Chapter 10:

A Charm Among Tangled Threads

Bullet Loop


Numb.

There were no other words to describe how I felt in the moment. I heard the reverberating sounds around me; but it felt like I was in a bubble and that everything else around me went at mach speed while I was still caught in the moments just before.

I unclasped my hand, revealing the omamori in my palm.

In my haze after watching my mother die again, I found myself just wandering through the eerily empty streets to where we had been just days before, the memory of the afternoon we spent out together leaving me an empty shell.

It felt odd; like an old wound ripped open, I thought I had come to terms with everything that had led me up to this point in my life thus far. But holding the charm in my palms, with the refreshed memory of the night's events just made me realise otherwise.

Memories of that afternoon in Shinjuku with Mizuki flooded through my mind, along with the realisation that this entire time, that every action she had taken was to protect myself and our future generations.

This entire time I had been angry at someone taking her away from me, furious at the cloaked figure that had ripped me away

I should have found some way to close the gap between us, I should have found some way to jump and helped her fight through the military forces, I should have…

There were no tears, no sobs, I fluctuated flimsily between anger and helplessness.

I played her death in my mind repeatedly; maybe I should have flanked her instead. Maybe I would have been the person stuck on the walkway.

In the background, the replays of bombings across Shinjuku blared across the screen, accompanied by my face and the news finding some way to play it off as retaliation by our rebel forces. Sirens rang out in the city, mixed with a discordant combination of screams, crying and booms in the distance.

I felt sick to my stomach realising that what my parents had fought for had been twisted by a power hungry maniac who had pretended to be their friend and benefactor only to set it all up. And all this time- I knew and I was still so helpless.

Had I always doomed us to be a part of this controlling future?

Wait, where am I now?

After what felt like an eternity walking through my memories, somehow I ended up at the sight of the happiest I’d been in my life. The place where I’d got the one thing I had left of her.

I sat on the steps below the large Torii Gate. With all the commotion going on, not a sole was around.

I guess that’s a good thing. I don’t really want anyone to see what comes next…

LB floated out my jacket pocket and hovered in front of my face. I could see she was trying to cheer me up but at this point my mind had already been made up.

I really am the cause of this. I’ve been searching for myself my whole life. The one who set me on this journey… was me.

Sitting on the stairs I pulled my pistol out and laid it on my upper thigh as I looked out at skyline beyond.

Maybe this really is the way…

I put the pistol to my chin and closed my eyes.

“...Yin…?”

I heard familiar footsteps come running…

I felt a body come slamming into me, knocking the pistol from my hand as they lay of top of me.

“How dare you Yin, HOW DARE YOU. AFTER EVERYTHING…”

I didn’t need to see who it was, we just sat there in silence as the tears began to flow from both of us.

After a while, the tears began to slow and we both sat up. I glanced up to look at Jane’s tear-streaked face, “How did you know I was here?”

Jane half grinned and half choked back even more tears, “Well, you did say you liked this building while we were out…”

She fought the emotions for a while before she rushed towards me and burst into a flood of emotion. Jane’s body crumpled with sobs as she wept on my shoulder.

Whilst I had years to come to terms with my mother’s death, it was still fresh for her and her emotion definitely felt something in my heart twinge with sadness.

“You came back to the past to make a difference– don’t try to correct me, I know you’re from the future, and you’re here because somewhere out there, you wanted to make a difference in the past. Even if you go back now, with the knowledge you have, you might still be able to make the future that you wanted.”

I looked at Jane’s face, covered in streaks from where her tears had washed away the dirt from the evening’s events.

“Jane, do me a favour?”

We both headed back underground to what was left of the lab. I saw Tatsuya and myself wrapped up asleep in the corner as we entered.

“We need your help Tatsuya.” I asked as I walked up to him

“I think I know how to beat Eric. But he has to think I’m dead. Then you can send me back to where I came from. Jane said she has a way.”

Jane stepped forward to continue. “Were any of the cryo chambers I was testing damaged?”

“I don’t think so but Yin this is CRAZY!” Tatsuya crossed his arms disapproving of everything we were implying. “None of this has been tested and you’re just gonna trust us?”

“Tatsuya” I said as I grabbed his hand. “I know it will work…because I saw something similar before I came here. I think that was the moment we were putting the plan into action. Just wake me when Eric is coming. You’ll know what I mean.”

For a second, Tatsuya pondered in thought. Looking over at younger Yin before looking at me.

“Alright. I trust you on this. Let’s get you ready.

Following Tatsuya to the back rooms I saw a large cylinder connected by hundreds of wires connected to a large metal cage on wheels housing what looked to be a server machine larger than I was.

“Well Yin, now or never to climb in. I’ll be seeing you in the future.”

“One thing Tatsuya, when Eric does come. Wear some armour. The last time I saw you…”

As I was climbing in, Tatsuya placed his hand on my shoulder as I began to lie down.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to go down swinging…”

Tatsuya made room for Jane before I could respond.

“Here.” I passed LB to Jane. “Leave her next to me when I awake.”

