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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-30 01:41 am
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Second Place In A Two-Player Game - Ficlet 2017

Title: second place in a two-player game
Rating: PG
Prompt: The future rewards those who press on. I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on. - Barack Obama
Fandom/Series: Haikyuu!!
Word Count: 506
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: Oikawa wakes up early on the final day of the Spring High Playoffs and promptly goes back to sleep.

 

second place in a two-player game


Habit runs deeper than you’d think. 


Oikawa learns this the hard way when he finds himself awake at 5am on the day of the Spring High Playoff finals. The sun’s not out yet, but Oikawa wakes to the darkness of his room with a thrumming deep within his bones. There’s the familiar company of excitement: his jumpy nerves, his brain alert and ready, his heartbeat loud in the quiet of his room. He’s ready to get up and moving, eager for his first contact with a volleyball, craving the comfort the court gives him that only years of volleyball training could make possible.

But then reality hits, and Oikawa realises that no, there’s no chance for him to step out on the court today — he had lost the chance when the ball cascaded off his arm, point lost, set lost, match lost.

It’s funny how the excitement he felt so easily drips down, slowly, consistently, until all Oikawa feels is the heavy weight of his bones. He falls asleep in the next second, disappointment the precursor to his dreams.

Oikawa wakes up again, to the buzzing of his phone by his bedside. It’s a message from Iwaizumi, short and static, just like always. 

Finals are at 1pm. Meeting up with some of the team before that. You coming?

He reads the messages and then sighs, before typing up a quick reply.

I’d rather die than see either one of them win.

It’s petty but true, and Oikawa has never been one to pull back on his punches. There’s another reply from Iwaizumi but Oikawa ignores it, instead opting to bang his head against the pillow.

The sun’s out now, too bright and shiny for the emotional turmoil that’s going through Oikawa’s mind.

There’s the strong face that Oikawa had kept up, captain of Aoba Johsai, one of Miyagi Prefecture’s strongest teams, and then there’s the face that Oikawa had pulled afterwards, overwhelmed by the sense of loss. It had overcome him until he wasn’t able to speak through the tears that ran down his face, throat tightening as he struggled to breathe. It’s the face he’d hidden, scared to show how much it had affected him - the image of the ball hitting the ground behind him, the way time seemed to stop as the ball bounced off his arm, the way his heart seemed to ache when the crowd cheered and it wasn’t for them.

Oikawa’s been through a lot. He’d watched as he was slowly surpassed, saw the opportunity in Kageyama’s blood and mourned for the fact that the same talent wasn’t in his own.

He’s worked hard, harder than he’d ever known, and even after the match, there was only one more thing on his mind – the thought of when his next match would be, and how he could improve.

It’s that and that thought alone that makes him get up, change his clothes and get ready to leave. He has a game to analyse after all.

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-30 01:36 am
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A Fairies New WIngs - Ficlet 2017

Title: A Fairies New Wings

Rating: PG

Prompt: Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.

- Haruki Murakami

Fandom/series: Fairy Tail

Word Count: 972Summary: Natsu Dragneel knows Lucy will soon give up, and in a desperate final attempt will he make her see a hopeful future?

 

A Fairies New Wings

 

Her blonde hair drifted with the soft flowing wind that left her feeling cold as her brown eyes stared down to the graves laid before her. Her dull eyes began to well with tear as the smiles of her mother, father, best friend and so many other people flashed across her mind. So many people had left her now, and she was left alone drowning in her emotions as she rejected most of the words her Mage friends said, sadness, grief, terror.

 

Lucy Heartfillia had become numb from the pain, she had become cruel and cold, though she still went on missions with Natsu and occasionally visited the guild that left her with bittersweet memories she had not smiled in so long. She had trained and trained herself so that she ranked equal with Erza and Gildarts.

 

 

 

Her pink haired partner couldn't bare it, the girl he'd know for so long had faded out, he missed her, strong, caring, sensitive....

 

 

 

She stood still, not a single movement as the dark sky let out barely noticeable rain, she felt happy, that the rain was here to comfort her.....

 

"Can you leave now?"

 

Her voice was empty, Natsu had found himself begging to see her eyes light up again, to see her smile. Of course he understood the way she felt.....wanting to protect everyone else she loved....

 

She didn't seem to even blink as she beat Fairy Tail's opposers to an inch of their lives anymore.

 

"Leave me alone Natsu"

 

 

 

Her heart ached, but his did too, he had tried to approach the topic before of course... but he felt as if this time it would work..... somewhere he clung to the thin thread of that hope.

 

"Lucy, please listen"

 

He sat his hand on her shoulder as the rain became heavy, drenching them in only seconds, but he still saw the tears spilling from her eyes, he still felt as his heart broke at the sight.

 

Lucy Heartfillia, Fairy Tails celestial Mage.

 

She was the only one that made him behave like this... it came along when he fell in love with her...

 

"Lucy, I understand how you must be feeling-"

 

Her hand threw his from her shoulder as her venom laced voice cut him off.

 

"How could you understand?!"

 

 

 

She felt alone and he knew it, Natsu stood completely still, feeling his hope begin to thin further. He looked into her eyes begging for her to smile again....

 

"Lucy they would never want you to feel this way...."

 

 

 

She smiled coldly, she knew, she knew that her mother, father, Levy, and all of the others wouldn't want her to feel the way she did but she couldn't help it, she had to be cruel to protect them all.

 

"I'm fine Natsu!"She snapped

 

 

 

Natsu looked at her, she was lying.... her eyes were brimmed with pain but she seemed to think she could hide it, in the eyes he'd known so well.

 

"I know your not" He stepped towards her

 

"Look I'm okay now don't worry"She grinned

 

Empty and fake.

 

"Lucy just tell me, I'll always be here for you!"He called

 

"I'm afraid Natsu"

 

He froze, of course she was, he was too and he knew everyone else in the guild felt the same, no one wanted to loose anyone else....

 

Natsu's hands grasped hers for a moment before wrapping them around her cold body, he cried with her as they stood within the rain. Staying like that for a while until Lucy felt his warmth leave, Natsu stepped back.

 

 

 

"I know, we all are"

 

 

 

"You don't understand Natsu! First mum, then dad, Aquarius, Levy the rest of them too! My own spirits nearly completely forgot about me too!"She cried out

 

He couldn't comfort me, he doesn't understand!

 

"You don't have to protect everyone Lucy, we'll be okay."Natsu smiled

 

"I can't be weak I have to be strong and cruel....I have to protect everyone!"She yelled

 

Natsu flashed a toothy smile to her,

 

"Family work together, there's no need to be afraid. We can work together to stay safe....."

 

Her hand met his cheek as he looked down, a red mark left for moments.

 

"Lucy I'll always be here to listen"

 

 

 

Why didn't he slap me back...or at least get angry. The blonde gave in, knowing she wanted this somewhere deep down......

 

"Natsu I've been terrified like this for so long.... I'm not sure if I.... I don't want to loose them, loose you...."

 

 

 

 

 

He only smiled as Lucy looked down, she listened, she talked to him about the subject she had avoided..,

 

"Your not alone"

 

He reached his hand to her cheek as the rain seemed to calm rubbing the tears away as he leaned forward, kissing her gently. The moment their lips met the rain seemed to become silent.

 

 

 

Lucy found herself smiling to herself, the burden seemed to lift from her shoulders. Had it been anyone else she was sure she would still feel heavy....but it was him, his words.....

 

"Natsu!! Lucy!! Hurry before you catch a cold!!"Mira laughed after witnessing the two kiss

 

Natsu looked to Lucy and they nodded, his hand slipped into hers, and they ran to Fairy Tail.

 

Lucy didn't look back. For the first time in years.....she didn't look back....

 

Knowing that they'd want this....

 

Knowing that soon enough she would be happy, and that each of her family and friends smiles would always be there....

 

I'm going to tell them all...that I'll be happy again....

 

 

 

She felt warm, as if each of them hugged her as she ran with Natsu through the rain after Mira-Jane. A stupidly cliché story, that she knew she'd only love awaiting her.

 

Knowing she couldn't forget anyone of them.

 

Promising to write to them every day.

 

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-20 11:21 am

Two Punch Men - Short Story 2017

Title: Two Punch Men
Rating: PG
Prompt: A man learns to skate by staggering about and making a fool of himself. Indeed he progresses in all things by resolutely making a fool of himself. 
- George Bernard Shaw, Advice to a Young Critic
Fandom/Series: One Punch Man
Word Count: 3102
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: Saitama accidentally clones himself. Genos is suspicious of the clone, but Saitama doesn't have a problem with him. Meanwhile, an evil scientist waits for the results of his newest weapon.

Two Punch Men

“There’s another me.” Saitama pointed to the mirror.

“How insightful, Master.” Genos opened up a notebook and scribbled down the line. “There’s another me…”

“Oh. There’s another me,” said the Saitama in the mirror.

The Saitama not in the mirror stared at the Saitama in the mirror. The mirror Saitama looked exactly like him, except the red on his sweater was blue instead. The Saitama in the mirror stared back. Genos looked from one Saitama to the other.

The Saitama not in the mirror shrugged and lay down on the floor. Whatever.

“Master. Should we not do something about the impostor?”

“Nah. He can stay.” Who cares about an impostor? So long as the guy didn’t try to give him a bad name, who cares? Besides, if he stayed around, maybe he could help Saitama move up the ranks a bit.

“Huh. Thanks,” said the Saitama from the mirror. Mirror-tama. Sai-mirror. Saitamirror? Maitama?

Saitama shrugged and picked up a manga from his shelf.

“Master, where did this other Master come from?”

“Uh…” Saitama looked at the mirror that Maitama had just come from, and thought about what had happened yesterday. “Maybe the cloning machine?”

“What cloning machine, Master Saitama?”

Saitama put the manga down and looked at Genos. “The other day I was walking home and some guy came up to me. He showed me this thing that looked like a mirror and said it was a cloning machine. I thought he was nuts, but he was selling it for 100 yen and it didn’t look like anything was wrong with it. So I bought it and took it home.”

“I remember that,” said Maitama. He looked behind himself. “So I guess I’m your clone?”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“Cool.” Maitama lay down on the floor and joined Saitama in reading manga.

 

Somewhere vaguely far away an evil scientist laughed evilly in his secret evil underground lab, because he was so evil. He wore nothing but a lab coat and a pair of hotpants that said ‘evil’ across the butt.

 

“I, the scientist Doctor Super Evil Dude, have finally created the perfect weapon for defeating heroes…” He laughed evilly again, just so everyone knew just how evil he was, and looked at his computer screen, which was lit up with several hundred numbers. He stared at them for a bit, deciphering what they meant in relation to his super evil project, and then switched to a different interface because he couldn’t work out what the numbers meant. He read through the data being sent by his machine and laughed evilly again, then coughed because of all the evil laughing he was doing. “My cloning machine is working very well…I’m so glad I picked such a boring, weak guy to test it on, because then I can make sure it works perfectly with no threat to me at all.”

He spun around in his evil supervillain chair and explained to no one in particular how the machine worked. “This machine will clone heroes, but so they are ever so slightly different, and ever so slightly stronger. They will befriend the hero and then…murder them.”

Doctor Super Evil Dude’s laughter echoed through his empty hideout, making him think about how lonely he was. Maybe he should hire some evil minions. Get a pet cat or something.

 

“Attention, City Z.” The man on the TV straightened out some papers. “A giant squid man is rampaging through the city. Current threat level: Tiger.”

“I’ll go. Genos, you stay here. I don’t want you stealing my thunder again.”

Genos nodded, then looked to Maitama. “What about you, other Master?”

He shrugged. “I’ll stay here too. I’m a pacifist.”

I’m not a pacifist though. Aren’t we the same person?” Unless he meant something like ‘not hurting other people’. Saitama never deliberately hurt other people. He only killed the monsters that were threats to them.

“Yeah, but I guess I’m a bit different. I don’t remember becoming a pacifist, but I am now. Even for monsters.”

“Alright then.” Saitama quickly jumped into his hero clothes and stepped out onto his balcony. “I’ll be back in a bit.” He jumped off the balcony and ran to the giant squid monster.

Maitama looked out and watched him run, then sat down at the table and looked at Genos. “What would you say are my – or your Master Saitama’s – biggest weaknesses? I want to train to get rid of them.”

“You have no weaknesses, master Saitama. You are physically superior to everyone.”

“Hmm.” Maitama rested his head on his hand. “What about weaknesses that aren’t physical?”

“Master Saitama is rather unpopular. I would assume that by extension you are too. He is also insecure about the status of his hair, which-”

“Don’t say another word,” said Maitama.

“Yes, other Master. I apologise. But you are the one who asked about it. These are the only weaknesses of yours I can think of.”

“Well, alright then.”  Maitama pulled a manga off the shelf. “I’ll keep those in mind.”

 

Genos watched as the other Master Saitama read the manga. Was he actually like Master Saitama, or was he dangerous? Genos would need to observe this man further to determine whether he was safe to be around. For all he knew, this other Master could be a threat to them. If he had the same power as Master, but not the same ideals, the city could be in danger. Was that why he was asking about Master’s weaknesses? Did he want to defeat Master, then destroy the whole city?

It was possible that he was in fact a pacifist as he said he was, and Genos hoped that was the case. But perhaps he should prepare for the possibility that this other Master might try to harm them.

The front door swung open and clicked shut. Genos turned around to see Master Saitama coming home.

“How was it, Master? Did the giant squid man stand a chance against you?”

“As always, I was hoping for a challenge, but it turned out to be weak. I barely had to poke it.” Master Saitama sighed and went to seat himself, but could not find a clear space on the ground. “Hey, it’s kinda crowded in here, guys.”

“Your apartment is rather small, Master,” said Genos.

“Why don’t we do something outside?” suggested the other Master. “We need to go and buy groceries, anyway.”

“Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. Let’s go do that.”

Was this just a ploy to remove Master Saitama from the house? Was this other Master trying to attack Master while his guard was down?

Genos would come along, just in case.

 

Doctor Super Evil Dude laughed evilly and stroked his new pet cat/minion as he watched the new data come in from the clone. Yes…the clone was befriending this Saitama fellow.

Saitama, also known as the Caped Baldy, a Class C hero. Doctor Super Evil Dude knew he’d made the right choice by picking this man. He was a hero – exactly who the weapon was made for – but he was only some Class C weakling. He would never be able to defeat his clone.

The two Saitamas walked into a grocery store (the perfect place for a hero fight, if you’d ask Super Evil Dude) with someone behind them. Probably one of the original Saitama’s friends. Another Class C loser or someone similar. No strong person would hang around someone so weak.

Though he had originally planned for the clone to kill the original in his sleep, it would be so much more interesting if they had a public fight. It was lucky that Doctor Super Evil Dude had a switch right here that he could flip to immediately turn the clone into its Super Evil Murder Mode. It was the perfect chance to test it.

Doctor Super Evil waited for the two Saitamas to pick up a shopping basket each, then flipped the switch.

 

Maitama looked up at Saitama. “Do you feel a weird tingle?”

Saitama shook his head.

“Huh.” Maitama looked down at the selection of fish. “I feel a tingling in my head.”

Saitama picked up a package and looked at the price. “Maybe it’s because of the bargains here. This fish is so cheap.” He put the fish in his basket and moved on.

“Yeah, that’s probably it. Who knows what sort of power bargains have?” Maitama followed Saitama. “Whatever. It’s gone now.”

 

Doctor Super Evil Dude gave a super evil frustrated growl. How could his Super Evil Murder Mode not have worked? Super Evil Murder Mode made sure that the clone’s anger was intensified by 500%.

Well. Maybe the waves didn’t reach the clone properly.

He’d just have to get closer. Doctor Super Evil Dude would go to the city in his Super Evil Mecha, which looked like him, but bigger and made of metal. Using his Super Evil Mecha, he would destroy the city and get the Super Evil Murder Mode waves to reach the clone. Then the clone would destroy the original and kill the whole city, proving his prototype was a success.

This scheme was perfect. Nothing about it could go wrong.

 

“Oh! Sardines in oil. I love those.” The other Master Saitama checked the price of the tinned sardines and then looked in his wallet. “Damn. I don’t have enough.”

“I will pay for them.” Genos stepped up and handed two tins to the other Master Saitama. “These are my favourite.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right.” The other Master gave Genos a thumbs up. “We can share them later.”

“Thank you, other Master.” Genos gave him the coins. This was what he’d been hoping for. He would get the other Master alone, then interrogate him about his goals. Genos would make sure this other Master would tell the truth. He would make sure that Master and the rest of the city would be safe.

“You don’t have to keep calling me that, you know.” The other Master turned around. “I have the same memories as the other Saitama, but I know I’m different. I’m not your master. Just call me Maitama like he’s been.”

“Yes, Master Maitama.”

Master Maitama was about to say something, but his voice was drowned out by the sound of metalling stomping.

Was it the giant cyborg that had destroyed his hometown? Genos glanced at Master Maitama. “I will return soon.” Genos ran outside to investigate.

A man piloted a giant mechanical object possibly made to resemble a human, but not resembling a human besides the two limbs it had at the bottom. It lumbered forward slowly, awkwardly lifting each leg to a 90° angle before plunging it down, leaving a giant footprint stamped in the ground. Civilians ran from under the robot’s body, taking shelter wherever they could.

What a shame. It was not the giant cyborg that had destroyed his home.

Genos walked back inside the grocery store. Many of the customers hid as debris and packaged goods fell from the quakes brought on by the metal giant’s footsteps.

“Master Saitama! Master Maitama!”

“I still have to pay!” shouted Master Saitama from the register. “Give me a moment! Jeez.”

 

Doctor Super Evil Dude stood his mecha outside the grocery store. This thing was a little shakier than he thought. He’d have to fix it up a little when he returned to his Super Evil Lair.

The two Caped Baldys walked out of the grocery store with their bags of shopping and looked up. Doctor Super Evil Dude turned on the microphone and speakers of his mecha.

“Attention, Saitamas!”

The clone looked at the original and dropped his shopping bag on the ground next to him. It destroyed the pavement below and sent a shockwave through the ground. Doctor Super Evil Dude frantically fiddled with switches and levers to make sure his Super Evil Mecha didn’t fall over.

“My name is Doctor Super Evil Dude.” He held out his mecha’s hand and used the flamethrower on its finger to set fire to a tree to make sure they knew how entirely absolutely evil he was. “Do you remember me from yesterday?” The screen on the mecha’s body brought up a picture of him with the cloning machine, selling it to Saitama.

“Who are you?” The Saitamas called in unison.

Doctor Super Evil Dude screamed in frustration. “I’m Doctor Super Evil Dude and I’m going to be the best supervillain! I may be just a beginner, but I can do it! I’m going make sure my clone kills the original Saitama, so I can prove my first weapon was a success! Clone! Super Evil Murder Mode!”

The clone stood and waited. “I feel that weird tingle again.”

“Is he trying to sell us something cheap?”

“No, I think he’s trying to do the Super Murder Evil mode, but instead, he’s just making a fool of himself.”

Doctor Super Evil Dude growled at his statement. “Why haven’t you gone Super Evil Murder Mode? It should have increased your anger by 500%!”

“Oh. I guess it’s because I don’t have any anger.” The clone shrugged.

“Fine!” shouted Doctor Super Evil Dude. “I guess I’ll just have to go on a rampage and kill the original Saitama myself!” He hit a big red button. The arms of the mecha turned into knives. “I hope you like being stabbed, Saitama!”

The swift knives stabbed towards the Saitamas, whipping up a cloud of dust as they flew. Soctor Super Evil Dude couldn’t see anything, but here was no way any of those could have missed. Saitama was a measly Class C hero, no way he’d be strong or fast enough to-

One of the knives stopped moving. Both knives stopped moving. What was happening to his super-fast stabbing? The dust cleared and each of the Saitamas held a huge knife-arm with their bare hands.

“Should I just punch it?” asked the original Saitama.

“Okay,” said the clone.

The original Saitama let go of the knife-arm. Perfect. This was Doctor Super Evil Dude’s chance to-

The mecha rocked. What was happening?

Before he could work out what was going on, Doctor Super Evil Dude was propelled into the air along with a blast of fire and several pieces of his mecha.

 

Maitama ran around under the Super Evil Guy, trying to work out where he would land. Probably somewhere around here. Even if he was a supervillain or whatever, he didn’t deserve to die. Super Evil Doctor Man fell from the sky, directly into Maitama’s arms.

“Why couldn’t you just let me die?” wailed Evil Man Dude. “All my plans have failed! All of them!”

“’Cause I’m a pacifist.” Maitama placed Really Evil Doctor Guy on the ground. “Maybe your plans have failed, but you can fix them for next time, now that you know what went wrong.”

“But you’re a hero!” Villain Super Guy shouted. I caused destruction! You should be trying to fight me!”

“Should I?” Maitama shrugged. “You didn’t cause that much destruction, and you wouldn’t be a worthy opponent anyway. Train every day and become a worthy enemy. Then I might think about it.”

Doctor Evil Man sniffled, wiped his nose on his lab coat, then laughed evilly. “I will follow that advice, Cloned Saitama. May we meet again.” He turned around and ran off into the sunset, laughing evilly, his lab coat lifting up to reveal his hotpants with ‘evil’ printed across the butt.

Maitama turned around to see Genos writing down everything in a notebook. “Thank you, Master Maitama. That was very good advice for everyone.”

 

“Attention, City Z.”

Master Saitama switched off the TV. “I’ll go do that. Seeya when I get back.” He ran out the front door.

“Should we eat the sardines now, Master Maitama?” Genos asked. He still had yet to interrogate Master Maitama.

“Sure.”

Genos handed him a tin of sardines and a fork.

“I must ask you a question, Master Maitama.” Genos sat down next to him and opened his own tin.

“Yeah?”

“Did you ever have the urge to kill Master Saitama, as you were created to?”

“Nope.” Master Maitama opened his own sardines.

“Did you ever think about it at all?”

“Nah. I never wanted to kill Saitama,” said Master Maitama through a mouthful of sardines. “I knew all along that I’m weaker than him, anyway. I think Doctor Totally Evil messed up his cloning machine so the clone was the weaker one, not the original.”

Genos nodded. “I think it is admirable that you admit you are weaker. I feel I am going to learn a lot from you too, Master Maitama.” He opened a notebook and wrote down what Master Maitama had just said.

“Well…” Master Maitama put down the empty can. “Actually…”

“You’re leaving, Master Maitama?” Genos put down his sardines too, out of respect.

“This apartment isn’t big enough for all three of us. I’m already such a different person to Saitama, and I’ve only been around for a day or so.” Master Maitama leant back and looked to the sky. “I’m going to leave to a different city. I’ll find my own apartment and start a new life. I don’t want to accidentally give Saitama a bad name by being defeated.”

“I see.” Genos nodded. “Will you tell Master Saitama this?”

“Tell me what?” Master Saitama walked in the front door.

“I’m leaving City Z,” said Master Maitama.

 

“You’re leaving?” Saitama stared at Maitama. “Damn, just when I thought I’d finally met someone as strong as me, you’re leaving already?”

“Yeah. Isn’t it easier for all of us like this?”

Saitama sighed. “Well, sure it is, but isn’t it more fun with the three of us? It’s kinda cool having a clone.”

“I guess so, but…” He shrugged. “Nah. I’d better go.”

“Well, it’s your choice.”

Maitama ate the last of his sardines and stood up. “I guess I’m off.”

“Before you leave, can we at least have a fight? I want to know what it feels like to have a challenge again.” Saitama framed it as a polite request, but he was so, so close to fighting a worthy opponent that he would literally beg if Maitama said no.

“I’m a pacifist, remember?” Maitama stepped out the front door. “Nah. Maybe if we meet again in the future.” He waved goodbye and closed the door.

Well. No begging then. Saitama dropped to the floor and stared at it. “Damn it! I could’ve had a good fight, and he just leaves!”

“I guess we will just have to meet him again, Master Saitama.”

Saitama sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”­­­­­


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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-20 11:16 am
Entry tags:

Strength - Ficlet 2017

Title: Strength
Rating: G or PG
Prompt: Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.
Fandom/Series: Boku no Hero Academia
Word Count: 648
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: Imagine if Midoriya hesitated for a few more seconds when the Sludge Villain was suffocating Katsuki. What if Midoriya’s hesitation had caused a terrible ramification on Katsuki’s health?

Strength

 

Midoriya stared down at the cracked pavement in front of him. An expression of pure shock, tinged with horror, was plastered on his face. Buildings loomed over him; their shadows seemed to swallow him with their darkness. Some people were gawking at them while others were passing by the site. Midoriya rubbed his hands, trying to stop his shivering and warm his frigid skin. The itchy blanket that weighed on his shoulders could not stop the cold from spreading through his body. He didn’t know what had happened. Kacchan….It wasn’t his fault. He didn’t know what would happen. Maybe he was wrong.

He could barely hear the concerned whispers of the heroes near him. The bustling sounds full of laughter and joy in the city landscape around Midoriya made him feel lost. Midoriya clutched some of the green curls on his hair, unable to feel the pain. His lip quivered and tears prickled his eyes. It was his fault, wasn’t it?

….

He had always loved it when the sun appeared. The way the light consumed his sight, too tantalizingly beautiful to look away. The way it spread throughout the forest clearing, setting everything to life with its golden rays. Yes, Midoriya had always loved the sun, brilliant and bright, for no day ever seemed too harsh for the quirkless boy, not if the sun had managed to shine.

“Hey Deku!” Midoriya turned his eyes to the boy ahead of him, recognizing his gruff voice from anywhere. “How does it feel… to be born without a quirk?” If it wasn’t from the slight hint of amusement in his voice one could assume that the question was posed out of mere curiosity.

Nonetheless, Midoriya didn’t notice this tone of voice and pondered his answer in silence. He ran up to Bakugo, the wind of the forest ruffling his hair. “It’s…” The faint laughter of children could be heard from around them. “It’s dark, mostly.” He wanted to expand on this, his eyebrows creased at the thought, but the words for his feelings seemed to evaporate into the morning air. “But I know they’ll come someday. And I can be a hero, like you and All Might!” Midoriya earnestness was palpable and he did nothing to hide the wide smile on his face.

“Yeah, but whatever your quirk, it won’t be as cool as mine!” From the corner of his eye, Midoriya spotted the light in Kacchan’s eyes, an all-encompassing determination. The sun flickered through his blond hair and Midoriya beamed. The sunlight moved through the trees as they walked, setting nature aglow.

“Midoriya boy!” All Might’s voice pierced Midoriya reverie. He blinked, his gaze focusing on the hero that stood before him as he tried to ignore the vacant thudding of his heart. All Might tried to catch Midoriya’s evading eyes. He faltered when he caught sight of Midoriya’s trembling hands.  He pushed on; Midoriya needed someone to be with him at this time of crisis. He plopped next to Midoriya, the pavement cracking further and a wave of dust flying into the air.

Midoriya tilted his head in confusion, curious as to why All Might wanted to sit beside him beside him after what had just happened. With great reluctance, Midoriya dismissed All Might’s presence by turning his head away from the hero. He stared at the building in front of him. The sunlight was unable to seep through the shadows in this area of the city. Midoriya sorely missed the comforting presence of the sun.

All Might stammered, attempting to help Midoriya. “You know...That Bakugou kid...His condition is not your fault. I should be the one to blame, not you. My in-action, definitely not yours, caused him to….”

Midoriya blinked. “Kacchan is strong…He will wake up from his sleep.” He wavered before he uncertainty continued, “He will be fine. I will be fine.”

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-20 11:14 am

Made Of Stardust - Short Story 2017

Title: Made of Stardust
Prompt choice: A man learns to skate by staggering about and making a fool of himself. Indeed, he progresses in all things by resolutely making a fool of himself. 

- George Bernard Shaw, Advice to a Young Critic
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: The stars was where Victor and his flame belonged 
Word Count: 1530

Made of Stardust

i. birthright

You were born from something once beautiful that soured long ago. You, who was meant to be celebrated, was born into a world that did not love you as much as you loved it. But you did not care, did you?

You lived when the world condemned you to die. The kiss of death so close, but you refused and with your small lungs, you screamed. You screamed into the night, demanding your chance to show your worth. And maybe lady luck had kissed you instead of death and fate decided to change his plans for you- as a young woman passed by and became your savior from the winter king.

 

ii. ignition

You are six years old when you go onto the ice and fall in love. The bruises that cover your legs like nebulae from falling don’t hurt you. They make you feel alive. And suddenly something burns inside you and warmth fills you to the core. And you so desperately want to keep feeling that warmth. You tell your mother this (she isn’t your real mother, the kids in school say she isn’t, but she is kind and holds your hands when things get too scary, so you believe, she comes damn close to one), and she laughs and hugs you tight.

 

iii. exploration

Yakov is a surly old man. His face is constantly pulled into a grimace, as if he is constantly smelling something tragic, but you like him, don’t you? He reminds you of a proud beast, with his back straight, shoulders squared, and even though he is old, and not all that tall, he commands respect from the moment he walks in. He looks at you with eyes that remind you steel and immediately begins to bark orders. He is like the beast in those fairytales your mother used to tell you; aggressive, angry, loud. But you don’t mind, because once the day is over Yakov pulls you aside, and pats your head, (pats your head like a father would to his son) and say ‘good job, Vitya’ and suddenly your muscles don’t hurt all that badly anymore.

