Choices - Chapter 4

© 1999 by E. Liddell

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<<Any luck yet?>>

<<No, not a thing.>> I couldn't see Jadeite from where I was standing, but the subliminal feedback included with the message told me that he was rolling his eyes.

I'd forgotten what it was like to have to work my way through a crowd of humans. I visit the Earth Realm often, but I usually prefer to keep to the wilderness. I am not a creature of the cities, and I far prefer animals and plants to people.

It didn't help that I was still so short, of course. I couldn't wait until my body achieved its full growth, in another four or five years' time.

"Hey, kid, out of my way!"

I gritted my teeth and accepted being jostled. That was another thing. Much though I disliked the Negaverse, my General's greys at least commanded respect there. Here, dressed as a human, I was taken for a child by the people around me.

<<Alex? Jay? Are you there?>>

<<Zoi? What are you doing here?>> I couldn't see Zoisite, either, but he felt close. Close by my present standards, anyway. Once upon a time, he would have seemed infinitely far away.

There was still a hollow, empty spot inside me where my Weavemates should have been. That wasn't going to change anytime in the near future, either. The linkages between us had been broken when my original spirit crystal was destroyed, and Almandite had taken my place. I didn't begrudge her the position. Not really. I mean, at the time that she had become joined with them, I was, as far as anyone including myself knew, totally and irrevocably dead, and they had desperately needed to rebalance their Weave. But I longed for that old companionship with a depth that surprised me sometimes.

The old Crystal Weavers had had, or so Demantoid claimed, a method for reshaping and expanding established Weaves. Malachite had him and Zoisite working on rediscovering it, but Demantoid had been an historian, not a Weavemaker, and I knew that neither of them was optimistic that the technique would be recovered anytime soon. Because we'd decided that my peculiar status was going to be kept a secret from everyone but my original Weavemates (and Almandite, whom they wouldn't have been able to exclude for very long), the project couldn't even be given a very high priority.

<<Would you believe that I'm baby- sitting?>> Zoisite asked. <<Malachite sent me here with Cassiterite and her friend. We're supposed to give you guys some help.>>

<<We could use it,>> Jay stated. <<Fighting through these crowds is the pits. Where are you three? It's probably easier if we come to you.>>

Five minutes later, we were finally outside the main path of traffic through the square, seated under a stunted oak tree that was eking out a precarious living in one corner. I ran my hands over the bark, sensing the plant's weakness and ill health. I'm going to have to ask that you be brought some fertilizer, my friend.

"I feel like I'm leading a goddamned children's' parade!" Zoisite muttered as he settled down beside me.

I threw an acorn at him. <<You might do well to remember that I'm going to be bigger than you are by this time next year!>> I was just an inch short of being able to look him in the eye, and I was about due for a growth spurt.

<<Simmer down,>> Jadeite suggested. <<I shouldn't have to remind either of you that this is serious business.>>

Zoisite scowled -- as well he might, since he technically outranked Jadeite -- but he also shut up.

"Sumire, didn't you say that you had some idea of where your brother might have gone?"

I wouldn't have expected to do it after all the trouble she had caused today, but when she said that, I mentally blessed Cass. My feelings toward her have always been complicated and confused. On the one hand, she's my great-niece, the daughter of my brother's adoptive son. On the other hand, she was my body's closest agemate among the Crystal Weavers of the Negaverse, and before I'd been promoted to General, we'd often been thrown together by our well-meaning but clueless parents. I guess that placed her somewhere between a sister, a granddaughter, and the girl next door.

Actually, all of my family relationships at the time were..... complex, with overlays from both my past and present lives. Except for my relationship with Jay. That one was simple. We were brothers. Period. Even though very few people knew it.

"It's really only a guess," the girl said in a low voice. "I... There was a park, near the edge of the city. It's one of the few places I remember from the last time we came here. He might have gone there. But that's what Taro might do. I don't know about your demon."

<<A park. Makes sense,>> Zoisite observed.

I frowned. <<Why?>>

<<Lines of sight obscured by trees. Lots of little winding paths. Lots of people wandering around alone. You'd be surprised what you can get away with in a park, in terms of energy gathering and general mayhem.>>

<<I'm sorry I asked.>> And I was. I hated being reminded of those years of impotent hell, of watching Jay's sanity crumble away and being powerless to do anything to help.

"Do you remember the park's name?" Cass was asking. "There's lots of them around."

