Chapter 3: Referenced Past
Midtown Medical Center:
Unlike the hustle and bustle due to unforeseen calamity and heightened chaotic situations of tensions escalated for the appeal of the audiences of television drama, the halls of Midtown Medical represent the stark opposite as it upholds the epitome of tranquility.
Here, doctors neither race about from one crisis to another or wallow in the despairs of daily woes. Instead, doctors and med-students alike enjoy breaks of leisure in staff lounges or the like. Topic of conversations that ensue are anything but stressors of interfering laws, management changes, or financial difficulties, instead focused on the more pleasant aspects of society, or general common-speak.
For today… today is not an exception.
With little care in the world, a group of no less than eight doctors and lab technicians have chosen the hallway outside the X-ray room to confer. Whether they are there to shoot the breeze, or just awaiting their scans, they seem less than engaged otherwise. Which all in all, is never that bad since this is the way it is.
However, among them, one doctor with documents in hand and obvious concerns scrawled across his face chooses a moment's pause in topic flow to excuse himself from the throng and start his way down the corridor.
Whatever his objective, though it seemed undoubtedly normal, there was also a hint in his posture that suggested discomforted unease. Such was made all the more certain by the number of times he glanced to his watch. As he was, he even slowed his pace accordingly, as though setting the pace for an expectant meeting.
Or was it… by chance?
Whichever the case, the appearance of a smile upon his lips was at least some indication that he was on the right track, or at least his agenda. The cause of which had just appeared in a now opened door further down the way. A cause of which wore apparel of Midtown's specialized nursing division, standard for the most part, save an embroidered crest upon each upper arm representing what looked of water flow about a fixed medical cross.
Aside from that one unique aspect of the uniform, was a woman above the usual nursing par. Still at a young mid to late twenties age range, she showed no visible signs of worry or stress related anxieties. Rather, as a whole she was rather cheerful and vibrant, average height, pleasant attributes and curves, with an above average face with a soft appearance. Shoulder cut jet black hair framed her face and if could, helped to accent her rich smile.
Returning to that of the doctor's vantage, though he once again resumed his professional stance, it was beyond doubt the cause of the smile now. Yet, for whatever reason, it seemed as though his intentions seemed otherwise as he feigned slight surprise at her appearance. Something she was quick to pick up.
"Sensei," she stated cheerfully. "Good morning… or it's more lunch time than that now I suppose." She pivoted on her heel, readied to start away. "Well then, I think I'll just-"
"Ah, do you have a moment, Nomonami-san?" asked the doctor nodding to the documents in his hand.
"If possible, could you take this paperwork to our new Apprentice RN? I'd go myself, but I haven't the confidence to answer all her questions, considering… well, you both being of the "advanced" level, I'm sure you'll be a much better representation."
"Oh… Sensei…" her eyes narrowed slightly and she cast a wry smile. "This wouldn't be… Aura discrimination… would it?"
"Ah." The implications hit him hard. He never quite dealt with her on this subject… but if he pushed her too far? "Of course not, I- I just…"
"It's fine," she waved off wearing a sincere smile. "I was just having fun considering."
"Ah… yes, yes I forgot that about you." He said less than sure, as he mopped the sweat beads from his brow.
"Well then…" she asked sweetly.
He looked up and she smiled.
"Well, I was just wondering if you know where I can find her…" asked Nomonami with an amused expression. "Otherwise I might as well be excused from work for the rest of today while I try to hunt her down."
"Ah yes, of course… you'd need to know, my mistake." He paused as he tried to remember both the objective of this conversation and where he had misplaced his composure. When settled, he continued with confidence. "I'm certain she said she would dine in the cafeteria today. She should be the only advanced there, but cute girl, teal and sky hair… not difficult to miss."
"Teal and sky… alright, then I'll be off. Have a good break Sensei."
"Break?" It seemed as though she knew the habits better than he anticipated… but yet took him up on it? He'd have to keep his actions better managed. "Er… yes, I'll try to do such…"
Nomonami shook her head as she pushed through the doors to the stairs. Normally, she wouldn't have conceded as easily… but the thought of subjecting whatever poor new girl had entered her midst to that kind of first treatment just seemed inhuman.
Besides… if she wasn't doing this, she might be assigned with something else… something probably boring.
Perhaps this way she was lucky.