 

Yakov shows you how to dance on the ice, how to jump high, higher than any other, to carve yourself into the ice. ‘You will be remembered Vitya. The world will call your name and you will be loved’ he says.

He keeps the flames in Victor’s heart burning bright.

 

iv. victorious

You taste victory for the first time when you are twelve. And lady luck holds your hand as you turn thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. The crowd screams your name as you twirl and dance, like a ballerina, like an angel, like a soldier, like whoever you wish to become once you go onto the ice. And you give yourself to them, bare your heart open, leaving it for the taking.

 

You make yourself home amongst the stars, and you keep coaxing the flame inside you to burn. To take more of you, to feed your hunger for more.

 

v. liquor

You are sixteen and celebrating when you are given a taste of alcohol. It burns your throat and warms your body until you become numb. You laugh and laugh and no one can stop you. You drink more and more and more and more until the party dies down and an arm leads you out of the bar and back to the hotel. Everything's a mess. All too much and all too little but you don’t care. You feel light, free, freer than you are on ice. You never want to it to stop.

 

You wake up to the feeling of bile crawling your throat and you dash to the bathroom, only barely making it to the toilet before you wretch up everything you ate and drunk last night. It takes you minutes, hours who know how long? To stagger back to bed and lay down. You don’t know what time it is and you don’t care. All you can see is the glint of the medal hanging from bedpost and feel the slow thrum of the sandman calling you back to sleep.

 

((You soon realize the burning liquid that you drink is like a magic potion, it makes you see stars and creates the warmth you so desperately need. The more it burns and claws down your throat, the happier you become. You don’t care for anything if you can drink just a little more))

 

 

 

vi. sunflowers

You are twenty and jaded when you meet a boy whose hair reminds you of sunflower fields. He is crass, rude and downright awful at times but you cannot help but find it endearing. He burns, the flames that you lost, burn so brightly in him that even you can see it. And a part of you so desperately hopes that he, Yuri Plisetsky, the Russian tiger, can keep the flame alive. (You know he can, because he is not you, he is young and angry, scarred and determined. He will keep what you lost.)

 

vii. nothing

Your twenties are lined with gold medals and empty shot glasses. You drink as much as you win. You buy a dog to keep you company. Makkachin is a good dog. But even a dog can’t fill the silence when the nights go for too long. Yakov no longer yells at you, he only sighs as he helps you home into your apartment and in the mornings when there is time, he brushes your long hair and gently braids it in place. Neither of you say anything about what happens when you are not sober, but his silence says it all.

 

viii. hair

You are twenty-three when you cut off your hair. Your fans, of course, cry and wail but you don’t care. ‘Good riddance’ is all you can think. You are tired. The taste of victory is nothing more than a shadow of its former glory. All you can taste is the bitter embers of your lost flame. The bruises on your skin are no longer carries like battle scars, they run deeper than the skin. Your bones ache and all you want to do is stop. But you cannot. Because what is there of you, if you are not a skater?

 

You.

Who are you?

Who is Victor Nikiforov?

You can’t answer.

That is okay. You don’t mind.

You take another shot from the glass.

 

ix. stars

You dance with a boy after another victory. He is obviously drunk, more drunk than you. He asks you to coach him. You laugh and agree. He smiles at you, a wide, drunken smile. But it is sweet and adoring and your blacken heart, for the first time in years, begins to stir.

 

 

x. Yuuri

You watch him skate. He glides across the ice with grace akin to a swan. He carries the longing and love that you bear all throughout his dance. His dance us your calling. You do the unthinkable. It is selfish. It is unfair. But you are tired of playing nice and for once you want to live.

xi. eros

Yuuri is not what you expected him to be. But his eyes shine like candle light and the flame inside him is bright. It is not overwhelmingly burning like Yuri Plisetsky’s, but is warm and inviting. He is hesitant around you, like a skittish kitten. Like someone bitten too many times to fully trust anyone. But you don’t mind. He colors your world and breathes life into your lungs. At night when you lay beside him, there is a small warmth that spreads through you.

xii. embers

There are days where Yuuri is stuck in his head. And there are days where you are too. Where your fingers twitch for a shot of burning liquid but you cannot, because it is not just you now. It is Yuuri too. So you shut your thoughts for the day and call for Yuuri. He lit the flame inside you. And now you must try to keep his alive.

xiii. fire

It is when you see Yuuri skate at the Grand Prix do you realize how you miss the ice. It calls for you and there is a part of you that aches and longs to be back on it. But there is Yuuri. You realise you cannot have both the ice and Yuuri.

xiv. calling

It is not fair, how Yuuri calls the shots. You beg for him to think twice but even your tears don’t affect him. Yuuri is warm as he is stubborn. And you laugh to yourself as you take down another shot.

xv. tigers

You know you have wronged Yuri Plisetsky. Your selfishness hurt him more than not. He speaks to you through clenched teeth but when you tell him what Yuuri is doing he looks at you lost. His flame flickers before it becomes overwhelming. You hug him tightly like you did once before.

xvi. Rings

The ocean is beautiful, the waves gently lapping at the shoreline. You sit quietly with Yuuri beside you. You don’t anything. He doesn’t either. You don’t have to. The rings on your fingers say it all.

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-20 10:19 am
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Something Worthwhile - Ficlet 2017

Title: Something Worthwhile
Prompt; Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart. 

Rating: PG 
Words: 1000
Fandom: Voltron: Legendary Defender 
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s). 
Summary: Lance comes to the brink of death trying to help the team to save prisoners from the Galra.

Something Worthwhile

He just wanted to do, to be something worthwhile.

  It was a simple mission, get into the Galra Prison, get the files that would contain the where-a-bouts of Pidge’s Brother, free the prisoners and get out. They had done so many missions like this before. But this one was infinitely more important. Pidge would finally be reunited with her brother after almost two years.

  The Prison was big. Bigger than any ship they had taken on yet. It had at least five distinct layers, each containing a new and even harder challenge for them to face. Knowing the Galra, they would probably have higher and higher security going through the levels. But they could do it. They had to do it.

  Everyone had a job. Pidge (being the smartest and smallest) would gather info and get the files which were being held on the innermost level of the complex. Keith and Lance would get as many prisoners as they could either into their lions or to escape pods to be transferred into the castle. Shiro and Hunk would hold off the oncoming fleets of fighter ships and try to take out as many of their defenses as possible.

  All was going well, Shiro and Hunk had taken down at least half of the ships fleets and Pidge was getting ever closer to the central command room where the files that they came on this mission for were stored.

  “Pidge, where are you?” Keith asked whilst herding alien prisoners through the halls, all of them giving him endlessly grateful looks with all their endlessly different faces. “I’ve nearly gotten all of my prisoners out, I don’t know about Lance though, he might be flirting with some.”

 However, Lance was in no place to make a witty come back or snarky retort. He was trying desperately to get the remaining prisoners in his sector back to his lion, as well as protecting them from the onslaught of enemy fire being blasted at them by the Galra sentries that were swiftly coming towards them. Frantically, Lance shot them down one by one like tin soldiers using his blaster.

  Guess all that extra training in the simulator really does pay off. He thought, remembering the countless nights he had snuck out after everyone was asleep to sharpen his skills. The hall was empty in a matter of seconds.

  Keith would be proud.

  But of course, Keith could never know why he was so good, he was the reason after all. One day during training Shiro had told everyone to focus on honing their skills as an individual. Keith had done just the same training as everyone. Nonetheless,  afterwards the only one being praised was him. No-one else had taken it seriously, but Lance had tried so hard. He took down his sentries at least three seconds before Keith.

  But of course, no-one took any notice of that. They all thought of him as the joker, the prankster, the flirt. Yet he had tried so hard and still, all the focus was never on him. He was always out-shone by Keith. 

  He just wanted to do, to be something worthwhile.

  Lance was jolted back to reality when a laser narrowly missed taking his head off. The Galra had sent extra reinforcements to help recapture their prisoners. Thankfully, though he was getting closer and closer to the hanger in which Blue was set down.

  “I’m in the control room downloading the info on the whereabouts of my family,” Pidge’s voice crackled over the mic. There was a pause as the final pieces of information were downloaded straight to the castle’s database.  

  “OK, it’s been downloaded, I’m heading back to the castle now, you guys should too.”

  “You got it.”

  “Thank god, I was about to puke.”

  “Hunk, you always puke.”

  “Yeah but—

  “Now is not the time to be bickering!”

  “Yes Shiro.”

  “Sorry.”

  “Lance, are you ok? You didn't respond.”

  “Yeah, just about there,” Lance said, holding back an entire squadron of sentries. They were now coming on thick and fast. “I’ll be there in about a minute.” 

  The open hangar door loomed in front of him. He could see the prisoners hurriedly scuttling into Blue’s giant open jaws and into the belly of the beast.

  More and more sentries were beginning to fill up the space behind him. Lance knew that there was no way that he could hold them off completely by himself. The only thing that he could do now was retreat. 

  He turned around and rushed towards Blue. His focus was now to get to those big, embracing jaws and pilot her back to the castle. And that was his one weakness.

  He was just about to enter the cockpit when the laser punctured the skin between his neck and shoulder. It passed through his collar bone and up into the side of his neck, just narrowly missing his throat. On the other end near his shoulder the bullet had made its way straight through part of the joint. His arm was barely hang onto the rest of his body. The pain was so sudden and searing that it sent him straight to the ground in the middle of the cockpit. Blood went everywhere.  

  The breath was instantly knocked out of Lance as the laser passed through his body. He tried to get up, but that only sent another excruciating bolt of pain through his body. So, he stayed there. Lying in a pool of his blood, bleeding out at an alarming rate.

 Suddenly, a voice came over the intercom in his helmet. It was Keith

  “Lance, hurry up, you’re holding us back now.” He grumbled.

  “Sorry.” Lance somehow managed to mutter through the blood coming through his mouth. “You Guys deserved better.”

  He just wanted to do, to be something worthwhile.

  And with that last hope, dark spots appeared across his vision, the frantic voices telling him to hurry back in his helmet blurred and became incomprehensible. Finally, Lance blacked out.


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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-20 10:16 am
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Ashes & Dust - Ficlet 2017

Title: Ashes & Dust
Rating: PG
Prompt: Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart. - Haruki Murakami
Fandom/Series: Dragon Ball Z
Word Count: 752
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: Goku is left reeling following the revelation that he is responsible for his grandpa’s death. A maelstrom of grief threatens to overwhelm him as he continues to battle the Great Ape Vegeta.

Ashes & Dust


A roiling mass of ants tumbled over the rocks. It barely broke the water in the lower part of the stream, bobbing briefly before stabilising. The top most layer of ants scurried about, clambering over each other.
“Son Goku!”
Scrambling, Goku got to his feet and dusted off his knees. Through the trees he saw a shadow - Grandpa Gohan and his basket, huffing their way towards him.
“You have wandered far ahead today, Goku, I can hardly keep up. These old bones don’t work as well as they used to! We should head back, it will be dark soon.”
Goku laughed, his grandpa said the same thing every day, but never failed to catch up quickly.
“What were you looking at so intently anyway?” Grandpa Gohan asked.
“Oh!” Goku looked back to the stream, the ants still floating by lazily, “I was watching the ants. They’ve made a raft! How come none of them are drowning?”
The ant raft spun slowly, riding the current. Grandpa Gohan reached Goku’s side and took a steadying breath.
“Well Goku, ants have hairs so small and thin on their bodies that bubbles of air get trapped between them. The ants at the bottom of the raft still have air to breathe, but even if they didn’t, they would do anything to protect their queen. You can see her in the middle of the raft there. All the other ants love her so much, they would give their lives for her.”
--------------
Dirt and dust fly into the air. Goku starts, leaping from rock to rock as the memory fades. He cannot afford to lose focus. The Saiyan warrior Vegeta is too quick and lithe, even in this beastly ape form. The same form that -
No! There is no time to feel renewed waves of grief.
A great roar echoes across the island and the tower of stone under Goku’s feet explodes. He falls to the ground.
Pain splitting across his head.
--------------
A bright, blinding light cleared to the soft blue of the sky. Where was he?
“Goku!”
The world spun. There was a puffing and putting sound to his left. A strange energy washed over him. Someone was coming!
Suddenly, the sky blotted out. The face of an old man came into focus. He looked frightened, panting roughly.
“Careful! You hit your head.”
Goku blinked, “I… my head?” His head hurt. A fall, pain, light. That must be why.
The old man’s breath slowly evened out. His eyebrows dropped, more concerned now, than afraid.
“Your head. Are you okay? Can you sit up?”
A hand touched his shoulder and Goku felt a faint flash of irritation. It was very far away and he couldn’t remember why he should feel it. The old man was only trying to help. He let himself be brought up, swaying slightly as the world righted itself.
The old man - Gohan, his name was Gohan - regarded him closely, worriedly, and Goku remembered.
Earth. A blue orb hurtling ever closer through the void. Fire and heat and a loud rushing noise and - 
Gohan. Grandpa Gohan. The first human he’d met. The first human he was supposed to destroy, to prepare for the might of the Saiyans.
But why?
It all seemed so distant and confused. He was powerful beyond belief, but why should that make him a harbinger of death? The humans were not his enemies. The old - Gohan was proof enough. He cared for Goku, was afraid he’d hurt himself, even in the face of Goku’s murderous rage.
“Goku?”
Blinking, Goku turned and smiled.
“I’m okay Grandpa! My head hurts a bit, but that’s all.”
Gohan stilled, his eyes widening, voice quiet as he repeated, “Grandpa…”
--------------
Tears sting Goku’s eyes and the whisper fades away. He’d always tried to live up to his grandpa’s love, as if some small part of him knew the sin for which he had to atone. And now, with this great beast crushing the life from his lungs, has he done enough? Is there still some penance left to deliver?
He could give his life (again) to protect his home, his friends, Chi-Chi, Gohan. His son. His legacy. Gohan. Growing up to be someone his namesake would be proud of. Even if Goku dies with this mark against his soul. Gohan would prevail.
Darkness begins creeping into Goku’s vision. All sound is gone from the world. The last thing he can hold onto is his pride and his love. For Gohan. Gohan.

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-20 10:09 am
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Idol Candidate: Yazawa, Nico - Ficlet 2017

Title: Idol Candidate: Yazawa, Nico
Rating: G
Prompt: The future rewards those who press on. I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on. - Barack Obama
Fandom/Series: Love Live! School Idol Project
Word Count: 511 Words
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative
rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: Nico Yazawa gets a job interview to become a full-fledged idol.

Idol
 Candidate: Yazawa, Nico


Nico Yazawa sat in an interview room with a short blue-haired woman was looking at the references and past promotional images that Nico had provided. "What makes you think you are a suitable candidate to be an idol at our talent agency, Yazawa-san?"

Nico took a deep breath. "I believe that being a former School Idol would allow me to understand what school idols have to go through whenever they have to perform in front of the crowd and their fans."

"I see. From what you provided, you certainly have the right qualities to be an idol, both physically and mentally." the interviewer looked at her notes. "Your time as a School Idol has proven that."

The woman looked up at Nico with a serious look on her face. "But some people may not be able to handle being a full-time idol. What would you do if you burn out and fail to become an idol?"

At that moment, memories flooded Nico's mind. From the time when her first attempt at forming a School Idol group ended poorly, followed by the bitterness she felt at her former club members leaving one at a time. Hiding the truth from her younger siblings by pretending to be a Super Idol. But all that changed when μ's joined the Idol Research Club and invited Nico into the group, opening another door that was once closed to her, allowing her to pursue her dreams."

With a determined look on her face, Nico looked directly at the interviewer. "I will do whatever I can to be an idol. I've faced failure before. I can't afford the time to feel sorry for myself or complain about it. I can't let my failure stop me from becoming an idol. How can I make the fans who watch me smile, if I fail to smile as an idol?"

The woman smiled. "You certainly have the heart to be an idol as well. There are people who think they can become idols but are unaware of the hard work and effort that is required to perform on stage with the demanding task of singing, dancing and performing in front of huge crowds." 

"I'm sure that you are fully aware of the hardships of being an idol and you know what it's like to perform on stage. However, the difference between your time as a School Idol and what you are about to do is that you will not have the support of your fellow idols on stage. Are you confident enough to do this by yourself if you were asked to do a solo performance?"

Nico didn't hesitate to answer the question. "Yes."

*

Half an hour later, Nico walked into a fast food restaurant where the former members of μ's were waiting for news of Nico's interview. Nico sat at a vacant spot at the table with a stoic look.

"Nico-cchi, how did the interview go?" 

With a smile on her face, Nico performs her trademark idol pose. "Nico-Nico-Nii! Today is the day when Nico-nii becomes an idol!"

*

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-20 10:06 am

The Festival of Guns and Pianos - Short Story 2017

Title: The Festival of Guns and Pianos
Rating: PG
Prompt: "Terror made me cruel" - Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Fandom/Series: Spiral: the Bonds of Reasoning/Suiri no Kizuna
Word Count: 3733
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: During a chaotic war between the Blade Children and their old friend, Rutherford interferes to help to defeat Kanon, his childhood friend who had become a "hunter". Despite his goal to annihilate the Blade Children, Kanon struggles to kill his friends. Apathy eventually overtakes hesitation, and the festival finally concludes.

The Festival of Guns and Pianos


The golden sun shines brightly in the cloudless sky, creating the illusion of a peaceful day. The halls of Tsukiomi High School remain dead silent despite it being a school day. The silence is far from peaceful. Tsukiomi is no longer safe, and everyone has been made aware of that. Kanon Hilbert, the "gun with wings", is waiting. Standing by a magnificent grand piano, the Blade Child stands holding a gun in each hand. The music room, a room for students to share their talents and memories, has become a prison for one boy. Ayumu Narumi, younger brother to "the Great Detective" Kiyotaka Narumi, sits shackled to the floor, bleeding heavily from his right shoulder.

The room is silent, aside from a small radio, the only link to the outside world. As the news reporter speaks, both of the boys in the room are still and silent. With Eyes Rutherford being a famous pianist, it was only natural for the media to be all over the case of his stabbing. Several updates had been released throughout the days after the attempted murder, however it had all been the same. Eyes was still unconscious. During the days after he had attempted to kill him, Kanon had been restless. In order for things to go smoothly, Rutherford has to die. The days have dragged on with the uncertainty as to whether or not he would survive, but Kanon was under the most stress. Ever since he was a child, Kanon had been trained to kill. Every method of murder had been etched into his instincts, and anyone who he decided should die, drew their last breath within days after his decision. So why didn't Rutherford die? Doubt was starting to sprout inside Kanon. If Eyes wakes up, that will mean that Kanon will fail. After all, if he can't even kill off one Blade Child, how is he supposed to kill all of them? The seedling of doubt that was starting to sprout inside Kanon withered quickly. There is no need for him to doubt himself. Eyes will die. Even if it takes weeks, he isn't going to wake up. Even if he does, Kanon will just kill him again. 

A few more minutes of silence pass, until the sound of a piano echoes through the room. Although he is nowhere near perfect, Kanon had learned a song from Rutherford years ago, though he never knew the name. As he continues to play, Ayumu slowly wakes up, noticing that his arms are restricted behind him, although he was keeping a calm composure. Noticing that Ayumu is now awake, the playing stops, as Kanon arises from the seat.

"You've been asleep for a long time. It's already past four o'clock." Still looking at him, Ayumu doesn't bother trying to escape. Instead, he remains calm and replies to Kanon.

"I wish I could've slept a little longer. That awful piano playing woke me up" Although this doesn't seem to faze Kanon, he continues the conversation calmly, stating that he had only listened to Eyes play the song when he had thought Kanon wasn't around, and that he refused to even tell him the name of the song.

The conversation doesn't last long, as the topic shifts to Kanon's next step in his plan. With the police surrounding the school, there is no way for him to escape. However, this is exactly what he wants. Kanon makes it clear what he wants. He has kept Ayumu as a hostage in order to contact one of the "watchers". The mystery of the Blade Children in known only to a few people, and of the three parties involved, one group are simply observers. It is cruel to let the recent events and series of murders continue, and Kanon knows that. However, it is not the "watchers" that he wants to punish. The first step to his plan, is to annihilate the Blade Children. In order to do this, he will call one of the "watchers", and demand that all the Blade Children are to be gathered into the gym, where they will be obliterated with a bomb. As Ayumu is being held hostage, it is understandable as to why Kanon would even tell him about his plan. After all, there's nothing Ayumu can do to prevent him from carrying out the scheme.

"You're going to blow up the gym, and kill them all off?" Despite the situation, Ayumu was still remaining cool and calm.

"Mm-hmm! Plain and simple, eh?" Kanon's blank expression became a deceivingly innocent smile.

"...simple, yes. But there's no way you can escape. Then what'll you do? You won't be able to kill those blade children who aren't in the school." Ayumu decided to tell him. Processing what Ayumu was saying, Kanon's face changed again, a look of flustered shock replacing his sweet smile. 

"I hadn't thought of that! Kanon in an unexpected pinch!" his flustered appearance hasn't changed, making him look like a child who has been told that the tooth fairy isn't real. Whipping out a paper fan from seemingly nowhere, he simply started smiling again.

"Oh well! It'll work out somehow~!" he said cheerfully, fanning himself as he was walking around. Ayumu was starting to wonder just how sane Kanon even is.

Beginning to prepare to leave, Kanon reveals a massive gun with a strap connected to it, allowing Ayumu to see him as he puts the strap over his shoulder. Just as he is about to leave, Ayumu offers to tell him the name of the song that he had played earlier, in memory of the many times Eyes had played it. Stopping to listen, he looks over to Ayumu, silently telling him to go on.

"It's a Franz Liszt composition. 'Poetic and Religious Harmonies', number three..."

There is a small pause as Kanon looks at Ayumu expectantly, waiting for him to name the individual piece.

"...'The Blessing of God in Solitude'." he finishes, not even making eye contact with Kanon. As he hears the name, Kanon freezes, the image of Eyes playing the song appearing in his mind again. He can't help but to think about what Eyes could have been thinking as he played the song over and over again. How ironic for a cursed child to play a song with such a name. Remembering what he had said to Eyes just as he had stabbed him, he started to make his way to the door again, not daring to look back at Ayumu, or the piano behind him. He lets what he said run through his mind again.

'You're too kind.'

For a child born without a blessing from God to play a song with a name like that as he prays for the safety of his fellow rejects, it is far too ironic. Even when the Blade Children were born without God's blessing, Eyes still dares to pray for their safety, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, God will hear him and help them. That is why he is too kind. That is why he could never hope to stop Kanon.

Everything remains silent as Kanon steps out of the room and into the hallway. Gripping the trigger of the gun he has strapped to his shoulder, he silently makes his way down the hallway and onto a balcony, giving him a clear view of one of the open areas on the school grounds. Soon, he is expecting to see Rio, Kousuke, and Ryouko with a plan ready to nab him. Holding the gun in position, he prepares himself to snipe them as soon as he sees them. Time is passing, and nobody has come into sight yet, however he is ready. It isn't long until he hears Kousuke's voice from the open area to his left, his sight of them being hindered by the wall beside him.

"...I sure wish he'd show up already. This is mentally exhausting..." the familiar red headed boy's voice echoes through the field. A few more steps, and the three are finally within his sight. Just as Kanon aims his gun and pulls the trigger, Kousuke notices him from the corner of his eye, instinctively pushing the girls down to the floor, while ducking himself, narrowly dodging the bullets that are being fired. Without ceasing to fire, Kanon tries to aim again, destroying several windows as he attempts to hit any of the three below him. Before he has a chance to aim again, the others are quick to re-enter the nearest building and hide, making it impossible for Kanon to snipe them from where he's standing. Remaining calm and silent, he turns around and re-enters the halls, walking through them as he starts searching for the three, while trying to predict their plan and create a counter plan. Knowing Rio, she is most likely going to suggest that one of them attacks him head on to try to remove his gun, while the other two simultaneously attack from either side. 

Hiding behind a wall, Kanon calmly waits for the first attacker. All he needs to do is watch out for both of his sides, by not getting too distracted with the front. Of course, his sharp reflexes will certainly help with counter-attacking, but it wouldn't hurt to put at least a little bit of thought into it. Just around the corner, the sound of someone's feet landing on the floor can be heard, accompanied by Kousuke's voice. 

"Here goes!" he calls out just as Kanon jumps from behind the wall, instantly seeing Kousuke holding a gun in each hand. Before either of them have a chance to shoot, Ryouko jumps through a window next to Kousuke and throws a grenade directly towards Kanon's feet. Looking down to see the grenade, he lets out a small whistle before jumping to the side and aiming the gun at Kousuke. Before he is able to pull the trigger, Ryouko sprints forward and grabs Kanon's gun, however she isn't able to pull it from his hand. As he looks down to Ryouko, his attention is grabbed my Kousuke, who now has his gun aimed at him.

"You're mine now! Kanon!" he yells, however before he has a chance to shoot, a gunshot can be heard as Kanon drops his gun to reveal a tiny pistol he had hidden in his sleeve. As his larger gun hits the ground, Ryouko falls to the floor next to it as blood leaks from her chest.

"Ryouko!" Kousuke yells as he freezes, allowing Kanon to jump forward and grab his arm. Without even having a chance to process what happened, Kanon easily throws the stunned Kousuke out of the window, leaving him to fall to his death.

Turning around, Kanon picks up his large gun again, facing the end of the hall that his back had faced during the battle.

"...That's enough hiding. Why don't you come out? ...Rio." he called out, waiting for the little girl to show herself. A few seconds after he called, she slowly steps forward, holding onto a pistol. It might not have been the plan that he had anticipated, but it had still failed. Even after they forced him out of the classroom and interfered with his gun, he still beat them. And now it was time to take out Rio. She lets out a sigh and lowers her arm.

"If you're going to kill me, would you hurry it up? You should only need one shot to take me down." Even so, Kanon isn't willing to take any chances.

"Ha ha! Yes, but that one shot could be tricky. I don't know how many explosives you might be hiding. If I'm not careful, I could set off an explosion. And I can't let myself get caught in the blast too. For you I need a straight shot to the head." She certainly is a tricky one. Being an expert with bombs, she could have hidden explosives under her uniform in locations that she is likely to be shot. A head shot really is the only safe way to kill her.

"Kanon-kun. I don't think you're taking me seriously enough. You really don't think I foresaw this situation?" Although he doesn't show it, Kanon hesitates a little. Almost a second after, Rio reveals a tiny pistol hidden in her sleeve - the same trick that Kanon used.

"I've prepared a similar toy. You didn't think I'd figure out what you'd pull, and work out a plan to counter-act it?" Staying silent, Kanon decides to listen to what she has to say. It is then that she explains the possibilities. The possibility that Ryouko could have been wearing a bulletproof vest with blood packets. It would be unusually convenient, yes, but it isn't impossible. And Kousuke most likely wouldn't die from the fall. What she was saying is true. Kousuke is a cockroach. It is possible that he survived the fall. But then again, maybe everything that she's saying is a bluff. That is also a possibility. She has always been quite tricky. But even if Ryouko is wearing a bulletproof vest, she had six bullets shot at her. That would have knocked her out for a while. But then that would mean...

"Then how about this? Even if Ryouko-chan's wearing a bulletproof vest... those six shots did enough damage to take her out of the picture for a while. It'll take some time for her to get back on her feet. So all this talk... was only meant to stall for time." Then Kanon's thoughts could be right.

"But..." she continued. " That could also be another lie to divert your attention. So... which is it?" She started to smile. Every tiny mistake Kanon had made, Rio was able to use to her advantage and confuse him. Just as you would expect from her.

"I don't care" Kanon had decided. "Regardless of which it is... I'm ending this now" Just as Kanon spoken, the next phase of Rio's plan begun. While Rio was aiming her gun at Kanon from the front, Ryouko was using the same trick that Kanon and Rio had used before to reveal a pistol from under her sleeve. With both girls aiming their guns at Kanon, a thought sparked in his mind that told him exactly how this situation will go. 

'I'll show them that I can overcome this!'

Everything was happening in a blur. The battle had barely lasted thirty seconds before it was over. Although Rio had landed an anesthetic bullet in Kanon's arm, he had gotten away, not before bludgeoning her in the chest and breaking her right collarbone with his gun. Although he had gotten away, he was far from winning. 

Arriving at one of the bathrooms, Kanon was starting to work on removing the anesthetic bullet from his arm and washing the wound. Although it was only one bullet that wasn't in for long, he can feel himself getting lightheaded. Deciding to wait about thirty minutes before fighting again, he lets himself think about the battle so far. He is an expert hunter, and he has been trained to kill for most - if not all - of his life. So why was he making mistakes? Sure, it had been about a year since he had last hunted, but he should still only be making minimal - if any - mistakes. Was he not capable of killing the Blade Children? No, he is more than capable of it. He knows it. And from now on, he won't make any more mistakes.

As he re-enters the music room, he sees that Ayumu is still handcuffed to the desk near the piano. Closing the door behind him, he takes a seat at the piano, this time facing Ayumu rather than the instrument.

