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Romans 15

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.

For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, “THE REPROACHES OF THEM THAT REPROACHED THEE FELL ON ME.”

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to [Or, after the example of] Christ Jesus:

That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:

And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, “FOR THIS CAUSE I WILL CONFESS TO THEE AMONG THE GENTILES, AND SING UNTO THY NAME.”

And again he saith, “REJOICE, YE GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE.”

And again, “PRAISE THE LORD, ALL YE GENTILES; AND LAUD HIM, ALL YE PEOPLE.”

And again, Esaias saith, “THERE SHALL BE A ROOT OF JESSE, AND HE THAT SHALL RISE TO REIGN OVER THE GENTILES; IN HIM SHALL THE GENTILES TRUST.”

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,

That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up [Or, sacrificing] of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.

For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,

Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:

But as it is written, “TO WHOM HE WAS NOT SPOKEN OF, THEY SHALL SEE: AND THEY THAT HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND.”

For which cause also I have been much [Or, many ways, or, oftentimes] hindered from coming to you.

But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you;

Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.

But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.

For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.

When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.

And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;

That I may be delivered from them that do not believe [Or, are disobedient] in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;

That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.

Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen (Romans 15: 1-33).

Exodus 10

And the LORD said unto Moses, “Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these My signs before him:

“And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.”

And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, “How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before Me? let My people go, that they may serve Me.

“Else, if thou refuse to let My people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast:

“And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field:

“And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day.” And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh.

And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?

And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the LORD your God: but who are they that shall go?

And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the LORD.

And he said unto them, Let the LORD be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you.

Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the LORD; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

And the LORD said unto Moses, “Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left.”

And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.

And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.

For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you.

Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that He may take away from me this death only.

And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD.

And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red Sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.

But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

And the LORD said unto Moses, “Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.”

And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:

They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.

And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our God.

Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither.

But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.

And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more (Exodus 10: 1-29).

Mark 16

And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him.

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: He is risen; He is not here: behold the place where they laid Him.

But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.

And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.

And she went and told them that had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.

And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

After that He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat [Or, together], and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen.

And He said unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen (Mark 16: 1-20).

Mark 15

And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, and bound Jesus, and carried Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.

And Pilate asked Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews? And He answering said unto him, “Thou sayest it.

And the chief priests accused Him of many things: but He answered nothing.

And Pilate asked Him again, saying, Answerest Thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against Thee.

But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.

Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.

And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.

But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

For he knew that the chief priests had delivered Him for envy.

But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.

And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto Him whom ye call the King of the Jews?

And they cried out again, Crucify Him.

Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath He done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify Him.

And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged Him, to be crucified.

And the soldiers led Him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.

And they clothed Him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about His head,

And began to salute Him, Hail, King of the Jews!

And they smote Him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon Him, and bowing their knees worshipped Him.

And when they had mocked Him, they took off the purple from Him, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.

And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear His cross.

And they bring Him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.

And they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but He received it not.

And when they had crucified Him, they parted His garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.

And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.

And the superscription of His accusation was written over, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

And with Him they crucify two thieves; the one on His right hand, and the other on His left.

And the Scripture was fulfilled, which saith, “AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS.”

And they that passed by railed on Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,

Save Thyself, and come down from the cross.

Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; Himself He cannot save.

Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with Him reviled Him.

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is, being interpreted, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?”

And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, He calleth Elias.

And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take Him down.

And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.

And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

And when the centurion, which stood over against Him, saw that He so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;

(Who also, when He was in Galilee, followed Him, and ministered unto Him;) and many other women which came up with Him unto Jerusalem.

And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,

Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

And Pilate marvelled if He were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether He had been any while dead.

And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

And he bought fine linen, and took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen, and laid Him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.

And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where He was laid (Mark 15: 1-47).

Isaiah 23

The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them.

Be still, ye inhabitants of the isle; thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished.

And by great waters the seed of Sihor, the harvest of the River, is her revenue; and she is a mart of nations.

Be thou ashamed, O Zidon: for the sea hath spoken, even the strength of the sea, saying, I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins.

As at the report concerning Egypt, so shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre.

Pass ye over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the isle.

Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn.

Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth?

The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.

Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: there is no more strength.

He stretched out His hand over the sea, He shook the kingdoms: the LORD hath given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strong holds thereof.

And He said, “Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin, daughter of

Zidon: arise, pass over to Chittim; there also shalt thou have no rest.”

Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof, they raised up the palaces thereof; and he brought it to ruin.

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.

Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.

And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing (Isaiah 23: 1-18).

Mark 14

After two days was the Feast of the Passover, and of Unleavened Bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by craft, and put Him to death.

