The Trails Of Her Scars
Hanako didn't remember much about it. When conscious came, a great, roaring pain all over her whole body came with it. The heat, too, but that was only present in a back of her mind sort of way. The pain had consumed all conscious thought and her fear and the only thing left aside from it was her scream of pain resounding in her ears.
She didn't worry about her mother not her father. She didn't give a second thought to her burning home. She barely even noticed the weight on the top of her, shielding her, and the salty warmness that fell from somewhere above her in her face. Nor the choked sobs and the barely restrained pain in a voice that whispered softly to her, trying to calm her down. Because it was not real.
She screamed because it hurt, but she didn't move even an inch. Her whole body trembled, but she knew it would soon enough. That if she kept her eyes tightly closed and waited the nightmare would fade and see would seen mother's soft smile again and felt the warmness of home. She believed that with all her heart, and her faith in that never wavered through the hellish moments. Even as the pain increased. Even as that rotten smell of burned things increased, and she stopped hearing any sounds from the person on the top of her. Even as more and more time passed and it didn't not end.
If she hadn't believed that, she would have snapped right there and there.
The red nightmare ended. She waked up feeling numb, but there was no pain. She felt the familiar warm of her bedsheets on the top of her, and her back against her bed. She felt herself smiling. Good, that was good. It was only natural that it ended since such a thing couldn't have happened, not to her, not to anybody. But it felt good to see that it wasn't so. When she opened her eyes, she would her parents like always, and live her life like always.
But what she saw where the sterile white floor and ceiling of a hospital, and that she wasn't sitting on her own bed, but on the bed of a hospital. She stared at the ceiling lifelessly, tears stinging at the corner of her eyes. There was no way she could hide it from herself anymore. The weight of the top of her had been her mother, and there had been fire. The red nightmare had been real. Also, her body was covered with bandages. She had seen it, and she had felt it. There was no use in trying to fool herself.
She wanted to scream, but she didn't even have energy to do so. So she just stared. She hadn't never been a very energetic child, but right now she just felt… empty. Like her life had been sucked out. She kept remembering the fire in stark clarity, even though she didn't even want to think about it. She took a deep a deep breath, and released it.
It wasn't… it wasn't so bad, right? It could be. She was alive, so they could be alive too. Mother had shielded her, so she must have been hurt worse that her, but she could still been alive. There was not reason for her not too been alive. It would been just plain ridiculous. And her father… she didn't knew what had happened to him. Maybe he had escaped. Yes, maybe.
When the doctor came into her room for the first time, his expression was full of pity. That made her felt uneasy, but she pushed that uneasiness aside. It was stupid to think like that. He was pitying her because she had to go through such an experience, not because she was alone now and she would been alone forever.
He treated her kindly, but either way she couldn't forget that the look of pity couldn't leave his eyes. He had a lot of meaningless words, and complicated words that she only barely understood, but the gist of it was that she would have to face a month or so of recovering at the hospital due to her burns. When he was about to leave, she called out to him. He stopped. And she asked him about her parents. He told that they were both death.
She screamed at him. She told him to shut up, than that couldn't be true. That he had stop messing with her. That they were both alive, alive, and he couldn't change that no matter how many times he said it.
The next thing Hanako remembered was waking up in her bed hours later, the sky already dark, feeling groggy and disconnected from her body. Even more so that before, anyway. But she knew what it had happened. The doctors had come and sedated her after her outburst. It should have angered her that they didn't even left her burn, but in the haze her mind was submerged it, she found what happened hilarious. For some reason. She felt asleep soon after, because her eyes were so heavy that she couldn't even kept them open.
When she waked up again, they brought a man she didn't know into her room. He asked her things like 'how do you felt?' and 'do you hate yourself', and she answered like a good girl, just like she was supposed to do. But the truth was that she hated herself, and she felt like she wanted to die. She only vaguely understood the concept of death, but what she understood was more that enough for her to think that it would been better to die that to remain in this place. Her parents had told her that dead meant it wouldn't come back anymore, and it was in a better place when her cat had died. Whatever that better place was, she didn't like the thought that they were in such a place without her.
