[EXT: The park, at night. LONE GIRL sits on a swingset.]
LONE GIRL (to self)
I really want Kotetsu to like me, but he doesn't even look my way. I just don't know what to do. Oh, my heart goes doki doki when I see him.
[An Evil Monster arrives]
I will use the confusion in your heart to drain you of your pure spirit energy! Nyahahaha!
Eeek! I'm helpless and afraid!
[In a cloud of rose petals, a SAILOR SUITED GIRL arrives, twirling on one foot and giving an upskirt before posing with a heart shaped wand.]
SAILOR SUITED GIRL
Halt, minion of evil! Young girls have a right to their pure thoughts of romance and love! How dare you enter such a sacred place? In the name of love and justice, I will show you no mercy, for I am Magical Princess Sailor Rose Wand!
[30 second long power up sequence]
MAGICAL PRINCESS SAILOR ROSE WAND
Rose... wand... floating... superior... crystal... eternal... beautiful... flower... genocide!
Thank you, Magical Princess Sailor Rose Wand!
MAGICAL PRINCESS SAILOR ROSE WAND
Remember, if you want to impress that special boy, make sure your hair is spotlessly clean with Himemiya Heavy Industry Concern Superior Girl-Time Bath Soap! Now, back to the Eternal Garden. Come, Kawaiiko!
TALKING ANIMAL MASCOT
Let's go, Magical Princess Sailor Rose Wand!
MagicalPrincessSailorRoseWand isbroughttoyoutoday byHimemiyaHeavyIndustryConcernSuperior Girl-TimeBathSoap notforinternaluse.
Television's warm glow acts as a demi-omnidirectional light source. The colored, shifting lamplight of television expands out from the rectangular screen to light what's just above it, just below it, and what's in front of it... light spreading rather than simply directing itself along one vector. Yet, it only can light things generally in front of it... the dim patches of wall and floor behind it have to survive on the leftovers of radiosity, light bouncing off the objects of the room and back again.
That's why it's impossible to see a poster for the popular j-pop idol of the week, hanging at a poorly balanced angle on the wall behind the television. You can see the other posters, also of various pop bands -- multiple thumbtack holes in the walls indicate that these posters are rotated on a routine basis, as music comes and goes from the limelight. The light isn't strong enough to sink into these tiny pits in the plaster, so they stand out like blackheads on a face of flawless ivory skin.
Also visible are the rows stuffed dolls encircling the room... on a desk, on a shelf, on the windowsill (with a delicate ribbon tacked across the gap to prevent them from toppling out the open window). Any surface on which you can line up a few of the little plush toys, they are lined up; anime characters and fuzzy animals and all manners of doll, all looking inward to the center of the room.
There's also a flickering shadow on the wall opposite the television. This is because something blocks those cathode rays from striking the wall near the floor... the television is on the floor, right in front of the cot in the center of the room. A cot alone is not tall enough to stop the light, but a cot with a young girl snuggled under the covers, eyes locked on the glowing light is enough. Cocooned safely underneath her winter quilt, all that's visible of her is a few stray locks of black hair and her unblinking eyes... an expressionless blank stare, possibly because the commercials were on, possibly not.
The nearby alarm clock reads 11:59, well past her bedtime. This is why the television is kept so close, the volume kept down, so her parents aren't alarmed. What they don't know won't hurt them.
"Oh no!", Kawaiiko the talking cat spoke after a word from our sponsors. "The Darkverse is stealing pure energy from the baseball team! Quick, Magical Princess Sailor Heart Wand--"
Her eyes didn't move from the light of the television.
"Himei? Are you asleep?"
"Yes," the girl replied, hoping that would do.
A soft 'whuff' was heard, as a shadow slinked to stand on top of the television, looking down at her. But not looking down on her.
"You can feel it, right?" her cat asked, from his perch atop the set. "We have to go. Come on."
My name is Shoutan Himei. I'm sixteen years old, and I'm very tired.
I like popular music and I like shoujo anime. I watch a lot of television, but I also read romance novels and I go to see movies whenever I have a chance; I'm a bit of a media hound, I guess, but that's normal for a girl my age and my allowance. I cry at the end of really emotional movies, or books, or shows, or whatever; so I make sure I bring hankies with me, just in case. That's normal too.
I enjoy collecting stuffed animals and UFO catcher dolls more than anything else. At last check, I have about sixty seven and plans to get a few more once they're released next week; I keep up with the industry through websites specially made for collectors like me. But I don't leave them cooped up in their boxes or bags -- I keep my favorite ten dolls in bed with me, because they're good to cuddle when it's cold and make a great pillow when I just can't get comfortable enough to sleep. I don't have a very big room so storing them is a starting to become a real problem. I'm planning to buy a collector's professional looking glass display case soon, once I have enough money. I guess that could be a problem in an earthquake, but I think I can reinforce it enough to keep it safe.
My school is Wazurau High School in a prefecture at the outskirts of Tokyo. My class is 2F, and I sit near the lockers in the back where the heat exchange vent is, since I get cold very easily. I do pretty well in school, especially in literature. My teacher tells me I'm reading and writing two grade levels above where I should be, so I try not to let it show a lot; no need to flaunt that or make anybody feel bad. Sometimes it's really hard to concentrate, which takes care of this for me... I get very tired, because I'm up very late. See, there are shows I can't see during the day because I'm usually very busy, so I can only see them at night... plus I have other things I have to do at night. From time to time.
I guess I should explain why I'm tired, now that I think about it.
My show is almost done, but I won't be able to go to bed soon. That's because I'm a perfectly ordinary girl and I have an ordinary life... but I've also got another life. And I hate it. I hate every minute of it.
A monster prowled the alleys of Tokyo. It looked completely human, but was not; you could tell there was a kind of mad, animalistic drive behind those eyes. The intensity of the stare, the way the canines were revealed, everything about it suggested a caged animal driven into some kind of blood frenzy rather than an ordinary looking forty seven year old businessman in a suit and tie. The tie was a little frayed and he'd lost his jacket somewhere, but on quick observation those things would be ignored once you got a look at the eyes...
This alley felt good to him; he felt right at home here. He'd been enjoying himself in this alley for the last quarter of an hour, enjoying himself in a way he'd never tried before. The man had a home, and he was planning to go back to it soon... very soon, he thought with a smile, since his wife was there. He'd been secretly wishing her dead for a long time, but tonight he felt like he could actually do it. He could finally rid himself of that nag once and for all. His laughter rose unbidden, a gleefully wicked shout of joy at realizing that after years of a soul-crushing desk job and a bastard of a boss and an arrogant wife and everything that kept him down, he was truly FREE--
"Stop right there!"
Cops? Oh boy. A cop once gave him a parking ticket. He really wanted to sink his teeth into a...
Sixteen year old girl wearing some kind of weird school uniform, with a cat. Actually, that would be fun too, but in a different way, much like five minutes ago when he... he flexed his fingers, feeling strength and control there that he hadn't had in his four decades on this Earth.
This didn't scare her. He couldn't read any sort of emotion off her, as she stood in the bizarre uniform... a bright blue and pink trimmed fuku, with long gloves and boots that would be more fitting on a professional wrestler than a student. She wasn't even looking directly at him, her eyes a little defocused and seeming to look at everything simultaneously rather than having any intense focus. This sort of mindlessness insulted the monster. He wanted fear, and he would get it no matter how.
