Evolution of the Lost Ground

Disclaimer: I do not own s.CRY.ed or any of its characters.

A/N: I thought the series shouldn't have ended where it did (so many exciting possibilities!) so I just pretended it didn't ::wields magic wand with gusto::. This story overlaps with episode 26 and continues from there. I have a very detailed style of writing that some will love and some will hate. Reserve judgment until you get through the first chapter. And of course, this is just one possible interpretation out of many.

Warning!! SPOILERS for most of the series!! (Hell, it starts at the end, what'd you expect?)

Chapter 1a

The bright, sunny sky above the Lost Ground explodes with thunderous cracks. Some inhabitants stare up in awe, wondering about the flashes and con trails that one by one pepper the blue above their heads. Something is happening over the new mountains, formed just months ago in an event that shook the entire island. However, this recent event holds only a fraction of the violence that accompanied the original disaster 22 years ago, the disaster that eventually gave the Lost Ground its name.

There is only one car heading towards the disturbance over the mountains. The driver, a young black-haired girl, wears an expression of worry and urgency as she speeds up the mountains. Her passenger is a much younger girl who almost looks as if she were asleep. The embodiment of innocence. She seems so serene, not noticing the driver, the road, or the loud collisions in the sky above. Yet she is concentrating.

God, I'm driving like Cougar… Mimori Kiryu thinks to herself ...but I have to get there. I have to know he'll survive."

"Are you sure it's this way, Kanami?" Mimori asks nervously.

The serene girl answers, "Yes, we are almost there."

The car speeds over bumps and rocks, barely holding what little road has been carved out of the newly formed terrain. As they pull into a flat expanse, Mimori stops the car and stares through the window into the sky above. The car shakes with each collision that occurs overhead. "It's so senseless. They're going to kill each other," Mimori mutters half to herself. Kanami Yuta, her passenger, is peculiarly silent.

Suddenly a final loud bang echoes above their heads and a ball of entangled mass speeds towards the ground, crashing into the dirt only a hundred meters away. The little car rocks violently, and is soon covered by the giant cloud of dust that erupts from the impact. As the dust settles, all is silent. Kanami slowly opens her door, followed by Mimori, and the two step tentatively toward the impact site.

As they near the crater, they can make out two figures hunched at the center. They are two young men, both beaten, clinging to the edges of consciousness. As they attempt to stand, chunks of shining armor shatter off their bodies and fall to their feet. The brown-haired man favors his left leg and clutches his right arm as if holding it in its socket. He glares through his good eye, the left one, at the other man only feet from him. The other man returns the stare under a curtain of green hair, hunching noticeably and clutching his left side. They glower at each other with intense, hateful stares before finally mustering enough strength to step towards one another.

Mimori goes to rush towards them but halts as she notices Kanami from the corner of her eye. The little girl is stone still, clutching her hands and watching the men with large, observant eyes. Just from the girl's expression, Mimori knows not to interfere.

After an eternity the men come within inches of each other, and the brown-haired one lands a solid punch on the other's cheek. The other stumbles but does not fall, instead returning the face punch and adding a blow to the gut. The first buckles at the blows, but then steps into the other and delivers a hard elbow to the gut, then pulls it up to the chin. The recipient recovers and knees the first in the stomach, driving an elbow into his back. Mimori instinctively puts up her hands to cover her eyes, but knows at once that she must watch. She must not look away. She knows if she wants to stay in the Lost Ground she must become stronger, must show fortitude. Yet she cannot help but wince with every bone-shattering strike the men exchange.

The men are matching blow for blow on one another, wrestling, clawing. Every contact draws blood and animalistic cries of pain. Each hit appears to contain every ounce of the deliverer's strength, yet somehow they muster just a bit more energy for the next punch. Though the fight slowly begins to cycle down, its length and brutality defy all logic. They exchange what appear to be final blows again and again. Just when it seems as if the two could fight forever simultaneous strikes drop both men where they stand. They each collapse, bruised and broken. Silence falls with their bodies, and all is deathly quiet.

When the girls finally approach, the ground is sprinkled with blood both men have spit and spilled. A wave of nausea gently rises in Mimori, but her concern makes her drop to the ground in the middle of it all.