As for why she hated herself… her memories weren't clear, or maybe she was only deluded herself, but that fire. She had helped her mother to cook from the first time on that night, so she might have caused the fire. She might have done a stupid mistake that had left her like this and killed her parents. They said her cat had gone to a better place because it died, but that still meant it would come back anymore. That still meant that those that had died had to dealt with the fact that dead people were gone. Maybe had done it, but if she had… if she had, it would been better for her to die.
Time passed. She spend the month there, with books as her only company. At the beginning, she wandered around a little, but the stares, the awkward glances from the corner of their eyes, and, most of all, the pity, made her not try again. Either way, the hospital wasn't that big. So it wouldn't have taken long for her to explore what she could. It wasn't a big loss. Really, it wasn't. At least, that was what she told herself.
It was merely a bluff to hide the fact that it would been like that anywhere for her. A bluff to hide that she didn't have nothing anymore and like this she wouldn't gain anything either.
Time passed tortuously slowly, but when the time came for her to get the bandages removed, it seemed those days had slipped out between her fingers. It was a strange feeling. A nurse removed the bandages. It was embarrassing, since they were all over her whole body, but she just bit her lip and waited for it to be over. It seemed like that was all she was able to do, nowadays.
She was patchwork of scars. She didn't have a mirror at hand, so she wasn't able to examine herself, but what she saw was enough to make her stomach churn. The right side of her face had been completely burned off, and her short dark air couldn't hide a bit of that. And the rest of her body was worse. She was like a badly put together doll, pitiable and disgusting, no matter how hard it tried to look worthy of its position in the great shelf called life. No, it was all the more disgusting for even trying to begin with.
With a trembling voice, she asked the nurse if she could go to the bathroom. She said yes. The doctor also agreed. So Hanako went, locked the door behind her and let her clothes poll at her feet. She was left only with a pair of panties. Even though it hurt, she carefully examined herself in the mirror. Every inch of her. She… she didn't even look human anymore. No wonder they pitied her. No wonder that when she was getting up, she saw disgust reflected in the nurse's eyes. She herself could barely look at the scars, and they were her own.
She started crying; her body started trembling lightly. She didn't scream, though. She just dropped to her knees, and let the tears fall for what fell like a long, long time. She even ignored the gentle rapping at the door, and the nurse that called for her. After sometime, she whipped her tears with the back of her hands. The texture of her hands, not that they were burned, was disgusting, but she tried her hardest to ignore it. She got dressed in the hospital pyjamas, and got out, her head held down.
They didn't recriminate her for ignoring her for minutes, and causing such a scene. They just told her with a soft voice that she shouldn't do that again. Strangely, what stirred inside of her wasn't relief of anger. Adults didn't care about children, or what was right or wrong. Either you did it like they wanted or not at all. And now that she was like this, they were treating her like a glass vase. Like it would be a crime to even get mad at her. It made her felt sick, and it made her hate herself even more, too, because they didn't have bad intentions. That much was clear.
Tomorrow, she was discharged. During the car ride, she tried to build up her spirits. She tried to think that, sure, things wouldn't been the same anymore but maybe she would find a place to belong. That lasted until she meet the people who were supposed to give her the tour. Two woman. Both were disgusted once they good a good look at her face. One hid her well after that, but the other clearly avoided looking at her face. Really… it had been so stupid to expect anything else that it didn't even hurt.
Through the tour, they stayed distant and always carefully picked their words. She tried to keep up with the conversation they tried to make as beast as she could. Which wasn't good at all. She kept shuttering over every other word, and the looks they gave her when they heard her only made her shutter even worse, so it quickly became a vicious cycle. It reached the point when she wanted to just shut her mouth and not open it ever again.
The classes were… fine. The students made a few comments in her self introduction, but she just bit her lip and tried to tune them out. And once the teacher chastised them for it, they didn't do it again. On that class, at least. The boy that was sitting behind her kept kicking her chair lightly at few times, but at least he didn't say anything. The others murmured about if she was a ghost or something, about that she wouldn't react even if they pushed her in the water. And there were little laughs, too. Just loud enough for her to hear, but not the teacher.
The politeness of the Japanese only lasted until you stopped fitting the mould; that, at least, was clear to her. Perhaps it was like that everywhere.