The hospital cafeteria as it was was not large for the hospital, but quite spacious that appearances deceived. The set up was typical, to say the least, of any regular hospitals, with one side devoted to the retrieval of food and beverages, as well as additional services, while the majority consisted of tables and chairs, all lined up between the first area and the series of wall windows on the opposite side. The series of glass panels that the wall consisted of, allowed those in the eatery to gaze upon the hospital courtyard some levels below, as well as the adjacent wings and encircling departments of the larger part of the hospital.
Aside from that, the cafeteria itself as of today was quite empty, save for a few patients here and there, and one lone girl stationed next to an array of plants by the rightmost window segment. A girl whose bright eyes stared out those very windows, detaching their owner's mind from the world of the present, which was evident in the manner that she supported herself. With her hand supporting her chin, her food virtually untouched, and her teal bangs and sky blue hair lazily hanging in a pattern of disarray.
Like Nomonami, she wore a standard nurse's uniform that bore the water crests and virtually the same trimmings, the only true difference being the color, in which hers was more of a light blue, just so as to identify her as an apprentice. Well, that and the difference of mood, where Nomonami was vibrant, the young woman Orina was visibly withdrawn.
All the more evident when she visibly sighed, her shoulders sagged and her lips parted to form a word that was barely audible over the hum of the air conditioners.
Where was he now, what was he doing? She couldn't help but wonder.
She couldn't think about anything else.
At his return, just to see his face that time made her happy beyond words, even though she knew better than anyone that his feelings weren't for her, just the hope to be beside him once more… And then, without so much of an indication as to his aims, he was gone.
He was gone.
It was too cruel.
Both he and Zero, weren't they all childhood friends? So then, if truly the case, why did they leave? To what purpose?
What could change a person so… Ai?
True, she knew about he and Mew, of how she was the one from the beginning, and how it was never truly herself that Ai loved, for how could it be? After all, she was alone in that dream.
She was always alone.
Without her realizing that she had reached that specific emotional state, a single ran the length of her cheek and proceeded to fall to the table below, pulling her from her inner thoughts and back to her present.
"Oh no," she said aloud as she sat up, looking embarrassed. "What," she sniffed while looking for a napkin or something, "What was I doing?"
Orina blinked at the presented handkerchief that came along with the voice across the table.
"It's ok to take it, you know."
Orina looked up to the smiling face of the nurse across the way. One with a pretty face and shoulder length black hair.
"Aura designate 'Sara', Orina-chan, I presume?"
"Ah, y-yes." replied Orina softly as she accepted the offering and wiped the offending tear streaked cheek of hers.
"I guess it'd be difficult to get it wrong, what with your hair and all." Nomonami said as she presented just her hand this time. "Nomonami Eri, pleased to make your acquaintance."
Orina took her hand in greeting before releasing. "The same."
"So Orina-chan, you are something of a rarity around here, you know." Nomonami said as she took a seat across from her. "Aura users in general aren't that common, and most get absorbed into the government, so we really don't have too many that manage simple jobs. Truthfully, I'm kind of glad to have you here."
Having forgotten about her momentary emotional upset, Orina found herself pulled towards the conversation, as there weren't many who would be out going enough to venture upon the subject if normal, for simple fear of provoking something unforgiving.
"Well," Nomonami began, "including the two of us, there are only three Aura users associated with this facility, and that one other isn't a very sociable person."
Orina swallowed. She knew that type of person, having dealt with several at the academy. "Ah, well…"
"Don't worry, don't worry." Nomonami said reassuringly. "He's a Fire Aura, so it's expected that he would be temperamental. I think they have him dealing with incineration protocols, sterilizations, and the like. Not something I'd want to get stuck with either… and not very good dinner topics either." She nodded in agreement with her own statement. "But as we're both women, and both Water Aura, we're in perfect agreement."
Orina nodded despite herself. The non-Aura energy radiated from just the presence of her senpai was strongly reassuring, as though it had its own healing properties. That and how she hadn't even made comment to the tear…
This was a woman Orina could look up to.
"I-" started Orina, just as a staffing member came across the room.
"Nomonami-san?" he inquired uncertainly. "There's a patient who could use your… expertise. In room 305. If you could…?"
"Sure," sighed Nomonami as she pushed out of her chair reluctantly. "Not even the time to make friends at this place."
"Uh…" Orina began uncertainly as Nomonami started to turn away.
"Oh wait a sec…" Nomonami returned to present Orina with a folder full of various documents and papers. "These are for you. Most of its meaningless 'welcome to the establishment' kind of stuff… but if you want to, you can join me after you finish your meal, and I'll be happy to show you most of what that drabble says."
