I'm sorry for once again being so late with my updates, when I was just able to update twice a month. But there were so many deadlines for study-related things, that I simply couldn't get around to work on 'A Year of Waiting'.
And thank you so much for the reviews! I can't express how grateful I am and they so kept me going.
Since I can't reply to anonymous reviewers any other way I'll do it here, so if you either didn't write a review or wrote it while being logged in, you can skip this section and start reading the (long!) chapter.

Marcus: First of all, thank you very much for your review. And yeah, I looked over the third chapter once again and you're right, I think it's the worst of this story as well because it drags on and on without anything really happening. It was my first Nezumi chapter and I had a little trouble getting used to the character. So I plan on re-writing it at one point, but right now I'm afraid I won't have the time to do such a major revision.


Chapter 7: July – Knowledge

Doubt grows with knowledge.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When Shion got home it was late at night. He had been out discussing the plans for the library which was going to be build on the former West Block territory. For that reason he and a few of his colleagues had been at the restaurant they always frequented when any topics arose which couldn't be discussed during their usual working hours. The fact that it was located near Shion's flat was a pure coincidence, but a lucky one. It assured a short way home for Shion after their meetings, which often lasted until well past midnight.

"I'm home." he called unnecessarily. It wasn't as if the clicking of his keys in the lock wouldn't have already given away his arrival to Tsukiyo. In the darkness of his hallway he couldn't make out the silhouette of the black mouse. But he didn't need to, because a sleepy squeaking told him the mouse was sitting on the little cabin right beside the door.

"Yeah, I'm sorry for being out so long. You shouldn't have waited up." Shion told the mouse. He had long since stopped caring that he treated Tsukiyo like he would treat any human being. The mouse had such a distinct personality, Shion was completely sure he understood everything he was told.

Actually Tsukiyo's character traits were so human: He sulked, he worried, he could get annoyed and had his sassy days. Sometimes he was demanding, sometimes he was begging.

Shion couldn't imagine a life without him anymore, but the obvious signs of age forced Shion to wonder how long the usual lifespan of a Mao mouse was.

He had searched library records for any details on the species, but somehow it seemed as if not much information had been preserved. Actually the only mentioning of them had been in a book retelling some of the Mao's myths. It had been among those he had taken from Nezumi's library. Whether Nezumi had put it there or if it simply had already been in the room when he had moved in—Shion didn't know, but he somehow guessed it was the latter.

It had been surprising for Shion to find out that there wasn't any Mao-related literature in any of No.6's official libraries. On second thought though it wasn't that surprising. The fact that the city had censored all information presented to their residents was no news to him.

It was not far fetched to guess that No.6 had burned every information about the Mao along with their territory and culture, their whole tribe. Basically extinguishing them, making sure the knowledge that they had ever existed was being banished and kept from the rest of the world. They were a chapter in the No.6 history the city didn't want to be publically known. Furthermore if someone would have stumbled across information about them questions might have arisen. Questions about who they had been and what had become of them. And it was obvious to Shion now, that the thing the city had feared most were questions. Because to ask questions you must doubt a topic, you must reflect a topic and come to the conclusion the presented information isn't satisfactory. It would mean one would no longer simply believe what one was told.

To prevent this, it was the most effective strategy to destroy any evidence, any sort of hint that might have pointed to the Mao and might have brought up unwanted questions.

It was a stupid notion but Shion couldn't help but feeling robbed. Robbed of the only chance to ever find out something about Nezumi, to get to know more about the Mao without Nezumi telling him. And deep down he doubted Nezumi would do so any time soon, and while Shion wasn't the most socially capable when it came to reading atmosphere he for sure knew better than to pressure Nezumi with questions. It wouldn't get him anywhere.

There was a delicate line between the wish to get to know Nezumi better, understand him and intruding in his privacy, or rather his private past which he hadn't yet decided to share with Shion. And Shion was having a hard time determining where that line lay, and wrestling with his curiosity to stop himself from crossing it.

He didn't count the Mao tales as "crossing". They were harmless, in a way. Nezumi would perhaps make fun of him for reading children's stories, but he wouldn't get mad or defendant about them. At least Shion hoped and believed so.

