Bubblegum Crisis Post 2040 Files Continuation Fanfic Series

File #7: Web of Lives

Part 4: Retribution

by P. Kristen Enos

Posted 8/26/09

Unfortunately still beta-less! But please try not to be too distracted by that.


Most of these stories take place AFTER the TV Series! So DON'T blame me if I ruin the ending for you because you read these stories first!

Lesbian/Yuri/Shoujo Ai Warning! (Non-explicit -- at least in the "PG13"/"R" sort of way.) Just not written for children because they probably wouldn't get half of it.

All rights belong to JVC/AIC, ADV Films and the other creative powers that be. I just want credit for writing the story.

* * * * *

Chapter 31: Healing

8:14 p.m., July 20th, The Silky Doll

"So how did you find me?" Reika asked from the bed with bandages over her still healing eyes. She was understandably thin and weak, and her long hair was braided into a single pony tail down the side.

"It was as if you were calling to me," Sylia responded as she sat on the edge of the bed while holding Reika's left hand in hers. "Like an S.O.S. I mean in hindsight, I shouldn't have been surprised she took you there. But obviously that wasn't the first thought on our minds."

"Can you feel me calling you now?"

"… No, but I'm right here. So you probably don't feel like you need to."

Reika was pleased to hear the slight smile in Sylia's tone.

"Well, I have to admit that while I don't remember a lot of what happened, I do remember wishing you were there… That place was where she had been injured the first time, right?"

Sylia reddened in embarrassment, grateful that no one else to see it. "Yes. It has originally been an office building under construction before a boomer rampaged and drew us there. They had since torn it down and turned it into a factory before abandoning the site completely after the last big earthquake… The wounds she gave you were parallel in the damage she had received, though I think a lot more brutal. I guess it all made sense as fairness in her mind… I am truly sorry about this, Reika. I – "

Reika stopped her by squeezing her fingers. "I know you are, Sylia. And I forgive you. For the whole thing. Even the parts that weren't really your fault."

"That's a lot to forgive in such a short time."

"I think the lesson I learned from Mei is that being stuck in the past when you're still alive is the worst place to be," she said with a weary sigh. "Forgiving doesn't mean that I won't try to keep learning from this. And it doesn't mean forgetting. I'll keep wondering how much of my own actions led to this to some extant. I just need to not let anger and obsession consume me the way it did her. I'm not saying that I'm going to be perfect at it, but I realize I need to try otherwise I'll end up like her."

"Well, then that means you need to forgive yourself, too."

"… Yes, you're right. Besides," she held up the stump of her arm as a point, "just this is enough to show I can't go back to being the old me without some significant effort. I wonder if I wasn't trying to live in the past myself. I need to define who I am going forward with an unbiased view of all possible options."

"Does that mean you're still going to marry Densuke? Nigel feels the nanobot attack damage to your uterus will probably fully heal, once your body has finished with your eyes."

Reika was silent for a moment before saying, "It's fair that he knows everything so he can determine if he still wants to continue with the engagement. After all, having children was the one thing we both knew would be the most important thing out of our union."

Though it wasn't what Sylia wanted to hear, she tried to be positive by commenting, "Well, I do hear that he's done a good job managing the company in your absence. Perhaps this will let you stay Reika Chang, private citizen, for as long as you need to."

"True… And it would be nice to go back home as soon as possible."

The comment caused Sylia to be momentarily stiffen in alarm.

Reika felt it and teased, "Now what was that about? Were you expecting me to continue to stay here?"

Sylia once again blushed. "Well, what are you going to do about your arm, and your leg?"

"I'm a rich girl. I have servants. And they've had to take care of before when both of my arms were incapacitated… Did you want me to stay?" she asked in a gentler tone. "Sylia, I told you that I forgive you. I don't want you hovering over me any more than necessary while I'm trying to recover. Besides, this is your home, not mine… Now I'm starting to feel like I need to sleep again."

When Reika was once again asleep, Sylia stood by the bed and continued to stare down at her. Her expression remained grim with a hint of pain and longing.

* * *

7:01 a.m., July 21st

"… Oh, okay," a stunned Jun responded as she paused in taking notes in her datapad. She hadn't expected Reika's order to continue to be Densuke's personal secretary.

Hearing this reluctance in her tone, Reika cocked her head curiously. "Are you having problems with Densuke? Has he been behaving himself?"

'Too well' was what Jun wanted to reply but thought better of it. True to his word, the man had never made reference to the stifled attraction between them, which was both a relief and point of frustration for her, embarrassingly so.

"Yes, things are fine. He's been a perfect gentleman. But you are planning to return to take over?"

"Eventually. I just don't want you to be bored while waiting for me to recover. He and the company needs you more than I do at this point."

"I wouldn't be bored!" Jun proclaimed. "I-I'm here to be your personal secretary. Not his, or anyone else for that matter."

Reika actually chuckled at this. "All right, that's very cute but I know you don't have a crush on me, otherwise I might reconsider. Might. I'm not saying that I won't still need your services on occasion. And speaking of which, did Yoshiko complete tracking everyone down who contributed to the siege?"

