Author's notes – Hey minna, we're back with another exciting chapter! This one would be Schally's doing, so all credit and chaos go towards her. Thanks to everyone who reviewed, we love reading what you have to say. Please don't stop, we love feedback! Schally's currently busy with the job world while I (Merc) am very busy with my new college life at Purdue University. GO BOILERMAKERS!!!
Rated – R for lots of swearing and tons of violence
By – Merc and Schally
Chapter 8 By - Schally
"Here we are again," he mused, and Kaede said nothing.
She was acutely aware of the irony of the situation. She stood next to him much as she had years before, calm, resolute, and they both watched as Akina approached in an electric haze of blue light. A circle of blood surrounded her, and it was the only thing that kept them apart. Here, in the depths of the Susano-oh Memorial, they stood surrounded by talismans and charms that had been hung by worshippers and visitors over the years.
"I am truly sorry I had to bring the girl here against your will," he continued, still smirking, still overconfident.
"A pity you can't touch her," Kaede said, and his expression faltered.
It was a mythological game of chess and, for the time being, the black king and the white queen were in checkmate. He had attempted to exert his influence over Akina's mitama, turning it chartreuse, and Kaede had responded by using a tactic that she had used on her sister so many years ago—she erected an energy barrier, impregnable even to the King of the Arigami.
His right armblade emerged halfway, but he held his temper. "Your power is weakening. You are no longer the Kushinada." He glanced down at her arm, which was readily dripping with blood. "You cannot keep up the blood barrier forever."
Kaede didn't answer. It took almost all of her concentration to keep the energy barrier erected. In truth, she was merely guiding Akina's dormant powers as the Kushinada. Still, she couldn't afford to have her attention divided.
He hesitated, reaching out with his left hand to touch the barrier. As it had before, it repelled his touch. He frowned. "So the Kushinada views me as a threat. Perhaps she would feel differently if she were approached by her father."
"He's a perfect soul now," Kaede said coolly. "You're having trouble controlling him as it is. I wouldn't push my luck if I were you."
His armblade retracted in response. "The bloodline of the Kushinada will be eradicated and my nation of arigami will rise up once again. I mistook you to be the Kushinada, but no matter—it was a slight oversight, and it will be corrected very soon."
"Oversight?" Kaede allowed a small smile to curve her lips. In truth, with age she had acquired a bit of his own dry nature. "But Lord Murakumo, are you not perfect?"
"You have changed much, Kushinada," he said stiffly.
Her smile faded into neutrality. "And you haven't changed at all."
* * *
Disasters were nothing new to Yaegashi. Being married to Koume, he had quickly mastered the art of multi-tasking in a crisis. Currently he was focused on formulating a plan, not choking on his own bodily fluids, and answering his amnesiac wife's hundred questions, though his priorities were not necessarily in that order.
In an odd way, Koume's present condition afforded her a level of detachment which he found almost comforting. Her reaction to the news--"I have kids? And they're missing? I'm gonna kick some ass!"—was more comforting than her previous tears, certainly. Her pleasure at her own knowledge of weapons ("I know how to use a rocket launcher? Hell yeah!") added some levity to an otherwise miserable situation.
The TAC was all concentrated in the general hospital, and both he and Kunikida agreed that that was not a good idea. He and Koume were in no condition to move around, a fact which frustrated both of them tremendously, and Yaegashi found himself acquiescing, reluctantly, when they were both told to stay put. They had worked out a crude battle plan for the time being: Matsudaria, accompanied by Sugishita and Takeuchi, would head to the lab and gather the equipment. Yaegashi and Matsudaria had worked out several means of dealing with the new chartreuse seeds—all were experimental and untested, but at this point, they had little choice. Kunikida, Sakura and Momiji were to stay with Koume and Yaegashi. Though Kunikida had thought it unwise to risk putting the damaged couple in jeopardy in the event of an attack, Yaegashi had been vehement.
It was like this that they sat together in silence, Kunikida sipping occasionally from a cup of lukewarm coffee while Sakura paced in front of the charm-plastered window distractedly. Momiji's weeping had finally subsided after a few pointed remarks from Koume and she now sat with her hands in her lap, twisting anxiously at the fabric of her nightgown. Her face was ashen and she often looked as if she were going to be violently ill.
