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Isaiah 26

In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.

Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.

Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:

For He bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, He layeth it low; He layeth it low, even to the ground; He bringeth it even to the dust.

The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy.

The way of the just is uprightness: Thou, Most Upright, dost weigh the path of the just.

Yea, in the way of Thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for Thee; the desire of our soul is to Thy name, and to the remembrance of Thee.

With my soul have I desired Thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek Thee early: for when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.

LORD, when Thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of Thine enemies shall devour them.

LORD, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us [Or, for us].

O LORD our God, other lords beside Thee have had dominion over us: but by Thee only will we make mention of Thy name.

They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast Thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.

Thou hast increased the nation, O LORD, Thou hast increased the nation: Thou art glorified: Thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earth.

LORD, in trouble have they visited Thee, they poured out a prayer when Thy chastening was upon them.

Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in Thy sight, O LORD.

We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.

Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.

For, behold, the LORD cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain (Isaiah 26: 1-21).

Isaiah 25

O LORD, Thou art my God; I will exalt Thee, I will praise Thy name; for Thou hast done wonderful things; Thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.

For Thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built.

Therefore shall the strong people glorify Thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear Thee.

For Thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.

Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low.

And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.

And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.

And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.

For in this mountain shall the hand of the LORD rest, and Moab shall be trodden down [Or, threshed] under Him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.

And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and He shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.

And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall He bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust (Isaiah 25: 1-12).

Isaiah 24

Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.

And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest [Or, prince]; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.

The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.

The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.

The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.

The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted do sigh.

The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.

They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.

The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in.

There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone.

In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction.

When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.

They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea.

Wherefore glorify thee the LORD in the fires [Or, valleys], even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea.

From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous. But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.

Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.

And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.

The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.

The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.

And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit [Or, dungeon], and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.

Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously (Isaiah 24: 1-23).

Nocturne’s Reaping® : Intermezzo

Chapter 13

Kenji was very anxious. Waiting for Friday had begun to take its toll. He had worked with his father that week, an experience which was surprisingly enjoyable. His father as a parent made for a sometimes awkward adolescence, but as a boss he was surprisingly fun. Then again, since Kenji didn’t take his temporary job as seriously as he did his own daily life that might explain the difference in his feelings. On the other hand, maybe he should care what his father did for a living. It helped his family to eat and have a place to stay. Also, his father was actually really good at running his business of “Party Favors and Doodads.” Yes, that was the name of the company.

Kenji never really appreciated his father’s unusual talent for creating and selling random stuff before that week. It was a rare talent actually — one at which his father excelled. Actually, as Kenji found out, it was the only thing that his father did at the company. The rest of the work went to the accountant, to the custodian, or to the assistant … yes, that assistant. Well, his father said it was a small business, and Kenji couldn’t have agreed more.

The assistant’s job? Well, it pretty much entailed whatever his father thought that it did at any given moment. No wonder his usual assistant needed a break! Of course, every time Kenji found himself with a new task to complete he felt relief. After all, it made his absence from class seem more excusable. True, he didn’t have permission to take the time off. He thought about getting permission in advance, but what if he was denied? No, he couldn’t risk that. And he needed to talk to Takara in person before speaking with her over the online connection. The Friday field trip seemed like the only opportunity he’d have to be able to do that. Yet, it had occurred to him that he might be kicked out of the course altogether because of his absence. Then where would he be? Perhaps, he could hang out at the arcade and get word to Takara through Erik if he couldn’t do it himself. Regardless, the most important thing was for Kenji to get through the week, and then he could talk to both Takara and Erik. That way he could make sure they wouldn’t discuss anything to do with Takara’s letter online or in front of anyone else.

“Well, good news, Kenji. Miss Adams is coming back next week, so it looks as though you can go back to school then.”

Kenji looked at his father quizzically. Apparently, his father had forgotten that this scheme had merely been a way of giving Kenji an excuse to get out of class. Or, maybe his father really did need him around. Then again, his father could just be letting Kenji know that he’d be going back to class next week just in case he had other plans. After all, taking the class in the first place had been his parents’ idea. No matter what the case might be, Kenji was determined to be as reliable a student as possible from that point forward. After all, he wouldn’t be able to guarantee seeing Takara again otherwise.

Kenji had trouble sleeping Thursday night. He kept waking up over and over again fearing that he had slept through his alarm. Eventually, it did go off on its own.