With that, she hurried from the room, leaving Orina in a state of bewilderment.
Was that a welcome, or a delivery?
She looked at the folder in her hands and the plate of food below. She wasn't hungry.
Then she became aware of the warm softness in her left hand, and unfolded her fingers to reveal the handkerchief from before.
With a smile, she collected her tray and herself, before setting out to start her afternoon.
Perhaps today wasn't going to be such a bad day after all.
Elsewhere, on what looked to be that of a deserted plane, signs of battle lay etched as ground scars, deep into the land.
Amidst the lack of plant life and terrain difference, were bodies wearing the Psychic Academy uniform lying haphazardly spread at random, with no obvious signs of injury or life. All around was a crisp chill in the air and a low fog of something other than water. As well as the sound of heavy breathing from just one source.
A lone girl, possibly of junior high age, was standing amongst the bodies wearing clothing similar to the fallen ones and obvious visible wounds despite the low visual attributes of the haze.
From the corner of her mouth bubbled fresh blood that oozed down her chin.
Despite all that, smiled as she wiped the blood with the back of her hand.
"P-perhaps," she began with a shaky voice, "today isn't such a bad day after all."
"Oh? You're still standing?" came the voice of another female voice from somewhere farther away. "That you managed to beat my minions is impressive in its self. Let alone that you still stand there… most impressive."
"Tch. Those small fries were a thousand years too early to even try against me. But surely you knew that already."
"Heh," returned the voice from somewhere up ahead. "I had a feeling you of all people could manage. But unfortunately for you, you're going down… Chaplan."
Chaplan laughed off the challenge as she adjusted her stance. It was true that the ones before were nothing to speak of, since they were simply reminiscent of the weak ones she fought against during her time in middle school, but the one behind them was worthy of being her challenger. That she had managed to cut her was simply all the more extraordinary.
"T-this time, I… will…"
She raised her hand and began to set the focus of her Aura power, which began to draw the scented mist around her, as well as additionally gathered from her aura.
Surely this time.
"Aura of Scents!" she cried as she jumped high and raised her arm with the condensed Aura. "Pierce and dispel, fragrance – "
Chaplan was cut off abruptly as a tower of ice erupted from below the mist line and slammed against her, causing her attack to disappear completely. Unable to retaliate with that, she wrapped her arm about the ice and slid to the ground before her adversary could continue the assault, nearly losing her precious footing on the iced ground below.
"Give it up." Came the voice again. "You've already lost, you know."
"Fine then, I won't care even if you die.
"Rank 19, 'Ice shot'!"
Chaplan grimaced as she attempted to pivot on an already injured leg. While she didn't fear the attack, as she had already faced it many times before, she did face a serious dilemma. If she stayed here, she could certainly be able to dodge any and all incoming attacks, no matter their rank or speed… at least until she tired out, which would mean her end. But on the same line of thought, if she rushed her opponent, she would certainly get within range for a successful attack, but be completely at the mercy of whatever attacks she would jump into.
Either way, it was a bad scenario.
She cursed under her breath. It was all or nothing.
"Give up yet? I'm starting to get bored."
"Tch…" Chaplan spat as she rushed out from behind the pillar of ice she was hiding behind, crouched low to avoid immediate detection as the ground began to rupture ice all around her, freezing all it touched, as she vaulted forward from the haze with all her might. Streaking down towards her blonde-haired adversary just behind a wall of noxious fumes, intent on delivering the final affliction.
"Don't think this over yet, Fafa-Senpai!" Chaplan cried as she lashed the toxic wave of scents fully upon her opponent as she landed hard before her.
This time, it was over.
"Hehe." Came the snide laughter that Chaplan had come to hate, though somewhat muffled.
A laugh which caused her head to whip up… just to see half of Fafa's face encased in ice.
An ice mask!
"Not over? Where do you get that?" Fafa spoke with a condescending air. "This is over."
She raised her hand high above her and grinned behind the mask, just as Chaplan shut her eyes.
"Rank 29… 'GLACIAL SPIK – '!?"
When the attack did not come, Chaplan opened her eyes to see that from behind, a hand gripped Fafa's raised arm, just below her wrist. The sudden shock of which surely had saved her just now.
The fog behind her was too thick to see clearly, and the suspense caused both girls to fall mute in anticipation of this unknown.
"Really, Fafa… Chaplan… If you wanted to be friends, isn't there a better way than this?"
Fafa perked up. She knew that voice… but it couldn't be!
