Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Our fleeing shadows flicker in the strobing light from far-off eppy guns – still enough to hurt our eyes, not enough to drop us.
A while later, Oli gasps: “Where?”
Good question. Sheer luck we’d headed out in search of cold drinks. The block party had turned into a full-on noise riot and any chilled stuff had gone. We were several roads over when the raid hit.
The road sign says ‘Salvington Hill’. I have a mad idea.
We run upwards, crossing into Honeysuckle Lane. Finally, the incline forces us to pause and catch our breath. The houses around us are big and set back from tall gates in taller walls. We’re surely a long way from the urbs.
A green glow outlines a kokuji sign. Hoping, I press the call pad under it. I hear the whirr of a lens.
The relief at hearing his voice nearly drops me. Instead, I brace up and wave.
“Greets, Hanzo. Me plus one and yes, I need something.”
I hear a laugh and the access portal by the gate swings open.
“Follow the path.”
The long, lit path winds a through a garden laid around a network of ponds and streams. Oli’s gawping. I’m worrying.
Hanzo’s leaning on the open door: “You escaped the Muirfield bust?”
I nod and introduce Oli.
He smiles at Oli: “You’re my late brother’s girlfriend. You only came here to obey the ‘clear the streets’ Edict. We haven’t seen each other since Jansi died, two years ago. Things are really awkward because I had a lilac dancing for me tonight.”
He straightens and turns to me: “Which would be you. There’s a spray booth by the swimming pool. Get naked, get sprayed, only put a robe on after you’re dry, then come to the lounge.”
I’m about to ask directions when he snaps his fingers and a beautiful dragonfly drone flits in to hover by his head: “Guide. Swimming pool. Wait. Go command: ‘Dry now’. Guide. Lounge.”
Everyone at college reckons Hanzo has his act together. I guess being second son of Nihonese royalty doesn’t leave a lot of room for being a flake.
His quick thinking means that when a three-man Domestic Army delegation is permitted entry, Crown Prince Hanzo Naruhito quickly explains the situation. He dismisses them before their stares can make me feel dirty.
Oli’s wide-eyed: “Crown Prince?”
He waves deprecatingly: “An honorary title as long as I remain outside of Japan. Children of concubines don’t get to sit upon the Chrysanthemum Throne. Even if everyone dies, the succession ignores me.”
I raise a hand: “What now? My clever ideas ended at remembering your offer.”
“I know you’re an orphan. I presume Oli is a long way from family?”
“Bad news: you’re both homeless. A fire started during the raid. It gutted the place.”
Oli and I exchange panicked glances.
Hanzo smiles: “Steady. I did say ‘anything you need’, and I have more rooms than I can use. Why don’t you live here for a while? The rest we can make up as we go along.”
Oli giggles: “My folks are going to have kittens when they find out I’m living with a Japanese prince!”
I can’t resist: “Wait until those Domestic Army creeps sell all. I can see the headline: ‘Hanzo’s Wild Nights with his Late Brother’s Ex and a Lilac’.”
He sighs: “I do so love the phone calls from home after I get featured on scandal sites. Grandma Tani will be outraged, again.”
“Is that bad?”
He chuckles: “No. Mum enjoys it immensely.”