Author's Note: Inspired by the recent creation of an X-Day category (if you haven't read it and have just wandered in to see what I'm wasting my time one now…go find a Barnes&Noble and read it, or better yet, buy it.) as well as to further annoy my readers, I have randomly decided to write another story. Go me! Updates will be sporadic at best since I have other fics I have to rewrite/finish/work on, which is difficult in itself since I have a rather large and tiring workload for school, am currently looking to A) find a job or B) start a cosplay business. If I manage to accomplish either, you won't be seeing me often.
Oh, and just a little, warning: this is going to be AU (obvious once you start reading), so things are going to be different than in the series.
Disclaimer: I do not own X-Day, its characters, and anything else I might mention that belongs to someone else. Hell, even if it's not selling the best, if I created it I wouldn't be wasting my time paying to go to conventions…I'd be harassing staff members to be a special guest…not that I don't already…err…ignore that part.
Title: Feels Like Arcadia
The world was burning around me, an inferno of the deepest red, the brightest gold, and the purest, coldest blue. The others are around…somewhere. Each of us had gone to a different section of the school; perhaps subconsciously, each of us had gone to the place we hated the most. Not that you can tell the difference between anything anymore. All that remains is flame.
Somehow, that makes it all the more surreal, all the more perfect. It's beautiful.
For as long as we have talked of this, have planned for it, I've always pictured the school becoming a pile of rubble. The bomb in the science wing had gone off first. Apparently some of the chemicals caught fire and the flames began to spread throughout the building. When the other explosions occurred, the flame was already rapidly spreading, ravenously consuming all that lay in its path. I think I heard 11 laughing as the flames spread to the track field.
It's hard to hear anything, even, as clichéd as it sounds, myself. But that's okay; that was part of the reason I went along with this. I need to escape from my mind just as much as I need to escape from this mediocre life. The four of us each has our own reasons for wanting the destruction of this school, but in reality, I think we're all just running, or at least, trying to. None of us wants to admit it of course, so no one will ever point it out, no one will ever state the obvious. We're all scared, we're all hurt, and we all just want to be able to feel something, anything again.
The flames are drawing closer, warming my skin with almost painful warmth. It reminds me of water, of sakura petals. It reminds me of my mother.
"No," I shout into the smoke filled air. "This has nothing to do with her. This is the destruction of that life, of the past! I'm not that person anymore…I…"
Unable to find the words to describe the emotion bubbling within me, I fall silent. And then I realize the words I had spoken to the inferno were true; I was no longer who I had been that day I had been scarred. I wasn't the same person I had been an hour ago, when we put the bombs in place.
Contemplating that thought, I stood amidst the flames, watching as the building was turned to ash around me. I would have to leave soon, or else the building would collapse and drag me down to hell with it. But still…how had I changed? What could have destroying this building done that would allow me to say, to feel such things?
There was a crash as a section of the roof collapsed inward feet away from where I stood. Perhaps…it wouldn't be so bad to stay, a part of me whispered. It's not like anyone would really notice, and the police wouldn't look for the others, just assume that I had planted the bombs and was caught in the explosion.
"Mr. Money!" a voice yelled from the other side of the maelstrom. It was one of the girls, but it was impossible to tell which. "The rest of us are leaving; the cops and firefighters are on the way. X-Day was a success. We should celebrate before we go our separate ways. That is, unless you want to stay here."
After a moment, I could discern the slight sound of an approaching siren. And then it was time to make my choice: allow the ethereal flame to destroy me, burn away the rest of my body, or continue to live, to try and find a semblance of existence. There was utter silence except the tranquil roar of the fire, and then I knew that was enough. I left the burning remains of the building that had once been a prison to so many.
The fire had purified me. It was that simple. Things would be different now. I was different now. And, if all else fails, we could always have another X-Day. Well, assuming that we weren't all arrested then imprisoned or committed.
The others are all standing together, waiting for me. The three of them look more alive than I've ever seen them, then I've ever seen anyone. Polaris is wearing one of her elaborate, somewhat creepy dresses. Her hair is slightly tangled and her normally pale face is even paler from the thin layer of dust that coats it. She's holding a stuffed animal, a hamster, as far as I can tell, and smiling broadly. Jangalian stands near-by, looking almost normal, if it weren't for the ash clinging to him and the twinkle in his eyes. 11 is off to the side and she is…she is…utterly beautiful, utterly perfect. Her clothes are disheveled and covered in soot, and a black smudge lies across one cheek like tribal war paint, but she is glowing, laughing in the face of the destruction we have caused. She is, it seems, the fire itself.
"Let's go back to my apartment and clean up," Jangalian spoke, breaking the relative silence.
We each make a motion of agreement and the four of us walk away from the Armageddon of our own making. Yes, I think, that's the perfect word for it. The destruction of that school destroyed the world that we had lived in, and now we were each emerging from the rubble of our lives, reborn and renewed.
The walk to the apartment takes longer than usual since we hide in the shadows from every police car and fire truck that rushed down the street, knowing that our appearances would surely hint that we had been involved. I don't mind; 11 is walking next to me. She is still glowing. I suppose we all are.
At the apartment we take our turns using the shower and changing into the spare sets of clothing we had left in the past. Nothing is said until it's time to begin our celebration.
"Where should we go?" 11 asks absentmindedly as she lounges on the couch.
"The restaurant," Polaris immediately answers.
"Restaurant?" I ask, unsure of which one she means; we've gone to many as a group while making our plans.
