No. Ignore it. It's just noise. Noise that was taunting her, following her everywhere.
Get it out of my head. Stop haunting me. You've ruined my life!
Static. Leave me alone.
Too slow. A hooked punch landed on her right cheek, knocking her backwards. She stumbled to catch herself, and did so surprisingly quickly.
I need to be faster. I'm slouching. Ignore it. It's just noise.
Uppercut. A swift one with her right fist, directed at one of the assailant's jaw. A clean, quick move through and through. The blond boy didn't just reel, he flew. Several yards away, he landed on the monkey bars. Crunch. She could hear his back crack with the force of the impact.
Just like that. Three more. I got this.
She wiped the bit of blood from her mouth and spit even more into the dirt next to her, her strawberry pink hair bounced in the wind as she took a defensive stance. She had to hide her trembling body, cloak it with confidence.
"That can't be all. Come on, I'm one little girl. Thought you were gonna 'have your way' with me!" she taunted them. That's right, confidence. Show them who's boss. Don't let them see. A bit of a smirk formed on her face, baring a small fang in the corner of her mouth. She held her palm out flat and curled her fingers back quickly twice, in a beckoning gesture.
Two of the teenage boys rushed towards her, obviously falling for the taunt. Easy. The first, dark blue hair approached from her left. Throwing a wicked straight, making sure to step forward properly for more strength, the blow landed in his stomach. She chuckled as he doubled over in pain, about to vomit from the punch. Immediately after, she let loose an equally destructive roundhouse kick in the direction of the rushing black haired boy.
This one was tall and a bit muscular. She needed more force to bring him down. She added the appropriate extra force and aimed center mass. Fool. He tried to duck under her leg, figuring she was aiming for his neck. He was too slow and had miscalculated. Through trying to dodge, he had ironically provided her the vital he was trying to protect. The pink haired girl's smirk grew wider as she heard an audible crunch from the impact of her foot. The tall boy was thrown into the blue haired one on the ground, sending them a few feet away from her, and dragging dirt into their direction. Their friction caused a dislocation of dirt, a small trench of sorts.
Although she was wearing a forest green plaid miniskirt, she hadn't a care in the world for modesty. Her leg was raised high, poised there in confidence from the brawl. She slowly took a breath and lowered her right leg back to the ground. She began stumbling backwards. Everything she could see began to fade. Her vision blurred, and her breaths became irregular and shaky.
Shit. Gotta go. Wait. One, two, three… there was four. Where -
Two arms reached underneath her own from behind and picked the girl up off her feet. Her eyes widened in fear. She had been careless. Focus. Just. One. More. Her vision was no longer blurred.
Channel it, but don't let it show. Her face became one of pure rage as the skin around the bridge of her nose scrunched up. She clenched her fist with an iron grip. The line began to blur, but she didn't dare step over it. She didn't need it. She gritted her teeth tightly and felt her canines grow ever so slightly. With a focused mind, and what could only be heard as a carnivorous growl, the girl lowered her chin to her chest, and with tremendous power, whipped her head back into her assailant's face. Blood flew from the boy's nose and mouth, and coating the back of the black knit beanie that adorned the girl's head.
She was dropped back to her feet and she landed, her breaths returning to the nervous, breaking ones she had before. The teenage boy behind her curled up into a fetal position, holding his face with both hands, writhing and screaming in agony.
"Serves all of you right. Bunch of assholes and perverts." The girl delivered a swift kick to the groin of the boy that had grabbed her, causing him to transition his hands to between his legs. She didn't care that it may have been a bit too much. They deserved it.
"We'Xx a XxXXxxX fiX, huX?"
Static. SHUT UP. SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP! I DON'T CARE!
Her thoughts began to meld with her voice. An ear piercing scream caught the attention of anyone in a mile radius as she clenched her head in aggravation of the thoughts that wouldn't FUCKING GO AWAY.
"SHUT THE HELL UP!"
Blood dripped from both her palms as she tore into them with her nails, clenching her fist harder than she ever had before. These thoughts, these voices… she didn't ask for them. They had tortured her for years, and she could only dream of the day they left her be.