"Oh. Welcome back" Ayumu said. It wasn't sarcastic, but it wasn't very enthusiastic either. Then again, he is naturally introverted, so it could be anything coming from him. "You look flustered."

Kanon lets out a small sigh. 

"Rio and her team were tough. I hate to admit it, but I was one step away from being killed myself." he replied solemnly.

During the time that Kanon is taking to recover from the anesthetic bullet, he decides to call one of the "watchers" now, and to make his demands. Even though all he needs is for the Blade Children to be gathered, he has a second request. If Eyes has woken up, he wants to speak to him, even if it's just on the phone.

The "watcher" that Kanon is able to contact is named Kirie Tsuchiya. After requesting that the Blade Children have been gathered, Kanon asks Kirie to get him in contact with Eyes Rutherford. Much to his surprise, Kirie told him that it would be a piece of cake.

"Ruth-kun's already on his way here" those words were enough to freeze Kanon. Not only is Eyes alive and moving about, but he's on his way to see Kanon. It wasn't fear that made him freeze, but something else. Something just as bad.

Not too long after the call with Kirie, Kanon receives another call. Picking up the phone, he makes his way to the window, looking through it pointlessly.

"Hello. Who is it?" Kanon asked.

"The guy you failed to kill off." Eyes replied. Monotone as usual, but not cold. Even to the man who tried to kill him.

"...that you, Eyes? Congrats on making the trip, and just after waking up from that coma too. Not to jump straight to business, but I need some advice. Can you help me?" Kanon asked.

"Let's hear what it is first." Eyes replied in the same monotone voice.

"As you can see, I'm completely surrounded by the cops. Even if I successfully kill all the Blade Children at this school, it'll be pretty tough for me to get away. I need your help to escape. If you help me out now... you won't have as much trouble later." he explained.

"So you're asking me... to join hands with you again?"

"Yep. You don't want to see me getting arrested by the cops, right? If there's any chance, I... I don't want to have to kill you again... No... Even if I were told to kill you again... I could never do it and keep my sanity... But you probably already knew that... Haven't you had enough...? You've worked hard. Now let's walk side-by-side like the old days. There's no hope for the Blade Children. And there's a plot... to completely erase the one hope we do have, remember?" Kanon reasoned. 

"I finally realised why you left us... Kanon... You've met with 'Hizumi', haven't you?" Eyes asked quietly.

"Yeah... I met him. Even though you knew about him for a long time, you hid him from us. I understand why you didn't want to tell us how little hope we have... But it was still cruel. Continuing to let everyone believe in the blessings of a God that doesn't even exist... is beyond stupid. It's a downright sin."

"You still don't think... we can be blessed? You sure sound convinced." Eyes' voice lowered a little.

"I'll keep saying it. You'll never be blessed. It's impossible! Quit fooling yourself." Kanon's voice raised in turn.

"I know. I've also accepted our desolate reality. But... even so... I'll keep hoping. No matter how much I doubt... I'll keep hoping to the very end, amidst all this loneliness, for God's blessing. This conversation is over. All we have left is to battle... I wish you all the best... brother..." And with that, the call ended.

A loud bang made Ayumu jump as Kanon slammed the phone onto the floor. Without thinking, he started to shoot at it, obliterating it until it was nothing but small chunks of wire and plastic.

"How...?! How can he hope for a blessing...?! He knows it'll never come true! So why does Eyes still...?!" Ayumu can only watch as Kanon's outburst unfolds.

"Because you and the others... are important to him. Don't you see?" while Ayumu calmly explaining this to him, Kanon can't help but to let tears fall.

"You're precious to him, so... even if he knows that one day you'll be taken away... and broken... he wants to protect all of you till that day comes. So for every second until then, for his teammates, he'll keep on hoping... so he won't be crushed by despair. Your friends are important to you, right? The only difference is when you knew they'd be stolen and broken... you figured you'd settle the matter yourself in one clean blow." The room fell silent as Kanon found himself leaning against the wall for support, tears falling from his face and breaking upon crashing against the floor.

Many minutes passed before Kanon finally found himself able to stand up. Without saying a word, he slowly began to make his way towards the piano, playing the same song, the only song he was ever bothered to learn, on the piano. Ayumu decided to remain silent, allowing Kanon to play over and over until he can't play anymore. At this point he can't do anything. He stayed seated and continued to stare at the piano until he broke down, slamming his fists onto the piano and letting out a scream of frustration and anger. 

The room became silent once again as Kanon slowly brought himself to stand up and pick up his gun. He can't turn back now. This time, he won't make any mistakes. This time, he is going full throttle. There is no way the Blade Children are going to survive, and that's a promise from Kanon that he will sacrifice his life to fulfill. After a lifetime of suffering, the only thing the Blade Children can do is die, and if there are Blade Children out there who don't want to die, he will just have to force them. Being born without a blessing from God - a blessing that none of them will ever receive - they don't deserve to live a full, happy life. Every single Blade Child must be annihilated. Even Kanon. No, especially Kanon. He knows that he was destined to have his hands soaked with blood, and he has followed along with his predetermined fate like a child asked to steal a toy. No matter what it takes, he will kill every Blade Child, including himself. His entire life was destined to be full of terrors, right from the moment he was born. And now, he will be the cruel force that will snuff out the only hope the Blade Children ever had.

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-20 09:05 am

Shades Of The Future - Short Story 2017

Title: Shades of the Future
Rating: G
Prompt: "The future rewards those who press on. I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on." - Barack Obama
Fandom/Series: Rurouni Kenshin
Word Count: 3,010
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s)
Summary: Kenshin and Sano discuss the possibility of marriage and whether or not their pasts should allow them such a pleasure. They discuss the fact that they've both caused a great deal of pain in the past and worry about what kind of fathers they might be.

Shades Of The Future 

Kenshin sat outside Kaoru’s dojo, listening to the training going on inside. In the last few years, the dojo had seen an increase in students and was prospering beautifully. Shaking his head, Kenshin smiled to himself, “It is a pleasant life I live, that it is.”

The soft sound of footfalls behind Kenshin had him glancing up as Yahiko came to sit beside him, “I’ve been here almost all my life, Kenshin…And you still sit here and stare into nothing. What are you thinking about this time?”

Kenshin chuckled, “Just about how nice my life has become, that is. You have grown into a fine man, that you have, Yahiko.”

The son of a samurai smiled, “That’s nice to hear. You know, you’re the closest thing to a father I’ve had for most of my life?”

Kenshin glanced at the young man in surprise, “I am touched, Yahiko, that I am. But what brought that on?”

Yahiko blushed and shrugged, “Nothing. You know…Just a thought that came to me."

Kenshin smiled and shook his head, “Yahiko. As you said, I have known you most of your life, that I have. Why do you still think you can lie to me?”

Yahiko blushed even more deeply and muttered something under his breath. Glancing at Kenshin out of the corner of his eye, he made a sound that was half-groan and half-sigh. “You just never give up, do you Kenshin?”

“That I do not,” came the cheerful reply.

Shaking his head, Yahiko submitted, “Alright, alright. You’ve got me. I…I was hoping I could get some advice.” Kenshin sat silently and watched the young man with expectation in his eyes and a growing suspicion. “Well…There’s…There’s a…matter I need help with. I…I was…I was thinking about…taking…taking a wife.” Yahiko blushed even more furiously as he managed to stutter out the words that Kenshin knew were coming.

A massive grin spread across Kenshin’s face when he heard his old friend, Sanosuke, chuckle from behind them. “So. The squirt is finally going to find a girl, huh? Good. I was starting to wonder about you, kid.”

Yahiko sprung to his feet, his face red, “That’s rich, coming from you! What about you and Megumi!? Are you two evergoing to stop playing around and get together, or are we going to have to clutch our stomachs every time you’re in the same room together for the rest of our lives?”

Sano’s face fell, his mouth hanging open in surprise for a long moment before his big, booming laugh echoed throughout the courtyard, “Good one, kid! Ah, I dunno. At my age…It seems kinda silly to take a wife. Not that I haven’t thought about it, of course.”

Kenshin and Yahiko fell silent, staring at the former fighter-for-hire in shock. “I…I was just teasing you, Sano. You’d really marry Megumi?”

Sano shrugged, his neck slightly red. “Well, yeah. Why not? She’s a beautiful woman, she’s a brilliant doctor…Why not? I just have to ask, is all…Truth is…That woman terrifies me,” the enormous man finished in a whisper.

Kenshin and Yahiko stared from Sano, to each other, and back – neither of them entirely certain how to process this new information. At last, a small snigger slipped from between Kenshin’s lips and brought a huge smile to Yahiko’s face. At last, the two caught each other’s gaze and dissolved entirely into hysterics. “Sano is scared, that he is!” Chortled Kenshin, “Never thought I'd see it, that I did not!”

Yahiko leaned heavily on Kenshin's shoulder, slapping his knee as he laughed, “Oh, I knew you weren't the big, tough guy you're always pretending to be! There is something you're afraid of, after all!”

Sano glared at the pair of them for a long moment before tapping the tips of his toes on the deck, “Yeah, alright. Fine. So I'm scared of a woman.”

Just then the front gate opened and a teasing voice called, “Oh? Which woman, Sano?”

A screech that was rather lacking in masculinity bubbled from Sano's chest and nearly made Kenshin and Yahiko's ears bleed as Sano's left leg and both his arms came up in a defensive posture, his eyes wide and staring. This only succeeded in driving Yahiko and Kenshin into another round of hysterical giggles and sending them sprawling with the force of their mirth. “You're not helping your cause, Sano. That you are not,” wheezed Kenshin in between gasping cackles.

Sano shot Kenshin and Yahiko a withering glare, then stormed across the courtyard and out the front gate, Kenshin and Yahiko still snorting and giggling behind him. Megumi stood watching them for a moment before rolling her eyes and heading into the dojo, “Oh, you two are hopeless,” she said coldly but with a smirk on her lips, “I'm just here to deliver the bruise ointment that Kaoru asked me for. You two enjoy yourselves.”

 

Kenshin and Yahiko were still giggling as Megumi climbed the stairs, kicked out of her sandals, and entered the dojo. Filling his lungs slowly, Yahiko watched Kenshin as he regained his breath, “So, Kenshin...I was wondering something. When are you planning on asking Kaoru to marry you? I mean, you two obviously love each other, so...When is that going to happen?”

Kenshin made an odd sound that was halfway between a gasp and a choke as his eyes bugged out and he sprung suddenly to his feet, “I just remembered...I have errands to run, that I do...I mean, I have...S-S-SAAAANOOO!!!” He bellowed as he scrambled into his sandals and sprinted after the former fighter-for-hire, dust billowing behind him as he went. Sano was already seated and devouring his beef hot-pot when Kenshin caught up to him, fuming. “Sa...no...You...left me...that...you...did,” he accused between pants.

Sano gestured to the seat across from him, “Have a seat, Kenshin. There's more than enough for the both of us. I had this sneaking suspicion that you'd be following me. That kid certainly seems to have some strange ideas in his head these days, doesn't he? So, what was he asking you about? The little Missie, I figure.”
Kenshin's face turned the approximate shade of her hair as he half-collapsed, half-sat in his designated seat, muttering to himself in a most undignified manner. After a brief silence between the old friends as they ate, Kenshin swallowed and sat watching Sano's face closely, “You should just ask her, that you should,” he said thoughtfully. “I think she loves you in return, that I do.”

Sano flushed deeply, “Oh, stop it, Kenshin.” Picking up his sake bowl, Sano took a deep drink and sighed, “There's no doubt in my mind that the woman loves me, or that I love her. My concern is what kind of husband would I be? Or for that matter, what kind of father would I be?” Sano sighed heavily and shook his head, “I just don't know, Kenshin.” Sano raised his hands and clenched his heavily scarred fists, “After the things these fists havce done, how can I open them to gently stroke a child's brow?”

Kenshin put down his chopsticks and laid one of his hands over Sano's much lager ones. Once he had Sano's attention, Kenshin turned his hand over so that his palm was facing up, “Take a look at these hands, that you should,” Kenshin said softly. “After having killed so many, how can I have any right to touch Kaoru's face softly, or to hold any child we may have. I shudder to think of myself as a father, and I fear what I may do.”

Sano's mouth fell open in shock, “Kenshin. How can you say that? You practically raised Yahiko, and look at how heturned out. You’d be an amazing father, Kenshin.”

Kenshin smiled slightly and nodded, “That is what I thought you would say, it is. If you can say that about someone like me, why not about yourself, that is?”

Sano sputtered for a moment before he managed to string together a coherent sentence, “Well…That…That’s hardly…I don’t know, Kenshin. I just…I just feel scared, is all. I’m more scared at the thought of marrying and having children than I was at the thought of facing Shishio. Does that make me a coward?”

Kenshin chuckled, “No, Sano. It makes you human, that it does.” Shaking his head, Kenshin picked up his chopsticks again, “How long do you think it will be before they come looking for us do you think, that is?”

Sano snorted into his beef pot, “Oh, I imagine the little Missie should be barging into our pleasantly quiet meal any moment now.”

As though his words were prophetic, an angry female voice came from the entrance to the Akebeko, “KENSHIIIN,” came the furious voice of the Master of the Kamya Kasshin Style, “What do you think you are doing here? Weren’t you supposed to be doing laundry?”

Kenshin froze in terror for a moment before turning with a charming smile on his face, “Oro? I finished the laundry, Miss Kaoru, that I did.”

Kaoru glowered at him, “Well, then you can be making lunch for me and my students. You shouldn’t be here, wasting my hard-earned money!” She stomped over to Kenshin and Sano, grabbing the both of them by their collars and dragging t hem out of their seats, “Come on, you two. I’m sure we can find something for you to do! No use in you sitting around and getting fat while the rest of us work ourselves to the bone!”

Sano writhed and kicked as she dragged him to the door, “Hey, why do I have to go!? I’m not the one that lives with you! Hey, some on, Missie; the food’s just gonna go to waste…”

Kaoru paused just long enough to glare over her shoulder at Sano, who promptly paled and fell silent, crossing his arms over his chest and pouting. “That’s better,” she said and continued dragging the pair of them out of the Akabeko and down the street, much to the amusement of the locals.

Miss Tae rushed to the front of the shop and stared out in disbelief, “I don’t believe it,” she muttered to herself, “Sano got away without paying again! I swear, that man is going to be in debt to me until the end of his next life if he keeps this up!”

True to her word, Kaoru set Kenshin and Sano to scrubbing the floors of the dojo, much to the amusement of Yahiko. “I remember when I used to have to do that every day. So, what’d you do to make her so mad?”

Kenshin smiled sheepishly up at Yahiko, “We ate beef hot-pot without her, that we did.”

Yahiko blanched, “Well, no wonder she’s so mad at you! I’m pretty put out myself, now. Why would you do that?”

Kenshin sighed, “We had things to discuss, man-to-man, that we did. I think we came to an understanding, too, that is.”

Sano chuckled as he scrubbed at the floor, “Yeah, I think so. The question is…Who’s first? Do you ask first, or do I?”

Kenshin glared at Sano, “You. You should go first, that you should. It was your idea, that is.”

Sano grinned even wider, “Well, I was thinking whoever has been in this situation longer, and you definitely win in that category, my friend.”

Kenshin gaped at his old friend in near-dismay, “B-b-b-but I don’t know how, that I don’t.”

Sano slapped his knee and chuckled, “You’ll just have to figure out a way, won’t you?”

Yahiko stood watching the pair of them toss words back and forth, felling more and more confused by the moment. “What are you idiots talking about?” He burst out rudely, “People listening might think you had gone crazy…Not that there’s that far to go, to be honest.”

Kenshin and Sano stared at the young man for a long moment before bursting into laughter, “Oh, kid. If you only knew how true that was,” Sano chuckled.

“Huh?” Said Yahiko.

“Never mind. Just come over here and help us with this. I’m starving.” Sano chuckled to himself again as he applied himself to the floor.

Yahiko shrugged and set a bucket down beside Kenshin and Sano and knelt to begin scrubbing the floor beside them, “Although...There is something I wanted to talk to you about.”

“The girl from the Akabeko?” Sano smirked.

“We thought so, that we did.” Kenshin chuckled, “You are an easy one to read, that you are. You should just be honest with her, that you should. Just ask her.”

“That's rich, coming from you.”

Yahiko sighed, “But...But how do we know that things from the past won't, you know...come back to haunt us?”

Sano sighed heavily and sat back on his heels, “I wish I had an answer for you, kid.”

Kenshin cleared his throat, “Well, it seems to me that every day we live past yesterday is its own reward, that it is. The future only gives things to those of us who keep going, that it does. It doesn't give anything to people who give up. We don't have a choice, that we do not. If we want any kind of happiness in this world at all, we need to work for it, that is. Sitting still never got anyone anything, that it did not. So we don't have time to sit around and wonder if we should; we need to hurry up and do it, that we do. That is the only way the future will give us anything, that it is.”

Sano sat back on his heels, his head cocked as he considered his old friend, “You know something? You really surprise me sometimes. I think just for that, you should go first.”

“Oro? S-sano…Why would I do that?”

Sano chuckled, “Well, you’re the bravest of us all…Don’t you think you have enough courage to face Missie?”]

Kenshin stared at him for a long moment. “No, that I don’t.”  Sano and Yahiko stared at the swordsman with their mouths hanging open in astonishment, and though they tried their best, they could not get him to say another word on the matter.

Later that evening, dinner was an unusually quiet affair; it seemed that all the men had heavy thoughts weighing on them and no matter how Kaoru tried, she couldn’t get them to speak. The soft sound of footsteps signaled the approach of an unexpected guest, though after so many years Kaoru had learned to expect the unexpected. Therefore, when the door slid smoothly open to reveal Megumi smiling down at all of them, Kaoru didn’t miss a beat. “Megumi! What a surprise. Why don’t you join us?”

Megumi smiled all the wider and bowed, “I think I will; thank you so much.”

Kaoru bowed in return, “Not at all. It’ll be a relief to have someone to talk to tonight. It seems like all of our men have been struck suddenly mute.”

Yahiko, Kenshin, and Sano all shifted uncomfortably. At last, Sano sighed, glaring at the other two, “Oh, alright. Fine.” He glowered, “Megumi. I have something to say.”

Megumi’s brought her head up to stare Sano in the eye, her expression alive with curiosity, “Oh? What is it?”

Sano cleared his throat, “We should get married.” Stunned silence met his matter-of-fact statement.

Megumi’s eyes sparkled with mischief as she feigned innocence, “Oh? And why might that be?”

Sano snorted, “Oh, come on. You’re not fooling anything, fox-woman. Everyone knows how you feel about me – more importantly, I know how you feel. You’ll marry me because we’ve both been through hell in this life, but we’re survivors. We keep going because we know there’s no other choice; it’s either keep moving or lay down and die, and neither of us is going to be doing that any time soon, so…Marry me.”

Megumi raised an elegant eyebrow, “And what if I don’t want to?”

Sano stood and crossed to Megumi, yanking her to her feet suddenly. “Then I’d say you were lying,” he responded thickly, his face close to hers. “You want to move on from the past as much as I do, and there’s only one way to do that. Work for it. I’m willing to work for this; are you?”

Megumi paused, her faced flushed and the vein in her neck pulsing madly, “Sano,” she whispered, “What took you so long? Ah!” She exclaimed suddenly, “So I’m the woman you’re afraid of, is that it?”

Sano rolled his eyes and clomped back to his seat, sitting with a most ungraceful thump, “Yeah, well. I don’t know any man alive that’s not afraid of his wife.”

 

Once the dishes had been cleared away and the others had drifted their separate ways – Megumi and Sano were conspicuously missing – Kenshin and Kaoru were walking quietly by the river enjoying the fireflies. All at once, Kaoru stopped, a sad expression on her face. “Kenshin?” She said quietly.

Pausing to look behind him, Kenshin cocked his head, “Oro?”

“Kenshin…I just…I just wondered if you had anything to say to me?”

Kenshin looked down for a moment, his long, red hair obscuring his face for a moment. “Are you sure?” He asked softly. “You know who I am, and what I’ve done. You know how many I’ve killed, and how many probably still want to kill me. Are you sure?”

Kaoru smiled softly, “Kenshin, I’ve been sure since the day we met.”

Kenshin looked up at her, studying her face for a long moment before he smiled warmly, “Well, that’s it, then, that is.” Crossing to her, Kenshin gingerly took her hands in his own, “Kasshin Kaoru? Will you be my wife until the end of our days?”

Flushing deeply, Kaoru nodded, “Of course, Kenshin.”

The two pairs were married on the same day, a mere three weeks later. Those who attended said that never had they seen two such happy pairs, nor had they seen two pairs so willing to face the future together – whatever it may give or take.

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-19 03:06 pm

O.P. Catalyst - Short Story 2017

Title: O.P. CATALYST
Rating: PG
Prompt: Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.
- Haruki Murakami
Fandom/Series: Inazuma Eleven Ares
Word Count: 3647
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: When everything goes wrong and salvation is beyond hope, all you can do is try again. But when you look at someone you once knew, how can you push away your memories and deal with what's real?

O.P. Catalyst


The attacks of before had been child’s play, mere skirmishes compared to this one, which could only be termed a full-scale invasion. The outer walls had fallen like paper; the inner walls weren’t going to last much longer. Hand in hand, leaping over fallen people and sliding under fallen debris, Fudou and Sakuma ran, past a bleeding Kidou and a tottering, swaying Haizaki, into the innermost corridors of the HQ.

 

They reached the end and Fudou slammed one hand on the button that opened the lab doors. He thought he heard an echoing slump from Haizaki’s direction, but there was no time to make sure, and it was so loud, surely it was anything else?

 

There was no time to waste. All thoughts of Kidou and Haizaki left his mind as the doors finally widened enough for him and Sakuma to slip through, and they were running again, racing down the familiar route to what had practically been their second home these past few sleepless months.

 

The moment they entered the lab room, Fudou wrenched the satchel with the mission supplies they had prepared just two days prior from the wall. Sakuma tore open the control panel and typed in the initiation commands with shaking hands, and Fudou flung open the door to the pod. No time for subtlety. It was the day they had always known would come.

 

He cast a furtive glance at Sakuma, whose hands were still running along the keyboard like a river gushing on rock. Then he looked back at the pod.

 

This would work. He’d make it work.

 

“Sakuma,” Fudou called, then yelled again, realising his voice had become hoarse sometime during the carnage. “Get in!”

 

Sakuma turned, expression frantic but focused, mouth opening as if about to reply. Come on, move, I can do all the adjustments from inside! Fudou’s brain screamed, but before the words could reach his mouth, the laboratory doors opened to reveal rows and rows of Ares children and their golden glowing eyes.

 

Sakuma’s eyes cooled. His gaze sharpened. Fudou’s heart sunk.

 

“IN!” Sakuma yelled. In one controlled, explosive motion, he swept one arm out towards the pod and swung his other arm and clenched fist behind him, towards the key that would initiate the string of commands he had just typed. Fudou’s feet moved to obey even before his brain finished processing the words. The doors to the pod started to slide shut, and just before they closed the very last thing Fudou saw before he was wrenched across time was bright, bright light –

 

 ---

 

If you’d told Fudou six years ago that the world would turn into this, he’d have laughed. At you.

 

Up until high school, he had led an unremarkable, if tough life in Ehime Prefecture, a life of cutting coupons out of magazines from the trash and trying to make every pair of socks and shoes last, even if they got a little tight or frayed, because every yen counted. Then a scout had approached him and asked if he would be interested in a football scholarship at a Tokyo high school. It had been a no-brainer, of course. An all-expenses-paid ride out of his shitty provincial town? Two birds with one stone. Fudou wouldn’t have said no to any school, much less the Teikoku Academy.

 

Scratch that. If you’d told Fudou just a year ago that the world would turn into this, he’d have – well, by then he’d grown beyond laughing directly in people’s faces. It was a natural consequence of dating Sakuma Jirou in high school (the highlight of an otherwise mediocre experience) and then following him to university. As Fudou learned well, Sakuma was prickly by nature, and any direct ridicule, even in the form of affectionate banter, was liable to get you the cold shoulder for days. But he had a lovely side that Fudou adored from the bottom of his heart and had even thought he’d grow old (and rich) with.

 

Fudou still remembered that one summer during their first year of university when Sakuma had come to visit Ehime. They’d gone to Iyo, a neighbouring city famous for its castle. Fudou would never forget the wide-eyed wonder with which Sakuma had traversed the castle grounds, from its elegant courtyards to the top of its fortified turrets. He had something to say about every artefact on display and had ended up giving Fudou, the actual Ehime local, a comprehensive history lesson. What a damn nerd. Fudou had laughed then, loud and hearty, and Sakuma’s only retaliation had been a warm smile.

 

Then during the train ride home, Nosaka Yuuma, the inhumanly skilled football star Fudou only vaguely remembered playing against in high school, lost his equilibrium and entered homeostatic breakdown. He was a Vissel Kobe player now, based in Kobe, but they felt the shockwave even in Ehime. Their train derailed. Some people flew out the windows. Others lay unmoving on the floor, or draped along the train seats. There was some blood.

 

Miraculously, Fudou and Sakuma only had the wind knocked out of them. The first thing they thought to do was get out of the train and call for help. But neither of them, nor any of the other survivors, could get any cell reception. As they waited for help in the Ehime countryside, distant screeches like missile fire cut through the otherwise quiet day, and the sky was periodically bathed in a golden glow, each instance coming from a different direction. When night fell, still with no rescuer in sight, Fudou wasn’t laughing anymore.

 

 ---

 

Even when his surroundings settled and everything felt like it had stopped moving, it was all Fudou could do to open his eyes. The room was only faintly lit, which helped the pain in his head somewhat. He felt like he had been sucker punched in the gut with nausea.

 

If everything had gone according to plan, he was in one of the basement rooms of the Kidou Corporation HQ. According to Kidou six years later, it had once been one of Kidou Corp’s unused safe rooms, except it clearly wasn’t. Around him, rows of cabinets stretched almost to the ceiling and probably covered the entire room. Back when they were building the time machine, Fudou and the others had racked their brains to think of somewhere that had been continuously empty over the entire period they were planning to travel through. They’d thought it was a condition required to successfully time travel, and Kidou had confirmed a hundred times that this particular safe room qualified. So much for that! Fudou had only just got here, and already he had made a lucky escape.

 

A spasm racked through his body. Fudou retched, though it was dry, and fought to stop his body from heaving. It was more difficult than normal. His frame felt too small, too light. He raked a hand through his hair, and the bushy mohawk confirmed his suspicions: he was back to his fourteen-year-old body.

 

Okay. Sure. There was no point in asking why, as long as he knew what was. And really, didn’t this just make his mission easier?

 

Finally, Fudou had the presence of mind to take cover near the cabinets closest to him. This room was clearly in use and Kidou Corp security could enter at any moment. And while Fudou was intimately familiar with everything about this HQ five years later, this HQ now felt like somewhere he had never been before. No one here was farming, fighting the Ares soldiers, maintaining the barricades, or madly researching how to alter history and fix things before it became too late. (Wow, when you laid out the ATHENA base this way, it really was a wonder that Kidou had let him and Sakuma do what they wanted all this time.) Right now, everyone in the building was a paper-pusher, a salaryman (or woman) working to fuel their lifestyle or feed their family. The sounds most people would associate with this building were grids of employees typing away at their computers, or polite discussion during meetings, or the network servers humming away. Not distant, but constant bursts of gunfire, booming explosions, and the intermittent eerie rings in the distance that signalled the end of yet another Ares child. Was this really what it had been like during Homeostasis? So much had changed that Fudou could barely reconcile the Kidou Corp HQ of now and the future. And yet, why did it feel like the biggest change had been in himself?

 

He was at April 11 of his fifteenth year of life. Fudou knew this like he knew that the Earth was round. Sakuma had calculated and cross-checked the dates and geographical coordinates time and time again, and Fudou had no doubt that he had sent him successfully to his destination. He trusted Sakuma with his life. Kidou’s uncertain recollections of his office layout… not so much.

 

A creak from the far end of the room caught his attention, and he ducked and pressed his body against the cabinet. Slowly, the door swung open and light bloomed in.

 

“Who’s there?”

 

A more focused beam that was probably a torchlight slid along the walls. Fudou figured he was probably in its blind spot, and he wasn’t about to risk leaving it to check. He tried to stay as motionless as possible despite the cramp building up in his thighs. As long as the guard didn’t get near his side of the room, he wouldn’t even know Fudou was here, though that knowledge didn’t ease the pounding of his heart. So much for always empty. This was the last time he was trusting a CEO to know the minute details of his own company!

 

But at least he knew where the exit was now.

 

When Fudou was sure the guard had gone, he slipped out of the door and exited the HQ as quickly as he could. No doubt he’d be picked up by the security cameras, but who was going to recognise a scruffy mohawked boy from the other side of Japan?

 

Once he reached street level, it was relatively easy to orient himself in this new, but familiar world. Staking out Teikoku was easy enough, and with the money in his satchel he managed to rent a room that was in the area for the next few days.

 

And after that, as the diverge point hurtled closer towards him in time, all Fudou could do was wait.

