Book 1: Chapter 4

The Festival

Chem began to stare again at the entrance of the city. What had begun yesterday as a few small murals across a building had evolved into an enormous festival. Lights had been placed along wires stretching between buildings. The buildings had been painted with a variety of colors and styles that stretched all around the city block. Underneath tents, tables were filled with an array of food from looted grocery stores. The food smelled glorious and familiar, and the feeling of people rushing past you on all sides was a welcome change. All ninety-eight citizens were bustling through the city block, taking in the artistic sights and sounds of the first event since they’ve woken up.

Chem relished the sight of it all, and marveled at what a wonderful job the event’s organizers had done. Chem grabbed a small cookie and held it in his hand. The logistics of the event were a pleasant surprise. Up until this point, they had been fed by the tubes of their old facility, which seemed to have an unlimited supply of liquid food without smell or taste.

The festival, though, was a welcome array of sights and smells, but even it too was limited. There was no fresh produce, or bread, or any food that could expire, since the grocery stores weren’t actively managed. All that remained were non-perishables like canned meat, nuts, and frozen food. Although the frozen food couldn’t leave the freezers they were stored in. Still, the event was a soft reminder of the city’s culture. It wasn’t quite the same as the old world, but with the mixture of sights, smells, and people, Chem was proud that it felt like a new one.

Kasumi walked through the city streets to the sight of an active festival. With bright lights overhead, and crowds of people moving on either side, it felt like the city she only visited in her childhood. She even felt claustrophobic.

“Hey there” Birdcage said as she walked up to Kasumi , “I’ve been waiting for you. How have you been holding up?”

“I um, I’m fine.” Kasumi said, as she looked up at the lights above her, “I just don’t know what I should do now. I think I want to go home to the farm. It’s what my Dad would have wanted.” she paused, “Is there … no fresh food here?”

“Yeah, nope.” Birdcage laughed, “No farmers means no produce, so I think everyone here would welcome your decision. Actually, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.” Birdcage gestured with her arm, and a tall man with a worn hat and overalls stepped forward.

“Hi, miss …”

Kasumi ,” she said, looking up at the man, “You can call me Kasumi.”

“Kasumi.” he said, “You can call me Farmer . It’s not a name like Kasumi, but it’ll do.”

“Alright Farmer” she said, “Why did Birdcage here introduce you?”

“Well, if it isn’t obvious, I am a farmer.” he started, “I intend to harvest the nearby farms and grow some fresh crops. And if it’s alright with you, you can join me. I’ve done my fair share of farming before, but not much around this area.”

“Yeah,” she said, “Yeah, I’d be happy to show you around.”

“Perfect.” he said.

Kitsune weaved through the crowd with her sword on her hip. It had been a long time since she’d been in such a large crowd. She scanned the crowd for any potential threats, as she made her way forwards. Behind her was a man with a plaid shirt and an apron with the number forty-three at its center. A woman followed him with a soft purple screen, holding the hands of a teenage boy and young girl.

“Thanks for looking out for us, Kitsune .” the man said.

“I can’t turn down a request for protection, especially for a family.” she said.

The teenage boy looked away and ran off. Kitsune started to dash after him until she saw him join a small crowd of four teenagers. One had a key on his screen, another had glasses. One had hearts across his screen, and another had a locked safe across her face.

“They’re okay.” the man said, stopping Kitsune . “They’re the only other teenagers we’ve found around here. It’s good that he has people to play with. The one with the lock happens to be my niece.”

“Is it worth the threat of being exposed?” Kitsune answered, “You still haven’t told me the nature of your threat.”

We have a very loose connection with the uh, … corporation. It’s not something we wanted or took part in. Normally I would strike it out on my own, but you know, I have a family to watch out for.”

Kitsune looked over and saw the mother holding her young daughter’s hand. “I understand. I won’t let any harm come to you unless you invoke it. This new start has been peaceful for us so far, and I intend to keep it that way.” Kitsune began to spot a face through the crowd. Through the frantic motions of people moving about, one face had stayed still and staring. It was the face of the man, Gang , who had walked away from their campfire on the first night. “Stay here.” Kitsune directed at the family, and took a few steps forward. “What do you want?”, she directed at Gang.