She did her best to hold back the tears. Sadness wasn't a luxury she could afford. In fact, she couldn't afford much of anything with her status. A homeless highschool punk was all she was. A roaming brawler. She had to steal and fight just to survive. She could look back on fonder days but she never wanted to. This was her life now. Everything was just so fucked up. Although admittedly, some days were better than others. On the worst days, she often thought of the possibility of the world being without her. On the best days, she had food and a roof over her head.
A bystander caught her attention, standing in the entrance to the small park she stood in, his cyan eyes looking over the carnage. His black and blue-accented school uniform was clean and well kept, much better than her own. It also was clearly different in design, more formal. A private school outfit, perhaps? Whatever. She had to go before the boys got back up. She was well aware she couldn't go another round. Today was a very bad day.
Ignoring the new arrival, the pink haired high schooler began walking - more like stumbling - in his direction. She was doing her very best to contain her weakened state. Her limping was minimal, but still prevalent enough that someone looking close enough could notice. As she reached the exit to the small park, the boy reached out to her. Shit.
"Did… did you do this?" the boy questioned, his voice soft and concerned.
"Yeah, I did. Bastards wanted to cop a feel, so I kicked their asses." She couldn't help but look at his features. He was a bit shorter than her, but only by an inch or so, and admittedly she was somewhat tall for a 15 year old girl. He seemed fit, but his face screamed innocence, as if he was a kind individual. His layered, fluffy black hair flowed ever-so-slightly in the spring breeze.
Stop gawking. Gotta go. Now, the girl thought to herself firmly. She snapped her gaze from the boy and turned to her right, only to be stopped by a worried hand. He had gently grabbed her left arm.
"Are you okay? Did they hurt you? You're really dirty and you look like you're limping." So he was concerned for her condition. Cute, but it didn't matter. She still had to leave the area.
"Hands off." She slapped the boy's hand away from her arm and growled quietly. "I don't need pity. I'm perfectly capable of handling myself." Once again, she pulled her sight from his piercing blue eyes and began walking away. He's going to be persistent. I might need to run to get away from him. I could certainly outspeed him.
"Wait. Please. I'm just trying to help. Can't I at least get your name?"
Static. Lots of it. Almost enough to make her body tremble. Through the static… she felt a form of deja vu.
"Name? Do we paXXXitXs eXXx have Xxes?" The voice echoed through the pink haired girl's very being. She began to tremble more violently as the memory continued further. She couldn't see anything, or figure out who the voices were but it was clearly getting more vivid. These weren't just thoughts. It wasn't a voice in her head. Her eyes widened as she realized what they were: memories. Someone else's memories.
"But, welX, my coXe is Zero ZeXX TXX. EverXXxX caXXs me ZXro Two." Tears welled up in the girl's pale green eyes. She truly trembled, with a pain and emptiness that she never wanted to feel. The feelings weren't her own. She didn't want to embrace them. She wanted them to FUCK OFF. She didn't care that the memories or whatever were getting clearer. They WERE NOT HERS SO THEY SHOULDN'T MATTER.
Her head filled with that crackling sound that tortured her on a daily basis.
Her heart filled with a longing and painful sorrow she didn't want to feel.
Her vision blurred as tears flowed freely. Try as she might, she couldn't stop them.
Her body shook with this horrible feeling that she couldn't quite describe. Was it fear?
The girl attempted to swallow, but some force rendered her mouth dry. She felt like she needed to scream.
The comforting hand laid itself on her shoulder, and startled her. Not from fear, but from relief. The raging tornado of feelings that wracked her body suddenly calmed.
"I'm sorry. I should have introduced myself first. I didn't mean to upset you." The boy's voice was an ocean wave against the volcanic emotions, soothing and calm. The trembling and tears stopped themselves in a hurry. Suddenly, the girl was filled with an overwhelming yearning for the boy's name. She wanted to hear it. He wasn't the one she was looking for, right? She had seen plenty of boys with his eyes and face. That hair though… it caught her attention like a well decorated house on Christmas.
