Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21094

Takeshi has not returned from his patrol. He was due back hours ago. Ana is frantic. She says she’s going out to search for him, and I will not let her go alone. 

I am as anxious for his return as she is. I can’t shake the fear that something has happened to him. 

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21093

I know it’s terrible, but I spent last night listening to Takeshi and Ana through the wall. Not their words; those are muffled by the layer of cinder block between us. Only the sounds of them, together. Usually I head for the tower above the Station as soon as I hear those unmistakable noises, but last night … I don’t know. 

If I loved someone, truly loved her, would I tell her something that would hurt her, or would I protect her from it for as long as I could? Would I force the knowledge on her, or would I hold her in my arms and treasure her smile, her peace? What is more selfish—to keep her in the dark, or to ruin the last moments of happiness I could give her?

I lay awake and wondered. I knew it was foolish; I have no one and never will, and someday I’ll stop thinking like this.

I rose for breakfast and stood with Ana as Takeshi left for his patrol. She watched him walk away with a frown. I haven’t seen her often in the last forty days—I’ve been searching for the nest. But as I looked down at her, it was so clear that what’s happening is hurting her. I can read it in her eyes.

When he’d disappeared around a corner, Ana turned to me. “I have the worst feeling,” she said quietly.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

She shook her head. “Will you train with me?”

We went to the training room and I let her pound on me for several hours. It felt good to me, too, because I could ignore the gnaw of uneasiness and focus on surviving Ana’s brutal strikes. It was obvious she felt the same way.

Takeshi is due back tomorrow morning, and when he returns, he will tell her he’s leaving. I don’t know what will happen after that. But I think I will feel relief that he is happy and safe in the Countryside, and it will be easier to concentrate. It is only now that I realize how exhausting the worry has been. I’m eager for it to be over.

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21092

Every muscle aches. I have been patrolling nonstop in search of the nest, which we believe is located somewhere south of downtown. I’ve tried. I’ve tried so hard that I’m bone-weary and desperate for my own cot in my own quarters, for a few days’ rest. 

When I arrived back at the Station today, though, my determination to find the nest cranked up a notch. Takeshi looks worse than ever. He has lost weight, and there are shadows beneath his eyes. His cheeks are hollow. He came into my quarters looking like a ghost. “Any luck?” he asked.

I shook my head.

"It’s okay. We’ll find it."


His eyebrows rose. “No? We always do.” He smiled, and it struck me in the pit of the stomach, as if he’d jabbed me with his staff.

"You can’t stay," I said quietly. "You’ve run out of time." I’d wanted to find and destroy the nest because I thought it would give him more reason to go to the Sanctum, but now I realized he was using it as an excuse to stay. "Have you told Ana?"

He looked away. “I need a few more days. Just a few more days.”

"You might not have a few days!" I took a step toward the door. "Is she here? She must be worried sick, and you haven’t even bothered to let her know what’s happening?"

In my anger, I made for the door. Ana would help me. Together, we could drag Takeshi to the Sanctum whether he wanted to go or not. 

His staff struck my chest before I realized he’d drawn it, and I stumbled back, the wind knocked out of me. He moved between me and the door, looking like his old self for a moment. “I’ll tell her,” he said. “I just … I’ll go on one more patrol. I need the distance from her to think it through. When I come back, I’ll tell her. And then I’ll go.” He collapsed his staff and clipped it to his belt. “I’ll leave in the morning.”

I sank onto my cot, too tired to argue. A few more days. He’ll be gone in a few more days. And I’m glad. I’m glad. The goodbye will hurt, but knowing he is at peace will be worth it. I hope Ana will feel the same. 

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21040

He seemed fine at dinner. In fact, he appeared hungrier than I’d seen him in a long time. He walked into the food room with Ana, his fingers locked with hers, and at first I thought they’d been fighting, because both of their faces were pinched with stress and Ana wouldn’t meet his eyes. But when he came to the table with his plate piled high, she relaxed. 

She watched him with absolute focus as he ate. With every bite, her face brightened, as if a bit of weight was lifted from her shoulders every time he swallowed. Between every bite, he looked at her and smiled, and it was easy to read his expression. See? I’m fine. Nothing to worry about.

An hour ago, I went to take a shower, and I heard him in the toilet room, vomiting all of it up. He emerged, pale and clammy, wiping his mouth, and cursed when he saw me standing there. “Don’t tell Ana,” he said in a ragged voice. 

"It won’t matter," I replied. "She’ll know."

He winced. “I know,” he whispered. 

"The things in this city don’t nourish you anymore. Your own body is telling you it’s time to leave." Every word made me ache, and the pain was good and bad. He will have the Countryside. After his short and painful life, after his long and brutal years of service, my Captain will have peace. Is there anything more precious than knowing someone you love will have an existence free of pain and full of happiness? But at the same time, if that existence is far from you, the happiness is bittersweet in the extreme. "You should go to the Sanctum."

"I’ll go when I’m ready." His dark eyes bored into mine. "And I’m not ready. Because you’re wrong. She nourishes me.”

How simple it would be if that were all he needed. “What would Ana say if she knew you were staying for her? She already senses something is wrong—how will she feel if she believes it’s her fault?”

He squeezed his eyes shut. “None of this is her fault, and I won’t allow her to think that way.”

I couldn’t help my burst of laughter. “You honestly believe you can control that?”

He opened his eyes, and they were glittering with desperation. “I can’t leave her, Malachi. Not yet.”