“I’ll be sure to take good care of her!”

“One more thing Jane!”

Jane turned around, her face solemn, “...Anything.”

“Leave a gun near this cryo for me?”

Her face crinkled into a small chuckle, as she nodded.

This time, I was going to make sure we got him.

—-

I came to, once again lifting my arm to shield my eyes from the bright lights that blinded me.

Blinking rapidly as I instinctively flexed my muscles gradually, I felt oddly sore in places- I had no doubt I had awakened from what would potentially be my longest undisturbed rest, nevermind that it came courtesy of a trip through a cryogenic vault.

“Yin– Yin! Can you hear me?” came the hushed tones of Jane’s rushed whisper.

I nodded, feeling oddly like I was in a bubble for a moment, wait, why was Jane whispering?

Snapping into a state of attention, my eyes focused on Jane staying crouched and out of line of sight, “What’s happening?” I croaked back.

“Eric’s just barged into the base!” she hissed back at me.

With those six words, I felt my consciousness just snap back to reality.

I immediately crouched by the cryogenic tube I had come out from, using my fingers to tap around- it had to be here somewhere, Jane said she would.

My fingers met the holster of a gun and I pulled it out of its hiding place along with some ammunition.

Ever reliable, in the past and in the future. I smiled slightly.

I continued tapping and came across another two more guns and a note in younger Jane’s scrawl, I wasn’t sure how many weapons you might have needed, and I couldn’t ask you.

Hastily checking all three guns and loading them with ammunition while attempting to stifle a chuckle, I handed one to Jane, keeping one holstered and another for myself.

Just as I handed the gun over, I heard the sound of hurried footsteps, “–Remember that phone?” came the unmistakable sound of Captain’s voice rushing away.

Silently, I gestured towards Jane, indicating that we need to follow Captain, she nodded back at me, following suit.

I heard the thud of the vault door as the other me trapped in the vault protested to the best she could against the metal of the door.

Any minute now.

The sounds of a gun cocking reached me where I was this time, as I stepped out into the light.

“Not this time.” I fired a shot at Johna as the pain caused him to involuntarily drop his gun

I remember hearing that bullet sound what seemed like so long ago. It’s the one that started this whole thing. I could see Johna recoiling from the shot. His eyes fixed on me. I slammed the reinforced door to the room and bolted.

I ran as fast as I could to draw them away…

“You know it’s over now,” Johna said. “I have more men than you have bullets. Be sensible.”

“Yin, you’re young. It would be a shame to lose someone as… capable as yourself over such petty squabbles. Why make a miserable place like this your tomb, just like your mo-?”

“Fuck you. Everything we believed in, you tore it all to shreds. I’ll cut you open, alive.”

A bullet slammed into the corner just above my head. Ceramic tiles chipped off the wall and showered me in dust.

“Fine, have it your way. Die the way you lived, alone and in the dark. Tragically and powerlessly clutching onto that which you hold dear.”

My hand moved below my harness straps to my top pocket, pulling out a small, rectangular bag. Charred at its corner, the golden-embroidered floral pattern on the red and pink fabric brightly shone in the dark. I turned it over, gingerly tracing a thumb over the silk-printed words. No matter the hardship, this omamori charm survived this far alongside me.

I pulled it close to my heart. My lower jaw quivered and a tear rolled down my cheek. I was never a faithful person—most people stopped believing in a God that would let a world like this exist. But, maybe it wasn’t too late to start believing now.

Maybe if I believed enough, I might get to see her again.

I accept my fate…

Just as the soldier rounded the corner, I heard a flurry of bullets and large explosions. Far louder than any grenade. His body flopped down next to me. I picked up his pistol instinctively and peered round the corner and saw nothing short of a blood bath. Everyone was on the floor.

Then, I saw Johna run round the corner returning fire from the corridor he was just in. Our eyes met, I don’t think he’d expected me to be alive but I could see the fear in his eyes. Our guns immediately began to raise to each other. One thing to note though, while he’d always been the stronger one my reflexes were always sharper. My gun drew first and with one shot, he was on the floor.

Still alive…

Armour saved his life on this one but he wasn’t going to be fighting back.

Rushing to the corner where the hail of bullets had come from, I pushed my back against the wall and slowly peaked around.

Immediately I was met with a hug from Jane with the Captain walking behind. Holding a large light machine gun. Bullet cartridges around his neck like a necklace.

After the quick reunion, we moved over to Johna still on the floor in pain.

“You don’t know what you’re really fighting for, you’re just lost- just like how you have always been.”

I took a deep breath in as I fought off the wave of anger that rose, remembering his betrayal, “On the contrary, now I can see clearer than ever.”

I turned to the Captain. “Do you still have Eric’s phone?”

“I do, he fled once the fighting began.”

“Good. Let’s make a quick phone call.”

Grabbing the phone from Tatsuya, I checked the only contact in the phone and rang it.

“It’s a bit odd for you to be calling so early Johna. I’m sure Dragons Breath is finished by now…”

“Sorry to cut it a little short Eric.” I cut in. “But Johna can’t really come to the phone right now. Isn’t that right?” I shot Johna in the left leg and held the phone close to his face. His screams barreling down the microphone.