"You should run home, little girl," he growled, trying to scare a reaction out of her. "Not that you can run faster than I can. I'm free. I'm finally free, and I'm--"
"People should feel safe walking the streets of Tokyo, not afraid of people like you waiting in shadows," the 'sailor' girl pronounced, pointing dramatically. The sudden burst of emotion actually surprised the beast. "They shouldn't have to be afraid of... you're going to... I..."
...and finally, fear. An awkward, unfocused fear that wasn't satisfying in the slightest. The awkwardness of the moment was so thick that the monster actually paused, waiting to see what was supposed to happen next, her own rampant confusion seeming to affect him. The sailor kept her frozen pose... eyes suddenly quite afraid, not of him, but from some variant of stage fright. Like a doctor in the middle of a complex operation forgetting which hemisphere of the brain he was supposed to be cutting into...
The cat spoke up for her. "Punish," he prompted quietly, averting his eyes in embarrassment.
"I'm going to punch you," the sailor continued, completing the arm gesture at the same time. "Punish. I'm going to punish you. For I am Sailor Salvation and I will punish you, foul Yamiko demon, in the name of goodness!"
The enemy, the monster thought. I don't know how I know, but I know she is my enemy. I must destroy the Sailor who threatens our existence. And, he thought on a personal note, it's just the sort of thing he always wanted to do but never had the spine to do until tonight.
"Well then," he spoke. He kicked a nearby dumpster to shove it aside, and reveal his night's handiwork. "I'll be happy to fight you, Sailor Salvation. Then maybe you can join your classmate!"
Psychological tactics, quite lovely, he thought. NOW he could smell a true look of fear in her eyes. The demon rushed at the horrified girl, ready to tear her apart and then return to his true home in the dark world, yes, the one he felt pulled towards even now--
What he noticed too late was that inside the girl's fear was a deep-rooted core of loathing. The kind of loathing that can work up fear into a fine, rich lather of pure rage...
My teacher encourages me to practice my writing (in private). I like to make up good metaphors because people relate to them better than just writing out what's really going on. So I could just say 'I got mad', but that's really not enough to describe how I felt. I really want to try this. I want to make sure it's painfully clear with the best words I know exactly how I felt, and why. I need to say this.
See, the line between hindsight, foresight and the horror of what you're seeing right now has a tendency to blur like a bad stroboscopic effect. (Stroboscopic, that's a good word; even if I don't know exactly what it means, it feels nice and clinical. Clinical is what I'm looking for right now. Clinical, like doctors who look at the virus from afar and frown and make notes but never, ever touch it, never experience the fever directly...)
Sight. The sight, yes. Clinically, it was a thirteen year old girl wedged behind a dumpster, beaten to death and clearly abused. Just an innocent bystander who the Yamiko likely grabbed after he turned. Simple enough.
This is not the worst thing I've ever seen. Maybe it ranks in the top five, but not the worst; most of the top five I actually saw on television. But that didn't matter... how bad something is compared to other things doesn't change it being bad, bad period, very bad, the kind of bad you can't put your mind around because it's too big...
So, I reacted. I think I know why I reacted the way I did, too.
In that moment, when I first saw what the Yamiko had done, I had a single-sentence thought: This shouldn't be happening. No normal person should have to experience this, should have to be caught between these two shadow forces and their ridiculous dance.
This girl, minutes ago, was likely heading home after visiting a friend's house, or was running an errand late at night... regardless, she was alive and well and normal and living out a normal life, before she stepped into a hole in life's road and landed in the clutches of a Yamiko. Every ordinary, plain thing about her life ended right there... and shortly after that, her life itself, during the kind of screaming horror that just should not have EXISTED in this girl's life.
Nobody should have to be exposed to that. But the Yamiko do expose you, and the exposure kills or cripples... the lucky ones forget all about it and return to normality. She didn't get that chance. She should have...
A big thought for what should be a single sentence, but since I've experienced that kind of abnormal life for the last five years, I didn't have to explore it real deeply to recognize it. I just had to think: This shouldn't be happening.
In that split second, I snapped. It felt unpleasantly like something snapping across my back, like a birch rod or a whip; a harsh cracking sting, yet darkly silent. I boiled inside as I saw the sight, the Yamiko and the girl. Everything I had submerged in my nightly dose of television rushed to the surface and got the bends. My anima was raped by my animus until one screamed out in emotional pain and the other in sadistic anger, and I couldn't tell which was doing what...
Then the entire wad of balled up fury and pain focused itself on the Yamiko and I lost track of anything that happened next. Sorry.
Though, given the amount of blood I was kneeling in (that didn't belong to me) when I finally slotted back into regular time, I think I won.
A pair of furry ears peeked around from behind a garbage can. They were followed by more of the cat's head, but only enough to get a good look at the scene.
Normally, cats don't have the kind of emotional reaction that would make them nauseatingly sick at a scene. This was a special cat, however, and he was going to hock up a hairball if he looked any more at what was left of the Yamiko. Instead, he sucked it up and concentrated on his charge... the young sailor suited warrior who was kneeling in a thick puddle of what was previously inside the demon.
"...Himei?" he asked quietly, ready to run for cover if she jumped him in her frenzied state. "You okay?"
"I think I won," the girl said quietly. "Can we go home now?"
Thank goodness, the cat thought as he padded out from behind the can. She's safe. Probably not WELL, but safe to be around is a good base to build on. "This is gonna be hard to hide," he spoke. "I don't think he's going to be happy about this. Why didn't you use your Purifying Shining Light attack? The Yamiko would have been vaporized..."
"I think I forgot," the sailor said in a dead monotone, rising to her feet and straightening out her ruined skirt. "I forgot to use my attack. I'm sorry. But it doesn't really matter, does it? I won, so I'm done. Can we go home now, Dusty? I'm so tired..."
Damn, Dusty the Cat thought. Just what she doesn't need, another chewing out... he jumped across a puddle, wanting to be by her side rather than by HIS side... even if the guy was his boss, he didn't have to like him. He especially didn't have to like that annoying clack of his cane on the pavement, always a good sign of his coming even if he didn't announce his presence...
'He', in this case, being a tall boy in an exquisitely tailored white and gold tuxedo with cape and top hat. Evening wear would be appropriate for the evening, but a white mask was not unless you were heading to a costume ball. He whisked along to the mouth of the alley -- he wouldn't dare walk inside the stinking mess with his clean clothes, not after what just transpired. Content to frown on it from fifteen feet away, he spoke up in a commanding voice.
"Five times," he spoke. "Five times you have done this, Sailor Salvation. What is the problem? Have you forgotten your training? The darkness is to be purged by the light; that is how we protect the world from their taint. All you have done is cause a mess for the world to--"
"It was already going to be a mess," the girl spoke, a bit of slow venom creeping into her monotone. She pointed to the girl's body... without looking at it again, never again. "He left a mess. His host is gone, likely dead; the police will end up investigating this tomorrow, link the death to the host after testing the blood, and suddenly an ordinary guy who's done nothing wrong in his life pops up as tomorrow's top story as a vicious child killer. Tell me how we've defended goodness and righteousness tonight. But what does it matter? I defeated the monster, Magnificent Kamen. That's all you want me to do."