"My name is Aihiko. My friends almost always just call me -" The boy's words fell on deaf ears. The pink haired girl was gone. He blinked once, then twice, unsure if the teenage girl was ever there to begin with.
(Author's note: "Ai" means love, and "Hiko" can be translated as prince)
" - Hiko…?"
Why? Why am I running? He was friendly, he just wanted to help. It didn't matter. She only needed to hear his name to know she had to run. She held her beanie tightly as she sprinted past lifeless faces. She couldn't help but let the tears of pain and sorrow flow down her face and into the spring air. Her body ached and screamed at her for overexerting herself, especially on an empty stomach. Her thoughts transitioned to food, and her stomach grumbled for nourishment.
When was the last time she had eaten? Two? No, three days ago? That's right! She had a single piece of candy left from her candy store raid about a week ago. It wasn't even close to being a meal, but it would have to do.
Static. No, GO AWAY.
She pushed her legs harder. Faster. Escape the emotions, the DAMN ENDLESS MEMORIES. The girl took a turn into a construction zone. She leapt over the gate, higher than any human could dream of jumping. She bobbed and weaved between wood boards and steel frames, just wanting to run.
Leave me alone!
"Wow, your taste makes my heart race." A full, uninterrupted sentence. She had never had that happen before. The thoughts were always fragmented and seemingly censored by static. "It bites and lingers… the taste of danger."
Taste of danger? Who is this voice talking to? A person?
Wait… tasting a person. Did she mirror this memory's actions all those years ago? No, that's impossible. There's no way. Right? That was around the time she had become a nervous wreck, so maybe… No! It was an act of impulse, and it ruined everything! Who the hell licks another person?!
Her thought process was stopped immediately by a steel bar impacting her left ankle. Not paying any attention to her surroundings, she tripped on a red horizontal bar on the ground. The pink haired girl soon found her face in the dirt underneath her. She barely had the stamina to raise herself up from where she hit the ground. A few construction workers noticed the seemingly lost girl and advanced towards her.
"Hey, what are you doing here? This place isn't for -"
"I know!" she cried out suddenly. "I'm leaving. I just got lost in my thoughts." She managed to raise herself to her feet and quickly dusted off her uniform. "I took a wrong turn is all." Taking a step made her extremely aware of just how hard she had hit her ankle. She ripped into her lower lip with her teeth, ignoring the aching of her wound.
Concerned, one of the men began to approach her further, seeing the pain written across her face.
"Here, miss. Let me help you. You look hur-"
"I'm not hurt! Leave me be!" If there was one thing in the world she hated, it was pity. Why would someone care if she was hurt? She could deal with it herself, just as she always had done. The pain never mattered, and she was always alone. She wanted it to stay that way. She wouldn't risk opening her heart to someone else ever again.
The pink haired high schooler eventually limped her way out of the construction yard and noticed a small, dark alleyway between two buildings across the street. There it was. Her escape from the world around her. It would only be a short respite, but she needed to let the pain from her ankle lessen before she even dared to continue roaming.
Slowly, but surely, the girl made her way over to the alleyway and made sure she was a few feet in before emptying the contents of her stomach behind the dumpster. There wasn't much to vomit up considering she hadn't eaten in days, but she couldn't help it. The overexertion did a number on her body and the fall only amplified the issue. She kneeled next to the repulsive mess she had created in case another round needed to escape. Heavy breath after heavy breath, her body screamed in pain and quivered. She was all too aware she needed to rest.
Another fluid began to meld with the vomit. Red and a bit viscous. Blood. Her right knee was bleeding, most likely from the fall. How bad was it? She crawled slowly to the opposite wall of the dumpster, making sure to stay mostly in the shadows. Placing her back to the wall and still trembling from the assaulting agony, she examined her knee, or rather just below it. Just a scrape. A deep scrape blemishing her thin porcelain skin, but one nonetheless. She figured it probably occurred when she tripped, the dirt there was solid and coarse, she recalled.
"Damn. I'm losing my edge… I might have to make my way there tonight." She gathered some bandages from the black purse-like bag at her side. Tearing it at a forgiving length, the homeless girl wrapped her leg in the material and pulled it tight to minimize the bleeding. Making a mental note on how scant her leftover bandages were, she placed them back in her bag and retrieved a lone, wrapped green candy. Yeah, definitely have to go there to pick up supplies tonight.
