The Butterfly Dragon II: What Different Eyes See - Act VIII Butterfly Unravels Serpent
The trip to the island destination had been a long one at nearly three hours. Monique had seen the facilities first as they'd approached the island which consisted of an enclosed business and residential community that bordered the industrial center of Cora Hau. The island itself appeared large on approach though it was small enough that it did not have a full sized international airport. Instead the entire workforce had been ferried or flown in along with their families to where they lived and worked on the island. The facility appeared much like a small city having futuristic residences and a modern storefront throughout the residential zone while the administrative zone had two distinctive lowrise "sky scrapers", both of which towered over the facility. A bit further south was the industrial complex which housed the site of Future Tangent's chemical and pharmacological production facility.
The helicopter landing pad and docking facilities were both isolated from the main facility which Monique assumed was part of the security in measure. After all, the arrival and departure points on Cora Hau were their border. That would be the front line for any corporate spies trying to make their way inland and to the facilities such as they were. Despite the potential risks ahead Monique remained confident that it wasn't anything that she couldn't handle as The Eclipse, especially with The Butterfly Dragon backing her.
Heylyn on the other hand had appeared asleep though was in deep meditation. She had gone over Weltherwithsp's riddles several times in her head though she'd come no closer to unraveling the mystery. Who were the attackers at the Forbidden City? Who was pulling the strings behind their mishaps throughout the delegation's mission. As much as there were elements sabotaging this mission, there was something or someone secretly protecting them. Just as mysterious as those setting about the demise of the delegation.
This continued to concern her as she'd never had this much difficulty in deciphering Weltherwithsp's prose or metaphor. The dragon has always left a trail which she could follow directly to the solution, given enough time and patience. In this case there were still too many unknowns. She pondered the fact that Mr. Zek's reach was far and that during their investigation of Treadwater Island, that he'd likely known about them every step of the way. Yet during their effort they'd had not even the slightest clue as to the nature of that beast. A man who's tendrils had entwined and tangled every major player in world power, playing them like chess pieces in his blackmail empire. To know a mans secrets is to control him. A difficult lesson Heylyn had learned in the aftermath of the collapse of his empire.
With his arrest and pretrial bail hearings, women and men of politics and world power from all over started to come clean on their own secrets, perhaps anticipating Mr. Zek's defense in which he'd attempt to puppeteer them into protecting him with the threat of releasing their secrets to the public. These people had instead chosen to redeem themselves by taking the power of those secrets away from him. With those private matters known and made public, Mr. Zek's power dwindled very rapidly and the public very quickly forgave and forgot about them. Instead they had focused on Mr. Zek, fully understanding what he had done to achieve his own power. Like a backstage power broker, he had at one time literally controlled the entire planet. Successfully achieving what even the most dastardly of Ian Fleming villains could not do. Alomera Zek and his entire empire was powered by nothing more than the secrets of others. He was brought to his knees by four very courageous women and a handful of dedicated men.
Surely with Mr. Zek behind bars in a South American prison and that country's economy being on an upswing thanks to supportive infrastructure investment by the world bank, he surely couldn't influence world events or policy. His capacity would be severely limited despite being idolized by those with whom he was imprisoned. She trusted the system and the people employed within to do the right thing, never really questioning the fact that some people, even those employed within, saw the system as the wrong thing.
She considered that Weltherwithsp was slowly trying to introduce her to the fact that the world wasn't all flowers and friendly fauna like the field. After all, how many times has a loss of innocence destroyed faith in life and humanity. Perhaps the greatest crime of all was a child's journey into adulthood, yet responsibility and self realization require it of us all. She doubted that Weltherwithsp would do anything so presumptuous. The dragon had its reasons for its retention of mystery. She took this as a healthy challenge. During her meditation and thoughts she heard distant voices and slowly she regained consciousness.
"You're awake. I thought I was going to have to nudge you." Monique turned her attention away from the window to Heylyn.
"And would there have been a problem if you'd had to?" Heylyn asked still returning from her meditative state.
"Not really, but I'd still get a little edgy over having to wake up my boss in a helicopter every once in a while. Maybe its a bit cliché but I'd think of it as healthy caution. Self preservation even." Monique replied sarcastically.
"Job security?" Heylyn confirmed holding a straight face.
"Exactly." Monique responded still unsure if Heylyn was being serious or not.
"Speaking of work, we've got a job to do. Let's get to it. Remember, be confident. We're powerful. We have money to invest. We're their customers. Investment is what makes operations like these possible and they definitely want our money." Heylyn gave her some last minute advice for their roles as investment bankers.
"I know my part and I'm good with it. I think after having room full of investors gawk at my body on the runway during a fashion show that it should be no time before I have them eating out of the palm of my hand. Besides, this is a fun way to wear the shoe on the other foot." Monique said standing tall and with poise.
"That's the spirit!" Heylyn stood from her seat carefully stepping towards the large bay door as it opened.
One of the ground crew lined up a portable escalator to the helicopter. Heylyn and Monique made their way to the tarmac where they joined another group of recent arrivals.
A well dressed man in his mid to late thirties stepped forward to address the group.
"Welcome to Cora Hau, Future Tangent Industries' latest production facility located in the South Pacific for the ever growing medical industry of Southeast Asia. Our facilities here are the most advanced of their kind in the world and we're very anxious to give you the kind of tour that you deserve as a potential partner. I'll be your host, Mr. Rourke. Welcome to fantasy island." the sales executive delivered his introduction flawlessly as the group chuckled at his reference to the iconic show of the eighties.
"Hmmm. Charismatic." Monique commented.
"They usually are. Moments like these are for what they're employed. I'd hire him." Heylyn leaned closer to Monique.
"Wasn't Mister Rourke someone from a television show that my parents used to watch?" Monique asked Heylyn.
"Yes. On an island as well. He was the enigmatic host and had a trusted reputation amongst the television audience. Something of which I'm sure this Cora Hau Mr. Rourke is taking advantage." Heylyn replied.
"I'll bet that's why they hired this guy as the tour guide. I mean they're borrowing Mr. Rourke's good reputation from that television show, knowing that many of the investors might have had parents who watched it. Building a bridge of trust by association. Does that mean they'll think I'm Tattoo if I keep calling you boss?" Monique observed skeptically.
"He was French too wasn't he? but I'll bet that he probably didn't look half as good in a dress as you do, however he was a great actor and helped to break the cliche for height impaired thespians. I'd suggest you keep the use of boss to a minium though. Mr. Rourke here might think we're mocking him." Heylyn replied holding her giggles.
"I suppose it could have been worse. He could have used the name Doctor Moreau." Monique continued barely able to keep herself from laughter.
"Or Mr. Zek..." Heylyn added which instantly brought them back to seriousness.
"What is it with ego maniacal guys and islands?" Monique asked Heylyn.
"I'm not sure. Maybe Mick Jagger or John Travolta might have an answer." Heylyn replied.
"Before we get started I must ask for your patience and consideration as we require a substantial security check before you gain access to the facilities on Cora Hau. Each of these checkpoints will require an accompanying test to validate your identity. The whole process will take about one half hour during which time Future Tangent Industries will give you access to their finest catering just to ease the experience. If you will follow me this way we'll get started." Mr. Rourke directed the six accompanying Security Specialists who led the group to a bus where they each took a seat for their short trip to the Security Bay.
Heylyn and Monique followed the group into the first security check point, where they submitted the (false) identification Werner had prepared for them. Beyond the security gate there was a long corridor which opened up into a glass foyer. Several catering tables were scattered about the room, the sun shining in through the glass ceiling. Mild drinks were also served to ease the discomfort any of these potential investors might have about being detained for this security check.
"A bit of overkill on the security isn't it?" Heylyn risked speaking aloud directing her statement towards the security personnel who all wore fine suits and ties.
They appeared to be more suited to a boardroom than the security detail required here. One of the more astute of the security team noted Heylyn's disdain with the measures being taken and spoke to Mr. Rourke. He thanked the security team member and immediately made his way over to where Heylyn was seated beside Monique.
"M'aam, I'm sorry but is there a problem? Please speak freely. We're here to discuss anything that might make you uncomfortable about this process." he asked her politely.
"As a matter of fact I am. I mean this is a manufacturer if I am not mistaken. Why the added security? Are you manufacturing something that you shouldn't be that might put our investment in legal hot water in other parts of the world?" she addressed him directly, keeping her eyes on his.
"M'aam, we are manufacturing state of the art pharmaceuticals. Our process is a closely guarded trade secret and one we're not about to hand to any of our competitors." Mr. Rourke replied.
"By competitors I take it you mean Tynan And Associates? Don't they already have their own closely guarded secret? I mean that's one of the reasons they've invested enormous amounts of money for regional consultancy and their delegation. We were led to believe that your breakthrough was to be in its own market segment and without competition." Heylyn spoke putting the vice to Mr. Rourke.
"The market for our product is much different than theirs for the SY349 program. East Asia is receptive to our solution and we have strong support amongst the Asian Alliance from insiders. Tynan And Associates require first to convince the Asian Alliance to vote as to whether to overturn their prior decision to keep Tynan And Associates products out of East Asia for risk of having their traditions stampeded by Western Venture Capital, which ultimately would milk their local economy while having little return for them locally. So should the Asian Alliance choose to overturn their prior decision, they would still require a complete vote where all members with veto power vote in favor or unanimously in support of SY349 in East Asia. Without all of this, their delegation is just blowing air." Mr. Rourke explained his understanding to Heylyn.
"What I understood is that the vote is for the creation of a fund that will pay for their treatment so that regardless of income levels and differences, the treatment will be available to all." Heylyn corrected Mr. Rourke.
