Chapter twenty-two: The gift
I wake up in pain.
For a second I feel around me disoriented.
This isn’t the badao.
These sheets, stained in fresh red blood, aren’t my sheets.
Oh right, my life ended.
It’s still dark.
My body tells me to go back to sleep and forget the pain both physically and mentally for just a couple more hours.
But my brain isn’t having it.
And then what? Sleep for the rest of my life?
They can’t ‘fix’ me, no matter how hard they try.
Either I kill them or they kill me.
And I’m not planning on dying any time soon.
I pull myself from the mat and hiss painfully as I step on something hard underneath my bare foot.
I pick it up, it’s a piece of my gun’s firing pin I think. It’s thin and strong. As my eyes get used to the darkness they drift towards the lock.
It’s worth a shot I guess?
They already beat me up and took my freedom, I’m not sure what else they can do to me.
I sit down at the door, start fumbling away with the ornate-looking lock keeping me from my freedom. It’s far from ideal. I’m not even sure what I’m doing.
But it’s silent beyond my room.
At least Hashiro’s cockiness is working in my favour for once. After an hour or so I scour the room for more parts. Maybe this piece fits better…whatever it used to be.
I work until I hear the first sounds on the other side. People walking, people working.
I put the useful pieces underneath my pillow so they can’t take them.
Then I wait.
For Hashiro, for Takeyo, for anyone to give me any semblance of attention.
I expected at least someone to come down, maybe just to gloat, I bet Migako is having a laugh at this. I’m surprised she hasn’t shown her ugly face yet.
With nothing else to do, I stare at the wall, I don’t dare touch the lock, not now, not while people are walking past occasionally.
As I stare my mind keeps wandering to Himowa.
Thinking about her dulls the pain in my body.
It also makes me feel like I am dying.
She must be worried sick not knowing where I am.
If only I could tell her that I will be okay.
I’m on my way.
I want to hold her so badly.
I have to get back, for her sake.
For everyone’s sake.
I close my eyes and try to sleep for a bit to get some strength for tonight, but it’s too damn bright.
I go back to staring.
It takes until midday for someone to come, a nameless guard with a bowl of rice.
I eat in silence and wait some more.
So they’re just planning to leave me in here like a prisoner?”
For how long?
Until I pledge allegiance through the door?
Either way, I’ll be gone before that.
As darkness blankets the world again and the place becomes silent like a tomb I reach underneath my pillow for my makeshift picking tools.
Then freeze at the sound of the lock opening up all by itself.
I pull my hand back, eyes locked on the door as it slides open just far enough for a single person to squeeze his way through.
I sigh “What do you want Takeyo?”
He gestures to me to be quiet while locking the door behind him again. “I brought bandages.” He whispers, showing off a roll of off-white cotton.
“You’re too late.” I huff “The sheets are already ruined.”
“Fuck the sheets, I’m here for you.” He points at my arm. “If that gets infected they’re gonna have to chop it off. You up to living with one arm?”
I grunt but don’t comment further. My brother takes it as permission to come closer.
I could kick his ass, take the key and get the hell out of here right?
He sits down on the bed next to me and picks up my arm carefully, I hiss at the pain and try to pull back but he strengthens his grip.
“It’s gonna be okay, just relax.”
“Easy for you to say.”
“I guess, but the more you fuss the more it bleeds so just try all right?” He then starts wrapping the cloth around my arm, working his way from my elbow to my shoulder pulling the bandage taut with every wind.
“You’re good at this?” I remark surprised.
He shrugs “I guess.” he cuts off the bandage, ties off the ends and it’s only then I notice his left pinky is shorter than the other, wrapped up neatly in cotton as well. “You got in a fight?” I ask.
It takes him a moment to realise what I’m driving at, then he shakes his head. “No, that was of my own doing.”
“Why the hell would you cut off your own pinky?”
“Well…” is that embarrassment I hear? that means now I gotta know.
He puts the scissors away, then shrugs in a gesture I can only interpret as ‘oh what the hell’ before explaining “Hashiro put me in the ‘retrieval squad’ to ‘pick you up’. It was a test to prove I was ‘loyal enough to do what needs to be done” the sarcasm is thick but his expression stays serious throughout “But I just stood there frozen the whole time. Needless to say, I failed and I needed to atone, prove my loyalty in other ways.”
I raise an eyebrow “You traded your pinky for not beating me up when you had the chance? Sounds like a shitty trade to me.”
He laughs a forced laugh that must feel uncomfortable for the both of us. “You think? I guess that’s still to be seen.” He smiles as he ruffles my hair “Now just keep out of trouble okay? I’ll be back to change these later.” He gets off the bed.
I grab his sleeve before he can leave me again “No. Give me the key. I’m getting out of here.”
His smile fades, and he looks down at me with pity “You know I can’t.”
“You want me to kick your ass!? I’ll do it, I’ll-arhahaaaa!” I cry out as the guy grabs my hand and pulls it away.
He’s not even being rough about it…I guess I’m even more busted than I thought I was.
“Keep out of trouble.” He repeats himself, then let’s go and walks to the door.
“One day you’ll understand.”
“Like hell, I will!” I snatch my pillow off the bed and throw it at the door just as it’s closing.
There’s a pause on the other side.
Then the rattle of the lock closes up again.
I look at my arm then at the bits of metal scattered on my mat.
Well…guess we’re back to plan A.
I wait till I’m certain my shitty brother has left. Then I’m at it again, prodding and poking down the keyhole. The lock doesn’t even seem that impressive. It’s just a sliding bar and a keyhole but I have no idea what the key that goes in it even looks like. I’m just wildly guessing.
I can hear the night creatures outside, crickets loudly chirping, and a lost fox going through the bins.
I bite my lip as I strengthen my resolve to get out.
Just open up, you stupid piece of metal!
When I hear the click I first think I may have broken my pin. I pull it out with a start but then the bolt slides out of the way with a soft clank.
I wish no one heard that.
I open the door by just a sliver.
I don’t spot anyone yet.
And there’s enough shadow to go around.
I close the door behind me and blend into the night.