Chapter 20


Hiroki followed his brother to the door and watched as he slid into his shoes. “I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do for your hand.”

He was, too. The sight of the bones with a few stubborn tendons still clinging to them had stirred something like pity in him. He didn’t like seeing Tokoyo in this state, especially after he’d worked for so long to keep him in one piece.

“I’ll figure something out,” his brother assured, kneeling to fiddle with the laces on his shoes. “Cybernetics, maybe.”

Hiroki grimaced and then sighed. “This was all so avoidable. If you had just trusted me and hadn’t meddled with the Healer, then--”

Tokoyo was on his feet, looming over him with a suddenness that cut Hiroki off.

“Meddling?” His voice was low.

“Yes,” Hiroki insisted. “You have to have realized by now that you were dealing with something beyond you. Think of the repercussions if he had died.”

Tokoyo’s eyes narrowed and Hiroki knew he was wondering why the Healer’s life meant anything to him. “Is that why you sent Yokoshima to steal him from me? To keep him alive?”

“I don’t want you to get in over your head.”

Tokoyo barked a laugh, green eyes icy. “I think you have more to worry about there than I do, little brother. I have to admit, you’ve covered yourself well and I still don’t know what you’re planning, but it’s something big. You want the Shards alive.”

“What do I care about the Shards?” Hiroki’s voice was dismissive, but he was mentally backtracking, trying to remember what he’d said to bring Tokoyo to this conclusion.

“I have my suspicions. You know, after all, that our uncle is here in Solace. And you know what other forces are gathering.”

“I don’t--” Hiroki began, only to be cut off again.

“Come on, Hiroki, the weather? The signs all over town? All the things you’ve pushed Yokoshima into doing without him even knowing he was being led? You know what’s going on. I’m willing to bet a lot that you’re orchestrating it all, though only the gods know how.” Tokoyo took him in with a raking glance, and Hiroki saw mingled admiration, anger and what he might have mistaken for fear if it had been any other person in Tokoyo’s eyes. “I don’t know what your aim is, but I want nothing to do with it.”

Anger hissed through Hiroki. “You don’t want to step away from this, Tokoyo. This is something we need to--are meant to do together, Yoko and us. There’s a place for you in all of this, if you’ll just stop thinking you’re smarter than everyone else for a moment and follow along.” He forced the fury out of his voice and his tone turned cajoling. “Come on, ‘Koyo, this is our chance. With the Shards and uncle and everything else gathered here right now, we’re on the verge of something great.”

Another scything glance from Tokoyo cut him off before he could explain what exactly they were on the verge of.

“I want nothing to do with it,” the scientist repeated. His words might as well have been coated in steel for all Hiroki was going to be able to sway him now. He turned away. “I’ll find my own way from here.”

Hiroki was silent while he left and remained still until he reckoned he had given Tokoyo enough time to reach the elevator at the far end of the floor. Even then, he stood motionless for a moment, staring at the shoes in the entryway.

Without warning, he whirled around, caught up a small table just inside the apartment, and hurled it across the room. It hit a shelf heavy with books and sent the whole thing crashing to the floor. Hiroki didn’t hesitate while pages fluttered like injured butterflies. He was across the room, flinging things from shelves, denting plaster and breaking things as he hurled them away from himself.

When he went still again, it was because there was nothing left in the room that he was willing to destroy. Standing hunched in the middle of the chaos he’d created, he clutched his arms as though holding himself together, his pupils pinpoints in wide eyes. He was the very picture of someone half-crazed with anger.

The only thing out of place in the tableau was his breathing; even and steady, he inhaled and exhaled serenity. Slowly, a smile curled his lips and he cocked his head, listening to the retreating footsteps in the hall. Everything would unfold as he had planned, or he would leave nothing behind to show that it hadn’t.