S1| Ep12: Dragon Song (上)
August 19, 2011
With a gust of wind, the transport with the four attendants lifted into the air and began to head across the campus and the lake beyond to the palace on the far shore. Hadil, Rusli, and Intan watched it fade into the distance in silence.
Rusli was the first to break the silence. “Wong, wasn’t it?”
Hadil straightened immediately. “Yes, sir.”
“Would you go fetch the others for me?”
“Um, the others?”
“Ah, sorry. I forgot. Trieu, first year Hibiscus. Sunagawa, first year Azalea. Aragaki, second year Hibiscus. Gushiken, second year Azalea. Tell them it’s an emergency Dragon meeting — report to the Headmistress’s office immediately.”
“Oh!” Hadil’s eyes widened. “Gotcha.”
Rusli smiled kindly. “Thank you. I appreciate your help.”
As Hadil ran off, Intan turned to him, a questioning look on her face. “I thought we were supposed to keep the Nine Dragons thing a secret?”
“You mean you haven’t told her?” he said, seeming genuinely surprised. “I thought you were — Ah, never mind. It’s fine. It’s a bit of an open secret among the student body, you know. You have heard the rumors, haven’t you? Wong’s a bright girl, I’m sure she’s pieced together some of it already…”
But Intan’s attention had already drifted off. “Who was Vasco Morikawa?”
Rusli stilled. Looked at her with an odd expression.
At last, he sighed. “I suppose you would have found out sooner or later. Who told you?”
“Eguzki did,” she said.
“Did he, now?” He looked thoughtful. “I’m glad. I’ve been worried about him. I suppose he truly is doing better now…”
Intan wasn’t quite so sure that was true, but she nodded and waited for Rusli to continue.
“How much did he tell you?”
“Just something about the Inner Clans. And that they didn’t like each other much.”
At that, Rusli laughed. “No, I don’t suppose they did. No one liked Morikawa much.”
“What about Eguzki?”
“Ah, Kaneshiro? He… was quiet, I suppose.” Rusli rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “He kept to himself, even then. Well-behaved. Sometimes it was hard to tell what he was really thinking.”
“Then what happened between them?” Intan asked, suddenly suspecting that he did know more about the situation than he had admitted to her earlier in the year, after all. “Aren’t seniors supposed to take care of their juniors?”
Rusli hesitated. “No one really knows,” he said at last, slowly. “There was a fight. A serious one. Right before winter exams. A couple of engineering students ran into them by the lake. It was — a terrifying sight, to hear them tell it. Somehow Kaneshiro had managed to overpower him. There was a knife in his hand, and Morikawa was just lying there, face swollen and bloody — Sorry. You don’t want to hear this, do you?”
But Intan said, a bit impatiently, “And then? What happened?”
He turned his face away. “It took two of the instructors to pull him off. Morikawa — he was hurt. Badly. But still alive. They’d been found just in time.”
“It wasn’t until after winter exams that it happened. Morikawa had recovered just enough to start moving around again. But somehow, when the medics weren’t paying attention, he managed to slip away. Nobody knows why he did it, but anyway… apparently he headed to the junkyard. You know, where all the old models are laid to rest?”
She nodded. He had evidently forgotten about her own stunt in the beginning of the year, or else was too polite to mention it.
“And the next thing we know is, there’s this big explosion by the lake. Somehow he’d managed to get one of the old models running — but I guess it backfired on him. It didn’t go berserk, not exactly. It just stopped right in the middle of the water, and…”
Fire and shrapnel. She could almost smell it.
“Fortunately — I suppose it was fortunate, at least — no one else was killed. There were some fairly bad injuries, but all in all, nothing life-threatening. And it was right before break, so the campus wasn’t as badly affected as it might have been otherwise. But Morikawa, Morikawa was not so fortunate. They… never found his body.”
“Nothing at all. One would have expected at least… some evidence to have been left behind, at least. But there was nothing. Absolutely nothing.” He smiled nervously. “Oh, of course there were rumors. Naturally there were rumors. Everyone knew about the fight he’d gotten into with Kaneshiro just a few weeks earlier. There were some whispers about Kaneshiro deliberately sabotaging the Doll… which was of course ridiculous, because how could he have known? A retired model and everything.”
Intan frowned. “Then he wasn’t a murderer after all.”
“No, of course not. I imagine he felt guilty — still feels guilty, even. But it wasn’t his fault. There are witnesses.”
No. Something still did not add up.
I killed him, Eguzki had said.
And unlike the others, Eguzki did not lie.
* * *
Intan was still mulling over the matter of Morikawa when they arrived at the Headmistress’s office.
The Headmistress seemed to have been listening to the radio, for Intan caught the tail end of a broadcast before it abruptly cut short.
She was dressed all in black as usual, but today no cigar dangled from her lips, and a cup of cold tea sat on her desk, unfinished and forgotten. No servants were in evidence.
“You had better have a good explanation for what transpired earlier this morning.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Rusli, standing stiff and straight. He did not seem surprised that the Headmistress had already caught wind of events. Intan wasn’t either, but she did wonder idly yet again if the Headmistress perhaps was in possession of a third eye. “I’m afraid the rebels –”
“Aghavni. Your report?”
But of course, if she did in fact possess a third eye, there wasn’t much reason for her to ask for explanations, was there? Intan bit back a smile, then launched into a careful recitation of what had happened earlier that morning (leaving out the parts she thought quite unnecessary or irrelevant, especially the bits involving Park).
Just as the Headmistress looked like she was starting to get the biggest headache of her life, Hadil burst into the office with Kikue Sunagawa in tow.
“Sorry excuse me! I couldn’t find the second-years –”
“They are on a mission,” said the Headmistress, reaching for something in her drawer.
“Oh. And… Um… No one’s seen Trieu all day either.”
“Probably got ambushed by girls,” muttered Kikue under her breath. Intan noted with amusement that her long hair looked rumpled and hastily brushed, as if she had just gotten out of bed. She had not thought Kikue a nocturnal type.
Hadil’s cheeks darkened. “I guess I should go now!”
The Headmistress looked up, frowning. “No, stay. You’re old Chief Lean’s granddaughter, aren’t you?”
“I have a few questions to ask you.”
Hadil squirmed, looking as uneasy as a cornered flying squirrel. Intan patted her shoulder.
“What about Trieu?” asked Rusli, suddenly looking anxious again, though for what reason Intan could not quite be certain.
“I will speak to him later.” The Headmistress slammed her desk drawer shut, rattling the cup of tea. Evidently she had not been able to find whatever she was looking for. Both Hadil and Rusli twitched at the sudden noise. Kikue’s eyes narrowed.
“Now. Back to the subject at hand.” The Headmistress turned her sharp gaze to Hadil. “Tell me what you learned about the malfunctioning Dolls.”