Please hover over the underlined words to see annotations.
As long as they lived in No. 6, all their hopes were like towers of sand. They melted away all too easily. Then, what are we to do? What must we do so we can build our lives on firm ground instead of sand?
If No. 6 isn't an idyllic city, then what is 'ideal' supposed to be? How are we to create an entirely new world, so different from No. 6?
"Renka, Yoming isn't working alone, is he?"
"No... there must be other people who have gone through the same thing―who have lost their family."
"And Yoming is with them, right? They must be acting together."
"Do you have any idea where they might be?"
After some moments of thought, Renka shook her head.
"No. It looks like they're in some basement studio. He would need proper equipment to make that video clip."
"You're right. But neither of us know where that is. We have no way of meeting Yoming."
"Karan," Renka held her hand out. Karan grasped it. "What will I do? What should I do, Karan?"
Karan could feel a presence. It pressed upon her from the street.
To battle, to battle, to battle, to battle, to battle.
Destroy it, destroy it, destroy it, destroy it.
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
"Let's think about it, Renka." She cupped her hand gently around Renka's belly. Then, she touched Lili's cheek.
"We still have hope."
"Hope. The baby in your belly, and Lili―they are our hope. We have to do our best so that these children will have a real world to live in. Right, Renka? We have our children. Not all our hope has been taken from us."
"Shion, too." Renka wiped her tears away and nodded. "Shion is our hope too, isn't he? And a big one, too."
"Mm-hmm. Thank you, Renka."
"He's coming home soon," Lili blurted without warning. "Onii-chan's coming home soon. I can tell."
"Why, Lili." Karan scooped Lili up and kissed her on the cheek.
"It's true," she insisted. "He's really coming home."
Shion is... coming home.
Please come back, Shion. And Safu, you too.
Please come home safe.
I pray for you.
Her prayers led also to the boy named Nezumi, whom she had yet to meet.
I would love to meet you, Nezumi. I would love to see you, and thank you. I want you to know how grateful I am for your support. Shion, Safu, Nezumi. You, too, are my hope. My very large hope.
Come home to me.
No. 6's city hall, known informally as the Moondrop, was surrounded.
The citizens crowded the square and overflowed into the streets. Each shouted his own words of protest. Their voices melted into one, and boomed so loudly it seemed to shake the canopies.
But no matter how loud the clamour got, it did not reach the mayor's office. The office was on the highest floor of the building, with soundproof walls and windows. Whatever happened outside never disturbed the constant silence inside.
"Why? Why has something like this happened?" The silence was broken as the mayor spun around and shook his fist.
"Fennec, will you calm down?" the man in the lab coat answered. "You should be the last to be agitated." He sank deeply into the leather chair and crossed his legs.
Pitiful, he thought as he mentally clicked his tongue. He has always been like that. Ambitious but timid, and a coward. The man switched his legs and recrossed them.
But he has been able to come this far precisely because he is so timid and cowardly. He opens his heart to no one. He trusts no one. He is suspicious of everything and acts cautiously. A fennec indeed, the world's smallest desert-dwelling fox.
The mayor paced the room. He flitted back and forth busily. The thick carpet absorbed almost all of the noise generated by his footsteps.
"It wasn't supposed to be this way. Citizens are supposed to gather at the Moondrop to celebrate the Holy Day and the greatness of No. 6, are they not? To think it would turn out like―like this, I―how could such a thing have happened?"
The man gave a deliberate sigh. The mayor stopped pacing, and deep creases appeared on his brow as he looked over.
"Please, Fennec," the man said. "Compose yourself. All that's been coming out of your mouth these days is 'why' and 'such a thing'. I'm starting to get rather bored of it."
"Answer me. Why has this happened?" The mayor's voice grew strained. The man gave another sigh.
"Because you haven't given it your all."
"Yes. You mobilized the army, but you only cleared them away with a handful of firearms. Surely you wouldn't call that decisive action. Nothing is more effective than the army when it comes to subduing the imbecilic masses. That was not the right way to use them. You should have used them with more flourish, more decision, and an iron finality."
"You're telling me to mass-murder my citizens?"