"Ai-kun?" ventured Fafa uncertainly.
"Yes?" Parts of his face just began to become visible but just enough to ascertain her suspicion.
"Wah! It's Ai-kun!!" she exclaimed wildly as she twisted around and flung her arms about his midsection.
Ai's cheeks turned red out of embarrassment.
"G-Good afternoon, Fafa."
Fafa happily buried her face into his side as she tightened her embrace with joy. Even Chaplan who was already so worn, was smiling like a child.
"Senpai!" she exclaimed dreamily as she moved forward slowly, her former crush obviously not faded in the least. "You're really here."
"Uh… yeah, that's me, I am. Eh-heh." Ai fumbled as he spoke, though he should be used to it already. "Eh…" he started to look around for just the slightest of distractions. "It seems a bit different around here. More torn up than before." He stated obviously.
"Isn't it?!" exclaimed Fafa as she clung to him. "If you like it, I can tear it up even mooooore!"
"No," Ai started weakly, "That's quite all right."
"Aside from that," Chaplan stated in a more restrained manner. "What brings you here Senpai? I thought you and your brother were unreachable, doing something really fantastic!"
"Fantastic? Maybe, nothing that exciting… haha." Ai looked around nervously as though trying to frantically find another subject of topic simply to escape the embarrassment. "Ah, did he go ahead?"
"He?" Fafa questioned. "Ai's brother is here too?"
"Yeah," Ai confirmed as he surveyed the landscape. If memory served him correctly, the rabbit cage was nearby, though its state of integrity was certainly questionable with the ruin around him.
But all in all, that didn't matter as long as the one he sought was okay.
Master? Ai called out with his mind softly as Fafa tightened her embrace.
Pupil? Came a mental response in disbelief. Where are you?
Closer than I have been.
Suddenly the rabbit, Buu, 'jumped' into the space beside Ai's head, momentarily distracting Fafa enough that she loosened her hold.
"Hello master, it's been a while hasn't it?"
Shashumrafu! Buu exclaimed as he proceeded to lay several well placed blows on Ai's head. Just up and leaving… write once in a while! he raved as he continued the attack, taking full advantage of Ai's slowed reaction time.
Ai yelped as he tried in vain to ward off the attacks.
"Ah! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!!"
As you should be! Sniff. I've been lonely without you.
"Regardless, I've missed you too, master." Ai said warmly as he and Buu finished their reunion in silence. "Well," Ai ventured, "shall we get going then?"
Buu nodded his head as he floated over and grabbed hold of Ai's shoulder.
"Going?" said Fafa with a broken heart. "But you've only just got here."
"Yeah, but I'm not going far." He said with hopes of pacifying her before her emotions got the better of her. "Rather, I should be the one to apologize for having left you as you are."
Bewildered by his ambiguous remarks, she lessened her hold of him and lowered his arms as he placed his hands on her shoulders. A gentle white glow flowed from his body over both her and Chaplan, as well as the lands surrounding, slowly time shifting the damage and injuries until everything was returned to normal.
"Ai-kun…" Fafa uttered in amazement as minor pains left her, and an eased feeling crept over senses.
"Fafa, rest well."
"S-sure." Uttered Fafa softly as she closed her eyes and slumped to the ground, peacefully asleep.
Ai smiled at the younger girl off to the side, who was regarding him with a sparkly expression. A thin trail of some unknown vapor from around her hand slowly dissipated around the sleeping Fafa.
"That was done very discreetly, thank you Chaplan."
"Not at all sir, it was your idea after all." Chaplan admit timidly. "Though understanding her feelings I have to say I feel a bit sorry for her."
"It's ok like this." Ai stated simply. "Anyways, I'm off."
"Good luck, Senpai!"
With that, both Ai and Buu faded from sight as she turned her eyes back to her fallen adversary.
What should she do with her now?
"Regardless, that's the situation we're in now." Stated Zero to the man behind the desk. His beloved Chiroro Sensei by his side and even the assistant principal Goa looked on with an indiscernible expression.
Chiroro sighed tiredly. "So all that work you've done is essentially useless now?"
"Essentially." Admitted Zero reluctantly. "At least for the moment, those loci are nullified and their auras too unstable to balance. To even attempt it would lead to consequences far worse than simply leaving it alone."
"This is regrettable, but all the same it can't be helped." Said the principal as he regarded Zero. Fuu, who hovered in the air beside him, remained unreadable.
