Author: Y. S. Wong PM
Azure Dunbarton is the adopted son of a mana magnate who cherishes his peaceful life. He seeks the answer to two questions: the location of the lost sword Valhalla and the identity of his parents. On the same day, the terrorist organization R.A.I.N. and a mysterious girl named Tsukiko appear. In his search for answers, will Azure's peaceful life crumble as well? Updates on Fridays.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 21 - Words: 45,194 - Reviews: 167 - Favs: 15 - Follows: 17 - Updated: 05-24-13 - Published: 01-09-13 - id: 3090625
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
ORCHID 2 THE RAINBOW AFTER RAIN
On the ground floor of Skyscraper One, Azure plops down on a wooden bench. Wearily, he watches the gray sky outside through the glass façade. A few gathering rainclouds dot the sky, but the late afternoon sun still manages to break through.
People drift in and out of the building around Azure. His bench is located towards the middle of a long corridor adjacent to the main ground floor lobby. On Azure's left is a short flight of stairs leading back to that part of the building. On his right is a gift shop.
"Did I take long?" says a girl suddenly, appearing at Azure's side. A thin but warmhearted smile is on her pale face. The girl's shoulder-length brown hair curls slightly at the tail ends, giving her a more youthful look. However, a faint pair of dark bags under her eyes stands out visibly.
As this girl hands Azure his copy of a set of souvenir photo booth stickers, he catches a hint of her perfume. It is fleeting but nostalgic, reminiscent of a warm summer breeze in a garden. The girl wears a flowing white summer dress with the skirt just caressing the tips of her knees. A pair of white open-toed heels complements her simple but classic attire. With her inquisitive, gentle hazel eyes, the girl looks expectantly at Azure.
A sheepish smile flitters across Azure's face as he accepts the offering. "Thank you, Ophelia." With a thoughtful look, Azure inspects the set of photographs depicting the two of them. "Hmm… as I thought, mustaches definitely do not suit me."
Ophelia giggles cutely. Then she suddenly leans forward, peering closely at Azure. Heart pounding, Azure instinctively tilts his head back. "What's wrong, Azure?"
"Wh-what do you mean?" Azure replies nervously.
In response, Ophelia flashes her girlish, innocent smile and lightly pokes Azure between the eyes with one of her delicate fingers. "Your eyebrows have been wrinkled like this all day. Whenever you're thinking really hard about something, you always wrinkle your eyebrows."
Humming pleasantly, Ophelia takes a seat beside Azure on the bench. When Azure remains silent, she leans closer towards him again. "Hey, is it something you can't even tell your childhood friend about?"
Azure sighs, resting his head against the concrete wall behind him. However, he does not say anything.
"Is it about your father?" asks Ophelia. Azure makes an astonished noise and quickly turns to look at the girl. Ophelia laughs. "You're so predictable, Azure."
"Back in India—in Hayes' place—there was no future. You grew up there, became nothing, and then died. Hayes cared lovingly for us, but that was the reality. When Father adopted me, he… he opened the doors for me. He gave me a future. Now Father wants me to succeed him at the company. I owe it to him to at least try to meet his expectations."
"But you aren't sure that's what you want?"
In reply, Azure shakes his head. "Hmm," Ophelia muses thoughtfully, "at least look on the bright side, Azure! Were it not for your father's company sponsoring the ceremony, we wouldn't be here for the reopening of the National Museum today!"
"I suppose so," smiles Azure weakly. He glances at his silver watch. "It's just past four. There's going to be a reception tonight I'm required to attend for the company. Will you be coming?"
This time, it is Ophelia who does not quite meet Azure's eyes. "Hmm," she ponders, "I would love to, but Father insists that I should retire early tonight. My health is still not well enough for me to be staying up so late."
"Oh," Azure nods with quiet understanding, "he's probably right. Then how will you get home?"
"Miss Shirley will pick me up."
Without warning, Ophelia suddenly rises from her seat and grabs Azure by both wrists with her own hands. "Just remember, Azure! After every storm, if you know where to look you can always find a rainbow once the rain ends."