"Yes. As suspected, she found out Genom was the ultimate supplier of the helicopters and their crews. If she hadn't used her connections, I don't think we would have been able to uncover that."

She mulled that over for a moment, clearly not pleased with the information, but not surprised either.

"Are you also bowing out of Clan activities too?" Jun asked, realizing that she needed the clarification since the Hou-Bang Clan and Chang Enterprises were really two different operations.

"Yes, Grandpa is going to continue representing me to the Elders… Can you also call Densuke for me and let him know that there's something I need to discuss with him in person?"

"Oh, all right. Is it urgent?"

"Probably not. But better to be done sooner rather than later… And while you're at it, I'd like to speak to Yoshiko when it's a reasonable time for her in Rome."

* * *

3:14 p.m.

Densuke couldn't help but stare at the stump of Reika's right arm and leg. It didn't look right at all. At least the bandages over her eyes seemed temporary, but the missing limbs felt very… permanent.

Realizing that she would have to endure such scrutiny going forward, Reika waited patiently until he had really absorbed the reality of her condition.

Her fiancé suddenly became aware of the silence and blushed in embarrassment, glad that she couldn't see it.

"Um, are you still in pain?" he asked softly as he sat down in the chair by the bed, not sure how else to start their conversation.

"I get an occasional twinge but I'm sure I'll feel more when I start being more active. My eyes feel numb and tingly but Nigel theorizing it's because they're still healing. I think that was the one benefit of having been in an coma during the time my body needed to do the most critical healing."

"Oh… So Jun told me that you don't remember much of what happened. That's probably a good thing… I haven't really spoken to Yoshiko about it," he said of his sister. "But I have to admit I don't know what to say to her. I can tell she feels deeply ashamed of what Mei had done. She even apologized to me, which she's never done in her entire life. Not that she ever had a reason to, of course."

"That's good to know. I had planned to call her later. I want to let her know that I don't blame her at all. When I heard that she was the one who… stopped Mei, I couldn't imagine the discipline it would take to do something like that."

"Yes, my sister is an incredible woman," he said sincerely, with a distinct note of pride. "Largo will be the first one to admit she's the true embodiment of the Watanabe family spirit and honor."

"Speaking of honor, thank you for stepping in as acting-CEO. Both Grandpa and Jun have told me you're doing an excellent job."

"I am merely being a figurehead," he said with uncharacteristic humbleness. "Your company is a very well-oiled machine in terms of its operations. I think my other role as your fiancé was an incentive for everyone to go out of their way to work with me."

"Actually, speaking of our engagement, I do want to have a serious conversation about that. To make all things fair."

He frowned at not knowing what this was leading to. "I am still fully committed to it, if you are able to forgive my family in this matter."

"Well, this time, isn't about you as much as it's about me. When you came to my bedroom that night before to ask for a truce, I wasn't as upfront as I should have been about my condition."

"What do you mean?" He was now genuinely confused.

Reika took a strengthening breath before explaining, "A couple of days before, Sylia had let me know that she had a physical condition that she had passed on to me some time when she and I were together. There were no symptoms and we didn't know if it could become something more serious later on. I was not happy about the news because it made me concerned that I shouldn't bear children and pass it on to them.

"Obviously, in hindsight, this condition was probably what kept me alive through that ordeal as well as heal my eyes. But with that, Mei did something to me that almost destroyed my uterus. Nigel thinks there's a good chance that once my eyes have finished healing, my body may try to heal that as well, but obviously we don't have any guarantees with that. Having my eyesight come back was unexpected enough. Plus, while this condition that I got from Sylia turned out to be a good thing for now, we don't know how it may affect any children I have. I could end up producing mutants for all we know."

Reika felt her voice falter as she heard herself articulate what had been in her mind about her current physical state. "So what I'm saying is that I don't think I'll be able to hold up my part of this arrangement, which is to produce heirs. And if you want out of this engagement because of that, I understand. With everything that has happened, I don't think there would be any animosity between our families should we choose to dissolve this amicably. But I want you to know the truth since this affects you just as much."

Densuke was silent for a long moment as he tried to process everything she just said.

Finally, he swallowed and said carefully, "I appreciate your offer to let me out of this, but to make such a decision when so much is still unknown would not be honorable. Perhaps we should have this discussion again should it turn out that you cannot have children at all?"

It was her turn to be silent as she thought about his response. "… I appreciate your support," she said after moment. "But, Densuke, I also want to make sure your own guilt about what happened in L.A. isn't a factor in your decision to remain committed."

He was genuinely surprised by that. "Honestly, Reika, that wasn't a factor in my response. Though I admit it still haunts me on occasion."

She sighed. "Then, I think it's good we cleared that up. And you're right in that perhaps it's too soon to have such a discussion. We'll talk about this again when things are more settled."

* * *

7:12 p.m.