Yaegashi suspected that Momiji's condition wasn't just because of emotional stress. She, too, had once carried a mitama. Surely the force that was affecting Kusanagi and Valencia was also affecting her. Matsudaria had confirmed this suspicion with him in hushed tones before she left.
"I don't get it," Sakura said finally, breaking the long silence. "Why are they after Momiji? She's not the sacrifice girl anymore."
"I don't understand it myself," Yaegashi said, propping up a bit. "I think the fact that Momiji used to carry a mitama has something to do with it, but there just isn't enough information."
"It's okay," Momiji muttered. "Better me than…" She shivered, and Kunikida put his jacket around her shoulders.
Momiji seemed to be operating on the assumption that she was the target, not Akina, and that Akina was safe because she was being used as bait. It wasn't completely unreasonable of her to think so—she was usually the target, after all. But Yaegashi suspected strongly that instead of Akina being a means to get to Momiji it was actually the other way around. And when he looked into Momiji's downcast eyes he didn't have the heart to tell her.
* * *
Takeuchi and Sugishita stood, arms crossed, outside the laboratory door. Matsudaria had requested several moments to think and they had both eagerly obliged her—biotechnology was neither of their fortes. Takeuchi glanced over at her companion and allowed a small smile to curve her lips. The more things changed, it seemed, the more they stayed the same.
"Like old times," Sugishita said, preempting her, and she gave a soft laugh.
"Yes, it is, isn't it?"
"Well, not quite. I'm not hitting on you."
"—Yet," she said, and he smiled. She smiled back. There it was. A girl (well, the right girl) could get lost in those brown eyes. But Sugishita had never recovered from the glitzy American whirlwind that was Sakura Yamazaki. Not really. The flirting, the charm, it all seemed half-hearted, almost perfunctory as if it served as some sort of distraction. Even now, years later, there was a sadness about him and she wanted to take him into her arms and ask him, "Why, what's wrong?" But she was married and a mother. And he was someone she used to date a long time ago, a man she'd never really let herself know, and it was the past. Life was strange, sometimes.
Instead, she inclined her head, causing her long bangs to fall away from her face so she could look at him with both eyes.
"Isn't it weird how it's the end of the world and you find yourself thinking about little things that really don't matter?" he asked.
"I know exactly how that is," she told him, and she did—they hadn't expected to survive against Susano-oh all those years ago. They had been prepared to die. "But those little things… they do matter."
He seemed to consider this. "She called me Sugi-chan," he said. He smiled, and it didn't quite reach his eyes. "But that was before she said she wanted to forget me. And it's funny, you know, because I never wanted to forget her."
He turned to her, and before she realized it she was hugging him as she'd imagined before, feeling the stress eek out of his frame as he squeezed her gently (and amazingly platonically).
"Sugi, no one could ever forget you," she said. And it felt right.
* * *
Matsudaria blinked once, disbelieving, as the fax machine spit out one offering, then another, then another. Prior to her visit, Valencia had e-mailed her a list of correspondents—Scientists that she knew, many of whom had been colleagues of her ill-fated father. Matsudaria had contacted all if them in hopes of obtaining information, any sort of mitama research that might prove helpful. Several had responded, but the data they had graciously offered paled in comparison to the information she obtained from the biotechnology laboratory where Samuel Delmar worked. Or at least, where he had worked before he destroyed two of the main labs, fleeing with an unknown number of samples.
Samuel Delmar. One of Doctor Tachibana's research assistants. He had been working at the biotechnology lab until very recently—less than a month ago. Had he continued the doctor's mitama research? Did his disappearance have any connection to the sudden rash of chartreuse mitamas?
But the pieces weren't fitting together. She still didn't understand the basic components of the puzzle. How were the mitama being affected in the first place? Valencia didn't even have a mitama anymore, not until the appearance of her own chartreuse seed, and Kusanagi's mitamas had been original blue mitamas—not the orange seeds created by Doctor Tachibana.
