10: Epilogue: Narcissus and Forget Me Not

Enforcer Okui of Division Two walked over to the place where Shion and Yayoi were embracing. Although he did not know Yayoi, he was still surprised to see such a stern-looking girl shedding tears. She did not sob, and she did not speak; she just put her arms around Shion and let a few tears trickle down from her cerulean eyes. The two lovers were so focused on each other that they didn't see what Okui was doing. He pointed his Dominator at the unconscious Rina. It read 325. Then the Enforcer fired.

Yayoi screamed in anguish and Shion screamed in surprise as Rina's beautiful body bloated and burst. Blood fell down in rain-like showers, soaking Shion and the Enforcers. Yayoi turn around and started vomiting. The death of her childhood friend was too sudden and to grotesque for her to process. She said nothing of her outrage, because she knew the Inspectors would never have been allowed to keep Rina alive, but she suffered all the same. She felt like all the deepest contents of her guts were coming up as she retched. Shion knelt beside her and shielded her with her body.

"Please get back, Analyst Karanomori," Okui said to Shion. "You're wasting valuable time. My supervisor, Inspector Itami, was shot by Rina's colossal rifle. He will bleed to death if you don't go try to save him. Division One's Sho Hinakawa also suffered a wound from a handgun, and I'm not sure if any arteries were hit. You used to be a doctor, right? Well, get to work."

"If I move," snapped Shion, "you're going to shoot my Yayoi, no? I'm not budging."

"I'm only doing my job," replied the long-haired Enforcer. "These Dominators are for subduing criminals. We have Sybil's authority to shoot criminals without a trial. But if you're worried about me killing her…" Okui pointed his Dominator at Yayoi's head long enough to read her Crime Coefficient. "Tsk. This girl is some kind of freak of nature. Her Coefficient's gone back down 265 already. I hate having to trust people with unstable numbers. Nevertheless, I can't legally kill her. So move aside, Shion. I'm just going to temporarily paralyze her."

Inspector Akane joined Shion and company. Her hands were stained with blood and her jacket was torn where she had ripped part of it off to make a bandage for Inspector Itami.

"I've got the bleeding under control," Akane reported. "And I've called ambulances as well as Chief Kasei. I'm afraid the drones won't be of any help, but we can manage on our own. Shion, please do step back. Proper procedures dictate that we must immobilize Yayoi."

Feeling stronger, Yayoi stood up out of Shion's embrace. "I knew what I was getting into," she stated grimly. "You can shoot me, either of you. I know it will just be temporary paralysis now, but I'm sure the Chief is going to want me executed as soon as possible. I'm prepared for that. I only ask that you do not trouble Shion. Don't think that she had any part in my treachery."

"Yayoi!" Shion whispered urgently. "You can't just let yourself be killed!"

"Calm down, everyone," Inspector Akane cut in. She gave Yayoi a long, serious look, and quickly winked at her. "It will be ok, Yayoi-san. We know you were being a double agent, just as you planned all along, right? By yourself, you managed to isolate the biggest threat to the Sybil System—the terrorist Rina Takizaki—and you managed to bring her into custody. It was you, right? You knocked her out just now. All this time, you were only pretending to go along with her plans so that you could double cross her and turn her in. The Chief won't kill such a brave double agent."

The tall, wiry Okui glared at the petite Akane. "Are you being serious?" he demanded. "I'm supposed to believe that Yayoi Kunizuka is on our side? If it weren't for her participation in Rina's plan, Sybil would never have been in danger. Even if playing along with Rina was part of the trick, the act should have stopped before Rina destroyed so many brains. The fact that Yayoi let Rina damage Sybil so badly proves that she's on the anarchist's side! Am I wrong?"

"Enforcer Okui," said Shion, standing up to face him and putting a hand on her hip, "Yayoi took a dangerous gamble. Sybil was damaged, yes, but it survived. What if the terrorist Rina had tried this operation without Yayoi? Maybe she would have succeeded. But since Yayoi was here, we were all able to stop her. I have other proof of Yayoi's innocence, too. While it's true that Yayoi was the one who disabled the alarms and the drones, she did so using MY tablet, and she left obvious traces of what she had done in plain sight. That was how she alerted me to the danger. Then I told Inspector Akane what was going on."

"That's right," Akane confirmed.