She didn't get excellent marks, but she passed her classes without trouble. The teachers stopped her asking her anything in the class, because of an accident on the first day that still hurt to recall. She stood up to answer, because she knew the answer, but because the eyes of the class were fixed on her, her mind drew a blank. She got redder and redder as she tried to remember the answer, until the teacher told her to sit down, pity clear in her voice. That had been the end of it. She would have liked to prove those had laughed in that moment wrong, but she never got the courage to raise her hand in class to answer, no matter how well she knew the answer. Once at been enough. What would it meant for her if, despite everything, it happened again?
She didn't want to know.
Hanako let her hair grow long, long enough to hide her scars from a casual observer. It was more for her peace of mind that anything else, really. Every body in the orphanage knew how things were, and the newcomers were informed of it quickly. But at least it saved her for a lot those stares.
Through the years, she was forced to have regular, weekly visits with a therapist. He sat smiling and pretending to understand her, and she sat on the other side, pretending to answer.
Some people came to the orphanage, every once in a while. None of them gave more that a second glance at her. It hurt, at first. But by now, she had merely accepted it as part of how things were. There was nothing she could do to change the simple fact that people proffered an energetic, cute child, not a quiet loner that looked like a patchwork doll. So there was no use in screaming or crying about it.
At fifteen years of age, that was one of the few things Hanako really believed in.
Hanako sat down as far away as far away from the rest as she could, put her back against the wall, opened the latest book she was reading and picked up from where she left off. A man would been visiting today, but, like always, she didn't pay much attention to it. Of course. Whoever that man was, he wouldn't take her with him, so she didn't have any reason to care.
Yet like every one of those days, she couldn't really concentrate on her reading. She knew for a long time that her situation wasn't going to change, but that didn't meant that, in some corner of her heart, she hoped than that day would be different, that she would be taken away from this place and been loved by another family. She didn't desire a replacement for her parents. She just wanted a place in this world, and nothing more.
Hanako tensed. She had heard somebody approaching. Her heart started beating faster, even though she knew there was no real reason for it. The staff didn't care about her, but they didn't brother, either. And the children had long since left her alone. They had even gotten bored with belittled her, kick her chair and other such things somewhat quickly. But still, the fear remained that one it would go past that. It seemed silly, but she could quite shake it off.
Anyway, there really wasn't any need to worry. Nobody brothered her, and it was unlike that the person would be heading that way. She listened. The footsteps stopped a few seconds later, close to her. She whipped her head to the side, startled, and saw a gigantic man that she didn't know. He was wearing priest robes, if she wasn't mistaken. Also, he was probably the man who was coming to adopt.
Her surprise made her take a few moments to realize that he could see her face, he could see all her horrible scaring, and yet he was looking at her kindly, with a warm smile. Neither his gaze nor his smile had any trances of pity. Her heart started beating faster in her chest, but for a whole different reason.
"Tell me, child." His voice was smooth. Sure, yet soft. "What's your name?"
"Ikez-z-zaw..." damn, damn, damn. Why was she failing at a time like this? It wasn't fair. No matter how kind he was, he surely wouldn't want to raise a child who couldn't even speak properly and had no reason to be that way. Two words. Just too words. It wasn't that hard.
"I'm a priest, child. You don't need to be nervous around me."
Hanako sucked in a breath.
"My n-name is Ikezawa H-hanako. P-p-pleased to meet you."
"Pleased to meet you, too." he said, and he sounded like he really meant it. That floored her.
"Uh… can you tell me your name?" it was barely audible, but at least she managed to say it without shuttering.
"Kotomine Kirei." Pure or beautiful? It was a strange name, but it certainly suited him, for what she had seen. He had been the only one who had show her real kindness since the fire. Besides, Kotomine Hanako didn't sound bad at all. "Can I ask you something?"
Her heart skipped a beat.
"Y-yes!" she squeaked.
"Would you like to be adopted by me?" she didn't even need to think about that. To her, he already couldn't do no wrong. She nodded, smiling widely for the first time since she came to this place. Four years already. His smile grew wider. "I know how you must felt, but cool your head and think about it. First of all, I'm not from around here, Hanako. I'm from Fuyuki. You likely won't see this city again if you go with me."
"I don't care." she immediately answered, and she meant in from the bottom of her heart. "I really don't. I just want to go with you."
"Really? Why is that you don't care about leaving your home?"