"Huh?" Azure replies blankly.
"Meaning, even when it rains, there will always be a rainbow at the end. You only have to look for it. So there's no need to despair even if your father's wishes currently aren't the same as yours. Things will always work out if you know where to look for the rainbow."
Left in an awed silence, Azure remains silent for several seconds as he gazes into Ophelia's earnest light brown eyes. He feels the cold touch of her hands against his. Before long, Ophelia releases her hold on him and air returns to Azure's lungs.
The two of them depart at the front lobby of Skyscraper One. Azure waves while Ophelia signals goodbye, as an older woman wearing a maid's outfit helps Ophelia into a black luxury sedan. She soon disappears into the confines of the car. A few minutes later, the vehicle disappears from view entirely.
Azure turns around, heading back into the interior of the building with his hands thoughtfully inside his pockets. 'Rainbow, huh?'
Somewhere far away, a roll of thunder rumbles.
"Well then, I'd like to review your identifying details once more," says a burly black man from across the slightly rusty steel table. Wearing a green military jacket adorned with a number of pins and medals, the bald man stares down at Azure from behind his thick-framed glasses.
"Dunbarton," answers Azure hoarsely, his voice clearly tinged with exhaustion.
"Seventeen years of age."
"And you are the son of Edmond Dunbarton, current C.E.O. of Valhalla Corporation? Your current location of residence is 52 Victoria Place in Edinburgh?"
"Yes, to both questions."
After checking Azure's personal information once more, the man nods curtly. "Very well. Your testimony has been recorded. If you have any further questions, you have my card. You are dismissed."
Shuffling his feet wearily, Azure departs through the door of the cramped interrogation room and emerges into a stuffy waiting area outside. Here, he immediately finds a small contingent of well-wishers waiting for him. To Azure's left stands Mimi, still wearing her damaged dress from the previous night. Upon seeing Azure, Mimi quickly wraps an arm around his neck in a brief but worried hug. "Thank goodness you're all right, Azure! To think you were in the middle of all the action…."
"Yeah," mumbles Azure distractedly, "I'm just glad you made it out alive, Mimi."
At these words, Mimi claps her hands on both of Azure's shoulders. She looks him sternly in the eye. "No thanks to you, of course! Say, what did they want inside the interrogation chamber? I still can't believe you were the one to shoot down that terrorist…."
"They just wanted to know exactly what happened in those last moments before I shot him," replies Azure, obviously in no eager mood to relive the grueling hours of interrogation. "What's the news since then? The R.P. officials took me away for questioning immediately after the incident. Do we have any new information about the attack?"
Mimi folds her arms thoughtfully. "Well, let's see…. All of the news channels are talking about it. How there was a terrorist bombing last night in Skyscraper One. Oh, the terrorist you shot was taken to a military detention center for interrogation. They captured most of the fake G.L. soldiers, too, though it seems their leader managed to slip away in the confusion…."
"Leader?" Azure repeats. For a fleeting moment, the vision of the tall and severe Macbeth returns to Azure's mind. He chooses to remain silent, though his fist tightens slightly by his side just a bit.
"At any rate, just be glad you're okay, Azure!" Mimi continues excitedly. "Although now that I think about it, this would be a pretty good marketing opportunity for the family business, eh? I can just see the paper headlines now! Azure Dunbarton, prodigy son of Valhalla Corporation C.E.O. Edmond Dunbarton, terrorist-fighting superhero! Just imagine the great press that'll garner…."
Azure turns away as Mimi launches further into her long-winded babbling session. He turns his attention now to the older gentleman who has been waiting patiently for him, a thin man with wiry white hair and a meticulously-trimmed white mustache.
"Samuel, huh?" Azure greets this man in a low voice. "Have you news from Father?"
"No, I'm afraid it's nothing of the sort, Azure," answers a girl's voice. Azure looks over Samuel's shoulder and his eyes immediately widen with astonishment. Standing just behind Samuel is a girl with long black hair. She gazes at him with cold steel-black eyes, though a mysterious smirk lurks about her lips.