 

 ---

 

They had combed their collective memories obsessively for the diverge point. It wasn’t just Kidou, Sakuma, and Fudou who had been filled with demons and regrets in the months following homeostatic breakdown – Haizaki had too, perhaps the most out of all of them. He had been the one pitted against the Ares program, even if he hadn’t known it at the time. The main component of the program had been named the Balance of Ares after its creator’s dream to even the scales between pure talent and hard work. It had served its purpose too well.

 

The first Ares subject had been an unremarkable middle school boy with only a love for football. No one had thought much of it at the time, but when Nosaka Yuuma displayed the speed and analytical precision of a machine to rout Haizaki Ryouhei, the ultimate bastion of middle school talent, Japan and the rest of the world started to pay attention. Nosaka had been the catalyst that powered the Ares program to success, and governments and private corporations invested in (or stole) the technology to create soldiers of their own. The Balance of Ares was championed worldwide and heralded as the path to true equality.

 

A mere five years later, Nosaka Yuuma imploded, generating a three-hundred-kilometre shockwave that decimated everything in its epicentre. Governments and corporations realised that what they had were not soldiers but ticking time bombs. Like dominoes falling all over themselves, they dug out adverse event protocols from deep inside their vaults and executed their risk management procedures against their Ares charges. And like a chain reaction, the Ares children banded together to defend themselves against the world that now wanted them gone. You were either with them or against them. Within a few days it was war.

 

It was a month after the train accident when Fudou and Sakuma finally straggled up to the gates of Kidou Corp HQ, one of the last remaining ATHENA strongholds in Japan. Haizaki had tried to kill them on sight; they’d been lucky that Kidou had been nearby. But when the Ares children attacked the next day, it was also Haizaki who fought tirelessly and fired the final shot that scared them away. It was guilt, Kidou explained to them well out of his earshot. Haizaki was convinced that this could all never have happened if only, in middle school, he had taken Nosaka Yuuma more seriously.

 

So that was the most obvious place to start when looking for the diverge point. After all, Haizaki had been the one who’d had the most contact with Nosaka before homeostatic breakdown. Whatever he thought was the problem was probably as good as they were going to get.

 

But Haizaki wasn’t the one time travelling. What was their own diverge point?

 

“You know,” Sakuma said to Fudou one day during lunch (entirely hydroponically grown salad and grains, which was, of course, disgusting), “did I ever tell you that Haizaki thrashed us our last year of middle school?”

 

“As a first-year?” Fudou replied, sceptical. “You were that bad?”

 

“It was me. Middle school me was a brat. You know how in high school I was still hung up over Kidou transferring out in middle school? It was worse the very first year after he left. I just couldn’t get over him. I think I needed someone to call me out and tell me to stop being so stupid,” Sakuma said bluntly. “And we had problems with our coach, too. They were justified. We’d sacked him the year before for being evil. Long story. But…” His lips tightened and his brows furrowed. “If we’d listened to him, I wonder if we could have defeated Haizaki and showed him that he wasn’t unstoppable.”

 

Fudou squinted at Sakuma. His bangs hung over his one visible eye, making him look almost defeated. It wasn’t a look that suited the man he had once seen take out an entire squad of enemies with just a well-timed hand grenade and a pistol.

 

“So is that our diverge point, then?” he asked. “Make sure the team listens to your evil coach and beats the crap out of Haizaki?”

 

One side of Sakuma’s lips drew down in a grimace. But he nodded.

 

 ---

 

The days passed quicker than expected, though what was fast to someone who had gone back years in the space of a few moments?

 

Fudou had spent some of his newfound time reliving his old pleasures, like going to the arcade. He’d spent some funds on new pleasures too, like all-you-can-eat sushi. But most of his time was spent lurking near Teikoku, watching the members of the football team and getting an idea of what he would have to work with.

 

On the day of the diverge point, Fudou arrived at the auditorium early and made himself comfortable in one of the plush seats in the front row. He turned his head back when the members of the Teikoku football team started to file in, but surprisingly, Sakuma wasn’t among them. Fudou regarded them, recognising some of them from high school, and the team stared back curiously, though none of them did a thing. A haughty, confident nod was all Fudou gave them before he turned back to the front and closed his eyes.

 

It was fifteen minutes later when the door opened again. Fudou turned, more discreetly this time, to see two more Teikoku players descend the stairs to the front, fielding high-fives and greetings along the way.

 

It was Sakuma and Genda, of course, though younger than he had ever seen them. Something twinged faintly in Fudou’s heart when he took in Genda’s lion’s mane and his tall, solid frame, faithfully in step behind Sakuma. Genda had been one of his closest friends in high school, and yet Fudou had never learned whether he had survived the homeostatic breakdown.

 

But if he accomplished what he had come here to do, he never would have to.

 

Fudou snapped out of his reverie and caught the tail end of Teikoku finally demanding to know just who he was. He barely had enough time to close his eyes and compose himself before Sakuma and Genda stepped down in front of him.

 

“Who are you?” fourteen-year-old Sakuma asked, and his voice was so measured, so detached, and above all so young that he might as well have been a totally different person.

 

“Who knows?” Fudou replied. And who really did, anymore?

 

“Hey,” one of the team members interjected, “don’t be rude to our captain!”

 

That was right. Sakuma, for all the criticisms future him would spout about his middle school self, had been captain.

 

“Captain?” Fudou repeated, finally opening his eyes to look at his fourteen-year-old, not-yet best friends. Genda looked pretty much as expected: tall, feet and shoulders squared up towards him, expression uncompromising and stern. The face paint he liked to wear made him look like a young warrior.

 

But Sakuma was different. Though Fudou could see the impression of the man he had grown to love, fourteen-year-old Sakuma… was just a child. Irritation was visibly forming on his face and his fists were tightly clenched. Fudou looked at him, really looked at him, his gaze moving up and down, and Sakuma’s shoulders drew back in uncertainty. The Sakuma in front of him was a meek little lamb. He did not resemble the fierce, confident fighter Fudou knew and loved at all.

 

For a moment, Fudou couldn’t speak. But he recovered quickly, the gears in his brain spinning on autopilot, powered by wistful memories. Sakuma had once said that middle school him had needed a good talking to, to shock his system and help him past his mental block. It was the first and only time he had given Fudou approval to yell at him, and Fudou would be more than happy to oblige.

 

Because this world was soft and unprepared. The populace was dormant, going about their daily lives with such routine that they might as well be ants. They had no idea what was coming to destroy them.

 

Not that he could talk. They had failed, and his world was gone. His heart twinged at that. Everyone he knew – and the light twinge grew now into a sharp pang, and for a moment, all he could see was that bright, warm smile at Iyo castle – was probably dead.

 

But he wasn’t the only relic left from the future they had all ruined together. There was one more thing, though it was no longer perfectly laid out on paper. Just bits of it in his head. But it would have to do.

 

They had never formally named it, but Fudou had always called it O.P. CATALYST.

 

Operation: Poison Catalyst.

 

Nosaka Yuuma had been the catalyst for the homeostatic breakdown.

 

And Fudou was going to deactivate him.

 

---

 

Fudou slung the satchel newly filled with mission supplies over his shoulder and swiped into the time travel lab. Sakuma was there, as expected, and so were the other scientists, but there were two unexpected faces: Kidou, and his guardian lapdog Haizaki. All of them had frowny faces and turned towards him as he walked in. Fudou was used to attracting attention at the worst of times, but the combined silence and intensity of their expressions unnerved even him.

 

“What?” he said. “Before you get any ideas, the money in this bag’s all useless. You think anyone takes yen nowadays?”

 

Nobody acknowledged his quip. “Fudou,” Sakuma said instead, tone thoughtful, “where were you in middle school?”

 

“Ehime,” Fudou said, “rotting away. As you know. Why?”

 

“Ehime,” Kidou said, as if it were the name of an exotic fruit and not the boring shithole Fudou had only been too glad to leave. “And you said you’d never been to Tokyo before that?”

 

“You know my history, Kidou-kun,” Fudou drawled. “Never left my prefecture before I moved to Tokyo for high school.”

 

“Well, none of us can go back,” Sakuma said with a frown. In this lab, next to this machine, there was only one place he could have meant. “We’d crash into each other. Our past selves. It’d ruin everything.”

 

“What are you saying?” Fudou said, but it was just a jerk move to make Kidou have to be the one to explain it. And actually, now was not the time. “You bastards. You’re not seriously putting the fate of the world on my shoulders? You do know who you’re standing in front of, don’t you?”

 

Kidou inclined his head, a typically uber-serious, apologetic expression already on his face. Trust him to feel intense personal responsibility for everything, even in the apocalypse. “I wouldn’t have wanted to put all the pressure on you,” he said, his tone heavy. “If there was a different way, believe me…”

 

But Fudou had already stopped listening. Instead, he looked at all the other people in the room, at their alternating expressions of resignation and hope and everything in between.

 

In reality, he had read about self-collision and spatial collision just the day before and had independently come to the same conclusion. After all, out of all of them, he was the only one who hadn’t been anywhere near the designated spatial location (Greater Tokyo) during the diverge period.

 

He hadn’t wanted to say it.

 

But he had already known that he would have to go alone.

 

---

 

Tenses in time travel fiction is hard. Also, I want to thank my beta readers very, very much. And also the guy who made the Eminem/Eurythmics Sweet Dreams Without Me mashup. Finally, thank you for reading.



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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-19 12:00 pm

Limelda's Personal Aim - Short Story 2017

Title: Limelda's Personal Aim
Rating: PG
Prompt: "The future rewards those who press on. I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on." 
- Barack Obama

Fandom/Series: Madlax 
Word Count: 3480
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: Limelda Jorg’s reflects on her personal unrelenting obsession with Madlax and how that obsession has changed over time.

Limelda's Personal Ai
m

"The future rewards those who press on, I can't feel sorry myself. I can kill her, I can defeat her". I said again and again when I wanted to kill and defeat my rival Madlax.

But she always one step ahead.

From the beginning she injured my pride as the army's top sniper. I clearly remember the day she assassinated General Gwen McNicol. I stared in amazement at the position from the rooftop where she fired her bullet, it was an angle I never asked men to cover since I thought it was impossible. The audacity was shocking enough but to execute it successfully hit me with envy, admiration, fear and humiliation. I managed to catch a glimpse of the assassin on my scope. Soon it dawned on me the

assassin was the young innocent looking girl with luscious dirty blonde hair I met a few days ago, posing as a Nafrecan tourist. I remembered that youthful look and carefree expression made defeat even worse as if this was not a difficult thing to achieve. Sometimes I wished she aimed the bullet at me.

But I didn't have time to feel sorry for myself, I'm going to press on, kill her and get my reward. The reward of satisfaction and being number one again was too hard to resist.

Finally there was an opponent that was worthy of my focus. I practised my PSG-1 sniper rifle daily, shooting targets at dawn and firing pistols on the run. Apart from shooting, I practiced flanking manoeuvres and heightening my senses for the faintest breath, sound or murmur an opponent might give me. After my failure, I was assigned as the personal bodyguard to the VIP, Carrossea Doon. He gave me plenty of time to hone new tactics and ideas, especially when he flew to Nafrece alone on business trips. So I had a lot of time alone and although he seduced me away from combat, it was the chance to practice, study and improve everything that I learned before. I was also glad the extra pay meant I can buy more advanced equipment and more ammunition for practice.

Just to hunt down one extraordinary girl. The future rewards those who pressed on to continuously improve and never complain.

There were times where I felt victory was in my grasp. One time, Carrossea told me that Madlax wasn't who she was and she'll never be again. I remember Madlax acting like a clueless child wandering down the street not knowing how to protect herself, nearly floating on her bare feet. She seemed to be under a trance and later I understood she was under magical words. That didn't deter me, I aimed my gun at her but her friend Vanessa got in the way. Deep inside I knew it would have been a hollow victory, but a reward was a reward and my pride needed it. Madlax cowered like a frightened child behind her, while she pathetically aimed her gun at me shakily like a person who never fired a gun before. Her actions irritated me and I was going to shoot her as well to get to my Madlax trophy. But Vanessa's posing combined with my doubts just held me long enough, before Madlax brushed me aside and became her normal self. Again she defeated me and spared me, it was getting incredibly unbearable that I cannot beat her fair and square.

"I cannot feel sorry for myself, I don't have time to complain and I'm going to press on. Even in defeat and discouragement." I told myself.

I just need to kill her once victoriously, just once. Not a respectable guns pointing at each other draw, but a victory with her dying in the glow of my superiority. This obsession was becoming who I was, I no longer cared about serving my country or really bothered about the nation's civil war. Even protecting my VIP and lover Carrossea Doon had become tiresome. But I didn't truly know it yet till I fought Madlax again. This time I followed her through the army radio after she fought off Gazth-Sonika's soldiers. Her friend and client Vanessa was a burden and to my shock horror Madlax was held at gunpoint, there the realisation occurred to me.

"I must kill her! Nobody else can! Those who get in the way must die!" my inner voice screamed and in a fit of controlled rage as I fired my sniper rifle rapidly, executing soldiers from my own army. When I disposed of those pests, I aimed my PSG-1 at Madlax feeling victory once again albeit unfairly. I wanted badly for her to fight me without her annoying hanger-on Vanessa. The temptation arose in me again to off her but Madlax covered herself in front of Vanessa and told me this war I've been fighting was false. She also offered me the secret files to the civil war and suckered me in by questioning my courage to know the truth. The conviction in that young woman's eyes tempted me to take her offer. My superior said I was always a sucker to follow things to the end but that was what me the ultimate consummate professional. I accepted knowing it could be a trick but there's something so genuine and 'truthful' about Madlax.

In comparison this war seemed false, just like the rest of my life. When I let them go, I got scared and doubted whether I want to look at the truth. But I don't have time to complain, be sorry or scared, I must press on especially those who have the courage to face the truth.

I actually knew from the moment I pulled the trigger on my own country, that was the end of my career in the army. All the titles, adulation, medals and wealth that went with it didn't really bother me. The fellow soldiers I killed can be hidden away, the problem was I was no longer believed in my duty or my country. The data Madlax gave me was true, this entire war was a fabrication. A futile exercise where I actually fought for foreign corporations, the secret society Enfant and not to protect or care about anyone. What was worse was my superiors in the elite guard knew and lived by this day after day. In retrospect I should have known when they assigned me to protect Carrossea, Enfant agent and foreign VIP from Bookwald Corporation.

But I must press on, I didn't have time to complain. I didn't have time to feel sorry for myself. My reward would be vengeance.

My set vengeance at 1700 hours, I turned on all my fellow soldiers in the elite guard. My superior skills allowed me to crush them without much difficulty; my anger just motivated me further. I might have regretted at disposing a few of my colleagues but I had no remorse against my commanding officer. Like Carrossea he thought I was a fool, but I'm not smart enough to live happily in a lie like those smart men. I'm too honest and simple a woman for that. My officer wasn't a true soldier, if he was one he clearly became a political animal by then. When I pulled the trigger on him, my victory felt slightly satisfying but the lie lingered loudly in my heart. "How fake everything was" I berated myself. I spent so many years of my life on lie after lie trying to fill the void after I lost my family, looking for revenge, believing somehow my patriotic service will soothe the emptiness and avenge the Galza rebels whom I thought was responsible for my father's death. The truth told me this was all an illusion, just like the city and people I served. The vengeance too was an illusion, a fake reward which soothed my failure at my one truth. The only truth left in me.

That was Madlax! And my undying obsession to press on and defeat and kill her in combat. I had no time to feel sorry for myself. Rewards beckon those who knew their true goals.

By the time I found Madlax again, she was in a tropical valley where lies a remote mystical village. The more I thought about her and the false life Ieft behind, the obsession become a type of love and admiration. Her instincts in combat were so natural and pure, she can instinctively sense anyone's presence and has the most uncanny ability to get out of the tightest situations. I love how this inspired me and confirmed my existence in this otherwise false world. Killing her would have confirmed my existence and reason for living I thought, the only reward left to aim for me.

When I got close enough I saw the hut of a mystical woman who I later learned was Quanzitta and inside I saw Madlax and put my sight on her. But I didn't want to kill her without her knowing I was there, so I shot away her shrine candles to get Madlax's attention. I remember clearly having many seconds to shoot her but I wanted her to acknowledge me first before I pulled the trigger. Madlax walked straight at me in tears not caring about her life but her acknowledgement was enough. But every time I wanted to kill her when she wasn't herself, there was always someone there to save her. Nakhl came to her rescue and saved her from my shot. I don't know what she said to her but I am thankful for it now. She became her old self, creating a fake decoy and running away from my sniper fire and shooting back. That's the Madlax I love!

After using all my bullets with the sniper rifle, I switched to my pistols and faced her off in a duel. Similar to a previous encounter I cannot pinpoint where she is but I can feel how close Madlax is. She had her gun aimed at me from behind, but I gave her a roundhouse kick which she evaded and my secondary kicks were expertly dodged as well. It was a point blank range gunfight, she pushed my gun aside with her gun to deflect my shot with me mirroring her move. In a split second we aimed our guns at each other again, just like one time in the backstreets of the capital. We felt synchronised like we were joined at the hip, although I can't help but think she went easy on me. I remember the conversation, she asked me about the data and asked why I would continue to hunt her down despite knowing the false war and I said I had my reason. I fought for myself, my own existence and killing her gave me meaning and destiny. That was my reward for pressing on and never giving up. If I did that I could finally forgive myself for failure and living a lie. But she told me this

"We could have become friends and been close"

Those words shocked me so much at the time I told her "If that's so, then kill me" but I didn't have time to complain because Vanessa came around and tried to shoot me. My urges instinctively pressed on and used this moment to shoot Madlax who was distracted by Vanessa. I finally managed to hit Madlax though she was only wounded. Vanessa returned fire at me and grazed my arm and though I could have fought Vanessa I retreated away, knowing I didn't beat Madlax in a fair fight. I could feel I wasn't sure what reward I wanted more at the time especially after her words. Did I really want to kill her or just to shoot at her? A kindred spirit? Or was it something else? I felt I just wanted to dance with her with bullets.

Well I don't what the future rewards were but I pressed on and didn't complain. I needed to heal and shoot at her again to find out.

After a day or two, I was really surprised she was back to health so quickly when I heard of this super girl creating havoc on army positions through the radio. My fairly superficial wound recovered in the same time as my shot that got her a few inches in the stomach. This time I brought an assault rifle with me as I ran out of bullets for everything else. Despite my conflicting desires, I still wanted to shoot at Madlax. It was absurd. I wanted to kill her and I also didn't want to. During that incident, I felt the better I got, the more invincible she became. I utterly tried my absolute best, using assault rifle cartridge after cartridge. But she evaded every bullet, intuitively dancing away carefree under fog. I can hear her voice in my heart, speaking to me like a close friend. That voice said she understood her existence as something unreal and therefore invulnerable, suggesting she was just as unreal as a figment of my imagination. I prayed she wouldn't leave me, I had to chase her otherwise I had nothing. But she did exist, she shot at me just once. My assault rifle was instantly knocked away from my hand. I remember kneeling and waiting to be killed as I lay holding my elbow. I closed my eyes with a fatalistic smile as if this was all a dream. I knew now no matter how hard I tried I can never reach her level and was glad I would die at the hands of a superior opponent. But she just said "I won't kill you" and disappeared.

Even after acknowledging I could never be as good as her ever and the possibility she will disappear, "I can't feel sorry myself, I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on." I told myself once again

After that experience, I accepted killing her wasn't the point. It wasn't even feasible, Madlax was a woman who couldn't die. But my urge to shoot at her in this dance of guns, shooting at her with everything was insatiable. Soon I had another chance from afar where a mysterious masked man stood between us. I fired but her meddling friend Vanessa got in the way of my bullet and returned a shot, knocking me off my perch. The fall was great but I knew my pain was nothing compared to Madlax's. I had killed Vanessa, a good friend of hers just for my own personal reward. She was a woman who gave up her life to protect Madlax, while I nearly gave up my life to kill Madlax. It was only Vanessa's relationship with Madlax that made me realise my selfishness. Until her death, I never recognised the price of my selfish pressing on.

Although selfish, what matters now is I keep shooting at her even if I'm not sure what the reward or point of that is. But Madlax knew what the reward was because clearly she wanted to dance with guns with me. I complain that this way of life doesn't make sense, but I must press on, because that's the only thing left that motivates me to live. She was all that my life became and clung onto.

After another few days, Madlax had become even more supernatural. I was hearing an entire battalion was destroyed by her single-handedly. She didn't just defeat soldiers but expensive army helicopters and armoured vehicles as well. Making such a scene made it very easy for me to pinpoint her. I found Madlax on the top of a small hill and approached her. It was very clear we both instinctively knew what we wanted to do. We handed over each other's guns and there in my hand lay the infamous SIG P210 she has killed with countless times. I fired her gun at her, shooting away bits of her hair like a razor but with the feeling of a soft tender breeze. She replied with an even closer shot, peeling my uniform away but never damaging even the most minute part of skin. We kept doing this for half an hour; the closer we missed injury, the more exhilarating it became. I experienced great pleasure at this and gave her more bullets. We smiled and danced but I felt I was just her inferior shadow and the point of this shooting seemed so meaningless. Why is she letting me live? It was a game of immense pleasure but it made no sense. Did she pity me? I didn't want to press on, I wanted to complain, I didn't know what rewards there was with such a thing.

"Kill me, kill me" I pleaded.

"I have a request" she replied

She told me she wants me to watch her till the end. She asked me to remember the existence that was her, Madlax. Madlax told me not to forget her and let her be in me. She thanked me sincerely and said goodbye like I'll never see her again. Her acknowledgement of me and my battles with her was like a declaration of love. At first I was a little confused what all this meant. But I can't feel sorry for myself, nor can I complain. I pressed on for Madlax and my memory of her. So I tried to "Watch her to the end" as I pressed on this time with no control except control over my faith.

My faith was severely tested when I saw a young girl named Margaret Burton shoot Madlax until she laid as dead as Margaret's maid on the flower field. I wanted to intervene but the mystical girl from the village, Nakhl told me not to get involved as that was holy ground and only those with the Gift could enter. She told me to just "watch to the end." like Madlax did but I would have ignored her. But then I could hear Madlax's voice inside of me saying "watch me to the end". The feeling was strange but it was truly supernatural and I trusted that voice. It was hard to believe "Is this what you really wanted?" I asked Madlax even though she couldn't hear me and Nakhl replied "This is not the end".  I really hoped that was not the end of Madlax.

So I, Limelda Jorg. The woman who originally wished for the future reward of a dead Madlax, wanted to be rewarded with her alive. I pressed on, living to witness that moment. Watching and hoping to the end.

 What happened next was difficult to comprehend and without Nakhl's help I would not have understood it all. There were three magical phrases "Elda Taluta", "Sarks Sark" and "Ark Arks". When those words were spoken I felt an uncontrollable desire in me, something hidden, something primal. Unlike Nakhl's description, I didn't want to kill someone. For me I felt an essence of why I wanted to chase Madlax, shoot at her and dance with her. My essence and drive was perfection, a love of shooting and hitting what I wanted to hit. Being a great sniper and chasing Madlax was the result of such a soul. But what Madlax taught me in the dance was something infinitely more complicated. To kill a target was easy, finding ways to miss someone by the narrowest of margins required incredible skill and creativity. Deep inside me I wanted shared this love of shooting as much as I did. Madlax is the only woman who fulfilled that desire. But Madlax’s desire was beyond that, she wanted me to acknowledge her in my memory. I understood from Nakhl that Madlax was different, she was an entity that didn’t belong in this world.  What she wanted most was to exist in this world and our shooting and memory was proof of that. Now that is what I want as well.

Despite those magical phrases trying to destroy me and my sanity, I had to press on in living and believing in what I wanted. Most of all I had to press on believing in those who want and believing in me. Like how she pressed on, believing in me.

"Limelda?"

"Yes? Madlax?" I asked

"Keep your eyes on the road. You’re driving." Madlax said cheekily.

"Only if I get to shoot at you again" I joked

"You can, if you cook the pasta tonight" Madlax answered smugly.

"What were you thinking about?" Madlax asked

"You, Madlax. You. I can't stop thinking about you" I answered.

"That's stupid" Madlax said with a smile in her usual confident voice.

Yes I am stupid, but I didn't have time to complain or feel sorry for myself. I pressed on and got my future reward.

But that's because,

I finally understood what I was aiming at.

 
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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-19 11:57 am

How To Be A Magical Hero - Short Story 2017

Title: How to be a magical hero
Word Count: 1564
Summary: What if, during the events at the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a magical item created by unspeakables caused a mysterious event to occur? This item caused Harry Potter to suddenly appear in front of a five-year-old Izuki Midoriya. The consequences will not be dramatic but rather subtle and discrete. How would a meeting between these two protagonists occur?
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).

How To Be A Magical Hero

Chapter 1
An ‘ordinary’ child named Harry Potter lived with the Dursleys at 4 Privet Drive. His relatives thought themselves to be very normal, thank you very much. Harry had no opinion on the matter. At the moment, he was more focused on trying to quench the rush of tears flooding out of his eyes. He had already taken off his spectacles and placed them on the dust-covered floor that he was sitting on. Harry was crouched into a little ball, trying to silence his sobs and rubbing his shut eyes. His arms, thin as a string, shook and his gnawingly hungry stomach shuddered with every intensely deep breath. 

He was somewhat glad that the Dursleys were asleep. No dust would fall off the top of his cupboard onto the top of his head, appearing like dandruff on his black hair. Inside, he was mortified that he was acting in such as ‘freakishly’ girlish manner. Dudley would boisterously ridicule him if he knew what he was doing now. Harry slowed down his breathing, tear tracks on his face. His eyes were as red as a rose. 

He hummed a little tune that he remembered from a dream. His heart calmed down. His mind was driven away from his worries about the Dursleys, his freakish self, school and other things. For now, he was just a nine-year-old boy living in the moment. The ache in his soul was smoothed over by the power of music. 

With a vivid intensity, he recalled a woman with bright green eyes, the colour of a green forest, singing this tune to him. In his dream, he could see the woman wordlessly move her red lips. There was a lively wallpaper behind her which had ducks that quacked and waddled all over the wall. A beautiful mobile that spoke to Harry’s inner child made him gurgle in happiness whenever he saw the device. 

The woman’s hug felt to him like the summer warmth melting away the icicles and remaining snow in the world. To him, she was safety and happiness. Harry’s lips curled into a smile as he swayed himself to sleep in his cupboard. His thoughts were at peace.

Harry used a knife to chop some ugly root which had hairs growing out of it. He made sure that they cut in the size that the potions textbook told him to. Beside him, Ron was barely stirring the cauldron. His eyes were blankly staring in front of him. Harry did not notice that Ron was ignoring the potion that they were preparing. Instead, Harry was overjoyed about his new life at Hogwarts. He was unwittingly humming his secret song and swayed slightly to the rhythm. 

Like a vicious bat, a dark figure loomed behind the two dunderheads. Narrowing his pitch-black eyes, Snape drawled out, “Weasley, I understand that what I am saying might be beyond your understanding. The cauldron must be watched at all times! Potter, why didn’t you watch Weasley! 15 points from Gryffindor!” Snape’s lips were pursed in distaste at the two of them.

Ron jumped out in terror and spilled some of their potion onto their table. His body froze in surprise and his heart sputtered to a temporary stop. Then, Harry snapped his head behind him and glared at Snape. He vaguely noted that Snape’s voice had an indistinguishable feeling underneath his words today. He briefly wondered why before his mind was taken over by how he needed to fix their potion. He did not want to fail potions and get as many detentions as he received last year.
….
The gentle lapping of the Great Lake was unable to quell Ginny’s turbulent thoughts. Ginny mutely watched the tentacles of the Giant Squid break the surface of the Lake. The sunlight seemed to awaken a previously sleeping world. Her peers groaned awake while other animals clumsily started to forage for breakfast. The black and grey world did not appeal to Ginny. She looked down at her freckled skin which appeared to her like the honest sky filled with stars. 

Ginny flinched when she heard someone plop next to her. She peeked at the corner of her eye. It was Harry. He was staring up at the unadulterated blue sky with a rare content smile on his face. She was drawn to his eyes. His eyes shone with a bright ferocity and weathered life. Their green intensity stood out from the rest, especially after that incident. Ginny hurriedly looked away; determined to not appear as such a weirdo.

Harry’s gaze flicked down to Ginny, noting her depressed demeanor and appearance. Her pale complexion and almost anorexic limbs caused a wave of concern to flood through him. Harry glanced around. Then, he started to tell her a hypothetical story about a boy in a cupboard. This little boy had a special tune which calmed him down in times of crisis.

Harry sprinted down the dimly-lit corridor which threatened to consume him. His calves were burning with pain and his clammy hands gripped tightly onto his precious wand. A bead of sweat irritatingly dripped down the back of his neck. Harry fought the urge to wipe off the sweat on his neck. He focused on escaping the grasp of the Death Eaters eagerly pursuing him. He could hear the insane cat-calling of Bellatrix LeStrange and her deranged laughter which ominously echoed on the walls around him.

Harry’s intense desire to escape prevented him from noticing the presence of a mark on the ministry’s floor which glowed when he briefly stepped on the symbol. A yellow glow was emitted from the mark which encased him in a scalding light. Harry instinctively covered his face with his arms.