"The one where we first met," she says, her usual monotone not in place. For the love of God, she actually sounds somewhat happy. "Where it all began."
"I seem to remember it all began online, in a school chat room," Jangalian says lightly as he enters the room, rubbing his wet hair with a towel.
"Details, details," she replies and slides off the desk on which she had been sitting. She smirks at him and he blushes very lightly. Oh, yeah, there is definitely something going on there. 11 and I glance at each other; she sees it too. When we both burst out laughing, the two both give us strange looks.
"Anyway," Jangalian says and gives a slight cough, "let's go. The restaurant should still be open, but I don't know for certain."
Those of us still sitting, 11 and myself, stand and we file at the door. Halfway down the first flight of steps, Polaris stops and turns around.
"Wait here," she says and quickly hurries up the stairs back toward the apartment, her layers of skirts ruffling as she moves; moments later, she returns with a plastic grocery bag. The three of us give her curious or confused looks and then she begins to explain.
"I almost forgot," she smiles and holds the bag up, "our victory dance, if you will."
"Ah," I can't help the small smirk from creeping onto my face, "I didn't know we had any left. I'm assuming that it's just the sparklers, since they didn't work as well for bombs?"
"Correct, Mr. Money."
"Well, then," 11 breaks in, "let's go eat and find some place to burn them!"O0O0O0O
The restaurant is fairly empty at this time of night, but the patrons who are there are talking loudly, excitedly. News travels fast, it seems, especially when it's of unexplained mayhem.
"Well, no one is going to be surprised tomorrow," I mutter just loud enough so that they can hear me.
"It was terrorists!" one woman is screeching, "This is what we get for having connections to the United States!"
Her husband is half-heartedly trying to quite her, but seems far more interested in his coffee and meal. Thankfully, we're given a booth a ways away from them, but the booth behind ours' holds about as pleasant of company.
"Damn teenagers; hoodlums, all of them. What's this country coming to?" a man is saying loudly to his companions and shoots us a nasty look. One of his companions looks over at us, and once his eyes land on Jangalian, they narrow hatefully before he lets out a snort then smiles viciously.
"Well, what do you expect?" he says, raising his voice so that ignoring him isn't an option. "No one tries to control them, to guide them. No one tries to teachthem anything. Though I suppose in most cases, by the time the schools get a hold of them, it's already too late. Not that most of the teachers are much better than the students."
The implication was obvious, and Jangalian stiffens slightly, but only for a moment before he smiles widely. I can't help but wonder who the man is. Oh, well, I can always ask him about it later since neither of the girls appears to have been listening. Thankfully, the three men leave soon after we give our orders.
"It's rather odd to be here again, isn't it?" he begins. "I didn't even notice, but it seems we've been avoiding this place. I can't remember ever coming here except for our first meeting."
"I think you're right, I mean, I used to always come here before, but then after we all met…" 11 trails off and makes a vague gesture with her hand.
"It's probably better that we haven't come back here before now," Polaris says softly. "We weren't exactly discreet; anyone could have overheard anything. They still could."
The warning was rather blatant, and 11 looks slightly abashed and hurt for a moment since she had been speaking slightly louder than normal.
"It's not like anyone's paying attention to us. Hell, we have to speak loud so we can hear each other," the words slip from my mouth before I realize it. Why was I defending her over something so stupid? It is pretty loud in here, the rational part of my mind whispers while another, unnamed part simply tells me that the look in her eyes hurt more than anything my mother could ever do to me.
Polaris lets out a little laugh, then answers.
"True," she says simply and takes a sip from her strawberry milkshake. Yeah, just like the first time.
The conversation flows, changing topics frequently and seemingly at random. The diner slowly empties as time passes, until we are all that remain but the staff. The only interruption occurs when the yawning waitress brings the bill. Polaris pays for all of it without comment, despite our attempts to each pay our part.
We wander through the streets, no destination in mind other than the ideal of finding the perfect place to light the last of the X-Day fireworks. The sun is just beginning to rise when we find ourselves standing at the locked wrought iron gates leading to a local public garden. Without much thought, Jangalian and I scale the fence, then turn to help the others over. 11 offers Polaris a foot up, cupping her hands to form a step, which is somewhat graciously accepted. I'll never get why she loves those odd outfits so much. We catch her as she almost drops from the top of the fence and 11 appears nearly the same moment that Polaris's feet touch the ground.
None of us have been here before, so we don't know what we'll find. But that's all right since we don't know what it is we're looking for. The sun's rays are creating a massacre of color across the horizon when we reach a large fountain, surrounded on all sides by white roses.
"Perfect," Polaris speaks the thought that had occurred to us all and had lead us to stand frozen, side by side, facing the city. "You can still see the smoke," she adds after a moment, and to my surprise, you can. The sunrise that is usually only marred by the buildings is now interrupted by a steady river of silvery grey that rises from where our high school used to be.
The sparklers are handed out; a lighter is flicked, one, two, three, and then four times. Gold and purple, green and silver, burst into existence as the powder burns, and we stand in a silent circle. The mood is happy, but as the sparks begin to fade, we each realize that it's over. X-Day has come and gone; there is no need for any of us to be together any longer.
Ending Note: And there we go, chapter one is done. I started this intending on writing a simple one-shot, but then I figured, what the hell? Let's make it into multiple chapters instead of just the one. I don't think I'll be staying in the P.O.V. of Yumihiko, but, eh, we'll see. So, let me know what you think and if I've messed anything up (but keep in mind that this is AU).