Daiyu awoke in a dark room with no furniture besides the chair she was currently sitting on. The chair, she now realized, was tied to by several long coils of rope. She gave the ropes a few hard tugs. Her arms were tied behind her back and her legs were held in place by ropes around her ankles. No matter how she contorted her body, nothing seemed to do much good.
The door in front of her opened and light poured into the room from the hallway. Charlie stood in the doorway with a tray. Atop it sat a couple of small plates filled with food of different kinds. There was also a tall glass of water.
“Release me,” she snarled.
“I plan to,” said Charlie. “But first I need to know that you aren’t going to try and kill us all.”
“Oh, sure, I won’t kill you. Do you believe me?” She was not in the business of trusting people, and she didn’t imagine anyone else should be either.
“I guess that’s a good point,” said Charlie. He reached into his backpack and pulled out a small table, a new recipe he’d gained after leveling up following the fight in the subway. He only noticed upon returning to his room to change out of his wet clothes. He’d gained several recipes but was too caught up in the fight to notice any of them.
Level 4 Unlocked!
New Creations Unlocked
Basic Wooden Table – Four legs, very sturdy.
Large Wooden Table – Six legs, ideal for larger groups and holidays.
Small Animal Housing – A modest home for chickens, rabbits or similarly sized critters.
Small throwing knives (Crafts 3 at a time) – Light and throwable. Good for stealth.
Brick – Can be combined to make walls and fences.
Brick Fence – (Aimed Creation) Good for keeping things in or out.
New Ability Unlocked: Pathways
Use Aimed Recipes to create pathways on the ground or other surfaces.
Note: Ground pathways are much easier to walk on than roof or wall pathways.
New Pathways Unlocked
Short Grass Pathway – The most basic of pathways.
Wooden Pathway – Modest planks good for garden paths.
Brick Pathway – Sturdier pathway for frequently traveled routes.
Charlie realized that he would have to investigate this new ability the following day when it was bright out and they weren’t trying to figure out what to do with the woman who had just attempted to murder them on a moving subway train. He couldn’t help but think that pathways were going to make getting around the garden much easier.
He placed the food tray on the wooden table and circled around behind Daiyu. “I’m going to free one of your hands so you can at least eat,” he said. He realized this might also give her the chance to use some sort of Matrix-level technique to get herself free and kill him, but he wasn’t about to let her starve to death. He reached down and pulled one of the ropes loose in the way that Milo had shown him. Her right hand came free and she immediately grabbed for him, but he had anticipated this and backed up too quickly for her to reach him.
“You’re quick,” she said with what sounded like a bit of humor in her voice.
“I’m really not,” he said. “But I’m also not really in the mood to get choked tonight.” He came around to face her and pulled a second chair from the backpack, which he placed on the floor and then sat down on. For a long moment, they sat in the empty apartment, staring at each other in silence.
“It’s not poisoned,” he said, motioning towards the food.
“That’s what people usually say right before they poison you,” she said.
“You’ve been out cold for hours,” said Charlie. “If we wanted to kill you, we wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of waiting until you woke up to feed you homemade tamales.”
Daiyu looked down to find that one of the plates was indeed covered in unwrapped tamales. She reached out and picked one up, bringing it cautiously to her mouth. She took a small bite, chewed slowly and then swallowed. The gulping sound seemed to echo off the walls. She waited for several minutes, staring daggers into Charlie.
“See?” he said after a while. “Not poison.” With this declaration, she proceeded to scarf down the rest of the tamale. She then picked up another and ate it as well.”
“Seems you’re pretty hungry, even though you didn’t eat much at dinner,” said Charlie.
“I knew he was going to send me after you if you didn’t agree to his terms,” said Daiyu. “And I don’t like to fight on a full stomach.”
“So he did send you?” Charlie asked, as though she had revealed some big secret.
She scoffed. “Of course he sent me, you fool.”
Charlie sat back in the chair. “Why?”
“Why do you think?” she asked, picking up a slice of warm bread from one of the other plates on the tray. “Because you didn’t sell.”
“No, I mean why this building? Why go to all this trouble for it?”
“This building is more valuable than any of you know,” she said.
“Because of the relics?” asked Charlie. “The relics belong to the people who live here. And they would leave with them if we all moved away.”
“The relics are nothing compared to what’s underneath…” she stopped, her expression becoming skeptical as though she had finally said too much.
“The catacombs?” asked Charlie. “This is all about the catacombs? What do you know about it? Is there something down there?”
Daiyu stared into his eyes, as if searching for something. “You tell me,” she said.
The door behind them cracked open again and Juno stepped in, her ukeytar strapped to her back. “Hey,” she said almost in a whisper. “How are you feeling?” To Daiyu was taken aback by Juno’s concern.
“Who wants to know?” asked Daiyu.
Juno smiled like a mother smiling at their child who has just tried to show more attitude then they quite know how to handle. “The person who can heal any wounds or discomforts you might have wants to know,” she said. “Or would you rather just stay in pain so you can keep up this whole brooding in the dark vibe you’ve got going on?”