When Harry warily lowered his arms, he noticed that he was in some unknown place. There was only white surrounding him. Harry pivoted on his feet and glanced around. His heart was beating fast and blood quickly flowed through his veins. Suspicious instantly flooded his mind. Past experiences told him to be wary of his surroundings. He needed to find a way to escape and discover why he was here.

Suddenly, the horrid sounds of a young child crying reached Harry’s ears. His soul was drawn to help that poor child. His eyes laid on the sight of a boy crouching some distance away. Something in Harry’s gut drew him to help the boy. Memories flickered behind his closed eyelids and reminded him of a boy from a cupboard who was ignored by those around him. His stomach would feel dead if he ignored someone who needed help. With trepidation, Harry walked to the boy. Harry's footsteps echoed in the empty space that they were in. On a closer inspection, the boy surprisingly had vibrant green hair. Harry liked the unique colour of the boy's hair. Harry gently smiled at the boy. He kneeled on the floor and without being condescending, softly spoke to him, “Hey. Are you okay?”

The boy hiccupped and sobbed, “I am fine. It's okay. Kacchan is just being mean again.” Harry noted that his fragile hands were trembling slightly.

Harry frowned. He still remembered his own ‘Harry hunting' days. “You shouldn’t let him be mean to you. You should stand up to him.” Harry was very aware that he was being somewhat hypocritical. However, he also recalled the satisfaction that he felt every time he fought against Malfoy.

The boy instantly shook his head. A silence endured before the boy snapped his head up and grinned at Harry. The boy's cheeks were stained with salty water and his turquoise eyes were dim with despair. The boy’s voice cracked when he spoke, “Mister, thanks for worrying after me. My name’s Midoriya. What’s yours?”

In shock, Harry choked, “Potter.” Harry noticed that the - Midoriya had a strong poker face. He was sadly reminded of himself as a child. Harry glanced at his feet. He shuffled awkwardly before he sighed and whispered, “Do you want to learn something magical?”

Midoriya gasped in awe and his eyes sparkled. He leaned closer to Harry and enthusiastically nodded his head, his hair bobbed with his movements. Harry ruffled Midoriya's curls and taught him his favourite tune in the entire world. The room became alive with music and calmed the souls of two hurt individuals. 
….
Midoriya was sweating in nervousness. His eyes were torn apart in trepidation. He bit his lip as the building of U.A. loomed over him. He ignored his flinch when he felt and saw Kacchan’s glare at him. He placed his hand on his chest which slightly comforted him and hummed a little tune from long ago.

Epilogue
“Dad,” whined Albus Severus. “Why are you always humming that tune?” With wide-eyes that were innocent to the world, Albus glanced at the hero of the wizarding world. His dad was swinging his feet and sitting down on the porch that overlooked their backyard. He had a peaceful smile on his lips. Slowly, his dad glanced at him and mischievously kept silent. Albus Severus tugged on his dad's arm and pleaded with him to tell him the answer. All he got was his hair being ruffled and asked whether he would like to learn the notes of his special song.

Class 1-A was restless. There was a tension in the air. Izuku shifted nervously and fitfully glanced around him. He hummed in an attempt to slow his palpitating heart. Urakawa unexpectedly popped beside him and asked where he had learned that tune. Izuku yelped in surprise and jolted out of his chair. He peeked at Uraraka joyful face, fiddled with his hands before he muttered that he had “learned it from a hero.”

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-19 11:28 am

Host Club Demigods?! - Short Story 2017

 

Title: Host Club Demigods?
Rating: PG
Prompt: ‘A man learns to skate by staggering about and making a fool of himself. Indeed he progresses in all things by resolutely making a fool of himself.’
-George Bernard Shaw, Advice to a Young Critic 
Fandom/Series: Ouran High School Host Club, Percy Jackson And The Olympians
Word count: 2624 words. Short Story.
Disclaimer; I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters and ideas belong to the original creators.
Summary: Demigods are the heroes of every time, mortals with the blood of the gods. The Ouran Highschool Host Club? They really aren’t significant, right?
Soon after Haruhi first met the host club a new world met their eyes, centaur, satyr and demigods in a camp, its not possible.

Host Club Demigods?!

 

Haruhi hadn’t been having the best day already, beginning at a new school where everyone wore puffy banana dresses or blue suits and being unable to fit in even if she had wanted. If you had asked her what pushed this day over the edge, into the top 10 worst days she’d ever have she’d probably say knocking over that single vase, that stupidly expensive vase that wasn’t even broken because of her, it was that creepy blonde’s fault.

Then again she was happy that their first official meeting had been disrupted. Though she would have liked it more if it wasn’t one of the staff members, with an evil scowl across their lips promising to kill the gods as they held up sharp clawed bat hands that had been attached to the massive wings on her back..

There was no need to say that was weird, she found it even more alarming when a girl wearing one of those banana dresses, hair neatly placed, and massive goat legs ran into the room grabbing the hands of two people at a time and throwing them out the window carefully, she had now began to really, really hope this entire day was a dream. She’d hope she would wake up in her bed, wave goodbye to her father and run off to her first day at school. But as the girl guided them deeper and deeper into the forest that hope became lost within the hundreds of trees that were beside the school. Haruhi followed her, and the rest of the club who stumbled occasionally as they ran beneath the bat teacher until they’d lost all sight of its horrific shadow, found a massive gate reading ‘CAMP HALF-BLOOD’ and began to whine about their feet, at least Honey and Tamaki had.

“My name is Renge, welcome to Camp Half-Blood!”She grinned a tooth grin

Behind that arch sat hundreds and hundreds of people ages variating from single to double digits, all wearing the same stand out orange shirts with the camps initials sprawled across them. They held swords, shields, bows, they climbed walls, picked strawberries and helped other campers out.

“Indeed welcome to Camp Half-Blood! Camp of the demigods!” A man yelled

His beard was grown out, naturally messy and his hair matched, his eyes were warm with welcome and as he smiled, as he smiled Haruhi saw the white stallion half of him...

 

Kyoya couldn’t help it but be furious, that guy was a centaur and he called them demigods, he had to have been dreaming, demigods, sons and daughters of mortals and gods. He had been dreaming the whole day, from the cross dressing girl beside him, to his maths teacher becoming a bat monster and the goat girl who now looked at his with admiring eyes as the centaur babbled on.

“My name is Chiron, I’m the head of camp here. I’m sure your wondering who your parents are but that will have to wait till your claimed-“

Chiron, the centaur of legend.

“This is all insane, demigods aren’t real, centaur’s aren’t real, and Satyr are not real.”Kyoya found himself interrupting

That woman had destroyed his folder, he couldn’t check out information on these pranksters or even hit himself to wake from this idiotic dream.

“I have to apologise son but everything your currently facing is real-“Chiron smiled only for it to fade off with his voice as fire began to dance behind tree’s and tree’s, a roar echoing through the forest

“Renge please take them to the Hermes cabin, Leo must have failed at upgrading Festus again........That boy has no cares” And with those words ‘Chiron’ galloped of into the forest

 

Hikaru could get used to the Hermes cabin, the cabin’s design was underwhelming, marble carved to showcase the infamous winged shoes, a bent mailbox and messy shrubbery. The whole run down house of grots vibe waved from the cabins outer design, but its inner walls held tonnes of stolen candy, HD screens, cool looking consoles and epic games, pranking supplies sat heaped in cupboards and the packed cabin was tonnes bigger than its outer walls let on.

“Welcome to the best cabin at camp-“A boy with curled brown air grinned a mischievous grin with blue eyes tinted with hope as he gestured around a room

“The Hermes Cabin! I’m Connor, that’s Travis we’re the cabin councillors, all the professional sounding words and phrases have been stated, welcome to Camp Half-Blood!” Connor smiled, he was identical to the other boy, only shorter

“Are you two twins? I hear you ask and the answer is no! Though were not sure if the old Centaur knows that so don’t say anything” Travis grinned as his hand rubbed the back of his neck

“This is insane! Your sons of the messenger god? Whatever!”Kyoya complained

Hikaru couldn’t not snicker, the cool type was loosing his chill, right in front of these people!

“Yeah I know what your thinking, it doesn’t make sense blah blah” Connor mumbled as he opened the cupboard scanning its contents

“Your not the first one to feel that way is what his saying. But yeah this, this is real” Travis chuckled reaching up

That single cupboard held the ingredients of a friendly war, smelly goo, fake spiders, thick paint, glitter and tonnes and tonnes of props, the two boys pulled a box down, full of massive and small black spiders. They grabbed a handful each looking around the group, and shoving spiders into Kaoru’s and my own hands.

“We needed more pranksters in this cabin- especially when it comes to the Athena cabin” Connor winked as he jerked his head, a symbol telling us to follow him

That’s just what we did.

 

“This is all crazy” Kyoya pushed his forehead to his palm as his glasses fogged

It had only been moments since the twins had been pulled off but he couldn’t believe it, then again complaining couldn’t wake him up, and if this weren’t a dream he’d have made a fool of himself. He just couldn’t accept it, normal teenagers hid away in the woods only because of the smell their blood let off, only to train them to fight, and to protect them from monsters thousands of years old. He couldn’t accept that that mans bottom half was that of a white stallion, or that Renge ‘s hair covered goat legs were not fake. It just didn’t make sense, Kyoya knew that the pieces fit to make sense, but every fibre in his body was keeping him waiting for his eyes to open to his ceiling. The cabin’s roomies weren’t helping him straighten the whole experience out either, with their loud laughter and constant chatter, though a single boy sat silent looking out the window as if what he needed was miles away, unreachable no matter what he did. His own body was the only silence within the room, even Mori and Honey had began to talk about cakes, and Tamaki had began to talk to the beautiful girls residing on the comfy couches.

“Hey what’s wrong?” Tamaki’s voice echoed lightly

“Buzz off flower boy”The boy at the window glared

“Shiro! We just wanted him to find out why your not talking!” A girl glared

“Takaoji stop being rude” Another sighed

“You could have asked me, his just pissed off that his crush is going on her first quest and all, his worried she wont come back and he wont be able to be with her.”A boy sighed rubbing his hand through messy hair

 

Tamaki’s eyes lit up as a grin spread across his lips, easy! If the kid was upset that this girl was leaving and that he couldn’t confess, all he had to do was get them together! Tamaki knew exactly what was needed, I mean all princes should know how to matchmake right?

He passed the boy a rose, red as blood but centred with a warm pink, the cold exterior resembled to Shiro, and the pink, his soft spot for this girl.

“Give this to her and admit that you like her!”Tamaki grinned

“That’s never going to work! He has to act bad, lure her in with bad boy charm, she’s got to love that!”Renge sighed staring off

“No he has to confess with a heart felt poem!” Tamaki growled

“Bandage yourself up! Wear a scowl and curse!”Renge’s eyes list up as she fist pumped the air

 

 

“Renge right? The boy needs the help of a handsome prince! Not a goat girl!”Tamaki grinned as if red roses were floating around his face

Haruhi let out a sigh, they were both being oblivious idiots, she was already sick of them and they’d only known each other for a short time.

“You need to be the best bad boy supreme to get the girls!”Renge swooned

Kyoya had stayed silent for a while, and Haruhi’s best guess as to what was happening in his head was that he was straightening out the whole thing. Though Honey and Mori had immediately asked for sweets, resulting in sketchy behaviour as they were snuck cupcakes and wrapped lollies by the girls that had before sat in bunk-bed holding rooms.

“Your all idiots. Shiro, who is this girl?”Kyoya pushed his glasses up

“S-She’s a daughter of Aphrodite..” Shiro mumbled with pink cheeks only to rage out moments later

“Of course, the goddess of love and beauty! My plan will be perfect!!” Tamaki grinned

“Name?” Kyoya pushed

“Hina Kamashiro!”Shiro growled

The boy seemed incredibly nervous, his eyes shifted with a feeling of unease and he seemed to stumble in his spot anxiously, Haruhi looked up to Kyoya.

“You’re a girl Haruhi, I request that you get miss Hina”Kyoya instructed

She nodded, at least she’s escape Tamaki and half his host club. Her hand grasped the handle and she stepped out into the box arranged cabin’s, the area was filled with constantly moving campers and it only took moments to locate the Aphrodite cabin. The stench of perfume was overly present, it made her gag lightly as her thumb brushed a fine layer from atop the cursive silver that read ‘Aphrodite Cabin’, she knocked quickly. If they had needed more time to plan this confession they’d have enough. A girl answered the door with a small smile.

“Is it time for the quest to begin?”She asked

“Good, your name is Hina Kamashiro right?”Haruhi smiled sweetly

“Oh. Um yes... is Drew looking for me or am I needed in the big house?”The girl asked

“No, don’t worry about it, someone just wanted to talk to you in the Hermes cabin”Haruhi answered

“Phew I was afraid I was in trouble”She exhaled

Haruhi only smiled holding her hand out, Hina took it and followed her to the Hermes cabin. Haruhi knocked before entering and Hina seemed to be confused still as to what she was wanted for. Shiro nervously held out a rose with a faltering smile.

“Hina Kamashiro! Daughter of Aphrodite I like you!” He kept his eyes closed pushing forward the single rose

“Huh..Shiro?”Hina seemed to gasp

“I was told that um..well you see. ‘A man learns to skate by staggering about and making a fool of himself. Indeed he progresses in all things by resolutely making a fool of himself.’”Shiro opened a single eye looking to Kyoya

“You did a good job remembering it all”Kyoya nodded

“Continue!”Tamaki pushed with a grin

“Please don’t name me a fool and laugh at my foolery, take- take my hand and join me as we stagger to our greatness. Or um something else?”Shiro winced

“I’d love to learn to skate. Shiro you’ll have to help me learn one day!”Hina grinned

“So you’ll be my uh- partner?”Shiro questioned earning a nod

Tamaki seemed to carefully applaud as they hugged and he passed the flower. The door swung open and closed in seconds, the twins and Hermes councillors hit the walls, hands empty.

“BURN IT WITH FIRE!”A girl’s voice echoed

“Spiders. In our cabin. Again”A boys voice

“Pacer test what do we do?!”A person screamed

Haruhi looked out the window to see a blonde haired girl push a elf eared boy to the cabin, fire left his arm lighting up the cabin, only for water to put it out luckily moments later.

“That would be Annabeth”Travis heaved

“STOLL’S OH YOU ARE SO DEAD!!”The girl raged as she approached the cabin

The Hermes cabin campers either sighed or snickered as the door slammed open hitting the two boys. Behind the raging female was a nervous boy who’s pants were held by duct tape, his eyes hid behind glasses as he met Hina’s eyes nodding once.

“Hina come on lets get out of here before Annabeth beats those boys. You’ll do well on your first quest I know you will”He smiled

Hina kissed Shiro’s cheek before leaving, leaving the boy smitten and happy. Leaving Annabeth holding her dagger by her side as she began to enter the room looking for the boys behind the door, she stepped forward checking a room and the two ran, the twins recovered their lungs air in time for her to turn around and scan over the room. She did find them, and they didn’t leave their rooms for months. The host club had been claimed too, first were Kaoru and Hikaru who had ran from the glowing symbol above their heads before running from Annabeth, Connor and Travis had a good laugh over it or so Haruhi heard someone saying. Kyoya was next, Athena easily, he fit in like a puzzle piece, under Annabeth’s cabin guidance he became even more robotic, only in his first week they had him working like a walking Wikipedia. Of course Tamaki was next, just before we were put on our first mission too, one dinner night about two weeks in he’d been put into a fancy suit, his hair groomed to perfection and it wouldn’t go back, that was Aphrodite’s claim. Honey and Mori were put in the Ares cabin after Ares claimed them, they’d absolutely smashed a few campers with some judo kicks and moves. A month after arriving I was claimed, daughter of Athena, they had thought so, and I had joined the cabin as one of its short numbered honour students. Turns out a lot of them were unable to go to school and were all year rounders. If your asking about me, having a partner, your answer is that after staggering over ten or so quests Tamaki, Kyoya and I had faced a burrito throwing, sombrero wearing crocodile, yeah weird to say the least, but oddly enough I had almost died and Tamaki asked me out after I awoke from my week long coma.
 

Now its been about two years, we wear those camp shirts and our camp necklaces have two beads. The camp had been pretty welcoming and easy to adjust too, I write to dad and visit occasionally, like most campers. I’m sure if your able to read this then you’re a demigod (it IS written in ancient greek) and you heard the commotion of the titan war, I’d tell you about that, all the funny moments and honourable deaths but I wouldn’t be able to remember it all, and there weren’t any burrito bombs, no bread stick swords. That’s what your interested in? Yeah well a lot of this wouldn’t have interested you considering that no one had a death battle using éclair’s did they. I’m getting of topic, is this why Haruhi didn’t want me to write the ending? Well whatever, good luck demigods, live long, party hard and remember these last words. Hikaru and Kaoru Hittachin were here, 2017!

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-19 11:23 am

Ghost Leopard's Retribution - Short Story 2017

Title: Ghost Leopard's Retribution
Rating: PG
Prompt: Terror made me cruel.
Fandom: Fire Emblem Fates
Word Count: 3894
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary:
After the war Nina and her boyfriend, Kana decide to help maintain peace and rid the world of corruption. This time they are after a despicable man that Nina had come across many years ago. Will the ghost leopard be able to bring about retribution?


Ghost Leopard's Retribution

"Thief!"

Using quick work of her feet Nina, Daughter of Niles and self-proclaimed Noble Thief dashed through the bustling market square. The sun had just woken, painting the sky with an amber glow. But many villagers were already lining up for the first batch. Eagerly anticipating their first meal of the day. She smelled the sweet scent of cinnamon and hot apple as she passed the town bakery. She could already taste the flaky crust mingled with the sweet caramelisation of perfectly hot apples. Her mouth drooling at the thought. Weaving through the upper district she glimpsed the golden glint off a nobleman's trinket. Lucky, lucky, lucky - the nobleman was very lucky today as on any other day that trinket would have been hers. But today Nina had other things to worry about. She could hear the heavy tramping from behind her. Her pursuer too agitated to mask his frustration.

Nina continued to pump her legs. She was almost there. Turning swiftly into an alleyway she grasped her hood as it risked being blown off her head by an uncanny rush of air. Nina passed a few buildings running in between randomly disposed crates before finding her path obstructed by a dusty cemented wall. She slowly turned around. Her pursuer was striding toward her. Gloating with his eyes. As if he believed that he had truly caught her. The man was close now. And she could see his all too familiar features. His leather tunic bulging at the seams too tight for his over abundant mass. On a normal occasion she would have fawned over him. But this was not a normal situation neither was he just a normal man.
"What seems to be the problem, Sir Knight?" She started before taking a bite out of a bright red fruit that she had bought from her favourite vendor. Not taking her eyes off the man that stood before her she began chewing the delicacy. Its subtle sweet juices seeping from the sides of her mouth as she crunched through its crust and into its soft interior. "I believe this is rightfully mine." she continued as she uncurled her arm to show the man the fruit in her hand. 

The man sauntered over to Nina. Flinging his arm to bat her hand away causing her to lose her grip on the fruit. She pulled her arm back. Taking a backwards step she quickly accessed her situation. The man was nearly in her face. The buildings on her left and right were too close for comfort. The wall was too high for her to reach. There was no escape. But that was exactly what she wanted. She made to slap the man on his cheek but was too slow. He caught her by the wrist and pinned her against the wall. The impact flinging her hood off her face. Exposing her platinum braids that loosely hung to her hip. 

"I want that ring back." he growled as he towered over her. Nina looked into his eyes. They reminded her of that night. The night where everything changed. When a poor man's shed was engulfed in flames. The flames that shattered a family. The family whose days of gruelling labour had become pointless. A now wasted effort. Hate. That was all she felt as she looked into this man's dark eyes. Hate and an obsessive compulsion to inflict a certain degree of pain. "But first." The man smiled with his overly barbaric handsome face. "I'll have my way with you." The man boasted as he went to remove the mask that she had fitted on her face.

But before he could take it off her she jabbed him in the middle of his torso with her free hand. Though it did nothing but keep his angered attention on her. Away from the sneaky shadows that were slowly creeping closer. The man snatched her free hand twisting it and forcing her muscles to obey his direction. He clasped both her hands above her head and covered her mouth with his other hand. His hand was rough. Callouses rubbed against her skin. Irritating her smooth pores. She tried to wiggle free. Tried to scream out but her voice was muffled by his overbearing hand. But she kept his attention on her. He pushed her harder using his weight to pin her against the wall. 

"I'd stay quiet if I were you." He threatened with a smirk. Nina could feel him scanning her body. Analysing her curves and lingering for way too long on her assets. But that was what she wanted. For before the man could act out his vile thoughts a figure from the shadows rushed in from behind. Swinging a wooden club at his legs. The man seemed to cave in with that blow. But then the figure swung again. The man was now on all fours. Reacting instantly to the situation Nina grasped a syringe that was in her waist pouch and jabbed it into the man’s shoulder releasing its contents into his body. She then jumped onto the man’s back and pulled his arms from under him. The man tried to wriggle his way free. Jostling and jolting. Squabbling for some room. But with her knees on either side of his body and his arms behind his back. Nina had the advantage. 
“What did you do to me, bitch?” he growled.

“Rope!” She gritted through her teeth. As she ignored the man and put more weight into her hold to keep him at bay. “Now!”

~


Hiding amongst the leaves of a nearby red cedar Nina watched the feverish action below. After having caught and tied the knight from this morning and handing him over to Kana, her delightful boyfriend, Nina had taken off with a wink to one of her favourite research posts. Though she wouldn’t admit it openly the knight commander they captured had intimidated her with his irresponsible touching and bulk but she felt relieved to have Kana there as back up. 

Nina continued to jot down her fantasies. Watching as the two men below nonchalantly chatted away. Her vantage point on the branch gave her full view of their well-toned bodies. The veins that popped out from the morning’s hard work as blood continued to flow through their body. Their long hair and careless beards defining there masculinity. As she continued with her “hobby’ as she liked to call it Nina could smell the heat from the steam that lifted into the air obscuring her from the sight of those beneath her. Relaxing like this would allow her mind to be ready for tonight’s agenda.

Walking through the hard-wooden hallway Kana couldn’t believe his girlfriend. Nina had effectively left him there with a raging knight commander. Forcing him to wait alone in an alleyway as the drug took effect. Twenty-six minutes. Kana had to wait almost half an hour for the bulk of the man to fall into a slumber. And then shift his arms into dragon claws to allow him to haul the heavy man into the cart without suspicion before bringing the knight to headquarters for interrogation. And now he was playing errand boy. Kana, son of Corrin, Queen of Valla could not believe his luck.
Pulling the curtain to the side Kana could see the natural beauty that accompanied the hot spring. The magical presence of the trees as they ceremoniously danced with the wind created a fantastical atmosphere. The chirping of nearby cicadas was a pleasantry for the coming of summer. Letting himself in Kana buzzed with pleasure as the hot air warmed his cold skin. But he couldn’t stay there for long as he had a mission to finish. Looking above Kana scanned the canopies watching for any subtle differences. He found it when he saw a shade of crimson amongst blood orange flowers. Slowly stalking towards the tree Kana grinned as he gazed at a hooded figure intensely writing into a book. Grabbing a loose pebble from the ground Kana threw it at his girlfriend. A resounding yelp let him know he got her attention.

“Hey GL!” He beamed as he put on his cheekiest grin to continue. “What you doin’?”

“N-Nothing!” Nina spluttered as she scrambled to the ground dragging her boyfriend to get away from the horrified men in the bathing inn. “And I told you just because I have platinum blonde locks and a thing for sneaking does not mean I am a ghost leopard.”

“Yes it does.” Kana countered as he strode beside Nina. “You have this feline roar about you and you’re sneaky and absolutely mystical. Just like a ghost leopard. Beautiful and powerful.”

“I know that already.” Nina gloated as she pulled down her hood to whip her hair in a sexual fashion. “Beauty and strength are my specialty.” 
Hugging his girlfriend from behind Kana whispered in her hear. “And that’s why you’re my GL.”

“Fine.” Nina groaned as she leapt out of his hold and sauntered towards there cart. “But, you’re steering the horses.”
~
Peering inside the cart Nina found her specially designed assassin dress. The uniqueness of this clothing piece was that it looked like a burgundy halter dress but with the accompanying matte black drape cloak it turned her into a walking armoury. Throwing knives, poison-tipped darts, hidden blades for easy kills and an extra knife in each leather boot. Nina was totally ready. As she got dressed Kana briefed her on the information they had gleaned from the knight commander.

“Everything is as we thought.” Kana continued as Nina unzipped the side of her leather boot to slide her foot in. “The Baron was the man responsible for the loss of property for many families during the war while my Mama was helping with the war effort. And thanks to Midori’s truth serum we were able to pinpoint the locations for the barrels of mead and his most valuable possessions. The commander also told us that the Baron would indeed be there in person.”

This was valuable information for Nina. Just the mention of his title made her sick. The man that they were after today pillaged many homes and disgraced many families. He wrecked villages for his own greed. Nina had felt his wrath in person. She was powerless back then. But this time she would show him. 

“Oh, by the way GL.” Kana added. “We’re almost there so let me get changed.”

“Making a woman do such a task how unchivalrous.” Nina gasped with shock horror on her face.

Finding no strength to counter her teasing Kana sighed and handed her the ropes. Taking the reins Nina watched the green scenery pass-by before spotting the large manor in the distance. As they got closer she could see it red tile roofing, a luxury in these parts. It had a white exterior made of timber she could see many windows and a large balcony. Once he had finished Kana swapped positions with Nina and let her watch the scenery. She was in awe. But she felt sick knowing that a despicable man like the Baron was able to live in such nobility.

Their cart passed through the main entrance. Its large metal gates held by two brick columns. It was fine craftsmanship by the mason but what astounded her the most was the bountiful garden that surrounded the property. Violet, azure and yellow dotted the greenery. Flowers of all shapes and sizes. It was a show of wealth. A sickening but delightful show of wealth by the man who bullied his way to the top. With many carts in front and behind them it would take a while before they could get inside the Baron’s manor.

Nearing the main walkway Nina could see many luxurious ball gowns and nobility from all over the continent. She could see servers walking around with platters of food and glasses to drink. As their cart halted Kana hopped off and offered his hand to her. Nina gladly accepted. But before she could take another step onto the walkway she was stopped. Kana spun her around with that all too knowing grin. Nina scanned her boyfriend’s attire. Leather and steel woven together to create a magnificent outfit that clung to his body defining his abs and chest. Thankfully, to Nina’s amusement the man had had the common sense to wear matching boots instead of going barefooted like his mother.
Curling her fingers around his cheek Nina whispered into his ear. “You’re looking very handsome, handsome.”

Nina could see her boyfriend blush at the compliment. “Uh, thank you I guess. You’re looking good yourself GL.” Nina grinned at him. “Pretty good.” He stammered. “Not handsome good. Yeah definitely pretty good.” Nina couldn’t hide her enjoyment, chuckling as she watched his cute face cringe with embarrassment. ‘Um, anyway. How do I say this?” He continued as his cheeks flushed with heat. “May I kiss you?”

This put Nina off guard. But only for a second. She was used to him asking her for things that he thought could be uncomfortable for her. And she truly treasured this. “Of course.” She purred. Before lightly bringing their lips together. It wasn’t a passionate kiss but it wasn’t a peck either. It was a kiss for good luck. A kiss to help them with the mission ahead. As they parted lips Nina brushed herself before looking back. “Well, then.” She hummed before offering her hand. “Let’s get going.”
~
If the garden and the courtyard had her in awe then the interior of the manor was a different kind of wonder. Concrete columns, paintings of various landscapes and red velvet carpet. This was a home fit for royalty and Nina had lived it. As the lover of the Prince of Valla she had lived in the newly built castle. Its Nohrian and Hoshidan style a true spectacle for a new world order of peace between the kingdoms. But this. This manor resonated with an ancient luxury. It was Nohrian in style with columns and expert masonry. But the intricate layering of art within the columns and walls truly made it astounding. Marble tiling ran up the stairs that led to the upper floor.

Nobility filled the manor with their high profile gowns and dresses, drapes and suits. Scattering amongst themselves. Boasting about their newest achievements in wealth or maybe business. Servers scurried around with platters of cheese and ham or glasses of wine. And as one server approached them to offer a glass Kana was about to oblige when Nina interrupted. “Sorry, but we won’t be drinking tonight.” Looking confused Nina waited to remind her absent-minded boyfriend. ‘Remember we’ve got some of their barrels laced last night with Midori’s sleeping concoction.” Yes. Some of the servers inside the manor were in fact part of their spy network and had infiltrated the cellars late last night to use one of Midori’s drugs. Midori being the continent’s best herbalist was one of their best healers during the war.

Continuing through the crowds with Kana Nina spotted a familiar face and sauntered over toward a server in the mandatory black frilly dress. “May I have a cheese twinkle?” she asked with a grin. The girl with the platter of food twirled around.

“Oh, Lady Nina.” The girl addressed. “Yes you may. Was there anything that I could do for you?”

Placing the small cube of cheese in her mouth Nina responded once she had finished. “Yes there is actually. Are these the only guards around here?” 