"No, but I don't think it can be that hard to find. There was this thing at the center... like a crystal obelisk..."

"Memorial Park," Jay identified. Now that he mentioned it, even I had heard of it. The crystal obelisk was a monument to all those who had died when the Ice Millennium had closed its frigid grip over the world.

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Zoisite asked.

Public transit was pure torture compounded by the fact that Cassiterite was the only one of us who turned out to have any money. We couldn't even conjure the damned stuff -- the ticket counter was capable of detecting magical counterfeits. Ironically enough, that was Negaverse technology, developed by Zoisite and Sapphire, manufactured by youma, and distributed in the Earth Realm by Stanton Enterprises, Inc. Talk about getting hoist on your own petard!

"Really, I just don't believe you guys," Cass, with the sort of superior smirk that only an adolescent can manage, said to Jay and Zoi as we boarded the monorail. "I mean, you're supposed to be the adults in this party!"

Zoisite shot her his trademark vicious glare. "You know, there's been a shortage of expendable youma to use as lab guinea pigs lately, and there's this one spell that I've just been itching to try..."

Cass took the hint and shut up.

Fortunately, the monorail wasn't crowded, and we were able to find a block of seats together that wasn't too close to anyone else. I sat beside Jay. Sumire and Cass also sat together. Zoisite sat alone, arms folded, and glared at anyone who was unfortunate enough to infringe on his personal space.

It took us nearly twenty minutes to get to the station nearest Memorial Park. I breathed a sigh of relief as we got off. Being trapped in an enclosed space with Zoisite when he's in one of those moods of his always gives me a feeling of impending doom.

What we'd all forgotten was that Memorial Park is huge. I mean, there are at least three acres of it, all full of trees and gently rolling hills. The end that we entered at was the more landscaped one, with the flowerbeds, which was exactly where we didn't want to be. If the demon was here, it would be in the wilder, less open parts.

Zoi and Jay and I exchanged disgusted glances. None of us actually said, "What do we do now?" but I know we were all thinking it.

<<Just a moment,>> I told them both. Then I whistled.

The call sped away across the flowerbeds and through the trees beyond. For a few moments, nothing happened. And then they came.

Birds. Dozens of them. Maybe even hundreds. It was the first time since the Silver Millennium that I'd summoned so many at once. Pigeons and seagulls and crows and ravens and starlings and a few sparrows (What are they doing here? Someone must have imported them...) and many, many others, all clustered around my feet. People were staring at me, but I refused to pay any attention -- and in any case, I was concentrating on telling each bird, as it appeared, that I didn't want a layer of guano coating the area. Then I finally heard what I'd been hoping for: the scream of a raptor. They're not significantly brighter than the other types of birds, really, but they do have the best eyes.

I stretched out my arm for it to use as a perch. Fortunately, it was small, just a kestrel.

<<Is there one here -- man but not man -->> I asked it as its head snapped from side to side, assessing everyone and everything to see if it was a threat. Actually, the communication wasn't quite like that -- a bird can understand images and emotions, but not words. Words just make them uneasy.

<<Man? Not-man?>>

<<Dark,>> I told it, giving it a mental "image" of a demon's magical signature.

It bated for a moment before settling again. <<Dark place -- not go there -->>

The image it gave me was an aerial view. Something wasn't quite right on the north side of the park.

<<Thank you,>> I told it, relaxing my magical hold over it and flinging my arm upwards to help it in its takeoff. That released the other birds as well, and they rose up off the ground in a cloud. For a moment, I couldn't see anything except a shifting mosaic of multicolored feathers.

"We need to go north," I told the others once the birds were all gone.

"What was that?" Cass asked.

"Birds and animals can always sense the presence of demons," I explained. "Not consciously, maybe, if they can be said to be conscious at all, but they'll be aware of the area that a demon's in and avoid it. I figured that out a long time ago. All the birds were gone, the evening just before..." I bit the next few words back, just about choking on them. Damn! I almost put my foot in it again!

The time the birds had vanished was back at the end of the Silver Millennium, at the Earthan palace just before Beryl had attacked and captured us. But if I said that, Cass would know. And I doubted that I'd be able to keep Cuprite and Aventurine -- my present-life parents -- from finding out if that happened. And I just didn't know how they would react.

What would you say if you found out that your son was also the reincarnation of your father's brother? And that he'd known what he was all along, and never told you?

