Showa 60 – Act 1, Scene 2, Page 3 – [13/04/2016]

His body was completely frozen under mine, save for the rise and fall of his chest with his rapid breaths and the flicker of his eyelids every so often. Whether or not he believed I could kill him – and I definitely could – was irrelevant to him, his mind forged by Arlandrian morals and clearly debating what to do in the situation.

“You know, this would be more convincing if you at least made it look like we were doing something illicit,” I said, brushing a rough hand around his face, along his neck. “Is everyone in this country as hypocritically puritanical as you? How old are you even anyway?”

“I-I’m eighteen,” he said, guiding his hands nervously around my body with confusion evident in his eyes. “You?”

“Twenty. Surprising, isn’t it?” I said, gesturing to myself. We were both hit with the mixed blessing of looking younger than we actually were. With a smirk, I pushed my hips into his and watched his teeth sink into his lower lip. “So, I suppose I should start this little history lesson. It all changed in the 1850s. The Americans – as in, those who invaded and conquered the United States and won their little war of independence – came over when Japan closed itself off and tried to force the country open. We refused.”

“Isn’t… isn’t America a really long way away?” he asked, leaning over behind my neck and putting his lips against it. “I wouldn’t think they’d have any interest in this place.”

Even with my self control, the sensation was pleasant and I struggled a little to keep my tone even. “You’d think so, right? But no. They came back with an army, and demanded one final time. The Emperor’s stubborn refusal – though sensible in his own mind – led to an all out war. A war we lost entirely. The Emperor became the Americans’ puppet.” Seeing Riley freeze again, I moved one of his hands to my waistline and gave him a nod. “Later on, some rebel groups tried – and in a few cases, succeeded – in assassinating the invaders’ top military brass. Perry, the leader of these troops, seemed to think the Emperor had betrayed him. So he had him executed in public, for all to see.”

The young man’s fingers traced just underneath my waistband, not quite wanting to go through with whatever was going on. I let him stew a little longer. “Wow, that’s uh… I… well, it’s bad, right?”

“Very bad. Without a central force to control the clans, everything descended into one final war, which the Japanese had no chance of winning. Perry enlisted the help of the British, the Russians and the French who dealt the final blow.” I ran my hands up under his shirt and scratched lightly along his back with my fingernails, listened to him practically whimper. “They then cut the country up like meat into different ‘colonies’. A few other countries got involved too. Before long, most of Japan was portioned out, the original Beaconsfield Treaty was enacted… a few revisions and then here we are.”

His face was suddenly pretty serious. “That’s… really strange hearing it from you.” He sat up and moved away from me. “So you’re saying this whole place was united, once upon a time? And that it was stolen in a war?”

I nodded and propped myself up on my elbows. “It was united after a war that lasted almost two hundred years. And then another two hundred years passed and we had that.”

He stared into the distance thoughtfully, and then stood up, tucking his shirt back into his jeans. “C’mon, we’ll go to my place.”

My eyes widened. Didn’t this kid know the rules? Providing shelter to an ‘outsider’ was considered treason in Arlandria, regardless of age. Even if he wasn’t 21, he could still be executed or put in prison for an indefinite period. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

“Screw the rules. My place is out of sight of the usual patrols, my parents are divorced and my mom is away in Technis on business for a few weeks.” Riley offered me a hand, which I took. “I’ll help you. I know it’s a dumb idea, but you seem like you’re in trouble and I can’t sit by and watch that – regardless of whether you’re an outsider or not.”

I gave a light chuckle and shook my head. This one had a bit of a hero complex it seemed; letting his own personal morals get in the way of his safety. It was naive, and stupid… but endearing. “You’re sweet. And you’ve convinced me. Let’s go to this place of yours.”

The house was pretty nondescript – detached, ‘craftsman’-style with its wood paneling and gables. Small windows were covered with blinds, and the garden was pretty enclosed with imported fir trees. It was, for all intents and purposes, an excellent safehouse. Maybe not the most resilient to attack, but definitely a good place to lay low. I didn’t admit it, but I was impressed.

He led me inside, through to the kitchen, where he took a beer from the refrigerator and cracked it open. I was pretty sure by Arlandrian laws even I wasn’t allowed to drink, but here he was taking liberties again. “Get one yourself, if you want.”

“I don’t really drink,” I replied, “Have to keep a clear head in the event of the worst happening.”

“Suit yourself.” He pulled himself up onto the countertop, shuffled til he was comfortable. “So why did you look so upset when I found you?”

I frowned and folded my arms. “My gua-, no, my best friend was murdered because he was taking care of an ‘outsider’. His apartment was under attack by a heavily-armed militia, and to keep me safe, he… that idiot, he…” I tried to stop the tears, but it was already too late. “He left the gas to leak after he cooked breakfast. He knew we were compromised and once I was out of the blast radius… he set the whole place alight. Blew the apartment clean out.”

Riley’s eyes widened. “Holy shit. I… I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” I lied, brushing the tears from my eyes. It wasn’t fine. wasn’t fine. Everything still hurt like hell. I hadn’t really even mourned McArthur properly yet. But there was always a way to start these things. “Can I make coffee?”

[\\return]

[//next]

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