"M'aam, I can only assure you that from our inside sources that the Asian Alliance vote will not pass. They in turn will vote in favor of our product which will be put forth at their next quarterly meeting. We have all the bases covered. I can assure you of that. Your investment here will have one of the highest returns in this industry and you'll be looking at a marketplace of customers that make up two thirds of the population of the world. We're in business for the money. The security check will be complete in another five minutes after which you may tour the facility. If you'll excuse me I have other people to attend to." Mr. Rourke spoke appealing to her sense of business and investment and more importantly the bottom line.
He then left making his way over to one of the other investors offering his hand and a smile, neither in any form of sincerity.
"He certainly has his spiel well rehearsed and ready. So they're going to attempt to prevent the vote from going through on the inside, while a few months later they'll present their own product attempting to open up the same market. Only this time they'll have insiders with veto power able to force the vote in their favor, keeping Tynan and Associates out of the fold, and charging market driven prices for their version of the same medicine." Heylyn addressed Monique.
"But he said their product won't be competing with any other on the market?" Monique reminded her.
"That's because the closest competing product will have been blocked from the marketplace by the Asian Alliance vote. The SY349. We need to find out more about their product, and we also need to find out more about George Steadman and his connection to this scheme." Heylyn explained to Monique.
Their conversation was interrupted by an announcement from Mr. Rourke.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the security check is completed. If you'd like to proceed through to the next checkpoint we'll be on our way to tour the facility and discuss investment options." Mr. Rourke gestured towards the entry gate.
"We're in. Let's go." Heylyn advised Monique.
"Gotcha Bo... errr... forget it. I'm keeping my eyes open for their main data trunk. That should lead us to a place where I can get at their files from a terminal." Monique told Heylyn.\
"Just let me know when you need a distraction and an opening." Heylyn reminded her.
They proceeded through the gate into the factory and work colony. Mr. Rourke had signaled some of his security team to keep a close eye on Heylyn. He couldn't quite place it but there was something very suspicious about her.
Heylyn's senses suddenly came to life with his suspicion, and she detected the increased heart rate of several of the security team members.
"Be careful. They're suspicious." Heylyn warned Monique as they proceeded through the tour.
Life In Tokyo
Alicia slept soundly oblivious as to where she was or what she was doing there. She remembered parting ways with Heylyn and thought about their last day at school together. It was a half day for them and it would be the last time they'd see each other for nearly twelve years. Alicia was still reeling from the success of their Graduation Dance where for the first time in her life she'd been an object of adoration rather than the target of bullying. Her sensibilities kept her on guard while she accepted this new feeling that maybe the world had finally accepted her for who she was. Maybe she was looking for friendship from the wrong people? Seeking approval where none was available to be shared with her. From people whose sense of confidence relied upon a constant audience of people with no sense of independence at all. Too afraid to have a different opinion in case they might suddenly become the target of group vehemence.
There she was. The class brain. The smart chubby girl that nobody had liked, yet everyone in the school had stood up for her and Heylyn when the chips were down. The real bullies had been unmasked and were likely dealing with the repercussions of their choices. Alicia had not wished them ill, after all she'd only wanted peace in order to pursue her life and dreams. To become an inventor. A Doctor? Maybe a lab researcher? Doors that had been closed for her because of her social situation in school. With that Graduation Dance, those doors had suddenly been flung open revealing all of their possibilities to her in one big bright ball. If the world was in fact her oyster, then her future surely must have been the pearl. A pearl which she might never have seen had not she been approached by Heylyn on that fateful day. The day they'd made an agreement to help each other. Alicia would tutor Heylyn attempting to bring Heylyn's grades up in her mandatory subjects required for schooling in Fashion Design, while Heylyn would design and make Alicia's Graduation Dress. In the end it had worked out for both of them, opening their mutual destiny. A destiny that would have to wait another twelve years from that last fateful day of school.
They'd bid each other farewell, leaving as if they'd see each other again the following day but that day never happened. As life became more busy and complicated, they eventually resigned themselves to their chosen paths. One day they might meet again and speak of old times. Each had pursued their personal obsession to their own success as their memories of each other had faded with time.
"It seems that you long for that which you've felt too strongly to deny, though you've tried." a distant and familiar voice spoke in Alicia's head.
She awoke in the field. Heylyn's field but this was not Heylyn's dream. There the serpent coiled its wings spread majestically over her. Its face descended from the heights held aloft by its long neck.
"Who are you? What do you do? With words so few I doubt you're..." the dragon addressed her.
"Do you always speak in such riddles?" Alicia interrupted.
"As often as not though less I've wrought in words and rhyme save not this time..." Weltherwithsp addressed her with an answer.
"Where's Heylyn?" Alicia looked around feeling out of place in this strange land.
"She's indisposed to the questions you've posed. What counts is that you're here and that much is clear and for a purpose no less than any I suppose. Your curiosity grows?" Weltherwithsp answered her question shifting its body and uncoiling to surround her.
"You're making me nervous and to tell you the truth, you're kind of creepy." Alicia responded to the Dragon recoiling slightly.
"You're making you as such for I could never do that much. You've built up ideas from what you've read about my kind and that being said leads not to knowledge but presumption, a closed mind and heart but no conjunction there between. Were I to make assumptions about blond hair, you'd be much less a mindful flair..." Weltherwithsp backed off crossing its arms and looking to her one of its brows furrowed.
"I take it this... has a purpose?" Alicia asked Weltherwithsp.
"No less than yourself." Weltherwithsp assured her as it towered above her extending both its wings to full breadth and standing on its hind legs.
"So we're here for my purpose? The delegation? Where are we now?" Alicia asked looking around for some signs of familiarity.
"We're in the field a mystery. You're in the land of perpetual dichotomy a dualistic battle whose peace dare not reproach war whose wounds are healed by sharpened sword. The field of battle or the field dreams? Some might think that the answer is to choose carefully, but I digress as it is neither for doing so will make thee seeth without end..." the Dragon dropped its head closer to hers, letting out a small breath of air from its nostrils from which a multi-coloured zephyr diffused the moon light.
"Is that a cloaked reference to Japan?" Alicia asked slowly piecing Weltherwithsp's rhyme together.
"Precisely! Where you are and now do you recall why lest I sigh impatiently?" Weltherwithsp asked her.
"The Delegation?" Alicia answered and paused waiting for his approval.
"There's deceit and deception from above though no recollection with the danger be possessed of until confronted and redressed. Perhaps all that is bad is good? May be it is that all that is wrong is right? A way through which you'll have to find your own light..." Weltherwithsp backed up and then leapt into the air its tremendous wings brushing up wind around Alicia.
"Future Tangent's contact in the Japanese Councillors? But how is it that what he's doing is good if its bad?" Alicia asked demanding an answer.
It was obvious that Alicia had far less patience for Weltherwithsp's mysteries than did Heylyn though Alicia's was far greater than that of Valerie who'd have nothing to do with its shenanigans at all.
"You've already taken the step of which I warned you... You'll need to consider more than right or wrong though you've already come so far and so long..." Weltherwithsp flew higher and higher until it was gone.
Field and all had disappeared only to be replaced by the digital blaring of her ringing smartphone.
"Alicia speaking." Alicia answered.
"I've been calling you for half an hour. Is everything alright?" Valerie confirmed with Alicia.
"I'm fine. Just needed a bit more sleep. Is it morning?" Alicia asked.
"No. It's just before Six. Hiroyuki has offered to take us for a stroll in the downtown. Bryce is coming. So are Doctor Briggs and Zheng. I'm still trying to get Katya and Victor. Would you be interested? I think it would be fun, not to mention give us a heads up before tomorrow's meeting." Valerie asked Alicia.
"Alright. I just need a few minutes to get ready." Alicia rubbed her eyes.
"Its ok. We've got forty five minutes until he gets here. We'll meet you in the front lobby. Bye." Valerie spoke quickly hanging up the phone.
"Bye." Alicia answered to a dead line.
An hour later she stepped off the elevator still deeply pondering what Weltherwithsp had told her in her dream. She suddenly had the urge to call Heylyn but quickly changed her mind given the circumstances. Heylyn and Monique would likely be readying themselves for dinner and were probably deep in their roles as Investment Bankers. Heylyn was the only person that could bring insight to Weltherwithsp's riddle yet she knew that she must figure it out for herself.
"You finally decided to join us? I was beginning to think that I'd be stuck bantering with Doctor Briggs all night." Bryce commented as Alicia approached.
"The night is still young, Bryce. Don't consider yourself off the hook by a longshot. I still owe you another ear full." Doctor Briggs retorted.
"I'd hate to disappoint you Bryce." Alicia said arriving at their gathering.
"I hope that you're prepared to do a little walking tonight?" Hiroyuki asked Alicia bowing to her formally as he approached.
"I think that I could handle that, as long as we get to see a bit of the night life here." Alicia replied returning his bow.
"Now we're sure to be labeled as tourists..." Bryce responded looking at Hiroyuki and Alicia.
"We are tourists." Zheng responded.
"Tourists with a purpose." Doctor Briggs put his arm around Zheng.
"Correction. You are guests. That concept is much different here in Japan. That puts great responsibility upon my shoulders. You must be prepared to have a different understanding of social structure and etiquette than what you're likely used to. While in China they may have been silent on matters of tradition and etiquette. Here there are many of us who hang onto our traditions for they link us to who we are and from where we came. Let us begin our journey." Hiroyuki replied leading the group down the sidewalk and out onto one of the main streets of downtown Tokyo.
"As opposed to?..." Katya asked Hiroyuki.
