Chapter one: Uneasy mind
The ragged man spits blood onto the floor and laughs at me “Hashiro’s dead, what the hell are you fighting for now!?”
I don’t know the name of this wretched creature, but I know he’s a liar.
I shake my head and crack my knuckles with a scowl “Such a funny joke.” my laugh is dry, sarcastic “but right now I’m not in the mood for jokes.”
People will make up all sorts of excuses not to pay up. I guess this bloke is just more creative about it than most.
I punch him in the jaw, my lips parting joyously at the sound of cracking bones.
The man cries out in pain “No really, he’s dead! The little Go shot him.” His voice hurried as he tries to protect his face “Look outside.”
My eyebrows knit together in puzzlement “Look, I don’t have-”
“Look outside, please.” The man pleads desperately.
I huff, humour him just so I can be harsher later when I have the proof he’s lying and…
And there he is.
Outstretched on the pavement.
His head shattered to pieces, its absence framed by a star of spattered red.
I stumble towards him.
Kneel down by his side.
No, that’s impossible! Nothing could kill him.
Hashiro is and would forever be a constant fixture in my life.
I expect him to get up.
Even without head.
He’ll just get up and tell me I messed up again and then he’ll take care of things like always.
I prod him in the shoulder.
Get up, I want to tell him.
GET UP GET UP GET UP!
I punch the street and feel the skin scape off my knuckles.
Don’t leave me here all by myself!
I don’t want to believe it.
But the ragged man’s words keep crashing into my brain like waves on the beach.
“The little Go shot him”.
How could he?
My tears feel like fire against my cold cheeks.
I wipe them away before anyone can see.
Then I curse loudly.
Leave the ragged man and his ragged ways.
And I run.
My heart ignites in fire, burning away my sorrow and regret until there’s nothing left.
I gave him chance after chance after chance and he just squandered them all.
He killed Hashiro.
His own brother!
He doesn’t deserve to fly off into the sunset. Doesn’t deserve to leave us all behind.
Doesn’t deserve to live.
I find the airship where that coward hides, check the door, it’s locked.
I pick it without much effort.
Then meld into the shadows.
I look around.
The place is gaudy-looking, with copper chandeliers sparkling obnoxiously against the busy wallpaper.
I huff at the display.
And Hui keeps telling us we’re the ones without taste.
It seems like there’s no one in yet.
So I hide.
Wait for the perfect time to strike.
People are asleep.
I bet the little traitor feels very proud of himself by now.
I open the door silently.
Make my way over to him in velvet steps.
He’ll know what it’s like to be punished by the kashuya.
He’ll know what it’s like to look down the barrel of a gun in fear.
He’ll know pain.
I prod his shoulder.
I open my eyes, look around the dark then feel my heart jump.
There’s someone in my room.
I pull out my gun, aim at the intruder and whisper “Who’s there?”
“Takeyo is that you?” I ask uncertainly.
Not even a single muscle moves.
You’d think he’d want to gloat, want to tell me how I’m a foul brother-killer or something?
Or the the very least be his spectacularly smug self.
But then as my eyes get adjusted to the dark more I realise I’m an idiot.
Himowa must have pulled out the chair before going to bed and placed her clothes for the next day on it.
I should have known that pattern looks familiar.
I sign, tell myself to get a grip on myself.
Then get up to be sure.
Just silk, silk and wood and plush upholstery.
Behind me, there’s a sound.
“Hui? Are you okay?” It’s Himowa, she sounds tired. I must have woken her up when I got out of bed.
I sternly tell my hands to stop shaking. “Yeah, I’m fine, just gotta go for a bit.”
“All right.” She yawns, then rolls over in bed and closes her eyes again.
I walk out the room and into the corridor where without windows the dark is even more complete.
I take a deep breath.
I know he’s not here.
It was a dream.
And yet I brought the gun with me.
Just in case.
The washroom is downstairs next to the boiler and the ovens that keep the ship in the air.
I can hear their rhythmic thrumming through the tiles.
I turn the knob and pale gaslight starts flickering and licking at its glass cage.
I don’t actually need to pee.
But, the light helps me think.
It doesn’t make sense anyway.
He must have hated Hashiro too right?
He beat us both.
We were both scared of him.
If anything he should be happy I got rid of him for him.
He should thank me.
Not try and drive a bullet through my skull in revenge.
But then on the other hand I don’t know what he thinks.
I never understood him.
His wish of capturing some sort of cheerful family dynamic is childish and dumb and…I don’t get it.
And it’s none of my concern either anymore.
He’s back in Choumuri.
I’m heading to Venusia.
We’ve been travelling for six days and he’s not here.
He’s back there doing…whatever it is he does.
Beating up debtors, smuggling drugs, kicking dogs, I don’t know.
I drink some water.
Take a deep breath.
I should go back to bed, and try to get some sleep.
That’s what I should do.
Yet instead of going back, I find myself going deeper down into the bowels of the ship.
Around me, the temperature rises as the thumping and rattling get louder.
If I needed to hide on a ship.
I’d do it there.
Where the noise can cover up your movements, your being.
No one comes here.
Not unless things break.
It’s the perfect hiding spot.
I look for a light switch.
But then the light turns on by itself. Without my interference and the place gets bathed in sickly-looking blueish, electrical lights.
They blanket the room with an aura of wrongness.
I walk and look around. Gun at the ready while also trying my best to tell myself I’m only crazy.
There’s no one here.
No one to take revenge.
What’s that sound?
Like a rattle, was it here before?
“Hey, if you’re in here. Just, look even if you kill me there’s no way you’d get away with it. We’re in the middle of the air, where do you intend to go? Just jump out?” I huff “Yeah good luck with that. Besides Hashiro had it coming, He’s an asshole and we both know it. So just let me go okay?”
I’m talking to air.
There’s no one here.
I’m just imagining things.
I pull myself away from the thumping and the rattling and drag myself upstairs again.
I need sleep.
I shuffle into the bed in the dark.
Next to me Himowa is sleeping again, soft, warm and wonderful.
I love that lady so damn much.
“Hey.” Her voice is sleepy “You okay?”
“Yeah.” I try to sound normal but…well she’s always had a knack for seeing through my bullshit.
“Want a hug?”