Also Featuring:

young_hiro_icon.gif kensei_icon.gif yaeko_icon.gif

Scene Title Sunrise
Synopsis The Entity has an answer, it seeks to understand the question.
Date July 10, 2021

Seated around a crackling fire, Adam Monroe keeps his back to an old tree, nestled between a fork in its roots, feet planted firmly in the bare earth. He picks apart a piece of grass with both hands, watching the fire with unfocused eyes. Nearby, Hiro sits on the ground with his legs crossed, dressed in the dark blue kamishimo of a courtier. The Ainu had stolen the clothes from Japanese merchants killed on the coast, the thought of which left Hiro feeling discomforted at best.

Yaeko has said little in the hours since they departed the village. She now sits across the fire from Adam, her sword laid out on the ground at her side, attention likewise focused into the fire. The crackling pop of the flames joins the cicadas in their night song, and for a time Hiro feels like he’s back in his family’s home at the base of Mt. Fuji, playing in the tall grass with a wooden sword, pretending to be…

“Kensei?” Hiro asks in a quiet voice, to which Adam only responds by looking up at him. “I know you are English. But… where are you from?” Some of Hiro’s anger from before had subsided. He’s resigned himself to this current sequence of events, and feels that perhaps if he only understood Kensei better he’d be able to get through to him.

“Pass,” Adam says, throwing the piece of grass into the fire.

“But— ”

“I bloody said pass, Carp.” Adam’s tone isn’t just irritated, it’s wounded. Hiro recognizes the distance in Kensei’s posture as he sees him sit back against the tree, sees the distance in his eyes grow. He remembers that not everyone enjoys talking about their past. As memories of Ando flash through his mind, he sympathizes.

“«What about you?»” Hiro asks across the fire, and it takes a moment for Yaeko to realize he’s talking to her. She doesn’t answer at first, but Hiro persists. “«Where are you from? Hokkaido?»”

Yaeko looks down to the ground, then makes a noise in the back of her throat. “«No»” is an answer that elicits a look from Adam to Hiro to Yaeko. “«My father is from Japan,»” she says with a moment of difficulty. “«My mother is Ainu. She met my father while trading on the mainland. They fell in love and… he returned here with her.»”

Adam sits forward, forearms resting across his knees. “«That’s why old Whitebeard didn’t much like you, isn’t it?»” Yaeko looks away in response, but the pained expression on her face confirms it. “«Your people aren’t much for outsiders, are they?»”

“«You wouldn’t be either if they came for your land.»” Yaeko says through her teeth. Hiro bristles, sensing the tension and tries to defuse it some.

“«Ah, what is your mother like?»” Hiro asks, and it’s a question that has Adam receding into himself again.

Yaeko, though, can’t help but smile fondly. “«Her name was Fusa,»” she says softly. The was makes Hiro’s heart ache. “«I don’t remember her very well. I was four when she died. My father… he speaks of her as if she was without fault. I know he loved her, deeply, and my grandfather…»” Yaeko grows quiet and shakes her head. “«The only reason my father lives with us is that my grandfather knows how much he meant to my mother.»”

Hiro nods, slowly, then looks down to his lap. “«I’m sorry,»” he concedes. The gesture has Adam briefly looking over to Hiro, then back down to his lap. “«My mother passed away when I was young, too. I don’t think my father ever got over her death. He loved her so much. And… he had to raise my sister and I. We weren’t easy children.»”

Yaeko smiles, sadly, then nods. “«You have a kind heart,»” she admits reluctantly, “«which makes it surprising you go to such lengths to protect a useless toad like Kensei.»”

“«Toads are very nice once you get to know them, I’ll have you know.»” Kensei quips over the fire without looking from his lap. Yaeko laughs at the absurdity of it, shaking her head. “«We’ve even got a story back where I come from about a princess who kisses a frog and— »”

“«Yaeko.»” Hiro just jumps in front of that before Kensei can dig himself into a deeper grave with her. “«Your father, he is a swordsmith, yes?»” Yaeko nods in response, glancing over at Kensei across the fire, then Hiro.

“«His family are all swordsmiths.»” Yaeko looks over at Hiro, then picks up her sword from the ground, showing it to him over the fire. The black scabbard, the gold accents, the symbol on the grip. Hiro’s eyes narrow in confusion and he looks to the sword Yaeko had handed Kensei earlier, it is brown leather, copper fittings. His attention snaps back to Yaeko.

“«That is your sword?»” Hiro asks. It explains why Kensei was pinned to a tree by it when he stumbled on their fight. Yaeko smiles in response, then sets it down across her lap.

“«My father’s symbol,»” Yaeko says, tapping the image on the grip. “«An old one.»”

Hiro’s dark eyes drift down to his lap, searching from side to side. He is left to wonder how accurate his knowledge of history is, how mutated the legend of Kensei must have been. How many of Kensei’s accomplishments were even Adam’s? And how many belonged to the supposed princess of the story? His mind reels.

“«Where are you from, Hiro?»” Yaeko asks, her tone softening now that they’ve all been talking some. Hiro swallows down a lump in his throat, stammers over an answer and struggles to find one. So, Kensei gives one for him.