"As opposed to the ever growing Westernization of Japan. The younger generations embrace what they see of the West. Their impressions of it through media. Perhaps a much less traditional point of view where it involves hierarchy, order and honor." Hiroyuki explained.
"And that puts you where?" asked Doctor Briggs.
"I work for one of the biggest cosmetic companies in Japan. Our company's history is a long one stretching back far into our past, though not always as a company or corporation but rather as a clan. I am honored to carry on that tradition yet I welcome what insight the younger generation brings. However I see it as being important not to uproot the wisdom upon which the foundation is built. The youth have more vigor but less experience while the elderly have it the other way. We must take the benefit of each and work together to make Japan better for the future." Hiroyuki explained as they turned onto a traffic filled street where the pedestrians still dwindled though in ever growing numbers.
"But I thought that Japan thrived on that dichotomy? The conflict of two opposing forces? Is not that what Japan's social and life philosophy is built upon?" Alicia jumped into the conversation right on cue.
"That is a common misinterpretation of the East by foreigners. They see the Yin Yang symbol of China and immediately imagine an everlasting conflict where the people are always divided. In Japan it is the same. Many new tourists who've heard of love and hate or other expressions of the opposing forces and they immediately think that everyone in Japan is bound by this eidos, to use a suited Greek term to describe what I'm saying." Hiroyuki explained perhaps sounding a bit relieved to bite into meaningful discussion of Japan.
"Are you saying that is a fabrication by the West who misinterpret Eastern philosophies?" Alicia responded with a question.
"No. Not so much as it is a misunderstanding that became part of the cultural and tourist marketing of the East. It seems to have really clung to Japan. Yes, this aspect is an important part of our culture, but what is overlooked is that there is a social structure that gives it form. It is not merely the chaos of two forces rampantly tearing at one another until nothing exists. In Japan you might mix two different points of view, each held by a different person however there is social etiquette that is far more prevailing than what you'd see in the West that contains that conflict. Honour. That means much more than you would likely be aware though as Japanese society grows into the future, that impact becomes less and less, and so does the conflict of dualism. In Japanese society, they exist hand in hand. In a sense, you could say that they are two opposing forces. It is honour that keeps us bound to social structure, family, order while it is the duality of conflict that brings about chaos and divides us. That is the only side that the West has ever really delved into when trying to understand the East. Perhaps it was of great marketing value in earlier times, but now without having a balancing context such as honour and a code of conduct, it has become dangerous and yet bland and without form. Not even a mirrored reflection of order but just sheer cacophony perpetuated by a chorus of fools whose ignorance speaks far more about them than their own folly, and I remind you that I'm being objective." Hiroyuki tried his best to give the concept a context to their understanding.
"You don't need to convince me. I understand perfectly and there are those who likely want to undermine that mystique of the East by doing as much. Best described as addicts of radical extremes. You've obviously heard much of the Feudal Era have you not? Studied it in your history classes?" Doctor Briggs asked Alicia.
"You mean like the Samurai? The Shoguns? They were kind of like the Dark Ages were they not?" Alicia confirmed with Doctor Briggs.
"In the context of what Hiroyuki was saying, they would be the dualistic chaos where honour, code of conduct and order has lost our in favor of this resounding chaos. Different clans with different ethics while still retaining a reflection of what had been in terms of their code of honour. Meanwhile the people, the real power had just wanted peace to raise their families, grow their crops and pay for their rental of the Clan leader's lands. This unrest resulted in uprisings and attempts to overthrow the powers that be at that time, and the Samurai initially became the storm troopers of the Shogunate. They enforced the will (not law) of the Clan leader. As the people gained more power and support, this focus shifted and Japan sought a true Emperor to unify the people to protect their interests from a new breed of warlord. It was from that time that the Samurai became representatives of a formalized law and code of ethics which not only protected the upper class, but protected the people as well. This is when the Samurai truly became the purveyors of this code and had departed from their battlefield savagery of beheadings for the purposes of increasing their kill count on the battlefield." Doctor Briggs explained without getting too far into detail.
"Yes. When the chaos of warfare reigns, the tears of order fall in the form of bloodshed. In other words this code had not only to represent the land owners but had to represent the people and the greater good. Honour is nothing without a code of conduct. Honour and a code is nothing without order. Honor, a code and order is nothing without the people. This understanding is one way for Japan and is an important part of our history. It is much different in China. In Korea there are other factors to their foundation in regards to this very dichotomy, that our peoples have fought bitter wars over in the past. So the conflict of dualism is nothing but chaos when it lacks context and form to balance it." Hiroyuki finished.
"Aren't there other ideologies that exploit that dichotomy? Extremist dualism? Dualism merely for the point of dualism?" Alicia asked to the first that could answer her question.
"That sounds like its right up your alley Doctor Briggs." Bryce responded.
"I guess then I'll take it but this is a very difficult subject and vulnerable to confabulation. To answer your question, there are in fact many different forms of the same dichotomy in a variety of different systems of belief the world over. Probably the most notable would be associated with the Greek philosopher Empedocles and his notable philosophy in that vein would be known as Love and Strife. A similar world view. An iconoclastic group can achieve godly powers by exploiting any dichotomy of extreme opposites by using two groups, one to represent each opposing side and then to engage in emotional and sometimes physical conflict with the other group. Apparently this imbues the two groups with a connection and unique abilities that characterize the mythos associated with the philosophies of Empedocles and which may be the foundation of Gnostic dualism. Likewise, another ancient Mystic known as Hermes Trismegistus was purported to have carried a similar philosophy into ancient Egypt. Note the name of the Greek God Hermes who is the messenger of the Gods, whose image was later taken by Rome and adopted as Mercury. Hermes' philosophy is found in a mysterious text called the Kybalion, which was first published in Chigago around 1910 by the Three Initiates at a strangely absent publishing company. Its origins before that time are difficult to trace. It too outlines a dualistic regime referred to as The All, upon which the foundation for a form of mysticism known as Mentalism and at least one school of Hermeticism is built. In this interpretation of dualism, it states that two opposing paradigms are in fact the same thing, only different by the degree that they extend from some imaginary balancing point in their respective center. That concept is known as Polarity. This form of dualism also states that everything follows its own cycle between two differing opposites and that one can learn to predict or even impart this timing by understanding what is referred to as the rhythm." Doctor Briggs paused to take a sip of his bottled water before continuing as the others listened intently.
"One who has understood this to its fullest could be said to be a Master having control over causality to some degree which is more likely clever marketing by people supporting such ideologies. So this philosophy and possibly Love and Strife were carried by a real person to ancient Egypt where it was adopted later as part of the Coptic branch of religions. It is also rumored to have been developed as an opposition to or the poor man's version of the Kabbalah which of course is an ancient form of Jewish mysticism that was feared by the Egyptians. Kabbalah has little to do with dualism if in fact anything and is more about creating a harmonious existence within the Tree of Life, which in Hebrew really means knowledge. The Kabbalah is not involved in any similar misuse as these other forms of extreme dualism. The most notable use of dualism may have been in the 1960s and 1970s whereby many Women approached their Doctors having symptoms of extreme emotions which would likely be diagnosed as Bipolar disorder nowadays. It is thought in some circles, especially in Psychoanalysis that these Women had in fact become victims of groups who'd learned to use the teachings of extreme dualism as a means to manipulate or even attempt to control them, though nothing has ever been proven to that degree. Instead once again it was left to the medical industry to come up with a solution to help these Women. Their solution was to use Valium to treat these Women, as it limited responses to nervous system stimuli associated with anxiety while dulling them emotionally and with regard to their natural hormone production." Doctor Briggs took another sip of his water, and Zheng's hand tightened around his.
"The pharmaceutical companies were then accused of a conspiracy to get Women hooked on these pharmaceuticals by the very people purported to have orchestrated these attacks against Women using extreme forms of dualism. So the public naturally turned against the companies trying to help these Women and the Doctors prescribing these pharmaceuticals. The Women who didn't take the prescriptions however suffered a much worse fate than those who did, often ending in confinement or even suicide. I personally believe that the people doing this to those Women knew the pharmaceuticals were protecting the Women from these attacks, and wanted to keep other Women away from the same protection. Most of the groups who follow these forms of extremist dualism are opposed to pharmacology in general which I think is no small coincidence but that's my personal rather than professional opinion. Worse is that the people who do these kinds of things have a tendency to remember the exact opposite of the truth. So when asked to act as witnesses to such events, they don't consider it lying to retell the story in its exact opposite context. So they'd naturally remember themselves as supporting pharmacology and the victims as being against it and so on. I hope that answers your question. The fallout from situations like this affected the perception of East Asian forms of dualism negatively and ideologies using extreme dualism even attempted to blame East Asian philosophies. Meanwhile, the culprit was likely right in their own backyard. Its a confusing topic and one seldom discussed. I hope I've given you some clarity on the matter." Doctor Briggs took a much needed breath.
"Thematically speaking, domination and subservience is a common theme that one can find in many forms throughout Japan. It is certainly an aspect of social interaction between couples, each finding roles on either side of that fence, both Women and Men. I don't think that you'd ever find it to the degree to which Doctor Briggs refers and certainly not beyond the many forms of play of which couples might engage in Japan. Consent is of the highest importance. If it were not, then there certainly would be a decided absence of Love Hotels here. We have a much different approach to that aspect of our love lives than you'll likely find in the West." Hiroyuki commented somewhat uncomfortably.
