Scene Title Jiejie
Synopsis Yi-Min finds what she's looking for.
Date March 3, 2019

Red Hook Market

In a bleak winter such as this, Red Hook Market transforms into a different world after the dying of the sun. The bustling crowds of the day have thinned out somewhat, now that it is drawing on in hours and cold has begun to set in with the dark; the small, cheery, golden lights of the stalls are encased by the elongating shadows of evening. Among those still left browsing for wares, there is one who is taking in the modest scene with an especially keen interest, profile unassuming but visible as a slim, warmly-dressed woman of Taiwanese descent. Though she has not shied away from perusing the stalls nearest her, two selling books and curios respectively, it does not seem like that this her primary purpose here. Rather, she almost seems to be waiting for someone in the way that she has her back to a curved column, momentarily lounging.

The dark eyes of this woman hold the hints of many thoughts: patient calm, but also disdain. This was all a somewhat sorry scene, compared to the famously lively night markets of her native home. Though she had not been in America for long yet, it was copiously clear to Yi-Min that this country had seen better days. Still, this is where a home for herself would have to be made— a stark reminder she gives herself as her gaze idly follows after a straggling succession of people.


Sooner maybe than she thinks.

Some argue that smell is the strongest sense — or at least in relation to memory. People forget the faces of their loved ones given enough time, never mind the sound of their voices or the gentle touch of their hands. But give them a whiff of someone else’s signature perfume, and their neural networks light up like a Christmas tree in mid-December.

Yi-Min smells Eileen Ruskin before she sees her. There’s no mistaking the floral notes of the Englishwoman’s dark, earthy perfume, or the underlying astringent sweetness of tobacco mixed with cigarette smoke that clings to her skin, hair and clothes.

It reminds her of damp nights and long European winters. Of secrets shared by candlelight. She remembers, then, the feel of the soft wool sweaters the younger Vanguard operative was so fond of, always one or two sizes too large for her diminutive frame. Also: the way her eyes always seemed to follow Yi-Min around the room, as well as their colour. That startlingly clear gray-green… like a cat’s.

And like a cat, or a familiar, wherever Kazimir Volken went, Munin followed him.

Like she might be following Yi-Min now, if for entirely different reasons.

As the twin combined scents wend their way towards Yi-Min, all these memories return to her in drifts, gentle as a wellspring of pure thoughts. Some specific sensory details had been lost for entirely too long, dissolved by years until only a vague, half-forgotten ache of fondness had been left behind— but much of it returns to her now with a wistful clarity. Nearly too much, all at once. She breathes deep, smiling inwardly.

Her lips are set in a hard-to-read line, gaze clear but watchful, carrying only a trace of the thoughts that are on her mind.

"Meimei?" she murmurs knowingly, just loudly enough to be audible to anybody who may happen to be lurking nearby. It is half a question, half not. The affectionate form of address is one that Eileen has not heard for many years. Little sister. “You can come out.”

Two syllables identical to one another. While Yi-Min and Eileen might not have been mirror images of each other in their youth, they were close enough in age that this comparison has not escaped the Englishwoman.

It’s fitting, too, that the word for older sister follow the same convention.


Yi-Min hears wing beats whisper overhead. A moment later, an unremarkable-looking crow alights on a nearby awning. Eileen was always fond of using common birds out in the field; sparrows and crows often went overlooked by Volken’s enemies, and it seems that what was true then remains true now.

None of the other shoppers weaving between stalls give it as much as a passing glance. Crows are like crisp leaves underfoot in autumn out here: loud and excessive.

The voice, on the other hand, came from only a few feet behind her.

Though gatherings of crows may be a common sight here, it is one that Yi-Min had grown unaccustomed to seeing in the city where she had spent the better part of the last decade. When a dark fluttering catches the corner of one eye, she angles her head to watch the plain bird with some interest, noting what the sight entails.

And then, she hears the voice.

Despite the long passage of years, Yi-Min looks much the same as she did when Eileen saw her last. Everything about her is familiar, down to the short and practical cut of her hair and the faint, sweetly woody aroma of sandalwood incense, something that becomes more readily apparent when she turns to face the source of the voice. She wastes no time in stepping forwards, reaching out to enfold the younger woman into a characteristically strong embrace.

"Eileen." The Englishwoman hears the same accent as well, spoken in a half-laugh directly over her shoulder: clear diction but carrying a non-native inflection that she will probably never be rid of. "Is it really you? It's been so long."


Eileen looks— different. Older. Her body still fits in the circle of Yi-Min’s arms, but her frame has lost the spindly quality of her teenage years and filled out into a build better suited for a young woman in her early thirties.

She’s also blonde.

Or at least her wig is. It would take someone who knows her face as intimately as Yi-Min does to associate her with the very few photos that survived the war and made it into Wolves of Valhalla.

That’s probably the point.

“They told me you were dead,” Eileen mutters against the older woman’s neck. Her fingers curl into Yi-Min’s shoulder blades.

Yi-Min's tone turns more serious when this is said, and she clasps Eileen to herself more earnestly than ever even as she perceives that difference in frame. The architecture of time lost. Her eyelids close in a strange expression. "'No… ’they' were wrong. I'm so sorry I wasn't able to reach out for so long." For most other people who had not spent quite so much time with her, it would be difficult to discern the emotion in her curt voice, but there is an unusual vibrancy to it that Eileen can interpret well.