Even though she couldn't see Yoshiko's image in the phone screen, Reika could hear the very distinct tone of passivity and weariness in the once proud and regal woman. If she had her eyesight, she wasn't sure she would have noticed it as much.

"Your Clan traitors have been executed per your grandfather's orders," Yuko reported softly. "I did discover a couple of business rivals who had minor participation and Largo is in the process of dealing with them by orchestrating takeovers that should be completed within a year."

"So it seems all loose ends have been taken care of. Thank you."

"I am just grateful that you do not feel it is a poor reflection on my family's involvement in this mess."

"Of course, I don't, Yoshiko. I know how much you love Mei. And Nigel explained to me that she was probably driven to her final state by long term and excessive exposure to boomer bio-matter."

"While that is true, and not to dismiss responsibility, our flaw was that even though we could develop the hardware to match Genom's, the source material still came from them, with all of its flaws included. And given your own relationship with Genom and Rosenkreuz, that would my warning to you if you are considering boomer prosthetics at all."

"Understood. Even before Mei, I never wanted to take that option for those reasons…"

Reika let out a weary sigh of her own and said, "I feel like I'm having déjà vu. It was exactly this reason why we decided to create Anri. Genom always seems to be the reason behind everything… I have a personal favor to ask of you, and I need it to be done in absolute secrecy, if you're willing."

"I am willing."

"It's regarding my parents' deaths. I want something confirmed."

* * *

9:37 p.m.

"Good news is that non-boomer prosthetics technology has become much more sophisticated in the past fifty years," Nigel said as he scanned his datapad before the two women, "Not at all my area of expertise but Sylia or I might be able to hook you up with a trustworthy doctor for consultation."

As he spoke, he was trying not to be distracted by the sight of Sylia sitting on the edge of the bed while holding Reika's hand. He didn't like the unnerving feeling he was trying to ignore.

"It's probably just as well I become accustomed to that," Reika said softly. "It's not like I really need as much dexterity as I had. Even with a boomer prosthetic, I don't see myself ever playing the piano again."

Sylia immediately frowned in alarm.

Reacting to sudden tension in her hand, Reika said, "Sylia, it's all right. Given the scope of everything that has happened, that's on my list of small losses. I'll be happy enough when I reached the point of being mobile again."

As if an idea hit her, Sylia opened her mouth but then paused. She glanced at Nigel, apparently thought better of it, and remained silent.

Nigel stifled his frown. He had never seen her look so hesitant before, but he chose to let it go.

"According to the scans, I think we should try to see how your eyes are doing by the end of the week," he said, turning his attention back to the datapad. "You may not have full 20/20 vision right away but I'm curious to know what you're eyesight is compared to what the scans are showing us."

"Of course… And, Nigel, thank you for everything. I know you weren't suddenly expecting to be my personal physician."

He looked at her and to Sylia, and then said, "You're welcome."

* * *

1:26 a.m., July 24th

Alone in the stillness, Reika finally felt the loss and despair hit her. She started to cry and soon found herself completely sobbing uncontrollably.

She may not have remembered a lot of Mei's abduction, but the vivid sensation of witnessing Irene's murder could still be felt in her remaining hand. It was enough to make her wish that it had been torn off too.

Then she heard the door slide open and close, but she wasn't alarmed at being exposed in her most vivid moment of weakness. She knew who had arrived.

Knowing that she didn't need to announce herself, Sylia sat down on the edge of the bed and embraced the woman, who collapsed willingly into her arms as she continued to sob.

- End Chapter 31 -

Chapter 32: Turning Point

9:32 a.m., July 29th

Though still remaining in bed to conserve her energy, Reika carefully cradled her baby niece, who looked up at her with a curious gaze. She no longer had the eye bandages but she still had to squint to make out details.

Sho quietly looked over them. He had a certain haggardness about him as shown by his beard that was there due to lack of shaving rather than an attempt to be fashionable. His clothes were still pristine, but more due to having servants to do laundry rather than any extra effort on his part.

The proud father said, "She's a doll. Everybody adores her, and she seems to adore everyone… I hope it doesn't change when she becomes old enough to understand what happened to her mother. I would like her to grow up strong, but not bitter."

"That's a good goal… How are you doing?"

He shrugged and tried to blink back tears. "Every once in a while I find myself wanting it to not be true. So I guess that must mean I've finally started to accept that she's gone. I am so grateful that we were at the compound when it happened, when there were so many people who could take care of Nozomi when I couldn't."

"What are you going to do now? Grandpa told me that he did not want to continue with the new identity plan now that Nozomi truly is the only real heir to our family line and needs utmost protection."

He looked at her for a moment and then said, "That's what I wanted to talk to you about. I've thought about it seriously for the past couple of weeks that I'd like you to consider adopting her and raising her here. You and the compound families could protect her so much better than I can, as well as provide her a rich home life. After all, I'm still a wanted man by Genom's standards."

Reika fell silent as she seriously contemplated his words.

"I'm not saying you have to pretend to be her mother," he continued to try to persuade her. "I want Nozomi to know about Irene. But perhaps that's information she doesn't need to know about until she's old enough to handle it… And I'm sorry to spring this on you when you have so much to deal with now. I guess the problem is that I've had longer to think about this than you have."

