There was no warning. Yui only saw a flash of light in her peripheral vision as the unexpected sound of an explosion erupted so loudly it made her ears rang. She jerked her head up and felt the slight rattling of her walls as she watched small debris clatter on her balcony floor after hitting her windows.
It took her a few moments to understand what happened, but before she knew it, she had already clambered on her feet. She looked out the window and saw pedestrians fleeing in every direction.
Perhaps it was her instincts as a producer that kicked in or perhaps with all she had gone through in the past year that even though she could hear her own heart racing in fear, she knew she had to do something. She hurried back into her room to put on some warm clothes and grabbed a few essentials before running out the door and towards the scene.
She already saw the scene of the explosion from her home, but nothing could have prepared her for the carnage awaiting her. As soon as she exited her building, the painful moans of the injured filled her ears and the metallic smell of blood mixed with charcoal-burnt human flesh filled her nostrils. In the corner of her eye, she saw a limb lying on the ground, its lifeless body lying several feet away from it.
She was frozen in place, her feet rooted to the ground as her body shook in fear. It wasn’t until she heard the faint sound of a child’s cry that she snapped back into action, running towards the sound.
Yui found the little boy sitting on the ground behind a vehicle. He couldn’t have been any older than five. He had tears streaming down his face, but looked unharmed otherwise.
“Are you hurt anywhere?” Yui asked, just to make sure.
The boy shook his head, still sobbing, “I want my mommy!”
“Ok, let’s go find her.” Yui patted the boy on the head to comfort him before asking him about the name and physical appearance of his mother.
Although the child was unable to give her much detail, finding his mother turned out to be an easy task as she was already running down the street, frantically calling his name.
As Yui handed the boy over to his mother, their hands brushed and suddenly, her body tensed. The scene of a second explosion slammed into her vision. Yui saw the people who scattered eastward running right into the second bomb, exploding less than a block away from the current location. Many more were injured and killed, including the mother and the boy who were standing right in front of her right now.
Yui snapped her eyes open, grabbing the mother’s wrist tightly. “Run the other way. Don’t go eastward.”
“What?” The mother was puzzled at the sudden command given by the stranger in front of her.
“Just do it. Now!” Yui yelled, this time looking at the woman dead in her eyes.
Without further questions, the mother picked up her child and obeyed, the urgency in Yui’s tone, too difficult to ignore.
Screaming at the others on the streets to do the same, Yui, too, picked up her feet and ran but only got a few steps in before the second explosion erupted.
Yui barely had the time to flatten herself against the ground. Clouds of debris swept over her as she flinched at the small objects hitting her exposed hands and arms used to shield her head.
She tried to get back on her feet once the dust settled, but felt disoriented. She stumbled on her feet as the loud ring in her ears continued. Shaking her head, she tried to get rid of the pain and regained her bearings.
Finally, she stood up to look around. There were even more bodies on the ground. The second bomb went off when the residents from the nearby buildings came out to either help or to flee the scene.
This was no accident. It was a planned attack!
Who would do something like that? And, more pressingly, were there anymore bombs waiting to go off?
Yui closed her eyes, trying to use her evol to see if there would be another explosion when she felt a hand wrap weakly around her ankle. She let out a little yelp in surprise.
The man on the ground said something to her, but she couldn’t hear him properly. Her hearing still muffled from the deafening explosion.
“Are you ok?” She quickly knelt beside him. It took her a moment to recognize the man. He was Mr. Qin, her upstairs neighbour. But the man who was always expressionless and rude now looked at her with pleading eyes, his face twisted in pain and lying in a pool of his own blood.
It took her shaking hands a moment to find the open wound on him, a deep gash on his abdomen, which must have been caused by a large piece of flying debri.
“Mr. Qin, hang on! The ambulance will be here soon.” She comforted him. But even as she put pressure on his wound, she knew she was unable to stop the blood from gushing out of his body. Slowly, his life slipped away from under her hands.
Tears rolled down her face as his hand fell lifelessly on the ground. Like a deflated balloon, she sat on the ground, staring at her hands, now covered in crimson.
She was told she was the Queen. She was told she was the one who can change the future, but people were dying right in front of her and she couldn’t do a thing. What was the point of having precognition when she couldn’t prevent these disasters? What was the point of having the Queen gene when she could only watch others die in front of her?