“No.” the server replied. “There are three down in the basement. And all the others that aren’t in here are probably dead drunk in the guard’s quarters from an early mead.”

Nina was glad that she found this young teenage girl. See this girl in front of her was one of the few servers that were part of their spy network trained for subterfuge by yours truly. Although this girl was not human. In fact she was a kitsune a shapeshifting fox. Her ears however, were being hidden by a hat and her tail was twirled around under her dress to look part of it.

“What about the treasure room? Where is it? I heard the Baron has some interesting gems.” Nina inquired.

“Ah, if you want to go to the treasure room it’s just up the stairs and the last room on your right. However, if you want to see inside. Then I have to say it’s locked. I don’t know how to open it though.” The girl tapped her chin to imitate a thinking pose. “But I have heard rumours that the Baron himself holds the key to the room in his key ring he holds on his waist.” Nina thanked the kitsune before walking away and upstairs toward the balcony.

“So, how are we going to get in?” Kana asked.

“Yes, this is a small problem.” Nina replied. The treasure was supposedly home to many stolen artefacts and jewels plus the Baron had messed with her in the past. “But it’s easy we’re going to get the key off him.”

As they walked back inside and were about to walk back down the stairs to find the Baron a loud greeting boomed from behind them. “If it isn’t the Prince and his confidante.” Turning around Nina saw the all too familiar face of the Baron. She remembered the large chubby figure. Remembered him and the knight commander set fire to the barn of her caretaker. She could feel the rage. The hate boiling over. But she had to hide it. Had to keep it restrained. 

“Your lordship, Lord Forn, Baron of the Alps. Thank you for your hospitality” Nina formally addressed as she curtsied Kana bowing next to her in retrospect.

“Ah, yes. How have you liked it?” The Baron asked.

Nina was about to say how nice it was when another voice appeared with running footsteps. “Daddy, daddy? Look at what I drew.” Running towards the Baron was a small girl with a cute dress and tiny shoes. But what came next shocked her. The baron leaned over and swatted the girl in the cheek with his right hand but not so hard to be heard by the guests. The girl stood there obviously hurt and ready to tear up.

“What have I told you about interrupting my conversations?” He scolded. “Woman!” He pointed at the lady walking behind the girl timidly. “Bring her to her room and don’t let her out!”

“Yes, husband.” The woman said in a low voice as she picked up the weeping girl and walked away. Nina couldn’t believe it. What kind of father would hurt his own daughter? And what kind of husband would resort to calling his wife “Woman” like she was just an object?

“I’m very sorry for that.” The baron bowed with his overbearing mask of politeness. “Now where were we?” he continued.

But before Nina could answer she was again interrupted. But this time she felt something push her towards the Baron nearly slipping before crashing into his chest. Her face centimetres from his ugly double chin. Instinctively she regained her balanced and bowed apologetically. “I’m sorry. Your lordship.”

“It is fine. Lady Nina.” The baron said as he waved her off. “But what is this? I don’t remember hiring a filthy kitsune.” He said pointing to the girl that had given Nina her information. The kitsune was sprawled on the ground from the fall. Her hat missing and showcasing her fox-like ears.

“Take her to the basement show her what we do to intruders.” Turning around the Baron bowed. “I am very sorry for the early conclusion of our conversation but I must deal with this. My Prince.”

When he was out of earshot Kana whispered into her ear. “What are we gonna do? He’s got one of our spies and the key.”
“Yeah this is going to be bad. We need to get her out as soon as possible. But the key is right here.” Nina grinned as she held the key ring in her hands.


~


The night moved on and Nina couldn’t stop fretting. Yes she had the key but it costed one of their spies who had pushed Nina into the Baron. Enabling her sneaky hands access to his waist and the keys. Most of the guests were gone and those that remained including the soldiers were fast asleep from Midori’s sleeping potion. All the servers except for those part of their spy network had also left for home. Nina and Kana with entourage sneaked into the basement. But they couldn’t hear a sound. But as soon as they walked down the stairs they understood why. This place was a dungeon.

Many corridors jutted in and out of the stone work. But from the information from one of her subordinates they moved toward the most likely position. Before long they could hear the conversation in the room ahead. Nina gestured everyone to stop and stay quiet.
“I couldn’t believe she passed out so easily.” A voice could be heard.

“For a kitsune that was really pathetic.” Another could be heard.

But at the word kitsune Nina was done. She peeked in and saw three men. One leaning on the wall. And the other two playing cards on a table. Relaying her information to Kana and the others she made for a silent signal. Immediately, Nina threw three throwing knives. Each hitting the man leaning against the wall in vital organs. Kana took down one card playing card with a dagger while one of their entourage did the same to the other.

“I don’t like the sound of what I just heard.” Nina breathed as she frantically tried every key to the lock of the door. Finally, about halfway through the keys in the key ring she felt the lock click and frantically pushed the door open. What Nina saw paralysed her. The kitsune girl was unconscious her arms restrained to arm shackles on the wall her legs barely able to move. Cuts and burns dotted her body. 

Nina could not restrain herself any longer. The memories of the burning barn. The pain that she had from the beating that the knight commander gave her when she tried to defy the Baron. The days of eating rotten fruit they found under the trees that were no longer in season. The days of working non-stop all for nought. Now, a scene so horrific it could not have been real yet. It was shown along the body of this girl. Nina had had enough.

“Kana, bring him!” She pointed at one of the spies as she ordered. “And fetch me the Baron, alive.” Kana obliged seeing the wrath in her eyes and left with the spy. Looking at the others. “The rest of you bring her back to headquarters.” They looked at her dumbstruck. A small fear creeping through their faces. “Now!”

As the others worked to unbind the shackles Nina set up her station. Dagger. To slice into him. Darts. To slowly drain him of blood. Pain. That was exactly what the Baron would feel. Nina was ready for some enjoyment. She didn’t care about the treasure or the jewels any longer. Nina wanted retribution. A ghost leopard’s retribution.

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-19 11:11 am

Snow Dreams - Short Story 2017

Title: Snow Dreams
Rating: PG
Prompt: "The future rewards those who press on. I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on." -Barack Obama

Fandom/Series: D. Gray-Man
Word Count: 1322
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights tothe characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: "Mana... Is this snow? It's beautiful..." 

Snow Dreams

"Allen!" Mana called, chasing after an auburn-haired boy.

How long had it been since the day we left the circus?
I paused in the middle of a wheat field and looked up at the sky.
"Don't run off like that. I'm getting old, rascal!" The clown puffed, trying to regain breath.
No response.
"Allen?"
I reached a hand out and caught a speck of white. "Mana, is this snow?"
Speck after speck, the fields gradually turned a pure, untainted white.

"It's beautiful..." 


"How ironic." Was the first thing Allen said that morning, after blinking away the haze in his eyes. Whilst trying to remember when and if that dream ever happened, he changed into the standard exorcist uniform and headed for the cafeteria, Timcampy leading the way. Before he arrived at the cafeteria though, there was a familiar whirring and dull pain in his left eye. Allen ran towards where the tortured souls congregated.

'You won't be able to take those level 4 without your Innocence, y'know.' A voice mused.

'So you finally decided to show up. What took you so long, Neah?'

'You of all people should know how stubborn Innocence is, dear nephew of mine.'

'You made sure that Crowned Clown agreed to share, right?'

'Oh, how you wound me. I wouldn't be here otherwise~'

'I'll trust you on this then.'

Silence reigned over them throughout the entire ordeal. The only words cutting the silence being:
"Holy cross that dwells within me, grant me the power to bring Salvation."
with the intermingling sound of explosions and inhuman screams.

O0o0o0O

"Oi, Moyashi! Why didn't you tell us there were Akuma here?" Kanda yelled as he approached from the rubble.

"There aren't any Akuma left in the building or the area surrounding headquarters. I'll go report this breach to Komui." Allen shrugged, completely ignoring the question. That was what he had planned to do at least.


"Answer me, Beansprout." He demanded once again, settling Mugen comfortably on the back of Allen's neck. He kept his silence and kept walking forwards, even when Kanda didn't follow. Having already recorded what was said, Lavi limped over to Kanda and shook his head.

"You know how stubborn that guy is. If it's something he doesn't want to tell us then he'll take that secret with him to the grave. 'I'll keep on walking as long as I live', was it? There's no need to worry 'bout him." Lavi offered a half-assed smile.

"He's changed though, hasn't he?" Lenalee pointed out, cursing herself for being two steps behind once again.
O0o0o0O

"Why did you.. Let us.. Self-destruct..?"

"Weren't you meant to save us!?"
"You traitor! Noah scum!"
"Allen... HoW DarE yOU Turn ME InTO An Akuma..."

"I Curse you... I curse you ALLEN WALKER!"


Jerking awake, Allen sat up, completely dazed and confused. Figuring it was probably just another nightmare, he skipped breakfast and instead headed towards the training room.

"Walker."

And just when Allen thought he was free. Of all the people he could've caught the attention of, it had to be this guy. With the exact same monotonous tone and straight face, Allen turned around and faced his... Whatever he was. Acknowledging their presence with a, not at all sarcastic or insulting;


"Two Spots."

"Do not call me that, Walker. You have another mission and I am to accompany you before, during and after it is completed."

'Do we have to deal with the Watch Dog again? Can't we just lose him somewhere in Zimbabwe?'


'Don't whine like a 5-year-old please, Neah. You've long since outgrown that stage.' Allen retorts, deciding to block out his Uncle's incessant whining. "Do you have the information in regards to this mission, Link?"


"The train that has been arranged will be leaving shortly. No luggage will be required." Link starts walking. "You are to dispose of the Akuma in Nafplio, Greece."

"Understood. When are we expected to return?"

"In no more than four nights." Link glanced over at his somewhat-temporary team member.

"Four nights... I see." Allen almost twitched in irritation when he heard the scratching of Link's pen on his notebook. If Allen and Neah aren't careful, their connection could be found out. They'd come too far to even consider backing down to anyone. The Vatican included.

O0o0o0O

Scattered rubble, bits of glass and chunks of concrete littered every inch of town square by the end of the third day in Nafplio. They had 24 hours left to dispose of the stragglers.

'It's odd though... Why were the Akuma here if there wasn't any Innocence?'

'They felt like taking a vacation from working under vindictive, murderous psychopaths?'
'If only they had the choice.' Neah hummed, humoring himself with the mass of memories stored inside Allen when he suddenly sensed a spike in Dark Matter.

"Link! I'm going to check the Forest!" Allen called out to roughly where Link should've been.

'Allen... There's a Noah here. We need to go. Right n-!'

CRACK


O0o0o0O

Allen's POV

When you close your eyes and think about the world, What do you see?
I used to wish that one day, I would wake up and find that everything was just a dream.
That it was all just a terrible dream. But.
I've made my own Oaths. To myself, that I would destroy all the Akuma.
To my friends, that I would fight side by side with them.
To this world, that I would save it.
This is the only path I have left, to know that I am truly alive.

I will forge on, I won't stop no matter what.
If I can't be a Saviour then I'll be a Destroyer who Saves. 


'Why do walls have to be so white...?' I grimaced as I tried to open my eyes. 'Neah, are you there?'


'Yeesh that hurt... At least you didn't die on me.' Neah joked. 'Open your eyes, Allen.'

I was too tired to question why, so I did as Neah said and let them adjust to the light.


"L-Lenalee! Allen's awake!" Miranda shook the sleeping girl awake.

"Allen-kun? You're alright! Thank goodness, we were so worried! Do you hurt anywhere? Are you comfortable?" As soon as Lenalee started fretting, Komui cleared his throat and pulled his 'preciously innocent' little sister a 'safe distance' away from the other humans in the room. I glanced outside the window and to my astonishment, there was snow piled on the window sill. Just like all those years ago.

"Komui, how long have I been out of it?" I cautiously asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.

"Roughly for about a fortnight. Your nerves were damaged and several muscles were cut clean in half. We suspect that it was a Noah's doing since there were no traces of Dark Matter left on your person." Komui gave me an apologetic look. "If I had known that there was a Noah, I wouldn't have sent you to Greece alone. You have my sincerest apologies."

I weakly reached out my left arm towards the window. "It's snowing outside, isn't it," I muttered, a little dejectedly. In my state, I could hardly lift an arm, let alone go outside, which was why I merely stared as I was lifted onto a wheelchair.


"You want to go outside, don't you?" Lavi grinned. I hadn't noticed him there at all... Must still be drowsy, though I still nodded appreciatively at Lavi.


Once we had gotten outside, Lenalee covered me with a blanket. I pouted at this but couldn't do much against it. Reaching out, I watched in childish fascination as snowflakes melted almost instantly when they landed on my hand.

Komui watched on with a smile.

"Welcome home, Beansprout!" Lavi cheered as he pranced around in the snow, looking very much like a rabbit.

'You're meant to say, I'm home, y'know.' Neah teased.

'I know that!'

Putting on the brightest smile I could manage, I shouted:

"I'm home."


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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-19 10:54 am

Dragon Training - Short Story 2017

Title: Dragon Training
Rating: G
Prompt: "A man learns to skate by staggering about and making a fool of himself. Indeed he progresses in all things by resolutely making a fool of himself." - George Bernard Shaw, Advice to a Young Critic
Fandom/Series: Fairy Tail
Word Count: 2,473
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s)
Summary: Natsu recalls his early training with Igneel, and details the events of one day where he made a complete fool of himself; Igneel watches as Natsu tries to figure out something for himself, rather than wait for Igneel to teach him.

 
Dragon Training

            Natsu stretched, feeling perfectly content. He hadn’t been sure at first when Fairy Tail had been rebuilt, but the new building was growing on him – kind of like mold. He smirked to himself as Gray and Gajeel started butting heads – literally – for about the hundredth time today alone. It seemed odd to him that Gajeel seemed to have found a home in Fairy Tail, especially since it was because of him that they’d needed to rebuild it. The guild had really begun to prosper in the last few years. They’d gained new members with fascinating new abilities – and even a few more kids. He smiled fondly as he watched them; they reminded him of himself, Gray, and Erza when they had been kids. This new group of kids was just as energetic and boisterous as he and the old gang were back then. Just thinking about it brought a smile to his face.

            One of the children glanced over and noticed him smiling at them, “What are you staring at, old man?”

            Natsu’s eye twitched, “Old man!? Who are you calling old? Why don’t you come over here and call me that to my face? Little twerp.”

            The boy glared back at Natsu, “You think you’re so tough, old man? Fine! I’ll kick your butt!” The boy approached Natsu, his little hands balled up into fists.

The boy’s friends noticed him stomping towards Natsu and sprang forward to hold him back, “Hey, don’t go picking fights already!” Shouted one.

“You do know who that is, don’t you?” queried another.

“He’ll roast you alive,” whispered a third.

Natsu glared at them, “Hey, pipsqueaks. He wants to fight me so bad, let him!”

Just then, Lucy and Gray stepped in. Gray grabbed Natsu from behind while Lucy stood in front of him with her arms outstretched, blocking his path. “Leave the boy alone, Natsu. He’s just a kid.”

            Natsu glared at her, “Well then why doesn’t he pick a fight with another stupid kid, instead of me?”

            The boy’s eyes narrowed as he struggled against his friends’ restraining arms, “Who do you think you’re calling stupid!? You’re not too smart yourself, old man!”

            Natsu growled at the boy, “Okay, that’s it! Come here, pipsqueak! I’m gonna rip your head off.”

            Gray tightened his grip, “Knock it off, Natsu! You could really hurt him.”

            “Sure he could,” the boy taunted, “If he’d had an actual dad to teach him how to fight. But from what I hear, he’s just another pathetic orphan.”

            Gray and Lucy froze as Natsu’s face paled and he began to shake. “Gray. Let go of me,” he said very, very quietly.

            Gray glanced at Lucy, who nodded slightly and got out of the way. “That was way out of line, man.” Whispered one of the boy’s friends. “You pushed him too far, I think.”

            The boy smirked, “That suits me just fine. I wanna see what this little chicken can do.”

            Natsu cracked his neck menacingly, “You sure about that, kid? I’ve taken out guys way scarier than you.” As if to emphasize his point, Gajeel chuckled from behind him and cracked his knuckles with a nasty smile on his face.

            The boy looked Gajeel over quickly and shrugged, “Eh, he doesn’t look so tough.”

            The smile slid off of Gajeel’s face as he stood and growled, “Then why don’t you come take me on yourself, boy?”

            Natsu whirled and snarled at Gajeel, “You can have him when I’m finished with him. If there’s anything left.” Natsu turned and rolled his shoulders. Immediately, the air and ground around him burst into flames. “You ready, kid?”

            The boy’s face fell slightly before he smirked arrogantly again, “Ah, that’s nothing,” he said as he clenched his fists. He frowned for a moment, then laughed triumphantly as flames skittered fitfully over the surface of his skin. “See? You’re not the only one who can play with fire. It’s not such a special power.”

            Natsu cocked his head curiously at the boy and shook his head, “Well, kid…You might be able to play with fire, but can you control it? That’s the difference between you and me, kid. My fire does whatever I tell it to. Can you say the same?”

            The boy shifted nervously before glaring defiantly at Natsu, “I’ll show you what I can do. Don’t worry about that.”

Without hesitation, the boy sent a jet of flames directly at Natsu, who stood perfectly still, smiling at the boy. The moment the boy’s flames reached Natsu, he inhaled deeply, devouring the boy’s flames and swallowing with a satisfied expression, “Mmm. Not bad, kid. Those tasted pretty good.” With a smirk of his own, Natsu raised a finger, sending a geyser of flames out of the ground at the boy’s feet, sending him flying. Just as the boy was about to slam into a massive stone pillar, Natsu appeared behind the boy and caught him easily. Setting the boy easily on his feet, Natsu rested his hands on his hips and shot the boy a massive grin, “You’re gonna be pretty good someday, kid; maybe even enough to give me a run for my money one day.”

The moment his feet hit the ground, the boy shoved roughly away from Natsu, where he continued to glare for a long moment before he grudgingly returned Natsu’s smile, “Yeah, I gotta admit old man. You’re pretty good. Never been taken out with one shot like that before. Just out of curiosity…How did you get so good, anyway? Who trained you? Or were you just always this good?”

Natsu crossed his arms over his chest and laughed heartily, “No, kid. I wasn’t always this good. When I was a kid, I was actually pretty awful. As for who trained me…That’d be Igneel. He’s the fire dragon, and he sort of raised me. Sit down; there’s this one story I think you’ll like.”

 

Natsu glared up at the imposing dragon above him, “You think you’re so great? Why don’t you show me how to do this, then?”

Igneel sighed and lifted his massive head off the ground. Pointing his snout away from Natsu, he lazily snorted flames out first his left nostril, then his right. “See? It’s simple,” Igneel rumbled. “If you would stop your grumbling for one minute, maybe you’d get somewhere.”

In a fit of temper, Natsu stomped his feet and growled and snorted in frustration. All of a sudden, flames shot out Natsu’s nose, startling him and making him skitter backwards nervously. In an attempt to regain his shattered dignity, Natsu laughed and rubbed a hand on the back of his head, “See? Nothing to it!”

Igneel glared down his long snout at his protegee and shook his massive head, “You will never get anywhere in my training if you have that attitude. It was, in fact, a challenge for you. And until you learn to not only accept the challenges in life, but to enjoy them, you will never get anywhere. Because I will tell you something, Natsu Dragneel,” the dragon drew himself as close to the young boy as he possibly could without burning the child with the heat of his scorching breath, “the training I have to offer you from this point on will grow exponentially more difficult. If you think this was difficult, just wait until I teach you how to fly. Yes, young Natsu. Fly. With your strength, the power of flight will come easily to you, someday. You will streak as effortlessly through the skies as I do, but it is not this day. Because before that day comes, you will make a complete idiot of yourself. There will be days when you want to quit, when you want to give everything up – but you can’t, or you’ll never learn. I was flying over a human city during the cold days once – what you call winter – and I saw humans dancing on the ice. I later discovered that this was called ‘ice skating’. I saw young children of your kind learning to do this, and I found that for your kind, it is very like flying. You will fall down and make a complete fool of yourself, but unless you stand again and try, you will never master it. Do you understand, Natsu?”

Natsu watched his Master for a long, quiet moment before he smiled self-consciously, “Yes, Igneel. I understand. I’m just starting out; I shouldn’t get arrogant. Even so…That was pretty awesome, don’t you think? I mean, both nostrils at once! It was supposed to just be the one! I mean, I doubt even you started out so…”

Natsu rambled on and on until at last, Igneel had had enough. His long, powerful tail swept around and connected soundly with Natsu’s chest. “ENOUGH,” he bellowed. “I am a dragon, Natsu. I was born breathing fire from my nostrils. I could do that by the time I was three months old. Doing so now at your age actually puts you behind me at your age. By the time I was your age, I was flying already and setting entire forests on fire. It is nothing to be proud of, this little parlor trick you’ve learned. You are still a child, Natsu. It is time that you realized that. And until you do…I have nothing further to teach you.” True to his word, Igneel turned and walked away.

Natsu nodded at the gasps of indignation around him, “No, really!” He said, “Igneel left me there in his cave for days. Lucky for me, there was plenty of food – and besides, if I got really hungry, there was always a fire burning somewhere that I could eat. But he didn’t stay gone for too long. You see, soon enough I realized that he’d been right, and I was just some punk kid that he’d taken in. I was lucky to have someone who cared at all, really…”

 

 

            Natsu laid on his back, watching wisps of cloud wondering just how long Igneel was planning on staying away this time. It wasn’t the first time that Natsu had irritated Igneel so much that the dragon threw up his figurative hands and walked away, but this was the first time that Igneel had stayed away for days at a time. “Wow, he really must be mad,” Natsu said out loud to himself. “I guess he kinda had a point, though. Wonder what I have to do to get the old grump to come back?” Natsu groaned and stood, “I wonder if I could figure out how to fly on my own?”

            Curious, Natsu paced in a circle, “Well, it seems like I’d have to gather heat around me somehow. Maybe under my feet? But how? Wonder if it’s anything like breathing fire through my nose?” Intrigued, Natsu started to attempt gathering fire in localized areas. At first, all he succeeded in doing was setting himself on fire. After his third attempt, Natsu glared at the flames that danced along him skin, “You just like seeing me fail, don’t you?” he accused the flames, “Well, just you watch. I’m going to be the most powerful Dragon Hunter ever. Let’s see. So, I think just one hand?” Natsu glared at the space above his palm for a long minute before smiling in triumph as a small, fitful flame hovered over his palm. “YES!!!” Natsu bellowed, dancing in circles while punching his fists in the air. “Now for the feet,” he said grinning in anticipation.

            Frowning with concentration, Natsu closed his eyes and focused as hard as possible on his feet. His eyes flew open on a whoop of success as he felt heat gathering under his feet – but his celebration came a bit too soon. As the heat gathered under his feet – far faster than he’d anticipated – Natsu’s grin of accomplishment suddenly vanished as flames larger than anything he’d been able to produce previously sprouted from his feet. The flames lifted him off his feet and hurtled him end-over-end through the air to land with the most ungraceful of “umphs” and a spectacular crash as he slid head-first into a column of rock.

            Dazed, Natsu laid still until his vision cleared. Groaning, he pushed himself slowly up until he was sitting upright. “Ouch,” he said quietly as he rubbed the top of his throbbing head, “I am so glad that Igneel wasn’t here to see that.”

            “Wasn’t I, though?” came the drawling voice of the dragon himself, followed by a sound that almost sounded like the rumbling of a volcano as he laughed, “Oh, I saw the whole thing, young Dragon Hunter. I didn’t know a human made that sort of noise! OH, you should have seen the way you somersaulted through the air…” The dragon snorted flames as he chortled, “I was really hoping that you’d try to fly when you thought I wasn’t around. Did you really think I’d leave some idiot hatchling like you alone for that long?”

            Natsu glared at the dragon, “Well, did you have to lurk around and watch me make a fool of myself?”

            Igneel looked down his long snout at the boy, “No, but it was hilarious. Although, I’d wager you learned something, didn’t you?”

            Natsu opened his mouth for a moment to something that was sure to have been rude, but thought better of it and snapped his mouth shut again, thinking. At last, he answered, “Yes. I think I’ve learned not to let my pride get the better of me. Also, I’ve learned that I don’t know my powers nearly as well as I thought I did, and they’re not as easy to use as I figured.”

            Igneel nodded his enormous head serenely, “Yes. And I learned something, as well.”

            Natsu grinned, “Oh, yeah? What’d you learn?”

            “Humans bounce,” replied Igneel with a toothy grin.

            By the time Natsu’s story finished, a sizeable crowd had gathered, each person listening with varying degrees of incredulity. At last, Gray broke the silence, “I always wondered how he got brain damage.”

            Natsu whirled on his friend, “Right, like you’ve never done anything stupid! Remember the time you tried to take on that demon and…” Without warning, a pillar of ice shot up and smashed into Natsu’s face.

            “Uh-oh,” Lucy said quietly to Happy, “Better go tell people to get their pints off the table, or there’s going to be a lot of wasted beer…” Happy nodded hastily and rushed off, just as a ball of flame hit Gray in the chest. The two broke off, growling at each other for a moment before shooting more fire and ice at each other. “Well,” Lucy said quietly to herself, “At least Natsu knows where he belongs now. And he’s definitely not afraid to make a fool of himself anymore.

 

 End.

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-19 10:48 am

Afterglow - Short Story 2017

Title: Afterglow
Rating: G
Prompt: Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.
Fandom/Series: Ensemble Stars!
Word Count: 1652
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: The sunset brings forth memories of darkness and defeat amidst the fleeting endeavours of youth.



Afterglow

A dependable king was all he wanted to be.

Someone reliable, unwavering and prideful with a heart so wide that it could engulf everything that encountered them. Someone who could lead his knights to victory with passion and undying charisma, never fearing what the outcome may be. Someone who you could fall back on when times were tough. Someone who could reignite that spark of hope within you just before you're about to give up.

All he wanted to be was someone you could love.

It's a shame how one moment in your life could ruin everything. When days had initially passed fruitfully and as sweet as youth should've been, that one moment can and will negate anything you had deemed wondrous in your life, leaving you to submerge yourself in a pit of darkness with no end.

This was why Tsukinaga Leo disliked reminiscing.

 

Leo tapped the end of his pencil against the tip of his nose, lips pursed and eyebrows furrowed in concentration while he stared intently at the musical score he was working on. Coming up with a new composition proved to be quite a difficult feat when the time wasn't right, even for a genius like him, and he cursed himself for not putting pen to paper when inspiration had struck him. Seated in the empty 3rd year classroom, Leo slammed the pencil down onto the table in frustration before running a hand through his ginger hair.

"Ahh!! My melody is disappearing..."

He pouted for a short moment before he turned towards the window beside him, taking notice of the beauty the vibrant sunset held. Leo's emerald eyes shone in reflection to the orange tinted sky before his eyes widened as if something had suddenly overcome him but he pushed this thought away and continued on.

"It's so beautiful. I wish I could show Sena this!"

Leo chimed on before that same wave of what could probably be described as déjà vu engulfed him again.

"Hang on a minute..."

He realised that this exact scene was before his eyes just a year ago. He was with Sena Izumi, a fellow unit mate and close friend, at a windowsill, gazing upon the exact same sunrise with beauty that could not be described with words.

Leo racked his brains for a minute to see if he could recall anything from that time since he never really thought that Sena was someone who would watch sunsets with other people. He shut his eyes tight in an attempt to try and visualise what had happened before.

"You're just as beautiful as this sunset, King."

Leo smiled at that fond memory before he realised there was something else Izumi had said.

"So please, those tears don't belong on you. Stay smiling, like the shining sun."

Oh.

"We can learn from our losses. Let's win next time together."

That's right.

The "war" between all idol units of Yumenosaki Academy happened a year ago, where dreams were crushed by the bare hands of the "Emperor" which prompted the flourish of the unjust hierarchical microsociety created by the same man.

Leo slid down his chair onto the floor and laughed wryly before scrunching his hands in his hair. His breath hastened as he stared at the ground, bombarded with a rush of memories he had initially locked away deep within his heart. He shivers at the thought that remembering something heart-warming like Sena's sweet words could lead to something traumatic resurfacing. Leo tried his best to suppress the memories that were coming back and felt himself break out in a cold sweat. He realised it was futile to resist. Leo held himself in his arms and shut his eyes weakly as he let himself be engulfed by scenes from what he deemed to be the dark era of his life. 

 

"I'll make the best songs as our weapons to lead my perfect knights to victory!"

 

A burst of sunshine filled the music room with 3 members seated together around a piano. The orange haired teen hummed happily as he scribbled whatever melodies came to mind on sheets of paper, already scattering the floor with paper beneath the piano they sat at.

 

"I like King's songs the best~ They make me feel loved when I sing and play them."

 

A black haired boy drawled on before rubbing his cheek affectionately against the shoulder of his king. Leo paused writing to stroke the boy's hair and laughed.

 

"I love you Ritsu!"

 

The silver haired boy scoffed and folded his arms.

 

"What are you two being so chummy for? It's so annoying, though?"

 

Leo and Ritsu threw themselves onto the seemingly sour man for a group hug, laughing at the latter who was scowling.