"I certainly was not speaking of anything to do with China or Japan's approach to love and consent. I think that it is clear by the good treatment of Women and their rights in both countries. I think you'll find many forms of social play in Western society as well, though on a more personal level though I think that the internet has likely opened up the doors to casual social experience between people who are unfamiliar much more recently. I'm still of the old school. I prefer to find and stick with a person to whom I dedicate myself and where the feeling is mutual." Doctor Briggs looked over to Zheng.
"Were you rehearsing that?" Zheng asked Doctor Briggs.
"No. Well, maybe I was thinking about you in saying it. As for dualism, this topic though was part of my thesis in which I tried to differentiate between different forms of dualism and how some have been misused to great damage upon society at various times, both by the people and sometimes by the leaders. I think that this is really where what Hiroyuki said comes into play about the West not fully understanding how the Far East understand dualism and its structure within their culture. In some cases too, this form of dualism is combined with a blood centric approach to sorting people out. This is rumored to have been xenophobic measures enacted by early leaders or theologians who opposed inter-cultural breeding between civilizations and different cultures where it was not appropriated by leadership for diplomatic purposes. So when the extremist dualism broke down socially, it fell back into the lap of a blood centered approach to control the intermingling of peoples. In this way, the leadership and the clergy could control how the people of different cultures interacted and hence immigration. That was the conclusion of my thesis." Doctor Briggs posed.
"We have the tendency in society to sort each other out into categories that make it easier to deal with similar people and similar problems. If two groups of people have differences, they need the support of other people if they're going to win in terms of the conflict brought about by those differences. In order to gain the support of other people, wouldn't it therefore be better if you could make your opposition out to be the hateful side, while your side is the loving side? I mean if using this form of dualism one could push the other side to behave in ways that make them appear to be the wrong side by pushing them to harsh reaction then you've already won. I mean if your opposition is the hateful and despicable side of the fence, then you've already gained the support of the public without even having to explain your side because most will make the assumption that if someone reacts in anger or hate, that they are automatically the wrong side. So naturally using this form of abusive dualism might be a means to ease the victory in such conflicts to be won by gaining the upper hand in public opinion just by getting the right hostile reaction from the other side at a key moment in shaping public opinion." Bryce added to Doctor Briggs position.
"That is not how Japan operates nor is it what you might see in China as well with Yin Yang. Our philosophies are not founded upon a show of hands after skirmishing one's enemies to reaction, hostility or attack. The competitive differences founded in Japan are founded in principles whose concepts oppose each other with validity. When such situations arise they are decided upon in principle, not rhetoric and skirmishing one's opposition in hopes of getting your opposition to misbehave. Out of such means as what you speak chaos arises and from such chaos often comes violence and escalation. To lower ourselves to such means says more about us for using such tactics than it does about those who'd befall their misuse. This is deceitful and dishonorable for if we tactically knew to use this as a strategy, then we've truly failed that for what we deem to stand. This is not the way of order or balance or even completeness nor is it with honour. If my workforce operated competitively in such means with other producers of cosmetics in Japan, they would bring much dishonor to our company and firm and this would translate to bad sales and a loss of jobs and declining economy. For if our product could not stand on its own merit, then why would we need to lower ourselves to such schemes to compete? Chances are that those who do lower themselves to do as much have already lost." Hiroyuki seemed once again impatient and slightly uncomfortable with the discussion though Doctor Briggs and Bryce more correctly reasoned that Hiroyuki was a man of principle and of steadfast ground in these matters.
Alicia listened carefully and had finally put together what Weltherwithsp had been trying to explain in her dream. The Ancient Dragon had uncovered an aspect that Future Tangent Industries were likely preying upon to further their goals in the Far East. She knew that they must get more information about the insider Future Tangent had in the Japanese House Of Councillors.
"Thank you! I appreciate that answer so much!" Alicia wrapped her arms around Doctor Briggs giving him a big kiss on the cheek.
"Where's mine?" Bryce asked.
"And mine?" Hiroyuki joked.
Alicia leaned over and gave Hiroyuki a peck on the cheek which made him blush slightly.
"Do I get one?" Zheng finished.
"Now that we've had a thorough lesson on the politics of love and hate, what is all of this magnificent scenery that we're missing?" Victor broke his silence, his hand still firmly clasped by Katya's.
"Just around the corner here is one of the older Shinto Shrines in Tokyo. It is a beautiful place and much like most such Shrines their lands and structures are protected. An important part of Japanese history and culture. Certainly Japan's own indigenous religion." Hiroyuki pointed the way up an inlaid brick path to the Temple.
"Is Shintoism the prevalent religion in Japan?" Katya asked Hiroyuki.
"Not really. There is much support for Shintoism which is connected with the Imperial Throne. Shintoism is more of a state tradition though there are likely many elderly folk who'd argue that its more than just tradition." Hiroyuki continued to speak.
"Is it connected with the Throne?" Victor asked.
"Well, it offers the ground work for the justification of the Imperial Throne in the first place, so it is of importance to our tradition. Since the Meiji Constitution, Japan instituted the freedom of religion. There were already a number of religions practiced in Japan, such as Buddhism and Christianity." he answered Victor as best he could.
"I thought they were outlawed religions here?" Alicia asked with sudden interest.
"It was a bumpy ride for most inbound beliefs and as such both Buddhism and Christianity had a rough ride in their early times here. Both had different schools of tradition and belief from what one may have found in other countries. For instance the Ikkō-ikki tradition of Buddhism is one that most people would have readily avoided during the feudal era as it was quite aggressive and militant. A very zealous and aggressive means of spreading this religion and its ideas regarding salvation resulted in it being regarded shrewdly by many Japanese in the southern reaches of Honshu. Christianity on the other hand developed more covertly and largely existed underground as a result of the Portuguese allowing the passage of Jesuits into Japan through ports in the south such as the Nagasaki region. Christianity itself was pushed underground and early Christians kept their numbers hidden with secret codes and special mirrors which could be used to signal one another to their presence. The more common form of Buddhism spread quickly coming in from both Korea and China, some of it being interpreted by early Shintoists and Tengriists and developing into Zen Buddhism." Hiroyuki led them up the path into the red wooden structure of the Shrine.
"So there was immigration into Japan at some point? I always assumed that my fellow neighbours had been isolationists until very recently." Zheng asked.
"Europeans were often here for trade in the post isolationist era somewhere during the mid 1500s. I really can't remember that well for certain however there is an interesting fact with regard to the effects of trade in Japan and perhaps how it helped to change the position of power of the Burakumin of Japan." Hiroyuki explained once again a little bit hesitantly.
"I've heard of the Burakumin. They're social outcasts are they not? Does that still occur even in modern Japan?" Doctor Briggs asked already knowing the answer to his question instead wishing for Hiroyuki to explain this concept to the other delegation members.
"The topic brings shame, but by facing this shame perhaps we will grow. I can only do my part if I tell you of the Burakumin, though there are some in Japanese society that if they knew of me speaking to you of this, it would bring me great kegare." Hiroyuki tried to explain only drawing serious curiosity from the group.
"What is kegare?" Alicia asked.
"May I?" Doctor Briggs asked Hiroyuki for permission to field Alicia's question.
"Please do Doctor. It would spare me greatly." Hiroyuki answered.
"Kegare refers to an unseen force, which has an accountable social measure, much like the concept of Karma though Kegare refers only to bad Karma. The kind of Karma that might result from causing harm to a living creature or one who must tend to the dead perhaps through their means to a living and existence. It could be regarded as a taint to one's spirit." Doctor Briggs answered Alicia.
"Very well put Doctor Briggs." Hiroyuki responded.
"So what does this have to do with the Burakumin?" she continued digging further in the mystery.
Doctor Briggs nodded to Hiroyuki in acknowledgement of some quiet piece of information that had passed between them.
"The Burakumin are literally the tainted. They were regarded as a sub-human population of tainted descent. Of lowlife quality. Criminal and vagrant. As such they historically have been mistreated and discriminated against from the feudal era of Japan onward. It has only been in recent times that this has been redressed in hopes of positive change for them. Nowadays they can live freely without such troubles but it was not always that way. It is this discrimination that actually led to much of the very unlawful activities that the authorities sought to control. This often resulted in the loss of taxes for the tax collectors as monies spent on illegal activities would be circulated into the underground economy. The most notable of these is the proceeds from gambling." Hiroyuki explained.
"So their taint is nothing more than the fact that they gamble?" Alicia asked in amazement.
"No. Not at all. Underground gambling was a side effect of the complete disregard extended towards these people. They were poor. They had no means to make money other than the jobs for which kegare was a risk for those such as undertakers, butchers, tanners and anyone who dealt with death and the dead. So there were few career options for such people. When European traders brought Jesuits to Japan, their porters brought playing cards with them and a card game which many sailors played. These sailors taught the game to the indigenous Japanese many of whom were Burakumin. Before long the Burakumin were using these card games and founding gambling houses where they'd make much money. More than the Burakumin had ever had access. The ruling class tried many times to put a stop to this gambling by outlawing cards with certain pictures on them. The Burakumin would then make new cards with different pictures and the gambling houses would once again thrive. It is interesting to note that the Jesuits brought gambling to the Burakumin, despite the Sinful regard they had for gambling. It was this gambling that likely saved many Burakumin and perhaps was instrumental in overturning how they were regarded by many Japanese, for they'd not disappeared from time and the history books but had survived to achieve their rights as distinct Japanese citizens. Today there is little disregard for them and they enjoy the same rights as all Japanese. How ironic that they were saved by gambling that was brought to them by the spread of Christianity, which at that time regarded gambling as one of the deadly sins. After all, the Church would much rather have those proceeds and profits." Hiroyuki finished his story.
"I hope that we are not bringing upon ourselves kegare by speaking of this in a Shinto Temple." Zheng said shuddering at the thought.