Yayoi looked from Akane to Shion and back again. She could barely believe her ears. These two were actually sticking up for her. They didn't want her to die. In reality, Yayoi truly had been working with Rina to try to destroy the Sybil System. But as things turned out, Yayoi looked as if she had been playing the role of a double agent. She had thought Shion was drunk, and never dreamed that the woman might figure out Rina's plan by looking at the tablet she left open. Yayoi had also been the one to knock Rina out, though she had only done so to save Shion. Was it right to play along, pretending to be loyal to Akane and to the Sybil System? Well, if she denied it, she would surely face death. Although she thought it seemed selfish, Yayoi wanted to live. She wanted to be together with Shion. Even if they would have to live under the Sybil System, at least they could live. There was no need to hesitate.

"It was never my intention to harm Sybil," Yayoi lied, looking Okui in the eye unblinkingly. "I was already chasing Shinozuka Kadri when I noticed that Rina had disappeared and set off the bomb. I was fighting too intensely with Kadri to try to stop Rina from destroying the brains. Inspector Shimotsuki and Enforcers Ginoza and Kahae did not realize I was a double agent. They tried to attack me. I was forced to put the three of them into an unconscious state so I could hurry onward to try to stop Rina. I promise no serious harm was done to Shimotsuki, Kahae, or Ginoza."

"Fine then," Okui said with several violent swears mixed in. "You play the part of the traitor exceptionally well. All the same, I'll have to paralyze you. On the off chance that you're really a terrorist, we can't have you running away. We'll stun you and keep you in the medical ward on the sixth floor where Chief Kasei can interrogate you later."

Shion looked like she was going to protest, but Yayoi quietly placed a hand on her shoulder. "It's alright," she smiled. "I feel strange and kind of guilty for being alive right now. I think someone like me ought to at least get shot. Besides, I'm tired. Unconsciousness sounds great now."

"If you insist." Shion kissed Yayoi's forehead fervently. "I'll make sure nobody hurts you."

Shion stood back. Yayoi let Okui aim at her without any complaint. She briefly looked and saw Akane smiling at her, relief and respect reflected in her large sepia eyes. Next, Yayoi looked at Shion and saw that a warm, tender smile had crossed the woman's ruby lips. In spite of the situation she was in, and in spite of the unsympathetic manner in which she usually carried herself, Yayoi smiled back at them. Her azure eyes still glistened a bit from where she had shed tears earlier. Then Okui pulled the trigger, and the bright cyan-white blast of the Dominator struck Yayoi's left leg. She collapsed without a cry, and the expression on her face was one of restful sleep.

****Line Break****

It took some time for Chief Kasei to believe that Yayoi should be kept alive. Akane argued for Yayoi's sake over the course of many hard nights. Shion pled for Yayoi's innocence too, and even Ginoza pitched in. At last, Kasei decided that Yayoi would live and continue to work as an Enforcer. She admitted that if Yayoi had not stopped Rina and knocked her out, the entire System would have been obliterated. As things stood, however, the System was heavily damaged, and could not keep running at its former far-fetching strength, accuracy, and speed. Something had to be done to augment Sybil until such a time as it could again handle the running of the country.

The most obvious option was to use supercomputers to enhance Sybil's processing capabilities. Only a few with the required strength could be made available, however, and these would significantly affect the budget of the entire Public Safety Bureau. Akane was the first to suggest another solution. To ease the burden on the System, Sybil would give up control of its general law-making duties, passing that responsibility on to a diet of democratically elected lawyers, judges, and politicians. The change would be huge. I had been about thirty years since any control of law and order was handed to an elected body. All the same, Kasei thought the plan was the most reasonable course of action to keep the country safe. When Sybil no longer needed help from the diet, the members of the legislature would vote to decide whether or not to surrender their control back to the System. The Public Safety Bureau made the announcement to all of Japan, and almost at once, potential legislators from all walks of life stepped forward to represent the people.

"Sybil really does evolve for the good of the people," Akane observed, touched. She was standing in Kasei's office, hands behind her back, with a smile on her small, elfish face. "If I may speak farther, Chief, there are a couple other changes I want the Sybil System to consider. They need to stop intruding quite so far into freedom of expression. I don't think it will be a huge deal to overturn some of the restricting laws on music and literature. Also, Sybil needs to start re-evaluating the treatment of Latent Criminals. Many of them are so miserable in the holding facilities that they would rather die. If an uprising ever happened, they might have the power to kill us all, and they would be justified—unless we start treating them as human beings."