She gave him a sad smile. "True, I feel like I'm a month behind everyone."

He hesitated a moment and then said, "Can I ask you a question? Did you feel like you had died?"

"… For good or bad, I don't remember a lot of what happened. I get an occasional flash but nothing that feels like I walked down a dark tunnel towards a light or anything. And I'm not sure I want to try to go out of my way to remember more. I'm satisfied enough to view it as a month lost. Well, we lost more than that, but you know what I mean…

"Back to your request about adopting her, thank you for feeling like I could be a good substitute mother for Nozomi, Sho. But you're still my brother no matter what happens in the future. And she needs you as a father, especially in Irene's absence. Why don't you both move back to the compound? I think we need to evaluate all of our security issues anyway. If you still want me to give me shared guardianship for her, I am fine with that. So unless you have another reason to want to go to London, or to continue with the plan to go to America, please come home."

Sho seemed deeply relieved as he shook his head. "Thank you, and yes, I'll move back."

"Contact Jun to make the arrangements. I'm certain we have plenty of room. And it'll be something for me to look forward to when I'm back on my feet -- er, foot. This also means you can continue with your work in boomer technology, if you wish."

He let out an even deeper sigh. "More and more I'm finding my work less rewarding with everything I'd witnessed lately. Maybe I should get out of this field eventually."

"Yes, you might leave, but I don't know if that means they'll let you go as a target."


* * *

7:11 p.m., July 30th, K's Garage

At the ding of someone coming near his private entrance, Nigel looked up from working on Linna's scooter. He went to a nearby terminal, saw that it was Sylia carrying a picnic basket. He couldn't help but be a little stunned and pleased.

Minutes later, Sylia placed the picnic basket on his kitchen table. "I'm very certain you haven't had a meal recently that wasn't a sandwich that you ate in the garage."

That was certainly true. "So what did you bring me?"

"A very nice meal, cooked by Cynthia and Anri… As a precaution, I did take a preliminary taste and it is delicious."

"Who would have known that decades of being immerse in boomer development would have such a reward."

Then he spied the chess set that was the signal that Sylia had a lot more on her mind than just eating. A lot more.

"So what's going to be at stake tonight?" he asked.

Sylia shrugged playfully and said, "Whoever wins gets to be on top?"

"You're giving me a very good incentive to lose."

"Did I?" she responded just as playfully as she started to set the table.

Nigel didn't move as he watched her for a moment. It was as if she really was here to spend time with him, and just him. He didn't feel any sense of distraction from her.

And that was more than good enough.

* * *

5:06 p.m., August 7th, The Chang Family Grave, Hong Kong

Able to stand with her new artificial leg and crutch, Reika stared at the grave markers for the ashes of her immediate family. She looked over at the waiting spots for her and her future family.

Sylia stood quietly by and held her hand for support.

To give them maximum security and privacy, a dozen bodyguards, including Anri and Cynthia patrolled the area as open and camouflaged presence.

"I honestly don't know what I should do, Sylia," Reika said softly. "I mean, I can't claim that I'm honestly surprised by what Yoshiko found out. But as leader of the Clan, I feel honor bound to initiate a hit on Rosenkreuz -- which I must admit is not an unpleasant idea."

"Is it the idea of ordering a kill bother you?" Sylia asked softly.

"… I've done it before. Admittedly when I felt like I had no choice. In fact, I was called weak for this very reason. But a person who has the amount of power that I have shouldn't have to keep making decisions as if they're out of my control. And I can't let revenge become an obsession for me, otherwise I didn't learn my lesson from Mei.

"I just know that the answer shouldn't be that simple. With Rosenkreuz gone, another type of Rosenkreuz will take his place, just like he did with his own grandfather. And it will all happen again, just with different people."

"So is it that you want to destroy Genom?"

"Again, that goal feels too… simple. Even though we have our personal issues with the company, there's a lot of people in the world who benefit from the services it offers. Genom has the monopoly on boomer technology for a reason… Sho made a comment that he didn't want Nozomi to grow up being bitter but strong. And that's the kind of role model I'd like to be for her but I'm not sure how. It's like there's a bigger picture out there that I'm just not seeing."

"… Or perhaps being purposefully blind to it?"

Hearing the leading tone in Sylia's words, Reika looked at her and asked, "What would you do?"

She opened her mouth to answer but then paused. She then said, "I don't have your perspective. When I created the Knight Sabers, it was inspired out of revenge. You know that."

"But it's evolved into something better now."

She shrugged. "Not out of my purposeful actions, I assure you. It had more to do with the others than me… But it seems you're looking for the better option. And I don't think you would be looking for it if you didn't know on some level that you had such options available to you."

"Are you going to tell me again that I should make my own rules?"

"You're the boss."

"Am I?" Reika said with distinct doubt in her tone.