"I want you to DEFEAT the evil, not... this unpleasantness," the named Magnificent Kamen spoke, wrinkling his nose. "It's not becoming of the noble sailor-suited senshi to act like the very monsters she seeks to defeat. Five times you have acted this way... lost control, gone wild, let your powers go unchecked. You're getting more and more unstable by the day, Sailor Salvation. Unreliable. Dangerous--"
"Don't you think I know that?" she asked, the venom replaced with ice. "I lost it. I can't hold onto it easily anymore. Maybe if you were in the trenches fighting every day like I am instead of watching from afar, you'd understand exactly how awful it can be! This shouldn't be happening to me!"
Dusty's fur started to rise. Maybe the Kamen never showed true emotion beyond grace and calm, but the cat could sense a rising anger inside him. "Himei..." he warmed quietly--
"Silence, animal," the Kamen ordered, pointing to the cat with his cane. Dusty skittered behind his owner's legs, hiding. "Your complaining has also been increasing these days, Sailor Salvation. You should be thankful for being able to save the world from the forces of Yami-gaia. The selflessness of your fight allows everybody you know, everybody you've ever cared about to go on in peace without having to know of--"
"Tell that to her," she spoke again. "She's dead -- whatever peace she's got right now is not the kind she would have wanted. Don't you get it? I'm not doing anything. Nothing's changing, and I'm not winning this war. I hate it. I hate everything about being Sailor Salvation! I hate you and the powers you gave me five years ago, and I hate my stupid uniform and I hate my 'Purifying Shining Light', and I hate LIVING THIS WAY AND--"
The hand of the kamen blurred slightly, as he whisked it across the air. Her voice was silenced. She didn't resist this; when the Kamen exerted his will, it was futile to stop him.
"I see this is not going to work," he said with some tiny note of disappointment. "Never before have I had a sailor who has despised the fuku as much as you do. Your fits of depression and rage are not becoming of the Sailor. I'm afraid I have to terminate our relationship immediately."
Himei's eyes widened in shock. "...?"
"Go home," the Kamen ordered, turning his back on the (now former) Sailor Salvation. He whisked his hand again, restoring her voice. "I don't wish to see you again. You disgust me, and are unworthy of the power you hold. Begone."
The sound of his cane on the dry pavement echoed through the alley, as the Kamen walked off. Eventually the sound ceased... Magnificent Kamen technically only walked for appearance and flair. How he traveled when nobody was looking was far more efficient.
Dusty hissed at the air he occupied, a pathetic but satisfying gesture of defiance. He walked around in front of Himei, to try and check on her emotional state. Given the years they had spent together, he was pretty good at this task, but tonight... she was almost unreadable. Shock, yes, but beyond that he couldn't tell. Was she angry? Was she going to cry? This was the only life she had known, or rather the only life she'd remembered.
It was impossible, of course. Dusty got a certain amount of knowledge about the Sailors and Yami-gaia and all that on the day Magnificent Kamen made him a sentient animal guardian. Nothing he knew of the legends and myths spoke of someone being... well, fired. And here it had happened.
"Himei...?" he tested.
"I disgust him," she repeated. "I'm disgusting and unworthy. I'm unworthy of the fuku..."
"Maybe you should sleep on it," Dusty quickly suggested. "You know you always feel better after a good night's sleep. Well, maybe not better, but it never feels as big or important when you wake up. You told me that, remember? Sleep is exactly what you need to--"
Laughter. A weird, nasty sort of laugh that upshifted to a happy laugh after a few moments. Dusty's tail twitched, as he tried to make out what was so funny...
Himei Shoutan, no longer Sailor Salvation (despite continuing to wear the fuku) wiped some tears from her eyes... and smiled, as she crouched down to pet her cat. "I'm disgusting and unworthy," she repeated yet again. "Isn't that... wonderful? I'm finally unworthy. It's over, Dusty. I don't have to live this life anymore. I'm not dreaming, right? I'm not seeing things and hearing things?"
"I don't think you're dreaming," Dusty replied, a little puzzled.
"Good," she said, rising. She closed her eyes, grasping the white heart shaped pendant around her neck... and the fuku faded, returning her to her pajamas. She pulled the small ivory pendant out from her fuzzy wool top, and yanked the string off over her head. "Then I'm never going to have to use this again. Now, we can go back home. Tomorrow... I get to be normal..."
"What about... err... them?" Dusty asked, flicking his tail at the 1.78 bodies.
"It doesn't matter," she spoke, voice returning to a flat tone as she tried not to think about it. "Let the police try to figure it out. It's not my concern anymore. I'm free. Let's go home."
I'm going to go on record and claim that the vast majority of dreams are nonsense. I know that there's arguments for symbolic interpretation and so on, but when most people dream, all they're seeing is bits and pieces of their lives divided and transformed and mixed in with stuff like penguins and cheese and the color puce. In the end, it's usually a big steaming pile of whatever and it doesn't really matter -- dreams get forgotten a few minutes after waking.
I don't forget my dreams. That's because my dreams come directly from my memories, especially memories I can't forget no matter how hard I try. Most people derive nightmares by stuffing memories and imagination in a blender and getting a smooth mishmash of stuff... mine are spooled right from memory, moment first to moment last, no invention and no imagination involved. The reality of them is actually more than enough to scare me, considering the life I lead. Led. Past tense, right? It's over.
Fortunately I don't have nightmares every night. But I do have them more often than I want to.
A young girl played with her kitten as the sky darkened over another Tokyo winter. She was told to come back exactly at four thirty, before the sun went down, but she was having too much fun to stop now. Dusty was the best birthday gift she'd ever gotten, and he was willing to play any game she liked -- he enjoyed sitting on the merry go round as she spun it, or sliding down the tall curvy slide. He even liked sitting in her lap as she rocked back and forth on the swingset -- not very hard, because it would upset his balance, but he seemed to enjoy it nonetheless.
(This is what I mean. It seems so ordinary, so plainly normal... and it stays kind of normal even when it stops being totally normal. And yet, I can feel fear creeping up even now. It's not so much what happened as much as it was what it started.)
The other kids had already left for home, but Himei had lost track of the time. It was intentional, of course; all she had to do was not look at her watch, and then she could honestly tell her mother she didn't know it was so late. Still, she'd probably go back soon, since she was getting hungry and it was getting colder out. When Dusty started shivering, she decided it was enough fun for one day and wrapped him up in her jacket, ready to leave the park.
(It seems so silly, but that's what little kids do, right? Silly things like disobeying your parents and staying out too late. That girl tonight was out way too late for someone her age, and look what going to be a mess," the girl spoke, a bit of slow venom creeping into her monotone. She pointed to the girl's body... without looking at it again, never again happened to her. Kids never think about tomorrow when they can think about right now. Later on you're too busy thinking about the past to think about right now, so I guess it balances out.)
The park only had one gate in and out of the low fenced in area. Himei reached to push it open -- just as someone reached to push it closed.
She looked up. And up. And up, since adults were tall. But it wasn't some spooky strange man with a weird expression like she was taught to avoid in class, it was just some tall lady with a happy smile.
"Hello," Himei said. "Excuse me, may I get by?"
"You could," the lady said. "What's your name, little girl?"
"Himei. What a lovely name. You know, I'm a substitute teacher," the lady spoke. "I've always loved kids. Everything about them. Even when they're bad. VERY bad. Have you been bad today, Himei-chan?"
(Simple words. Simple words sound creepy now that I'm older, but when you're younger, simple words are actually very comforting...)
"You're lying," the woman said... forcing her way through the gate. "I can tell. I could always tell in their voices when they skipped homework or were passing notes or making jokes about me behind my back. Very, very bad little girls. I'm tired of them doing that. I'm tired with having to put up with it. Himei-chan, you're going to have to be punished."
