass panes. A burning dumpster next to a gym, a young Roy running alone toward the towering glass walls of Aesthetica, and a young Mika marching with Rocks and a small army toward the gym next to the burning dumpster.

"You tipped us off to the convoy's location, and we killed everyone in the convoy beside Ken. Mika and I took him in, and we became family. And you made it into Aesthetica alone, just like your parents wanted."

You did what you had to do, Roy.

"I don't have a grudge against you, Roy. You brought Ken to me. I'm thankful."

"Rocks, who exactly are you?"

"Roy, that's Conan Rock!" Sable cried from the doorway. "He was a soldier made purely out of synthetic parts— an android!"


"He escaped Aesthetica because he was attracting tons of navis to his cyberbrain!"

The door slammed shut, Sable gone with the wind that shut it. "When I joined Mika, I was a machine, lost and looking for a cause," Rocks said, stretching his cords to take a drag of his cigarette. "The multitude of navi that passed through my cyberbrain shaped me into Rocksroy Cannon. But none more than the two that remain with me today."

"His parent's are your navi…?"

"I'm not capable of having a navi," he replied. "They merged with my cyberbrain. I'm not them, but I share their memories and feelings. I know how much they loved Ken. And that they were willing to die to protect him. Your parents exploited that. But they only did it because they loved you enough to kill for you. They're just like everyone here in Aesthetica. Driven by love and fear, and controlled by the navi system."

"No wonder the three of you want to destroy it…"

"I never cared. But I'm willing to let Mika do it, if Ken can be saved. So, Roy, will you look after him for me? After all, you owe it to him…"

"I…" Roy said, fighting the storm of waves and lunging at the cords in Rocks' neck. "I'll help both of you take responsibility. Because that's the only way I can take responsibility, myself."

"Too late," Rocks muttered, letting one last cloud of smoke escape his lips. "See ya later, Roybot."

He grabbed the cord and pulled, but took an elbow in the jaw and collapsed underneath the thrashing radio waves.

Rocks unplugged the other cords and looked down on him with a smirk. "It's you again. The same bug that got me stuck in cyberspace."


His smile broadened, and he raised Rocks' hand, pointing a finger skyward. "Rocks did a flawless job. Not only did he get me out of cyberspace with this thing, but he weakened the firewall around the city enough for my guys to get in."

The sound of explosions, and the beating of a helicopter's blades, overtook the voices whirling around the colorful room. Gunfire erupted, and the bright glass shattered into a million pieces around them.

Roy shielded his eyes from the rainfall of red, blue, pink, white, green, and purple glass, while Mika stood tall in Rocks' sturdy body, welcoming it.

"Roy Grainger, right?" he cried with a maniacal grin. "I'm sure I'll see you again soon, in my real body,"

Before the glass finished falling onto them, a single bullet pierced his bald head, and he fell with the shards, light as dust yet hard as a pile of rocks.

Outside the shattered walls of the fort, Emery lowered her rifle, her purple eyes turning red as she pressed down on her walkie. "Conan Rock, AKA Rocksroy Cannon, is dead." She looked toward the wall, where explosions boomed and helicopters flew overhead. "But I was too late. He brought Mika Furuya here, to Aesthetica."