Kenji was sort of in a daze as he began his day. He still had the adrenaline in him that had kept him up for most of the night. He had kept playing out in his dreams how this upcoming day would unfold; in fact, he’d been thinking about it all week. All he wanted to do was set things right with Takara and Erik. He didn’t want Takara worried about him. He also didn’t want to be kicked out of that class.

“Kenji, are you going to eat that breakfast or just stare at it?” his mother asked him.

Kenji looked up with a blank expression on his face at his mother.

“Oh, sorry.”

He began to eat the breakfast cereal.

“Seems you’re up early today.”

“Yes.” he replied after he finished chewing.

“I wonder though. I got the impression you didn’t like this course. You know … if it’s really that bad it’s not too late to drop it.”

“Oh, no!” he exclaimed. “I love it there. There were just …”

How could he explain it?

“Oh, well, you’re like your father when he gets an idea. He just stops making sense. Actually, that happens a lot.” she laughed. “Anyway, you’d better get going to that class you love so much! You don’t want to miss the bus!”

“Yeah!” Kenji jumped up from his chair, a look of concern on his face.

“Kenji, I was kidding. You have plenty of time.”

“And a lot to make up for.” he said. “No point in taking chances.”

Kenji grabbed his bag and headed for the door. Then, he turned around and looked at his mother.

“Oh, by the way, if I need a ride later …”

“I’ll be here.” She smiled.

“All right, good-bye!”

“Good-bye, Kenji.”

 

Kenji’s nerves were frayed when he got on the bus. The first person he ran into was his teacher.

“Kenji? I thought you dropped the course.” she noted in a rather cold tone.

“Umm … I have a note from my dad.” Kenji began to get something out of his bag.

“No, don’t bother now. Later.” she said, waving him off.

It was strange to Kenji how different Miss Harrington was now in comparison to his first impression of her.

The next person Kenji saw was Erik, who gave Kenji a skeptical smile. Kenji was surprised Erik wasn’t already at the arcade. Maybe he ran out of things to do on his own, Kenji concluded.

“Hey, long time no see.” Erik mentioned.

Kenji turned a cautionary look toward the front of the bus where the teacher was seated. Sure enough, she was looking straight at him. She then turned forward again.

Kenji took the seat across from Erik. He then gave Erik a concerned look. Erik looked at Kenji quizzically for a moment; then, Erik began to fill Kenji in on the class discussions. Kenji was grateful for that.

As the bus rolled on, Kenji became aware that they were coming close to Takara’s address. At first he didn’t see her, but then she seemed to step out from behind a shrub. Her face was downcast. She barely looked up when the bus came to a stop in front of her.

Takara slowly walked toward the bus. When she stepped up onto the bus, her eyes just happened to glance up. Almost instantly, her eyes locked on to Kenji’s. At first, a look of surprise crossed her face. Then, she looked off to the side, and her brow furrowed as though she was confused. She looked at him again briefly then down. Finally, she walked forward as the bus moved on. She sat a couple of seats in front of and across from Kenji. Occasionally, she would glance back at him. Kenji was upset that she seemed hurt. Kenji sat back in his seat and sighed. He kept reminding himself that what he did was necessary. He told himself that she would understand once he had the chance to explain. Kenji wasn’t sure what to do in the meantime.

Once they arrived at the arcade, Kenji suddenly stood up from his spot. Maybe he could whisper something to Takara as he passed by her. But before he could even turn toward Takara, the teacher called out to him.

“Kenji, come here a moment.” she called forth.

Kenji glanced at Takara then headed forward.

“You can sit over there.” She directed him to the seat across from her. He did wonder whether she was going to talk with him in front of the other students while she kept them all waiting.

“All right.” The woman stood. “The rest of you can go inside and get on your computers. I’ll be up in the computer room shortly to start you on your assignments for today.”

After she finished speaking, the other students filed out one by one. Erik raised an eyebrow as he passed by Kenji. Takara looked at Kenji but said nothing.

“Well, it’s been awhile.” the teacher posed after only the bus driver remained on the bus with them.

This was what Kenji had been fearing would happen — Miss Harrington might bar him from class … and from Takara.

“Let’s see that note of yours.”

Kenji had fetched the note out of his bag during the bus ride. He handed it over to her then. The woman looked the note over.