Gang stood still and stared right at her . “I see you still carry around your sword.”

“Out with it.” she answered.

“I’m putting together a group of people to take charge of this world. I want to make sure no one despicable takes power over us.” he paused, “I want you to be part of it. Join us.”

“And what manner of world do you intend to build? Which values do you intend to use to guide its course? Is this the same group where you’ve recruited my brother ?”

Gang paused.

“Don’t think I don’t track your movements or know the nature of your company. My brother and I could not be more different in terms of aim or purpose. You seek to claim power, but you care not for the values to champion, nor mission to pursue. It’s power for power’s sake, an empty ambition without the vestige of purpose” she paused, “And I don’t align myself with thugs.”

“You don’t know me.” Gang said.

“I know enough.” Kitsune answered.

Suddenly a man with a dark suit and jagged red lines across his face started to walk up to them. Alarm bells pulsed in Kitsune ’s head. Every intuition raged against her as she looked towards the man walking forward. She turned to the father in a panic, and grabbed his hand. “Come on.”, she said, “We need to get away from here.”, as she and the adjoining family disappeared into the bustling crowd.

Gang glared towards Chaos in repressed rage. He took great efforts to contain himself and regain composure. “What the hell are you doing here?” he asked.

Chaos walked calmly over, with a man following closely behind. “We’ve heard you’re putting a group together” he said, “We would like to humbly request to join.”

“And why would I let you?” Gang barked.

“Come now. We’ve worked well together in the past haven’t we? It’s really a question of where you would rather have me? With you here, or off somewhere else? And I promise I’ll always follow orders” he whispered, “sir.”

Gang took a moment to think. He knew much of his plan would ride on this decision. After he composed himself, he decided, “Fine. But I am the one in charge, understand?”

“Of course.” Chaos answered, “And you have one more entry.” he took the man behind him by the shoulders and shoved him between himself and Gang . The man was trembling and had ‘Do Not Enter’ written on his face.

“What’s his name?” Gang asked.

Fear .” the man trembled.

“What use could I have for a man who’s always afraid?”

“Come now.” Chaos taunted, “I’m sure he has some measure of ferocity.”

Gang stepped back a moment flashed before his eyes from twelve, no, sixteen years earlier. Gang clenched his fists as he looked towards Chaos behind the man. “Fine. He can join too, but that’s it.”

“Of course.” Chaos said.

“Is everything alright here?” the woman with the witch’s hat approached them. The muscular man and Superior followed closely behind.

“We’re fine.” Gang said, turning to Chaos and Fear , “We’re going to make an announcement soon, in front of the crowd. We’re in charge, and it’s time that they know it.”, he turned to the woman , the muscular man, and Superior , and pointed at Chaos. “I want this one on a tight leash. He’s part of the group, but not above anyone here.”

Chaos smiled and looked to his side. “I’m telling you” a man in a suit and headset said to another man, “Any of these non-perishables are valuable commodities. You need to HODL them now and wait until there’s demand.”

“Fascinating.” Chaos whispered.

Gang walked up to a table of food that was mostly empty. He looked around the city block to the crowds of people gathered there. This is the perfect place, he thought, for us to make our stand. He shoved the food to one side, and stood up on the table. Superior , Witch , Chaos , Fear , and the Muscular Man all climbed atop the table.

“Citizens of Nozomi!” Gang shouted. Everyone turned their heads, “We have founded a new city together! We’re starting to build new lives for ourselves! But no city can be safe without those that take charge of its integrity. We are the ones who take charge! We are the ones who will govern this city and make sure all of you are safe. I will make sure everyone is secure. We are the Nozomi gang. And we will be the law in this new world!”

Birdcage glanced at Kasumi . Kasumi and Kitsune glanced at each other. They stared with bitter resolve in their eyes, and conviction in their hearts. This felt wrong. They all knew it. Kitsune kept her eyes peeled, staring forward towards Superior . He had also found her in the crowd and was staring back – both with their hands on their blades.