"They'll prostrate themselves to you before they get themselves killed. They'll bow down in awe and fear. They'll tremble as their very hearts are seized with regret for ever opposing you or No. 6. They will be like neutered dogs. No matter how badly they are treated, they will never be able to bite back. Fennec, it is not too late. Mobilize the army again, and clear away the mob that is milling in the square. It may even be wise to use the shockwave cannon, depending on the situation and the course of events. You've already completed on-site testing in the West Block, have you not?"
"That's almost like―" the mayor swallowed. "That's almost like a reign of terror."
"Reign of terror? Absurd. I have told you before: you are the ruler of No. 6. Its King. You reign over this country. You embody justice itself and all its forms. Opposing you is the same as defiling justice. It is only normal to use force to make them comply."
"...Stop it," the mayor said weakly.
"Fennec, what are you afraid of? This is not like you. You have always acted like the King that you are. You are conscious of your position as the chosen one, and you have always lived under that notion."
"I have." The mayor slumped his shoulders, and dropped his gaze to his feet. "I am the mayor. In No. 6's highest position of responsibility, highest position of power. It's only natural. We were the ones that built No. 6. We launched the revival project, and brought salvation to the dying land and its people. We built a utopian city, the most idyllic―most idyllic city possible by humankind."
"Precisely. You and I were both central members. In fact, only the two of us truly understood the ideals that No. 6 strove for. The other members were highly qualified, yes, but they lacked creativity. Or you might say they severely lacked ambition, or an ability to observe the changing times. But fortunately for us, we had those abilities, almost in excess. That is why we have come this far."
"This far?" the mayor said sarcastically. "You mean being surrounded and condemned by our citizens? Was our creativity and ambition and skill all for this?"
"This is only a temporary situation. It will conclude instantly if only you would take effective measures."
"Effective measures? I've taken several."
"And those are?"
"There are people fanning the flames of this chaos. I've ordered the Security Bureau to catch them as quickly as they can."
"Any ideas as to their location?"
"Not yet. They've gone underground."
"A clearly faulty plan. You should have obliterated all such dissidents beforehand. You ought to have destroyed them to their very roots. And what else have you done?"
"I used all sorts of mass media to broadcast my speech. I called on the citizens to remain calm, not to panic easily or be influenced by false rumours. I announced a state of emergency and put a lockdown order in effect. I commanded people to stay inside until the order was lifted, and announced that anyone deemed as a dissident would be arrested and detained, regardless of whether he or she is a Chronos resident. I listened to your warning, and I... mobilized the army."
"Hm. Well, no big mistakes so far. This would have been resolved much more quickly if you had used the army properly. But, well, small errors can be remedied. Everything will go smoothly."
The mayor bent over and scrutinized the sitting man.
"Go smoothly? How? What part of this is going smoothly for you? The citizens aren't retreating at all; in fact, they're out of control. No matter how much the soldiers try to suppress them, it doesn't work. Do you know why? Because casualty after casualty keeps occurring. Citizens are still dying, one after another, for a reason no one can understand. Everyone thinks that a new type of plague has suddenly broken out in the city. They think we're hiding the vaccine somewhere. It's absurd, absolutely absurd! That thing is no plague. It's because of them. Why are they going around killing citizens as they please? Why? I thought they were supposed to act however we wanted them to. I thought we had absolute rule over them!"
The wan smile vanished from the man's face. The corner of his mouth twitched ever so slightly.
"Fennec, how many times will you make me repeat myself? Yes, true, this was an unexpected happening. A random, totally unpredictable event. I acknowledge that. I acknowledge too, of course, that my predictions were much too optimistic. But this is not as dreadful as you make it out to be. It is nothing more than a precursor―a precursor to Its awakening."
"You're saying this chaos is just a precursor?"
"Why, yes. It is a mere response to Its awakening. Which gives you an idea of the enormous amount of energy this thing holds. Once It awakens completely and comes under our control, we will be able to harness that energy, and this chaos will calm."
"Are you... really sure?"
"Have I ever lied or given you false information? I have always told the truth. Fennec, you haven't forgotten, have you? I was the first to see your true potential to blossom as a politician instead of a researcher."
"―I remember. You pushed for me to enter as a candidate for No. 6's first mayor."
