“All done with my speech!” Shion announced proudly before handing the paper over to the man before him.
“Nicely done,” said Shu, Shion’s right-hand man, as he scanned through it. He was a tall and thin man, with warm face that lit up frequently, especially when he was speaking with Shion. “I trust that you’ve already memorized it?”
“Yes,” Shion answered.
“Excellent. That should be all for today,” Shu replied.
“All?” Shion exclaimed. “But the convention is in two days! There must be a whole bunch of—”
“There is,” agreed Shu, “but I can handle it. You, however, will have enough work at the convention itself. It’s better if you save your energy until then.”
“But I can’t just leave all of the work to you!” argued Shion.
“It’s not only me. Everyone in the department will be working hard before the event, so do us all a favor and rest so you will be able to do your own job when time comes.”
A year ago, Shion wouldn’t even have bothered to insist before continuing to work anyway. But now, he just nodded and said, “If you do need anything in the end, don’t hesitate to call,” before picking up his belongings.
“Yes, yes, Mr. Hero of the City.” Shu bowed deeply.
“Shut up,” Shion said as he left the office,making his way to the elevator.
Shu laughed. “Just so you know, you’re not allowed to work until the convention other than practicing your speech,” he said.
“You seem to forget that I am your superior.” Shion entered the elevator with a smug grin, and Shu followed.
“Hey, we said that if everyone in the Head Department agreed on something you should do what we say,” said Shu.
“When did you put that to vote?”
“When you were working on your speech in your office.”
“But Ai wasn’t here today!”
“We texted her, and she agreed.”
Shion pouted. “Fine,” he said, “no work until the convention.”
“Good.” Shu let Shion exit the elevator then held it open so they could keep talking. “I’ll drop by your place to make sure you’re actually keeping that promise.”
“You’re so mean!” Shion folded his arms and Shu waved goodbye before letting go of the elevator door and going back up to his own office.
Shion left the office and looked at the sky. Judging by the position of the sun, he assumed it was only a few hours into the afternoon. He took a deep breath and tried to think about anything other than work. It had been a whole year since he had fainted in his office and hit his head on a sharp object, an accident that hadn’t caused much damage besides some long-term memory loss. The accident had, however, resulted with his entire department, and Shu in particular, deciding that Shion’s habit of figuratively working himself to death might actually kill him eventually. Their worry was endearing, and soon Shion realized he couldn’t quite remember why he had been working so hard in the first place, so finally he agreed to take his work a little less seriously. He used his newfound free time to spend more time with family and friends. He visited his mother’s bakery frequently, washed Inukashi’s dogs every now and then, and sometimes he even spent time with his coworkers, especially Shu. Today, seeing that it was a nice day for a walk, Shion decided to make his way to the train station and ride the train to Lost Town so he could visit his mother.
The West Block had changed a lot in these past four years, and Shion was proud to admit that it was mostly due to his own, and several others’ hard work. It didn’t smell so badly anymore, the buildings didn’t seem like they were about to be blown away by the wind, kids could run about freely, and their parents could walk behind them without a hint of worry on their faces. The new West Block, while still not perfect, was much more ideal than the old No.6 could have ever been. Shion’s only regret was that Safu wasn’t there to see it. No, that wasn’t it, Shion knew; the thought had bothered him a lot recently. I did this for Safu and…?
Train number 11037 to Lost Town Station will be departing from—
Crap! Shion mentally swore, before sprinting farther into the station in order to catch his train on time. He barely made it, ignoring the strange looks he received for jumping into the train a moment before the doors closed. After catching his breath, Shion took a moment to look around. He always loved riding the train because, in his opinion, it was the ultimate symbol of No. 6’s liberation. Not only was it a fast, free, and easy way to pass from the West Block to any other part of No. 6, it was also a place where he could see many citizens enjoying his hard work. Riding the train gave him the opportunity to see people who had fought for their lives on a daily basis in the West Block wearing suits and going to work, hanging around with friends, or just to going to catch the newest show at the theater. These people could now have normal—and most importantly—safe lives, and for Shion, that was the greatest accomplishment he could have.
Although we’ve been having a couple of nice and warm days, it seems like there’s a storm moving in our direction, so be prepared for a rainy weekend. Until then—
Somewhere near Shion the main news channel was playing on a screen attached to the train’s side. The storm was supposed to start exactly at the time of the convention, but it didn’t worry him at all. He had loved storms for as long as he could remember, and the convention would be taking place indoors anyway, so there was no need to be concerned.
The train reached Lost Town Station soon after. It was quite a walk from Karan’s bakery, but Shion enjoyed the exercise. Lost Town hadn’t changed as much as the West Block had, but the more positive atmosphere in the place where he had spent his teenage years was more than enough for Shion to feel proud of his actions in this section of the city, too. By the time he reached the bakery the sky was already colored dim orange, meaning that Shion’s visit couldn’t last very long. Yet, being able to smell the pastries as he walked down the familiar street and knowing that he was going to see his mother was worth the trip even if it was only for a little while.
“Big sis! Big sis! Uncle Shion is here!” Shionn yelled when Shion entered the bakery. He then ran in Shion’s direction to hug him, and Shion crouched to receive the hug.
“How’s it going, big guy?” Shion ruffled the child’s already messy hair.
“Great! Me and big sis are helping Ms. Karan to clean the shop!” he replied.
“Good job!” Shion said. “Where is your ma?”
“She said she had lots and lots of work and that Ms. Karan and big sis are going to watch over me!”
“And how are you doing, Lili?” Shion asked the teenage girl who was standing a little farther away from the door, cleaning the floor with a broom.
“Alright,” she answered.
“And how is school going?” he added.
“Same as always. If you’re looking for Ms. Karan, she’s in the kitchen, but I think she’s busy. She went back there with a man.”
“A man?” Shion asked, surprised.
“Yes. It looked like she hasn’t seen him in quite a while,” Lili said.
Shion walked to the kitchen, curious as to who was the man and what his relationship with his mother was. When he reached the door, he couldn’t help but overhearing his mother say, “No, you just don’t understand. That’s not why you can’t see him, Nezumi.”
“Then why?” demanded a voice.
Shion entered the kitchen immediately, and saw his mother, wearing her usual apron, talking with a man with disheveled black hair. He was wearing travelling boots that looked like they had seen better days, and a leather jacket, as well as what seemed to be a super-fiber cloth wrapped around his neck. But his most distinguishing feature was his eyes—his beautiful, gray eyes—which Shion could swear he had seen somewhere before.
But Shion didn’t have much time to wonder about that, because the man whispered Shion and walked toward him. Before Shion could comprehend anything else, the man was right in front of him and something warm and wet was touching his lips. Shion automatically pushed the man away, enough to separate their lips but not enough to create any meaningful distance between them. The man looked at him, surprised, as if pushing away a strange man who had just started kissing him wasn’t the reaction he had expected from Shion.
“Excuse me,” Shion said with a questioning look, “Do I know you?”