But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.

And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on His head.

And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?

For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

And Jesus said, “Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on Me.

“For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but Me ye have not always.

“She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying.

“Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”

And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray Him unto them.

And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.

And the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover, His disciples said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we go and prepare that Thou mayest eat the Passover?

And He sendeth forth two of His disciples, and saith unto them, “Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.

“And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, ‘The Master saith, “Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’

“And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.”

And His disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as He had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover.

And in the evening He cometh with the twelve.

And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with Me shall betray Me.”

And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto Him one by one, Is it I?  and another said, Is it I?

And He answered and said unto them, “It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with Me in the dish.

“The Son of Man indeed goeth, as it is written of Him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.”

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, “Take, eat: this is My body.”

And He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them: and they all drank of it.

And He said unto them, “This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

“Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

And when they had sung an hymn [Or, psalm], they went out into the Mount of Olives.

And Jesus saith unto them, “All ye shall be offended because of Me this night: for it is written, ‘I WILL SMITE THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP SHALL BE SCATTERED.’

“But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.”

But Peter said unto Him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.

And Jesus saith unto him, “Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice.”

But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.

And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and He saith to His disciples, “Sit ye here, while I shall pray.”

And He taketh with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

And saith unto them, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.”

And He went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.

And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from Me: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt.”

And He cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, “Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?

“Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”

And again He went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.

And when He returned, He found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer Him.

And He cometh the third time, and saith unto them, “Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

“Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth Me is at hand.”

And immediately, while He yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.

And he that betrayed Him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He; take Him, and lead Him away safely.

And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to Him, and saith, Master, Master; and kissed Him.

And they laid their hands on Him, and took Him.

And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, “Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take Me?

“I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took Me not: but the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”

And they all forsook Him, and fled.

And there followed Him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:

And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.

And Peter followed Him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.

And the chief priests and all the Council sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death; and found none.

For many bare false witness against Him, but their witness agreed not together.

And there arose certain, and bare false witness against Him, saying,

We heard Him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another without hands.

But neither so did their witness agree together.

And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest Thou nothing? what is it which these witness against Thee?

But He held His peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, and said unto Him, Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

And Jesus said, “I am: and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?

Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death.

And some began to spit on Him, and to cover His face, and to buffet Him, and to say unto Him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike Him with the palms of their hands.

And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:

And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.

But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.

And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.

And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.

But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.

And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, “Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice.” And when he thought thereon, he wept (Mark 14: 1-72).

Nocturne’s Reaping® : Intermezzo

Chapter 11

Kenji knew the letter was important; he could just tell. Therefore, it was essential for him to mail it without anyone suspecting what he was up to. He decided to involve Erik as his unwitting accomplice. It would seem less suspicious if two friends headed out on an adventure than if he wandered around the streets alone. He had to make sure this letter wasn’t retrieved right after it was deposited in the postal box; therefore, he couldn’t tip off anyone to what he was doing.

On the one hand, he thought he was being paranoid; on the other hand, he noted Miss Harrington’s bizarre reaction to Takara leaving the building. People were watching Takara and controlling her movements. He just had to make sure this letter got to where it needed to be.

“Something going on?” Erik asked him.

Kenji had been standing outside the virtual reality corridor waiting for Erik. The question was how much should he say. Maybe Erik could point him in the direction of a postal box that was less conspicuous. The closest one might not be the best choice as it turned out. In his current frame of mind, Kenji resisted looking up the information online again lest someone saw him take the letter from Takara.

“I have to mail this letter …” Kenji stated.

“Okay.” Erik sounded confused.

“It’s sort of complicated.”

“Does it have something to do with that girl?” Erik asked.

“Yes.” Kenji wondered where Erik was going with that question.

“Why don’t you just give it to her then?”

“I can’t.”

“Oh …” Erik considered. “Oh, she left. Hey, they’re all gone!”

“Yes, the bus left a little while ago. I told them we weren’t needing a ride since we came here on our own.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

Kenji considered.

“Like I said …”

“Listen, do you want me to mail it for you?”

“I … don’t know …”

“It’s not a big deal. There’s a box on the way to my house.”

Kenji found himself handing the letter over. His heart sank a little as he let it slip away from his grasp.

“You won’t forget?” Kenji asked.

“No.” Erik insisted. “I’ll do it. I know how hard it will be to work with you if I don’t.”

Erik placed the letter in his jacket pocket.

“Catch you later.” Erik said as he took off.

