Prologue: Forced Relapse
The forest rustled peacefully as the night breeze weaved through the trees; along the streamside sat a young man, enjoying the tranquility. Truthfully, he was trying to absorb it into himself.
Jiro took deep, steadying breaths—not that he truly needed the oxygen, but it had a therapeutic effect nonetheless. He had felt crushed under such a heavy weight, and though he had come through it with the help of a young hero with psychic abilities, Jiro still felt weak; as though his very core trembled.
It had been excruciating, suffering under the guilt of succumbing to his recently implanted submission circuit—after all, the cost had been immense. Though their time together had not been long, Jiro truly loved his brothers…
The trembling grew stronger—Jiro tried to divert his thoughts elsewhere; something calming. He closed his eyes and began to daydream of his deepest desire: Notes of a song he had yet to finish streamed through his mind, and Jiro dreamed of performing this new melody for…
A sudden clench wound itself into Jiro's chest, a minor relapse of guilt at the audacity of dreaming of Mitsuko.
The song faded from his mind abruptly—where had the lovely woman gone to? She said she would be waiting, yet…Jiro felt a frown cross his lips. He knew Mitsuko would not break the promise she had created, so that could only mean…
Something within Jiro shuddered—he grew anxious at his surmounting thoughts: Had Mitsuko and her family met with danger?
'No, wait…I may be getting ahead of myself. Maybe Mitsuko took her father somewhere else for his health…'
"Or maybe she forgot you."
Jiro froze. That voice was not his own. He looked around apprehensively, though he found himself completely alone in the grassy clearing.
When a few moments had passed in silence, Jiro allowed his thoughts to wander again. The tune he was eager to play began to return to his mind as he planned the rest of the notes. Jiro wondered what Mitsuko would think. Would Masaru like a song that flowed? Mentally, Jiro added in shorter, more playful notes that would appeal to the boy's youthful energy.
A smile bloomed on Jiro's face; this new song was almost complete. He could almost hear Masaru's laughter—with a surge of hope, his mind's eye brought forth the image of Mitsuko's warm smile and his yearning began to increase tenfold. The scenario developed even further, and Jiro's smile grew into a grin as he imagined Masaru teasing his elder sister. Jiro chuckled; Ichiro would have liked Masaru…
Another painful clench; his mind went dark and silent. A cold, creeping mist began to seep in, casting a blue sheen within the mire of his thoughts. Jiro felt his pulse, artificial thought it was, racing. Struggling, Jiro tried to call forth the words of the young mutant that had saved him earlier.
"Are you just a puppet, controlled by man and destiny? And what will control you next? Don't let anyone control you—Jiro, snap out it!'
'Protect the people you love! And trust in your own heart!" A sliver of warmth seemed to ignite within Jiro, and he felt buoyed by the encouragement from Inazuman; it was strange, meeting as unwitting enemies-yet when Jiro came to his senses, something within him seemed to recognize the familiar burden they both shared. Despite the mutant's young age, he had a mature sense of empathy and compassion, leading to a quickly earned trust with Jiro.
'Trust in my own heart...yes…yes, I can because I—'
"Your own heart? Don't be foolish! A machine has no heart!"
The warmth vanished as quickly as it came.
The blue surroundings began to blur and fade…and red began to bleed over. Fear seized Jiro; he still could not see the owner of the voice that mocked him so spitefully. The air began to hum sinisterly, as though a thousand screams harmonized into one tortured howl. No matter how he tried to cover his ears, the screaming grew louder—and the malicious laughter, louder still.
"You did well to overcome and separate me from the emperor…but that will not save you!"
"Who are you? Where are you hiding? Come out!" Jiro called into the darkness. The laughter echoed around him, fading into a sneer.
"Where am I? I am in you, Kikaider. A machine that does not follow orders does not deserve peace—I may not be able to return you to my master's control, but I can erase your fragile sense of stability."
Jiro looked around wildly, panicking. He looked down to find his body transformed within his mind—the blue was slowly being overtaken by red as the ocean of his guilt began to swell and seep into the right side of his body.
Worse still, as the water pushed toward him, it left broken pieces in its wake; Jiro recognized the fragments that used to be his brothers immediately. His knees buckled beneath him, and Jiro saw two pairs of glowing scarlet eyes peering at him from cracked, mutilated faces...
"You're too much, little brother—trying so hard to be human only to find that it means tainting yourself. You should have listened, Jiro—quit forcing yourself to be what you aren't and just be a machine!" Jiro gasped, utterly horrified at the sight and the words of his eldest sibling.
"Ichiro…brother—!" Though the sockets were shattered, Jiro felt as though Ichiro's eyes were burning through him. He flinched when another voice spoke up.