She had a kitchen knife with her, hidden in her sleeve. It wasn't hidden anymore.
(It was a Yamiko, of course. It makes sense that they'd choose a teacher. Teachers don't get a lot of respect from kids. Sure, we bow and say please and thank you and address them properly but that's all just a ritual. Practiced motion. It doesn't mean we like teachers or care what happens to them, especially the mean ones. On some level, I think the woman knew that... but she was too nice to really get upset about it. Which, of course, meant that her Yamiko doppleganger would be extremely mad about it and looking to get a little vengeance on the 'brats'.
You can't blame people for having a dark side. It's impossible not to have one, even for the nicest of people. I don't blame the host that the Yamiko stole that darkness from to come into being. I blame the Yamiko itself. I blame Yami-gaia. I blame Magnificent Kamen for teaching me those words and I blame the fuku for making me have to deal with those words over and over and--)
It was only a little cut on her hand, because she was able to stumble backwards to avoid a worse injury... but it was amplified by fear, but the kind of terror that comes when you're small and scared and the whole world just turned against you. Himei was screaming, and Dusty had landed on his feet (of course) to hiss at the awful woman, and she was kneeling down and angling her knife to hurt her even more and
(I hate nightmares, I hate having them and I wish I had less of them because even if it's just stuff I remember and I could remember it anytime I wanted it always feels worse like I was back there and experiencing it all over again instead of just remembering it--)
The figure rose behind her attacker, behind the strange lady. All Himei could see was a billowing white cloak, and the flash of a silver cane through the air --
Cracking the top of the woman's head. She howled and turned to face him, swinging wide with the knife, a strike that the cane twisted around to parry with flawless skill. Himei fell on her rear, stunned by this, a storybook prince coming to her rescue to save her from the monster... a beautiful boy with a white suit and a mask and a smile that made everything nice and great and
(what a joke, that smile doesn't mean he's comforting or happy, it means he's enjoying the kill. Magnificent Kamen only knows three emotions: bloodlust, disgust, and mild frustration. He loves to kill the Yamiko, but loves it even more when he can make me do it for him and--)
A swift kick sent the woman flying across the park. She slammed hard into a jungle gym, losing her knife and getting tangled in the hard iron bars. The prince twirled on one foot, seeming to blur as he moved... and pointed his cane directly at her, a glowing ball of white light forming at its tip...
"Cleansing Holy Beam!" he shouted, in a voice that had its own built in echo.
Like a weird special effect in a video game, brilliant white light poured from the end of the cane, beelining for the woman. When it struck, Himei's eyes were momentarily blinded. She could hear a scream, just for a scant moment... and then silence.
When her sight came back, the woman had gone away. Maybe she ran off? But the prince was still there... kneeling on one knee, offering a hand to her. Dusty continued to hiss at the man, but Himei was too shocked to hear the kitty.
"Are you okay, little girl?" he asked, smiling.
(I can't believe I was so stupid to accept what I was seeing, but I feel that storybooks and those great magical girl animes were impossible. I fell for the whole act, hook line and sinker. He was putting on a show to win my favor and he won it. I've owed him one big favor ever since that was never fully repaid.)
"Y..you saved me!" Himei babbled, as she got to her feet. "Thank you thank you! You're a prince, aren't you? Wow, a real prince!"
"Yes, I am," the masked prince spoke. "And I'm fighting bad monsters like that woman. I'm glad you weren't hurt. I'm sorry you had to see that, little girl."
"You're a hero fighting monsters? Really?"
"Yes. Although... I'm looking for a smart little girl who can help me. A brave little girl just like you. You weren't afraid, were you?"
(It wouldn't have mattered if I said yes.)
"I can see you were born under a star of destiny," the man spoke. "You're just the one I've been looking for! I can teach you how to fight monsters, too. You can be strong and confident and graceful just like me, and every day will be a wonderful new adventure. Would you like that?"
"Yes, I would!"
(He was lying. I was born under a roof, not a star.)
The masked man smiled widely, and made a complicated series of hand gestures... his fingers trailing with sparkling light and glitter as he did so. "You will need a guardian animal... someone to watch over you, and help guide you when I am not around. Someone to grant you your powers. Dusty, would you like that role?"
"What?" Dusty the Cat asked. Right before saying, "Wait a second, since when could I talk?" and saying "Since when could I understand what people are saying" and "What's going on" and such, but the last one was muffled when Himei scooped her new kitty up for a big muffling hug.
"Dusty, you can talk now!" she exclaimed, overjoyed.
"Sounds like it," the incredulous cat said. He turned his furry whiskers towards the man. "Um. Magnificent Kamen, right? Don't ask me how I know that, I just sorta know it..."
(I don't blame Dusty. All he knew before then was how to be a simple cat... hunt down squeaky toys, chase lint, nap, that sort of thing. Now he had a job to do that the Kamen set him up to do, and he wouldn't realize the consequences right away... he'd figure it out as I was figuring it out. If anything, he's just as much of a victim of this as I am.)
Magnificent Kamen pulled his cape/cloak around him a little, looking stately. "You are granted knowledge of the Sailors and their ways, Dusty the Cat. That is the extent of my power... you know what to do next."
"Right, right," Dusty spoke, hopping out of Himei's arms. "Okay, Himei... hmm. What'd work... ah! You know that plastic pink necklace thing you got out of the bubble gum machine at the supermarket yesterday?"
Fishing around in her winter clothes, Himei pulled out a cheap looking trinket on a cheaper looking string. It was leaning more towards being a purple heart-shaped pendant than pink heart-shaped pendant due to a blending error in the plastics at the factory. "What, this? What about it?"
"Right, that!" Dusty proclaimed, as excited as a kitten could be. His fur stood on end, crackling with unseen power. Before her unbelieving eyes, the cheap purple plastic shifted in her hand... turning into an ivory white pendant... "I hereby grant the powers of the Sailor to you, using your new transformation pendant! Um. You hold onto it and say the magic words, then you transform into a sailor suited warrior of love and justice. I think you say... shazam! Boffo? Xyzzy? Poof?"
(Was the Holy Grail a 7-11 Big Gulp cup that someone spiffied up? The magic of it all was very dazzling, but I should have KNOWN something was wrong from the start. This wasn't how it happened on TV. It wasn't this much of a hack job.)
"The words are," Magnificent Kamen spoke with a vague note of irritation, "'Pretty Sailor Power, Transform.' But don't use it here, Himei-chan. I will come to you with your first mission in due time... for now, you must go home."
"But I wanted to try it out," Himei protested. "Do I get red ribbons all over the place and stars just like on TV?"
(TV. Always TV. I still watch TV, but now I know it's not real. I knew it wasn't real when I was younger too, but somewhere in my heart I refused to believe it was all lies. I still believed fairy tales had to be true somewhere, somehow. I was an idiot. I can't believe I got snookered so easily. Years blown thanks to a handsome young man taking advantage of a poor, stupid kid...)
"You can have all the ribbons and stars you like. But for now, you must be going," he repeated, turning to leave. "You mustn't tell anyone what has happened here. Sailors have a sworn duty to protect others from getting involved. And Dusty... please don't talk in front of anybody else. So long... Sailor Salvation!"
He took three bold steps, pushed down hard with his cane and sprung into the air. The figure seemed to hang an impossible instant in the air... before fading completely from view, as if he was a ghost.
