Memory thirteen: Time to go
I hate being on the sidelines.
Hiding behind trees and in bushes.
What I’d like to do is rush in, give everyone a stern talking to, take Himowa and leave for the sunset.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t even make it through the front door never mind walk out again.
Hui is the only one who can do this part.
A lady opens the door. She looks a good ten years older than Hui.
The eyes she casts on Hui are filled with disinterest and bitterness. Her entire being exuding an aura of mean-spiritedness. They exchange words though I can’t make much out because of the distance. The lady scowls at something he said and the way her face contorts reminds me of Hui when he’s annoyed. Is this lady a sister perhaps?
Hui goes inside and Dana and I each walk in a different direction looking for him through the windows. I find him first as he gets dragged into a room made of mirrors and gold and sat down on a chair.
Across from him is a tall man with long hair and a regal stature.
Is that the leader? I wonder .
Hui looks so small and helpless in comparison.
I signal Dana to come and join me.
We can’t get too close so the words are muddled. I pick up ‘Qai Shao’ and ‘Go family’ a couple of times but my attention is sharp on Hui.
If he flashes the signal we come and help.
We’ll come in with guns and fists to snatch him out of there before anything has the chance to go wrong.
My hand is close to my gun.
“Because I don’t fail!” The tall man shouts as his hands come down on the table with a slam.
Hui bounces back but the man isn’t done ranting. His voice suddenly crystal clear by sheer volume.
“The Qai Shao was promised all Go children and I’ll make sure he gets them even if I have to grind you down into a bloody pulp and sculpt a whole new brother out of the slick, gooey, mess. One that knows family values and how to take orders.”
My legs tense, I pull my gun, ready to strike, we have to go in and save-
Dana puts a hand on my shoulder, reminding me we haven’t had a signal yet.
I look at Hui, he’s distraught but…
I signal whether he needs help and immediately get a ‘no’ in response.
I want to help but I’m not allowed.
Dana smiles at me as a way of saying ‘it’s okay’
I put the gun away again.
They leave the house.
We follow suit but then just as we make it off the Go property someone calls out for us.
“You’re Hui’s friends right?”
We turn, weapons drawn but the boy behind us is about my age and doesn’t look all that threatening.
“Who are you?”
“You’ll be flying the world with Hui right?”
“Who told you?” I ask. Who is this guy? I didn’t know Hui had friends besides Himowa and I.
Dana pulls my sleeve “We don’t have time for this, they’re getting out of view.”
A flash of panic shoots over the boy’s face “Please, tell him I’m sorry if you find the chance.”
“Sorry about what? Who are you?”
“Now, Elizabeth.” Dana pulls at my sleeve.
I look at the boy, hoping he’d at least give me a name.
He sighs instead. “Never mind, just go and get him.”
I’m confused, but Dana pulls my sleeve again harder this time.
We run for it.
We find them entering a building that smells of sweet smoke.
It’s like the incense sticks but…off in a way.
There are no windows on the ground floor frustratingly enough.
Dana looks around “How good are you at climbing?”
“I can climb walls and houses.” I tell her with certainty.
There’s a question on Dana’s face but she leaves it for now “What about trees?”
I shrug “I can try.”
It turns out trees are weird and shaky.
Some branches are strong and you can just hang your entire body weight on them.
Then others snap the moment you touch them.
They creak and bend and I really shouldn’t break them if we’re to evade suspicion.
There aren’t many obvious kashuya members out and about this early in the morning,
But you never know for sure who’s in their league.
Looking around for hand-holds my hand lands in a patch of wet, slimy moss. I look at it, fighting the disgust inside me.
It’s all a part of nature, Sehe would say.
But that doesn’t make it less gross.
I grunt softly. Focus, Elizabeth we got bigger fish to fry.
I come across a window that shows people playing cards and to my surprise, there’s a Cygnian fellow who looks familiar. Doesn’t he report back to father every so often?
I’ve seen him around the house, ‘Pissy’ ‘Poison’ something with a P.
‘Prick’, most definitely.
Does father know about this?
Does he care?
The more I learn about this city and my father’s role in it the more I realise I have no idea who my father is even supposed to be anymore.
The kind, cautious man who’s a tad boring but always looked out for your best interests.
Or the cruel manipulative dictator who tries to manufacture a fatherly persona just so you won’t ask questions.