I loved Cuprite and Avi -- Mom and Dad -- too much to put them through that. And thus I had to be careful to keep my secret. For the time being, at least.

"Anyway," I concluded, "it seemed to me like it would be worth asking them about Our Friend. And I think it worked."

All five of us turned toward the north. We couldn't see it yet, but our quarry was there. Somewhere.


It was on the tip of my tongue to tell the human girl to stay behind. I almost spoke the words -- but then I looked into her eyes.

The sadness there was just too familiar, the wrenching pain of someone who has lost a person very close to them. My own eyes wandered involuntarily over to Alex... No, I knew all too well what she was going through. And if we left her behind now, if she wasn't permitted to see what would happen next, it would be just as cruel as killing her brother right there in front of her, and I sincerely hoped that it wouldn't come to that.


<<What is it?>> he responded immediately.

<<Look after Sumire, would you? Zoisite and I are going to have our hands full, and you know how Cass gets...>>

<<Sure, not a problem. To be honest, I'll be happy not to have to take part in what you're going to have to do.>>

I nodded. Even now, two thousand years later, my little brother still wasn't a fighter, although his second childhood in the Negaverse had finally taught him the skills. Well, so be it. With both of our worlds at peace, we didn't really even need as many fighters as we had.

<<I just hope she doesn't freak when we capture him,>> I stated. <<If she does...>>

<<... I'll take care of it,>> Alex completed. <<Don't worry, Jay. Just concentrate on what you have to do, and leave the rest to me.>>

And we allowed ourselves a quick exchange of glances and smiles, Alex's sweet and a bit sad, as always. I've often wondered what my smile tells people about me. I have a lot of insight into other people's feelings, but there are times when I wonder if I really understand my own.

My pace slowed a little. We'd passed the obelisk ten minutes ago or more, and were now in an area of the park that was allowed to become overgrown and a bit disorderly and generally simulate natural wilderness for city-dwellers who had never seen it. And I'd just had the strangest feeling, as though the sky had become overcast, although a glance upward showed that the sun was still shining as brightly as ever. Yes. The artificial demon -- or something equally dangerous, which should be dealt with in any case -- was here.

A rustling sound made me spin to my left. I immediately felt like an idiot. It was just the wind, stirring the prematurely fallen leaves of a sickly, brownish tree. Hmmm. I guess the gardeners don't get to this part of the park all that often...

I turned to face forward again, and had actually taken a step or two before I thought, Wait a minute. There's no wind today.

<<Be on guard,>> I warned the others. <<I think it's stalking us.>>

<<Right.>> Trust Zoisite to be on the ball when it came to mayhem. <<Drop back a bit, will you? No sense in letting it sneak up behind us.>>

I slowed my stride until I was lagging three paces or so behind the rest of the group. Zoisite was in the lead now. Sumire was in the center of the group, pinned between Alex and Cass. It was the most protected position.

Not that that turned out to be of any help.

There was another rustle, and the dry leaves from the dying tree swirled up out of their neat little pile to batter and blind us. A split second later, Zoisite blew most of them out of the way with his wind-and-petal attack, but they were persistent and kept on swirling back.

Cass raised her arm to shield her eyes, effectively blinding herself. Zoisite and Alex and I, being more experienced, just squinted to keep the worst of the leaves and dust out and tried to figure out where this was coming from. It would have helped if we could have seen more than three feet in any direction.

When the real attack came, it was from above. Which, of course, was just exactly what I would have done if I'd been in the demon's place. Humans aren't the only ones who forget to look up, and we'd instinctively reacted to cover every other direction. Well, it could have come up from below, I suppose, but tunneling is always more difficult than flying.

It chose its initial targets well, too. I knew that the moment something like a sledgehammer slammed into my back and sent me flying. I landed well and rolled to my feet, but it was already just about over by the time I'd turned around.

The demon must have hit Zoisite at about the same time that it hit me, because he was just picking himself up off the ground and wiping blood away from the corner of his mouth. I hoped for the creature's sake that it hadn't made him chip a tooth. Zoisite's rage at someone who's damaged his appearance knows no bounds.

Cass was frozen. I wasn't really surprised. This was her first real fight. Hopefully, she'd snap out of it soon. Alex had what looked like a quarterstaff made of white light in his hands, and was swinging it toward the creature... only to be forced to pull up short at the last moment to avoid hitting Sumire. And for someone who didn't normally swear, he did a pretty good job of cursing Sumire, the demon, and the situation in general.