Matsudaria scooped up the sheets of paper and began leafing through them. After the second arigami conflict was resolved Kusanagi had opened up to her more about his condition. She recalled that he had told her that there were occasions where his mitama would become activated against his will, usually by the presence of a powerful arigami, causing him incredible pain and duress. Could it be that a powerful arigami was somehow manipulating those who had experienced mitama contact, much as the arigami had attempted to force their will on Kusanagi before? Did Delmar tie into it? And if so, how?
"Ryoko! Sugishita!" She called, settling down at a desk. She'd stick to the science, for now. It was time to leave the mystery to the detectives.
* * *
"There's something I didn't tell you," Momiji said.
Sakura stopped pacing, glancing at Momiji so sharply that the others were inclined to follow suit.
"What?" Sakura snapped. The question was directed at Momiji.
Momiji rose to her feet, slowly, her head still hanging. "Before, I ran away… I left Akina by herself and hid in the forest…"
"Anyone in your position might have done the same thing," Yaegashi said, hoping to reassure her. "Nobody expected that—"
"Mr. Yaegashi, please." Momiji backed away from the group, her head still hanging. Her hands were clenched at her sides. Yaegashi and Kunikida exchanged a look.
"What?" Sakura repeated, and her voice had an edge to it.
"Before, when I ran away… I was scared, but that's not why I ran." Momiji twisted her fingers around the fabric of her soiled nightgown. "I ran because deep inside, it was burning, and I wanted—" She gave a little sob, but quickly regained her composure. "I wanted to kill my daughter."
Sakura tensed. "Momiji—"
"And now it burns again, where my mitama is, and I want to kill you."
There was a slight hesitation—disbelief, perhaps—and the group suddenly moved as one. Kunikida jumped from his chair as Sakura pulled a talisman forward, her eyes narrowed. Yaegashi had already moved protectively towards Koume but he, like Kunikida, was uncertain.
"Can you control it?" Sakura asked.
Momiji lifted her head a little, biting her lip. "It's getting harder," she said. "I can feel it—"
"What can you feel, Momiji?" Kunikida asked, reaching towards her.
"My mitama, it's—" her words cut off abruptly as she let out a shrill shriek and collapsed to her knees. Kunikida moved to help her and she screamed, "Get away! Don't touch me!" so fiercely that he froze in his tracks. She gave a shudder and curled up, hugging her knees tightly to her chest.
"Will you be able to control yourself?" Yaegashi asked worriedly.
Momiji winced, her fingers tightening around her legs. "Get out."
"Momiji," Kunikida began, reaching to touch her arm.
Momiji let out another shriek. "I said don't touch me! Don't touch me! Get away from me!"
"Everybody out," Sakura warned. "I'm going to seal her in this room. I'll stay and make sure she doesn't get out or hurt herself. You do what you have to do." She began to chant under her breath
Yeagashi nodded and, with the help of Kunikida, he and Koume made their way to the hallway.
Inside, Sakura quickly sealed the door. Momiji reacted as an arigami would—she cringed away from the wards and, trembling, crept to the center of the room so she was the furthest distance possible from the door ward and the window ward.
She had paled tremendously, but in spite of her pallor determination was etched across her face. She might have looked pathetic to the untrained eye, but Sakura felt a burst of triumph—spiritually, Momiji was fighting tooth and nail. Being from the Kushinada bloodline seemed to have afforded her some degree of defense that neither Kusanagi nor Valencia had, however, Sakura was certain that she couldn't hold out indefinitely.
"Is this… what it feels like… to be… an arigami?" Momiji whispered. She looked up at Sakura, stricken.
"Just relax. Concentrate on your senses."
"Sakura… don't… let me hurt anyone. If I lose control… just…" Momiji heaved a sigh. "You know what… to do…"
The Shinto Priestess said nothing.
The End of Chapter 8
Chapter 8 was brought to you by Schally! I hope you all enjoyed it, she spent a lot of time writing it. As usual, if you have any ideas to present to us, by all means please review. Or visit Schally's Blue Seed Page and see us at the Blue Seed message board. I post daily there, and we both will listen to any and all comments. AND FOR THE LOVE OF MURAKUMO, PLEASE REVIEW!!!