"Want me to read you a story as compensation for being out so long?" Shion asked Tsukiyo, and he simply took the fast scuffle towards his bedroom as a "yes" in Tsukiyo's mousy way of saying it.

Knowing that if he wouldn't follow within the next minute he'd have a demanding mouse standing accusingly on the drawer once again, Shion quickly stripped out of his coat, threw it on the clothing rack at the back of his entrance door and placed his shoes neatly on the designated shelf.

Then he walked through the small hallway, passed the living room to his left and the kitchen a little farther to his right, before following the left turn the walls took and ending up in front of his bedroom.

It was pitch black inside. He hadn't opened the blinds that morning, for it had been before the sun set that he had had to leave his flat. Opening them wouldn't have made much of a difference.

He felt for the light switch on the right side of the door.

When the light flickered to live it did so hesitantly, only barely strong enough to chase away the darkness from the nooks of the room at once. Shion could have gotten the lamps of the newest generation, which were at full power faster than human eyes being able to register anyshadows. But instead he had opted for the cheaper, older lamp-system. He didn't like being completely blinded upon turning the lights on.

"Want me to read a tale instead of a play today?" Shion asked Tsukiyo who was sitting on his bed.

For a change he didn't wait for any answer, as the choice of the story was traditionally in Shion's hand. And it wasn't as if Shion would ever pick stories Tsukiyo wouldn't like.

On the way to his night-stand Shion pulled his vest of his shoulders and opened the first two buttons of his shirt. Why did they have to look representative today of all days, when being dressed in a suit and being wrapped up in aluminium foil and stuffed in an oven would pretty much have the same result. It was late July, and summer was just getting started, but the sun already burnt down with an intimidating intensity.

"Okay, now, where were we..." he mumbled to himself after sitting down on his bed. Tsukiyo was resting on his usual spot, perched on Shion's shoulder, as close to his neck as possible.

The feeling of the soft fur against Shion's skin tickled, but at the same time it calmed him. It had become a ritual for Shion to read before going to sleep, a 'bedtime story' not only for Tsukiyo but for him as well.

Just as expected fatigue started to weigh his body down almost instantly, but he kept his voice firm for the sake of the story.

It wasn't very long, none of them were. The average length was about ten pages. But Shion enjoyed them thoroughly. He always felt closer to Nezumi when reading them. Had Nezumi's parents read them to him when he was a child?

Shion hoped so, because the stories were fascinating and he was sure Nezumi would have enjoyed or did enjoy them.

After the story was finished, Tsukiyo remained on Shion's shoulder. One could almost believe he had fallen asleep, but Shion knew he hadn't. He was just waiting for his good-night goody. He smelled when Shion came back from the restaurant, and it always meant getting tidbits of delicious, professionally cooked food.

"Yeah, yeah, of course I got something for you." Shion answered the expectant gaze.

He had to walk all the way back to the entrance door where he had left the little bag containing the leftovers of his food which he hadn't been able to finish at the restaurant. He hardly ever was able to finish the monstrous servings. It would be his dinner the next day, probably.

He placed it on the counter in the kitchen and took out a plate from the leftmost cupboard.

"There you go." he said, placing the dish on the plate. Not the whole thing was for the mouse, he simply thought it was easier to store in the fridge if it was placed on a plate.

Tsukiyo knew the procedure, so he hopped off Shion's shoulder, eagerly awaiting his treat.

Shion chuckled silently as he cut a little piece off his dinner and placed it in front of the mouse who instantly started munching away at it happily.

His fur was turning grey, and Shion wondered if it would look like Nezumi's eyes at one point. While watching his little companion Shion couldn't help consider the possibility that even though he looked like a normal mouse on the outside he was actually a completely different race after all.

The thought had crossed his mind the first time when he had seen Tsukiyo interact with normal mice. In the labs he used to frequent once in a while they held some mice—not for experimenting harmful substances on them, but rather for studying their behaviour.

Originally Shion had played with the thought of getting him together with a female mouse, so that he would be able to keep some relatives of Tsukiyo once his time would have run out. But while his interaction with normal mice was far from being hostile, they also didn't quite intermingle. So Shion had arranged himself with the thought that Tsukiyo would be the only remainder of the Mao tribe to keep him company until Nezumi returned.