"If I'm not mistaken," Kasei said in her cracked voice, "one of the highest areas of aptitude in your career placement test was 'Lawyer.' You're a police Inspector first, but a sound and fair judge second. For that reason, I want to appoint you to a special job." Kasei adjusted her rectangular glasses and pushed a strange of grey hair back from her wrinkled face. "Akane Tsunemori, you will act as the interface between the new Legislative Assembly and the Public Safety Bureau. You will suggest changes in the system to both sides, and you will be expected to argue your opinions with sound logic. With this position, you can have a voice in fighting for the rights of Latent Criminals and freedom on expression. In addition, you come directly to me to argue for changes in the treatment of Inspectors and Enforcers."

Akane bowed respectfully. "I am grateful, Kasei-Bucho. I will officially accept this role as long as the new Legislative Assembly approves of me. While we're on the subject, there is one small change I want to make as soon as possible concerning the treatment of Enforcers. I believe Enforcers should be allowed to legally marry. I ask that you put this law into effect immediately, since it's you and the not the Assembly that decide matters of Enforcer rights."

Kasei was not thrilled at the idea of letting Enforcers marry. However, after debating it for a while and consulting Inspectors from multiple Divisions, she gave in. Akane had to restrain herself from literally leaping for joy. She couldn't believe how much progress she had already made. She hurried off to tell Shion and Yayoi the wonderful news.

(Incidentally, Yayoi had been faring quite well. She recovered from the paralysis in three days and had no lasting nerve damage. She had a new scar across her cheek from where Kahea had cut her, but she thought it made her look tough, so she didn't mind it. She also didn't mind the fact that she and Rina had failed to destroy Sybil. Shion proved that she loved Yayoi as a person, regardless of numbers, and that was good enough for Yayoi. She did, however, grieve for Rina.

She tried to patch things up with Shimotsuki too. Yayoi swore she would never tell a soul about Mika's involvement in the murder, and that she had never intended to tell in the first place. She simply had to drastic measures to get Shimotsuki to cooperate. Hearing all this, Mika began to slowly forgive the Enforcer.

Attending multiple sessions of daily therapy, Yayoi saw her Crime Coefficient dropping steadily. Now that she had given up trying to destroy Sybil, the System no longer considered her enough of a threat to be killed. By the time Yayoi spoke to Shion and accepted the silver-and-turquoise necklace, her Crime Coefficient had stabilized at 127.)

****Line Break****

Yayoi and Shion had a difficult time deciding what to do for their wedding. Neither of them thought their families would be interested, and they each had only a small handful of friends. (Shion had held on to a few friends from her days at med school, and Yayoi had Shimotsuki, Hinazawa, Ginoza, and Akane.) Yayoi suggested they change their papers to indicate marriage without a ceremony, same-sex marriage being legal in Japan by this point; Shion, however, wanted to make a little show of the affair. She did some research and decided to use a Shinto Wedding theme.

"Nobody's been Shinto for, like, sixty years," Yayoi told Shion flatly. "Where would we find a Shinto priest or a shrine maiden? Would they even perform a ceremony when you and I aren't religious? The same goes with western ceremonies. Why do it in a church when we're atheists?"

"The few remaining Shinto priests would perform the ceremony because they're just happy to keep the tradition alive," Shion replied. "I don't think it's a big deal if we're not Shinto. Besides, the meaning of the rituals is often up to interpretation. It's not spelled out for you like in a chapel wedding. It's true that there aren't many priests left—less than ten thousand in the country, I read. But we're in luck. My classmate from med school has an uncle on northern outskirts of Tokyo who's a bona fide Kami no Michi Priest. His family is still Shinto. Let's ask him if he'll do it. Come on."

"Fine," Yayoi agreed, pretending to be annoyed, but actually pleased that Shion was enjoying herself. "We'll use our necklaces instead of rings, though. And I'm not wearing one of those paper hats or wigs."

After much debate and planning, the day of the wedding finally arrived. It was a cool day in the autumn of 2116. The ceremony was held outdoors at the small shrine where Shion's old friend, the Priest Umeki-Soryo, lived with his family. His granddaughter daughter of twelve years agreed to play the part of the Miko, or Shrine Maiden, using a costume that had been passed down in their family for generations. On padded grey chairs, the guests sat facing the outdoor shrine altar. Kasei, Shimotsuki, Akane, and the Enforcers of Division One were present, along with five of Shion's friends and the one sister with whom she was still in touch. To Yayoi's unending surprise, her father Morihiro attended the wedding, too. He said nothing and he didn't look too happy, but all the same, he came. Yayoi remembered for the first time in years that she actually still loved her father.