Her last sweet. Her last morsel for that matter. She was famished and the small green candy was the only thing left to relieve her. Unwrapped and thrown into her mouth it went. She savored the flavor for but a moment - a fresh, sweet green apple. After acquiring the taste, she swiftly crushed the small treat between her teeth, shattering its hard outer shell and swallowing the resulting fragments. She didn't have the luxury of relishing the taste of the candy, she needed what minimal nourishment it provided.
Having taken the small sugary sweet, her eyes felt heavy and her vision began to blur once again. A small yawn escaped her lips, flashing her long fang-like canines to the world.
And so, the young girl slipped into an exhausted, well deserved sleep in the dark alley. Even as her pale green eyes closed themselves off from their surroundings, the sharp red makeup-like markings on the outside edge of them remained visible.
She was so familiar to him. Where had he seen her before? Clearly, she didn't go to the same school he did, but perhaps he had seen her roaming through the city? Maybe. He wouldn't forget someone that beautiful, so on second thought, maybe he had just dreamt of her?
"I didn't even get your name… I only wanted to help, you know," Aihiko commented to himself, strolling down the city streets only minutes after their encounter. "She looked beaten up and pale. I wonder if she just gets into fights? Maybe there's more to it than that…" He had decided to ask around, somebody had to notice a girl with long pink hair running away. It wasn't something you see every day.
Exactly. She was special. Exotic, unique. He wouldn't forget her if he met her before. Think. Remember. Who else had he seen recently that resembled that girl…?
"Wait. Not recently." Aihiko stopped in his tracks, viewing a construction yard just in front of him. Hard capped workers were working frivolously to complete whatever structure was going to be built in its place. It seemed small. Maybe a convenience store? "I'm thinking about this the wrong way. What if…"
Could she really be the same girl from all the way back then? The girl I met under the sakura tree that one spring? How long has it been since she never came back? About 7 years I suppose… ?
Surely she didn't still hate him for what he said back then? Admittedly, he had said some rude things, and he could have handled the situation better, but to be fair, she had indeed licked him and commented on his 'flavor'. Seriously, who licks someone all casually and acts all excited from the way they taste, like they're some kind of candy? Think. What was her name? A smile of relief and a hand on his heart reminded the boy of his long lost friend.
"Sakura. Don't worry, I'm coming for you. I'll find you again, I swear it." With a clear goal in his mind, a determined, young black haired boy searched the city for his first friend. He was certain that was her he met all those years ago.
Several civilians had pointed him in the direction of the construction zone, where they had witnessed the girl bound over the 8 foot high gate into the yard. Well, she was fit, at least. No wonder she did such a number on those creeps. Still, jumping 8 feet is quite the accomplishment. How did she manage that the way she was limping? He pondered the possibilities as he approached the gate. His vision was met by two small, shoe like indentations in the dirt on the other side.
"She was definitely here." Everything lined up right. Aihiko looked to a nearby group of workers and called to them. "Hey! Excuse me, sirs? I have a question!" One of the men noticed the voice, and paused his conversation with the other. He was tall and muscular, and looked quite like a grizzly bear. His hair, mustache, and beard were overgrown and a dark brown.
"Sorry to bother you, sir. I just have a quick question," the boy with cyan eyes continued, with proper manners.
"Go ahead. And then skedaddle, school boy. We are busy." The scruff, large man clearly wasn't in a mood to have a conversation. He was probably a bit pissed he was interrupted from his break.
"Forgive me. I am looking for a friend of mine. She's sorta tall, long pink hair. Can't miss her."
"Can't miss her, that's for sure," the large man replied. "Came sprinting in through like a bat out of hell. No idea how she got in here or why she was running."
"Yeah, yeah that's her! Do you happen to know where she went?"
"Not me, no. But maybe someone else in here can help you. One second, kid." The man picked up a yellow radio that was strapped to his belt, turned a dial, and pushed a thick button on the side as he placed it to his mouth. "Anyone know where that pink haired lass ran off to? Got a kid here, says he's friends with her and wants to know where she went."