A fond but longing smile crept its way onto his features.

"Yeah, I bet you liked that." he told Tsukiyo with a chuckle to distract himself. It was late, really late, and exhaustion still tugged heavily at his body, so he didn't want to think about the inevitable loss of Tsukiyo or the longing for Nezumi.

And just as if to confirm his thought a yawn escaped his mouth. Tsukiyo tilted his head slightly, and his little black, beady eyes seemed reproachful, as if to say: "If you're tired you shouldn't stay up for so long. Go to sleep."

"I will." Shion said, and held his hand out for the little mouse to run up to his shoulder. The older Tsukiyo got the more he loved being carried around. "We both should catch some sleep."

When finally lying in the darkness of his room he was tempted to simply close his eyes and let his consciousness fade out, but as usual his mind didn't want to come to rest as fast as his body wanted to.

So Shion turned and tossed, until all the covers were twisted by his attempt to find a comfortable position that would make his body force his mind to shut down.

He noticed he had once again missed the point sleep had finally overwhelmed him, as a sudden, shrill ringing tore through the silence of his room. Upon looking up he could see the first rays of the morning sun peek through his closed curtains. Suppressing a groan Shion reached for his cell and cleared his throat once, trying to get his vocal chords ready for their impending task of forming sensible words. "Shion speaking." He said with clenched eyes, one arm thrown over them to ward off as much as possible of the admittedly quite scarce brightness. Furthermore he knew it was a somehow stupid to answer the phone like that. It was his own cell phone, so obviously it would be him speaking. But it was a question of manners to pick up with stating your name, and this brief greeting was still better than the ineloquent "Yes?" that would have been his first impulse. Actually he should have stated his full name, but the ring tone instantly gave away that on the other side of the line would be someone from the reconstruction committee. Someone he worked with and who probably only knew him by his first name either way.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I probably woke you, didn't I?" Kastor's voice droned out from the electronic device. Shion was only happy his co-worker hadn't opted to call over his communication armlet with its included holographic function. That way he only had to keep the strain of a fairly short night out of his voice instead of trying to smooth the signs out of his features.

"It's no problem. You wouldn't call me unless it's something important." He answered, finally sitting up. Speaking the words had been more of a habit, but upon voicing them he realized the weight that was to them. It wasn't all too unusual for Shion to be called in at the most ungodly hours, because no matter how strange it seemed for a mere reconstruction committee, there always seemed to be an emergency 'round the corner. Shion was by far not the only one being called in when one surfaced. He only was among the group being called most of times.

So it wouldn't do him any good to defy waking up anymore, when the chances were very high he would have to leave his flat as soon as he possibly could.

"Yeah, I'm sorry nonetheless. I know you guys were probably still out very late yesterday. But Aaron Hammock, one of the library-sponsors just announced he wanted to hold an emergency meeting. I'm not even sure what's the matter, but the whole project depends on his money. And he said the whole team had to be present, because he's coming all the way from No.3."

"I got it." Shion answered, rubbing the remaining sleep out of his eyes as good as possible with one hand. He had dealt with Aaron Hammock before. They needed all the money they could get, and Hammock was a quite wealthy man. He was a little hard to deal with, though.

"When is the meeting?"

"In ehm... one hour. I know that's kinda really last-minute, but do you think you could make it? I already called Kazuki and Yuki, they're on their way." Kastor announced, and Shion heard rustling in the background. His colleague was probably sorting his documents, trying to prepare for the short-termed meeting.

"One hour is no problem. I'll try to be there as soon as I can. If everything works out I should be there in about fourty minutes."

With that said he bid Kastor a fast goodbye. He knew it didn't take him long to get ready, but the sooner he started the sooner he would be out of the door.

When he turned to his nightstand to pull his watch on he noticed Tsukiyo watching him with sleepy, disbelieving eyes. The old mouse hadn't even got up, only barely lifted his head.

"Work's calling. Sorry to startle you." He apologized in a hushed voice, basically indicating for Tsukiyo to head back to sleep.

Apparently the mouse had intended to do so all along as his eyes immediately dropped close once again.

