Cutscene: Scars Burn Anew

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The longest night.

It had to be a bad dream. It simply had to be, except it's always dreams you can wake from and never nightmares until they run their course.

This was indeed a nightmare, as she could neither sleep or wake, she could not stop her mind from working and imagining horrors that made her want to crawl into a ball and cry, something that she could not do either.

She will not be part of another self-fulfilling prophecy.

She went off on her own way after leaving the strange building and agreeing that there was nothing to be done before morning, except morning felt like it never would come.

With her eyes open, all that Mai could see was the haze of street lights and fires caused by demons or Nazis, who knows anymore. A city in the grasp of the supernatural, millions at the mercy of the whims of rumors and whatever dark force lies behind that strange phenomenon.

Like cancer, Sumaru City was a risk. Like cancer, it could be fought, or it could be purged before it risked infecting healthy parts of Japan. Mai used to think it could be stopped, perhaps even defeated, but now she felt as broken as her convictions toward this wretched piece of land that stole her friend away from her. This cursed city that awakened the acute pain of loss again, the fear of someone she cared deeply for not making it, never speaking again, never sharing small insignificant moments of every day life or important matters ever again.

It killed her inside to gaze at the city, and yet closing her eyes only turned her mind the other way. She had agreed - advocated for what placed Naomi in this predicament, this 'logical' choice that was born of known data and a combination of fear and a lack of faith in their abilities. In her own abilities. And that 'safe' choice turned out to be the very trap she was played for, they were used and then tossed away. The message from Kyo Enda was like pouring the salt box on the wound and rubbing vigorously, and yet he saved her from despair.

Perhaps someday she will laugh at that, right now she was in no such mood. Kyo Enda turned her mind away from the failure - from the past and made her think of the unspeakable horrors he was visiting upon Naomi Suzuno. It kept Mai in the present, it kept her moving, looking forward, desiring retribution - if not outright revenge. She knew Enda was not the sort to kill quickly, if the Duchess left Naomi in his care they had a bit of time while he would try and break her. Succeed maybe, or fail, the possibilities and factors were too numerous and unknown for her to tell. The one absolute she did know is the Duchess made it clear: Once she is done, Naomi Suzuno will be no more of this world. And she was partially to blame.

It was easy to lose oneself in thoughts of fear, of fault, of powerlessness and self-reprimanding attitude. That's why she had pills now. If the mind was not peaceful enough to rest - and it rarely was, chemicals could 'fix' it, even if it induced a dreamless sleep. It so happened it was her favorite kind of sleep.

To a wretched day

The downside of medicated sleep was that it was hardly restful. Of course, it didn't help that she slept on gravel. The rooftop of the nearest building to that strange temple was in no way comfortable but the price was right and the distance was excellent.

Checking it with daylight would be risky, who knows if Nazis would come by and she could not afford a skirmish, not in her condition. Her body was still unfit after the encounter with the Nazigelion machine thing and the platoon that went with it, a machine she wanted to strike at pretty badly and yet didn't even get a chance between getting shot at and supporting allies. Even telling herself that life is unfair, it left her with a bitter taste and a load of pent up aggression and frustration.

Gathering prints as soon as the sun was just high enough to see what she was doing, she obtained the numbers of the code to the strange door - but not the order. Reading the panel told her that the facility would go in lockdown after a few attempts and with twelve digits, trying one by one was right out. Grim thoughts filled her mind as she left the vicinity, drinking warm water and eating a tasteless energy bar as her breakfast. Twelve digits, thankfully two numbers had no prints so that only left 8 possible ones in 68719476736 possible arrangements. Cutting down on the fact that she could roughly tell which ones were pressed several times and which ones were not lowered that amount some more but it remained a daunting quantity that she was unsure how to tackle. Even a dedicated mainframe would stagger at that amount of cross-referencing possibilities.

Yet she clung to that thread of hope that there had to be a pattern, there HAD to be something to the code beyond random numerals, as if it is then Naomi is dead. If it was truly random, there was no room for hope, there was nothing but bleak despair and a shallow grave in store for someone who only hours ago asked her to be her eyes and ears on the battleground.

She no longer felt the omnipresent dread of the night before, her feelings having dulled to the sort of painful burning sensation one has from a freshly treated wound, reminding that it was not gone just because she wasn't bleeding from it. As she entered the elevator of the Peninsula Hotel, she swiped her access card and -


Well, her luck was steady, unpleasantly so. She would have to ask at a later time why her keycard failed - she had to make sure there WOULD be such a time. She took the elevator as high as the machine would let her go without any special access rights, creating a hole in the elevator ceiling and climbing the remaining floors. The cold steel of the metallic cables hurt her hands, the pain made her blood flow again, and with pain came focus. She needed focus right now, even if it meant breaking in Naomi's own house and having to explain an 'elevator malfunction'. Brief explanations told her of a previous visitor, but clearing the misunderstanding and calling off any alarm was a bigger worry to her than what would have happened. A call to the Master of the House himself in private secured the cooperation she needed and from there, time ceased to matter.

Even as she occasionally caused droplets of water to fall on the plastic of the photograph binders as she looked for clues in the Suzuno albums and documentation, even as her hands quivered, even as day was replaced by night and by day again with only a few hours where she blacked out, Mai searched. When her thoughts wandered to that time she could - should have killed the Duchess even if that would have gotten her arrested, she slapped herself mentally and went back to the job.

And she would search until an answer presented itself or despair made her walk off the roof. There would be no other exit from this disaster that she helped create. Because this was what she could do, and if she can't help save one friend that mattered, one friend she wanted to be with, then why try at all.

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