He shifted his stance and swung again as I ran toward them, gathering myself for an attack, but this time his weapon bounced off an invisible shield, as did the streamers of light that I sent whipping toward them.

The four of us could only stand and watch what happened next.



"Hello, Sumire." And he smiled at me. My brother. Finally. After all this time.

He hadn't changed a bit. Or that's what I thought at first. He was still one of those people who tend to fade to invisibility in a crowd -- brown hair, brown eyes, thin face, plain clothes. But his expression was strange. Predatory. I shrank back a bit, only to find a solid barrier behind me. But when I turned, there was nothing there. Magic. He really *is* possessed.

And then he stepped forward and put his hands on my shoulders. I tried to pull away, but his grip was like iron, impossibly strong for such a thin man.

"Taro, let me go. Please," I said, trying not to cringe away from the thing that was wearing my brother's body.

He looked... almost bewildered. "You don't think I'm going to hurt you, do you? I could never do that, Sumire. Not to you. I just want to show you."

"I'm not going to let you show me anything. Let me go!" Suddenly, I remembered the tactic I'd seen Zoisite try when Jadeite had tried to restrain him, a millennium or more ago on my personal timescale.

I moved in closer to Taro and stamped on his foot. He snarled -- a completely unhuman expression that left me in no doubt whatsoever that the demon was in control of him -- but he also relaxed his grip on me for an instant, and I managed to pull away. Not that I got far, not with the invisible wall right behind me, but it was some comfort.

His entire body seemed to shimmer, and then it wasn't Taro there anymore. Or not exactly. I understood immediately that this green-skinned creature was my brother as a youma. He wore only shreds of clothing. Gods... I felt like I was going to be sick. My brother had turned himself -- allowed himself to be turned -- into that? Had the appearance he'd presented before been an illusion designed to lure me to him?

My hands fished through my pockets, looking for something, anything, that would help me save myself. I wanted something I could use to attack, or to break the barrier between me and the others. But the only articles that I'd transferred over when I'd changed into the page's uniform were a pencil stub and the little wand thing, neither of which seemed very useful under the circumstances.

I pulled the wand out anyway. There were worse things to be holding in my last few moments of life.

It was a mystery, that wand. It had belonged to a girl who'd lived next door to us when I was very young... I think her name was Hotaru. She'd baby-sat Taro and I, now and again, but she usually wasn't well enough to do that kind of work. She died when I was two, and for some reason, she'd left the wand to me. I'd never understood why. As far as I knew, it wasn't worth anything. It was just a short length of metal with a weird symbol stamped on the oval-shaped protrusion at one end.

It actually looked not unlike the wand that Cass had used to transform out of Sailor Venus mode, back when we'd first met and again when we'd been locked in that room together, except that that one was orange, not purple, and had a different symbol and a star-shaped tip. I smiled as a sudden whimsical thought hit me. Maybe it *is* a Scout transformation whatever. Wouldn't that be a joke? I wonder how I'm supposed to activate it?

And do I really want to spend what may be the last few moments of my life making an idiot of myself?

Taro -- or his body -- had finally stopped hopping around and snarling, and had turned toward me again. I gritted my teeth. It was now or never. If I didn't do something, I was demon chow.

I could see Zoisite and Jadeite and Alexandrite, outside the barrier, attacking it with their magic in an attempt to break through, but they didn't seem to be having much effect. Cass was pounding on the invisible wall with her fists, apparently unable to concentrate well enough to use her powers. Her mouth was moving, but I couldn't hear what she was saying. The barrier cut off all sound.

I looked down at the wand in my hand, and drew in a deep breath. I didn't quite know what I was about to say, but "Saturn Planet Power!" was what came out.

A wave of light shot up around me, and as the demon in Taro's body stepped back, shielding his eyes, a giant hand picked me up and whirled me away.


I stared. I couldn't help it. Impossible!

I recognized the colors of the uniform, and I knew the Glaive very well indeed. Two thousand years ago, it had almost disemboweled me. But this girl Sumire was not the Sailor Saturn that I remembered from that fight among the disintegrating remains of the Moon Kingdom, not even a younger version of her. No. The facial structure and eye color were wrong. So how had she gotten Saturn's transformation wand, and why hadn't she used it before now? Surely she must have known that the Neo-Queen would extend all assistance to a newly discovered Sailor Scout. If she had known that she was Saturn, why would she have gotten herself into all of this trouble trying to find her brother?