Seeing as his roommate was back in the sweet realms of slumber, Shion hurried to collect his clothes and leave the room, closing the door behind him. He dressed in his bathroom, at a speed that even impressed himself.

The kitchen remained un-entered for the morning. It was much too early for Shion's stomach to accept any substances, no matter whether liquid or solid. And he was sure there would be a big cup of coffee waiting for him in the office either way, meaning there was no need to bother with his own machine.

With one look at his hair Shion decided for raking the brush through it once and then tying it back.

He looked more professional with tied back hair either way.

"I'll be heading out." He told the empty corridor in a voice that was between whispering and calling concerning the volume, as if he couldn't decide whether to inform Tsukiyo of his parting or let him keep on sleeping.

The train was startlingly crowded, for it being so early in the morning. Not that Shion didn't already expect it to be. Since quite some people of the West Block had taken on jobs in the center of the former city of No.6 there were many commuters. because even though they were working in the center they couldn't afford a flat there. At least not all. And some didn't even want to, as Shion had came to know. Most of the people of both sides had come to terms with the joining of the city and its outskirts, spurred on by misery and tragedy on both sides that connected them in their mourning. The inner city had suffered from the parasite wasps and the outside from the manhunt. Both were weakened and desperate in a way, so clinging to and supporting each other was the most promising way to eventually recover.

Yet it was obvious that that hadn't been wanted by everyone. Some residents of the West Block held onto their dislike of the city, and while they were okay with working there they wouldn't ever want to move there. Shion didn't even need to get started on some of the former No.6 citizens, because years of being told scary stories about the West Block had left them with a lot of prejudices towards its residents.
Mending the relationship of the two was hard business, and a process probably only time would be able to take care of.

But the reconstruction committee was trying their best to help the progress and spur on change.

"Good morning." Shion greeted the receptionist upon entering the office buildings. Since the reconstruction committee was keeping in contact with all kinds of organizations and people who could help the reconstruction progress, there was someone present 24/7 in case a sudden inquiry arrived.

Which was the reason why Kastor had been at the office in the middle of the night as well.

Shion repeated his greeting when he entered their conference room. He knew which one to head for because all their conferences with sponsors were held in this room.

"Good morning." Came the answering chorus from the people already assembled. Kazuki and Naoto were sitting at the table, expectedly both with a mug of coffee in front of them. In front of them Shion could see documents considering Hammock's prior donations and profiles displayed on the screens that were build into the table. They preferred working with electronic documents.

A short glance at the clock told Shion he had indeed made it within the stated forty minutes.

"Shion! Good to see you're here." Kastor greeted him, entering with three more cups in his hands. "Now only Yuki's still missing and then we're complete."

Shion quietly thanked Kastor for the proffered cup and placed in on his usual place to Naoto's left. "Is there any specific information yet as to what's the actual reason for this meeting?" Shion asked after he had taken out a few sheets of paper from his bag. They were blank, because they were meant to take notes. What good would it have done for Shion to bring any documents when he had no idea of the topic to come. All important facts about the library were stored in his head.

"Not exactly." Kazuki mumbled around his cup. After taking a gulp of coffee he elaborated his statement: "All we know is that it's connected to the library. I forwarded you his message, so you can look at it yourself. But he doesn't seem to be about to cut the money or anything like that."

Shion nodded to indicate he had understood, while logging into his mail file.

He indeed found the said message there, but it didn't provide him with any further information, just as he had expected.

So just like the rest of them all he could do in the time until Hammock would arrive was wait idly and consume as much caffeine as possible to properly wake up his mind.

To get into the matter they were going to discuss Shion ran through the basic facts in his head. The library was going to be located in the West Block, about fifteen minutes walk from the ruin of the wall. The building for it was already existent and only had to be slightly renovated because it was in an overall good state. The reason why their sponsors should support this project was their intention to bring the privilege of knowledge to the people of the West Block. Educating them would help them to get more productive at their work due to more effective production methods, allowing the city to prosper. That was the reason they told the people who had money, because it was the explanation that sounded like an investment would pay off eventually of they also invested in No.6's economy. Shion was fired up about getting the library done for a different reason, or to be exact for an additional reason, because getting No.6's economy working once again was desirable. But Shion looked forward to the time when the West Block population would be able to emerge in the wonderful worlds literature provided. And while accumulating the reasons the twenty remaining minutes passed almost unnoticed.