A few seconds passed in silence. The teenage boy swallowed nervously, hoping someone had an answer. Come on…
A buzz and a crackle came from the device, followed by a voice. "Yeah, I saw her. Tried to help her up after a fall and she yelled at me, saying she didn't need help. I think she walked across the street from this side, but I never saw her leave that alley across the street."
"An alley? Why wouldn't she go home?"
"Alrighty. Thanks for the help, my man. Seems the kid has his answer," the bear like man responded into his radio. His demeanor seemed to have changed to a more welcoming one. "We don't normally let anyone in here, but I'll let you cut through for her. Young love is a wonderful thing."
A bright red blush came over the boy's face. Love? It wasn't love, it was just out of concern. Right? Sure, she was beautiful and precious and… no, he hadn't fallen in love. It was purely out of concern. That's it.
"No, she's just a friend. She got into a fight up the street, and I wanted to make sure she was alright." Aihiko's words went unheard by the large man who pushed aside the metal gate to allow room for the boy.
"Yeah, yeah. Get your ass through here before I get in trouble."
"Y-yes sir! Thank you very much!" He bowed quickly in respect for the older man and dashed through to the other exit on the other side. A small trail of blood was left in the dirt off to the side, and droplets leading to the alleyway that was spoken of were evident. He was on her trail, without a doubt. He exited the yard and looked both ways before dashing across the street safely.
Following the obvious trail of blood into the alleyway, Aihiko smiled, and his heart relaxed for the first time in the past hour. There she was, passed out against the wall of a building, she probably tried to hide amongst the shadows. He had found her again, and this time, he wouldn't let her escape. He had to apologize for all those years ago.
"Sakura… I found you." The boy began to approach and noticed a haphazardly placed bandage wrapping her shin, stained a deep red from the wound beneath. He was glad she was asleep, she wouldn't notice his affectionate staring. He couldn't keep his eyes from her face as he kneeled down next to her bandaged leg. She just seemed so peaceful. Almost angelic.
The affection soon turned to deep concern as he inspected the girl for any other wounds. Both hands were stained with dried blood, either her own or her prey's. He wasn't sure who's. Upon a closer look, there wasn't only dried blood, there was apparent scarring. They were straight, across the back of her palms and up her wrists. Those weren't just from fights. The boy bit his lip gently at his assumption.
Were these… from her? Had she cut herself? Perhaps the girl had more serious problems than her tendency to lick people. Aihiko continued his examination of the unconscious subject, hoping to not discover any more possible difficulties. She's pale. And maybe a bit too thin. She could be malnourished. No wonder she thought this was a good place to nap. She's homeless. She's also covered in blood and sweat. She needs a bath and for this outfit of her's to be washed.
"Alright then, Sakura. You seem to be having a rough life. But don't worry, I'll get you back on your feet." The now cautiously content boy was glad he had found her. If he let her get away again, who knows what could happen to her? If she was homeless, he simply had to provide one for her. It's not like she would have a lot of possessions to take up space. "Come on, then. You're gonna stay at my place for a bit, okay?"
Aihiko took off his backpack and slipped the straps around her arms and shoulders, and managed to hoist her onto his back, her arms hanging limply over his shoulders. He grabbed her bag with his right arm and supported both her thighs with his arms, making sure to hunch over a bit so she wouldn't slide off his back.
Her legs are so soft… I've never touched a girl like this… He quickly shook his head back and forth as a small blush rose to the surface of his face. Don't be a pervert right now. She needs help. He had no problem carrying her the whole way back to his home, even though it was a fair distance opposite the direction she had run in earlier. The boy noted her weight, the little punk was significantly lighter than she should be. Definitely not eating enough, he thought to himself.
Sunlight for the day was just about extinguished. The moon crept over the horizon, signifying the transition from afternoon to evening. Just as the boy had reached his quaint home, the last lights of the day vanished. He was admittedly quite exhausted, even if the pink haired angel on his back was fairly light, he had travelled quite a distance. Two or three miles, he estimated. He twisted his head to view her status. A smile crept across his face as he felt her quiet, soft breaths on the back his neck. She was still with him.
