Chapter 10: In the Summertime

I was the first to arrive at the conference room. I had something of an unfair advantage, being the Sister of wind. Someone had even left a window open, which made it easy to slip inside.

It was another thick, humid day. The city was choking under its own heat. But then, the city was always choking under its own heat. It was one of the defining aspects of cities that they produced more heat than they could easily bleed off. Physically, and emotionally.

One of the very first gifts that my sisters and I gave to humanity was technology. Fire, Clay, Irrigation, and Sail. The power to harness their environment, to shape it. It was a small act of submission, giving them the chance to guide us and use our gifts. For that crime, my sister was placed in the depths of Tartarus by the gods. At least, that is one of the many ways that I remember it. My memory is long, but not infallible. I had countless other memories of my past, and my history. Which ones were fact and which were merely confabulation was not an easy question to answer. And so, I didn’t try to answer it. Humans used tools, and it was a part of what made them so interesting. That was all I really needed.

Officer Larson entered the room, Jack Knife in one pocket. She turned towards me, and I could see the lines around her eyes. I gave a quick nod. “I heard about the poisoning. I’m sorry.” She just shook her head softly, and turned towards the coffee-maker. As she poured herself a cup, Jack Knife changed to her human form, and sat down on the table. I didn’t approach her. I didn’t even speak to her. I just watched her for a few seconds.

I had first met Jack Knife when she had corrupted a dear friend of mine in the 1800s. He was also one of the last humans I gifted my power to. It grew harder, over time, to find those who were truly willing to make a journey that would change themselves. And that was ignoring the difficulty of finding humans I could trust with power. Jack gave me a dark look. “What?”

“Why did you corrupt Jonathan?” I asked, my voice hard. “I’ve been wanting to ask you that all these years. He changed, after he found you. He became cold, obsessed. Why did you do that to him?”

“Ariel-” began Dane, a hand lifted. Jack waved a hand breezily.

“No, no. It’s a fair question. The truth is, I was not the one who corrupted him. Jack took me from my place, in the holy temple of Vishnu, and asked my to help him. I agreed, pledging myself to protect him, to preserve life. But he grew cold, and twisted. Your dear friend began to see the evil in all of humanity, and strove to stamp it out. He grew withdrawn, and driven, and buried his hands in blood while he still held me. It was not I who corrupted him, but he who corrupted me. Your friend turned me into the monster I am today, and I still suffer.” She smiled, and her teeth were very white. “A sword cannot kill a man. It can only help him to kill another man.”

“Horse-shit,” I said, eyes narrowed. “Why are you so desperate to refuse responsibility for what you do? You always try to turn it into an attack on another person, some weakness in someone else. It’s…” I frowned. “Oh, I get it.” I smiled. Frankly, I still wasn’t clear on Jack Knife’s motivations. Her origin, her nature, these were two of the things that I didn’t know. They were all the more enraging for being outside of my range of knowledge. But two people could play at that game. From the look of sudden anger on the knife-girl’s face, I could tell that my remark had struck a sore spot. Jack’s lips were drawn tight, and she turned away.

“Hello, everyone.” Li Fang Fen strode in. She was an unusual specimen. I was not partial to non-humans, myself. I could not give them my power, and I found them vaguely distasteful. Nonetheless, her nature as a Jiangshi spoke to me on some fundamental level. I could empathize with her focus on breath and her martial nature. The Undead were one of the branches of the supernatural that had always dwelt close to humans. Unlike the myths that filled the Cities, they were not particularly powerful. Even the greatest among them would never equal one of the gods or monsters of myth, let alone something like me. But they knew how to get along with humans. They depended on humans, and that bred a kind of codependence, if not cooperation. They had remained behind in the world, the oldest and most powerful of them entering a torpor that had left them foggy and distracted as the seals had fallen over the world. Remaining close to humans. Making contracts with them. Becoming intimate-

“You alright, Ariel?” asked Dane, frowning. I shook my head, and found a wet spot on my cheek. I wiped it away quickly. Not quickly enough, though. “I’ll admit, I didn’t expect you to get that emotional about this. It’s bad, but you came across as a bit… cold, last night?”

“I suppose I am… full of surprises.”