“So, why exactly didn’t you ask for permission?” she asked Kenji pointedly.

When she stared at Kenji, he momentarily froze under her gaze.

“I was afraid you’d say no.” he muttered.

It was the first thing that came to mind. It was actually true in a lot of ways. Though the significance of why it was true wasn’t something he wanted to discuss. And he had to face the facts; it wasn’t exactly the best excuse ever. The teacher just stared at him as though she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Oh-kay.” she stammered.

She looked at the letter again and considered. She logged on to her tablet and seemed to be comparing the letter to something on the screen.

“Well, I believe this is your father’s signature.” she said aloud. “He did sign the checks after all.”

Kenji thought it was odd she would have taken that step to verify the authenticity of the note. He must be in real danger of being expelled, he thought. He bit his lip.

“All right.” she sighed. “I don’t need to deal with this. But let’s just say you are out of absences now. And you have a lot of work to do.”

“I did the work already.” Kenji offered.

He thought that would make her feel better about things. It didn’t.

“Well, under the circumstances I don’t think I can accept any work that is late. It wouldn’t be fair to the other students.”

She seemed to be waiting for a reaction. Kenji looked down and attempted to look shamefaced.

“All right. Get back with the others.”

“All right.” Kenji said.

He started to head off the bus.

“But I’m not sure what group you’ll be in …” Miss Harrington said in a parting shot.

Kenji froze. Then, he turned and looked at her.

“I mean, they might not want to accept you back.”

“Okay.” Kenji tried to sound uninterested.

The teacher sighed again. “Okay.”

She nodded toward the bus driver then waved Kenji inside. When Kenji got off the bus, he was shaken a bit. He had told himself before his encounter with Miss Harrington that despite his fears it probably wouldn’t end up being a big deal. He was glad he didn’t know how difficult it was going to be ahead of time. It wasn’t something he could have prepared for; in fact, it wasn’t something he would have wanted to prepare for. After all, it was clear Miss Harrington was watching his reaction while they spoke.

Kenji breathed out. Now he had to face Takara and Erik. At least the teacher hadn’t forbidden him to work with them. Still, he had to wonder how he was going to be received. Erik didn’t seem to be angry with him, but Takara … Would she feel as though he were playing games with her? Given that most of the people in her life seemed to be playing games with her, what if she didn’t trust him anymore?

Then, it was the moment of truth. He saw Erik and Takara in the foyer waiting for him. Erik seemed okay, but Takara was staring above Kenji’s head. Then, she slowly approached him. Right when she got to him, she whispered, “I’m glad you’re okay.”

She smiled softly. Kenji was stunned. He stood there agape. She wasn’t mad; she was only relieved that he was okay!

“Well, the teacher’s coming in. You’d better start working already, Kenji. You have a lot to catch up on!” Erik teased.

“Yes.” Kenji said. “Yes, I do.”

When they got to their computer unit on the second floor, Kenji apologized.

“I’m sorry that you guys are behind because of me.”

Takara looked at him blankly, but Erik looked at Kenji skeptically.

“Why? We haven’t met up without you.” Erik pointed out. “Any work you missed was individual work. I mean, I guess you did risk reducing our group to two people. Oh! And it seems the teacher has taken a particular interest in you now as well.”

Takara just sort of froze upon hearing those words as she was used to strange things happening, but Kenji couldn’t seem to keep himself from looking to see where the teacher was. He turned and glanced back. At that moment, he just happened to make eye contact with his teacher. Kenji then turned back right away. She did seem to be lurking around them.

“I wonder what her issue is.” Erik pondered. “I guess we’ll have to work very hard.”

“Yeah.” Kenji uttered.

“Oh, and by the way, I handled that thing you wanted me to do.” Erik added confidentially.

“Thanks.” Kenji said in a daze. Then, he realized what Erik was saying. “Oh, yeah, thanks!”

“No problem.”

Takara had no idea what they were talking about. As it turned out, it worked to Kenji’s advantage that Erik was unsure as to whether Kenji wanted Takara to know about the letter. Still, Kenji figured it was better to err on the side of caution.

“Only …” Kenji started. “There’s no point in discussing it.”

Erik, who was sitting at the monitor, looked over at Kenji with understanding.

“Of course.” Erik agreed.

“Especially online.” Kenji directed this to both Takara and Erik. “We can’t bring up anything other than school online.”

