Chapter 3:

The View from Nebula

Echoes of the Sanguine

Just need to reach a bit further...

As soon as my fingers graze it, I grab the rope. With my momentum, I kick my legs to change direction and swing my way around to the billboard…

Damn. The woman lands elegantly onto the billboard first, but she’s right where I’m supposed to land-

I crash into her and we tumble together across the gravel, stoppping right at the very edge. When the dust settles, she’s straddling me, looking very perplexed.

After an awkward moment, I reach out and tap her on the shoulder. “Tag?”

She clicks her tongue and gets off of me. I groan as I pick myself up and brush the dust off my clothes.

"Well, this is annoying. I never expected you to actually keep up," she says, her frustration easing into a self-amused chuckle of defeat. "Alright, you've won."

She extends her hand to me. “I’m Eliana.” Feeling triumphant, I likewise reciprocate for a handshake. But instead she grabs and inspects my hand closely.

“You’re bleeding.” She then licks the wound on my finger. 

She then looks a little surprised, like she found my blood to be delicious.


I snap out of my bewilderment. “I've got a ton of questions, but first, I'm really thirsty. Wanna stop by somewhere for a drink?”

“I prefer not to be in busy places.”

“I know a quiet place nearby. Plus, I work there, so it’ll be on me.”

“...What place are you thinking of?”

“Follow me.”

I lead Eliana across the rooftops of tightly packed buildings until we come upon a rooftop izakaya. Its terrace, dimly lit and furnished with cheap plastic chairs and tables, offers an unobstructed view of the surrounding buildings and the sky.

We jump onto a pipe against the wall and slide down onto the izakaya's balcony, and instantly the aroma of grilled meat permeates our noses. Inside, a few bar seats face the small kitchen located behind the counter, set in an indoor-outdoor space with the accordion glass partition only partially open.

Eliana perches herself on the railing, surveying the area. Her attention is drawn to a telescope on a tripod in the corner, and she moves to peer into the eyepiece.

“I can’t see anything through this.”

“It’s more for decoration. The owner loves astronomy. She says there’s too much light pollution in the city.”

“Oh.” She pulls back from the telescope.

I grab the one-paged menu and wave it in front of her face. “What do you want?”

She snatches it and tosses it aside. “Chocolate.”

“What are you, a child?”

“You have a problem with that?”

“No, I didn’t expect you to be a sweet tooth.”

“You don’t even know me.” She continues to survey the streets below.

Shaking my head, I go inside through the glass door to the bar counter. The izakaya is nearly empty, save for a drunk businessman passed out on the counter. By the main entrance, which we had completely bypassed, hangs a small reversible sign that reads “ネビュラの隅Corner Nebula 20:00-02:00.”

“Ken-chan! Thanks again for opening today.” The owner Nanami Tsukino behind the counter calls out to me. Acting wiser than someone in her late twenties, she enjoys taking care of her patrons with a motherly touch. “I didn’t notice you come in. Can’t sleep again?”

“Showing someone around, actually.”

She leans over the counter and sees Eliana looking out the balcony. “Oh, a friend?”

“Hopefully. Need help closing?”

“Just finished, but the kitchen’s always open for you. What would you like?”

“A raise?”

“Nice try.”

I let out a nervous chuckle. “The usual, then.”

“Always of simple tastes, aren’t you?”

Then the drunk businessman at the bar stirs from his sleep.

“Nanami…” he mumbles before his head thuds back onto the counter.

“Excuse me for a moment. Takashi-san?” She shakes the drunk man’s shoulder. “Takashi-san! It’s time to go home.”

Groggily, he lifts his head again. “Nanami-chan, let’s go… to karaoke!”

“Your wife will be very mad if you don’t go home right now! Let me call you a taxi. Can you stand?”

Nanami helps the drunk man to her feet, supporting him with his arm around her shoulder.

“I’m sorry Ken-chan, you know where everything is? I need to take care of this one.”

“Yeah, no worries.”

“You’re the best, Nanami-chan…” the businessman slurs.

“Yes, yes. Now move those feet…” she helps him out the door and into the elevator.