Oh great now I’m ruminating.
This isn’t the time or the place.
I have to find the next window.
Maybe even jump from tree to tree.
Although I’m quite sure Dana would lose it if I try that.
But I can go down this branch and scuttle my way to have a peek I think.
I hold on to one branch and slide down another trying my best not to slip on moss or lichen or whatever else.
I remember the botanic plates of multicoloured mosses put to paper with such intricacy.
And find these things look far more beautiful in books.
The branch I use to hold myself up is getting too thin, too shaky.
I should try to sit down, and slide while holding the branch I’m sitting on.
My shimou is not going to like that…
I shoot a quick apology to the lady who sold it to me and bend through my knees. Trying to keep my balance while bringing my arms down.
The moment my fingers reach it, they grasp onto it for dear life while trying to find a semblance of balance.
I should be okay now.
“Shut up!” Hui’s voice erupts one room over.
I push myself forward with as much speed as I dare, keeping my ears open. “I’m trying to break up with you gently but that clearly doesn’t work so just get out, will you?”
I know getting Himowa out of there is our priority but that’s just harsh.
I feel so bad for her.
I reach the end of my branch and crane my neck to see, I see…about a third of the room from this angle. A nice useless third that has no people in it.
Just beyond my reah the yelling continues.
“But you’re making a mistake!”
“I love you.” the tears in Himowa’s voice tug at my heart.
I signal at Dana, she makes her way to me “Himowa’s coming down, she’s not having a good time.”
“Is she hurt?”
“Physically, I’m not sure, but her heart just got shattered.”
Now all that’s left is for Hui to leave.
And then all is good.
My attention gets drawn back to the room with the sound of clapping. I strain my ears to hear “Well, that was unpleasant, but at least that’s over with.”
“Aren’t we going back?”
I feel chills up my spine as the other responds.
“You know Takeyo will be delighted to see you, all he’s ever wanted was for our family to be complete again.” The man’s voice is cold but there’s an amusement there that makes me sick to my stomach. I can’t even see but I can picture the smirk on that face.
“Takeyo is a fool brainwashed with your twisted ideals,” Hui responds with a huff.
“I think he just likes you.” he tells him and then his voice lowers to something I can’t hear from out in the cold.
Okay so I can either climb down or wait and hope they start yelling again?
But I still can’t see anything, if he needs my help I’m powerless to do anything.
I’m going down.
With my shimou already ruined and no time to lose, I slide down the trunk and run to the next tree clambering my way up with all my might.
My heart is pounding, my arms are getting sore but I need to see where this goes.
I need to be there to help.
In my speed I forget to me careful and my hand slips away from me as I scoot my way down the branch of this new tree.
I catch the fall with my chin, but at least I didn’t slide out of the tree.
Shaken I keep going.
A tad more carefully this time.
I look inside the room proper and find the tall man is holding Hui’s gun in his grubby paws.
My stomach sinks as he inspects it with intruige “You know I almost doubted brother when he told me you were tight with the Chattoway-daughter, but this isn’t something you can afford on your own. It’s funny you refuse money for honest work yet gladly accept expensive gifts from the enemy.”
“You and I have different definitions of the word ‘honest’, or ‘enemy’ for that matter.”
Those are perhaps the sweetest words Hui ever said about me.
Even though I wasn’t there to keep his gun from getting taken.
I try to catch his attention, ask for the signal,maybe we can kick his ass together, but he doesn’t see me as they walk out together,
I presume they go down.
Disheartened I make my way down the tree.
Looks like I didn’t actually do much to help.
I rush back to Dana and Himowa. They’re hidden behind the trees overlooking the entrance.
The girl is shaken, but Dana has an aura that manages to calm people down somehow.
“Where’s Hui?” Dana asks.
“They’re coming down. But the big one has the gun, Hui is unarmed.”
“That bastard Hashiro.” Himowa hisses under her breath “I’ll cut him up myself if I have to.”
“Not so fast.” Dana cuts in “We came here to save you, not put you in harm’s way all over again.”
“Yes, but that’s my boyfriend out here and I already lost my yaye so-”
“Shhh, here they come.” I hiss putting an end to the conversation.
My heart skips a beat as they walk out. Hui looks scared.
I want to rush in and help.