Takara got the meaning behind this last part of what Kenji was saying, but now it was Erik’s turn to be confused. Erik turned completely toward Kenji with a perplexed expression on his face. He then looked away and considered.

“Should we get to work?” Erik suggested in a suddenly serious tone.

“Yes.” Takara agreed.

Kenji was tempted to look back and see whether the teacher was still looming. Yet, if she was it might seem odd to her that he would look again. No, Erik was right. Kenji had to work, to act as normally as possible.

Erik certainly knew what he was doing; in fact, the work at that moment was far beneath his abilities. Still, he didn’t want to rush the group work too much lest his partners not know something contained in the assignment. But, as it turned out, they were all relieved when they seemed to be done early. Erik then decided to let Kenji or Takara turn in the assignment. So, he excused himself and headed for the part of the arcade that he was most interested in: the virtual reality corridor. He knew he was giving Kenji a chance to be alone with Takara. If Erik had turned the assignment in right away, he had a feeling the teacher would break Kenji and Takara apart. Then again, why wouldn’t Erik help them out when he could? It was not a big deal to him, after all. And if it were Erik who had a girl he was interested in, he’d want Kenji to do the same thing for him.

“So, are you all right?” Takara asked Kenji once they were alone.

“Sure. Oh, you mean before. Yes, I mean I got my dad to let me help him with work.”

Takara looked unsure but asked him nothing.

“You see …” Kenji looked around him nervously. “Someone was following me.” he whispered quickly. “And they broke into my home — at least I think they did. Maybe it’s nothing, but I was worried … about the letter.”

Takara pulled back slightly.

“I’m so sorry.” she stammered.

“No, no it’s fine.”

In an attempt to reassure her, he placed his hand on hers. Kenji reddened almost immediately.

“I’m sorry!” he exclaimed, removing his hand swiftly.

“No, it’s fine.” Takara insisted.

She looked down.

“So, I hate to ask this, but was the letter sent out?” she put forth.

“Yes, it was. I mean, Erik handled it. I sort of felt bad for just giving something that important over to someone else. But it seems to have worked out for the best.”

Takara nodded slowly.

“Are you angry?” Kenji wondered.

“About what?” Takara questioned. “Oh, no. I’m grateful for your help.”

Takara smiled.

“Oh, you’re welcome.” he responded.

“What is it then?” he asked her when he saw that she had grown sad again.

“It’s just that I hadn’t really thought it through until recently. I mean, I guess I didn’t allow myself to believe it would happen. I haven’t seen … her in a long time — my mother.” she whispered the last part. “I’m glad, but I’m scared. I’m probably going to lose everything I have here …”

Takara did think of Kenji at that moment, and on some level Kenji realized it, too. She had begun having mixed feelings about leaving a few days before when she realized just how much she had come to rely on and actually care about Kenji. Still, there didn’t seem to be an alternative. After all, the way things were at the Institute, she probably wouldn’t be able to see Kenji again after this course was over anyway. Not to mention, the situation seemed to be getting increasingly tense for Takara where she was staying. It just felt wrong, and it felt as though it was getting worse. Still …

And there was also someone else who mattered to her — someone whom she dearly loved despite the fact that he was gone from this world. Still, his body remained somewhere on the colony. She had never had the opportunity to say good-bye to her father before he died. The last time she remembered seeing him was the night of that New Year’s Eve party. And then she had had the realization that she might not even have the opportunity to see where he had been buried. After all, leaving the colony might still not be an easy feat even after her mother came for her. Yet, Takara had to admit it was merely the Institute she wanted to escape from, not the colony as a whole.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her.

Takara found herself explaining to Kenji in hushed tones all about her father and what had happened to him — and to her as well — at least what she could piece together. Then, she expressed her sorrow over not being able to see where he had been laid to rest. Takara started to cry despite herself.

“That’s one of the things that still troubles me …” she explained, her lip quivering. “I was never able to attend my father’s funeral or to even see his grave.”

“And do you — well, do you have any idea where his gravesite might be?”

Takara was taken aback.

“No.” Takara started. “I mean, not for sure. There is this one place my father took me sometimes. It is a local Christian church. Do you think he asked to be buried there?”

Kenji considered.

“It’s worth finding out.”

“But I don’t think calling about it would work out well for me.”

“No.” Kenji considered.

“I just don’t trust very many people.” she added.