Back on the balcony, I hand Eliana a chocolate bar.


“That’ll do.” She says tersely, then eyes the marble bottle of Ramune in my hand. “What are you, a child?”

“Touché.” I pop the marble and take a sip. “That tune you were humming earlier. Where is it from?”

“I don’t know. It came naturally to me.”

“Can you sing it again? I can look it up.” I pull out my phone.

“I’m not in the mood.”

“What mood do you need to be in?”

“Not this one.”

“I thought you were gonna answer my questions?”

“I said I’d tell you who I am. My name is Eliana. Now you know who I am.”

“Okay, smartass.” I sigh again and put my phone away, disappointed.

She looks away again, but it seems like she’s itching to ask something.

“Why do you want me to sing so badly?”

I pause, wondering how to explain it. “I’m looking for my dad.”

“A tune that I made up will help you find your father?”

“I don’t think it’s made up. I remember hearing it as a child when I used to live in Osaka. It’s linked to him somehow. I'd ask my mom, but every time I ask, she would only tell me he was a ‘bad man’. Not like I could ask her anything anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Now who’s the one asking too many questions?”

She glares at me. I sigh, choosing my words. “I don’t want to get too into it, but I got mixed up with the wrong crowd and she kicked me out of the house. Now I’m here on my own, halfway across the world, trying to find the half of my family I know nothing about.”

"Do you get lonely?"

“Not really. I meet a lot of interesting people in this city. Like you.”

She looks away from me in annoyance, though I think I see a little color on her face now.

“I don’t think you'd want to get involved with me.”

“Why not?”

“Danger seems to find me.”

“And I seem to be attracted to danger.”

She examines me again, unsure if I’m joking.

“If you say so.” She uses her left hand to break another chocolate piece and pops it into her mouth, revealing a dark metallic arm with carbon fiber patterning. Seeing me notice it, she quickly hides it again into her sleeve.

“Do you mind me asking?” I gesture toward her artificial arm.

“Accident.” She says curtly.

“Oh, I’m sorry. What happened?”

“Don’t remember.”

“You don’t have to tell me. Losing a limb must be traumatizing.”

She pauses, wondering whether to tell me or not.

“No, I… I don’t remember anything before the accident.”

“Nothing at all? Like amnesia?”

“I’m aware of my name. I know I very athletic, I have certain skills, certain… abilities… And I’m always looking for exits and need to look over my shoulder a lot, but that's it.”

“Amnesia and paranoia. Have you seen a doctor?”

Her eyes narrow. “I’m not looking for help. I’ve got someone who… looks after me. They give me odd jobs now and then. But I’m always looking for something to help jog my memory.”

“So, we’re both searching for our pasts.”

I give her a reassuring smile. She looks back up at the night sky, taking another bite of chocolate.

Then a commotion erupts inside.

Three delinquents burst into the izakaya, with their leader at the forefront. His dyed blonde hair, piercings, and a loud shirt scream the quintessential delinquent look.

“I’m sorry, I just closed the bar.” Nanami tries to keep the peace.

He counters with a dismissive wave. “We won’t be long, sweetheart. Just feeling a bit thirsty. You can help us with that, right?” His eyes scan the selection behind her and land on a large sake bottle on the top shelf.

“Unfortunately, I can't. Can you come back tomorrow?”

Ignoring her, the delinquent leader inspects the place.  “Nice place you got. Shame if something were to happen to it.”

He snaps his fingers and one of his lackeys grabs a beer bottle and smashes it against the table. Nanami lets out a yelp.

“Don’t make the aniki angry,” the delinquent sneers.

I can’t let this play out. I head back inside to the bar and confront our new guests.

“You have trouble hearing? We’re closed, so get out.” I do my best to be intimidating.

“Hey kid, you know who you’re dealing with here?” he sizes me up. “Don’t mess with me, Ryuta Ishigami, the Great Dragon of the Ishigami family!”

"What kind of nickname is the Great Dragon?"

Ryuta's henchman with the broken bottle gets in my face and sticks the jagged edge to my neck, drawing a bead of blood.