<<Jadeite, stand back!>>

I obeyed automatically, moving back and to the left to give Malachite a clear line of sight to the demon's ward barrier. That I hadn't even noticed him arrive was a measure of how distracted I'd been by Sumire's transformation.

My King raised his hand -- the left, oddly enough -- and made a small gesture. White fire shot out and slammed into the ward barrier, which crumbled.

What followed was... Well, I suppose it would be best described as "a confused mess". There were too many combatants in too small a space, all trying to get at one enemy. Zoisite and Cass threw themselves forward together and came pretty close to knocking heads. Alex, sensibly, had backed off. Malachite hadn't moved from where he'd been standing, but I could see from the way that his hands were clenched into fists that he wanted to throw himself forward the way the others had, or at least do something, but there really wasn't room for him to get any closer to the action. Sumire had the business end of the Silence Glaive aimed in the demon's general direction, but she was looking more than a little dazed, and I doubted that we could expect her to do more than get in everyone else's way. As for me, I'd summoned up the power for an attack spell, but couldn't see to aim it, because Cass, Sumire, and Zoisite were all in my way.

Cursing, I called up a bit more power and levitated upward to try for a better vantage point. I'd just risen above all the others' heads when there was a sort of popping sound and the demon disappeared. Teleported. Damn!

Zoisite said something a bit more explicit than what I'd just thought. Odd, when you think about it, that he'd been rushing toward the creature that way. Normally, he isn't all that fond of close combat.

<<I wanted to work off some of my frustrations, okay?>>

I felt a warmth that indicated that my face was flushing with embarrassment. <<I didn't mean to project that. Sorry.>>

<<Enough, both of you.>> That was Malachite. Zoisite finally seemed to notice him, and turned around and rushed in the other direction, into his lover's arms.

In the meanwhile, Cass and Sumire were staring at each other. It was Sumire who finally broke the silence.

"Do you ever get used to these skirts?" she asked, tugging on the hem of hers.

Cass shrugged. "Well, I don't know about the others, but I never have. At least you've got boots, and not those stupid high heels that I have to wear. Even trying to fight in those things is like asking to break a leg."

I glanced over at Alex.

<<You did well,>> I told him.

<<Thanks, but I'd like, just for once, to have a successful combat experience. I seem to have the most rotten luck...>>

<<Hey, even by that standard, you're improving,>> I noted. <<You may not have won this time, but at least you didn't lose.>>

He had a reflective look on his face. <<I suppose that's some comfort.>> We both glanced, almost involuntarily, in Cass's direction.

<<What?>> she snapped.

<<Alex and I were just doing performance evaluations,>> I stated.

She glared at us. <<Let's be honest, here, Granddad. I froze up. And I know I did.>> There was pain hidden under the belligerence in her eyes. <<Maybe I'm just not cut out to be a General. Or a Sailor Scout.>>

<<You just need more practice,>> I soothed. <<In a few more years...>>

<<... I'll still be a trainee, unlike some people.>> Now she was ignoring me, her glare directed only at Alex.

My brother smiled his sad, sweet smile. <<Do you think I wanted to be promoted ahead of you and Opal and even the twins? I didn't ask for this job, Cass. Malachite gave it to me, for his own reasons.>>

Cass didn't reply, but I could read her thoughts from her expression. Damn you, why can't you be insulted, or angry, and give me something to fight?

Alex sighed. <<What happens now?>>

I shrugged, and nodded in the general direction of Malachite and Zoisite, who seemed to be in the middle of a private conversation. Battle plans, or were they just thinking sweet nothings at each other? <<You'd better ask them.>>


<<Are you all right?>> I asked.

<<Of course, now that you're here,>> Zoisite replied. <<I just wish that I could have gotten a piece of my wayward creation. Now we're going to have to start the hunt all over again.>>

I sighed. <<We're going to have to inform Serenity officially, I suppose. I hope one of us can come up with a good, non-incriminating explanation for what's happened. If I'd had any sense, I'd have come immediately when I sensed that you'd made contact. As it is, we're going to have to wait for another opportunity.>>

<<I wish now that I'd never created that thing.>>

I wrapped my arms around him and buried my face in his hair. <<It's as much my fault as yours, my love. I was the one who agreed to let you do it. Anyway, cleaning up after this little mistake of ours is more important right now than deciding who's to blame.>>

We stood like that for several minutes, drawing comfort from each other.