"Yes. You won that election, and you have reigned over No. 6 to this day. And you will continue to. There is no need for an election. There will be no need for the citizens to choose you of their own will. Fennec, don't waver now. You have to act at all times like the mighty man you are."
"A mighty man... is that what I wanted to become?"
"What did you say?" the man said sharply.
"I certainly did want to create a utopia with our very own hands," the mayor said pensively, "and I wasn't the only one. Back then, anyone who was involved in the building of No. 6 should have felt the same. We all spoke about how we would realize a utopian city here, embodying the dreams of humankind. We talked about how we would be the ones to build its foundations. Not a single person... hoped to become an exalted man."
"A utopia cannot exist unless there is one to wield absolute power and lead his people behind him. You should know this the best. Yes, the ones with overwhelming power are the ones who draw the majority along with them. If it weren't for that, No. 6 would not be called the utopia, the Holy City that it is called today. It is a victory on the part of your power and our ideology."
"Victory, you say."
"A complete victory," the man affirmed. "Some bumps along the way cannot be helped. Once we overcome those, No. 6 will continue to engrave its glorious history in time."
The mayor did not answer him. He clasped his hands behind his back, and resumed walking.
"When will It awaken?"
"Soon? It isn't like you to be so vague. Be specific."
The man shrugged. Well, well. So he tells me to be specific. He must be getting impatient. People tend to want specific numbers the more they feel they are being cornered.
"Let me see... within twenty-four hours. All will be settled and finished at this time tomorrow. Everything will be quiet and in its right place."
"Twenty-four hours... I can't wait that long. Within twenty hours, at least... no, twelve hours is the time limit."
"Impatient, are we, Fennec?"
"Impatient?" the mayor said incredulously. "How in the world could I be otherwise in this situation? The city hall―the Moondrop―is being hemmed in by citizens!"
The mayor's fist pounded the mahogany desk. The man shrugged one shoulder slightly.
"Fennec, surely you don't think the Moondrop is still the heart of No. 6?
The mayor froze.
"What? What did you just say?"
"No. 6's most important function now lies in the Correctional Facility. The Moondrop has been reduced to a mere administrative body. It can be surrounded by anything, for that matter, and nothing serious would come of it. As long as we have the Correctional Facility, our No. 6 is in safe hands."
The colour receded from the mayor's face. The tip of his tongue twitched in his half-open mouth.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Mean? I just told you. The Correctional Facility is the heart and brain of No. 6."
"What..." the mayor croaked. His voice was overlapped by an electronic chime. A man's long thin face appeared on the television screen embedded in the wall. He was one of the secretaries under the mayor's direct order.
"Mayor, there are fires happening throughout the city."
"So the rioters have found their way in to set them."
"That's one thing, but there's more. The emergency systems in all the buildings are not functioning at all. In some buildings, I've heard that the core computer itself has caught fire and exploded."
The man was rendered speechless. There was only the sound of his wheezing breath whirling in his throat. What is this footage? The man let his throat rasp even more. Some kind of trick? A scene from some cheap drama, what? What is he showing me this for?
"The Correctional Facility is about to crumble!" The secretary's high-pitched yell tore into him. The man, unable to endure it, took two, three steps back.
"Wait, what's that shadow?" The mayor pushed the stumbling man back upright again, and brought his face close to the screen.
"What is that?"
The man looked as well. It was a black shadow looming up clearly against the flames.
"This... isn't this a wasp? No, but... wasps like this don't exist. They simply don't." The mayor's jaw trembled.
The man's chin was also trembling. The tremor raced through his entire body.
"Elyurias." The name slipped from his trembling lips. The mayor turned around.
"Did you say Elyurias?"
"Yes. It is Elyurias. But, no―she is supposed to be more beautiful, more demure. She is not supposed to be this―this enormous. She was supposed to be controllable to my every whim."
Supposed to be. Supposed to be. Supposed to be. Supposed to be.
The screen turned black as the video was cut off.
"Mayor, the citizens have gotten inside the Moondrop. Please, be careful!" the secretary continued to yell from the other screen.
"This cannot be!" the man and mayor's voices overlapped.
Read Chapter 3.