"So instead, you will make her watch while you fall apart." I hated the harshness of my words and tone, but at the same time, my own desperation was rising up. I don’t want to watch him deteriorate when the remedy is so obvious. And I don’t think Ana would either, if she really understood what’s happening. 

I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder. “I’ll take care of her. I’ll do whatever it takes until she’s ready to join you. She will not be alone.”

He swiped his sleeve over his eyes and sighed. “I’ll go soon. I promise. I just want a little more time with her. Can you understand?”

Though I wasn’t sure I did, I nodded. 

"So will you let me tell her in my own time?"

I nodded again. “But don’t wait too long. If you die here—”

He held up his hands. “I know.” He squared his shoulders. “Besides, I’d love to destroy one last nest before I go.” He slapped my back as he exited the washroom, and I listened to his footsteps echo as he walked away.

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21001

Today I sparred with Takeshi. Staffs. His specialty. 

And I beat him. Knocked him to the floor twice. Stripped the staff right out of his grip once. 

This has never happened before, in all the days he has been my superior officer.

He rose slowly from the floor, rubbing his arm. “That was a good strike.”

"You have easily deflected strikes just like that one. A million times."

He chuckled. “Maybe you’re getting faster.”

"Maybe you’re getting slower," I blurted out. Because I remember. I remember what Philip was like before he left us to go to the Sanctum. I remember breaking his nose during a sparring match on the same mat, and I remember him laughing it off just like Takeshi was doing. “Is it time for you to leave the city, Takeshi?”

His smile disappeared. “What a ridiculous thing to suggest.”

"Why is it ridiculous? You’ve been here for tens of thousands of days. Longer than Philip was here, even though you arrived at the same time. Maybe you’re ready to go."

He shook his head and set his staff on the rack. “Far from it. I was simply off today. Tomorrow I’ll be quicker.” He grinned, a flash of mischief. “It’s been a while since I’ve broken one of your bones.”

We laughed together and headed up to our quarters. And now I’m here, wondering. What would I prefer? That he recover his speed and destroy me on the sparring mat, that he show every sign that he still belongs here … or that he finally realizes he is reaching the end of his time in the city?

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 20887

Today Takeshi and I chased a Mazikin into an abandoned mansion at the eastern edge of downtown. To me, the grand palaces and manses are by far the most repugnant buildings in the city. People grow them and abandon them just as quickly. Each one carries the sour stench of madness, I think, of insatiable need and complete, inexhaustible hunger. The Mazikin darted up the central staircase, and Takeshi went up after it while I went in search of the back stairs so we could corner it. 

When I reached the second floor, the Mazikin was pelting down the hall toward me. I felled it quickly with a throwing knife. I was leaning over the body when Takeshi appeared around the corner, panting. He sagged against the wall when he saw that I’d taken down the creature, his hands on his thighs, his head hanging.

I watched him for a moment. “Are you all right?” I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him out of breath.

He nodded, still gasping for air. “Fine. Good job there.” Without raising his head, he waved his hand at the dead Mazikin.

"Thanks. Ready to head back to the Station?"

He pushed himself up. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

We walked back to the Station in silence, and with every step, I tried to quell the slither of uneasiness inside me. He seemed recovered by the time we reached the Station, though, eager to spend the evening with Ana. He’s fine, I’m sure.

Everyone, even Takeshi, has a bad day at some point.

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 18193

Today I found myself standing outside the Sanctum. It is so bright that you can see its glow from almost anywhere, and I think it draws the people who raise their heads long enough to notice it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about it, a long time since the white light caught my attention. Even now, I didn’t realize I was so close to it until I nearly ran into a fellow joining the seemingly endless line to get inside; I had been so lost in my thoughts, in my plans for the map, in my next patrol, my next kill, and in myself. 

"Thinking of going in?"

I was startled to find Raphael standing next to me. “Where did you come from?”

"My question was more interesting."

I sighed. “Should I be?”

His eyes met mine. “Only you can decide that.”

"The Judge told me not to come back until I was ready." 

"Are you?"

"Will I know if I am?"

He gave me a half-smile. “I think you will.”

I bowed my head. “Then I’m not.” I don’t know what ready feels like. I know that I still sit up at night, restless, tamping down anger that wants to take control. Loneliness that gnaws at me. Hunger that makes me ache. “Not yet.”

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 18190

Ana and I had quite a day. This time I was the one who acted as bait. We were in a neighborhood twenty-seven blocks due north of the Gates, a place where a few of the other Guards have been reporting sightings of Mazikin. 

I pretended to be injured. It’s the only way they would dare approach me now, I think. Lately it’s been getting very difficult to catch any Mazikin because we believe they clear out when we’re in the area. But I gave myself a bit of a nick on the forehead, and it bled nicely. After that it was simply a matter of staggering down the street, my armor unfastened and flapping against my shirt. 

It didn’t take them long to appear, four of them, sniffing the air and trailing me down the street. I was ready to fight them.

However, Ana made that unnecessary. It was so quick, so easy. The Mazikin never knew what was happening. She is absolutely deadly with her knives, and it is poetry to see her in action.

We will stay here tonight and hike back to the Station tomorrow. Ana is restless and wants to return to Takeshi, who stayed behind to drill the inhuman Guards. She is spending her evening watching the television, a show called The Brady Bunch. I confess that I cannot understand her absolute fascination with it. She has invited me to watch it with her, but I prefer to be up here, on the roof, in the quiet.

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