Li Fang Fen nodded. “As I was saying, there have been surprisingly few deaths. Nearly ten thousand casualties, though. Their symptoms were curious, largely heart and lung-oriented. They didn’t match any single recorded poison very well, and antidotes had little effect. From what I could taste of their chi, it has to be mystical, though that’s the most that I could say. It was spread through the food.” She reached into her purse, and took out a small plastic bag. Several pieces of popcorn were visible inside, flattened from the trip. “The doctors looking over them are using palliative care. We can only hope that they will recover, in time. Meanwhile, we’re not certain who is responsible for this. The officers on the scene aren’t from your precinct, Dane. I fear there is only so much we can reasonably expect them to find, and I was asked to leave after only a few minutes.”

Dane nodded, and sighed. “Alright. I asked us to get together so we could pool knowledge.” She looked up at me. “I’m guessing you’re not going to be very useful, there?”

“Depressingly so,” I said. “I can confirm knowledge you stumble on yourself, I can fill in gaps. I can’t give things away.”

“These rules seem pretty loose,” said the knife Tsukumogami, raising an eyebrow.

“That’s because they’re not laws of nature. They’re an agreement between my side, and the other side. Things get argued over. It’s more about the spirit than any letter of the law. Both sides are trying to bilk the other, to get an advantage without being spotted.”

“Let me guess,” asked Dane, her expression a little bit annoyed. “They’re better at that than your side?”

“We’re forces of nature. Humans give us personality traits, ideals, but we’re pretty elemental, when it comes right down to it. The other side are made up of mankind’s darkest, most self-destructive urges. Yeah, they’re better at cheating and subtlety than us.”

“Then why isn’t the contest already over?” asked Li Fang Fen.

“Because we are stronger.”

“Are you sure about that?” asked Dane, an eyebrow raised. “You seem pretty confident.”

“Imagine that humanity dropped every nuclear weapon it had. Imagine that you scoured the surface of this planet clean. There would still be an atmosphere. There would still be a sea. Fires would still rage. There would still be an Earth. At least for a little while longer, Nature, as humanity knows it, is greater than the works and the frailties of man.” I frowned. “We would cease to be people, but we would still be.”

“Then why do they keep fighting, if you could win any direct confrontation?” Dane asked. I was quiet for a moment, and she frowned, comprehension dawning in her eyes. “Because they don’t need to beat you that way. You losing is them winning. They’re nihilists.”

“Say what you will about the tenets of national socialism, Dane, at least it’s an ethos,” said Li Fang Fen. I raised an eyebrow, as did Dane. Fang Fen looked at the two of us, lowered her head, and coughed into her fist in a way that sounded suspiciously like ‘Shut-ins’.

“Alright. First things first, identification. We’ve tracked at least fifteen methods of murder in the last few weeks. Technically, what we’re dealing with here are mostly not serial killers. Most of them have been happening repeatedly, with little to no cooldown period. The killings only really started about two weeks ago, with a bicyclist who bashed in a pedestrian’s head with a crowbar in Central Park.”

“Are you sure that one’s a spree killer?” asked Li Fang Fen, an eyebrow raised.

“Well, he’s been making an attack every three days since then, so I’m inclined to think it wasn’t just a moment of pique. In turn, three bicyclists have been run down in midtown, with witnesses describing a red towncar engaging in hit and runs. Then, there are the weirder things.”

“The things that may be supernatural, you mean?” asked Li Fang Fen.

“Yes. First, we have Jack and Jill. The hitman’s the only death from them so far, but they’ve made several threats. We’ll have to expect them to grow more aggressive, soon.” She tapped her fingers on the table. “Jill said she could see the path to killing anyone. Jack presumably has some similar ability, from the feats he’s accomplished. That’s two.”

“One,” I said. “They function as a unit. It’s a rare thing among our adversaries. It bears mentioning. The two of them draw their power from the same source.”

Li Fang Fen frowned. “Your adversaries can make a pact with more than one person at a time?”

“Yes. As can we.”

Li Fang Fen nodded, though her expression was doubtful, and turned her head back to Dane. The officer continued. “Next, we have Jack Knife. She specializes in corruption, turning people against themselves. Also, she’s a knife.” She frowned at me. “Can your adversaries do that gift-giving process with objects?”

“I honestly don’t know. I haven’t tried, but Tsukumogami aren’t all that different from humans. Or me, for that matter. She could be an avatar of one of our enemies, or have a pact with her, or possibly she just spent too much time in the company of someone who was in service to War, and absorbed enough ambient energy to twist her. We do not make a science of these things. That is a human skill.”