"I don't think that we are. The kind of demons drawn in by kegare would likely be frightened away by the fact that the Burakumin had ultimately found hope and were liberated." Hiroyuki replied honestly hoping that his words would comfort Zheng.
"Was that a confession my good friend?" Bryce asked Hiroyuki.
"No. That was praise for my country." Hiroyuki smiled.
"It's still early. Where else could we go at this time?" Alicia asked checking her phone.
It was 6:49 PM local time.
"It's too late to see the Imperial Palace though I suspect that might be on your itinerary with the Japanese Delegation. How about Akihabara?" Hiroyuki suggested.
"I'm sorry... Did you say Akibahara?" Alicia confirmed.
"Close. Akihabara. A shopping district in the downtown core. Very active and probably a place where you can glimpse a range of diversity with regard to Japanese culture and tastes. Look to what we make for export if you'd like to understand how we regard our customers. Look to what we buy if you want to understand us." Hiroyuki explained to Alicia and she nodded in agreement.
"Alright. That sounds good. Adventurous. Valerie?" Alicia asked Valerie who'd been largely silent.
"Shopping? I'm in." Valerie replied enthusiastically.
Doctor Briggs looked to Zheng who nodded already knowing what to expect.
"Sure, let's go. I've never been to Tokyo but I've certainly heard of Akihabara." Zheng responded alight with a girlish smile.
"I wouldn't miss it for the world." Bryce added.
Hiroyuki was already on the phone to the limousine he'd left back at the Hotel and moments later it arrived to pick them up outside of the Shrine.
The Living George Steadman
George Steadman sat in a quaint Sushi house in downtown Tokyo. He sat back, his legs crossed as he mired over the passersby on the other side of the gallery window of the restaurant. Even at this time in the evening they all walked with purpose. Nobody was stopped anywhere lolly-gagging or moping about. Everyone one had a purpose, like the interconnected pieces of a finely crafted puzzle. Each piece had its place in the midst of complexity. In this sense it was much like his plans and in that sense it is what he really admired.
George Steadman of course was not really the George Steadman. After all the real George Steadman had been pulled out of the bottom of the bay in a city in North America and was now just a slab on a girney in the coroner's fridge. Before the deceased George Steadman met his demise, the current George Steadman had been named Garrett Warley or Mr. Warley as many people would refer to him. Oddly enough at that time the real Garrett Warley was stone dead in the unreachable fathoms of an abandoned mine shaft, far too cold to decompose by natural means. There his corpse lay perhaps better preserved than it might have been at ground level. Despite clearly being dead, Garrett Warley continued to live on through the life of the former Stephan Smith, whose name he'd bore.
The real Stephan however had been an ideas broker and candidate for a prestigious job at one of the corporate giants twenty three years prior. Back around the same time that Heylyn Yates had achieved her Black belt red stripe in Tae Kwon Do and was about to begin training under Sifu Jinn Hua. Alicia Westin at that time was a straight A student who with a children's chemistry kit was exploring the wonders of Genetics in her bedroom. Upon the eve of him finding out about his opportunity, the real Stephan had mysteriously disappeared only to be replaced by the man at the root of all of these murders. Edward Crathbrook. So you could say that all of these men sat at the table in this restaurant in Tokyo under the guise of George Steadman, whose real name was Edward Mathias Crathbrook. The other patrons in the restaurant continued eating their sushi oblivious of the demonic monster that sat amongst them. A living doppleganger who lived and thrived in the remnants of Alomera Zek's web of influence.
It was in that moment of thought and stillness that the silence was broken by the arrival of a thin framed Japanese man. Much like Edward Crathbrook, he wore an expensive suit and bore a matching briefcase. The man bowed for Edward and Edward considered whether he should stand for this man. After a moment of considering it he stood and bowed hesitantly, doing so if only to give others in the Sushi bar as little to remember him by as possible. They'd surely remember a man that failed to bow for a guest at their table.
"Konnichi wa." Edward said without putting any effort into it.
The Japanese man looked to the empty chair at the table and then looked back to Edward.
"Oh, please. Have a seat." Edward gestured towards the chair and the thin man quickly accepted it.
"I take it you are comfortable in this restaurant?" the man asked Edward.
"Yes. Very comfortable. Feels like home." Edward smiled.
"That is why I recommended it. Now if you'd like to get down to our discussion?" the Japanese man insisted.
"A little jumpy about being seen in public are we?" Edward asked the man as he beckoned one of the wait staff.
"Mr. Steadman, I only look to help the people of Japan and the Asian Alliance. I am here because what you offer may bring much in the way of medical treatment to a beleaguered Japan." the man answered sternly.
"Yes, I understand. The Tsunami followed by the failure of the Fukushima Power Plant. Yes there were many casualties from the incident. Such tragedies, but the dead don't weigh on the coffers of the tax payers do they? Its the survivors that cost more so than the survived. I assure you that our new facilities on Cora Hau are already producing a new treatment that makes the Tynan solution look like a snake oil remedy, and I can assure you that it is." Edward replied.
"I understand what you have said, but I requested details about this miraculous cure that Future Tangent Industries has discovered. You've provided no such data other than your sales pitch which I've heard many times. There comes a time when the clucking chicken must produce an egg, and I've waited so very long for yours." the Japanese man urged Edward.
"Our statistics and studies are available as I've said to you many times at this web address." Edward handed the man a small card.
The only text upon it was a solitary web address:
The man accepted the card and pulled a small tablet computer from his briefcase. He immediately began typing the address into his web browser and when finished he hit the enter key. There was a pause as the page loaded. It was written in Japanese and worded as follows:
Greetings Councillor Itikara Takahashi,
The data for this miracle treatment is not ready at this time. However, we do have something else that is of equal importance that we thought that should be brought to your attention. You'll quickly understand the significance of this video seeing as you're a married man. It would be most unfortunate if this video ended up in the hands of your wife and two daughters, wouldn't it? Or perhaps as a live stream on a Japanese newscast?
With that in mind, I'm sure that you'll make the right choice in pushing for our product in Japan as you will in signing against the Tynan And Associates proposal for the Asian Alliance. Nobody ever has to know about this video and you can trust us to keep it secret. After all, you never knew it existed until now, didn't you?
Beneath the text a considerably good quality video began playing automatically as the Japanese man's forehead compressed as his hand jumped for the volume control. He looked to Edward fully realizing what a demon the man was. The footage was of himself with a secret mistress he'd taken a year after his marriage. He'd only been with her three times, but as he'd reasoned at the time that was three too many. His conscience had finally caught up with him and he broke ties with his mistress and solidified and saved his marriage. He'd kept the affair a secret and promised himself that he'd never succumb to temptation again. As it turned out it would become his Achilles heel in the hands of a man like Edward Crathbrook.
"I take it that you are pleased with the studies are you Councillor Takahashi?" Edward asked the man.
"This is a serious cri..." the man began.
"...crisis. Yes I know. All the injured who rely on advanced medical treatment for radiation burns and Cancer. I'm sure you'll make the right choice for their sake. And yours. In case you don't, I'm sure that the news stations in Japan will find these studies very useful. Please consider that when you go to bed tonight. Let me know your decision in the morning and we'll take it from there." Edward said confidently to Mr. Takahashi.
"You will pay for your treachery Mr. Steadman." Mr. Takahashi responded.
"No. I'll get paid for my treachery Mr. Takahashi and you'll remain for another term and your secret will remain as much. Good day to you." Edward got up and walked out of the restaurant leaving Mister Takahashi to fume.
Norler sat up in his bed, still feeling a little dizzy. Several machines around him bleeped and whirred as they monitored his health, fed him nutrients and mild pain killers. His eyes slowly adjusted to the level of light in the room and by the time they did he managed to see the time.
"Eight thirty. I must have slept all day..." Norler said aloud oblivious of the fact that he'd had company in the room.
"You did. Did you know that you mumble when you sleep, Mr. Norler?" asked the man.
Norler turned to his left fighting pain to see that an older well dressed gentleman had seated himself next to the bed.
"No, I didn't know. Then again I imagine that you'd probably mumble at night if you had a gaping gunshot wound through your lung." Norler replied sitting back in his bed.
"Yes, I probably would. You've shown great determination to survive such a challenge to your health. Something you will need in the days ahead." the man advised.
"Perhaps from your point of view. My chi, life force and the great balance of things. You speak like you know the future. Are you one of the Doctors around here or a Fortune Teller?" Norler asked somewhat sarcastically.
"It is a way of life here that we're born into and one to which we grow accustomed. I've lived through two cultural revolutions Mr. Norler and seen much in my day. Though I've never studied medicine I do have an appreciable... experience with the essence of being. With our life force, chi and the so called great balance as much as it is the late evening here I can assure that it is the early morning on the other side of the globe from us. Our day has ended and theirs is just beginning. Let me say that politics and legal matters are the garden to which I tend." the man answered Norler's query somewhat cryptically.
"You must be a member of the party then?" Norler asked a little more withdrawn and hesitant.
"No, I am not though I have been offered a position there for the last ten years in a row." the man answered curtly.
"And what would you say is the balance there?" Norler asked prying further in hopes of understanding this man.
"They trust me to be a part of the administration of this country and its people. What I can do both for my country and its people is better served from outside of the party. I have no quarrels with them nor am I anti-authoritarian. You'll find that I might be of some use to one who finds himself in a position much like your own." the man replied.
"And what position is that? Enlighten me?" Norler leaned forward slightly very much interested in what the man had to say.