"Ryuho…" she whispers aloud, sweeping away the young man's green hair and laying her hand lightly on his chest. She looks over at the sprawled brown-haired figure, which Kanami has kneeled next to and is observing intently. "Kazuma…" Neither appears to be breathing.

"Kanami, are they…" Mimori trails off, hesitant to finish her sentence.

"Idiots…….yes," Kanami answers, "And both are alive." Mimori closes her eyes and gives an audible sigh. She will not cry this time. She will be strong for Ryuho, stronger than he thinks she can be. Now there is work to be done.

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"I won, right?" Kazuma smiles weakly through his good eye. Kanami's chastising frown does not answer his question.

"Kazu-kun, how could you be so irresponsible? You're no good to anyone like this," Kanami gestures towards his limp form in the bed. Kazuma again smiles at the little girl, pausing a moment to marvel at the great depth and greenness of her eyes. So young, yet so intuitive. Her long sandy-colored hair, though pulled back in an oversized red bow, still comes down to her knees.

The disappointment on her face changes to concern. "I know you had to fight him, I do. But … you let it go too far."

"I'll say," a voice from the doorway. It's Asuka Tachibana, one time rival and almost-friend of Kazuma. They are staying in his house in what is left of the economic district of the Lost Ground. Purple haired, tall and lean, he practically swims in a camel colored coat that is much too large for him. Its length makes him look shorter. "You and Ryuho caused enough of a ruckus battling all those planes and ships from the Mainland. That extra little stunt at the end was just crazy."

He tries to laugh it off, but a stern warning underlies his demeanor. "We can't afford to lose people when things are just beginning to get so bad." He then adds quietly, "Especially you guys." There is just a hint of pain in his last phrase. Like Kazuma and Ryuho, Tachibana is an Alter user. But, rather than fighting using his Alter he has instead applied himself to the economic concerns of the Lost Ground, finding ways to get goods and supplies for the island's inhabitants despite the current conflict with the Mainland. Tachibana is not the same person Kazuma met at HOLY. He has lost much, but has arguably gained even more. "Try to get some rest, Kazuma. And do what Kanami tells you to."

As the door closes behind Tachibana, Kanami watches as if she can still see him. "He used his Alter to help you heal. You should thank him."

After a long moment she turns to Kazuma and stares him square in the eyes. He knows this is about the last time they saw each other- when he tried to prepare her for his extended departure before his battle with the Mainland's forces.

"I know you said goodbye, Kazu-kun, but I won't let you leave. Whether you know it or not you need me. We're supposed to be together forever, I just know it."

Kazuma begins to protest, but he's just so tired. Hell, he couldn't leave now if he wanted to. And arguing with her seems stupid at this point. He can only lay there and place a bandaged hand on top of hers. He'll explain when he's back on his feet.

"I know you think that it's dangerous to be around you, and that you will protect me by leaving me behind. But it would be harder for me that way. Being separated from you would hurt me so much more. Kazu-kun, I'm safer and stronger when I'm with you."

Damn, her Alter power is getting sharp. How the hell do you argue with someone who can read your mind? He is just coming to realize that Kanami has a handle on him inside and out. He sighs, giving up. "C'mere." And Kanami crawls next to him and curls up, resting her head on his good arm. He wraps that arm around her and gives her shoulder a little squeeze.

"You'll see I'm right," she says before closing her eyes.

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When Tachibana returns to the front room of the house Cammy, his girlfriend, can tell things are tense despite his smile. Is he sad? Yes, he is. But why? Though not an Alter user, she can sense his every emotion regardless of how well he hides it from others. Without a word she rises from the couch, crosses the room to him, wraps her arms around his waist and tucks her head under his chin. She knows he likes to smell her hair, and when she holds him like this she can hear his heartbeat under his shirt. He instantly softens and melts around her.

At this moment she knows she will always be with him. She knows he is a part of her, as much as her heart or lungs- that he is vital to her existence. She remembers how his disappearance after leaving HOLY had left a great emptiness inside of her. How she could not evacuate to the Mainland like the other City dwellers on the island because she knew he would not be there. How after months she finally found her way through the Lost Ground to this house, to him.

This is his house but she is his home. Yes, she will do anything and everything in her meager power for him. Even if she can do nothing more than protect his heart. Anything. Always.

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To be continued...