 

***

 

Kenji was concerned on his way home. He had decided to walk rather than call his parents for a ride, despite his home being pretty far away, in order to have some time to think through the things that were weighing on him. Had he betrayed Takara’s trust by giving the letter to Erik? It wasn’t as though he felt that Erik would purposefully let him down. But what if the letter fell out of Erik’s pocket? Kenji tried to tell himself that Takara could just write another one, but honestly her home life seemed really strange. Perhaps, it had something to do with her father’s death? Kenji had been afraid to ask about that. Not only did he not want to pry, but he felt it could also be potentially dangerous.

And to think he barely knew Takara before the course. He had liked her before; it wasn’t that. But she seemed so far away to him then. Now he was too worried about her to truly appreciate how great it was that they were actually spending time together.

Earlier that day, he had split his attention among looking for her to come into the arcade, exploring the computer programs, and talking to Erik. He had been worried what she might think when she found he wasn’t on the bus. His alarm clock hadn’t gone off in time for him to catch the bus, so his mother had offered to drive him. As his eyes drifted downward that last time, his eyes met hers. He was in awe of the brilliant smile Takara had given him; so much so that he was in a daze when he came down to the main floor.

Then, once again, it seemed as though her life had sneaked in on her. More than once before, she had alluded to being trapped at that place — that Institute. It was so bad apparently she didn’t even believe she’d be given the extra time to go to the arcade to complete her work.

Then, there was the way Miss Harrington had treated her. Kenji had never seen the teacher raise her voice before, but it was more than that. There was this venom to her words, as though she didn’t like Takara at all anymore. Kenji shook his head. What had Takara ever done to her? Nothing so far as Kenji could tell. Takara seemed to wilt like a blossom in the snow at that moment. Kenji sighed. He knew he wasn’t enough. She needed more support than he could give in the small amount of time they saw each other. And then, there was the letter. What would become of that?

Just then, Kenji noticed that the dull roar of a car engine, the awareness of which had entered into the back of his mind awhile ago, was still there. Kenji began to count the seconds of how long the sound remained. He began to wonder what its presence meant as time ticked by. As he stopped at the crosswalk, he could hear the hover car slowly approach. But instead of coming up to the line, it stopped just behind Kenji and idled there: he was being followed. Suddenly, Kenji’s concerns about Erik taking the letter from him were gone. As it turned out, Erik was the best chance that letter had of getting where it needed to go.

Kenji arrived home not long afterward. He had thought about going someplace else, so that those following him wouldn’t know where he lived. The only problem was he didn’t know where he could go nearby that would be safe. Not to mention, he was walking at such a clip by then that he was getting tired. He couldn’t seem to stop himself either. Ever since he realized he was being followed, he felt compelled to press forward and get home as quickly as possible.

Kenji ran up the stairs to his apartment, unlocked the door, and rushed inside. He’d made it! After removing his shoes and his bag, he yelled out, “I’m home!”

“Okay. No need to be so formal.” his mother returned.

Kenji sighed.

“I’m in the kitchen, by the way. I made some cookies if you’re interested.”

Kenji hesitated. It all depended on what type of cookies she was making. Some days they were great; other days his mother would try new recipes, new concoctions she created. Some of the combinations got to be bizarre.

Kenji entered the room then sat on a stool near the counter. He prepared himself for the worst.

“I made your favorite: peanut butter.”

“Is that all that’s in there?”

“Oh.” Her face fell. “Are you disappointed?”

“No, oh no! I can’t wait!”

“Good.” She smiled. “By the way, why were you out of breath? You usually say ‘I’m home’ with a lot more enthusiasm.”

Kenji looked at her skeptically.

“Some car seemed to be following me.” he admitted.

Kenji figured it was best someone else know just in case it was something. Still …

“But of course I can’t be sure.” he added.

“You know that wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

Kenji was taken aback by her reaction.

“This city has gotten strange. I mean, they never did figure out where that robot went. Next time you’ll have to call me; I’ll drive you home.”

“All right.” He nodded.

“Still, it’s unfortunate a person can’t just wander the streets anymore. I’m not sure when that happened. This colony used to seem so peaceful.”

“I don’t know.” Kenji acknowledged.

His mother sighed. Then, she went to the oven to retrieve the cookies.

“Oh, by the way, your father has started a booth at the local flea market. He wants us to go help.”

“Today?”

“Yes.”

“What would I do?”

“We’re supposed to look interested in his collection of custom-made fishing lures just in case no one else is.”

Kenji was doubtful.

“What?”

“He doesn’t want to be embarrassed. And I’ve made plenty of cookies to keep you going.”

It only then became clear to Kenji that the cookies were a bribe to get him to help with his father’s latest money-making scheme. Oh, well. At least he’d have some cookies and something else to think about.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2019