"Though I am the youngest, I was built to protect you, Jiro—and for all your emotional investment, you led us to our demise. The greatest irony is that you would find your sought-after peace if you would just submit to your design." Though the voice was cold and analytical, there was thinly veiled resentment Rei's statement. Jiro felt an excruciating wrenching throughout his mind and heart.
"Stop…please, stop,' Jiro begged weakly, 'I didn't want either of you to die! I wanted us to be a family! All of us!"
A disembodied hand broke the surface of the pool and pointed at Jiro accusingly.
"We are machines. There is no such thing as 'family' for us. No family; no emotions; no pain,"
Jiro shut his eyes, willing himself to remain calm—but hands gripped his arms and his throat. Jiro opened his eyes to find the dismembered limbs strangling him as the remains of his brothers were suddenly much closer; their eyes seared through him like smoldering coals.
"NO! NO! This isn't real! You are my brothers! I cared for you, and you cared for me too! You cared about Rieko and Akira—Bijinder too! I know it—this is an illusion! I won't give in—"
Jiro stopped hyperventilating. The voice was different—a voice he longed to hear, yet currently found himself dreading. Unable to resist, he turned and nearly choked.
She was beautiful, even within the illusionary darkness that cast a blood-red luster over her soft, pale skin. Her face, though, was contorted in horrified disgust and hatred. Something within Jiro crumbled, but he could not look away.
"Jiro, you—you've become a monster…your own family!" Mitsuko recoiled, frightened. Jiro flinched as though he had been run through.
"No! Mitsuko—I…I'm not—"
"If you can murder your own brothers, what's to become of Masaru and my father? What else will you do to me?" she cried, backing away. Jiro bit back a sob, shaking his head.
"Never, Mitsuko…I would never—"he moaned piteously, stopping at the icy glare he received from the woman he fell in love with.
"If this is all you amount to, I will never let you find us," she hissed. Jiro cringed, hot tears trailing down his face.
"Aww, poor Jiro—looks like your girlfriend is dumping you," Ichiro crowed from behind. A flash of rage ignited within Jiro, and he whipped his head back at his brother, whose eyes glowed eerily.
"What's with that look? You think you have any right to be mad at me? Look around, brother—of the three of us, you're the only one standing…or kneeling, as it were. Face it, Jiro—you think you can keep the love of a human girl after what you've done? You think you can protect her?" Ichiro mocked condescendingly.
"Can you protect her from yourself, Jiro?" Rei queried frigidly.
Jiro clenched his jaw, trying to subdue his mounting fury—but his body would not comply. Instead, he felt himself being pulled up as though he were attached to invisible strings. Without any conscious decision, he turned back to Mitsuko who braced herself fearfully. Jiro wanted to calm her, take her within his arms and promise her his life before her safety—
Before he realized it, he lunged at her, pinning her body beneath his as his hands wrapped around her throat. Mitsuko choked and tried to shriek, but his hands kept squeezing.
Jiro began to hyperventilate in abject terror; no matter how he tried, he could not will his hands to stop. Tears streaked from Mitsuko's wide, horrified eyes; her fingers clawed futilely at his and saliva trailed from her mouth as he pressed harder still—
Then he felt the vertebrae of her neck snap and disintegrate in his hands. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she stopped struggling, arms falling to the ground beneath her.
Jiro could not stop screaming, and it echoed around him, threatening to split his head apart until the disembodied voice from before broke into his nightmare once again.
"No, Kikaider, you will not die—you will not attain even that peace. You will stay here, trapped within your sins until your body and your mind rot away. No one will save you; no one will come for you. Your only hope is to forget—that is my last gift to you!"
Jiro finally felt control of his body returning to him—and he fled from the scene, trying to outrun the sight of Mitsuko's unfocused, glassy eyes as she lay broken beneath him.
He ran and ran until the red of the mire faded into nothingness—the ground gave way and Jiro fell, floating in the empty space.
The mocking laughter had long since been replaced with overwhelming quiet. Numbly, Jiro tried to feel for something solid, but nothing appeared. He did not know where he was.
In fact, Jiro could not remember how he had arrived, or why—but he knew he did not want to go back.
For now, Jiro made his home in the silence.
Author's note: So…after looking through the weird formatting did to my old fics, I started going through them again and I…uh. I kinda decided to tweak the story a bit. So that part where I said I was ignoring the Inazuman vs. Kikaida OVA? Not quite the case anymore.
I'm aware of how dark and fairly brutal this story is and I promise you, I did not leave it at that. This is just a set up to show just how much Jiro was really suffering from the effects of the Submission circuit he was implanted with in the Kikaider 01 OVA.
Please enjoy the rest of the story, and if there are any comments or questions I have failed to answer—feel free to say so.