Daiyu let out a short gasp and swiftly turned her head away. “I’m fine,” she snapped.
“Uh huh,” said Juno walking to the other side of the Daiyu. “From over here you look like a hot mess.”
“How dare you!” snapped Daiyu, turning to face Juno quickly. She winced. Pain shot up her body from the sudden movement.
Juno pulled her ukeytar from her back and fixed it in her hands, prepared to play. “Just sit still for a couple minutes, and I’ll make it so you can snarl in any direction you want, pain-free.”
Daiyu huffed, but didn’t complain as Juno played a soft song like a lullaby. Butterflies emanated from the instrument and flew to lay on various areas of Daiyu’s abdomen, arms, legs and neck. They began to glow, and as they did, Daiyu’s composure noticeably softened as the pain eased from her bruises.
“That’s better,” said Juno as the song ended. She placed a hand on Daiyu’s shoulder. “Right?”
Daiyu waited a long moment before she rolled her eyes. “Yes. It’s better.”
Juno stood and walked over to stand behind Charlie.
“What’s the plan here?” asked Daiyu. “You’re just going to keep me tied up here like a prisoner? Are you going to torture me for information?”
Charlie and Juno stared at her. “No,” said Charlie. “We’re going to let you go. And you can stay here, or you can leave and run back to that monster you’re working for.”
“Why would you do that?” asked Daiyu, who was completely taken aback by this proposal.
Juno placed a hand on Charlie’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
“A week ago—” started Charlie before taking a long breath. “A week ago I was ready to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. But something stopped me. Or, I guess you could say my Grandfather stopped me, in his own way.” Charlie took a few long breaths, as if trying to sort out his thoughts before going on. “Since then, I’ve learned that he was someone who tried to help people, someone who tried to make the world a better place.” He clasped his hands together and then unclasped them. “I didn’t survive that night just to wind up keeping someone prisoner against their will.” He shook his head. “I didn’t survive the worst night of my life just to ruin someone else’s life.” He stood up and moved towards her. “So we’re going to let you go.”
Juno cleared her throat.
“I’m going to let you go,” corrected Charlie. “Despite what everyone else has told me I should do. I’m going to let you go, and you are free to use this room as long as you’d like. Or you can leave. But I would ask that in exchange, you seriously consider breaking things off with your…employer or dad or boyfriend or whatever the hell he is to you.”
Daiyu looked disgusted. “Dad or boyfriend?” The idea made her sick.
“Well I don’t know what you’re relationship is,” said Charlie.
“He saved me,” she said. “That’s all you need to know.”
“Whatever the case,” Charlie continued. “Consider walking away. That man only wants to hurt the people who live here. And these people are good people. They don’t deserve that.”
“You’ve been here a week,” said Daiyu. “You said so yourself. You have no idea what these people deserve.”
“I know they don’t deserve you trying to kill them to get to the catacombs,” he snapped back.
Daiyu started to say something but then closed her mouth.
Charlie nodded, then went behind her and fully untied the rope. After a few short tugs, it fell in a heap to the ground at her feet. She didn’t move. She simply continued to sit there, watching them skeptically.
Charlie and Juno moved towards the door. “I left some blankets in the other room, if you want to try to get some sleep,” said Juno. “And if you’re still here in the morning, there’s more where that came from.” She nodded towards the nearly empty tray of food.
With one last look, Charlie and Juno left the room and closed the door behind them.
“This is so stupid,” growled Milo, who waited for them in the hallway, leaning against the wall with his arms folded.
“I agree,” said Juno. “But I also think it’s our only option. If we let her go, the worst thing she can do is run back to Kemp. If we keep her here, he’s just going to come looking for her eventually anyway. And it’s not like he doesn’t know where we are.”
“It’s out of our hands,” said Charlie. “She’s a person. She gets the choice. We did what we could. We did what my grandfather would have done. Or at least I like to think we did.”
“You did,” said Juno, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Yeah,” said Milo begrudgingly. “As much as I hate to admit it, this is exactly what Arthur would have done.”
“Let’s all get some rest,” said Charlie. They started down the hall. “But just for good measure, maybe everyone should lock their doors?”
“The building won’t let anyone enter an apartment that’s not their own with bad intentions,” said Juno.
“It’s almost like this place is alive,” said Charlie.
“Almost,” said Juno with a wink.
* * *
The next morning. Charlie went to the empty apartment to check on Daiyu only to find the room cold and the window left open. The blankets were untouched and Daiyu was gone.
Apologies for posting so late in the day! This week has been absolutely insane! I always try to write Charlie with the idea that kindness is the most important quality. He is someone who is so down on himself and life, yet he always tries to lead with kindness. This, of course, sometimes leads to him getting hurt because the world is simply not as kind as he wants it to be or treats it. Hopefully his decision to let Daiyu go doesn’t come back to haunt him!