After three shots of whiskey the pain in Genjo's forehead eased down to a dull throb, and the buzz at the base of his skull had faded to a muted whine.
He and Koumyou both leaned back in their chairs, nursing their drinks while they propped their feet up on Koumyou's desk. Genjo's score rested on a stack of books, next to its case.
Genjo sipped at his fourth glass instead of gulping it down. "You could have warned me, you know," he said.
Koumyou took a swallow from his own drink. "Honestly, Genjo, I didn't know what to expect. It's not just being approved by the Triumvirate; they implant the receptor and validate the rank, but the Locus has to accept and complete the connection for the receptor to be activated. You are technically a sixth Sanzo, and there was the possibility that the Locus wouldn't connect with you."
"Like that one guy, Sanzo Ukoku? I always though it was strange that his receptor is just clear glass."
Koumyou shrugged. "His is an unusual situation, and very disappointing, since I always thought he was one of my best students. You're right, his receptor never activated—but he is still able to draw on the Locus' power. I've yet to figure out how he does it, and he's not inclined to share." He glanced at the faintly glowing ruby of Genjo's receptor. "I'm glad GOKU accepted you."
Genjo snorted. "You talk like he's still a person. According to my History professor, GOKU was converted not long after the NATAKU Locus, just after the Bodhisattvas were installed." He looked at the amount of liquor in his glass, decided it wasn't enough, and reached for the bottle to pour a little more.
Koumyou's lips pursed in disapproval. "I think it's important to remember that those young men were alive, and human, five hundred years ago. The Bodhisattvas were, too, before they were transferred into the Tenkai system." He nudged Genjo's foot with his. "Respect, my boy."
Genjo grunted in reply and studied the liquor in his glass. He couldn't even begin to imagine what it would have been like to have your consciousness, your entire being, transferred into a computer system. "Dad," he said, "are we really going Outside?"
Koumyou grinned at him. "Yes." He gestured at Genjo's score. "That location is real—I've been to it. It's a beautiful little valley that is hidden away in the middle of a mountain range."
Genjo choked on his sip of whiskey. "What? You've been Outside?" At his father's nod he frowned. "How the hell did you do that? And how the hell could you do such an incredible thing and not tell me?"
"Like I said earlier, I had to be sure of you. This has been in the works for many years, and only a handful of people know the full details."
"But how did you get Outside? Aren't the access hatches locked and under guard?"
"This is where having a mainframe made of sentient modules comes in handy," Koumyou said. "The Bodhisattvas provided us with test equipment, supplies, and the means to get through the hatches. They are an important, vital ally."
"Who's this 'us?'" Genjo asked.
"Me, Sanzo Goudai and Sanzo Tenkai." Koumyou poured another inch into each of their glasses and then he capped the bottle and put it away. "It's not going to be an easy life," he said, reclining back in his chair, "but it will be a free one. I think that's worth having to grow our own food and make our own way."
Genjo shrugged. "Shit, you and I have been eating unsynthed food—" he stopped, and stared at Koumyou. "You've been getting ready for this for years. Since I was little."
Koumyou leaned forward and clicked his glass against Genjo's. "Yes, You were getting ready too, except you didn't realize why."
"You sneaky bastard."
"Why, thank you." Koumyou drained his glass and stood. "Finish that up, and let's go."
"Go? Go where?"
"Before you came here, I called a meeting of the other Sanzos, and let them know about your possible Elevation. Now that you're one of us, they'll want to meet you and see your score—there's a lot of work to be done if we're going to be leaving in a few days."
"A few days?" Genjo gulped down the rest of his drink and rose as well, swaying a bit on his feet.
"Steady there, son," Koumyou said, laughing, and he opened his office door, and motioned for Genjo to go through. "After you."
He followed Koumyou through the maze-like hallways of the Music Temple's administration section, pausing to scan their wrists at the Temple's main entrance. At Koumyou's scan the unit beeped and displayed "KOUMYOU | SANZO | #3895643," but when Genjo held his wrist under the scanner, nothing happened.
"It's not scanning," he said.
Koumyou peered at the blank display. "Excellent," he said. "I had hoped this would happen."
"You had hoped what would happen?" Sometimes Genjo swore it was like pulling teeth to get a straight answer out of the old man.
"Your status is in limbo, because your Elevation has not been registered yet. You are an invisible man for as long as Bodhisattva Konzen can delay that registration." Koumyou grinned at him, and his smile widened when they passed under the Temple gate without a sound.
Genjo stood just outside the gate and examined the tattoo on his wrist. "A warning alarm should have gone off," he said.
"Come on, there are people waiting for us."