"Y-you!" Azure gasps. "But you're—"
"Tsukiko Amherst," the girl replies shortly. "Nice to meet you." Eyes still wide, Azure reluctantly accepts her outstretched hand.
"Ah, I am glad to see that you two have already met, Young Master Azure," says the man named Samuel with his crisp British tongue. "Master Dunbarton has agreed to take on Miss Tsukiko from now on. She will be staying with us for the time being and attending school with you at Cambridge Imperial in the coming fall."
"Y-you've got to be kidding…" hisses Azure, staring incredulously at the mysterious girl named Tsukiko. However, she stubbornly does not return his gaze; instead, she stares fixedly at her nails with an almost bored expression on her face.
In the meantime, Samuel's voice quickly draws Azure's attention back to the older man. "As I was saying, Young Master Azure, I am afraid I come with news of a rather urgent matter."
"Urgent?" Azure repeats. His eyes narrow slightly even as the word escapes his lips. Suspicion rising, Azure hurriedly turns his attention back to Mimi. "Sorry, Mimi. I have to go. We'll talk again later."
"Take care," Mimi voices cheerfully.
In the backseat of a black luxury vehicle, Azure fastens the seat belt. Tsukiko occupies the seat next to him. With a small frown on his face, Azure stares at Samuel, who is sitting in the driver's seat. At once, Samuel starts the car and pulls away from the fortified building of concrete and metal that is the military's base in London.
By now, the sun has risen quite far. It hovers just over the top of the tallest skyscrapers in the urban landscape, as Samuel directs the limousine onto a raised highway skirting through the heart of London. As the vehicle rounds a bend, Skyscraper One and Skyscraper Two come into view. The two towers stand with a haze of golden-gray sunlight as a backdrop. A billow of smoke still envelops the first tower.
"What's the matter, Samuel?" Azure growls in a low voice. "You sounded rather grim earlier at the base."
Humming softly to himself, Samuel drums the steering wheel with his fingers for a couple seconds as he expertly cuts off a taxi. His impossibly neat mustache twitches slightly. "I am afraid this concerns your young friend, Ophelia Westbrook. It would appear she was injured during the attack on Skyscraper One the previous evening."
Immediately, Azure's mouth drops wide open. A ringing silence pounds in his ears. "What?" he whispers disbelievingly. "Th-that's impossible! She left before the party started… I saw her! She shouldn't have been there, she couldn't have! But she's all right though, right?!"
By now, Azure is leaning forward, nearly jumping out of his seat as he clutches tightly the back of Samuel's seat with his right hand. Samuel bows his head. "I am afraid I do not know more," he answers gravely. "The doctors would not divulge any further details with me."
"Doctors?" Azure murmurs faintly, collapsing back into his seat. "We're going to the hospital, then?" Azure tilts his head back with a heavy sigh.
For several moments, all falls silent. Only the distant hum of the car traversing the highway breaks the silence. Then, a muffled laugh draws Azure's attention. He glances irritably at Tsukiko, who is determinedly looking out the window.
"You," Azure growls rather aggressively, "what's so funny?"
No answer. "Hey, answer me!"
Azure makes an impatient noise. "I'll deal with you later. We'll have to talk later in private."
"If you would like, Young Master Azure," Samuel suddenly pipes up from the front of the car, "I would like to inform you that I am quite expertly trained in momentarily growing deaf for as long as is convenient for you. Would you like me to employ that technique at this time? My ears of course would continue to function with regard to circumstances on the road so as to practice safe driving principles."
"Er, no, that's quite unnecessary, Samuel…."
Tsukiko remains silent. She continues to watch the London skyline drift by while Azure and Samuel speak. Just at this moment, the car passes by a particularly large tower built in the gothic style. Emblazoned across the front of this tower is a logo depicting an unmarked globe and a majestic sword, accompanied by the words Valhalla Corporation.
A/N 16 Jan 2013: In case it was not clear in the first chapter, Azure Dunbarton is not Indian. He is of European descent, though he was raised in an orphanage in India. Future iterations of the first chapter will make this more explicit. As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!