* * *

4:14 p.m., August 12th, The Hou-Bang Compound, Tokyo

"It's awkward but better than nothing," Reika said as she showed off her new prosthetic arm in the dining room. "Once I get the chip implant, it's supposed to increase response and flexibility to near natural behavior. And the chip should work on my leg too. They're supposedly the best non-boomer prosthetics on the market."

Even though he was clearly uncomfortable, Densuke tried to keep his staring to a minimum. Jun stood quietly to the side and found her attention immediately drawn by the buzz of her data pad.

"When are you planning to do the surgery?" he asked.

Reika winced at the thought since she had just moved back home for good last week and wanted to relax. "I have to admit I don't like the idea of having someone cut me open again so soon. And since I don't really need that much mobility and flexibility, it really is just an optional enhancement if I want it, that I could continue with just physical therapy to see how far I could get my mobility back without the chip. But I was told that without the implant, using these limbs will be a lot more physically tiring for me because control is being done via body movement compensation rather than a mental signal or two. So I should do it, and the sooner the better that way I can take back my job of CEO from your hands."

Densuke raised his eyebrows in response as Jun looked up from her data pad.

"… Unless you want to keep the job?" Reika teased him.

The man was momentarily stunned by her tone. In his entire life, he'd never been the target of her playfulness before.

He blushed and said, "No, no. It's yours. I'll be happy to hand it back when you're ready."

Jun watched the two of them and felt her heart tighten, which made her extremely uncomfortable, but then the message on her data pad distracted her attention again.

"Excuse me," she interrupted carefully, and probably a little happily, "Reika, there's something you need to see on TV right now."

The three of them immediately moved to the nearby living room and turned on the television. Jun had grabbed the remote control and moved to the couch to sit down, which Densuke immediately stood to give her prime seating. His movements were apparently too close for her comfort and she jumped back a bit. They both momentarily fumbled around each other's body space before finally sitting down with very forced casualness.

Reika noticed this awkward waltz but said nothing as she waited for Jun to find what she wanted to show them.

While Jun searched for the channel in question, the room became a little more crowded as some other curious members of the household wandered in, including Anri, who had been helping out in the kitchen.

Then Jun found the broadcast in question. It was a Japanese Business Information show with an interview between a newscaster and Genom's Quincy Rosenkreuz. The bottom text on the screen read: "Genom announces new line of pseudo-human bodyguards and other high level security services."

"—So you admit that you've actually had these products and services available only to special customers?" the dapper newsman asked of Quincy.

"Yes, we had developed these products at the request of special customers, included some government agencies for Japan and other countries, like the U.S. We felt it was high time to offer these products to the general public so that they know such security and protection can be available."

"But your prices will still be for the elite level of consumers?"

"True," he conceded. "These are not cheap products for creation or maintenance. Each one is customized to the special needs of the customer, including the capabilities and features required. The average consumer wouldn't need such services to begin with."

"Then why go 'public' so to speak? You've obviously been successful providing such products to your private client base."

"Well, that's just it. They're a private Genom client base. We want to offer our products to consumers who are not our normal customers. They are people who may need such services but not know we have them readily available for the asking. Or at a price they may consider reasonable."

The interviewer then took on a sly tone and said, "I have to admit when I first read this briefing, I immediately wondered if the timing could be related to the disastrous Watanabe/Chang wedding that took almost a dozen lives on top of very expensive property damage. Could you comment on that?"

Quincy actually paused briefly, as if for effect, and said, "I won't deny that our private clientele placed several orders directly after that event. It then led us to realize that perhaps we needed to market our products to others who may have developed concerns after that… incident."

"Are the members of the wedding party your clients?"

Quincy held up his hand. "I am not allowed to reveal my clients' identities… But I can say that if Genom had been involved, those lives would not have been lost. And Ms. Chang would not be on medical leave right now."

Whatever else was said from that moment onward was lost to Reika. As the rest of the room tensed up in awkward silence, she carefully stood and stiffly walked out of the room. She gripped her crutch so tightly that her fingers looked white.

- End Chapter 32 -

Chapter 33: Decisions

4:29 p.m., August 12th, Silky Doll

" – If you want to kill him now, no one will blame you. In fact, I think people would expect it," Sylia said to Reika's video image on her phone since she had been reading a book in her living room. "… Unless you've finally figured out what your 'better' option is."

And even though she tried to sound passive and supportive, she couldn't help but be secretly thrilled that Reika had called her first.

The other woman took yet another deep breath to calm herself down. "Even more than ever, I really don't want to sink to his level, but at the same time I want send Anri after him. After having gone through a near death experience, I feel like I should ignore his…"

Then the idea started to form in her mind. "… Now that I think about it, there is something I want to do… But to do it, I would need your assistance. And Nigel's too."

Sylia was both surprised and intrigued. "He should be in his garage. I'll conference him in now if you want."

"… Yes, please do it because if you two say 'no', then there's no reason for me to think about this idea any further."

* * *

11:09 a.m., August 20th, The Watanabe Grand Hotel

In the corner of the packed room, Jun waited near the TV monitor that showed the live broadcast of the press conference on the other side.