They moved briskly along the winding walkway. Genjo's head was spinning, not just from the whiskey but from the sheer amount of life-changing events that had happened to him just within the past few hours. He was a Conductor—hell, he was a Sanzo Conductor, and even more mind-blowing was learning that the father he'd always thought was just an eccentric with his 'old-fashioned' ways was really the mastermind of an extraordinary plan to live outside the Domes.
And Koumyou wanted to use his score to create the place where they would all live.
His score, which was still on Koumyou's desk.
"Shit," Genjo said, and he came to a halt.
Koumyou glanced back at him. "What is it?"
"I left my score back in your office."
Koumyou made a face. "That's what we get for drinking." He glanced at his wristcom. "I need to be there soon; if I'm too late it will make the others worry. You go back and get it, and then meet us at Under the Sakura. You remember where that is, right? I'll message Ellora to let her know you're coming back, and she'll let you into my office."
Genjo made his way back to Koumyou's office, trying to move quickly but not in a way that would attract attention, and once again he marveled at the complete lack of response from the scanner stations. He'd spent his adult life having to scan his comings and goings, always aware of NiiCom tracking his every move through the Tenkai Systems Network, so it was more than a little unnerving to suddenly be able to travel virtually unseen.
Ellora was waiting for him when he arrived at the office. "I'm sorry," she said, "I noticed that you didn't have your score when I saw you boys walking out, but I didn't think to remind you about it." She placed her wristcom against the door's access panel and opened it.
"It's not your fault," Genjo told her while he retrieved the score.
"Here you go," she said, handing him the embossed leather scroll case.
He thanked her, and then he slid the score inside the case and fastened it to his belt.
It didn't take him long to retrace his steps, and soon after he reached the spot where he'd left his father Genjo made a few turns and headed toward the bar where Koumyou and the other Sanzos were waiting. It was one of his father's favorite places, designed with lifelike cherry trees that were constantly in bloom, scattering tiny, pink holographic petals on the tables beneath their branches. Genjo had been there enough times to remember the way without using his wristcom.
He was about to head up a flight of steps to the pavilion where the bar was located when a rumbling blast nearly knocked him off his feet. Up ahead, alarms went off, and Genjo heard shouts and screams mingled with the hiss of water sprinklers.
"Dad," he breathed, and he took the steps three at a time and ran toward the bar.
What he found was the smoking, crumbled remains of the bar. Thick, black smoke poured out of broken windows, and chunks of patterned concrete were strewn about the pavilion, mixed with charred bits of tables and chairs. Panic tightened Genjo's throat, and as he rushed toward the ruined building a voice stopped him.
"Genjo! Over here!"
Genjo turned, and relief flooded through him when he saw his father waving at him, filthy but alive, tending to an injured woman over in a side alley. "Dad! What happened?" He strode over to the alley, crouching down when Koumyou beckoned him closer.
"It was fucking Ukoku," the woman said, while Koumyou worked on cleaning the burns on her face and shoulders.
"Now, Sharak, we don't know that for sure," Koumyou said.
She jabbed him with a filthy finger. "It was him, I'd bet my life on it. There was that fucking toy rabbit in the empty chair at our table, and I think I heard it start to play music when we were at the door. I'm telling you, it looked just like the stuffed rabbit in Ukoku's mess of an office." She glanced over at Genjo. "The only reason Koumyou and I are alive is that we went outside to meet you." Tears ran in a sooty trail down her cheek. "Goudai and Tenkai didn't make it." She turned her attention back to Koumyou. "We aren't going to be able to do this," she said. "How can we do this, without Goudai and Tenkai? And now we know for damned sure that Ukoku is trying to stop us."
Koumyou dabbed at the puckered burn on her cheek. "We have to do this, my dear," he said, "otherwise their deaths will be meaningless."
"But how are we going to have enough power? There's only two of us now."
"Three," Koumyou said, nodding his head toward Genjo, "and he is currently unscannable. Also, Ukoku doesn't know about his elevation, so if your theory is correct—"
"You know I'm right, Koumyou."
Koumyou sighed. "You probably are." He put a hand on Genjo's arm. "Genjo, you must go and access the Goddess in the Music Library."
Genjo frowned. "How is Kanzeon—"
"Don't interrupt, we don't have much time. Go see Kanzeon. She will have learned about this by the time you get there, and hopefully she can process some alternatives for us so that we can keep moving forward. Sharak and I will get everyone ready, and I'll contact you or Kanzeon as soon as I can."
"Go!" Koumyou gave Genjo a small push. "If we don't do this now, Genjo, it will never happen."