Chapter 40 (or, "One Year Later")
Year 6 of the East Asian Alliance, 10:08 AM.
“Now departing Ogikubo for Shibuya. Stand clear. The doors are closing.” And with the tone signal, the doors closed, and Yamazaki Arashi was off to Tokyo again.
She held her cap in her hands, Pegacat stuffed back into her bag as she watched the tunnels pass by. A hand went up to touch her now-short blonde hair, cut as an experiment while she had been in America last. She liked it longer, but her long locks had gone to charity, so no harm there.
This time, she didn’t bother asking her grandmother how long it would take her to get there. She already knew that the event would not continue without her.
She transferred to the train all by herself, heading toward Shibuya. Her grandmother waved her off with the understanding that she would call when she got there. Storm nodded and was off. This trip was much shorter, and two very important people were waiting at the other end of the line.
She got off the train and skipped into Canberra’s arms with a friendly ‘hello!’ Rikimo was there, as well, with three new boosters of the latest Digital Merge release to give Storm. There were still rumors going on about them, but Storm knew that they were “kind of sort of” dating, which was exactly the speed Rikimo liked it and Canberra preferred as well.
“How long will it take to get there?” she asked Canberra as they climbed into the taxi he had reserved.
“No time in this car.” Canberra flipped his hair. “I can’t wait!”
The car service had them to the Cerulean Tower within minutes. This entire area of Tokyo had been sealed off for the special ceremony today. Thousands upon thousands of people were surrounding the open area in front of the Tower. Rhiannon herself was already there, standing on a podium that was roped off. Standing below her were the other familiar adventurers who had been there that fateful day in the Green Room. Sierra and Henry were still friends, and Kyara didn’t hesitate to show off the rock on her finger while holding onto Nathan’s hand. Jaci was recording the entire show on a camera, speaking to the lens with a microphone in her hand.
“Well, the crowd is all set. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before Rhiannon makes the big announcement about the Legends expansion!”
And sure enough, Rhiannon held up her hand to silence the crowd. All eyes were on her -- or, at least, Rhiannon hoped they were on her. They could have been on the huge, bulking artifact behind her currently covered by a blue tarp, but hey. It would only be covered with a tarp for about five more minutes.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming in today,” she said, speaking to the media, to Jaci’s lens, to everybody watching from around East Asia on their tablets. “As you know, six years ago, East Asia came together to rise above the evils in our world. And a year ago, I gathered together with my friends here to announce last year’s expansion. This year, we’re doing things a little bit different. The Legends Expansion includes many real heroes from our world who will be helping you solve problems in Disasterville. You’ll be helped from everybody, from Beethoven in Austria to General Perry to my mother, who is represented by the Mother of the Air card.
“One year ago, we all gathered to discuss this expansion. This was not revealed to the public, but on the same day we all met in the Green Room, I proposed this expansion. Mr. Canberra Longshore suggested we add a very special hero card in, a hero that represents you, the Digital Merge player. The name on the card is one you do not know, but one that Canberra himself suggested. Today, we salute this unsung hero and commemorate her here.”
She gave the thumbs-up to the men standing behind her, and they pulled the tarp off the statue. It was tall, of four people walking up a rocky cliff. Canberra and Rikimo were there, holding hands. Rhiannon was in front of them, her hair and hanbok fluttering in the fake breeze, frozen in time.
But the girl way in front with the baseball cap was unknown to everybody but Rhiannon’s group of friends. And as the crowds clapped, she looked down at them, and everybody had tears in their eyes. Nobody knew what had become of her, and Tama and his friends hadn’t stuck around to explain. Their world had been saved, but at a cost.
The plaque at the bottom of the statue read, “For Tomoyaki Erika, Guardian of the World, and for all who play Digital Merge.”
In a dark, old, unused corridor of QWERTY headquarters, a door leads to a door that leads to a secret room.
This room has not been in use since Dvorak Romanov was last a regular member of service. Once his office, it was cleaned out by Mick Spowers and is now used as a storage closet. Boxes line the walls, and an old couch sits right in the middle. And on that couch, a girl sleeps, waiting for the day when it’s time to open her eyes again...
Thank you for reading Digital Merge! Book 3 of the series, The White Rose of Fiorazzurro, will begin serialization on August 26, 2014.