"Well, you've come to our country as part of a delegation with the goal of convincing several key voters in the Asian Alliance to rescind their vote against the presence of western values and culture when it comes to Eastern medicine and policy invading and possibly replacing Asian culture with its near diametrical opposite of the west. You've been betrayed by the very competitors of western systems in such a way that have put you both in grave danger of harm and incarceration. The latter of which could be as much as twenty five years to life. After all that was considered a terrorist act that took place just outside one of the most treasured and sacred remnants of our heritage. The Forbidden City. Despite the fact that you are under our care, you do realize that you are scheduled to stand before the Courts and will fight for your freedom. Your charges are serious as is the evidence against you and possibly other executives at your company." the man explained Norler's situation with a focused calm that made Norler slightly anxious.
"Yes. I am aware of this. I thought the Doctors did not want us to discuss this until after I'd healed." Norler asked perhaps even trying to implore the man to leave.
"True. They are compassionate as they are of a doctoring nature. Of western training and influence and certainly professionals. We could do it that way and you'd surely fail before the Courts. If you cannot stand up for yourself when you're weakened, then a weak defense you'll have when you're strong. You are growing weaker in spirit while your body grows stronger. If left much longer this will leave you with little energy for what is to come. We must up until that point, guide your will of being into oneness with your body. If we do not, then you may have another twenty five years here in one of the Provincial Prisons to practice this on your own time." the man advised him.
Norler remained silent while he considered what the man had said. He imagined himself in twenty years from now in a cement walled room, a long beard and the glint in his eyes that had been his optimism, his essence: entirely gone. Drained from him like mucus from the corners of his eyes. He imagined Alicia back in Toronto, petitioning through all of the diplomatic channels of the west for his release. Her despair as time slipped by and until the hourglass was beyond the point of balance. The sand remaining far less than the sand that had fallen through to the bottom. Until there was...
"I understand that you now bare a great weight upon your shoulders in addition to that imposed by your body's recovery. You will first have to decide whether you give up or whether you overcome this challenge to your freedom. Are you innocent of the crimes for which you have been charged? Then surely there must be details that you can gather and have ready for our next meeting. We have to build your case as much as we have to awaken your spirit and your will after this trauma. Ultimately this challenge is yours to decide. I will leave you to contemplate what I have said." the man stood and approached the door, tapping it twice. A moment later a magnetic lock disengaged, making a clear exclamation regarding Norler's position. The man left and the door closed behind him. The magnetic lock once again engaged with a loud clack and then there was silence.
Norler lay back down and fell into a troubled sleep.
Another Island Away
Heylyn stood before the mirror, painting her face methodically as she'd done many times before. To her it had never become routine for it was merely just another medium of her self expression. Her artistic side manifesting to perhaps become a rendition of her own sense of self caricature. She painted herself partly out of regimen but mostly as a medium of her own sense of artistic expression. She purposely put nuances upon the porcelain of her skin directing the corners of her eyes and the shape of her cheeks to her will in such a way to which only the right man might be aware. Perhaps her own private fantasy but more so her own practical art. Perhaps as much of which any man who'd decipher her allure might be worthy. Regimen rarely represented as much as the imagination conspired to conceive and as much, her facial paint held her secrets.
Heylyn wore her Butterfly Dragon costume under a light outfit that she could discard easily if needed. This day would certainly require these measures. Most of the night had been quiet and she did not dream. Weltherwithsp had once again remained remarkably silent through the night which had both concerned and puzzled her. The ancient dragon had failed to show up in her dreams bringing with it the field of her childhood imagination and the answers that she sought. The answer to his poetic speech.
Monique had awoken to see Heylyn was already up and ready for the day. Their accommodations were modest and certainly practical but also sufficient. They were built to house the worker colony that populated the island of Cora Hau. After Heylyn and Monique and the other potential investor's business was done here these units would be occupied by more workers or remain reserved for guests to the island's facilities. This day would be a difficult one for it required them to make their incursion into the local data store and find the information which they sought. Any information about the person who bore the identity of George Steadman. Any information offering insight to the interests involving the Japanese House Of Councillors and any alleged connection with Future Tangent Industries. Finally any information regarding the involvement of Future Tangent Industries in the attack on the Forbidden City. Vital information that would be required in order to secure Norler's freedom or at the very least to be presented in the Chinese court hearings with regard to Norler's case.
Heylyn had gotten up early enough to get herself ready knowing there'd be conflict between her and Monique if they had to fight for the bathroom. Monique got herself out of bed and and stumbled to the bathroom.
"Good morning to you!" Heylyn said to her happily.
"Grrrrr." Monique replied.
"Didn't sleep?" asked Heylyn.
"Yes I did. A little too well. It was kind of like sleeping in a hotel that was built yesterday. This apartment has that new car kind of smell. Like I was the first person to sleep in that bed and on that mattress. Great for sleep but not so great for when its time to wake up." Monique replied groggily closing the bathroom door behind her.
"Do you want a coffee or latte?" Heylyn raised her voice to ensure she'd be heard by Monique.
"Latte. Thank you." Monique yelled from inside the bathroom.
"Make you sure you wear your special outfit today." Heylyn reminded Monique once again raising her voice to be heard.
"I know. I've already got today's outfit picked." Monique yelled as she stepped into the shower.
An hour and a half later and they were both ready and out the door of their temporary apartment on the island and off to the complex where they'd be receiving their next tour. Into the very infrastructure and command center of the Future Tangent Industries Cora Hau complex.
They met up with the other investors in one of the meeting rooms, which had been set with catering and a continental breakfast. The rest of the room was filled with tables, one of which Heylyn and Monique occupied while waiting for the tour director to begin the day's itinerary.
Inside the Cora Hau Security Center a notification arrived via one of the security workstations addressed from the facilities integrated Intelligence Unit. The adaptive recognition software utilized by the security unit had arrived at a match for two of the potential investors.
"I think you'd better have a look at this, Sir. Seems that the ARU found a match for two of our guests. Its a pretty wide spectrum but it gives us something to go on." the security operator addressed his supervisor.
The supervisor came over to the workstation and examined the screen.
"That's over a hundred and fifty potential matches for identity. Can we filter that at all?" asked the security supervisor.
"Already have Sir. I filtered on net worth of more than five million, that's based upon Future Tangent's earlier statistic that all of the investors visiting are over the ten million mark in terms of net worth. That reduced the list down to seven for the Chinese lady and five for the French lady." the security operator replied.
"Well see if we can get a location on the others. We can assume from that, those unaccounted for are candidates for their identities." the security supervisor suggested.
"Already tried that. These people are worth a lot and their locations seem to be quite well protected, though one of the identities is listed as being in Toronto, Ontario, Canada right now running West Meet East International. A Global Fashion Company. That would be Heylyn Yates." the security operator responded.
"I guess that means that we can take her off the list. Keep an eye on the rest. Let me know if anything comes up." the security supervisor told the security operator.
The infamous Mr. Rourke approached the from of the room as one of his security team caught up with him. Heylyn observed them speaking for a moment noticing the security associate gesturing in their direction.
"Don't ask me how I know, but I get a funny feeling that someone is talking about us." Monique responded observing the same thing.
"I'd say they are. They just fell for one of our safety measures. Before we left for Cora Hau, I told Kori Jonglyu back at the West Meet East studio to dress like me for the next two weeks and to take my calls directly. When she gets dolled up, she's a dead ringer for me. A bit younger but still difficult to tell. So I'm guessing their security team fell for it. So they still don't have any idea who we are." Heylyn assured Monique.
"Won't that be just as risky as being identified?" asked Monique.
"Not really. If they'd positively identified us, they'd be watching us like hawks. They'd have linked us with the Treadwater incident which would have set off all sorts of red flags in their security systems. So long as we're an if rather than otherwise, we should be alright." Heylyn said confidently.
"Makes sense. So we can assume their interest in us is more just admiration than anything else?" Monique asked somewhat playfully.
"The cards are in our hand. We could certainly play it that way. We'll have to be very careful when we make our move today." Heylyn smiled.
"That's what has got me nervous. I'm a model. I'm not so good at doing low key." Monique responded a little bit flustered.
Mr Rourke dismissed the security associate and continued to the front of the room where he addressed the investors.
"I hope that you all had a good sleep last night. We're really enjoying this Pacific weather. Its actually quite an irony as this part of the ocean is the brewing grounds for some of the worst storms, typhoons and hurricanes in the eastern hemisphere of the world. It would seem an irony to which the name Pacific does not apply? Suffice it to say that the weather here at the Cora Hau facility is an average of 26 Celsius, that's about 80 Fahrenheit and receives approximately 1800 millimeters of rain per year. That's roughly a fifty-fifty ratio of dry to rainy days. What that translates to is a 365 day potential of productivity and throughput for the facility based upon the shift work of our work force, securing the Future Tangent Industries facility on Cora Hau as a solid investment with solid returns." the day started with Mr. Rourke's impeccable delivery designed to the investor's pumped about the day's tour.
Mr. Rourke was graced with an applause from the room which was intended both for him and the facility. In his defense, he could not have known of the misappropriation of company resources in order to corner the Asian medical market in the face efforts by one of its biggest competitors, Tynan And Associates.
Nor would he have known that just three hours before he'd received the security brief, that George Steadman had issued a special order to some of the security operatives to lock down the data facility despite the day's tour. After all, too much was riding on this data and even the man who had become George Steadman recognized that it was potentially the linch-pin to his entire plan. He'd nearly leveled the play field of problems, dealing with them in the harshest ways imaginable. He'd buried his tracks behind him leaving a wake of identities and their bodies as fish food in the limestone rich basins of the lakes where he'd disposed of them. What the fish left behind, the limestone would devour shortly thereafter leaving no evidence.