“Alright. Next, we have the poisonings. We’ve found one connected death. A health inspector on Roosevelt Island was last seen at Madison Square Garden, where he cut his hand. That was the last time anyone saw him.” I stayed silent. The memory of the dead man still stuck in my head. The scent was different from that wafting on the popcorn, but similar enough to be of the same kind. The same person was definitely responsible. “That makes four- or, three, rather.” She reached into her pocket, and took out the black book from Blake Weiss’ apartment. “And this is the fourth.”

“Hmmm.” Li Fang Fen bit her lip. “Jack Black was supernaturally powered, but I know who he made a pact with. The only particularly unusual thing about him was that he went sociopath. He was never like that before.”

“Are you sure about that?” I asked, an eyebrow raised. In truth, I couldn’t speak to his past. I hadn’t paid too close attention to him. He was the kind of man who always seemed to slip past my mind without being noticed.

“Extremely. Gentle, kind, he never struck me as a loner. Perhaps a little narcissistic at the worst of times- That’s the only way you meet a Fetch- but not the kind of man who would play sadistic games of life and death.”

Dane nodded. “I can’t say this fourth killer exists for certain. I’ve only seen suggestions of his existence. Officer Weiss was trying to track him down, keeping track of suspicious suicides of- Well, to put it bluntly, heroic individuals. In the past three months, there have been twelve deaths in New York City of public servants with a notable trend of fame or heroism. People who saved others lives for preference. Each one of them was ruled a suicide, and not in the suspicious third world ‘Cut his throat shaving’ kind of way. We’re talking about deaths that would have been impossible to fake with an unwilling target.” She tapped her chin, and frowned.

“There is a unifying theme to this adversary, isn’t there?” asked Li Fang Fen, an eyebrow raised. “You mentioned they are mankind’s darker impulses.”

“Shit,” I muttered, frowning. “I’m not good at this subtlety shit, like I said.”

“Pestilence,” murmured Dane. “Like a typhoid Mary kind of thing. Jack and Jill… Could be Death. Jack Knife might be war. And Jackass… Famine? Some kind of spiritual famine, taking away what people have to live for?”

“Jackass?” asked Li Fang Fen, an eyebrow raised.

“It seemed appropriate for someone who makes good people take their own lives.”

I sighed. One of the most frustrating things about this whole ‘keeping secrets’ things was when people came to the right conclusions via the wrong assumptions. This one, in particular, was oh-so-common. “Close. Not quite.”

“Pestilence is a new meaning. Only started this last century. Conquest was the traditional reading of the White Horse. The conquering of others. Seems appropriate for someone who can make people take their own lives.” Li Fang Fen tapped her fingers on her arms. “You said there are a number of spree killers, correct, Dane?” Dane nodded. “Then something is bothering me. Johnny was the first person the NYPD has arrested in relation to this case, and so far as I know, there are no other suspects even under investigation.”

“Yeah.” Dane frowned. “We’ve got a rash of spree killers who are acting overtly, violently, and no arrests. That can’t be normal.” I frowned. This was true. “Is it possible they’ve made pacts, too?”

“No,” I said. “I would know. There are four players in this. No more. The Horsemen are jealous. Jack and Jill are a rare example. Unique, as far as I am aware. War’s champions occasionally come in twos, but only when she herself is focused on something, and even then they are aimed against one another.”

“Is there any way to detect the people who have made a pact with these… Horsemen?” asked Dane, frowning.

“I could do it. But that would transgress the agreements in a terrible way. Ultimately, this is about humans. Whether humans can stand up to the trials that face them. Whether the depths of human depravity are greater than the heights of human grace.”

“Sounds like we’re doomed,” murmured Dane, frowning down at her feet.

There was an almighty crash, and Jack screamed. It took me a moment to realize what had happened. I had slammed my fist down, and through the table, cracking the oak in half. The table had pitched Jack to the ground. I took several deep breaths, my expression stormy. Li Fang Fen and Dane had both gone incredibly still and quiet, staring at me, as I regained control over my emotions. Jack gave me a sour look. “What the fuck was that about?”

