The usual, the disclaimer: I don't FLCL or Final Fantasy blah-blah-blah-blah.
Thanks to all who have read and reviewed this fic, thanks (except for CSBoggs. I don't know just who you mistake me for, but seriously, if you don't have any constructive to say than please stop reviewing my fics. Even if just said fic sucked, I'd be fine, but what you said there has no point). I like the encouragement.Sorry I don't update as often as you might like.
And in this chapter the plot starts to develop. I plan to have Sephiroth appear by the end of the chapter after next.
Chapter 2: Forgetfulness
We were all laughing. Joking, laughing, and drinking the small amount of sake that the Gallery would sell (it cut a person off before it got them in too destructive of a state). Nami enjoyed a small break with us after she served us, only to get up to get us more food (and she would only do that only if she wanted some herself). She would often slip when getting us more food, but somehow balance herself before losing it all. For someone with a lack of balance she could quickly regain it. Something about her has never seemed right, but I've ignore such things.
I knew I was forgetting something, but did it matter?
Everything was going wonderful. I laughed more than I ever had in my life. The atmosphere in the room was perfect. I felt truly alive. In memory, the only other time I felt so great was that time I spent with Haruko. But I think it isn't healthy to focus on time long gone.
Yet there was an underlying feeling of doom, and I ignored it. If I forgot it, it can't be too important, I thought.
As Gaku and Nami got more intoxicated, they seemed to be moving closer together. I always thought Gaku had a small crush on our waitress, and I now finally had proof. I made plans to tease about it when they were back in the right mind.
About at two hours into our lovely time I managed to remember something was missing. Someone was missing.
Ninamori was unusually late. While Ninamori was occasionally late, she never broke off an engagement. In fact, when she was late, it was because she was attempting to meet another engagement.
Something is wrong here. Eri might be in trouble, I thought. I should get out of here.
"Hey guys, Eri-san is late. I'm starting to get a little worried. Excuse me while I call her," I said as I got up to leave the table. They didn't really care, without me they were having just as much fun.
I first called her cell phone. After about 20 rings and no answer I gave up. I then proceeded to call Eri's home. When I called there I got her mother.
"Hello Mrs. Ninamori. Is Eri-Chan there?"
"Not right now Mr. Nandaba. She left about an hour and half ago and said something about being late as she left. Call back later."
Shit. She has been out for an hour and a half. It wouldn't take this long for her to get here from her house. Knowing her father, her street would be have been plowed almost immediately. The max it should have taken her to get here was 20 minutes. She might be in trouble.
I went back in. Nami now severely intoxicated (because of the ability to serve as much alcohol to herself as possible; using a loophole in the Gallery's own rule) and now had her arm around Gaku. She was looking at him lustily.
It might not be a wise idea to leave them by themselves. Unfortunately, Eri may need more help. Hopefully Masashi can keep them from getting into too much trouble.
After that thought I said, "Ninamori isn't picking up on her cell and she isn't at home. I'm going to go outside looking for her. I have a couple to say before I leave Masashi, I giving the money to pay for the food we ate and anything else you'll buy. Nami-san, don't do anything you'll regret in the morning, and don't do anything too stupid, Gaku."
As I left I could have swore I heard Nami say in her drunken state, "I won't, regret."
I ran outside. It was near sundown. But it was still fairly bright since the sun (which was breaking through the clouds) reflected against snow. But still it was pretty cold out there.
I started towards Eri's home. While I knew she wasn't there, I also knew she was coming to the gallery and came from her home. I assumed she came using the main roads since I knew her father would have the city workers clear all the streets that he used directly (including his driveway).
As I ran towards where she lived I saw the stairway I found Eri hiding at when her parents were having that scandal caused by my father. The road near it had been cleared of snow and I could still see the screech marks Haruko made when ran into me. She sent me flying into Ninamori and my forehead and hers met. In the end, the robot I was expecting came out of her head and not mine.
The search wasn't going to well. In the beginning of my search, I couldn't find her. I tried the main roads to her house, and she wasn't there. To make matter worse, it was getting colder and darker by the minutes. This not only made it harder for me to look, but also made me more worried about Eri.
This day was going south, and it was going fast.
After looking for a half an hour, I found myself looking at small alleyway. It (not being a main street) wasn't cleared. I could see a single set of footprints in the snow leading into the ally. For strange reason, I felt drawn to it.
At first I was unsure why it stuck out so much. It was only an ally with footprints. How many alleys are there in Masabe anyway?
Yeah, but where do you think it leads? I asked. It seems to be heading towards the Gallery. You know Eri was running extremely late. She would have taken a shortcut, if she could find one. Those footprints are most likely Eri's.
On this realization I ran into the ally as fast as I could. Alleys aren't exactly the safest places in Masabe. Alleys are known for the fact it is where most of Masabe's crazies hang out. The reason for this is that the Alleys are increasingly complex and easy get lost in (or if you want to lose someone chasing after you). It is always dark in them so unless you know your way around them, you could be lost for days, like some urban Labyrinth.