Even though she knew what Reika was about to announce, she couldn't help but feel her heart pound wildly as the first time she heard it.

Reika looked as beautiful and polished as ever for her first public appearance since before the attempted wedding. She projected an aura of self-assurance and ease amidst the flood of camera flashes and spotlights. Densuke and Largo stood by her side as they were part of the news she was about to present.

" – I thank you for that warm welcome and the well-wishes during my absence. As you can see, I am sufficiently healed from that unfortunate incident that took lives of dear family and friends, including my own sister. And I thank you for respecting my families' privacy in this period of grieving and adjustment. I have asked this pressed conference to be held because I have four significant announcements to make.

"First of all, as many of you know, I had been out on medical leave to recover from the injuries I had sustained. To make it known what had happened to me, I was caught in a confrontation that resulted in the loss of my right arm from the bicep down and my right leg from the upper thigh down. I am currently using basic prosthetics and physical therapy to readjust to my previous lifestyle.

"Second, the Chang and Watanabe families will be rescheduling the wedding for spring of next year. We are absolutely positive that we have resolved the reasons for the disruption to the last ceremony.

"The third announcement is that, effective immediately, I will be stepping down as CEO of Chang Enterprises, with my fiancé Densuke Watanabe set to continue to perform those duties in permanent capacity. He has led the company effectively in my absence of the past two months and I have confidence that he will continue to do so to greater achievements. I will continue to remain on the Board of Directors in Advisory capacity.

"My last announcement is that I will be the CEO of a new joint venture that has been established between Chang Enterprises and the Watanabe Group that will be called Kyuusei Industries. This new company will be ready to do business at the beginning of next year and will be headquartered here in Tokyo. This will be an international company which will consolidate the independent work both parents companies have done in the field of weapons and security.

"We will also be entering the medical market, with plans to be on the cutting edge of research and development of products for hospitals and patients, including that of boomer technology. As a show of faith in our products, I will be the first patient for our company. And in two years or less, we expect that all products we offer will set the standards for quality in their respective fields. Both parent companies have known and experienced first hand, the current standard has been very low due to the monopoly in those fields…"

Jun stopped listening as Reika started to field questions from the rabid group of reporters with her standard charming and clever style that had made her a darling in the business world at her debut.

Jun couldn't help but stare at Densuke and was reminded of the growing awkwardness she was feeling as each work day that went by. Now with the announcement of the man staying on as the CEO, it meant that she would go back to supporting Reika. At first she was thrilled, but then she realized that it meant that Densuke needed to hire a personal secretary of his own, and that she would have to train that person.

The handful of finalists were all young, pretty women, and Jun felt her jealousy start to burn every time she thought about it. It baffled and dismayed her to no end. And she started to get a feeling that he made those choices on purpose.

More and more, she started to think that perhaps she needed to submit her resignation to Reika while she had the chance to retain her sense of personal piece of mind and pride.

* * *

8:09 p.m., The Rooftop of the Silky Doll

Sylia opened the bottle of wine to finish their first full dinner alone since even before the wedding fiasco. They were standing by the railing to take in the view of the city in the evening light.

"Congratulations! The business world seems to be turned upside down by your announcement. Not many people have the opportunity to declare open war with Genom, though I'm impressed that you never actually said the word 'Genom' in the entire press conference."

With a self-satisfied smirk, Reika held up her glass to be filled. She was still finding it awkward to rely on her left hand, but it felt better to use her natural one than the artificial one. "I have to admit, I'm feeling very good. Especially in that part where I made that product to product challenge. They say Genom has a 'no comment' on that."

"I admit I'm almost jealous," Sylia declared as she poured their glasses.

"Well, you don't have to remain a silent partner, you know," Reika teased.

Sylia chuckled in return. "Oh, and then why don't I put a sign out front 'Knight Sabers are here!'"

"And I'll help you a press conference for that too!"

As the women laughed, Sylia paused and stared at her with a deep smile.

Noticing the focused attention, Reika stared back and asked, "What is it?"

"I think you really are on the path to achieving real peace with yourself."

"Well, if I am, it's thanks to you."

Sylia's smile immediately faded. "But –"

Reika stopped her with a deep hug. "Subject closed," she whispered into her ear. "All right?"

Sylia nodded and hugged her back.

The women parted enough to look into each other's eyes to give a confirming smile.

And then their smiles faded as they found themselves realizing another subject was starting to open itself up again.

As soon as she felt Sylia's pounding heart against hers, Reika kissed her. And Sylia kissed her back. It was a kiss that was as real and full of emotion possible between them.

They don't know how long they had kissed, but when it was clear they were reaching a point that it wouldn't be enough, they finally parted. They averted their eyes as they tried to regain composure.

As she tried to control her breathing and heartbeat, Sylia swallowed and cleared her throat. She opened her mouth to speak but stopped, as if at a complete loss for words.

Calming herself as well, Reika looked at her as the longing and fear made their awkwardness return. Without a word, she turned to leave.