"...Dusty?" Himei asked.
"What's 'Salvation' mean?"
"I think it means you save people."
(Saving people like the little girl today. Saving people like the businessman whose only crime was having a dark side that could be exploited. Saving people like myself--)
--dodging frantically as the guy slammed the axe down into the dirt she was lying in one second ago. Himei rolled back to her feet, trying to warm up for her purifying attack, but the fireman pressed on. One swipe to avoid, one to duck -- only to get clocked by the flat of the blade. She went limp, unable to feel her arms and legs as stars flashed in front of her eyes--
(--memories, just more memories, but they're like nightmares and that's what makes them so--)
--had to dive over the counter to avoid the knife, as she looked around frantically for Dusty. He had gotten lost somewhere in the fray, maybe hurt when all the customers ran out. Where was the Yamiko? There weren't any more sounds from the kitchen. Did she escape out of a back door? All Himei needed was one clean shot...
The world exploded in pain as she heard the hiss of pouring grease, and realized it was being poured on her. The Yamiko had grabbed one of the fry vat tins, and dumped it on--
(--enough already, I get the point, I don't want to remember this anymore but I can't stop remembering the times I--)
--struggling to get out of the jump rope, as she clenched her fists. Jump ropes weren't designed to be snapped; they were kid's toys and toys had to be durable. The handles were still hopelessly tangled together behind her back, as she tries to scrabble for them with what little reach she had... the Yamiko advancing on her, bouncing a red rubber ball. Maybe the human host it used was only six years old, but a six year old could still do some horrible things...
"You're not any fun to play with," the Yamiko said... producing a sharpened pencil. "All I ever wanted was someone else to play with me and they never would. Now you're trying to hurt me too, so I have to hurt you back--"
(--showed up in time to save me, he always does when I'm in trouble, like a safety net but he always looked so disappointed in me when he had to--)
"Never before have I had a sailor who has despised the fuku as much as you do. Your fits of depression and rage are not becoming of the Sailor. I'm afraid I have to terminate our relationship immediately."
Absolute shock. Absolute silence...
...like a long, drawn out scream ended by someone simply turning off the record player.
"Go home," Magnificent Kamen had commanded her. "I don't wish to see you again. You disgust me, and are unworthy of the power you hold. Begone."
(And then it was over.)
Shoutan Himei didn't wake up screaming, because the time for screaming was over. She simply awoke in an instant.
It took a full minute for her to come to grips with where she was; tangled and twisted into her comforter, on her cot, in her room, surrounded by her stuffed dolls. The sky outside her window was still dark, so it wasn't morning yet... the nightmare was over, but the night itself was not.
The nightmare was over.
He'd told her as much. Himei would never see him again, she'd never have to fight the evil and she'd never have a sleepless night again (aside from the occasional post traumatic stress dream). An entirely different sort of feeling washed over her than the fear of moments ago... a feeling of amusement.
Cats are hard to shake out of sleep. When Dusty cracked one eye open, disturbed enough to wake up, he figured something would be very amiss. Maybe she would be crying, or need a comforting pet to hug, or...
Or she'd be sitting at her table and looking into a mirror and smiling widely?
"Uh... Himei?" Dusty asked, quickly hopping up onto the table. "What're you doing?"
"I'm practicing," Himei replied, not taking her eyes off the mirror.
"Oh, okay. That's good. ...what're you practicing?"
"Smiling. I'm practicing my smile, Dusty. I think I'm going to be able to wear one more often now. I'm free, Dusty... I'm finally free to smile more."
"What was stopping you before?" Dusty asked. "Besides having a job you hated and having to fight evil monsters all the time, I mean..."
"Tomorrow's a brand new day," Himei spoke, setting the handheld mirror down carefully. "I'm looking forward to it. My first day of a wholly normal life and I'm going to smile when I face it!"
But the sunlight of that new day hadn't broken yet.
Another boring, ordinary morning. Glaring orange sunrise, bad air quality, noise of traffic in the city and trains going by... same old same old. She walked on in a sort of trance; the ritual of trotting off to school each day had been hammered home hard enough to become an involuntary action. You didn't need to use a lot of brainpower to get the job done, which was good, because she preferred not to use brainpower if at all avoidable.
In fact, if you knew what you were doing, you could get through a whole day without using your brain. From homeroom to English class to writing class and onward, everything was a matter of repeating what they wanted to hear while waiting for the bell to sound for lunch. One hour to yourself or to chat leisurely with friends, then more plodding school, then you could go home and finally wake up from the trance.
Or, if you encountered a bizarre incident in the middle of that trance, you could be shaken out of it before the numbness helped you through the day. (That's bad.) See, while encountering Himei on the way to school was absolutely normal and just part of the routine for Komachi Aki (age 16, president of class 2F, voted best dressed two years running), encountering a smiling and manically gleeful Himei was NOT normal.
"You okay?" Aki asked, looking down a little to make eye contact. (She was quite tall for her age.)
"Never better!" Himei chirped, falling into step next to Aki. Her bookbag swung back and forth as she skipped along, looking like a poster girl for youth spirit. Needless to say, this was starting to creep Aki out. "How are you? Did you sleep well?"
"Nine hours of beauty sleep, as usual," she replied, running a hair through her nicely curled tresses. (She was a natural beauty, and maintained that natural beauty though any unnatural means necessary.) "You seem rested. What happened, did your alarm clock break or something? You're usually sort of shuffling along mumbling to yourself at this hour..."
"I'm still a little tired," Himei replied, pausing a moment for a quarter-yawn. "But that's the last time I'll be tired. Right now I'm just happy to be starting the first day of the rest of my life!"
"...riiight," Aki spoke, glancing around in hopes that nobody she knew was seeing this. (That would be bad for her social standing in school, which was already precarious after that incident where she wore a clashing ribbon in her hair after they had gone out of style.) "So... you got the homework done, right?"
Paper was produced and quickly snatched away and hidden in one smooth motion between the two girls.
"I made sure to get different answers wrong on mine," Himei informed her. "We almost got caught last time. You know, last night's homework wasn't TOO hard... are you sure you don't just want some tutoring, Aki-san?"
"Ehh, it's okay. I'm just too busy with the Fashion Club to spend a lot of time studying," Aki spoke. ("And they'd mock me openly if they knew I was 'friends' with you to cover for my lack of studying, since they call you 'Henmei' behind your back," she did NOT add.) "And it's just math class, it's not like it's anything I really need. But thanks for the offer, I really appreciate it."
"Well... anytime you have time and want to do it, I'll have time now," Himei explained. "Lots of free time! Hey, actually... do you want to go to the new ice cream shop in town after school? I hear they make pyramid sundaes with fourteen scoops of ice cream, you know, nine and four and one? I bet we could put one of those away if we worked together!"
("Are you on drugs or something?" Aki did not ask.) "I don't know... I might be busy," she lied. "The school festival is a month away and I want to get a jump start on designing the Drama Club's float, you know? It's always best to get to work early on such things. Uh... Himei? Why are you so happy this morning? I mean, putting aside your 'morning person' routine..."
Himei stopped her skipping. Stopped moving altogether, actually.
"What's so strange about being happy?" she asked, voice suddenly quite serious.
"Ah... I don't mean that, of course," Aki quickly said. ("Except that it IS strange for you, since in the year and a half I've known you you've smiled maybe six times.") "I just mean... you know, you're sort of..."