“I understand.” he assured her.

Kenji thought for a moment.

“I’ll see what I can find out.” he offered. “Still, we can go and look around there. Maybe there’s a way we can go there after we’re done with our assignment the next time.”

Takara was surprised.

“You think so, Kenji, but how can we arrange it? Someone always seems to know where I am. And I’m only allowed to leave the Institute during these school sessions. Once the session ends, I’m taken back.”

Kenji was silent for a moment. His first reaction was that he liked how she said his name. But what really got to him was that she finally admitted to him that she was basically being held against her will. Kenji wanted to do something, say something to help her — something more than he had been able to do so far.

“Maybe there is one way. I mean, he came through before.”

“You mean Erik?”

“Yes. I think he would cover for us without needing much of an explanation. I know it seems like a risk — maybe too much of a risk considering we’re so close to getting you out of here.”

“Yes, out of here …”

“So … Takara …”

She looked up at him.

“The question is how do you feel about it? Is it something you would want to do?”

“Yes.” she said without hesitation. “Do you think you could go with me?”

“Sure.” he responded with a smile.

She smiled, too.

But then, suddenly, his eyes shot to a movement he saw down below him underneath the transparent sides of the computer cube he was in. He had been keeping an eye on one person in particular. Every once and a while, he would glance down. He’d been startled more than once when he found that the teacher had moved unexpectedly. But thankfully, he just happened to look down this time as she was making her way toward the elevator.

“I’ll think of something. Maybe Erik can help me with that.” he said as he watched the woman disappear from his field of vision.

He then quickly turned toward the computer and started to ready the assignment for submission. Occasionally, he would glance over at Takara.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to put you at risk when you’re so close to being with your mother again.” he mentioned.

“I understand.” Takara told him.

“Still, you give it some thought, and I’ll give it some thought. I don’t think it is safe for us to talk about it — or even allude to it anymore.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

“Still, if you need help …” Kenji could then hear someone say the teacher’s name from the main part of the computer room. “… with your assignments you’ll have to ask the teacher. I’m a bit behind I think, though I tried to catch up. I’m not even sure that I did everything right on this past week’s assignments yet.”

Kenji could see the faintest shadow of the teacher’s profile hovering past the threshold of the cube. Thankfully, without needing to be prompted, Takara followed suit.

“Oh, that’s okay. I’m actually doing quite well in this course.”

“Oh. Well then, maybe you can help me if it turns out that I need it.” Kenji laughed.

Suddenly, the teacher stepped forward. Kenji was a bit surprised when she moved toward them, despite the fact that he had observed her presence. It probably turned out for the best that he reacted with surprise since it would make her less likely to suspect the topic of conversation had been changed for her benefit. And yet, Kenji could tell that Miss Harrington was wary of him at this point — perhaps just as wary of him as she seemed to be of Takara.

“Where’s Erik?” she demanded out of nowhere.

Takara sort of turned and looked at her then looked away.

“The virtual reality corridor.” Kenji answered.

“And where’s your assignment?”

“Already submitted!” Kenji declared.

Miss Harrington just stared at them for a moment; then, she spun around and left.

Kenji breathed out. Somehow, he found he was capable of keeping his composure better this past couple of weeks than he ever had before. And the more he was tested, the stronger he seemed to become. Still, how long would he be capable of keeping this up? During one of those times he lost track of Miss Harrington she could have sneaked up  on them and heard something she shouldn’t have. Still, it was a risk he felt he had to take. After all, he couldn’t talk to Takara anywhere else.

“Kenji? Are you all right?” Takara asked.

Apparently, Kenji’s staring off into space had distressed Takara.

“Oh, yeah, I’m fine.” he stated, trying to sound reassuring.

Then again, maybe he didn’t need to reassure Takara after all. She didn’t appear too fazed by Miss Harrington’s latest behavior. In fact, Takara had become rather desensitized to people trying to shock her.

“Do you suppose we have to go to the bus?” Kenji then asked.

Takara took a look around her. Actually, her view of the other students was obstructed; still, she could hear someone typing away at the computer keys.

“I doubt it.” she responded. “We’d have probably heard an announcement telling us that we needed to go if we did need to go now.”

Takara looked back at Kenji. He seemed to be a bit anxious, as though he was unsure of what to do next.

“It’s hard, isn’t it?” Takara asked him.

He looked at her directly.