“You.” I pointed towards Dane. “Do you know how fucking sick I am of that? How much I hate hearing those words from humans? Every time you speak them, every time some human accepts those words into their hearts, the Horsemen grow a bit stronger! Even when you say it in jest, you make that fatalism a part of your soul!” I reached down, and lifted half the table in one hand. “It’s that fucking attitude that has brought this world, my world, to this brink of destruction! It is that melancholy self-pitying bullshit that cost me-” I stopped, panting, realizing what I was saying. The oak crunched as it settled on the floor. The door opened, and one of the officers stood in the doorway, his hand on his gun. I glared at him, and he stepped back quickly, shutting the door.

“We really should be having food,” murmured Li Fang Fen. I frowned, and raised an eyebrow. “If Atina were here, she’d insist on food. Say we should all get together and eat, something to keep body and soul together. Something to keep us on an even keel. She’d know just the questions to ask to bring this all together.” She folded her hands in her lap, her shoulders hunched. “I wish she could help us. But this is out of her league.”

“I know the feeling,” muttered Dane. “That Creed kid was always good about that.” She laughed softly. “Second time we ever met, he came to my office. I’m half in the bag, and he invites me for a home-cooked meal. Because he thought I needed it.” She took out a pack of cigarettes, and began to slap them against her palm, producing a lighter in another deft movement. “He was right. Shit, I’m not sure I’ve eaten something that was made in a kitchen since he left town.” She drew out one of the cigarettes. “How about you, Windy? Who do you wish was here?”

I snorted. “I don’t need anyone.” I didn’t think of the young man in a silly Hawaiian shirt and a pair of sandals. I didn’t need him to save me. I couldn’t need him to save me. That was why he was suffering. I couldn’t stand to prove him right. I lifted my head, and stared Dane in the eye. “You can do this. I believe that.”

“Why?” asked Dane, and her eyes were painfully hollow, her expression worn. Void of hope.

“Because if I thought humans were not up to the task, I would wipe you out. Cataclysm. Bring the species down to a handful of survivors. If I lost hope in you the way you have lost hope in yourselves, I would wipe the slate clean.” There were a long few seconds as the three of them stared at me. The cigarette slowly fell from Dane’s lips. “Human civilization is a fragile thing, while humans are resilient. We could begin again, the Sisters, and try to shepherd civilization in a way that would not make a home for the Horsemen. Countless humans would die, which is why I hold back. There are still a handful of reasons for me to not lose faith in humans. You should strive to be one of them, Dane.”

“Heh.” She tapped her fingers against the table. “You know, that kid, I think he admired me. He saw me fighting, and he thought I was something special. Hard to believe, in the face of a goddess, but he genuinely believed I could make a difference.” I noticed her hands straying towards the broken ends of the tonfa. “Why are they doing this?”

“The Horsemen tend to be… multi-taskers. They give power to humans, and trust in the humans to do evil with it. They choose well, picking those with causes, those who are ruthless, those who are desperate. They know how to set humans on kamikaze paths. I doubt that they have even taken an active hand in this. The more I see this, the more I think that it must be some bizarre coincidence. In the very beginning, the Horsemen have always been made to destroy cities. Cities represent humanity’s efforts to move higher. They are where people gather in immense numbers, where pressure grows intense. The Horsemen are adept at taking advantage of these things.”

Dane nodded. “I heard once… There’s a statistic. Something like, for every doubling of a city’s population, almost every other statistic- Life expectancy, average wealth, education, crime rate, even things like the pace of walking, increases by thirteen percent. Cities get bigger, and everything gets a bit… tighter.”

“I wonder if that’s a part of it,” murmured Li Fang Fen. “People in cities grow extremely resistant to things that others would find intolerable. Population pressure, light pollution, even simple things like smells and heat.” She smiled lightly. “Goodness know that I’ve seen enough people on the verge of losing their tempers about things as simple as being cut off in traffic, or having someone else misbehave. If you simply removed that resilience, that resistance to the urge to violence, the city could explode into violence.”

“That’d be pretty spectacular, eh?” said Jack, grinning. “An entire city of millions of people losing their shit? Going ape on each other? Hell, it’d make the Civil War look like a kid’s playground scuffle.” The three of us turned to stare at her. “Hey, what? It’s not my fault I have a grim sense of humor. I’m a product of my circumstances!” She fluttered her eyelashes, and I turned away from her. The rabid knife.