"Everybody has a right to be happy," Himei continued, starting to get all confrontational about it. "That's true, right? There's nothing weird about it. I just decided I wasn't going to be moody anymore. I don't see what the big deal is--"
"Right, right, it's okay," Aki said quickly, wanting to get this train back on the rails. "Hey, that's great, you know? Right. Anyway... um.... how's your cat? Busty, right?"
"Dusty. He's doing good," the shorter girl said, falling back into step alongside Aki. It was no longer the overjoyed skipping motion of before, but a more ordinary walk... more ordinary for Himei. "Um... listen, I didn't mean to be pushy about the ice cream shop thing or anything... you don't have to go if you don't want to. I just figured it might be fun."
"Oh no, it's nothing like that. Hey, who can turn down ice cream? I just... you know, I'm gonna be busy."
"You really are busy a lot," Himei noted. "It must be hard being one of the most popular girls in school."
"Definitely! It's tons of work. Everybody figures it's all parties and dresses and boys and stuff, but who has to arrange those parties and buy the dresses and apply the makeup every day to stay beautiful and woo the boys?" Aki began, ranting from the heart for a change. "It can be a pain sometimes. Especially keeping up your social standing by saying the right things and knowing the right people. I swear, I may have to go into politics. It'll be the only thing I'm properly educated for--"
The laugh was like sugar scraping across a chalkboard. Aki's hair stood on end briefly.
"...it wasn't that funny," she said quietly. ("It's definitely not funny to me, since I have to spend so much of my life trying to keep it going.")
"Sorry, sorry," Himei apologized, working down from the laughter. "I just thought it was pretty funny..."
The air slipped past the two girls like a brief but powerful blast from the atmospheric jet stream. A blur in a jogging suit whisked by, waving a hand. Or possibly a foot. It was hard to tell, given the speed at which he passed...
"Ohayo!" the boy shouted in morning greeting before turning the corner and vanishing from sight.
Himei stood frozen, watching his departure "......ohayo," she spoke quietly, waving a little.
"He's definitely on track to capturing another championship trophy," Aki commented, grinning. "One of these days I'm gonna lift my dad's radar gun from his prowler and clock Seiki's morning run. I bet I could make a citizen's arrest for speeding, too... ...err, Himei?"
Her friend stopped waving, but didn't stop blushing. "Yes?"
"Maybe you should take up jogging too," Aki joked, resuming her walk. "Then you could actually catch up and tell him 'good morning' directly. Or maybe, dare I say, Shoutan Himei finally asks the track star out on a date..?"
"I couldn't!" Himei exclaimed, blushing furiously. "I mean... there's no point. Every girl in school is after him. I don't think he even knows I exist."
("Given the jokes the jocks make about you, I'd be shocked to find out he didn't.") "I suppose you're right, at that. He's in demand. Although I don't think he actually has a girlfriend, so hey, who knows?"
"Didn't you ask him out once?"
"...no, I didn't," Aki replied. "He's not my type, anyway." ("And he turned me down.") "Ne, the opening bell is gonna sound soon... you mind if I run ahead? I'll make sure nobody hung their coats on your desk again."
"Thanks, Aki-san!" Himei smiled again.
Aki picked up the pace, making sure she was inside the gate well ahead of Himei. It wouldn't do to be seen walking onto the grounds with Depressing Girl Henmei. She quickly joined the other members of the fashion club on arrival, engaged in some random chatter that didn't really mean anything in the long run, and made it into class 2F just before the bell. Himei had beaten her there, of course. But that was normal.
The quality or state of being popular, especially the state of being widely admired, accepted, or sought after.
Social circles are by definition closed shapes. Various circles reside at various levels in the hierarchy of social order; some circles band together specifically to unify individuals at lower levels, while higher level persons band together specifically to declare themselves not to be of a lower level.
These levels are determined by a number of factors, but in juvenile institutions, the key value is normality. Those who are different are by definition lower than those who are normal -- in a society which encourages homogeneous groups while giving lip service to individuality, those who conform the easiest to what is considered acceptable rise to the top.
It is said that the only true difference between the levels is in perception, and a changing perception would shatter the system. But like all established orders, it is resistant to change, and only a true heretic is capable of splintering the factions and connecting with someone not of their level. Often such heretics are reactionaries to some flaw at their level; sometimes these flaws take time to recognize.
"'I like jazz music, how about you'?" the professor recited in flawlessly imperfect English
"'I like jazz music, how about you'?" the class repeated with the same incorrect tone and inflection. Of course, if they heard it spoken by a native from America or England, odds are they'd never have understood the words. Repetition of sound, even incorrect sounds, was the key to getting good marks in the class. Aki had learned this early, which is why she was okay at English it was like a complex game of Simon.
Simon was one of the many little time-wasting games she had on her PDA, kept concealed inside her desk under the shadow of her textbooks. She'd turned the fine art of passing notes into a high-tech science thanks to this little many-yenned wonder. Didn't even have to turn around to talk to her friend near the back of the classroom... her other friend near the back of the classroom.
Himemiya Heavy Industry Concern
|Reiko: Sensei has a blob of something stuck between his teeth! It's so gross!|
|Aki: I know! I think it's a poppyseed. I can see it better from up here. He must have had poppy muffins for breakfast, how yucky.|
|Reiko: You're the class president, aren't you? Can't you influence the seating chart? I hate sitting back here with all the weirdos.|
|Aki: It's not from lack of trying. The chart's locked in until next month, Reiko.|
|Reiko: It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for Henmei. She's been smiling. It's so WEIRD! ^_^ lol|
|Aki: I know, I know! Isn't it strange? But at least she's not so mopey and depressed now. It's a nice change of pace.|
|Reiko: Change of pace?? Wht do you care?|
Using practiced skill at scribbling with the tiny stylus, Aki wrote a response... and then stopped halfway. After a moment of indecision, she scratched it out to clear the screen and wrote something... safer.
|Aki: I meant that I'm glad you're not forced to sit next to a mopey and depressed Henmei anymore, of course.|
|Reiko: i'd prefer a mopey henmei. At least I can easily ignore that. It's hard to avoid staring at her|
A cut off message? The PDA never had a bug like that before--
A few chuckles brought Aki's attention to the present, as she felt the air shift. Someone running past her, making a beeline for the door... throwing it open and dashing into the hall, neglecting to close it behind her.
She glanced down at the screen, wondering what was going on, and found a new message.
|Reiko: I told you. There she goes. Freaking out or something. Sorry for the short msg, I got surprised rofl|
|Aki: I don't remember her running out in the middle of class before.|
|Reiko: ha ha, some new mental problem probably. Hey, you wanna go out for ice cream after skool?|
Aki didn't pay attention to what sort of confirmation she wrote in response. Something upbeat, probably. Her mind was on other things... not the classroom, not the schoolwork, but a vague note of worry. Worrying about Himei? Well... maybe.
The natural enemy of the Yamiko is the 'Sailor' style of warrior-priestess. Anyone can become a Sailor, but must be first awakened by an enchanted guardian animal. Awakening only works in women under twenty years of age; Sailors are invariably female. The origin of this warrior-priestess class is clouded, but so are the origins of the Yamiko and their world.
The Sailor is an ordinary human, granted special powers designed to aid in the fight to purge the Yamiko. These powers are as follows:
1. An extra sense, which allows the detection of nearby Yamiko. This does not grant directional capability, simply a trigger that is pulled whenever a Yamiko is within a variable radius based on the Sailor's willpower.