Dana sends the signal.
Then something comes over his face.
It’s tiny but it gives me pause.
I can’t make out their words but the two of them talk and it looks like Hui has the upper hand.
Then Hui stabs the man called Hashiro.
Just like that, I have no idea where he got the knife from but now it’s achored firmly in the tall man’s chest.
Himowa cheers softly next to me but then the big man grabs his throat and she jumps up pulling her swords “I’m going in.”
Dana pulls her back “Wait.”
“Why? We have to help” I hiss to Dana.
“This is his fight.”
“Bullshit. This is all our fights.” I pull out my gun and aim for the man’s head.
“He won’t thank you if you do that.”
“But he’ll be around to be angry.”
I pull the safety away and Hui slashes at the man’s arm, there’s a struggle ending with both sides on their legs again.
It’s a stalemate.
Just as I say that guards start spilling out of the opium den, weapons at the ready.
“Sir!?” One of them yells, his rifle trained on my friend.
“Hold your weapons! The man shouts in an unhinged tone “No one touches the boy!” His voice is shaking, his eyes filled with madness “You can’t kill me, it’s not my destiny! I bring glory to the Go family! I-”
Things go really fast after that.
Hui closes the distance, manages to wrestle the gun from the man and shoots him between the eyes.
The man falls back blood spilling over the street.
We have to run.
But Hui just stands there.
I look at Dana, she looks…confused.
I don’t have time for this.
I run up to him “Hui? Hui! Are you okay?” I shake his shoulders but it’s like there’s no one inside anymore. He’s just standing there, staring at the corpse.
My heart jumps as the sounds of metal dropping on stone rings out. I look down, it’s Hui’s gun.
Okay right, this is serious. “Dana, take Hui and get him out of here!” I shout over the battlefield.
“What about the guards?” she shouts back.
“We’ll deal with them!” I look at Himowa who’s already stabbing her way through whoever tries to get close to her boyfriend.
She aims for legs and arms, getting them out of commission but not forever.
Dana nods accepting the change in command, then picks up Hui and bull rushes her way out of the hustle with my friend flung over her shoulder.
One of the lackeys yells “After them”
But there’s no way we’ll allow that.
I whip out my gun and shoot the man in the hand.
Then rush out to defend the street Dana just ran through.
“You take the left flank I’ll take the right!” I yell.
“Sure thing.” Himowa shifts positions and together we make a remarkably good team. I shoot anyone holding a gun so Himowa can take out everyone else without one.
It comes down to roughly 50/50.
However no matter how long we fight it seems like there are always more people willing to risk their lives to get through.
And I’m running out of ammo.
“Himowa cover me!” I shout as I reload for the last time, only four bullets left. Four shots until they either have to back off or I’ll have to retreat.
“You ok?” Himowa asks softly as she sticks her sword through someone’s shoulder.
“Four left,” I tell her.
“I see. Well, guess we have to make this quick.”
“You done loading?”
“Okay then.” And then Himowa just runs into a store.
I look at her flabbergasted.
Was I supposed to follow her?
She could have told me right?
I quickly shoot a guy in the leg who comes up to me with a pair of daggers. Then take out a lady holding a sword about her own size.
Only two bullets left.
This is not good.
“Himowa!?” I shout, wondering just what in the world she’s planning.
Then Himowa bursts onto the scene again holding a cloth package and a lighter and yelling “Get ready to run!”
She lights the package on fire and smoke starts shooting out of there like violent streams of steam.
She throws it onto the round, grabs my hand and says “Go time.”
“So now what?” Himowa asks as she pulls me along.
“We go to the ship, get the hell out of here.”
“Right. You parked it where you said you would?”
Himowa leads me through side alleys and building to throw off any pursuers until we’re back at the ship.
I jump up the landing and kick open the door before taking the stairs two steps at a time.
“All right! We’re here, let’s go, go, go Dana!” I yell shooting to the cockpit.
Dana is sitting in the cockpit already, the controls hot and ready to go “Took you some time.”
“There were a lot of lackeys.”
“Are you okay?” She asks.
“Good. I’ll navigate, you fly. The course is set. All you need to do is pulls the handle and get us out of here.
“Right.” I pull the handle releasing billows of smoke and pulling the craft off the ground.
It’s time for a new adventure.
Far away from here.