If Mr. Rourke had known of Mr. Steadman's plans, he may have fled. Attempted to contact the authorities and notify them of the malice that had befallen his company of employ. That was precisely why Mr. Steadman had secretly ordered the security detail to keep eyes upon him and his tour. George was a keen judge of character and he'd identified that their key Public Relations man for the Cora Hau facility might be a problem if he was to become aware of his plan. Too many people were so close to the deal of a lifetime. That one payoff that ensures both financial freedom and the power of capital for the rest of one's life and possibly for many generations thereafter.
With so many people depending upon George's plan, he'd had a small army of co-conspirators who'd nearly go to his lengths to ensure the success of his plan. Two of these men were senior officials on the security unit of the Cora Hau facility, and they considered keeping a close eye on this situation as key to their share of the deal. A deal for which they'd kill to protect. These were two senior authorities who'd ordered their corresponding security teams in the data center to pack fire arms and live ammunition rather than the standard issue tazers and non-lethal rubber rounds. In this deal, they clearly meant business.
Heylyn and Monique listened to Mr. Rourke as he riled up the investors getting them ready for the tour and more importantly, to relieve them of their investment capital without ever knowing that he was a key part of this entire plan. Like clockwork, the investors rose from their chairs enthusiastic about the day's tour and their potential for ROI (Return On Investment), which in their language was the bottom line. Mr. Rourke was kept in the dark about his part because George had known that he'd needed Mr. Rourke to be sincere, and that it was impossible to be as much when one knew too many details that contradicted the very concepts of sincerity itself. Mr. Rourke led the investors obliviously into the tour, with only two Women standing between the success of George's plan and the fall of Tynan And Associate's Asian Universal Treatment Fund.
Many miles north east of Cora Hau in downtown Tokyo, Hiroyuki led the Western Delegation into one of Tokyo's treasures: Akihabara. This was the where to be market for many of the technically and artistically minded shoppers in Tokyo as well as one of its biggest tourist draws next to the Emperor's Palace of course. It was the hang out for geeks, technology nerds, cosplayers, artists and the many philosophers throughout Tokyo and Japan itself. Even at this time in the evening it was packed with a colourful variety of shoppers wearing a diverse representation of fashion from the traditional to the formal and the downright outrageous. Some wore stern and emotionless faces walking in straight lines to their destinations, while others wore smiles, skipping from store to store as if following the curves of a woman's body.
"This is incredible! I've never seen anything like this!" Alicia said admiring the lights, colours and smiles.
"I went to Mardi Gras once when I was a kid, but this... this is something else altogether." Valerie agreed with Alicia looking around in amazement.
"My Uncle used to come here when I was young. He'd always bring a figure or comic book back for me. One of the characters in the comic put a spark in my head about becoming a scientist. I wanted to be a mad scientist! Make my own Woman! My dream girl! That was back when I was first starting to get interesting in girls. I was young." Victor responded looking around seeing images that drew him back to his adolescence.
"And look at what you got!" Katya looked over to her husband.
"Yes. I ended up with another mad scientist trying to make her own perfect man, and she ended up with me! Ha! Life's ironies can be... how you say? Like comics sometimes?" Victor pulled Katya closer.
"What does Akihabara mean, Hiroyuki?" asked Zheng as she held onto Doctor Briggs' hand.
"How I should answer?" Hiroyuki thought aloud taking a moment to think.
A few seconds later he continued.
"Akihabara is short for autumn field of the leaves. Actually the word is short for Akibagahara. It literally means a Fire God. It was named after a Shinto temple that was a fire fighting shrine built in the late eighteen hundreds. After fire, the plants grow. It makes the soil good to grow. But fire is dangerous and many people died in the fire. So like many things in Japan, the bad fire needs not to be stopped but controlled so nobody gets hurt. The fire makes the ground good for growing things. So Akihabara is the field and plants that grow out of the ground after a bad fire. Very healthy and good." Hiroyuki explained as best he could for his guests.
"There's a lot of people here too. Young and old. In the West you'd find mostly the young in shopping malls of course depending upon the area, the number of schools et cetera." Valerie commented observantly in response to Hiroyuki's explanation.
"Japan is very different from other places. Many things do not get talked about, as there is a lot of pressure not to talk about some things. The reason is mostly Honour which is like a family health. Embarrassment. Some things private. That result is an artistic culture that needs to speak about things that people cannot so readily. Akihabara became very popular for arts and crafts first. Some of the people who make the art start drawing stories with pictures. Many people liked to read these stories. Sometimes they talk about things that people don't talk about and it became a way of speaking to each other without having to say anything out loud." Hiroyuki once again explained letting the delegation into an understanding not possessed of many.
"I agree with that statement. My parents never talked to me about sex. There was never a time when they explained it to me or my brother Boris. I learned about what it was from some comics that my Uncle brought back from Japan. Not just what it was, but being responsible with it and certainly that it could be fun. I guess my point is that these comics taught me something that my parents were too embarrassed to discuss with me. It was our little secret. My Uncle and I. When I did finally meet my sweetheart in my second year of University, I was not too scared when we were close to each other one night. I guess because I knew about it through another medium and recognized that this medium was not reality. Maybe a caricature of it?" Victor said speaking of course about some of the very comics that had originated in Japan.
"Caricature eh? That's a good way to put it. A sort of expressionist mingling of Jungian and Freudian precepts about sexuality, except Japan didn't have Jung or Freud." Doctor Briggs smiled.
Hiroyuki's face turned towards a shade of red and he lowered his head.
"I am sorry that our comics brought you disgrace." Hiroyuki kept his head lowered.
"No! No! You're getting me wrong! I am thanking you! Without those comics I never would have understood a very important part about growing up and just because my parents were too embarrassed to talk about it! Maybe finding out that way was better in a way! After all, I didn't read about it and then go out and find a girl right away to... you know? I had the respect for it and for the girls because I knew. Better to know than not to know. And better to know fantasy from reality." Victor assured Hiroyuki who slowly raised his head.
"Its not like women don't have their fantasies either, but we can still distinguish fantasy from reality." Alicia backed up Victor.
"I see. Then I say thank you but you do not need to talk to me about this. It is good that you said thank you for it. I am grateful and honoured." Hiroyuki replied and Victor all at once understood.
"So Akihabara is a place where artists could draw the things that people might never talk about?" Bryce asked Hiroyuki.
"Precisely. Perhaps in Japan when such a time comes, the students and kids learn from other kids what comics and cartoons teach them. It is much different than in the West but we don't talk about that part of growing up. When we get older then you'll find that Japan has a very healthy and mature attitude when it comes to sexuality. Very liberated. The West is very different and sometimes very closed minded. It puts pressures on people to talk about things that should not be talked about publicly, and to remain silent on things that should be talked about. Maybe the people aren't bad for talking, but the people are bad for making the pressure? I mean if you really like something and it is special, would you not keep it hidden only between the people it involves? Hold hands in public, but keep your intimate time together between each other. So why in the West do the people make pressure to talk about the treasures hidden between two people? Because they don't want other people's secret treasures to be better than their secret treasures. So they try to break other people's secret treasures by making lots of pressure for people to unburden themselves from that pressure. If they don't unburden themselves then they will blow up like a bomb. Do you see? The closest thing to this in Japan is shame. Shame is a pressure that comes from breaking honour or tradition, but even it has a place in the bedroom with some." Hiroyuki responded.
"I agree with what you're saying but part of that is about growing up in the West. It is important to treasure the moments between yourself and someone else that are between you and personal. Some people in the West are very competitive to break other people's cherished moments and their corresponding secrecy. I guess like taking other people's treasures so that only theirs remain secret, as you said. In the West it is a bit of a measure of the bias or even the bond that you have in favour of another person. Some people take it a little too far in trying to break those bonds where they shouldn't. Sometimes those secrets are part of what bonds two people in marriage. Secrets are not always about shame or wrong doing. They can be about golden moments between people that aren't meant to be public knowledge." Zheng spoke trying to put her finger on their topic with her point of view.
"Learning to deal with that kind of pressure is a big part of living in the public eye. Something I've learned thanks to my time with Norler. Suddenly, there are elements of society that want to know everything about you, including about your private moments as well. People's personal secrets really do have a lot of value, not to mention the propensity for some to use those secrets to control others. The Alomera Zek case was a perfect example of this applied on a global scale, considering that he was puppeteering many public figures, many with power from behind the scenes using nothing more than their personal secrets. From what it sounds, honour and shame are related or at the very least, very similar in nature though not in the same context. Pressure arising from doing the right thing by keeping the wrong thing secret or vice versa. A little bit abstract but close to what we're speaking." Alicia explained her views to them.
"Not to get personal, but my views on this are very clear. I mean I lived with Torman for years while he used me. While he was secretly running a criminal enterprise and using his position as a board member at Tynan And Associates to facilitate hostile takeovers. He'd use his gang connections to sabotage target businesses. Scaring customers. Delaying stock and supplies for the company to operate. Break-ins and thefts. You name it. All this to undervalue the public stock prices of those companies. Once they were bottomed out, he'd come in and make them an offer they couldn't refuse, buying the company for a tenth of what it had been worth. Then after he'd become the majority stock holder, he'd have his gangs sabotage the competition and promote his new business. He'd then sell when the stock was ten times or more what he'd paid for it. All the time this was going on, I'd suspected something but I secretly denied it, and that pressure built up in me. The heavier it became, the more of a hold over me he had, because the more I was a party to it. This sounds very similar to the context of what you're speaking with regard to personal secrets and shame. After I had my week in court, giving my testimony and being cross examined as a witness, I felt like a great load had been lifted from my shoulders. It was a feeling that I can not even begin to explain. I was absolved of any responsibility for Torman's crimes but more importantly, I was free from being a mule, bearing the weight for his secret criminal dealings. Its a shame that many women are used that way when it comes to such activities. I can directly relate with what you're trying to explain about shame, Hiroyuki. Thank you for understanding." Valerie looked to Hiroyuki with a deep respect for him in her eyes.