“Regardless,” said Li Fang Fen, “We can accomplish this. We have an advantage that few do. We know that these serial killers are supernaturally capable. We can pursue lines of questioning that others do not. Serial killers, historically, accomplish their murders through extreme planning. It’s likely that one of the reasons that these serial killers remain so elusive is because they take advantage of people’s incredulity. Think of Jack Knife. She remained active over many years because people did not understand who was responsible. The knife was the commonality in the crimes, but because knives cannot be killers, nobody took her into custody. With our awareness of this one thing, we were able to apprehend a killer who has slipped past the police, and past the spirit of Wind, for over a century.” I lowered my head. “We can do this, if we work together.”

“Heh.” Dane shook her head, and a small smile was breaking through her poker face. “I suppose so. I’ve talked with the guys from the Neighborhood Watch. Sent them out to talk with a few of the suspects that Blake Weiss had, with warnings about what they might try.”

“That sounds dangerous,” I said, frowning.

“Yes,” she said, her eyes turned down towards Jack Knife. “I warned them not to take any chances. To talk, and leave if anything seemed hinky. These are the people that had something in common with all of the victims. If we don’t find Jackass among them… Well, we’ll have to think of something else.”

“And what if one of them is caught by Jackass, and takes his own life?” I asked, my voice cold, watching her. Dane’s expression stiffened, and her fingers tightened around the tonfa’s broken halves in her belt.

“If one of them takes his own life, then Jackass reveals themselves nice and obvious. And I’ll kill him stone fucking dead for it. Pardon my french.” My face fell, and she turned towards me, expression hardening. “Do you have a problem with that plan of action?”

I took a deep breath, and settled back in my chair. “I’m not here to save anyone. These people made their choices a long time ago. If we kill every person who made a pact with the Horsemen, I wouldn’t shed a single tear. But…” I frowned.

“But?” asked Dane, an eyebrow raised.

“When someone one of my kind makes a pact, and their partner dies, our power returns to us,” said Li Fang Fen, frowning. “I presume it is the same with these Horsemen. Thus, if we kill them, that power returns to the hands of the Horsemen.”

Dane tapped the table, and then her eyes narrowed. “Oh. I get it.” She smiled. “That’s why you’re reluctant to give away your power. You’re a soft-hearted type, Windy, aren’t you?” I looked away. “You give your power to someone, you don’t want them to die. You make your pacts with some human, they succeed, and then you’re too soft-hearted to use them again. You want them to survive. Whereas the Horsemen get their hooks into some poor son of a bitch, and throw him into the fray over and over. Either he dies, and his power returns to them, or he survives, and he gets even worse. They aim to win by attrition.” She frowned. “You’re really not putting your all into this whole ‘fate of human-kind’ thing, are you?”

“And it would please you if I did,” I asked, my voice soft, my hands tight. “If I became as violent as the Horsemen? If I decided to sacrifice humans for the sake of victory? Even if I were the sort of person to do so, you are describing beating the Horsemen at their own game.”

“But who the fuck would keep doing this? How many heroes have you made that were willing to keep fighting, who didn’t get killed in the fray or retire, huh?”


“One. Awesome.”

I took a deep breath. “One is enough. Trust me.”

Jack snorted. “Humans. They’ll disappoint you every time.”

I didn’t answer that. I wanted to, badly. The silence hung in the air, gaping and suggestive, until Dane coughed. “I’ve given Officer Blanski the evening off. With Jill’s threats, it seems safest for him to be away from any of us. Sufficient inconvenience seems to be enough to piss them off, so I can only hope that they’ll prioritize making trouble for us over following through on a threat. With a power like Jill’s, I’ve got a feeling that I’ll regret any choice I make.”

Li Fang Fen nodded. “And as for me, I have a friend to visit in the city. He moved here about a year ago. I haven’t heard from him recently, but he may have some lines on what has been happening here. He’s more in touch with the supernatural here.” She smiled. “Ariel, do you mind if we walk and talk for a little bit? Sorry, Dane. It’s… supernatural talk.” Dane rolled her eyes as Li Fang Fen stood up, stepping towards the door. She cast a look over her shoulder, and smiled at me. I followed, feeling a touch of trepidation.

“What is this about? I’m afraid that I can’t give you any power-”

“No, I understand. It’s a connection with humans, it doesn’t work with something that isn’t a human.” She frowned at me. “Dane is right. You do have a soft heart. And someone’s hurt it, haven’t they?”

“I can’t see how this is important,” I said, frowning.