Umeki-Soryo appeared in pale grey robes and black hat, taking his place to the right of the altar. To the left of the altar stood the Miko in a white kimono and burgundy hakama. She waved her antique gohei over the offerings and blessed them. Then Shion and Yayoi walked gracefully over and stood in between the Miko and the priest.

Shion wore a scarlet kimono with a white, satin kakeshita embroidered with flowers. Her yellow hair was tied up into a ceremonial bun showing through the small white tsuno-kakushina hat. Yayoi wore a tight-fitted black kimono of silk with a white undershirt and divided gray hakama trousers. Both women looked beautiful as well as dashing. They held hands, listened, and watched while the priest completed the ceremony to purify the shrine, ensuring the sanctification of the wedding. The priest invoked the names of many gods and spirits, asking them to bless and honor the shrine and the unity of the new couple.

Next came the sake-sipping ceremony of nan-nan-san-kudo. Shion and Yayoi passed the correct cups back and forth in the correct order, each partaking of the shining silver sake. Thereafter, the time came to read vows. In a Shinto wedding, the groom would read his vows and the bride would listen. Since this wedding had two brides, they both decided to read their vows to each other.

Shion spoke first. "I make this wedding vow respectfully before the Umeki Family Shrine. We, Shion Karanomori and Yayoi Kunizuka, are delighted to make our vows on this pleasing day. I swear before the Shrine and my family and friends to love and respect my wife for all time. I swear to strive to bring prosperity and harmony to our union and our future family. Moreover, I swear to never veer from the path of marital faithfulness, and to share grace and kindness with all people. Yayoi, I cannot begin to tell you how deeply I love you. Please take as a token of my love these flowers of Forget Me Not. They symbolize the desire to be remembered, love, and good memories. I will never forget who you are, Yayoi, nor how deeply you can love. Let's create many good memories together."

Yayoi went next. "I make this wedding vow respectfully before the Umeki Family Shrine. We, Shion Karanomori and Yayoi Kunizuka, are delighted to make our vows on this pleasing day. This woman, I marry. No matter our health, I will love this person, respect this person, console this person, and aid this person until death, protecting our fidelity. I so swear before the Shrine and my family and friends. Shion, you are my savior and my reason for living. As a sign of my love, please accept these purple blossoms of Narcissus, which symbolize belief in oneself, talent, and a direct, charismatic personality. Your confidence is amazing to watch and it helps me begin to build some self-assurance. Your talents are numerous: being a doctor, a communications analyst, a technological whizz, and a refined woman. Your charisma was the reason I first fell in love you. Let us continue the steps of this dance together, for as long as we live."

The audience was touched by the heartfelt vows. There was a silence for a few minutes before the Miko approached the guests. She began passing out small sake cups as well as the bottle of silver sake. When everyone had filled their small cups, they drank in unison with a cry of "Kampai!"

Everyone was bidden to place their offerings of food and drink on the altar. Umeki-Soyro offered the traditional small evergreen bush to show thankfulness to the spirits. Shion and Yayoi placed two bags of high-quality brown rice on the altar. Then the guests came forward with their contributions. Most of the gifts were small affairs, but Akane brought a bottle of Dai Ginjo sake, and Kasei offered a basket of ume, shikwasa, and kinkan fruits. Above the offerings, the couple's twin wedding necklaces were on display.

The priest Umeki took hold of the necklaces. He handed the turquoise one to Shion and the Ruby one to Yayoi. As Yayoi bowed her head slightly, she felt Shion placing the blue-and-silver jewelry around her neck. Then Shion bowed her head, and Yayoi, feeling joyful and nervous all at once, set the ruby necklace on her bride. Then they both stood up straight while Umeki-Soryo said the closing weddings prayers. The shrine maiden waved her gohei over Shion and Yayoi, and the two of them shared a passionate kiss.

"Well, Yayoi," said Shion a bit later, wrapping her arms around her wife and feeling her hips. "Do you think we can do it? Can a couple of stubborn bitches like us make a good wedded pair?"

"I think we're both so stubborn that we can do anything we set our minds to," answered Yayoi, stroking Shion's golden hair. "In some ways, this kind of feels like an ending in my life. An ending to living as a number, believing that I could never be happy. But more than that, it's the beginning. It's the start of my life with you, Shion."

The blond woman kissed her dark-haired lover. "Yayoi, I hope you're not always going to be that sappy now that we're married. Save the sappy for when I'm depressed. As for right now… hmm… let's go have a couple of cigarettes."

Yayoi laughed. "Alright then. You never change, Shion."

The End