<<Even if we can't track it and can't predict where it's going, there may still be a way to herd it.>>

I felt myself become very, very still. <<Go on.>>

<<I'm not an expert on demon behavior, but that thing is at least as intelligent as a human -- I should know, I patterned its mind.>> A task for which, in hindsight, he might not have been the best choice. I may love Zoisite, but I'm not blind to his flaws. <<And I know it was conscious while it was trapped in the crystal -- we designed it that way. So it would recognize the energy pattern that we used to ward it in...>>

<<... And it might just go out of its way to avoid that pattern if it senses it again, since it probably doesn't want to be trapped again,>> I completed. <<It's a theory. More than that, it's the only plan we have. The question is, can we duplicate the right energy signature over a large enough area?>>

<<I have an idea about that too,>> Zoisite told me. <<I'll need Sapphire's help, and I'll need to requisition some materials...>>

<<Do whatever you have to. We need to get that thing back under control.>>

<<You know...>>


<<I'm not going to have much to do for a little while after I get Sapphire started on what I need built. Do you think we could... ?>>

<<Don't you ever think about anything else?>>

He laughed. <<Not when I'm around you. Even after two thousand years together, I love you more than I can ever hope to express.>>

<<I know.>> You are my life, the light that gives joy to my world... Words that I'd never be able to speak. It wasn't in my nature. But I didn't have to. He knew.

Jadeite was watching us, obviously wondering what in hell we thought we were doing. Still, I stole one more second for another quick kiss.

<<Go and talk to Sapphire,>> I told Zoisite. <<I promise, I'll find some way to spend time with you tonight even if this isn't resolved.>>

<<All right, but don't you dare forget.>>

I turned toward Jadeite as my lover vanished back to the Negaverse.

"I have a job for you, too," I told the man who was my most adept diplomat. "And you aren't going to like it."

The Nameless

I hid in the back of the room, nursing my headache and my wounded ego. Fortunately, it was dark in here.

I ignored the flickering images dancing across the screen at the front of the room as I brooded. Hurts... Malachite scary. No, "Malachite *is* scary", I corrected myself. I'd picked up language from Zoisite, and then later from the youma that I'd taken over, but I still needed practice in using it. And what in hell was it that happened with the girl?

My co-walker gave me no reply, but I hadn't expected one. He'd been very quiet since we'd teleported out of the park. I'd had to find my present precarious refuge myself, and it would only last as long as the film did. After that... well, this was a seedy part of town, and the one comment that the youma had made since coming here implied that they'd have a couple of brawny types on hand to encourage anyone not willing to pay for a second showing to leave.

I need to get out of the city. Crystal Tokyo was the Earthside base of operations for my worst enemies. I was in danger as long as I stayed here.

Show me a way, damn you!

But there was no answer from the other inside my mind. I snarled, and glared at the screen (where two humans were doing some of the most ridiculous things to each other) in frustration.

I would find some way to force the youma to give me what I needed. He wasn't strong. Eventually, he'd give in.


The porn film flickering in the background just lent a bit more surreality to the bizarre situation that I found myself in. This wasn't a place that I would have walked into by choice, youma or no youma.

I tried to move the clawed, green hand resting on my knee. Not a twitch. As there had been no reaction the last thousand times that I'd tried. I was well and truly trapped, a prisoner within my own body. If only I hadn't... Well, it was too late now.

Sumire... My little sister was a Sailor Scout. In a way, it made sense. It had always seemed like she'd gotten my measure of courage as well as her own. I'd done exactly two brave things in my life: running away from home and joining the Negaverse. Neither of which had worked out too terribly well. Nothing had gone well for me since our parents had died.

Going to that park, and seeing the crystal monument at the center, had brought that particular facet of my loneliness back into sharp focus. Sumire had never known it, but I had argued and pleaded with our third set of foster parents to take us there, on our one holiday in Crystal Tokyo. I'd laid a wreath in front of the obelisk while Sumire ran and played and poked around. She didn't understand. Not that I held that against her. She'd only been three years old when our parents died. I don't think she even remembered them, not really -- only a few scattered images plus things that I'd told her. She didn't understand what it was that we'd lost when they'd died.

I shook my head, or tried to. It didn't move, of course.

There was nothing I could do now but wait.

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