"I.. I had friends here. I thought I had then. But they haven't come to visit me even once, so I don't care. I hate this place. I hate this orphanage. I hate the kids here and I hate the staff, too." she was ranting, she knew she was, but she could stop herself. Not even the though that he wouldn't want a bitter, hateful person like her stopped her. She had this inside from a long time, and letting it all out just felt too good. "They didn't abuse me, but to them I might as well not even be human. I hate them all!"
"I see." he extended his hand towards her. "Let's go, then."
She stared at it dumbly, for a few seconds. Then she grabbed his hand.
Walking with him hand in hand made Hanako felt strange. She felt happy, of course. This was the best day of her life, since the fire. Still. If she closed her eyes, she could almost pretended she was walking side by side with her father again. Kirei's hands were rough, calloused, but gentle. Just like her father's hands had been.
She didn't know what to think. She could hardly remember her parent's faces, their voices. How it felt when they gave her a hug. Those memories had been slipping through her fingers during all these years, and now she didn't even know if she could trust what she remembered. She wasn't like for a replacement for them, really. Nobody could replace them.
But she was tired. She was tired of the hurt and the pain. She was tired of crying herself to sleep for no good reason, and dreaming about better times that wouldn't never come back. She was tired about dreaming of that red nightmare, and even worse things. Of not having anybody to talk to, let alone be herself with. Of not being understood, and pushed away by everybody. She hated it. She only had one small wish now. To have a family again. To be with somebody that would love her and she would love in return. Was that small wish really so selfish? Selfish or not, it was the only thing she had. So of course she would cling tightly into it.
The adoption process was a chore. She knew that Kirei was upstanding, kind man, so there was no need for an evaluation or anything. Still, the whole process lasted hours. She didn't mind, because she spend all that time reading through the rest of the book. But still, it was a bit of bummer. When it ended, night had fallen already. So it must have lasted about three hours.
At least she was now Kotomine Hanako, and they left that wrenched orphanage behind for good. And her home town, too. There had been bright memories there before, of course. But now they only served to remind her of the bitterness of lost. So she was glad she wouldn't seen it ever again.
"Oh." she muttered. She realized that she had started crying. Feeling stupid, she whipped her eyes with the back of her hands. But it wouldn't stop. For some reason, the tears wouldn't stop falling. She let out a bitter little laugh. "That's weird."
"Here." Kirei held out a hand towards her. Even through her blurry vision, she could see what he had in his hand. Tissues. Muttering a thank you so low he probably didn't even heard it, she grabbed the tissues and whipped her eyes again. She felt grateful, but most of all embarrassed. Not because she had cried, though that certainly paid a part in it, but because she had done so despite that she said that going away didn't matter and she only wanted to go with . And because she had done so in front of him, who had been kind enough to take a patchwork doll like her with him.
"Thank you." she muttered, a little more strongly this time, once she could see properly. Tears still stung at the corner of her eyes, but she was feeling fine. Her chest still ached, but that feeling wouldn't never really go away. So she really was fine, all things considered.
"I would be poor father if I couldn't even hand you something to wipe your tears, so don't mind it, Hanako."
The rest of the car ride was spend in silence, only broken by the roars of the engine of the passing cars. During those four years after the fire, Hanako had grow accustomed to silences. It had took her a while, but she had. And now that warmness was back in her life, she though she would grow afraid of silence. Of being discarded. But she didn't feel nervous at all.
This silence wasn't like the silence of not having a place in the world, of being pushed away and treated like she was worthless. Of people not knowing what to say by just like at her face, and knowing that the rest of her body was even worse. It was a good silence, a silence that gave her a sense of solidarity with him. To her, it was like he was saying that she didn't need to force herself. That she could just be herself, and that… that meant the world to her.
When they entered Fuyuki, she watched the scenery out of the windows, a little curious about how was the place where she would live from now on. She never had much appreciation for the beauty of nature and those things, but even she could see Fuyuki was a nice place. She just hoped the people were nicer… ah, sure. What was she thinking?
Kirei stopped the care in front of a church. His church, she guessed. She didn't like the idea of living in church, in the place of good, but it was a nice place and, besides, Kirei lived there. That was all she need to know. Any place would be fine as long as he was by her side. They got out of the car.