2. With the aid of a blessed item, an ability to transform into a special fighting form is granted, usually based on a more fantastic form of the subject's traditional garb. The modern-day term 'Sailor' derives from the modern day form of the enhanced school uniform.
3. Attack abilities that translate the Sailor's willpower into physical manifestations... energy that can be used to cause spiritual damage to others. Such attacks are usually expressed with styles keeping with the personality of the Sailor.
Traditional Sailors act as a foil to the evil of the Yamiko. They are calming spirits of goodness and holy light against the darkness. Cunning warriors all, they fight tirelessly to save humanity from the terrors outside the edges of reality, no matter what the cost. Dedicated. Strong. Eternally ready for battle.
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. No.
I was minding my own business. Why did I feel it? I shouldn't have felt the sense, I shouldn't have felt a new Yamiko spawning. It's over! He SAID I was unworthy and he took it all back! There's absolutely no reason why I should still feel the call to go out there and fight...
It had throbbed in the back of my head so hard that it felt like someone had clubbed me with an iron bar. I had to run. I might have screamed and that's not something you want to do in the middle of class. Holding my head, trying to hold it in, plowing through the hallways... I had to get away. It's understandable, right? It hurt and it was a shock and I couldn't really do anything else but get away.
Yet I didn't want to make a public scene. This was my problem to deal with and nobody else's... so I ran right for the women's bathroom. Shoved the door open, let it crash into the wall behind it, dove for the middle stall and locked the door. If I was claustrophobic, that would be a problem, but fortunately that's not a neurosis I have.
I got a moment to breathe before it attacked me again. This one was strong; it had to be nearby. Maybe even inside the school, maybe near this bathroom. There was definitely a Yamiko around, and I had to physically restrain myself from reaching to unlock the stall and leap into action... which made no sense. I was out. I was OUT! Resisting that pull was nearby impossible. I got cold chills, I got the shakes... I doubled over the toilet in the floor and heaved. Heaved everything I had inside me.
In a way, I think that helped. Puking is one of the most disgusting things a body can do, but it is a purging... you empty everything out that's churning up inside, get it out of your system, and the satisfyingly hollow feeling lets you focus better. (No, I don't do that on a regular basis. I may be messed up, but I'm not bulimic or anything.) On my knees, arms tight around my body and praying to the porcelain god, I hit the clarity I was hoping for.
Obviously, I couldn't go on thinking I was out. That would be insanity.
I wasn't out. I was never out. My cat could still talk, I still had my pendant...
Maybe it wasn't around my neck, but I had slipped it in a pocket on my fuku before I left the house. I didn't think twice about why I did that. Maybe this is why.
The feeling wasn't going to go away. Even if I could purge the Yamiko sense, I could feel that the monster would be up to no good. There were too many people in school it could do horrible things to, and nobody would know to stop it because it probably looked like just another student... now, it sounds heroic and all to say 'I did it for the innocents, to save the world and be a heroine' but even if that was a factor, I just wanted the throbbing in my head to go away. That came first. Saving innocent people was a nice bonus.
There wasn't a choice in the matter. I slipped the necklace over my head, adjusted my hair, and grasped the ivory heart, to speak the...
But I wasn't Sailor Salvation anymore, was I? Maybe I still had a bit of a sailor inside me, but Magnificent Kamen officially kicked me out of the Salvation role. What was going to happen if I did this, if I transformed...?
It didn't matter. I'd find out soon enough. I couldn't stop now, as I stood up, holding that pendant tightly in a sweating palm. I had to go fight. I have to keep fighting. It's all I know how to do.
As I spoke the usual power-up words, the heart in my hand went dead black, and I found out exactly what I had become.
Yamiko are creatures from another world, but they did not originate there. Genetically identical to humans in all respects, they are actually dopplegangers of preexisting humans; the Yamiko reproduce first by drawing an essence -- a sample of a human spirit. Next, the essence is transformed by the Yamiko's powers to spawn a new Yamiko, identical in almost all respects to its original human host. The host, in turn, is drained of all stamina in the process and typically falls unconscious, with no short term memory of this event.
(This form of reproduction could be considered 'asexual rape', a spiritual violation totally alien to humans. This is partly why the human host forgets the incident; the mind is often emotionally incapable of understanding what has occurred.)
The fully matured Yamiko differs from its original host in that it is a drawing of the darker side of the spirit. Much as all living things have a Yin and Yang, the Yamiko only posses a Yang. They are 100% id, with little to no ego or super ego, and feel no inhibitions or moral restrictions the host possessed. In more general terms, they represent an 'evil twin' of sorts, the worst within. Yamiko intelligence representation and memory-copying precision from the host tends to vary randomly.
Strangely enough, because this darker side is amplified by the transformation, human hosts with exceptionally pure spirits and good hearts produce the most wicked Yamiko. Humans who are already fairly unpleasant individuals tend to make weak Yamiko. The process is not a true mirroring, but a sort of unbalancing that has a bias inverting the power of the negativity inside a host.
Typically, newly spawned Yamiko will eliminate their human hosts so as to replace them in society. Yamiko feel an instinctive pull to return to the darkness of their own world, but more often than not, prefer to stay around Earth a little longer to 'have some fun' with their newfound freedom from restriction and inhibition.
Ishukawa Kaneda was a freshman, an artist, a lover of good chocolate and also a monster. The last bit was a very recent addition to his description, but since it had been working out so well so far, he was considering making it a permanent addition... after a bit of a trial run, of course.
He was pretty sure that monsters were supposed to have six eyes and tentacles and run around molesting women or at the very least causing massive amounts of property damage. Whenever he picked up his Weekly Jump to study the art styles of famous manga artists, he'd usually see at least one story involving a monster of some sort... but they were never like he was now. He felt very ordinary. He had four limbs and one head and two eyes and no tentacles. True, he felt quite evil at the core, but that was besides the point.
Another thing different was now he had the confidence to ask his girlfriend a question he was previously too much of a wuss to bring up.
"Wh-what?" she asked, backing up against a hallway wall.
"Come on, it'll be great," he insisted, pressing the issue (and himself into her personal space). "My folks are out of town. Nobody would know. We're in love, right? Isn't this what people in love do? You keep saying you love me, but here you are stumbling and stammering like I used to..."
"K-Kaneda!" his girlfriend protested, ducking under an arm to escape to the middle of the hallway. "We've only been going out for a month! I mean... it's not that you're not a nice boy, and I do care about you, but... I'm just not ready for--"
"You said you loved me," Kaneda spoke, bitterness creeping in. "What, were you lying? Why can't you sleep with me if you love me? Were you just stringing me along or something, playing with me because I don't speak up a lot and I get nervous around girls? This better not be a joke. You're not going to find me laughing if it's a joke..."
"It's not a--"
WHACK. Kaneda blinked twice, when he saw the stiff chop to the back of her neck, and her body slumping to the ground unconscious. Then his eyes trailed slightly to the left, to the one who had attacked his woman from behind like a coward...
At first glance, she seemed to be in a school uniform, but it was unlike any uniform he had seen. The uniform for girls was mostly blue and pink... this was monochromatic, pale whites contrasting with jet blacks with a few patches of mishmashed gray. The skirt was frayed around the edges, threads dangling loose, tears and rips visible... the cloth kerchief at the neck was even more shredded, barely a rag around the girl's neck. She wore gloves with it of mismatching gray. shades, the fingers long ago torn or worn off. The boots still had a bit of shine to them, but were smudged with dirt and dust in patches...