“Can’t you? Why are you here, Ariel? You came to this city to seek out Jack Knife. You have found her. Why are you involving yourself in affairs further? You’ve said that you cannot interfere overtly. Every second that you stay here, you’re opening the door to these Horsemen getting some sort of advantage on you. Who, exactly, are you trying to avoid? What are you trying to prove?”

I frowned, as the two of us walked down the hallway. “There was a man.”

“Ah.” She winked at me.

“Not like that. I don’t have feelings for him, thank you very much. I’m not quite that pathetic.” Anymore, I added in my own head. “He had… Call it a destiny. A curse. Whatever. He was empowered by one of the Horsemen, and he overcame it. I think. I hope.” I ran my fingers over my face. “Hope… is a terrifying thing. It is admitting that you may be wrong. That someone else may have power over you, and that they may know better than you do. I came here because…” I twisted my lips. “Because I think it was the right thing to do. Because I think it’s what he’d do. I think that being afraid, playing it safe, has brought me and my sisters to the brink of ruin. I think that maybe we should do the right thing.”

“Sounds like love to me,” she said. I shot her a ferocious look. “Love is opening yourself to betrayal. It is letting someone get close enough that they could jam a knife in your heart. True love is being wounded by someone, and still letting them that close.” She gave me a smile. “I always thought that you couldn’t make a pact with someone without loving them, on some level.”

“Really? So, you’ve got a thing for Dane?”

“Oh, no, no. I saw that passionate kiss you planted on her. I would never come between you two.” She gave me a smirk. “But I must admit, I do have a fondness for her. She has the kind of passion that makes my heart feel like it could start beating again. Yang chi that fills her up. She’s the kind of person I like to be around, even if I don’t want to jump into bed with her. Do you really not want to see that young man of yours again?”

I frowned. “He was supposed to win, to save us, and to give up his power, so he could live a normal life. Fall in love, be with others, have his happy ending. He earned that, and he turned it down. What kind of person does that?”

“Someone with guilt issues, I suspect.” Li Fang Fen smiled. “Atina once told me that she was motivated strongly by guilt. The knowledge that she had been born owing the world everything.”

“I can’t say the same thing about him,” I muttered. “I think the world owes him a thing or two. It’s not fair. He earned peace, and he decided to go back into the nightmares. To keep fighting. Because he thought he was the only person who could do it. I’m trying to prove the arrogant ass wrong.”

“I can see that. I understand your dilemma. Those who will retire, they do. Those who won’t retire, they keep going until they die. The world catches up with them. Sooner or later.”

“Yeah.” I sighed. “Except… There was this seer.”

“A real seer?” she asked, an eyebrow raised, a condescending smile flashed in my direction.

“I don’t know. Real seers are pretty indistinguishable from fakes. Certainly, nobody believed her. She said he was going to keep fighting forever.”

“Humans die,” Li Fang Fen murmured.

“Yeah. Usually.” I took a deep breath. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not in a position to help him. All I can do is watch, and I’m not going to watch him destroy himself because he can’t let someone else bear part of the burden. I’m here because it’s somewhere I might be able to make a difference. He doesn’t need me anymore.”

Li Fang Fen nodded slowly, as the two of us reached the garage. She opened one of the car doors, and gave me a very serious look. “Take it from someone who knows. Leaving someone you care about to deal with the mess they have made is seldom a good idea. And humans die much faster, and much more suddenly than you might expect. I would advise that if you care about him, you should be by his side.”

I laughed softly. “He has to be alone.”

Li Fang Fen shook her head. “I’ve never met the man yet for whom that’s true.” Then she stepped into the car, and started the engine. I watched as she left. A hundred and ten years old, and she thought she knew it all. I was two orders of magnitude older than her. I didn’t have anything to learn from her. No matter how much her words resonated in my mind.

“Hey, Wind.”

I turned, and saw a fat pigeon standing on one of the police cars. Its tail feathers lifted, and it made a mockery of the badge all over one of the lights. “Something the matter?”

“Your sisters are comin’ to town. They’ve got some questions about the way you’re handling this thing, Wind.”

I sighed. “I’m surrounded by people second-guessing me.”

The pigeon cooed. “So maybe you should make some less awful fuckin’ decisions.”

I watched Li Fang Fen go into the jaws of death, and sighed. “That’d be nice.” I frowned. “We really should have gotten some food. It doesn’t feel right without a meal.”

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