“Stop spacing out!” She vaguely heard someone yelling at her. The voice sounded far away, but her arm was grabbed and she was yanked to her feet in an instant.
She slowly turned her head towards the man and found herself staring into a familiar face, one that belonged to the person she least wanted to see.
She jerked her arm back in reaction and took a few steps away from him. How dare he appear before her again. As if glares can kill, with all her might, she glared at him - at the person who caused her so much pain the last few days. She didn’t understand why he had to appear before her again. Did he want to hurt her more or…
The dots suddenly connected.
She had been holed up in her apartment for the last several days and had ignored his calls, not only because she didn’t want to talk to the person who caused her so much pain, but also because she didn’t think it was important.
But now that she thought about it, the information in the USB key she got from working in the amusement park included a date, a time and list of chemicals amongst some other information. She had a very short time frame to steal the information, so she hadn’t had a chance to go through all the details. But if she remembered correctly, the date was… today.
Could it be that his calls were for her to go retrieve more information so that they could prevent today’s bombing? If she didn’t ignore his calls, could she have prevented this?
She looked towards Shaw again, horrified.
Before she was able to ask the question, Shaw already took a step towards her and snaked one hand around her waist to lift her up.
“What are you doing?” She pushed at him.
“Stop wiggling.” He tsked as he jumped on his skateboard and started skating away with her in his arms at top speed, somehow able to dodge the bodies on the ground. “It’s not my fault if I drop you.”
“Let me down! Don’t…”
The arms around her tightened as Shaw threw the both of them on the ground and the world spinned around her. Once again, debris swept over her, but this time she felt none of the pain she did earlier. She opened her eyes gingerly to find Shaw braced over her, covering her with his body, his hand on the back of her head holding her safely against his chest.
Shaw had always been the type to tell her to just run, teasing her for not running fast enough just before grabbing her hand and dragging her along with him. This was the very first time he actually shielded her.
Partly paralyzed with how to react and slightly confused from the blast, Yui simply stared at the man who just protected her. She watched as he slowly propped himself up. Placing a hand over his ear, he frowned as he shook the dust off his head.
She wanted to say something to him, but didn’t know what. She wanted to have nothing to do with him, but he was the one who protected her today when she needed it the most.
She saw his lips moving, seemingly asking her something after he helped her up, but she couldn’t hear a thing. The hearing she slowly regained a few moments ago gone again. He said something to her again, but this time, although she still couldn’t hear him, she was fairly sure it was something that would have annoyed her.
“Stay here!” Shaw yelled even though he knew from the absent look that she probably couldn’t hear him, so he gestured to the ground to emphasize his command.
He waited until she nodded at him before running off to retrieve his skateboard that, surprisingly, hadn’t blown far in the blast.
As Shaw moved from her line of sight, Yui noticed a familiar figure appear just a block away from where she stood. Standing tall in his dark colored uniform, the figure's short brown hair blew in the wind as he gave out order after order to his team to secure the area.
“Gavin.” She whispered, craving for his comfort, for the warmth of his embrace. She yearned for him to take away her fears and to help her to be brave again.
She took a step towards him, but quickly held herself back.
How could she still try to seek the comfort of Gavin after what she had done? And even if she was shameless enough to do so, this Gavin was not hers. If she went up to him now, he would only look at her with his cold gaze, much like their last encounter at the alleyway. He would probably think she was stalking him again.
She couldn’t bear that treatment from him. Especially not now.
Yui dragged her gaze away from him and noticed more and more soldiers in the now-familiar NW uniform began to appear at the scene.
A team of soldiers attempted to direct bystanders and those who were uninjured away from the scene, but it was obvious from their expressions that even they did not know if they were directing them towards safety or towards the danger of another explosion.
Another team went to check for survivors, but one after another, they checked the pulse of the victims lying lifelessly on the ground. One after another, they grimly shook their heads.
The iron-rich scent of blood and the charcoal scent of burnt flesh permeated the air.
She stood there unable to take her eyes off the scene. Her feet rooted into the ground and her body shook like a leaf in the wind.
Once again, Yui was overwhelmed by her own powerlessness. She was the Queen, and yet all she could do was stand there helplessly watching people die in front of her.
A large hand covered her eyes. The back of her head fell gently against a muscular chest as Shaw’s still somewhat unfamiliar warmth surrounded her.
Vaguely, she heard him saying in a gentle voice, “Let’s get you out of here.”