"I'm also seeing a lot of technology here. How did that come to be?" Alicia asked purposely trying to diffuse some of the intensity of the conversation.
"Japan's technology movement arrived with solid state circuitry. It really allowed us to miniaturize electronics meaning we could bring innovative consumer and business products to the marketplace in ways that the rest of the world had not explored as viable markets. Young people had become interested in technology early on and making wearable technology and video based products has been a part of Japanese trends from early on. Because of the draw to Akihabara, which often found young people who loved the comics and the older people who loved the arts and crafts, it was natural that technology used Akihabara as an early market ground at first with audio and visual products. Later when computers and gaming systems arrived, the integration of the existing art mediums into computer graphics was clear. That led to the development of many products based around the Japanese comics and art work and there was no better place to market these products in Akihabara which already had a huge market for them." Hiroyuki stopped in front of one store front that offered a hand held video gaming system with a holographic display.
"You see that technology is growing very fast here and this technology has become the new paper, a medium like that the comics themselves used to be published upon. In much the same way that young people used to learn by reading the things that people don't talk about, this generation learns about them by this new technological medium. Videos. Games. Whats more is that it grows with people in age as they grow older. So really the market stays with them for life we're finding. Not a replacement for a healthy social life, but Japanese work is long and the work force is dedicated, sometimes even sleeping at work then continuing to work the next day. So for these people, this is their social life because they don't have enough time to invest in developing interpersonal relationships. In the West you are experiencing the beginnings of the same thing because of the people making the pressure on other people to talk about things that they shouldn't and to hide the things that they should talk about. This is making the next generation into a generation that hides in technology while other people take over the social life and interpersonal world. In Japan we believe that you can have both. Be technological and computer social while also being interpersonal and in person social. When you make people afraid to come outside you have big problems coming. People making the problems won't know that until it is too late." there was a long pause as Hiroyuki considered what he had said.
"Unless of course you're dealing with something natural, like a health crisis. A pandemic or viral outbreak. Even the flu or the common cold can have such an effect and these effects ripple throughout society in waves. Like the fans in a football (some of you call soccer) stadium standing up and sitting down as part of a wave. This is a good example of how illness cascades throughout society given the chance to spread. Part of my third year research placement was investigating the statistics of the propagation of viral infections like influenza and the common cold. When they hit, people stay home in waves. Self imposed isolation in order to avert the spread of a cold. These ripples in student and employee absence are represented directly in a country's economy." Katya added.
"Yes. That is what I mean." he finished.
"Let's hope we don't see a pandemic in our lives. Not to turn this into a conflict Hiroyuki, but in the West we do have education classes for the youth involving subjects that parents often don't talk about. That's certainly something important that benefits all of society. I'm thinking that the future might bring about a generation very liberated when it comes to interpersonal communication." Bryce offered.
"This is true and certainly something that should be the same all over the world. In places where things are not discussed openly, a culture of art or communication usually evolves around teaching those things in some way. In Japan there is art and technology that speaks that language for us. So sex education takes on a much different approach here than in the West. This is not the West or the East. It is the West and the East. I'm sure that when you were in China, that someone explained the difference involved in that concept?" Hiroyuki looked at Bryce skeptically.
"I'm a mathematician and a programmer too. I can vouch for my peers that they understand the difference between AND and OR, especially in terms of boolean logic as much so as for social paradigms." Zheng agreed.
"We're all in agreement with what you just said Hiroyuki. The importance is the difference between the term OR and the term AND. Some people tend to confuse the two especially where they think duality is prevalent. We mean no disrespect or ignorance of your cultural philosophy at all." Alicia spoke flashing Bryce a stern look.
"It is alright Alicia. No harm done. I believe that what Mr. Maxwell was saying is true and a good example of how to deal with things that aren't always spoken about openly in society because ignoring them leads to much bigger social problems later. The solution that evolved here let us retain our privacy and the treasures of our time with people special in our lives. You do know that Japan has a much different philosophy when it comes to mature sexuality. Again we do not discuss these things openly, but there are places in Japan where a couple can go for just that. A place to be with one another. It is much different than the West and it doesn't cheapen the value of any gender on a sexual basis. The place where you share those secrets is with your partner. Maybe some people in the West want to know those secret treasures of others? That is too bad. That is all I'm saying. It is much different here. Some people like to play in ways that are embarrassing to discuss or might bring dishonour and disgrace to them if they became public knowledge. In the West do you have respect for a lady's reputation? Here in Japan Women aren't disgraced by their sexual habits because we do not discuss them openly to the public and because we do not vilify women for them. They are treasures between those involved, with a partner or alone. We do not look down upon Women even knowing if they are sexually active and if they are, that is not considered an open invitation to all in society to get a piece of them. It is much different here in that regard too. From the outside, it would appear that women are sexually objectified but in truth, they're sexually liberated. That aspect of their life is theirs to wield as they choose and as public or private as they'd prefer." Hiroyuki pursued perhaps intending a little bit of friendly competition.
"I can agree in some senses with what you're saying. I mean in the West a Man is often regarded in high esteem for his sexual exploits being regarded as a stud which carries a much different stigma than the term applied to sexually active Women which is often the term slut. The term slut in terms of its stigma is a degrading term. So if a Woman's reputation is scarred by public knowledge of the fact that they're sexually active, they could end up labeled a slut. If the same thing happens to a Man, they are regarded as a stud. That's a big difference in regard to the social esteem of one's sexual activity." Valerie jumped into the conversation.
"Here a Woman is not degraded, though she might be revered by a Male who is not familiar with interpersonal sexuality. That is because she can be a guide or teacher to such a Male and this is cherished in such a time that could be potentially awkward for Men as it could be for Women. Therefore this stigma as you've explained does not exist in Japan. At least not in the same way. A Woman is not rejected for having knowledge of sexuality and a Man is not embarrassed or disgraced for having none. There are likely Men in every culture who would much rather have a Woman that knows nothing of sex or has retained her virginity but in Japan that does not disgrace her for not having it. Some cultures and beliefs follow the idea that a Woman's sexuality should be reserved until the Man that she marries takes it. That idea makes all sexually active Women into sexual cattle in a way because they are discarded as marriage prospects and can therefore never settle down once they lose their virginity. They're discarded by others who seek to marry only virgins. That attitude is a living disgrace and crime against women." a self confident smile stretched across Hiroyuki's face smelling of national pride.
"I agree with your point about discarding Women just because they've had a bit of sexual experience. That's certainly wrong but that pressure more results from the cultural eidos where virgin marriages are espoused, forgive the pun. As far as Women being considered lesser because of their sexual prowess or experience, I'd beg to differ especially in the West. After all, in popular culture there have been books and films that illustrate that point quite well. Take the movie The Graduate, with Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman. It's about that very topic. A younger Man with an older more sexually experienced Woman, who guides him into his Manhood like a rite of passage, and he is able to become the Man that his future fiance needs him to be. Sure, the older more experienced Woman and the younger Man don't end up together in the end, but it certainly elevates the role of Mentor to its heights and says plenty supporting the fact that there are those in the West who support what you're saying, Hiroyuki. Another such film is Bull Durham with Susan Sarandon, Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins. Its about rising star baseball pitcher who is being moulded for the big leagues by a minor league team. This moulding involves the responsibilities of a sexually experienced mistress who has taken up making this man ready for the big leagues. This film is a bit different from The Graduate in that if focuses more upon the mentors than the mentored. Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon having readied this young man for the big leagues end up falling for one another. Not to mention it has perhaps one of the greatest lines in a film from Kevin Costner when he's trying to explain to Susan that he loves her. So that's two very well presented cases where Women in society who have been sexually active aren't discarded or regarded as lesser than any of Women kind. Those movies did a lot for the liberation of Women, not to mention for older, more experienced Women and how they're perceived by society. Even in the West." Bryce replied folding his hands across his chest in the name of his national pride.
"...but still, the older mentoring woman in both those movies didn't get the same thing as the younger virgin women reserved for those being mentored. Sure, its great that older women are presented as mentors, but why didn't the older woman get the younger man? Not to mention how such a film would be received if the gender roles were reversed. An older man sexually mentoring a younger woman. Western society would probably become livid, jumping all over it, maybe even have it banned. I'm not advocating for such a film. I'm just pointing out that there is no equal ground when it comes to taboo in the West." Alicia responded playing the devil's advocate.
"A good point, Alicia." Doctor Briggs considered what she was saying.
"Perhaps the two of you are at an impasse?" Katya looked first at Hiroyuki and then at Bryce.
Hiroyuki's smile grew and he broke down laughing extending his hand to Bryce.
Bryce kept his smile modestly covert for a moment before bowing low to Hiroyuki. When he was back up, he extended his hand shaking it firmly.
"Uhhh... Valerie. Could you strike that entire conversation from the audio log later?" Alicia asked.
"Why is that? I thought that it was pretty good." Valerie replied craning her head to one side.
"Well, there's just some treasures that are better left as secrets between those who shared them. Not all progress has to be documented." Alicia winked at Valerie and then around to the other delegates.
Everyone, including Hiroyuki nodded in agreement and shared a smile between each other.
To be continued in The Butterfly Dragon II: What Different Eyes See - Act IX
A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity updates coming soon.