But the face... the face had a queer kind of muted anger. Her eyes were deep and empty, but the tiniest sign of a frown and the furrowing of her eyebrows showed she was not a happy person. Specifically, she wasn't happy with him.
"You mind telling me why you knocked out my girl, freak?" Kaneda asked.
Her voice was difficult to hear, despite being fierce... "So she wouldn't have to see me doing this."
His feet left the floor as he was physically lifted up, then slammed against the far side of the hallway hard enough to crack the windows for six feet in either direction. He momentarily saw stars. Then he was seeing those eyes, nice and close. He'd rather have seen stars, given the choice.
Kaneda struggled with the grip on his collar... but despite being a beast and a demon and a monster, he still was a scrawny freshman who didn't get enough fresh air. "Who the hell ARE you?!" he hissed...
...and the girl's grip eased. There was a lost look in her eyes, like she had wobbled in midstream of her furious outburst. Kaneda weaseled out of her grip, and backed off, trying to stay away from her, but not running just yet... something inside him said he was supposed to fight. It didn't tell him HOW he was supposed to fight, but this was the enemy...
"...I don't know," she whispered. "I guess I'm a sailor. I'm nothing."
Kaneda wiped some saliva from his chin, preparing to fight. "Oh?" he asked, amused. "So what're you gonna do, 'Sailor Nothing'? Pose and make a spee--"
He got a nice view of the bottom of her foot. Kaneda reeled, twisted around and made a lunging grab for her -- but not only didn't he get enough fresh air, he had also never been in a fight before, and the girl had. She spun around, letting him run by, and then grabbed his arm to wrench it behind his back. The bone wasn't kind enough to snap cleanly; instead, it fractured messily, as she applied pressure to the arm, clamping a gloved hand over his mouth so he couldn't scream and alert anybody in the classrooms distant...
"Who turned you?" she whispered into his ear. "Which Yamiko Commander was it? A man in a gray suit touched you, and then you woke up in a new body. What did you do with your host, Yamiko? How much of a mess am I going to have to clean up?"
"...guy... white hair..." he wheezed through the pain. "Said I was a monster... I could do anything I... I said I wanted to try it out first, he said be my guest... heh... then he left. You'll never find him. He's gone. And my stupid body, I left sleeping in the locker room, so I could take his woman before he ever could work up the nerve to--"
NOW the bone snapped completely. He managed to twist away from her, letting his useless arm dangle, as he felt strength and fire flow into him. Something was slowly awakening in him the longer he got used to being a monster, and all he had to do was kill the Sailor and he would be rewarded...
A circle of dripping black power flowed up from under the floorboards, centered on the sailor. She stood awkwardly, hair starting to float a little as it enveloped her... eyes focused on her prey. Focused in that horribly empty way...
"I hate you, and I hate having to fight you," she spoke, raising one hand to point at him... the black light dripping along her boots, up her fuku and down into the glove, forming a supercondensed ball of darkness... "I don't want to play anymore. Nothingness."
With the word, the power streamed from her outstretched hand, and engulfed him. There was a sickening feeling of being compressed and erased, and then no feeling at all, and he stopped thinking anything in particular because he didn't exist anymore.
Untold minutes later, a figure groaned and pulled herself off the floor, using a nearby heater for support. She braced herself against the wall, pressing a hand to her forehead... and found another person there, helping her up.
"Are you okay?" Shoutan Himei asked, peering around to check her eyes. "I was just walking by, and I saw you here... I think you must've tripped or something. Do you need to go to the nurse?"
"No... no, I'm okay," she said, rubbing her forehead. "Ano... did you see a boy with glasses around here? About my height?"
"No, just you," Himei replied.
"...I guess I just dreamed that.... oh!" she blurted, noticing her watch. "I have to get back to class! Ah... thank you."
"Don't mention it," Himei replied.
And meant it.
Please don't mention it.
It wasn't easy to mask her racing heart and her ragged breath around the girl, but she did what she could. Anything she could do so this incident never really happened and those two could go on with their lives in peace... but now, as she used the wall for support, she staggered down the hall while her lungs burned, her eyes burned, and her head felt like it would split in two... clutching the black pendant through her blouse. A long march, minute after minute...
There were still classes left. She had to go back to room 2F, they would be studying history soon. The sailor business was over and now she needed to continue her nice, normal life where she could smile more, just like she had promised herself. The room was only fifteen feet away now. She could make it. Go back to her desk, resume her smile and carry on, just carry on, she only had to make it there and then...
Himemiya Heavy Industry Concern
|Reiko: Oh my god, I can't believe that. And did you see the look on sensei's face when she fell through the doorway?|
|Reiko: Aki, hello? Did you turn off your PDA or something?|
|Aki: I'm sorry. I got distracted. Listen, tell the Fashion Club I'm going to be late for our lunchtime meeting. I want to go down to the Nurse's Office and check on Himei|
|Aki: Don't tell them why I'm not able to make it. Please, Reiko. If you're my friend you'll do this.|
|Reiko: Uh, okay. I don't get it though. Why do you care what happens to Henmei?|
|Reiko: Aki? You there?|
But when Aki got there at two past noon, the beds were empty. Himei had been taken home by her mother already.
This is my ceiling, and it's very boring. I could move my head and look at something else, and I've actually done that this afternoon... look at my stuffed dolls, look at my cat, look at my posters, the soap operas running on my television. All my things that are in my room where I feel safe.
It would have been nice to feel safe now, but I wasn't able to put it all aside just yet. I still had to explain it all to Dusty, after Mom had finished making me chicken soup, after she had returned to her job.
"Oh, god..." Dusty whispered.
"So I still have to fight," I finished, as I had turned my head to look at him. "He didn't take it away. I don't think he can, either. ...can you, Dusty? You can grant a Sailor's powers, like you did for me years ago--"
"No. Believe me, Himei, I would have done it a long time ago if I could have," Dusty spoke quickly. "Even if that Kamen would've been mad I would've freed you from the job. But I can't. I'm so sorry..."
I rolled back on my back, and looked up at the ceiling again. "It's okay, Dusty."
"It's his fault, it's all his fault. You've got nothing to feel bad about, Himei--"
"It's everything's fault."
"It's my fault," I told him. "I realized this when I was fighting that boy today. It's my fault. It's your fault and it's the Kamen's fault. It's the Yamiko's fault. It's humanity's fault for having a darkside. It's the world's fault and the Yami-gaia's fault and it's everyone and everything's fault. And I can't blame them all. But I can hate it all in a general sort of way, but hating everything won't change anything. There's nothing I can do, Dusty. This is all I have..."
Throbbing, building deep behind my eyes. No. No...
Another Yamiko. Farther off, but definitely a Yamiko.
Using whatever strength I had left, I pulled off the covers, and reached for the pendant I had hung on one antenna of the television.
"Please come with me, Dusty," I asked of him. "I have to go save the world again."
There was nothing else I could have done.
PREVIEW OF NEXT EPISODE
Himei, what happened? Why'd everything change back? I was starting to like the new you.
I hate the new me.
Without a Kamen to assist her and with the Yamiko on the rise, Himei is forced to fight alone at the lowest emotional point of her life. How long can she maintain this game of solitaire?
Maybe I can't make things right, but I'll do whatever it takes to make them better for you.
TO BE CONTINUED
nothing copyright 2000 stefan gagne
unauthorized use prohibited