“You monster.”

“Choice words.” I paused as I looked over at Tatsuya and Jane. “2 hours on the same rooftop as before. Make sure to say your last goodbye to your son…”

I threw the phone onto Johna’s chest and took a step over the top of him.

Placing pressure on the trigger, I felt the gun recoil as the shot echoed through the space.

A thud followed as Johna’s body collapsed, I sniffled as a tear made its way down my face.

The phone flopped to the ground as Tatsuya crushed it under his foot.

“Now…we go on the offensive.”

Once again, I stood alone on the rooftops overlooking Shinjuku. This rooftop had twice been my demise. This time though. I wasn’t truly alone. I glanced behind and for a second saw the snipers glint of Tatsuya.

“In position Yin. Ready to go once Eric arrives.” I heard Jane confirm in my ear. For this plan to work, it was all up to her.

This time, I was ready to face Eric…

Across the long deserted rooftop, the door barged open and Eric came out. Calm as ever. Our eyes met as behind him came two soldiers brandishing fully automatic rifles.

However, the second they came from the lit doorway, their bodies hit the ground.

Eric however, continued to look indifferent as he walked towards me. The wind fluttering his jacket as he stopped about three metres away from me.

“I must give it to you Yin, you have surprised me this time. I guess this is the you who’s seen the past then.”

“I know what you are Eric. How dare you play us for fools. You really think you’ve won this time?”

Instantly, Eric begin to hysterically laugh. Like the madman he was, he was almost embracing the persona at this point.

I guess losing Johna really set him off…

“You know what it is that separates us, Yin?” came Eric’s patronising tone.

I raised an eyebrow in mock curiosity as he continued, “I am adaptable, Ever-evolving. I’ll find some way to take every bombing and turn it around as a threat to Japan and make sure that the people of Japan feel safe in my presence- it’s worked then, it will work now. I will keep my place on top as I rule them with fear.”

He took a manic breath as he continued with such force he seemed to spit with every word, “Every bombing, from the military base, all these cesspits around Shinjuku- all that. I got away with every. Single. One. And I will continue to do so. And now with Dragon’s Breath blown to absolute smithereens there is no one else in the world out there that can help you.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that.” I stated bluntly.

As though right on cue, the same screens that had repeatedly blared with the footage of bombings along with my face blared to life with the footage of Eric maniacally gloating in my face.

It looped for a second, as Eric seemed to desperately find some way to play it all off.

Though I was hoping for his reaction to be despair, I did not realise that his first inclination would be indignation and fury as he shoved me to the ground taking me by surprise.

I landed with a hard thud as he began to kick me repeatedly, using his height and stature to his advantage.

To some extent, I didn’t fight back as hard as I should have- perhaps part of me felt as though I deserved the beating. I did just murder a lifelong friend in cold blood, I did fail to save my mother for a second time, and I did just lose what was basically my home for most of my life.

“Yin!” came Tatsuya’s voice accompanied by Jane’s gasp as she dashed to my side.

Tatsuya circled Eric cautiously, as Eric now turned to face him, his hands up in the air in mock surrender in the face of a gun.

“Surely you wouldn’t kill an unarmed man, Tatsuya, surely not your own friend.”

“You know what Eric, you always were a colossal prick.” Tatsuya snapped, “and I wouldn’t think anyone watching would think that you were unarmed considering people have just watched a live feed of you kicking the shit out of my daughter.”

I coughed weakly, “Okay, now you get to play the Dad card.” Jane, who had supported me in sitting up despite the pain, heard and yelled out, “Yeah, she’s okay!”

Tatsuya, on the other hand, didn’t hear my humorous quip as the two men stood in a stand-off like two predators sizing each other up.

“You couldn’t kill a friend, Tatsuya, just leave me alive and the people will bring me to justice.”

I saw Tatsuya grit his teeth and I knew that while he contemplated it, the option of leaving Eric alive was much too dangerous; the number of people who had died to his schemes to rise to power, what if people in high places somehow managed to have him elude justice?

“I couldn’t consider someone who was implicit in my wife’s death my friend.” Tatsuya finally said in cold fury.

Without a hint of hesitation Tatsuya pulled the trigger. Eric’s body flopped on the ground before laying cold.

It’s over.

While I was on the roof, I felt resigned, tired, exhausted - I’d been fighting for as long as I could remember.

Looking at the omamori from my mother, in my palms, I felt no fear, an empty joy.

My lengthy fight had come to an end, the world was no longer in imminent danger. For the first time, I felt hope spark within me, the cause my parents had fought so hard for had paid off.

Standing on the ledge, looking out at New Shinjuku as the videos of Eric’s crimes blared in the background, just a blur in my peripheral with the sound muted. Smoke from the

The sun was rising in the distance, marking the end of a bloody fight masked by the night. It felt almost like a cliché; the sun marking the dawn of a new age, this time- it was time to give freedom back to the people.