* * *

10:32 p.m., The Hou-Bang Compound

Jun sat glumly at the kitchen counter over her plate of a slice of peach pie that was barely recognizable from being picked at more than eaten.

She jumped slightly at the sudden appearance of Reika in the doorway. She had expected her boss to be out much later, like tomorrow morning.

The women looked at each other for a moment in surprise and then shifted into trying to be comfortable with each other.

Looking at the mauled dessert, Reika asked, "Is there any left?"

"Oh yes! Let me get it for you!"

Reika was about to protest but Jun was already off her stool and at the refrigerator. She carefully sat down on another stool and asked, "Not able to sleep?"

She nodded sheepishly. "Just can't stop thinking about… things."

"Anything you would be willing to talk to me about? After everything I've gone through, hearing someone else's problems would be a nice change."

As she handed the plate to Reika, Jun blushed deeply and said, "It's embarrassing more than anything else."

"… Is it about you and Densuke?"

Jun's blush was so deep that she almost turned a shade of purple. "There's nothing going! I swear!"

"I realize that. I can tell," Reika said as she took a bite and savored it. "When I had first realized you were attracted to him, I felt sorry for you because I thought you could do better. And especially because you knew him better than his other… distractions. But when did it become mutual?"

"I—It hasn't been long. And I told him nothing was going to happen."

Reika looked at her curiously. "Why not? I wouldn't have anything against it. Especially if it would make you happy."

She shook her head, doing her best to fight down her embarrassment despite her rapidly beating heart. "While I had always expected to work in the services of your family, we're really not from the same world, Reika. I always grew up with this belief that I would marry the man I loved. It may seem incredibly naïve and old-fashioned but it's something I'm willing to stick to."

Reika was immersed in thought as she took another bite. Then she admitted, "It's a good standard to have. And I respect that."

Jun then swallowed and said, "And that's why I think I need to resign. It's becoming too complicated for me. And I'm ashamed about it. I mean, I'm willing to work for any other part of the Clan or Chang Enterprises where I may be needed. But being his or your personal secretary just blurs the lines too much right now that I can't feel like I can maintain my professionalism."

"I would like you to reconsider that. And I'm willing to work with you, whether it's giving you some leave time or changing your duties slightly."

After eating half the slice, Reika pushed it away and said, "You know, I thought Densuke's behavior change was due to guilt about Los Angeles and the seriousness of pending fatherhood. Now, that I think about it, I'm wondering if he really changed because you… because I'm certain it really had nothing to do with me."

"He loves you. He always has. He was incredibly jealous about Sylia… and Leslie."

Reika looked at her for a moment. "It must have been hard for you to know that. Well, whatever feelings he may have had for me wasn't real love, and I'm sure he knows that now. He just hadn't had the experience to put it in perspective before…"

Suddenly, a dark look settled on her face. She then carefully stood from the stool and said, "I'm turning in. I've had a long night. But please wait a bit before making the final decision about resigning. We'll talk about it again later. Good night."

* * *

10:14 a.m., August 23rd, K's Garage

"She's checking out fine," Nigel said of Anri, who was in the process of having her latest readings analyzed by Mackey. "How has she been behaving?"

"Good," Reika answered, trying to ignore the extreme awkwardness she was feeling with him. "Now that she's discovered cooking, the kitchen staff has been putting her to work when we're home. It's improving her social skills somewhat. She's still pretty quiet for the most part but maybe that's just her real personality that's showing."

"Does it bother you?"

She shook her head. "Given that she spends the most time with me, I appreciate her silence."

"Well, I think once we've done these final tests, she should be pretty clean that Sho's team can continue her maintenance support again."

"Good. I appreciate what you and your team have done for her… Have you had a chance to take a look at the specs for the new facilities?"

He nodded. "I've made some preliminary notes. I wanted to let it sit a bit before giving it a final assessment. Have you had Sylia look at it yet?"

"Um, yes, Jun said she received Sylia's feedback."

Nigel was quiet as they watched Mackey and Anri interact from across the garage. Finally, he let out a sigh and asked, "So, she didn't give her feedback directly to you?"

"… No, she didn't." She felt the hairs on the back of her neck start to prickle.

"… I heard about your engagement being dissolved…"

Reika realized it was her turn to bite the bullet. "Yes, he and I made an amicable decision. It turned out he had developed feelings for someone that he wanted to explore. And I did not want to be married to a man who was in love with someone who would be better for him."

"… Do you mind continuing this conversation in my office?"

"Not at all."

Minutes later, the two of them were standing on the opposite of the office with the door closed.

They stared at each other for a moment before Nigel said, "In the beginning, I could always tell by Sylia's behavior if things weren't well between the two of you. And when you had left, I thought her emotional outbursts were caused by Galatea, which I believe was true to some extent. But then you came back into her life, and it was if we were back in the beginning. While I've been with her all of these years, there are still parts of her that baffle me. I'll bet those are the parts that you understand like the back of your hand."

Reika studied his expressionless face. "It sounds as if you're making an argument that I should fight for her."