“«Oh you’ll love this, he’s from the future.»” Adam says out the side of his mouth. Hiro flusters, worried now about damaging the flow of history. He turns to Yaeko, trying to plead his case against that story and—

— oh she’s laughing at him.

Yaeko doubles over, one hand at her stomach and a broad smile on her face. She looks up at the two, rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “«Of course,»” she says with a smile. “«Well, is the weather good tomorrow, Future Hiro?»”

Hiro smiles, awkwardly, and looks into the fire.

“«Maybe,»” he says quietly.

There’s no way to be sure.

Three Hundred and Fifty-One Years Later

Dhi Qar
Confederated States of Iraq

July 11th, 2021
6:03 am Local Time

There is no one at the Abu Tbeirah dig site at this hour of morning.

The sun has just risen over the mountains, casting long shadows across the arid plain. Much of the land is cut into grids, marked by brightly-colored nylon threads. Colored flags indicate specific sites of interest, heavy industrial equipment is parked on the other side of a chain-link fence a thousand feet away. Tents and other temporary shelters are set up to the south, bordering a deeply-excavated hole.

Thousands of years ago, this was a flood plain. A river wound through here, boats were launched off of a harbor that is no longer visible. The Entity stands in the body of Adam Monroe, overlooking this dusty ruin with reddened eyes. He swallows audibly, stepping uncaring on ancient clay bricks the archaeologists are struggling to preserve. He leaves callous footprints in them, cracks, ruin. When he comes to a stop, the Entity raises a hand and the ground bulges in synch with the gesture. Sand rolls away from the protrusion, clay cracks and darkens, and soon crystal clear water bubbles out and spills down the sides of the dome of earth. A moment later it ruptures like a cyst and gurgles with thousands of gallons of water, flooding the excavation site.

The Entity steps up onto the water as if it were a solid surface, gold eyes scanning the horizon. He raises both hands this time, and clouds move in from the corners of the sky. Thunder rumbles in the distance, followed by a torrential downpour of rain, even if not a single raindrop lands on his blonde head. Reeds rise up from the water, seed pods rupture and spread in the wind, dancing between the sheathes of rain. Bright orange and red flowers blossom amid the tall blades of grass on what is rapidly becoming a riverbank, splotches of dark purple at the center of their eight petals.

The sun, still visible between the curving banks of clouds, is ringed by three concentric rainbows. The Entity steps out onto the water, looking at the sun and rainbow reflection in the surface, eyes narrowed and searching from side to side. The second he stops concentrating, the water stops gurgling up from the subterranean aquifer, the flowers begin to wilt, and the grass begins to dry out. The Entity looks down at his hands, flexing them open and closed.

"«You look different.»" A woman says, catching the Entity off guard. He jerks around, finding an elderly woman standing on the bank of the river. He doesn't recognize her at first, not until he looks past the flesh. Because there is none. She's not here.

What?»" The Entity asks in a hushed moment of confusion. "«How—»"

The old woman smiles, wading ankle deep into the diminishing water. He notices that she's not leaving ripples in the water's surface, and it confirms what he'd already suspected. She's projecting from somewhere else.

"«Oh, come on. You know us old souls tend to linger for a long time.»" She smiles again, not afraid at all as she walks right up to a being that elicits more deferential bows than a king. "«I'd recognize those eyes anywhere.»" There's a sadness in the old woman's recollection. "«The world got tired of us, didn't it?»"

The Entity looks away, recoiling as she reaches up to touch his cheek. He knows she's just a figment, and yet. "«The world grew jealous of us.»" He corrects. Though she doesn't agree, and the click of her tongue says as much. "«How long have you known?»"

"«Since you went and did a fool thing like you did in America.»" The old woman says. She means Detroit. The Entity isn't sure if she's talking about what they did, or what Adam did. Probably both. "«I figured I'd wait until you had some time to collect your thoughts. It's… been a long time since we crossed paths. Hasn't it?»"

The Entity regards her with suspicion, and then, embarrassment.

"Dvaravati." He confirms. "«We were both drunk.»" There's a little bit of a smile there. The old woman looks at the Entity with a chiding smile, then a little raise of her brows.

"«You were beautiful then,»" she says with unrestrained appreciation. "«You're alright now,»" she adds with a smirk. "«Feels like you haven't let go of any of that anger. Or the confusion.»"

The Entity looks at the old woman with uncertainty, then, letting down his guard allows his shoulders to slack. "«Aren't you?»" He finally asks. "«Angry? Confused?»"

The old woman shrugs, then wobbles one hand from side to side in a so-so gesture. "«That's the human experience.»" She admits. "«You remember what that's like, right? We have every reason to be angry, but there's more reasons to find joy in what we can have. Family, love, warm drinks on a cold night. Those little…»" she wrinkles her nose and traces a shape in the air with her finger, "«freeze pops? I love those things. Sugar and water. Perfection.»"

"«You haven't changed a day in a thousand years.»" He says of her, but she's quick to rebuke his assertion.