“I don’t want to leave here really, but since it is inevitable I feel unsettled. I wish I could just stay, or at least choose when to go.” Kenji explained.

Takara nodded.

“Students it’s time to log off now.” the teacher announced from somewhere nearby.

“Well, I guess it’s time after all.” Kenji concluded.

Kenji had to get off the bus before Takara. He could see her look out the window of the bus at him. Kenji looked around him as the bus pulled away. No one seemed to be following him this time; that was good. The sky was overcast. The wind seemed to pick up; he braced himself against it. He imagined Takara standing in front of those dark metal gates then slowly walking up the driveway in this chilled air. How depressing it must be for her! And yet there was still hope, he reminded himself. Erik had mailed that letter. There was every reason to believe Takara’s mother would come for her.

But then there was still one more thing to do before that happened. He had offered to find a way to get Takara to her father’s grave, and he really wanted to pull that off. Yet, he was only thirteen. How would he be capable of making it happen? And if they were caught, it could ruin everything.

Well, one thing was for certain, he would have to get Erik’s help to pull off any plan. Kenji had decided against speaking to Erik after class. He figured skipping the bus ride home might draw undue attention to him, and Erik had lingered at the arcade. Still, unlike Takara, there would be an opportunity for Kenji to talk with Erik outside of class. Kenji knew Erik hung out at the arcade often. Kenji would just need to go on one of those days and find him.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2019

Nocturne’s Reaping® : Intermezzo

Chapter 12

Being with his parents could sometimes be embarrassing for Kenji — but then that was probably true for most kids his age. The thing of it was his parents frequently teased him. And just like on this day, they also had a rather unconventional use of their free time. Assembling custom-made fishing lures wasn’t his father’s first strange hobby, nor was it the only one he tried to earn money from. But it certainly was the only one that Kenji had to actively participate in. One thing was for sure, he wouldn’t look at his father’s next hobby in the same way.

What his parents wanted Kenji to do was playact at being an interested customer during his father’s selling time. His mother would do the same — only at different times. Since it wouldn’t work to have them linger around the booth the entire time, Kenji was allowed to wander around the market eating one of his mother’s cookies as he went. As it was, he began to relax in his parents’ presence. It was almost as though the incident in which he was followed never happened … almost.

Kenji became interested in a video game display. He looked down at his watch and sighed. He still had an hour left to go before his father would leave for the day. He bit his lip. Oh well, at least he had something to look at. Why not make the best of it?

Kenji shuddered suddenly. He wondered what that was about. Then, he looked to his left. Briefly, he made eye contact with a man, who was turned toward him, from a distance. The man then swiftly turned his face away from Kenji. Kenji’s brow furrowed. He looked forward again and bit his lip.

Kenji’s breathing started to quicken. Should he look to make sure this guy was in fact watching him? No, he decided against it; he didn’t want to confirm to the man that he had made him. Instead, Kenji chose to show an interest in the game display. He decided to pick up the most interesting game guide he could find and could afford with the money he had brought with him. He thanked the vendor and turned away. All of Kenji’s muscles were tense, and he could tell his face was flushed. Yet, he tried to look as casual as possible as he headed back to where his parents were. His mother had just finished her stint as an interested customer and happened to be heading in his direction.

“Kenji, what a great idea!” His mother pointed toward the magazine Kenji was holding in his hand. “That will make you look like a real shopper.”

“Is it working?” Kenji asked lowly.

“Well, it’s hard to say. I mean, I think there is interest. People do come around to see what I’m yelling about.”

“Yelling?”

“Well, exclaiming. I thought I’d add some more drama to it. Maybe next time I should buy a lure. I mean, I could always give one to my boss. He does like to fish. Hey, that’s not such a bad idea! All his friends might see it and want one.”

Kenji turned his head toward the back of the room while she was talking. He couldn’t help it. Now he was having that same feeling he had had before — only he didn’t see the man.

“Kenji, what’s wrong? You aren’t listening.”

“Sorry.” he said, turning back around. “I have a lot on my mind.”

“Well, we could go home if you’re not feeling well.”

His mother placed her hand on his shoulder.

“No, that’s okay.” he replied.

He was pleased that his mother gave him the option to decide for himself.

“Great! I was hoping you’d say that.” She beamed. “Here. Let me give you some more money, so you can buy a lure this time. Your dad can give it to his boss.”