The door in front of the well dressed school boy opened with a start, and out peeked an older woman, her faced plagued by relief and concern. Her eyes were a deep blue and her hair layered, fluffy and black. Aihiko grinned at the woman who had greeted him home.
"I'm home, Momma. Forgive me for returning home so late, I um… ran into an old friend." The boy nodded his head to the limp figure on his back. His mother glared at the figure and its features, and then gave the boy a strong, stern look.
"Hiko, you were out and about with a girl, and you didn't even bother to call me?"
"Oh jeez… forgive me, Momma. I didn't mean to leave you in the dark. It was really important that I stayed focused on her trail. I hadn't even thought about calling you. May I come in? I'm really tired from carrying her all the way here."
"Why exactly is this girl so important that you had to carry her to our home?" The woman inquired as she stepped aside to allow the boy space to enter the house. Hiko entered the household and was greeted by the savory aroma of his mother's cooking. He chuckled, knowing she wasn't prepared for the answer to her question.
"You won't believe who she is, Momma. I found her, after all these years." He continued as he steered himself through the household, until he came across a couch in the living room. Ever so carefully, he slid the girl off his back and seated her properly on the piece of furniture before removing the black backpack that he had placed on her. He dropped the backpack onto the ground, making an audible thump from the contents within. "Do you remember the girl I met under the tree, about 7 years ago? The one I shared the picture book with? She gave me a candy in return. What was it? Chocolate maple red bean flavor I think?"
"I remember! She was your first friend!" His mother's face had already lit up like a Christmas tree. "Oh it seems like just yesterday you two met. She was a complete sweetheart."
"Momma, this is her now. I'm absolutely positive. There's not a doubt in my mind." He turned to face the pink haired girl and smiled lovingly, admiring her beauty for a few moments before returning his vision to the direction of his seemingly belated mother.
Her eyes were filled to the brim with tears, and her hands were covering her mouth, as if she had just seen the most heartbreaking scene of a movie.
"Are you absolutely certain?" the woman queried. Her voice cracked and shook with disbelief.
The boy nodded in reply. "One hundred and twenty percent. Who else has pink hair and looks like an angel?"
"Aihiko. She…" his mother choked out through tears. Why was she being so emotional over this? She knew something he didn't.
"Momma? What's wrong?"
"Her parents. They were killed, shortly after you two stopped meeting. There was a crash, and both of the occupants were identified…" Tears flowed down the distraught woman's face as she recalled the memory. "After that night, their daughter was never seen again. She was assumed dead since then. I never wanted to tell you that your friend had died an orphan."
He turned to face the girl once again, a knot forming in his heart. He wasn't so certain this was her anymore. How could he be sure? No, he shouldn't let this revelation cloud his certainty. If she was homeless, then everything lined up. She was assumed to be dead, not confirmed.
"This is her, then. Without a doubt. If she was orphaned, then it makes sense what I've discovered. Everything falls into place. She's homeless because she lost her parents. Although that would mean…" The knot grew in his heart, irritating the boy to no end. This information bothered him, worried him even further about her condition. He reached up with his hand and squeezed his chest through his black blazer. "...she's been on the streets this whole time. Fending for herself. Fighting tooth and nail just to get by."
"That's… ridiculous. 6 years of being homeless…" she continued to doubt the possibility, even though everything made sense. "She would have been found."
The boy turned to his mother, tears now freely flowing down his face. He managed a pained smile as his hands trembled from the discomfort in his chest. His bottom lip quivering, voice shaking and just as emotional from the reunion, he replied matter-of-factly.
"She has been found. I found her, Momma. This is Sakura."
Chapter One - Static / Her Name
(Fun Fact: This story was actually inspired heavily by the Ending Credits 1 and 5, Torikago and Escape respectively. I've obviously changed some aesthetics to fit the narrative better, but the idea came to me seeing Zero Two dressed as a school girl running, as the blue and red X's flash on the screen. It made me think of static and her previous life's memories haunting her and she only wants to run from them and be free, like a bird.)