"I am so sorry to have called you in this early and am immensely grateful you could actually make it." was the first thing Hammock said when entering the room. His hair was dishevelled, as if he had rushed here in the utmost hurry. The present committee members stood up to greet him, and Shion couldn't help but being surprised. He hadn't ever seen their sponsor act in such an apologetic manner.

"It is no problem, Sir. If it's an urgent matter we're happy to assist you with dealing with it." Shion spoke up for the group. He had learned how to speak with sponsors in a diplomatic manner over the years. Having assisted his mother with customers before surely was a big help in that matter as well. "Please have a seat, then we can start."

"Yeah, you see, the supposed urgency of the matter is part of why I'm apologizing." The brown-haired man announced. "There simply was this idea that came to me yesterday evening, and I'm fully booked for the next month, so this was the only chance I had to talk with you about it. Even making time for this trip was a hellish task, let me tell you! I had to delay my morning appointment, and this customer of mine is so very easily offended."

Shion already knew this behaviour, the digressing while basically trying to make clear just how very important one was. It was something sponsors used to do once in a while, so Shion decided he shouldn't let him ramble on.

"I am sorry to interrupt you, but I guess since your time is precious and limited we'd rather get to the matter as soon as possible, so you'll be able to get back to No.3." he interjected.

"Yes, yes, you're right. Basically the idea I thought of was, that when we're already trying to encourage people to get to know literature once again, why shouldn't we also give them the chance to experience every aspect of it?"

The questioning faces effectively told the sponsor that the committee members didn't quite catch what he was on to.

"In the essence that sounds just like what we plan for this library to accomplish." Kazuki hesitantly replied. "But since you came here I'm guessing you thought of a specific measure."

"Exactly! You see, a problem of No.6 is—pardon me, was, as I'm certain you're working hard to change that—the problem was that the people around here accepted everything the way it was presented to them, not being allowed to question. Many didn't have an own voice. And that is just what I want to change. I want the population to discover their own passion for stories once again, show them how it is to be able to express their opinion or to dream."

Shion doubtingly eyed Hammock. The man was a business man, always flowery in his expressions and pretty skilled in avoiding getting to the matter.

"We agree with you, Sir. That is indeed very desirable." Kastor voiced their consent, because it seemed like the only thing they could do as of now.

Hammock shortly nodded to himself, as if confirming with himself that he could go on. "I'm very pleased to hear that. So before we go on I'd like to introduce you to my son, Juse." With that he gestured to the door, and as if he had been waiting outside the whole time, a teenager entered. Shion guessed he was about seventeen years old. But what stroke Shion immediately was his platinum-blonde hair combined with his heterochromia: His left eye was dark-brown, but his right one was blood-red.

"A survivor." The quiet words escaped Shion's lips without him being able to stop them. That boy evidently was from No.6. His face, and the little glimpse of a red line on the back of his right hand spoke for themselves. 'Survivor' was a rather bad term to call those who only barely came out of the Elyurias-indicent alive, because basically all citizens older than four years living in the city right now where survivors. But the term had become the standard to characterise people whose bodies had been marked. There weren't many people like that, only a handful. When the wasps had hatched, there wasn't much time that passed until the hosts were dead. So only a few were lucky enough for the hatching to be stopped at a state where their body only bore the marks but remained intact otherwise.

"Yes indeed. I am very happy that my Juse survived that horrible incident. Otherwise I might never have met him, after all." Hammock announced, patting the teen on his shoulder, a fond smile on his face. "I adopted him when he was twelve. I visited No.6 shortly after the overturn to look for my friends who were on vacation here at that time and I saw him at the orphanage. His real parents were killed, so I decided to take him in. He's a really bright boy."

Juse looked like he was a little embarrassed by all the attention directed to him, as he was facing down and shuffling uncomfortably. Shion noticed he had a stack of papers clutched to his chest.

"But I'll stop my gushing now, as I'm afraid we won't be making much of a progress otherwise. So basically, what Juse has there is the first draft of the story collection he wrote down. Juse, why don't you tell them about it."