“Couldn’t he anyway?”

She frowned.

“Yeah, but that would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?”

“Oh — okay. I’ll do it.”

“Good.”

She handed him the money.

Kenji was surprised when he returned to find a crowd had gathered around his father’s booth. He was skeptical at first. He thought maybe his father had paid them to act interested, but it turned out they were students from the local high school heading out on a school wilderness trip. As he waited in line, Kenji cast a look around him. The only conspicuous-looking person that he saw was his mother peering out from the other side of a stack of books. She sort of waved at him then returned to reading the covers — presumably as a way to not draw attention to herself. Kenji sighed as he turned back toward his father. He was one part embarrassed and one part relieved. The relief was from seeing that his mother was all right while at the same time not seeing that strange man. It was pretty obvious where the embarrassment was coming from.

“I’m sorry, son, but we’re all out of my one-of-a-kind fishing lures.”

Kenji was deep in thought.

“Son, you’re going to have to come back next week …” his father stated. “Psst … Kenji.”

Kenji looked up. A phrase had caught his attention before the use of his name even had.

“Next week?” he stammered. “Are you serious?”

“We’re sold out. And why wouldn’t we be?” his father joined.

His father was missing his point badly. Then, his father whispered to Kenji, “The good news for you is we can leave early today.”

“Mom will be disappointed, I guess.” Kenji joked. “She wanted me to buy one for your boss.”

“Well, like I said. Next week.”

Kenji looked at his father quizzically. He was surprised to note that his father had taken him seriously.

“Let’s go get your mother and break the news to her. By the way, do you have any cookies left?”

Since his father had taken the bus to get to the flea market, it meant that the family could all ride back in the hover car together. Kenji sat in the back seat and stared out the window. He always wondered what it would be like to have a sibling, but these days he found he wished he had a dog — something to sit in the back seat with him; something that might understand him despite the language barrier; something that wouldn’t tease him just for fun.

Certainly having a pet might give him something to think on other than what his dad was talking about. His father unfortunately was giving a detailed account of his day at the flea market. Kenji guessed his father figured that since neither Kenji nor his mother had been there the entire day, there was much they had both missed out on. After all, there was bound to be some occurrence that one of them hadn’t seen.

As it turned out, it wasn’t all that difficult for Kenji’s mind to wander. And he thought about Takara, her letter, Erik taking it, and Kenji’s being possibly followed twice later. Still, as they pulled up to their apartment it all seemed rather surreal. Things like that just didn’t happen to him. That feeling of skepticism grew until the moment he and his parents reached their doorstep; then, it disappeared altogether. His mother let out a peculiar scream, and Kenji just kind of looked at her, unable to quite process what it was he was seeing.

“We’ve been robbed!” Kenji’s mother called out at the sight of the front door having been left cracked open.

“Robbed? Robbed of what?” Kenji’s dad countered.

“Well, how about Kenji’s computer?”

“Oh, yeah, right.”

“What do you mean?! We have lots of nice stuff.” Kenji’s mother retorted.

Kenji’s father scratched his head. “Well, should we go in?”

“I don’t know. Maybe we should call the local security force.” Kenji’s mom offered.

“Maybe …”

“If we had a dog, then it would know if someone was inside.” Kenji felt compelled to say.

They looked at him with accusatory expressions.

“Sorry.” he uttered self-consciously.

“Well, I guess I’ll take a look around.” Kenji’s father offered. “Maybe the apartment manager did an inspection and just forgot to shut the door.”

“Don’t try this at home …” Kenji muttered under his breath.

His father shot him a look before entering their abode. After a few surprisingly anxious moments, Kenji was glad to see his father returning.

“It’s all clear.”

“Thank goodness!” Kenji’s mom expressed.

Kenji and his mother took a step forward into the house.

“Yeah, the only room in the house that is messed up is yours, Kenji.” his father teased.

Kenji stopped short and looked at his father’s grin quizzically.

“What do you mean?” Kenji asked.

“It’s no big deal. I mean, when I was a boy it was much worse — if that could be imagined.”

Kenji headed into the house. Despite his father’s insistence, it did appear as though most of the drawers in the house had in fact been rifled through. The look on his mother’s face when he passed by her suggested that she realized the same thing.

