Chapter 25


Waiting was something Yoko had grown accustomed to. It seemed to him that most of his life, he was occupied with waiting more than any other activity. It was familiar, almost comfortable, watching the world move past while he stood still.

But waiting for Hiroki was like waiting for a noose to be adjusted around his neck. This wasn’t a confrontation he had ever wanted to face, yet somehow he was certain that it had always been inevitable, before Solace or the Cataclysm. It took most of his willpower to remain still, to keep his weapons hidden, and his hands from fidgeting in his pockets. Knowing that Riyad was watching him helped--he refused to lose face in front of any of those he might have to face again when this was over--but not enough to dispel the dread that had solidified in his gut, making him feel inflexible and heavy. The chatter over the wireless wasn’t enough to distract him.

When Hiroki finally appeared, sauntering down the street in one of his hideous sweater vests, it was almost a relief.

“He’s here,” Yoko murmured into his wireless link.

Riyad’s response came seconds later. “I see him.”

Shifting his hands inside his deep pockets, Yoko gripped the handles of his weapons and pushed away from the pole he was leaning against.

“Yoko.” Riyad’s voice was heavy in his ear. “Are you sure about this?”

He was sure. Without even knowing how he was, he was certain that everything he was doing was happening exactly as it had been written. Hiroki’s journal, written years before they’d ever come to Solace to join Tokoyo, had proven this to him. There was no other way he could have known where to wait for Hiroki or when to expect him.

With a silent breath in through his nose, Yoko drew his weapons out of his pockets. A quick movement of his elbows extended the shafts and they locked into place. “Do your part, Riyad Shihar.”

Hiroki had drawn closer and stopped some distance away, his hands on his hips. His smile was sharp and biting.

“It looks like you’re ready to get started.”

Yoko’s only answer was to raise his arms and adjust his stance in preparation for a strike.

“It breaks my heart.” Hiroki put a hand to his forehead, feigning realistic remorse. He remained in that pose for a moment, then smiled past his palm. “Let’s get it over with.”