"I'm curious to know why you aren't."

"I know she loves you," she answered with a faint shrug. "And you're the one she's with now. I guess I don't feel the need to press the issue if the conclusion is already made."

"That's interesting because from my perspective, the conclusion isn't as firm as we're pretending because I know she loves you too. Look, I don't want to push the issue either if I'm the official victor. But the Sylia I love best is when she's truly happy, and you've always been a huge part of that. Even now.

"I admit that I am very grateful that you did not die. I'm certain it would have devastated Sylia with everything that was involved. The only time I had seen her being that close to being emotionally on the edge was when she thought Mackey had died because of Galatea.

"I can tell something very important happened between the two of you the last time you were at the Silky Doll. I think I'm… concerned that we may end up driving her into a corner where she'll feel the best option is to not choose either of us."

Reika raised her eyebrows at his words. "So it seems we're faced with the real possibility that the three of us continue this emotional tango, or Sylia will just end it completely and no one benefits… And we can't keep stalling in dealing with this given our new business venture and the fact that we will continue to be in each others' lives."

Nigel narrowed his eyes at her and asked firmly, "How much do you love her?"

"I'm sure just as much as you do."

"… Then shall we call her to see if the three of us can work something out?"

* * *

3:44 p.m., August 26th, La Bella Rosa Villa, Rome

Yoshiko sat in her private office and stared at her computer screen. More emails were coming in, no doubt more business matters to be dealt with.

She decided she had to stop. She checked that none of the newest responses were from her family members and then double-checked her pending email folder. The individual emails were all on stand by, scheduled to go out in an hour. Everything else that mattered to her had been taken care of, quietly and efficiently.

She shut down her computer and locked her door.

She went back to her desk and pulled out the revolver with the silencer on it. Without further hesitation, she pointed the gun to her temple and closed her eyes. Taking a final deep breath, she pulled the trigger.

- End Chapter 33 -

Epilogue: Family

3:44 p.m., August 26th, The Hou-Bang Compound

"Hello there!" Sylia declared as she cradled the baby in her arms. "I'm your Aunt Sylia!"

With a deeply pleased smile, Reika stood quietly by and ran her fingers through her recently bobbed hair. "She has the entire household wrapped around her little finger. I think even Anri is fascinated with her. She keeps staring at her… in a good way. No red eyes."

"She is such a cutie! Reika, you better be careful!" Sylia remarked with a wicked grin. "You and Nigel might have competition in eighteen years, or less!"

Reika's own smile instantly disappeared. "Not even funny!"

"Oh, that reminds me, Linna called me this morning to let me know that Lisa's pregnant."

"Really? That was fast. Have they admitted who the father is yet?"

"No, Linna said they want to wait until the pregnancy is further along. But according to Nene, a certain male couple are very giddy about the subject."

Reika chuckled. "Nice to know the baby with have a double set of mothers and fathers… We certainly have become a group of non-traditional families."

"Well, just say the word and I'm certain Nigel will be a willing sperm donor to help perpetuate the Chang dynasty."

"Again, not even funny!"

Reika playfully scowled at the other woman and wondered if this what she's setting herself up for the rest of her life.

Then again, she wouldn't have it any other way.

- End Epilogue -

- The End -

Author's Note:

Wow. If you've read this far, thank you!

So good news: it's the end. And bad news: it's the end.

I've reached my personal closure for now. I know I had announced that I would write at least two more sagas, but that was nine months ago and a lot has happened since then. For the time being, I realized I really have to work on my original stories, including ero novella number two and then an original sword and sorcery story. Plus of course, my relaunched column. (Details always on my lj page.)

And while I could keep on writing Post BGC, I just don't have enough internal and external rewards to do it. There's no way I could commit to a ludicrous writing schedule of like one chapter a month because it still takes a lot of effort and time, and will always be a stressor in the back of my mind that I don't need.

So I don't see myself pursue the other very obvious storylines unless something happens that I need such an outlet, like the pending BGC live action film leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.

Oh, and for you long time readers:

Yes, I always planned to kill Irene. It was the one piece from the original BGC universe that I knew I had to incorporate into Post 2040 and I just needed the right timing and circumstance. I admit I really liked the character but that's what sudden death is about.

Leslie was a character created to be killed. And given the BGC theme for L-names, I thought 'why not?'

And while I always knew that at its heart 'Web' was a love story, I hadn't realized that it would evolve into a story about love and the different forms it could take, healthy or not, platonic or passionate, and all things in between. I was tired of lone wolf stories in this genre where the solution to everything seemed to rooted in violence. So this story was purely for my indulgence while bringing to closure to storylines from the 'Achilles' and 'World' short stories. Thank you for supporting me in this exercise.

Thanks for reading! I really mean it! K ;)

(Meanwhile, my next Active Voice column installment will focus on the time I spoke at a college gay and lesbian panel and someone asked me how I think I became gay. And my answer? Don't know and don't care! -- Expect that to be posted on my Live Journal page in the next couple of days too!)