After Dawn becomes queen of Atsuma, Charles, William and Ozzie are ushered to the armory. While Ozzie and Charles wait in a hallway, William goes into the armory for his outfitting.
Passing time on a hall bench, Charles stares at a bottle cap he’d kept from the Howl soda back on the train. He’d kept it because the white-on-red, cursive HOWL script looked so much like the Coca-Cola logo. In fact, the cap was a near-perfect Attic-of-the-World twin for the cap he’d kept from the soda back on the launch tower—a soda from his world. But he’d somehow lost the original bottle cap.
Still…why had he kept this one?
He kept it because it was RED.
Red…why should that matter? His mind had an involuntary fixation on the color: red like a fire truck, red like Darth Vader’s lightsaber, red like a stop sign. He was sick on thinking about it… Red like the blood on the Destroyer Blade.
He turned the cap over in his hand, and when he flipped the top-side up again, he half-expected to see the Coke logo reappear. It didn’t, and why would it?
Then William came out into the hall dressed like a musketeer! He’s got a sword and everything.
“They’re waiting for who’s next,” he says, so Ozzie gets up and goes in the armory, and William sits down next to Charles.
“What’s this?” William asks, looking at the bottle cap sitting between them on the bench.
Charles explains he kept it because it reminded him of the cokes William carried to the top of the launch tower.
“Not me,” William says. “You got me mixed up with someone else.” He says he hadn’t had a Coke in weeks. All he had at the tower was his “stupid water bottle.”
That was impossible, but as William spoke, strangely, his version of the story overtook Charles’s own memory of events. William came up the ladder, nothing in his hands. No coke bottles. And if he had a water, he must’ve left it in the shuttle.
Ozzie comes out into the hall dressed—you guessed it—like another musketeer. He’s so pleased with his outfit because it matches the Oakland A’s team-colors, yellow and green.
Charles is next, so he goes into the armory, weary of what he might find. There are two Blue Skulls inside, a man and a woman. They present to him four outfits: an army uniform, a suit of European armor, a samurai outfit, and finally another musketeer jersey. After a brief inner debate, he settles for being the third musketeer, a choice that seems so much like fate.
When he rejoins his friends, Dawn is there too, with Captain Kid and the Blue Skull with the golden gauntlet (whom Charles is referring to as the Blue Reaper). Dawn is now dressed like the queen, in a gold dress, and she wears the Destroyer Blade. Charles takes her hand, careful to be gentle with her bandaged left hand.
The cyclops lumbers down the hall saying the helicopter is almost ready, and Captain Kid declares it’s time to go. “You didn’t get all dressed up for nothing!”
Charles asks if their next stop is the door to the Red Realm, which it almost has to be, but he wants to hear the captain say it.
To Charles surprise, “no,” the captain says. “I think we have time for one more stop.”
Where will they go? We’re about to find out.
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