With this in mind you could just as easily say that Eri got lost, but I knew that wasn't true. Eri, Gaku and I know the alleys well since Gaku's home is in one of the systems. Additionally Eri has a complex schematic of the town (that she got from her father) which she studies regularly so she can get hide if her parents ever have skirmish like they did after the affair.
With all that I knew I guessed foul play. The thoughts I had of what was happening involve a dying Eri getting gang raped deep in the alley complex. My mind was a little imaginative, but for good reason. Everyday on the news the headline was "10 girls were raped and found dead in corner! Hear more at ten." While most of these incidences are greatly exaggerated (like the above incident would only be that a couple of beautiful girls got involved in some bizarre mass tripping incident, where the guy who accidentally started the strange event got to see all their panties, and when someone walked in the alley that the said person would see the guy so dumbfounded that the person assume the assumed the worst and call the cops and the news station), every once in a while some psycho would go on some killing/raping spree so come ten o'clock you wouldn't know whether the story was true or not.
Then to add to my imaginative horror story, I found something disturbing. While deciding which way to go further down ally, I found a small spot of fresh blood near the one of the footprints I hand been following. This easily confirmed my deluded suspicions. I also saw where the footprints led, the blood spots continued.
I immediately disregarded all of what little common sense I had and immediately rushed towards the trail of blood. My mind was racing.
I hope I'm not too late. Don't have Eri be dead, I continually thought.
As I got further down the trail the more worried I got and the more horrifying the possibilities got (and in retrospect, the more ridiculous).
I turned past one more corner and stopped. It was a dead end. There was a young teenage girl sitting at the end of the ally. She had long dark hair and was wearing a white coat you could probably imagine being worn by a movie star.
It was my beautiful friend, Eri.
Her hands were clutching her forehead It seemed like she had been injured there. Her usually white hands were red with blood. She was still alive though. She was moving and groaning a little.
She then moved her head up to look at me and said weakly (yet angrily), "Hey Naota. So are you going to stand there looking at me or are you going to help me get out of here." The usual pain in her eyes was there, with a little more. Her face displayed a little anger and embarrassment. Her hands would stay on her forehead at all times
I responded to her and walked over to her. I kneeled down by her, and I asked curiously, "What happened? How did you get injured? How long have you been in this alley?"
She responded, "I was running late, I came down here…" I couldn't hear what she said for a second, "…and I got stuck here. It really doesn't matter, just get me home."
I then said, "What did you say happened? I couldn't hear you for a second."
"It really doesn't matter," she replied. It seemed like she was hiding something. She was still clutching her forehead. I was still curious of what happened here, how and why Eri got here. I also had a fear in the back of my mind that had not occurred to me earlier when running in the alley. The rest of them were baseless worries, but this one was one that actually any substance to me.
This curiosity forced me to ask, "Can I see the injury to your head? It might be bad."
This seemed to strike a nerve with her, "Injury? Th-The-There isn't any injury." That proved it; she was hiding something to me, herself, or both.
"Then why are clutching your head?"
"I have a headache." She was good at thinking fast, but here she was very sloppy
"Then why are your hands covered with blood?" I had her. At first she couldn't respond, but she was still resourceful. She gave it one last go.
She said once more, "I do have a cut, but it is very small. It really doesn't matter. Could you just help me back to my house?"
"If it isn't so bad then let me see it!" I demanded.
"It's fine. Nothing is wrong. I just want to get home," she said trying to stand up, yet still concealing her forehead. I was getting tired of this already. Without saying anything, I grabbed her arms and tried removing her hands off her forehead. When trying to do this she shrieked, "Don't you understand? Nothing's wrong! Please, stop it Naota!"
I responded, "If nothing is wrong, then why do you resist? Because you are so resistant something must be wrong" It was either she was too weak to continue on or she finally saw logic. She pushed her elbows to knock me off. She then finally lowered he hands.
Eri had been telling the truth about not having a head wound. It had been her hands that had been bleeding due to having two deep gashes; one in each hand. They had been punctured by the something. It was no knife wound that had caused injuries; it what was sticking out of her head that had created the wounds.
It was sticking out of her head. It was skin near the base, but as it got near the end the more metallic it got. It was shaped like the tip of a blade. It was fitting, since it had stabbed Eri's hands in her attempts to hide the horn due the sharpness.
She had has now looking at the ground, like she was ashamed. She seemed to be troubled by this and for good reason. What would follow from this problem would probably not end too well for her.
"Eri, I think you should come to my house," she nodded, now resigned to her fate.
My worst fear had come true. It may have come to my mind last, but it was horrifying nonetheless.
Eri had a horn coming out of her head and all I knew was that something would be coming out of it. The only question I had was just how this occurred.