"Sure." the boy said with a surprisingly firm voice. Then he straightened up and faced the committee members. "As you know I'm from No.6. When I was really small, my grandfather used to tell me great stories. He was older than the city, and he had moved here with my grandmother. Prior to that he had been a sailor. He told me stories about the sea, about far away countries and fairy-tales and legends about ancient or mythic creatures. I loved these stories. But No.6 forbade them after they found out about my grandfather telling them to me. That was when I was five. About one and a half year later my grandfather was taken to Twilight Cottage." The bitter tone of his voice was enough to tell them he hadn't ever seen his grandfather again. Shion couldn't help but being reminded of Safu. He always was when he heard about the institution of the former Twilight Cottage. She had lost her only relative there. And Juse had lost a very dear one.

Seeing as the teen seemed to be overwhelmed with past memories and resurfaced feelings his adoptive father placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. It seemed like a delicate topic for both of them, and somehow Shion wondered if somewhere in that bitterness of Juse's voice he could hear hatred towards the city that had taken his grandfather.

"Thanks, Juse." Hammock whispered, looking about to overtake the conversation once again, but Juse shortly shook his head, signalling for him to step back, to let him continue.

"Excuse me, I was temporarily caught up in the past. But the past is the past, and I'm here because you are changing No.6. Or more correctly already have changed it. So, this—" He held the paper he had clutched so tightly to his chest forward. "—is what I did to show just how fundamental the change is. Or how fundamentally I believe it to be. These are the stories my grandpa used to tell me. I wrote them down, the best I could remember them."

Shion stood up to take the proffered pages, looking them through quickly. There were quite many pages. Looking up again he noticed that Juse seemed to be kinda embarrassed, his cheeks tinted slightly pink.

"I don't know how good they are, wording-wise. I only started writing two years ago, and back then I was still pretty naïve. But these stories are the inheritance of my grandpa, and they made me happy when I was small. I want other children to feel that way as well. I want people to enjoy them."

There was a well-concealed passion behind his words that showed well just how important that matter was to him. He also had loosened up, wasn't as formal anymore in the way he spoke.

Not leaving the committee any time to voice their questions as to how these stories and their current meeting were connected, the sponsor raised his voice once again.

"Now you know the basics, so let's get to the real core of the matter. Juse inspired me, because he remembered these stories for so long, and wrote them down for everyone in No.6 to read them. And I think he's not the only one with the desire to do so. Going with that I think the opening of the library is a great occasion to launch some sort of competition or initiative, where we're encouraging the citizens to write down their own stories. What were their own experiences, or stories they were told in secrecy by relatives or friends, things they enjoyed. All the stories the former government didn't approve of and forbade. And we're going to collect all these stories and designate a section in the library to them. Like 'Stories from the population' or 'Finally heard stories' or something like that. Doesn't it sound great?"

For a few moments silence reigned in the room. The expressions of the present committee member's displayed thoughtfulness, trying to fully comprehend the suggestion that had been laid out before them.

"I think that sounds very interesting." Kazuki finally said, hesitantly.

"I agree." Yuki added. "That would also be a good promotion of the library, with which we might get more people to acknowledge the institution."

"Doesn't it? I think to hear all these bedtime stories from the population would be wonderful. In case you wonder why I specifically had to come and propose this idea to you: I'm very sorry, but the execution of it would probably be up to you. I'd love to organise this, but I've got neither the time nor the possibility to reach No.6's population since I live in No.3." Hammock sounded slightly apologetic.

There was a glance exchanged among the committee members before Shion decided to take it upon himself to answer.

"We understand that, Sir. And we're really grateful you chose to trust us with this issue. Nonetheless I'm sure you already expected that we'd need a little time to discuss how and whether we'll be able to do it justice."

"Oh, I totally expected that. As long as you'll think about it, I accomplished my mission."

"Of course we'll think about it." Kastor added. "And I am very sure in some way we'll carry it out."

A mutual nod of consent passed through the room.

Afterwards niceties were exchanged as Hammock had to head off once again right away. He told them to keep Juse's stories, as they'd been a copy intended to be given to them either way. After they were among themselves once again a drowsy silence fell upon them. The release of the tension that accompanied meeting a sponsor made the tiredness resurface.