"By the way, Hanako," Kirei suddenly said, as they walked towards the church.
"I'm a magus." what? She had to have heard him wrong.
"Uh… could you repeat that, please?"
"There's no need for that. You heard me just fine." oh. She didn't even want to consider that he was messing with her, so she believed with all her heart that he was telling the truth.
He didn't answer.
She followed him inside the church, suddenly nervous, waiting for any kind of response. Maybe she had said something bad without knowing. Would he throw her away now? That question boiling inside of her, but she tried her best to suppress it. He couldn't. He couldn't. He wasn't that kind of person. They walked together up to the centre of the room. He stopped. She stopped, too.
Kirei took off his cassock, and draped it over the seat nearest to him. Then he took off the cross hanging from his neck, and put it on that same seat. Then he took off his black under shirt. She watched him, eyes wide, incapable of moving or even saying anything. Him taking off his shirt at surprised him, but the sight before her took all other thoughts away. Scars. He had so many scars. He turned towards her, and she saw that his chest was like that, too. They were faded, but even like that Hanako could recognize that a lot of them could have killed a person. Her knees started trembling.
"I'm an Executor of the Holy Church." he calmly said. She felt like she had stepped into another world. "We exist to wipe out the evil that God created. Dead Apostles, Spirits, Demons… I have fought against those creatures many times, and a lot of the time, I had to wager my life for the sake of victory. I kept these scars to remind myself of the times I have come close to death. Even so, I never found it hard. It was my purpose… until I went away from that, of course."
Hanako took a step forward. She raised a hand, and hesitantly held it against Kirei's chest. As in a daze, she traced each scar that could still be seen. He didn't move. He didn't say anything, either. So many… she took a deep breath. Kirei had show her this to her. So she had to repay his trust.
"I..." she started, then trailed off. Words were useless for this. Better to speak with her actions.
She slowly started to unbutton her coat. It wasn't like she wanted to, but her hands trembled so much that such a simple task became almost arduous. Once she was done, she threw it to the floor. Her hands went to the buttons of her white shirt, but she stopped. Kirei had just took his shirt off without hesitation, but she wasn't going to stop there. And if he was looking, she didn't think she could gather the courage to finish it.
"Could you turn around?"
He just turned around. He didn't ask her if she was sure, or expressed any confusion. Probably because he understood that if he left her a way out, she would take it. She took off her shirt, and let it drop to the floor. This was embarrassing. Even with him not looking at her, it was so embarrassing she could die. Still. She took off her skirt, too. All that was left were her stocking and underwear. She though she could fall over at any second, but it would have been worse if she had boobs. So she was thankful for that, at least.
"Y-you..." she let out a breath. "You can turn around now."
Even when he saw just how messed up she was, his expression didn't change. His eyes were full of kindness, as always. Genuine warm. She felt tears sting at the corner of her eyes. It was as painful as it was awkward, but she knew she had to do this. Revealing herself as she was to another person felt like burying her past.
"Hanako." he doesn't say anything more.
She doesn't know what she expected, nor what would happen now. She stood firm, held in place not by determination but fear, holding his gaze. He took a step forward, then another. He put his hand over the scarring on her chest. She gasped. Not in fear, just surprise. He ran his hand up her scaring, then to the scaring on her shoulder and cupped the right side of her face. He raised her head a little bit.
As if obeying some unspoken order, she turned around. His hand touched her back, and traced her burns. The hand moved slowly downwards, trembling lightly. She couldn't even guess what he was thinking about, now. How could she have survived this? Maybe. She herself wondered that before, more that a few times. Maybe his hand was trembling in disgust. It was a possibility, no matter how much it made her stomach churn.
He brought his hand back. A moment later, he embraced her from behind. His strong arms tightened around her waist. His head rested on the top of hers.
"It doesn't matter." Kirei whispered to her ear. "The burns in your body don't matter. What matter is what is inside."
Hanako didn't want to cry. She tried, but she just couldn't hold back her tears. So she let them fall freely. She closed her eyes, basking in the warm of her new father, the only person who had reached out towards her, nothing more that a patchwork doll. She wanted to say something, but the only thing that came out was a gasp and more tears.
Changed the title to The Trails Of Their Scars because I liked the previous title but doesn't let you upload stories with the same title. For some odd reason.