"«Untrue.»" She starts to circle him. "«I've learned my lesson, got my lumps. I've spent centuries idle, sleeping, thinking, dreaming. Regretting.»" Her brows knit together, eyes dipped down to the ground, then back up to the Entity. "«But what I haven't forgotten is who I am.»" And at that, she jabs two fingers against the middle of his chest, as if she were right there in the room.

The Entity looks away, down to a puddle of mud that was once a river. "«I don't think I've ever really known,»" he says with a quaver in his voice. Then, looking back up to his old friend, wonders, "«What are you doing with your life? After all this time?»"

The old woman smiles. "«I have children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren…»" She spreads her hands. "«I treat each life anew. Each body a new chance to be me, to learn, to grow. To change.»" Again, challenging him. "«You're still in the past, still mourning, but never properly grieving. I ask you who you are, but I am not just talking to the person I knew a hundred lifetimes ago. I am talking to the man I see in front of me.»"

The Entity looks down at one of his hands, anger and resentment boiling in his chest. Twinned, seething hatred of Takezo Kensei and the Dragon he fought so many years ago. He closes his hand into a fist and looks up to the old woman, frowning. "«I know who he is,»" the Entity says through clenched teeth.

"«Boy, you are your own worst enemy.»" The old woman says with a shake of her head, reaching up to gently touch the Entity's cheek with her palm. "«If you don't let go of that anger, you're going to eat yourself alive.»" She lowers her hand from his cheek. "«Try to listen.»" She says softly. "«You used to be good at that.»"

"«I'm not who you think I am.»" The Entity whispers.

"«And who do I think you are?»"

"«Chhaya,»" he replies, "«Inanna, I don't know.»"

The old woman smiles. "«I don't know,»" she jabs him in the chest with a finger. "«You should try saying that more often. It's humbling.»" She lowers her hand and looks the Entity in his eyes. "«Tell me, then. Who are you?»"

"«That's the problem.»" The Entity says, looking at his hand again. "«I know the answer, but I don't understand how or why.»" He looks back at her. "«Or what use any of it is.»"

Stepping forward, the old woman wraps her arms around the Entity's waist and puts her hands on his back, hugging him tightly. "«Maybe when you stop worrying so much about the riddles of the universe,»" she says with a knowing smile, leaning back to look up at him, "«you can focus on living the life you've got. For as long as you have it.»"

The Entity is silent, tense, and reluctantly returns the hug. It feels alien, like something from a too-far distant memory. The words how long you have it rattle around in his head, mixed with the sounds of billions of screams playing out over and over into infinity. He steps back and out of the embrace, breathing in slow and sharp. Silence hangs between them, silence and the sound of morning birds. She smiles at him, sad but fond, and takes a step back as well.

"«Is this goodbye?»" He asks.

"«Everyone says goodbye eventually,»" the old woman opines. "«What's important is how we're remembered between goodbye, and the next hello.»"

The Entity exhales a sigh and looks down at his shadow, then up to the old woman. But, by the time he does, she's already gone.

Goodbye, Etana.»" He whispers, then turns to look at the sun, squinting into it.


Try to listen, she had said to him. The Entity closes his hands into fists, feels the rage boiling in his chest, and tries to see past it.


Three Hundred and Fifty-One Years Earlier

Hokkaido, Japan
May 10th

Yaeko has chosen to walk ahead, sheathed sword draped over her shoulder, free hand swinging at her side.

Hiro, meanwhile, walks alongside Adam who seems ill at ease on foot as opposed to horseback. Adam's gait is a little stiff, and he keeps awkwardly shifting when he walks. Hiro gives Adam a side eye, looks down to his feet, then back up again. "Do you want to take a break?"

"I'm fine." Adam grouses. "It's just—all the regeneration in the world doesn't make things not hurt. I think my right boot has a hole through the bottom." He mumbles.

"I could give you a piggy-back ride?" Hiro says with as straight a face as possible. Adam looks absolutely mortified, and moreso when he realizes that Hiro is fucking with him. He's about to say something mean, judging from his expression, when Yaeko lets out a cry of surprise from a few feet ahead. She dashes to the edge of a grassy overlook and looks back at Adam and Hiro. The two hustle over, one on either side of Yaeko, and both stumble a little and the overlook's edge.

Adam's eyes go wide, staring down from the cliff to the coast. He looks at Yaeko, confused, then over to Hiro. "Carp…" he whispers, then looks back out at the ocean. "What is that?"

Hiro's jaw sets and he removes his glasses, wipes the lenses, and puts them back on. He doesn't know how to respond. He doesn't even know what he's looking at. "I think…" he starts to say, then stops himself. It's impossible. "I think it's…"

Out beyond the cliff, down at the shore between Hokkaido and mainland Japan, there is a sphere of darkness two hundred feet across rising up out of the water. It is like a blind spot, sucking in all light. A perfectly mate black dome. But sticking out of it, halfway sunken into its infinite abyss, is something even more unbelievable. It's a World War II Destroyer, cannons warped, deck twisted, shimmering with a haze of emerald green light. Hiro makes an abjectly confused expression and shakes his head, reading the ship's designation on the side of the hull.

"…the U.S.S. Eldridge."

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