"I love you too, Sena!"

 

"Secchan is nice to hug~"

 

A light blush made its way onto Sena's face and the knights continued to chatter happily about their new songs and performance opportunities. In the midst of writing, Leo mumbled softly, only audible for himself to hear.

 

"Thank you for being my knights."

 

 

"That Emperor... He's been trampling all over the other units in our school."

Sena frowned as he spoke and knew that his precious knights were also possible victims-to-be in the Emperor, and unit Fine's leader, Tenshouin Eichi's conquest for whole school dominance. Ritsu made a noise that seemed similar to a growl in reply, slightly disgruntled at the fact that units were being crushed.

 

"Tenshouin... I don't like that guy."

 

The two exchanged nods when they came to an agreement that something had to be done before they turned to their leader who was still nonchalantly scribbling away at his music scores.

 

"Hey King. What are we going to do?"

 

Said man's hair tilted up and he smiled the way he usually did, emerald eyes glistening with hope and radiance.

 

"Do you even have to ask? No matter what happens, we'll always win if we're together."

 

His smile was infectious and the other two boys returned the same genuine smiles, thankful for their leader's positivity and confidence. The knights were at a peak, and they knew that they could go further and further, conquering whatever awaited them.

 

 

"Fine! Fine! Fine!"

 

"Eichi-sama is the best!"

 

The clatter from when the knights dropped their swords was barely audible amidst the echoes of cheers for the Emperor at their long awaited battlefield. Leo feels the darkness creep into him as he fell on his knees at the very feet of the Emperor, eyes wide in shock. What had he done wrong? Was his music not good enough? These thoughts ravaged his mind before his gaze shifted upwards, to where Tenshouin Eichi's face was.

 

"I guess it’s my win, Tsukinaga-kun."

 

The Emperor smiled sweetly before flashing a momentary derisive expression and kneeled down, bringing his face closer to Leo's distraught-stricken face. He placed two fingers on Leo's chin to turn his head sideways and whispered close into his ear.

 

"Checkmate."

 

Leo cursed himself for being weak. He hated that something from as long as a year ago still had such an effect on him. Unable to control the tears that had welled in his eyes, he let them out and sobbed quietly. Deep inside, he really did know that he wasn't that much of a genius as he made himself to be. Sure, he could make songs regularly that seemed to be liked by many and was already working professionally despite still being in high school, it didn't mean he was a genius.

How could he be a genius if he couldn't even win against the Emperor? 

Leo hated reminiscing. Every single time he thought he'd remember something genuinely happy, it would be overpowered by all the things he hated and did not want to remember ever again. He didn't like feeling weak every now and then because of this trauma but there was no helping it; the Emperor broke him and his fragile, cowardly heart. Does he still have the right to be called a king? Leo doesn't know but he stops thinking for a moment and rushes to wipe his tears as he hears footsteps approaching the room.

"Leader, are you here?"

"Stupid King. We had to look for you everywhere. Soo annoying."

Four men stepped in and they all looked surprised when they say Leo sitting cuddled up on the floor. The taller blonde, Narukami Arashi stepped forward first and exclaimed in shock.

"Oh, King! What happened? Your eyes are all red and puffy!"

Leo burrowed his head into his arms and ignored his junior but felt guilty since he could hear the concern in his voice. He heard another set of footsteps approach him.

"Leader, is anything the matter?"

The youngest, Suou Tsukasa, prodded gently but there was no reply again. After a moment, someone clicked their tongue and muttered something along the lines of 'it can't be helped then' and stepped forwards, stopping right in front of Leo and kneeled down. He placed his hands onto Leo's arms and pried them open, revealing a teary eyed king staring right at Sena. The rays of the setting sun tinted his emerald eyes with a slight yellow but it made Sena glow with ethereal beauty.

"Do you remember what I told you before, King?"

Leo wasn't really sure what to expect but kept his gaze right at Sena's sky blue eyes and noticed that the rest of Knights had huddled beside him as well, showing warm smiles on their faces. Ritsu hugged Leo first before all the other members followed suit. His knights shone like gold under the golden sky and Leo was glad to have knights like them. He tried to smile but a few more tears escaped the corners of his eyes which prompted Sena to continue on from before.

"Those tears don't belong on you. Stay smiling, like the shining sun. We love you, our one and only King."

It’s time to live in the present.

 

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-19 10:41 am

Acquainted With The Night - Short Story 2017

Title: Acquainted with the Night
Rating: PG
Prompt: “Ah, music," he said, wiping his eyes. "A magic beyond all we do here!” - J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Fandom/Series: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Word Count: 7,283
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
Summary: Deserting the military is a difficult feat even at the best of times. And the eve of the Promised Day is far from the best of times.

Acquainted With The Night

The Homunculi have marshalled their forces, and now it's up to the men under Colonel Mustang's command to make their stand. Stealing away from Central Headquarters in the dead of night, First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye makes for the slums at the edge of the city, ready to make contact with her commanding officer and launch their final counteroffensive against Bradley's regime.

But Hawkeye is not alone in the sleeping city. Something is moving in the darkness, stalking the tunnels under the streets, blood pooling in every footstep. Crimson light bleeding in the cracks. Somewhere in the intestines of Central, an alchemist is stirring.

Deserting the military is a difficult feat.

And for Hawkeye, it's about to get a lot more difficult, and infinitely more dangerous.

 

            I have been one acquainted with the night.

            I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.

            I have outwalked the furthest city light.

 

            Riza Hawkeye had her reasons for hating the rain.

            Amestris's inclement weather had been no small inconvenience serving under the Colonel. He relied on his flames so much that they had inadvertently become his crutch. The rain took away his alchemy, swiping the crutch out from under him, which more often than not ended with the Colonel quite literally falling flat on his backside in the mud.

            Lieutenant Hawkeye disliked the rain because, at one point in her life, it made her already strenuous job ten times more so. She hated wet weather because she hated seeing the Colonel compromised. A useless Roy Mustang was too close to a dead Roy Mustang, so far as she was concerned.

            Even after Bradley upset the proverbial applecart, and the Colonel's failings in damp weather were no longer her responsibility, Riza began to find her own reasons for hating the rain. 

            Perhaps cultivating that irrational enmity was an attempt to fill in the gaps where her comrades used to be, four people-shaped tears in the world. Maybe she hated the rain because the hatred was something tantalisingly familiar, so much so that she could almost fool herself into thinking nothing had changed. That there weren't sharp absences all over her life.

            The heavens would open up, and the thick wool of her uniform would grow sodden and heavy on her shoulders, and she would miss him desperately.

            She hated the rain because she hated knowing he was alone.

            But that was going to change.

            On that night, she had all new reasons for hating heavy rain. As Riza left Central Command — knowing her next return would be as prisoner of the state or as adjutant of a new führer — she noted how the rain inhibited her ability to sense proximity. The cadence of raindrops drowned out the background noise of the world. Anyone with half an inclination would have the advantage in taking her by surprise. Hawkeye scanned every passing face, searching for an eyepatch. She peered into every dim corner and dark door jamb.

            Fortunately, the streets were empty. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed for the night. The few passerby kept their heads bowed against their chests and their hats tucked into the wind. They passed Lieutenant Hawkeye without sparing a glance, keen to get home.

            The one benefit of living in a military state, Hawkeye admitted grudgingly, was the invisibility afforded by her uniform.

            When she passed two military police on their rounds, they greeted her by rank, stepping to the side of the pavement to let her pass. To them, she was more than a first lieutenant. She was the attache to the leader of Amestris, the woman with the Führer's ear. His right-hand man.

            The thought made Hawkeye grimace.

            Bradley wore his face well; he was a ruthless commander — Ishval had left little doubt of that, even before Riza had known him by his true identity, the homunculus Wrath. But he tempered his pitilessness with a kind, jovial exterior. He commanded respect while exuding concern and compassion for his people. He was feared, but he was also loved. He was, in Hawkeye's reluctant opinion, the perfect leader.

            But she had seen behind the face, in the quiet hours after the reporters had been dismissed, and all the military officials had taken their leave. When there was only Hawkeye and the Führer, when his single eye would track her slowly around the room when he thought she wasn't paying attention. Wraths presence had felt volatile, like something about to explode. She could sense the anger wafting from him, making the small hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. To Wrath, she was the Colonel's pet dog, Mustang's loyalist subordinate, the Flame Alchemist's weakness.

            But Riza also prided herself on being disciplined and extremely composed under pressure. She was a model soldier, fiercely loyal to her commanding officer, and Bradley hated her for it.

            No matter, Riza thought grimly. He wouldn't have to put up with it any longer.

            Early the next morning, Führer King Bradley would arrive on a train from East City, returning from a training exercise proctored by General Grumman. And Lieutenant Hawkeye would not be at the station to receive him.

            Deserting the military is no small matter even under the most favourable circumstances. Hawkeye wasn't the sort of person predisposed to deceiving herself with false optimism. In deserting, she had made herself a security breach. And the Homunculi were not known for their magnanimity in dealing with security breaches. Hawkeye felt a twinge of that old, biting grief as she remembered a phone-booth covered in blood

            She shook her head. She could not afford to get caught. For the Colonel's sake, she could not afford to die.

            The slums were completely deserted. Most of the residents were Ishvalan, and there was no love lost between the desert-dwelling people and wet weather. Hawkeye relished the solitude, though cursed the rain. The streets had turned into sloppy currents of mud. The wet seeped into every surface, giving the slums a stooped, sagging appearance. The distant glow of the city centre was dim and deliquesced, the cracks in the buildings were filled with battered lamplight. The shadows were long and thick, pooling in the crags and crevices of the world like the rainwater. Like something you could drown in.

            Hawkeye took an abrupt turn into a narrow alleyway. In the darkness, she stripped down to her turtleneck, quickly discarding her uniform jacket, the pips on her collar clinking against bottles and broken glass. The blue trousers and gold-trimmed train found similar resting places, twisted in the mud. She changed into black combat trousers and a coat pulled from her satchel. Then she threw the satchel away, along with any remnants of Bradley's paperwork.

            She kept her government-issued sidearms, and the bolt-action rifle was a welcome, familiar weight slung across her back.

            Locating the predetermined storm drain, Hawkeye climbed down a short ladder, the rungs leaving rusty stains on her palms. She took stock of her surroundings as she loaded her weapons, slipping the cylinders of her sidearms into place. The tunnel was lit intermittently by naked bulbs, dangling from alcoves above her head. She heard the electric hum, like fly wings, as she passed underneath them. The lights threw long shadows along the tunnel, the shapes rippling and distorted as they danced across the tepid water pooling between the bricks. Hawkeye bit down on the impulse to jump at every small movement.

            The shadows were her enemies. The darkness had eyes.

            It occurred to her then that the Homunculi wanted her to be afraid, to reduce her to some simpering prey animal, scuttling along the periphery of the lamplight, jumping at shadows. Held captive by some base, primordial fear of the dark.

            Hawkeye almost smiled. She was a person well accustomed to living in the shadows. She had long been acquainted with the night; to pass unobserved was the hallmark of her duty as a sniper, to be ill at ease and alert essential in keeping the Colonel safe. The Homunculi wanted her to be afraid, and she was afraid. She had been afraid since Ishval, even before, cowering from her father as a fifteen year old girl, her back still stinging. Fear had kept her eyes sharp and her instincts keen. Fear had kept her alive, and had protected the people she loved.

            She almost pitied Homunculi for making her afraid.

            She rounded a bend in the tunnel, passing around the westernmost edge of the slums, drawing closer to a more louche part of town. Less than a mile away from a particular bar owned by a woman of questionable repute. A bar that was, so they said, the familiar haunt of a dark-haired, handsome military officer who was never without a beautiful woman on his arm.

            At least, so the rumours went.

            Hawkeye paused. Ahead of her, the tunnel cut at a right angle, moving around a blind corner. Above her at street level, the rain had stopped. The torrents pouring into the storm drains had quieted to a steady trickle. The world seemed stiller, quieter. She could hear the drip-drop of distant mildew pooling in crags on the floor, forcing her heart to follow the same rhythm.

            The smell was stronger: less like rotten food and waste and more like oxidised iron, the rusty grit of old pipes. It was an older section of the sewers; the ceiling was lower. Lights were fewer and further between; most electrical systems hadn't been maintained that far outside the heart of Central. Such was Amestrian civic bureaucracy, but since Scar's convalescence in the sewers, no one had seemed especially keen on changing the existing state of affairs. Not that Hawkeye could blame them for it.

            The Lieutenant felt her socks growing wet and she grimaced. The shallow water was thick and viscous, sloughing thickly around her ankles. The walls curved above her head, almost brushing her shoulders. Someone like Vato Falman would have had to crouch.

            Riza stepped out of the runoff, her boots angled awkwardly along the base of the wall. She was careful to keep quiet, synchronising her steps with the trickle of the raindrops in the storm drains. She held one of her sidearms to her shoulder. She sidled, keeping her back to the curve of the tunnel. The smell grew worse as the light dimmed: rust and sewage and something vaguely metallic, coppery like burnt wire.

            She could feel it on her tongue, settling on her skin, making her flesh itch. Riza almost gagged. She wondered if something had drowned further ahead in the sewers, if it had died--

            Then she heard it.

            The sound came from the far end of the tunnel, where the lights had gone out, leaving only a wall of soupy darkness so black even Pride would not have been able to cast his shadows.

            The sound of humming.

            Riza Hawkeye clapped a hand over her mouth and pressed herself hard against the wall, hiding behind one of the seams of the tunnel. Her heart was pounding hard enough for her head to throb. Her breath came in short, ragged gasps, which she tried to smother in the palm of her hand. She raised her pistol to the space near her ear. Her bolt-action rifle dug into her spine painfully, but she didn't care.

            Suddenly, Riza realised the stench had resolved itself into something intimately familiar.

            Blood. Blood and sewage. The smell of decay and despair and death.

            The tunnel distorted the sound of the humming. Riza couldn't tell if it was getting closer or moving further away. The air was thick with the humid miasma of rot; the music sounded damp and distant in her ears.

            Riza wanted to kick herself but she didn't dare move. He had perfect pitch; he would hear her.

            She closed her eyes. Stupid, stupid, stupid. She had been careless. She hadnt prepared, she hadnt been ready, she hadn’t…

            Riza saw the shadows stirring in the tepid water. The last lightbulb above her head flickered, and the sound of music suffused through the tunnel.

            "I can hear you."

            Hawkeye stifled a gasp.

            She was facing away from the dark end of the sewers, her back pressed into the notch between the wall and the tunnel seam. Even so, she could see the sudden flash of red lightning, flickering in her peripheries, throwing terrifyingly vivid silhouettes across the brick. She heard a small, muffled scream that was quickly choked off. The noxious stink of ozone briefly overpowered the smell of blood.

            “I wasnt talking to you,” said the voice sniffily -- addressing the person who had screamed, Riza realised, a rod of ice driving through her chest.

            The only people in the slums were displaced Ishvalan refugees, peaceful craftsmen and farmers living quiet lives in the fringes of Amestrian society. He must have been luring them into the sewers and murdering them, picking them off one by one. And he had been at it for hours, if the overwhelming smell of blood was anything indication.

            There was no reason to it. There never had to be with him. There was no goal, no agenda. He hadnt been ordered into the tunnels by the Homunculi. He just had to satisfy his sick, insatiable curiosity, like a child torturing small animals, plucking the wings off flies and skinning squirrels, just to see how long they could endure the pain before they died. He was systematic in his cruelty, as methodised and precise as a scientist and as sadistic as only he knew how to be. In truth, even if she had an imperfect insight into their methods –– the Colonel nonewithstanding ––  Hawkeye mistrusted soldiers who were also assured, accomplished alchemists; it made her suspect they favoured the calculations and the equations and the system over the world they described, and the peoples lives they controlled. Such men were liable to romanticise the solecism of equating alchemical style with morality. 

            The man at the end of the tunnel knew no morality. The world existed solely as alchemical opposites, unified diametrics: construction and deconstruction, fire and water, life and death. Power, and those too weak to seek it.

            There was a monster stalking the tunnels under Central City.

            “Theres someone new.” 

            Hawkeye imagined her mind going blank. She focused on the uneven surface of the brick wall and thought not of the Colonel or deserting the military or the Promised Day; he always did have a way of pressing his fingers into her brain, assessing and inferring her thoughts from the tiniest inflections in her features. Even in the darkness, when he couldnt see her, Riza was struck with the irrational fear that he could read her mind.

            “I can hear your breath. Its a little bit fast, have you noticed? I imagine you have. An increased respiratory rate. Rapid, shallow breathing, also called tachypnea, occurs when one takes more breaths than normal in a given minute. It's sometimes known as hyperventilation.

            He was drawing nearer. Hawkeye could hear his shoes sloughing through the muck at the bottom of the tunnel. She continued to stare ahead, breathing into the palm of her hand. Her heart thundered in her ears; she feared he could hear that, too, her pulse reverberating through the underground. But she couldnt run. Her steel-toed combat boots would echo noisily against the brick. Then he would find her. Then he would hurt her.

            “I always found it peculiar how humans never notice the cadence of their breathing… Of course, we notice when we are meditating, exercising, singing, perhaps while going to sleep… or hiding.” 

            Hawkeye forced herself to breathe. If she passed out, she was lost.

            “But what if we noticed our breath at all times? Just to codify it consciously, not to change or perfect our way of breathing, per se, which is of course different for all of us at different times. Do you breathe in fully? I can hear that you do not. To your stomach or to your shoulders? Just to your shoulders. Is your in-breath or out-breath longer? Your in-breath, since you are afraid to let it back into the world lest I hear it. Too late for that, Im afraid.

            “How we breathe is how we handle situations and how we direct an outcome to a place we desire. Not breathing out completely, my dear, will get you to a place you will later wonder how you got to. Of course, your autonomic nervous system will get the job done, but autopilot can only get you to the destination it is instructed. You must be more versatile if you are to move tangentially. After all,” there was a soft chuckle; too close, thought Riza, who has ever heard of running away in a straight line?

            He couldnt have been more than a hundred feet behind the seam in the tunnel, moving towards Hawkeyes hiding place.

            Hawkeye prayed to a god she didnt believe in that he would move on, return to whatever bloody slaughter he had been amusing himself with. Gunfire would draw unwanted attention, and there was no telling how much damage he could do with his alchemy, if he started collapsing the tunnels around them. He had never been known for his subtlety. Hawkeye did not want to jeopardise the Colonels position, or Breda and Fuerys safety. She did not want to fight.

            But she also did not want to die. Riza gripped her sidearm. Despite her spring-taut body, her hand stayed steady.

            Suddenly, the footsteps stopped. She heard the rustle of fabric, dry skin against cloth. He had put his hands in his pockets.

            “Youve grown calmer,” he said quietly. Your breathing is more disciplined. Have you overcome your fear, or merely governed it? I have a body count of ten individuals further along this tunnel, so I commend you for your composure.

            “But you always were so composed, werent you, Miss Sniper?

            Hawkeye's heart nearly stopped.

            “Sound carries well in these tunnels. Smell rather less so, for which the blame falls squarely on my shoulders. Corpses are such messy things. Even so, the polymerised natural oil of your rifle stock is unmistakable. A good marksmen looks after her weapons, and you, my dear, are the best there is.

            Her finger was on the trigger. He must have moved into the feeble circle of light by then. His voice was tantalisingly close; Hawkeye hated aiming over the shoulder, but if she was going to escape, she was going to have to move quickly.

            “Out of the peaks black angularity of shadow, riding the last tumultuous avalanche of light above pines and the guttural gorge,” sang Solf J. Kimblee, his words like honey-laced poison, The Hawk comes

            Riza exploded out of her hiding place. She saw a flash of white in the corner of her eye and then she was running, her sidearm slung over her shoulder, shooting blindly back into the tunnel. She heard the bullets ricochet off the walls; she didnt give herself time to think about it. She had to reach the surface.

            There was a cutting laugh like razorblades on stone. Riza fought the urge to vomit.

            “She knows neither time nor error, and under whose Eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings into shadow!

            The smell of ozone and fried circuitry flooded the tunnel before red forks of lightning overtook Riza along the walls. She skidded to a halt hairbreadths before the brick combusted and the ceiling collapsed in front of her, huge slabs of concrete blocking her way. Hawkeye waved away the dust, clambering over the lowermost stones, but the ceiling was sealed shut. There was no access to the street above; the Crimson Alchemist must have brought one of the tenements down along with most of the tunnel, plugging the hole like a cork. There was nowhere left to go

            Hawkeye drew her other sidearm, one gun in each hand, and pressed her back to the cave-in. She spotted him instantly, like a ghost haloed against the shadows: that strange white suit, marred from where the cuffs of his trousers had been stained by sewage and blood. Not a follicle of black hair out of place. He hadnt even lost his hat.           His pale, lupine eyes leered at her hungrily.

            She didnt hesitate. She fired one sidearm after the other, but Kimblee moved too quickly. Impossibly quickly, bouncing from the walls and evading her bullets with an alacrity Hawkeye had only ever seen before in the Homunculi. His bone-white smirk never left his face as he dodged, grinning at her from the darkness.

            Her magazine soon clicked empty and Riza tossed her sidearms aside, pulling the bolt action rifle from her back. She fired indiscriminately. But the intervals unloading and reloading the chamber were too great, and Kimblee managed to get one of his tattooed palms on the wall. Riza felt the cement collapse at her back; as she tried to push away an amorphous arm of liquid rock elongated around her midsection, resolidifying almost instantly and holding her fast, securing her to the pile of debris. Kimblee wove between a few ill-aimed bullets and snatched Hawkeyes wrists, forcing her finger away from the trigger, pinning her hands above her head.

            “Drop it,” hissed Kimblee. His fingernails dug into the soft underside of her wrist and Rizas arm spasmed, an electric jolt running down to her elbow. The transmutation arrays on his palms felt hot on her skin. Drop it.

            Agonisingly slowly, Hawkeyes fingers uncurled, and her rifle clattered to the ground.

            “Thats better.

            Kimblee deftly moved her wrists to one hand and touched his palm to a concrete slab, alchemizing the broken cement and gravel into restraints. He fixed her arms above her head, until the joints in her shoulders began to ache. Hawkeye struggled, but the stone stayed fixed. The Crimson Alchemist stepped back to admire his handiwork.

            “You didnt touch your palms together,” said Riza through gritted teeth. She kept her expression schooled, not betraying her incredible fear; so long as she could keep him talking, he wouldn't hurt her. Tell me, does that mean youre alchemizing without completing your transmutation circle?

            “Perceptive of you, Lieutenant.

            “Are you in possession of a Philosopher’s Stone?”

            If it was possible, Kimblees grin grew even wider, toothy and predatory. Isnt it marvellous? It enables me to bypass the absolute law of equivalent exchange, amplifying my alchemy well beyond the usual curtailments. My partners were so magnanimous in giving me one, wouldnt you agree?

            “Your partners… you mean the ones who released you, your holders… the Homunculi.

            “Now, dont be unkind, Lieutenant. Perhaps the estimable Pride -- already of your acquaintance, as I understand -- may require a bit of poking and prodding so far as his motivation is concerned, but Im here on commission."

            “Youre murdering your own kind. Murdering human beings.

            He tutted. Hypocrisy never suited you in the past, Hawkeye, and it doesnt suit you now. You are a soldier, my dear, and as such taking life is rather more than a small part of the job description.” He leaned in closer, until his rising and falling chest brushed against the concrete restraints. Hawkeye tried to gap the distance but there was nowhere for her to go. Ishval stained our souls, Lieutenant. The blemishes dont disappear just because you put on a different coat and go about your merry way.

            She glared at him. After Ishval, I swore an oath to never take life unnecessarily, to follow a path where I would never have to obey such orders again.

            “I see. Well, I suppose such a conviction is just as valid as its opposite. As for me, Im merely interested in watching how the axis of world tilts when two indomitable wills –– humans and homunculi –– are pitted against each other. Two alchemical diametrics, aligned oppositions, forced to clash. The greatest of combustions, Lieutenant, have always come from an intermingling of opposites. This is an impact event, and the sound and colour and spectacle ought to be glorious. After all,” if he were a less sensible, less refined person he would have winked at her, as though he was disclosing a deep secret, my private lust has always ever been one for aesthetic gratification, wouldnt you agree? The music, the symphony of destruction. Beautiful in its refinement, and beautiful in its fury.

            Hawkeye suppressed a shudder, but she bit out a bitter, Youre betraying humanity, Kimblee.

            He gave a small shrug. At the risk of sounding grossly cliché, its nothing personal. I have chosen the side of the Homunculi as opposed to the alternative simply because they allow me to use my rather unique talents to their fullest. I see it predominantly as an opportunity for aggressive personal expansion.

            “You’re insane,” she stated cooly. You always were.

            "I've never denied it. But one could say a woman hovering in the shadow of the man who used her father's research to mutilate her body, subsequently choosing to serve as his second, to follow him in his mad scramble for the top, to love him, even, is rather insane as well. It's all a matter of perspective."

            "We should have killed you years ago. We should never have forgotten about you."

            He barked a laugh. "So much for your pontificating. You can't expect me to take your pacifistic convictions very seriously if they waver under the slightest opposing nudge. And for the record, I did warn you, Hawkeye. I warned you to never forget your enemies, because they certainly wont forget you.” His bright eyes glittered. And I cant say I have. Youre rather memorable.

            She squirmed; he had drawn too close, she could smell the blood on his clothes, something spicy on his breath. He ran one long finger along her chin, near the junction of her neck, and Hawkeye recoiled so quickly she nearly hit her head on the stone.

            “I rather like you trussed up there, Lieutenant,” he said softly.

            “What are you going to do to me?

            He arched an eyebrow. "Now who's being cliché..."

            "It's a reasonable question."

            "Touché."

            He withdrew, and Riza took a deep breath, no longer inhaling the scent of him. There was a small gagging sound before Kimblee hiccuped, regurgitating something small and round into his palm. He took the blood-red orb, the size and shape of a marble, between two fingers and held it up to her face.

            “I trust you know what this is, Miss Hawkeye.

            Riza’s eyes widened. For as long as she had served under the Colonel, for as long as she had known the Elrics, she had always been curious about the exalted Philosopher’s Stone… and had hated herself for it. Hated herself for wishing she could get her hands on one, so Jean Havoc could use his legs again, so Edward and Alphonse could get their original bodies back. The stone was death incarnate, a culmination of suffering. A symbol of everything she despised about the country, the military… herself.

            And Solf J. Kimblee was holding it mere inches in front of her face.

            He explained, The Stone given to me in Ishval was a crude simulacrum, satisfactory in serving its purpose as an accelerant but lacking any stylised design. This,” he held up the orb reverently, was made by the Homunculi themselves, purified by the being they call Father. The power of the Philosopher's Stone allows one to perform feats greater than what one could do naturally, but the stone gets weaker every time it's used because that power comes from souls, which get consumed in these transmutations. When all the souls have been destroyed, the stone ceases to exist.

            “Its abhorrent. So many lives…”

            “And that is where you come in, Lieutenant.

            She shrunk back from Kimblee. What are you––“

            “The Stone is a receptacle. It stores a fragment of each souls essence, after a fashion. While I imagine it's quite difficult to anchor oneself to one's individuality amongst the maelstrom of other lives and other selves, there are the occasional murmurs wafting from the deep places. You see, I like to speak to them, sometimes, the souls inside my Stone.” His bright, insane eyes gripped her amber ones and froze her, holding her fixed to the spot. “I’d very much like you to join them, Riza.

            Blood pounded in Hawkeye's ears. A cold sweat broke out on her brow. “No…”

            “Your soul would exist for an eternity inside my Stone. Never fading. Never dying. You neednt worry; I would not exhaust you as I do the others. I may be a gluten for self-gratification in my alchemy, but I am not without discipline.

            “I would rather die,” she said simply. "I would rather you kill me."

            “And I would rather not,” he countered. He stuck his Philosophers Stone in his breast pocket and rested his palms on either side of her neck, feathering his touch so he didnt hurt her. His thumbs traced circles over throat. Hawkeye recoiled, revulsion churning her stomach. She could feel her pulse fluttering under his fingers and she cursed herself for feeling so incredibly frightened. I confess to a twinge of jealousy towards the good and honourable Roy Mustang. In our world of push and pull, exchange and equivalency thereof, I never thought of him as deserving of as fine an officer as you. He has done little to earn your devotion. Circumstances being what they are, incarcerated alchemists dont experience a great market demand for military adjutants, so I was denied any say in the matter. But if I had remained an officer, I would have had you by my side, and I suspect our Führer would have been more than willing to oblige. Consider this making up for lost time.

            She struggled to find the words. Why…”

            “Because I'm terribly fond of you, Riza Hawkeye.

            He kissed her then, with impossible gentleness, his eyes closed, cupping her face reverently in his hands. He tasted of good wine and thunderstorms. 

            Hawkeye butt her head forward and Kimblee backed away just in time, narrowly avoiding a broken nose.

            “Touch me again and Ill kill you.

            An indulgent smile. I expect nothing less from a woman of your caliber. Though to kill me in your present state would be quite a feat.

            “I would not task you to try.

            “Was it so awful?

            Riza spit on him. 