"You wanna keep it for now?" Kastor asked, nodding to the papers lying in front of Shion. "You obviously know the most about literature among us all."

"I'd like to." Shion confirmed, glad to be offered the possibility to read the stories. After all, there was a chance one of the far away countries mentioned there was one that Nezumi had come across on his travels.

The following discussion quickly ended with the conclusion that they would indeed take on the task to host some sort of competition, though the details were to be determined some other time. After they had assigned rough responsibilities, they dissipated to pursue their individual work.

When Shion arrived in his office he saw the gentle light of the morning sun streaming through the window right onto his desk. It wasn't even eight o'clock yet.


That day Shion headed back home fairly early by his standards. It was only shortly past noon. While waiting for the train Shion started reading through the first pages of Juse's stories. Or his grandfather's stories, as the simple title 'Stories of my grandfather' made obvious.

They were fascinating, and in the process of reading Shion was for one indulging in the stories and for one letting his mind wander. Because the idea to let people write down their stories... It was a great one. And Shion couldn't help but wonder what certain people he knows or knew would write down. He had been to Safu's grave last month, to honour her birthday. Together with her day of death these were the two fixed dates he visited her grave. At first he had been there more often, at least once a month, but over the years these visits had become less and less frequent. It wasn't that he only visited her twice a year, but there were times when he didn't go to the graveyard for month and then there were months when he would go three times.

Whenever thinking about her, Shion felt a pang of guilt. It was less painful nowadays then it had been right after her death, but it was still there. No matter how unreasonable it was, Shion felt guilty for not having been able to prevent her death. He had tried so very hard, and there hadn't been much he could have done to save her, but an irrational inner voice told him it was his fault nonetheless.

Shion wished for her to be alive once again, not only to silence his conscience but because he firmly believed that Safu's knowledge would have been of great profit to the city. As a member of the special course she obviously was very gifted, and it was a great loss to not have her help during rebuilding the city and establishing a new system. Shion would have liked having her at his side in the committee or to at least hear her story. But it was too late for that. He wouldn't ever hear her story.

The train arrived three pages after the end of the first chapter, and Shion had real troubles tearing himself away from the story. It had been about a big white whale, and while it reminded him strongly of Moby Dick, the colorful description of the sea and the majestic view of the whale had Shion completely entranced. And they reminded him of the style the Mao tales were written in.

That moment he came to the conclusion, that one day he would ask Nezumi to write down what he remembered of the Mao. He knew Nezumi didn't like his past, and that remembering it was painful. Everything Shion knew about Nezumi's past had been revealed in the heat of a moment, without Nezumi actually deciding to tell Shion on his own account. For him to talk or write about his past would probably be a difficult thing for Nezumi.

But he was the only survivor of his tribe, all their stories, legends, all their knowledge and believe rested in him. It would be horrible to let all this disappear from the face of the earth, just like that. Shion wouldn't allow it. And he was sure Nezumi wouldn't allow it as well, because in a way it would be part of the last rebellious act against the city that he had hated. A rebellious act of proving that they weren't able to destroy the Mao, that their control wasn't closely as thoroughly as they thought.

And even if his past hurt Nezumi, once Shion would have persuaded him to face it he would be by his side to help him with it, with dealing with his past. After all his past was precious, it defined Nezumi, made him who he was and most of all, everything that had happened had led to him meeting Shion. And Shion wanted to know everything about this past, so that perhaps he could one day thank Nezumi for having endured it. If Nezumi wouldn't have stayed as strong as he did, Shion would never have met the most precious person in his life.

Shion knew Nezumi would probably call these thoughts sappy and cheesy, but Shion hoped that somehow his gratitude would bring Nezumi to at least accept his past and decide for preserving the knowledge about where he came from.


Actually this was one hell of a chapter to write, because to be honest I already had a seventh chapter completely written about two weeks ago, but I hated it so much, that I started anew from a blank page. That's something I've never ever done before, I've always only done some reworking but that time I simply felt as if the other chapter was complete crap. And this chapter and the other one I've written are nothing alike, so I really hope this one came out good.
To be honest I really like this chapter. And that's a really rare thing for me.