But it was Kenji’s room that appeared as though someone had had a free-for-all. His backpack was particularly disassembled and the contents strewn about. Kenji’s mother appeared behind him. And when he looked up at her, he saw shock on her face. She had come to his door several times that day and knew his room didn’t look like this before.

“See, the computer’s still there.” his father consoled.

Kenji looked at him briefly. His father meant well, but he didn’t understand. They weren’t after the computer. That meant they were after something else of value to them — something that not everyone would even realize was valuable. All Kenji could think of was Takara’s letter, and he hoped they didn’t figure out that Erik had it — especially before it was mailed.

 

***

 

On Monday morning Kenji sat in front of his computer monitor pensively considering what course of action to take. Right before class, Kenji was stressed about Takara’s and Erik’s safety. But as much as he wanted to check on them, he decided to skip class that morning. He was afraid one or both of them would mention the letter. Someone might easily be monitoring the connection — particularly now. Kenji sighed and switched off his computer. He decided there was no point in waiting around feeling guilty about skipping class, so he ventured into the kitchen and sat down at the counter. His mother was busy baking muffins. When she saw him sitting there, she froze for a second.

“Oh, you scared me! Wait a minute, don’t you have a class?”

Kenji was staring into space.

“Kenji?”

“Yes.” He looked at her.

“Is something on your mind?”

Kenji considered for a moment.

“Just the break-in the other day.”

“But nothing was taken, was it?” she asked.

“No.”

“Kenji, I don’t mean to offend you, but you take everything so seriously.”

Kenji just looked off to the side and sighed.

“Well, since you’re being so ornery today I might as well put you to work. I have some baking to do. It’s my job to make the dessert for the brunch meeting today, and you’re going to help me.” his mother announced.

Kenji managed a smile. After all, he figured his mother was trying to be there for him. And at least this would be a way for him to keep his mind off his concern for Takara and Erik.

Kenji did try to log in right after class ended just to see whether Takara was there. She wasn’t. Afterward, he tried to convince himself it was for the best. He really couldn’t discuss anything with her online lest someone was watching, but he hated to think of her worrying about what had happened to her letter and maybe even to him. Still, how could it be avoided? He had to stay away from class until the next field trip. Kenji did breathe a sigh of relief when he saw the next field trip was scheduled for this week. Now he just had to hold out until Friday, avoiding the online class meetings until then. Fortunately, his regular school had already been dismissed for the summer.

Kenji made sure to check the assignment page. He thought the least he could do was make sure all of his online work was completed. That way, he hopefully wouldn’t be turned away from the field trip — for that at least. Still, how could he explain his absence if asked? Kenji was determined to find a verifiable excuse to miss the rest of this week’s online sessions; Kenji decided this part of the plan was something he could go to his parents with. They seemed to be really good at dealing with off-the-wall issues. So, while they were both sitting down, he asked, “I need to skip my online lectures this week, can you think of an excuse for me to do that?”

A strange look descended upon both of their faces. They appeared to be stunned silent. Kenji wasn’t really expecting this. Riotous laughter, yes — but this?

“Mom? Dad?”

“Kenji — are you serious?” his father asked him.

“Yes. It’s important.” He added the last part, hoping it would be enough information for them, so they wouldn’t feel the need to ask further questions.

“Oh, you know what?” his mother began. “I bet he just wants to skip class. Am I right? That is so rebellious of you! Of course, that you asked permission first kind of defeats the purpose!”

Kenji just looked at her blankly. Then, his parents looked at each other with confusion once again in their eyes.

“Umm … I suppose … well, my assistant is unexpectedly on vacation this week.” his father informed him. “I did try to find a temp but strangely none seemed to be available. I can have you fill in for her. It would actually be pretty helpful seeing as it’s a small business.”

“Great. I don’t even care whether I get docked points just as long as I can go to the field trip on Friday.”

His parents looked at each other again.

“Thanks, guys. You’re the best!” Kenji exclaimed before heading to his room.

At first, he just heard what seemed to be a muffled snicker. But then it quickly built until, once again, his parents had erupted into hysterical laughter. Kenji smiled to himself; it was worth it.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2019

2 Thessalonians 3

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

But ye, brethren, be not weary [Or, faint not] in well doing.

And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen (2 Thessalonians 3: 1-18).

2 Thessalonians 2

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him,

That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

And now ye know what withholdeth [Or, holdeth] that he might be revealed in his time.

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming:

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

For we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,

Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-17).