            Kimblee stood stunned for a moment as the wet trickled down the side of his face. His pale skin sank into the hollow of his cheeks like ash pressed into the depressions of the world. Hawkeye stared at him, willing him to clap his hands together, daring him to end her like hed ended the lives of so many other people. Death was infinitely preferable to spending an eternity as his possession, trapped in the screaming tumult of the Stone. 

He thumbed the spittle away. His bright eyes flashed dangerously. 

            “I see.

            The Crimson Alchemist uncoiled like a snake, snatching her chin, forcing her to face him. His fingernails left red crescents in her skin. Hawkeye recognised none of his philosophising, gentlemanly mannerisms. The window of his eyes had splintered, and something wild and mad had begun to stir in the empty spaces behind the cracks.      Youre a stubborn one,” he whispered hoarsely.

            Riza felt the corners of her mouth tug upward in what was almost an insolent smile. Thats something youve always known, sir.

            Kimblee sneered. Then this next part ought to be infinitely more gratifying.

            He took a stick of chalk from his pocket and began to etch a circle into the concrete slab, circumscribing Rizas arms and legs within the array. A thrill of panic raced up her spine and Hawkeye began to thrash, trying to loose her wrists from the handholds. Kimblee continued as though she wasnt there, chalking the Latin runes into the stone with a steady, practiced hand.

            “I am partial to the beauty of transmutation arrays,” Kimblee murmured as he worked, speaking more to himself than to Hawkeye, of circles and recurrence. If one turns right and keeps turning right, or if one turns left and keep turning left, one ends up back where one turned for the first time. As though a man has walked around the world, ending where he began, finishing where the story started. History as a convergence. I dont believe in prescience, Lieutenant. I dont believe in destiny. Fate is just a wheel, and us humans, just spokes, and we keep spinning, retracing the patterns of lives. And circles do not have a start or an end, though one always seems to have good expectancy to grope after one. They have closures, instead.

            Kimblee finished the array, completing the circle. The hexagram inscribed eight multi-directional triangles, representing all four classical elements. Riza had seen it twice before: in the White Room under the 3rd Laboratory; burned into the floorboards of a farmhouse in the countryside. Kimblees simulacrum was rougher, cruder, scratched into the collapsed detritus of the tunnel, but she recognised the same esoteric symbols.

            It was the transmutation circle needed to turn human beings into Philosopher’s Stones.

            As the Crimson Alchemist pocketed the chalk, trading it for his livid red Stone, Riza remembered her confrontation with Pride several months before

            “The Homunculi said they need me,” she intoned steadily, to keep the Colonel in line… to make him behave. They will be angry when they discover youve turned their most valuable hostage into a Philosophers Stone.

            “I beg to differ, Lieutenant,” purred Kimblee. All your precious superior requires is hope. Your physical wellbeing is neither here nor there; all Mustang needs is faith in the possibility of saving you. So long as the Homunculi are able to invoke your name, so long as the Flame Alchemist believes he can keep his subordinates safe, the possibility is as good as real, and our control of him is as good as absolute.

            "Your logic is misguided, Crimson Alchemist."

            "Indeed? It so rarely is."

            "If Roy Mustang must choose between saving the life of his subordinates, and saving this country, he will chose this country. Every time."

            "Do you believe that, Lieutenant Hawkeye?"

            "I have to. I swore to keep him on the righteous path. I will not tolerate any less."

            Kimblee passed the Stone from finger to finger, twirling it between his knuckles. He stared into the opaque red surface as he confessed, "I am, as always, astounded by your loyalty... your love for your superior." He snapped his hand closed, palming the Stone, holding it close to his chest. "Such a shame I hold neither love nor loyalty in any particularly high regard."

            "Nor life," she said quietly. "Nor mercy."

            "Take my word, Miss Hawkeye, this is preferable to the alternative. You do not want to be here come the Promised Day. If this is all the mercy of which I am capable, then I am merciful."

            He pressed a palm against her forehead. The transmutation circle felt like a brand on her skin, searing the pentacles and alchemic symbols into her flesh. She caught a whiff of burning hair. Her body shuddered with a sudden burst of static. The hairs on her arms stood on end.

            For a moment, Hawkeyes unflappable exterior cracked. She remembered the ruins of Ishval, the crimson lightning dancing in the peripheries of enormous explosions… a livid white scar bisecting the forehead of an Ishvalan alchemist killer and she felt a sudden blind, burning fear flaring into an inferno inside her chest, trapping her breath deep in her throat.

            “Please…”

            Kimblee tilted his head, like a curious child, his grin faltering. Then his grip on her skull tightened.

            A sound like a freight train roared in Rizas ears––

            “HAWKEYE!

            Something cut the air in front of the Lieutenants face. Kimblee leapt backward, muttering obscenities under his breath, barring his teeth in a snarl.

            The attackers didnt give the Crimson Alchemist time to recover. Emerging from the tunnel, Heymans Breda and Kain Fuery levelled their sidearms at Kimblees chest, releasing a barrage of bullets. Taken by surprise, Kimblee was not as nimble as before, even with the aid of his Stone. He swept awkwardly under their attacks, moving around the 2nd Lieutenant and the Sergeant as he retreated back into the shadows of the sewers. He vanished into the darkness, a deep, bestial growl hanging low over the ground. Breda and Fuery didnt stop shooting until both of their magazines were empty. The empty clicks echoed in the tunnel, even as the sound of Kimblees footsteps faded into silence.

Hawkeye dug her fingernails into her palm, stifling her tremor. She didnt hear what her subordinates said to her through the blood roaring in her head

            “What?” she asked blearily.

            “Riza, did he hurt you?

            Breda had recovered first, holstering his weapon and going straight to work on her restraints. Kain Fuery continued to aim at the tunnel, sucking in desperate gulps of air, trying to reign in his own fear. His small frame trembled with adrenaline.

            “Lieutenant?” prodded Breda.

            “Nothing serious…”

            Hawkeye shook her head and her vision slowly swam back into focus. Bredas close-cropped copper hair and plain, unassuming face made Riza want to weep. He arched an eyebrow at her brittle, vacant expression but didnt press further. 

            Using the butt of his rifle, the Second Lieutenant made quick work of the concrete holding Hawkeye to the stone, the material weakened from Kimblees transmutations. Breda kept a steady grip on her arm as feeling returned to her legs and the screaming pain in her back and shoulders subsided. Hawkeye rubbed her wrists, the skin tender.

            Fuery hurried back to flank her. His left arm hovered uncertainly at his side, as though he couldnt decide whether to lay a reassuring hand on her shoulder or give her a hug. Under different circumstances, Riza would have found it amusing.

            “How did that sicko get all the way back here without no one noticing…” Breda wondered aloud. His words were clipped, tinged with malice. He knew Solf J. Kimblee well enough by reputation to know how dangerous he was.

            Fuery pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. If hes working with the Führer, then theres no telling the limit of his resources. Say, 2nd Lieutenant,” Kain looked up at his superior hesitantly, we didnt just chase Major Kimblee away from Hawkeye just to hurt someone else, did we?

            “Probably,” replied Breda bluntly. At Fuery's pursed, worried expression, Breda amended, Doesnt matter. We have the Lieutenant, and now we have to reach the Colonel.

            “Yes.

            Breda and Fuery snapped to attention at the sound of Rizas voice, a consequence of time and habit and more than a little fear. She cleared her throat, which had gone very dry, abrasive like sandpaper.

            “The plan hasnt changed, and we've lost enough time already. It's likely the destruction of the sewers will draw the authorities to this location. We have to move quickly.

            Fuery opened his mouth to say something, but Breda held up a placating hand. His eyes met Riza’s: “Yes, sir.”

            Hawkeye nodded. She picked up her sidearms from the floor, holstering them at her waist. She reloaded her bolt-action rifle and slung it across her back. The movements felt strangely procedural, almost ceremonial, like the ritualistic worship of a long-forgotten god. Hawkeye felt detached from the actions, hovering above the slow, lethargic movements of her body, as though observing herself from a great distance. She chastised herself; she had to stay focused. She had to stay sharp, and alert, battle-ready

            Riza Hawkeye suppressed a sob. Neither Breda or Fuery noticed.

            “We'll make towards Madame Christmass bar,” she said, her words level and evenly-spaced, ripples on calm water obscuring the murk under the surface, if the Colonel is abiding by the timeline, he should meet us soon before daybreak.

            “You got it, boss.

            Fuery jogged ahead, his rifle barred across his chest, scouting ahead in the tunnels. Breda and Hawkeye walked together in silence. She could feel the broader man's stare on the side of her head. She also found that she was acutely aware of her subordinates breathing, the regular cadence of it, like music. Riza wasnt surprised when the rhythm changed and he spoke:

            “What did he mean, Hawkeye, when Kimblee said the Homunculi could control the Boss using his subordinates.

            Her brows disappeared under her hairline. You heard that?

            “I scouted ahead of Fuery. Followed the echoes down the tunnel.

            She looked over at him. Breda was perceptive. Moreover, he was sharp. There wasnt much that passed by him unnoticed. I imagine he meant what he said. Were just leverage to them, Heymans. Were just pawns.

            “That wasnt what I was asking.

            “Speak plainly, then.

            Breda grunted. I mean, Hawkeye, what happens when the Homunculi try to use us to influence the Colonels decision-making? Our lives are on the line here.

            "Just as they have been for the past several months?"

            "This is different, Riza, and you know it. Bradley didn't send you away like the rest of us. He kept you around for a reason. And now Major Kimblee––"

            "––is no longer our concern."

            "Maybe not, but his words sure as hell are. What do you reckon'll happen when the Colonel realises they plan to kill us if he doesn't do what the Homunculi ask of him?"

            Riza sighed. He will do what he always does: he will protect the people he cares about.

            “And by that youre saying––“

            “He’ll order us to stay behind. To stay hidden, and safe.

            Breda grunted again. "Perfect. He'll go careening in there alone with only a couple glorified parade gloves and an ego the size of a planet."

            It wasn't quite in line with Hawkeye's assessment, but she conceded the point.      "Essentially."

            "So what do we do, Boss?"

            “Thats simple,” she said softly; she stopped walking, forcing Breda to stop alongside her. Were not going to tell the Colonel. About Kimblee, or my capture, or anything disclosed in the tunnel this evening.

            Breda crossed his arms, hazel eyes narrowed. His mouth was pursed in a thin, grim line, but after a moment he gave a curt nod. His said more with his silence than he ever could with words. Riza knew his meaning well enough.

            “He always feels the need to protect us, Heymans…” She smiled a small, sad smile. But this is an alchemists world, a world of reciprocity. If he is to save the people he cares about, then we must be there to save him first.

            “Even if it means dyin’?”

            “Even if it means dying.” She stared into the darkness at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, death is a mercy, when faced with the possible alternatives.

            The Second Lieutenant shrugged. If thats the word, Riza, Ill follow it.

            Hawkeye nodded. There was nothing more to be said, and they had a job to do.

            They ran to catch up to Fuery. As they navigated the darkness, the smell of blood grew thinner in the air, and the floor rose out of the sloughing runoff to level off into a narrow brick walkway. Through the cracks in the storm drains, dawn was fast approaching.

            Riza thought of the shadow moving unseen through the intestines of the city, darker than the starless sky, an outline of the night dressed in a white suit. Moving in dimensions she could not perceive. She had lived these past months with the weak reassurance that the one place the Homunculi could not go, at least, was inside her mind.

            But the Crimson Alchemist had burrowed there like an insect. An echo of him would always remain. A stain on her soul.

            Hawkeye looked around. The passageways seemed to form the base of an oubliette, the walls curving over her head, capped by the ceiling and the streets and the city and the stars. Boundless space bound inside the tunnels. A universe inverted. 

            Caught in the liminal spaces of aligned oppositions, between the unbroken and the broken, the now and the then, the living and the dead, stretched out in its near infinite repetition.

 

             Further still at an unearthly height,

            One luminary clock against the sky 

            Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

            I have been one. 

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[personal profile] smash_fic2017-08-19 10:33 am

A Sin's Pain - Short Story 2017

Entry Details:
Title: A Sin's Pain
Rating: PG
Prompt: "Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart." - Haruki Murakami
Fandom/Series: Seven Deadly Sins
Word Count: 3,650
Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s)
Summary: Meliodas beings to remember his past with Liz, and Gowther becomes curious about how losing someone you love would feel for a human. To find out, Gowther puts Meliodas under his spell and leads the Captain through a series of twisted dreams and memories.

A Sin's Pain

Melidoas woke suddenly with a gasp, his startlingly green eyes wet with tears. Sitting up, he drew a shaking hand across his sweaty face. It was a dream he’d had many times before – often when he was still awake – but still. It never ceased to pain him. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get her final image out of his head: Liz. No matter how hard he tried, he always saw her leaning against a wall, covered in blood both her own and that of others as she took her last breath. The gaping hole that her passing caused him was one that seemed unlikely to fade anytime soon, though it had been over ten years at this point. His time with Liz was one of those things that, though painful beyond reckoning to recall, Meliodas would never choose to forget if he lived another three thousand years. Even now, when he thought of her – her smile, her laugh, the way they fought – his heart spasmed painfully in his chest. Why did you have to die like that, Meliodas thought to himself. Truth is, if she’d never met me she would have been far better off. Sometimes I wish we’d never had.

Meliodas sighed as he swung his legs out of bed, standing barefooted on the cold wooden floor. Crossing to the other side of the room, he stared at his reflection in the mirror. For the life of him, he still couldn’t figure out what the daft woman had seen in him. On the other hand…it was painfully obvious what he had seen in her. She had been stunning in her beauty and – of course, Meliodas had a weakness for full-figured women. Smiling sadly, he glanced at the sword that leaned against the wall beside his bed. It had been a gift from Liz; in his arrogance, he had turned the gift down, saying only that he didn’t want to kill anyone. It had taken someone else to make him realize that she had never wanted him to kill at all – only to live. What a fool, he thought. It was his fault she had died; it was him that she had been following, after all. She had been quite a bit less powerful than him, but even so, her strength had always awed him. To see her armor rent and her smile vanished…even now, his heart ached. He’d never understood before what humans meant when they said that losing someone you loved was a wound that never healed. He’d always thought that he was above such things. Oh, how wrong he had been. The moment her eyes had gone blank and lost the laugh that was always lingering there, it felt like he was being torn limb from limb. He’d nearly lost consciousness, the pain was so bone-deep.

Raising a hand to his face, Meliodas wiped a tear from his cheek and he sank slowly to the floor, trembling with emotion. Ban would never let him hear the end of it if he could see his Captain now. Even so, memories he couldn’t hold back flooded his head; the way she looked in the early morning light, her laugh, the way it had felt when she slept beside him, the way her short hair would get tousled by the wind, her sword glinting in the sun when she would fight beside him…He felt like he was being torn asunder. Meliodas groaned into his hands, tears he never wanted to shed again soaking into his cheeks.

“Why?” He whispered, “Why did you have to be so foolish? You swore you’d be by my side forever, but you’re not here now. So, what am I supposed to do, Liz? What am I supposed to do?”
As if his memories were trying to supply him with an answer, another face flooded his mind – a face that was similar to Liz’s, but belonging to someone else entirely. Elizabeth. Her name alone was like a soothing balm against a burn. Closing his eyes, Meliodas smiled again as an entirely different set of memories flooded his mind. If it hadn’t been for Elizabeth, he probably would never have been reunited with his fellow Sins. Her bravery – not to mention her full figure – had enticed the disgraced Captain to follow her back to the kingdom that had betrayed him and his compatriots in the first place, reuniting with the other Seven Deadly Sins on the way. If not for her, they would never have been able to prove their innocence and regain their reputations.

In fact, it had been Elizabeth who had returned his sword to him. She had taught him the meaning behind Liz’s gift, and shone a new light on an otherwise-painful memory. She had brought him through so much pain and suffering already and reminded him of the duty he had long ago forced himself to forget. But more than that, she had given him a purpose in life; something he hadn’t had in a very long time. She’d given him someone that he had to protect with his very life. He had promised her that no matter what, he would protect her and make sure that she was safe. Maybe that was why he’d all but abducted her on this quest of his. Lord knew she had absolutely nothing to do with it, but she had come along all the same, seeming to be happy just to be with him and the other Sins. Huh, he thought. She seemed to be pretty happy when it was just the two of us and Hawk, too. Meliodas smiled to himself, You just can’t help yourself can you? Pretty eyes and a full chest, that’s all you see, isn’t it? Never mind that she’s a Princess, never mind that your face looks like that of a twelve-year-old. You clapped eyes on her, and decided. You didn’t ask her, you just decided, all on your own. She’s just going to get in the way, or get herself hurt – or worse. You never thought of any of that, did you? No, you just knew you didn’t want to be apart from her and brought her along on this crazy journey of yours. You’re as bad as Ban is when it comes to that Fairy of his, Elaine. Although…The look on the King’s face was well worth it. Not to mention the insane joy that was in Elizabeth’s face when she said that she would come. Although “said” might be the wrong word…It was more that she threw herself out of the window into your arms.

Every now and then, the Princess reminded him of his lost Liz. Even her name was similar, for pity’s sake. Liz and Elizabeth were so similar in some ways that it cut him to the quick. They were both strong, capable women who faced the world with a smile and a spine of steel. But where Liz had been a fighter, Elizabeth was a healer. Where Liz would scream at him for “public displays of affection”, as he referred to them, Elizabeth would just blush and squeal. Even trying to reconcile the two made his heart ache. He almost felt like he was betraying his beloved Liz, feeling this way about someone else. Sighing. Meliodas allowed himself to fall backwards onto his back; the cool floor felt soothing on his bare back. Some days, it seemed like the two women would be the death of him. He didn’t know what hurt more – losing Liz, or moving on from her. A cool, refreshing breeze toyed playfully with his long, blonde hair when it danced in his open window and across his bare chest. Glancing again at the sword that laid across his legs, he grimaced slightly; it had seen far more action than he was comfortable with in recent battles – many of which had been fought to defend Elizabeth. It was like the woman invited danger.

Meliodas flinched, How very like Liz, he thought. Sometimes I look at her and I swear they’re the same person. Ugh. You aren’t doing yourself any favors here. Liz is Liz, and Elizabeth is Elizabeth. Two totally different people. Besides, how much would this hurt Elizabeth if she knew what you were thinking about? Groaning, Meliodas placed his palms flat against the floor and flipped onto his feet. Well, the sun’s coming up anyway. He shook his head viciously as yet another image of Liz’s final moment popped unbidden into his mind. Shrugging into his favorite white button-up shirt and black vest, matching white pants and his most comfortable black half-boots. Glancing in the mirror before he left his bedroom, Meliodas ran a hand through his hair and shrugged, “I guess that’ll just have to do,” he said to his reflection.

Meliodas forced his usual happy expression onto his face and opened the door, making a sharp turn left and heading down the stairs to the tavern, where he could already hear someone moving around. Three guesses and the first two don’t count, he thought to himself. Sure enough, as his foot touched the final stair she sailed into view, scrubbing the floor with mop and bucket in tow. Caught off guard, Meliodas just paused where he was to lean against the wall of the stairwell with a dopey grin on his face. Somehow, the woman managed to take his breath away. She had stood through so much with him already, and was ready to do it again; he couldn’t believe how fortunate he was. And the way she moved…She didn’t walk, she floated. He’d always been content to run his tavern his way, on his terms, with no one to help him but Hawk. The minute she’d walked into his tavern, though – it was like an energy had filled the place that Meliodas hadn’t known had been missing until it had suddenly appeared. The thought made him smile. He didn’t know how the woman did it, but just watching her clean the tavern made his heart pound.

Just then, he sensed someone behind him. “Good morning, Captain,” came the cold voice of Gowther, “Are you watching Elizabeth? Is she doing something interesting?”

Meliodas chuckled nervously as Elizabeth turned and brushed her hair out of her right eye, smiling hugely over her shoulder at him, “Good morning, Sir Meliodas! Did you sleep well? Are you hungry? I could make you something.”

Meliodas smiled even wider and bounced off the last stair towards his favorite waitress, reaching around and grasping her tightly in his usual “welcome”. Elizabeth squealed and dropped the mop, blushing furiously. The sound of more footsteps on the stairs alerted them to the presence of the others as a dark, gravely female voice taunted, “What? You’re at it already, Captain? Give the poor girl a break. It’s too early for your lecherous behavior, don’t you think?”

Meliodas released Elizabeth and turned, smiling massively, “Nope!” he answered happily. “Although, we should really send someone out to go hunting.”

Without missing a beat, Dianne piped up happily, “I’ll go, Captain!” Without another word, Dianne turned to the front door of the tavern, wrenched it open, and leapt.

“Dianne! Wait for me,” cried King frantically as he dove after her on his Chaistefoil.

Meliodas frowned after them, “Well, she could have waited for me to tell Hawk’s mom to stop, at least,” he pouted to himself. Suddenly his expression cleared and he smiled again, clasping his hands behind his head and sighing happily, “Well, this seems like as good a spot as any to set down for a while! Elizabeth, why don’t you, Merlin, and Hawk go into town and do some advertising for the tavern? Gowther and I can stay here and make sure that everything is ready.”

Elizabeth glanced apprehensively at Gowther and Meliodas, “O…Okay…Just don’t do any cooking, okay Sir Meliodas?”

Meliodas laughed, “No worries! I’ll stay out of the kitchen!” Gowther had stayed silent through the entire exchange, as was his norm, and yet…Meliodas felt that there was something on the man’s mind. Glancing over his shoulder, Meliodas cocked his head at Gowther but when the man remained silent, Meliodas shrugged and crossed to the bar to take inventory of their supplies. Gowther followed him silently, still staring at his Captain with a curious expression. Meliodas shook his head, Well, whatever it is that’s on his mind, I’m sure Gowther will bring it up when he’s ready. Biding his time, Meliodas completed his inventory and began to scrub down the counters as Gowther watched.

At last, Gowther shifted and made a small noise in the back of his throat, “Ah, Captain?”

Meliodas smiled and looked up, leaning on the bar, “I thought there was something on your mind. What is it, Gowther?”

Gowther shifted his feet uncomfortably, “Well, I couldn’t help but get a sense of what you were thinking about this morning. I…I have something of an odd request and I’m not sure how you’ll react to it.”

Meliodas cocked his head, “You? An odd request? That’s the only kind of request you know how to make, Gowther. Go ahead.”

Gowther smiled awkwardly, “I…I was wondering if you might let me experience your memories. These types of emotions are so foreign to me…I’d like to see what it feels like through the eyes of someone that I know well.”

Meliodas’ eyebrows shot up, “Well, that’s definitely not what I was expecting. Huh. So, what? You want to put me in that sort of waking dream that you use on people?”

Gowther smiled and nodded, “Uh-huh. It allows me to experience the emotions of whoever it is that’s under my influence at the time.”

“Huh. That sounds…interesting. What does it do to me?”

Gowther frowned, “Hm. I’m not really sure. I know that I can’t control what happens once you’re in the dream, but I think your train of thought dictates what you see.”

“Huh.” Meliodas thought about it for a moment, “Oh, why not? It seems like it might be interesting, at least. Sounds like a new experience – those are rare for me. I’m actually looking forward to this; you’ve never used your powers on me before.”

Gowther nodded, “Okay, then. I’m going to put my hand on your forehead, and then you’ll be in the dream.” Meliodas nodded and settled into a comfortable chair as Gowther approached him. He closed his eyes as Gowther raised his hand and laid it on Meliodas’ forehead. All at once, the bar dissolved around him.

At first, Meliodas didn’t know where he was. Then, he heard someone behind him say, “There you are. I was wondering where you’d gotten to so early this morning; you weren’t there when I woke up, so I was worried.”

Meliodas froze. That sounded like…But it couldn’t be. Slowly, he turned around and there she was. Liz. His Liz. She was standing in front of him, just like she used to with that smile on her face that she saved just for him wearing a dress of palest green that flowed easily around her ankles.

Meliodas felt his heart lurch painfully in his chest as her eyes sparkled with a laugh that was always ready to bubble out at any moment. He blinked hard, but she didn’t fade away like she did in his dreams. “Liz?” He said, hardly able to believe that she was standing in front of him, “What…What’s going on?”

Liz laughed at him as she reached for him, bending low to kiss him, “Oh, nothing. Why would you think something was happening? I just wanted to say good morning for the last time.” She sailed past him, clearly unaware that she had twisted a dagger in his heart.

“What do you mean, for the last time?”

Liz turned and smiled at him with an oddly vacant expression. Suddenly, Meliodas realized that the light just wasn’t quite right; it was the vivid orange of flames, rather than the soft morning light it had been a moment ago. All at once, the acrid smell of smoke and other unmentionable odors rose to fill his nostrils, gagging him. Where one moment she had been wearing a pale green dress, she was now wearing her armor and clutching her sword in her right hand. Meliodas watched in horror as blood trickled down her forehead and dripped off the end of her nose, “I died, don’t you remember? It might as well have been you that killed me. If it hadn’t been for you, I would still be alive.” The vacant smile slid from Liz’s face as she collapsed to the ground, motionless.

Meliodas lunged towards her, his body heavy with armor he couldn’t remember putting on. He fell to his knees beside her, gathering her limp form in his arms. “Liz, no!” But the face that lolled in his arms wasn’t Liz – but rather Elizabeth.

Her blue eyes opened and she smiled up at him, “You always make me feel so safe, Sir Meliodas.”

Meliodas shook his head, “How can you feel safe in the middle of all this?” He gestured a hand at the devastation around him, “How can you feel safe, knowing that you can die at any moment while you’re by my side?”

Elizabeth sighed, “It’s because I’m by your side,” she said softly, “I don’t feel like I have to be afraid when I’m with you. I know that no matter what happens, you’ll take care of me and of our friends. That’s why I’m happy to be near you, why I’m happy to love you.”

Meliodas’ eyes went wide, “Love me? What do you mean?”

Elizabeth giggled, “I mean I love you, Sir Meliodas,” she repeated.

“But…” he began to argue, but when he looked up the scene had changed again. He was once again in the Boar’s Hat, leaning against the bar as he watched Elizabeth clean the tables before their next rush. His heart fluttered as he watched her all but dance as she did her job, a look of deepest contentment on her face. As she turned, Meliodas was stunned to see a baby on her back – a baby with his blond hair. He smiled to himself as he crossed to her and kissed first her, then the baby.

“What was that for?” She asked him.

Meliodas smiled, “Oh, nothing. I’m just reminding myself what I have to be happy about.” An explosion suddenly door the front of the Boar’s Hat apart, sending shrapnel and bits of wood everywhere. Looking around the remains of the tavern in a panic, Meliodas found Elizabeth lying under a table, blood slowly seeping across the floor she had so proudly kept so perfectly clean. He didn’t want to shove the table off of her and the child strapped to her back – he knew what he would find. Meliodas’ eyes narrowed, “That’s enough. That’s enough, Gowther. I’ve seen enough.”

“I said that’s enough,” Meliodas said more firmly as his eyes flew open and a tear trickled down his cheek.

Gowther stumbled back, stunned. He raised a trembling hand to his cheek, staring in awe at the dampness that was on his fingertips, “I…I think I’ve sprung a leak. Is there something wrong with me?”

Meliodas chuckled as he wiped his face, “No, Gowther. Nothing’s wrong with you. You’re crying. So; did that satisfy your curiosity?”

Gowther nodded, frowning, “Yes. It didn’t feel nice at all. Why do you feel love? If it’s so easy to lose, why do you feel it at all? Wouldn’t it be easier to not feel at all, instead of risk that kind of pain?”

Meliodas smiled patiently at his companion, “I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. But the truth is, even though some of my memories tear me apart, there are others that warm me from the inside every time I think about them. I’ll take a thousand painful memories for one happy one with the people I love any day.”

Just then, the door of the Boar’s Hat was flung open and the others came filing in, all chattering and laughing happily among themselves. Gowther watched the scene with an almost tender look in his usually-cold eyes, “I’m sorry, Captain.”

Meliodas glanced at him in confusion, “What for?”

“I didn’t mean to upset you, Captain. I’m sorry. I should have kept my curiosity to myself. It’s not my place to play with human emotions.”

Meliodas chuckled, “Don’t be ridiculous. You didn’t play with anything. All you did was remind me just what it is that I have – and what I may possibly have in the future. You showed me how easy it is to lose everything I have, and reminded me how hard I need to fight in the future to defend what is precious to me. I’m not upset, Gowther. In fact, I’m more determined than ever to protect the people I love.” Meliodas patted Gowther on the shoulder and crossed the tavern to join in the fun.

Gowther stayed by the bar, watching the lively group while his thoughts chased each other around in his head, “I guess I learned something, too. It’s good to be with friends,” he said quietly to himself.

“Gowther, why don’t you come help? The girls have a lot of supplies; they could probably use the help!”

Gowther half-smiled, “Sure,” he called back. I guess humans are even more complicated than I thought. Even so…I think I understand the Captain a bit better now than I did before.
Meliodas watched Gowther approach them with a small smile on his face. I never thought I’d be grateful to be reminded of the past, he thought as he gazed fondly at Elizabeth. But then, the present seems to be trying to repair the past…I have no idea where this is going – but I can’t wait to find out.

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