More than an apology— it is true regret, and by the intensity of it, a sentiment that she has been carrying with her far longer than just this day.

At last Yi-Min releases Eileen from her embrace and pulls away to survey the other’s face, her brown eyes holding joy smoothed into somberness. There is just a trace of wryness there as well.

“I have heard you were dead, as well.”

Eileen’s face is different, too. Her eyes are blue, not the cool gray-green Yi-Min remembers — more glacial lake than seafoam.

To most, this detail is one that might go overlooked. Only those who have spent long periods of time with her in intimate spaces — the people she counts among her closest friends and family — would notice the discrepancy.

So Eileen chooses to answer the question before Yi-Min even has an opportunity to ask it. “Volken’s ability,” she says, showing the older Vanguard operative her hands, which are encased in a pair of thin calfskin gloves. Her palms spread open. “It chose me.”

It is more difficult to make out the contrast in hue in the dimness of the encroaching evening, at least right away, but Yi-Min inevitably sees it. Disturbed, she gently takes Eileen's hands in her own for a moment when they are shown to her, examining the nature of the gloves that are covering them. When her own gaze travels back up to the younger woman's, it is noticeably sharper than it had been before. There is concern in it, but also a bit of something else.

"Are you in control of it?" she inquires through a pointed breath. Though she is clearly somewhat taken back by the revelation, she is not truly surprised, and it shows in her tone. The next question she asks is even more simple: "How did this happen?"

So Eileen tells Yi-Min the story — the whole story, from the moment she and Kazimir set foot on North American soil. She is picky about which details to include, of course, just as she’s picky about what stems to include in a floral arrangement left standing in still water on her windowsill. Much of it matches what Yi-Min has read in books or seen in documentaries: their betrayal of Volken and subsequent tenure with the Ferrymen, Operation Apollo, the formation of the Ferrymen’s Special Activities division and its eventual fallback to Pollepel Island.

She is transparent about her mistakes, but also proud of her achievements and the personal sacrifices made to save as many lives as possible, even if her own was not included in that final number.

Then things get hazy. Her voice grows thin and fraught with emotion when she speaks of the war and the years immediately after it, of how her natural ability allowed her to survive physical death at an unthinkable cost. There are other worlds, she explains at one point, that run parallel to this one. An infinite number of decisions branching off in an infinite number of directions with no end.

The implications are great, both also terrible. And Eileen is very tired.

She concludes that no one else can know.

The tale is received by an attentive, if slightly troubled, silence, throughout. Yi-Min does not interrupt the telling even when it is apparent deep in her eyes that she has unanswered questions, and when it has ended, she is still quiet for several long moments afterwards. She does not immediately give voice to all the thoughts that arise within her as a reaction, but instead does something that may be unexpected to Eileen: she smiles. It is only a little one, a telling upwards curl at the end of her lips, but it is fraught with meaning; sorrow and pride both.

"I'm so proud of all that you have done," she says, her voice quietly tender. "Xiao niao yi ren no longer. You have been through so much. This—" Here again, she reaches to briefly tap Eileen's wrist with her two longest fingers.

"—this is not a burden you should have to bear. Not alone, not ever. I am sorry, meimei."

Eileen at least seems lighter for having shared it. The weight on her shoulders is not as heavy, but her expression remains solemn. Age shows in the crow’s feet in the corners of her eyes and how thin the skin beneath them has become. Like parchment paper, it betrays the network of veins and blood vessels beneath, giving her face a gaunt and sunken appearance.

“There are so few of us left,” she says, “we’re stronger together than we are apart. I have Iago Ramirez and Hector Steel with me. Joshua Lang. Do you remember him? The American?” It matters not whether Yi-Min does. The question feels like a rhetorical one, if hopeful. “Sharrow reached out to us through his son a few months ago. I don’t know who else he might have saved.”

None of these rather alarming physical details are missed by Yi-Min, and the beginnings of a plan are already formulating in her head as to how to deal with this even as she is drawn by the sound of the names. "Joshua; what was he again? The tall butcher. And Iago— he is the one you once had eyes for, yes?" It has been so long, but these details are impossible to forget, and she indicates so with a sudden silvery laugh.

"It is good that there is at least a remnant left, even if they are from… another place." The mere mention of this turns her demeanor grave once more. "You are playing a dangerous game. You know this."

“I do,” Eileen echoes. She’s caught more off guard by Yi-Min’s shrewd memory than she is by the warning. Her younger self was perhaps not as subtle as she imagined in the glances she used to slip Iago’s way when she thought no one else was paying attention.

A protest starts to manifest at the back of her throat, but she cuts it off before it finds a voice. Yi-Min’s assessment is fair.

What she says instead is: “I failed them before. I won’t again. I can’t.”

"What happened years ago wasn't your fault." A brusque statement of fact. "But if you let your guard down, then what happens to you will be." Though Yi-Min’s candid gaze continues to linger on Eileen as she says this, she allows it to flicker away and up, settling on hazy lights far off in the distance.

"I think I would like to meet your remnant. To be able to see again those who are dead, I… would not have believed it possible." That Eileen is standing before her is already living proof of this, but by all accounts, this is her Eileen. These strangers from another world have yet to face judgment.

Yi-Min may face judgement, too.

“Then come,” Eileen says. “Let me show you.”

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