Chapter 22:



The bell's toll signaled the end of the meeting between two red-eyed women, two red-eyed men, a black-eyed man, and a man with one purple eye. The red eyed woman in fatigues left with a scowl, while the other stopped in front of the purple eyed man's chair.

"Is it feeling any better?" Bian asked, blinking at him while nearly biting her lip.

"A lot," he replied. "Aesthetica has the best medicine, after all."

"Yeah," she replied with a weak smile. "Look, you don't have to become one of us, now. But think about it, okay? You're the only reason I'm here."

"You made your own choices, right?" he asked with a polite smile. "I'm still figuring myself out, but I'm happy where I'm at right now."

"Alright, then," she said with a nod. "I'm guessing Dmitri is ready to be a citizen?"

"He'll be ready to move in," he replied. "Turns out it's a lot easier to improve someone's fortitude when there isn't a baptism involved."

"I'm sure Felix doing the screenings has something to do with it, too."

"Yeah, he's better than I ever was, honestly," he replied with a chuckle. She gave a chuckle of her own, and waved goodbye.

"See you in the Outer District, buddy," Sable said, shooting him a wink as he walked out with Akos, who offered him a polite nod. The only one left was the black-eyed man, whose hair was cut down significantly but still spiked with a flame-shaped wave.

"So, what did you think of New Aesthetica's founding council?" he asked, nearly cackling under his breath. "We're a bit of a ragtag group, but better than a bunch of old farts."

"You all have good intentions, I can say that with certainty, at least," Roy replied, smiling. "It's a little off-putting seeing a bonafide criminal like you in a suit, though."

"Hey, I've paid my debts, haven't I?" he said, smirking as he stood in the doorway with his arms crossed.

"You saved Aesthetica… After all the bloodshed, the only thing we can do is move forward together, like Ellie said."

"One day we might even convince the doctor of that," Mika said, pointing at his head. "Speaking of, you have a new navi, now, don't you?"

"Yeah, it took about as long as you said it would. It's even more annoying than my last one, though. You think we should take each other's out, this time?"

Mika snorted with laughter. "Nah, he's actually surprisingly easy going. Seems like he just wants to watch how it goes down from here."

"Funny, he's the first person that realized Heaven existed, and he's still hanging around, and with a guy that's got his seat in Hell reserved, to boot."

"The world's a funny place, alright," Mika replied, grinning as he walked out, holding the door while Roy walked out on crutches, using just his right leg. "You know, you can't pretend to be on aesthetics, when you aren't, forever. Someone's going to wonder why the synthetics in your leg don't work."

"I'll come up with something," Roy replied, following him onto the cobblestone road. "It still just doesn't feel right. Old school medicine has been helping me heal just fine, even if it takes a little longer."

"Whatever works for you, man," Mika said, waving as he walked opposite him. "I'll see you at the hideout, right? I can't wait for you to see how well Dmitri rebuilt it."

"Yeah, I'll be there," Roy replied."It's been a few days since I've seen Hai and Dmitri. If we're lucky, Gabi will show up, too. Plus, I want to pay my respects to Rocks."

"Yeah," Mika replied with a smile. "I'll see you there."

Roy's crutches clicked down the road as he watched Gabi singing on each TV he passed by, her green eyes glowing next to her passionate smile. He smiled, looking over the smiling faces that were making their commute home underneath the setting sun. This time, he noticed their smiles didn't all look the same. Some were worn, some were forced, and some weren't really smiles at all. But he didn't need to blink to think they were all beautiful.

What are you thinking of, Roy?

Oh, nothing.

Shouldn't you be going to watch Luiz- I mean Gabi? You're so lucky you get a backseat pass.

I couldn't be luckier, could I?

Maybe you could, I don't know. That's for you to decide. What a weird question.

It wasn't an actual question, navi.

I thought we agreed not to call me that. You wanna break dance again?

Please, no. Nobody needs to find out there's a navi that can hack its host.

Fine, I'll just wait till everyone's at the hideout to see.

Whatever keeps you from talking about Heaven.

Screw Heaven, just keep feeding me Suntory straight from the bottle.

It's an acquired taste, I know. Just one I haven't acquired yet.

But it's Heaven for me. Don't forget it.

I could never forget. You'd never let me.

He continued walking, rubbing his eyepatch and his lone eye as it grew weary.

Hey, Roybot.


You never answered my question.

Which one?

Did you have fun?

Roy laughed, and as he opened his eye, it flashed red, then green, and then turned back to purple.

"Yeah, I had a lot of fun."