"Truthfully, after you destroyed the California branch of the A.D.C. last year, we have since severed all their ties and connections to the Academy. Unable to generate any standing, with their main facilities still in decline and their research awash, we let their ever presence fade from our minds." He stopped a moment to rub his eyes. "I fear that we have been too lax in this."
"It certainly holds some truth in this matter. Even though Ai-chan and I were chased around a bit here and there, it was no more than simple attempts to extract the light code, and nothing more." Zero offered. "While I wasn't going as far as to think over the possibility of their 'giving up', I had certainly hoped for more time uninterrupted. Unfortunately from that 'upset' among those of higher order aura coding, we can definitely-"
Zero was cut off as a momentary distortion in the area heralded the arrival of his younger brother, as Ai and Buu appeared in the room beside him.
"Ai-chan..." Zero admonished with less sincerity than it sounded. "You're late."
"Ah…" Ai said hesitantly as he looked around at the serious faces around him. While he himself was just as serious lately, he couldn't help but feel like he had in those early days. "That's because… well, there was this… uh… kind of commotion and I…"
Just then, the principal behind the desk sighed out of understanding. From the sound of it, he was well associated with the specific problem Ai was attempting to describe.
"Well, if that is how it is, being late is understandable."
"Two?" Zero questioned. "Fafa Damudi and who else?"
"Just a first year girl," replied Ai before the principal had to respond. "Remember when the middle school students came to test their strengths? And that Chaplan was among them."
Nnnmmm… but if I remember correctly, that one had a different reason for coming here.
"Well that is… ahaha." Laughed Ai nervously at Buu's reference to which he couldn't say, that she had really come because of her crush. And all because of defeating that A.D.C. representative.
From there, everything in his life went downhill… all due to the malice of the A.D.C. that had been set to take him away from the first. Because of them, his parents… the years away from his brother, and then Mew… and now, what was he? His hopes of normalcy just that time ago lay completely shattered in his mind, if not his very soul. A dream that abandoned him, only to leave him as the highest caliber of Aura-masters, one who would use the past and the experiences contained there as a guide of which would be used to shape the future.
All because of them…
"Anyway, those two and their problems of coexistence aside, let us resume our topic of before."
"Then back to that upset." Continued Zero. "Firstly, where was it that it originated, what it was specifically, and how many of 'us' felt it across the world."
"Unfortunately, the 'where' and 'what' will remain purely speculative at the moment, though there's no doubt of the 'who' in this case." Stated the principal calmly. "The matter of 'who and how many felt it' is relatively simple."
"That is," Chiroro started quietly, "among our students here at the academy only a true handful of students felt much of anything. Though a fair number seemed depressed in mood shortly after. Of course, people without Auras are unaware."
"Well, that is to be expected. In this case it's just like the Para-Dream. Something in existence that exists solely to those of the Aura. Though where the Para-Dream exists to inform and guide, this pulse seemed simply malicious and destructive.
"Something like that I don't like at all."
"Brother." Said Ai to Zero's comments. But like his brother he felt the same way, especially since whatever it was, interfered in their efforts and even served to place them behind. It was now possible that they'd be unable to awaken the Auras before meeting the source of it all.
"Don't worry Ai-chan," said Zero affectionately as he ruffled his brother's hair before putting his arm around Ai's shoulder, "we've only just started our campaign. So even a little set back shouldn't even hope to discourage us!"
That's right! Buu chimed in as he smacked Ai over the head. Especially since I'll be coming too!
"Eh!? Master too?"
Of course. Pupil and Master should be together through life's most difficult challenges. He said with his rabbit arms crossed while nodding his head in self agreement. Besides… it sounds like fun!
Ai's face fell slightly. "Fun… eh?"
"Geez Buu." Said Chiroro crossly with her hands on her hips. Though his conversation was solely with Ai, she was more than certain of its contents. "This isn't a game. This is serious."
Goa just nodded, as silent as ever.
"It's alright, Chiroro-Sensei." Said the principal as Fuu floated forward and engaged in a silent conversation with his son. "I'm sure that Buu will be more than helpful in the times to come."
"But if this is the A.D.C., then-"
"It's alright." Zero interceded happily, as the released Ai behind him rubbed his neck and conversed with the solitary Buu. "If they push, we'll push back. We can take 'em after all."
Chiroro sighed with a slight blush at his wink and flashed 'thumbs up'.
"But with all seriousness," resumed Zero with a look that paralleled his words, "If the A.D.C. has come forward with the intent to confront us and our efforts, then we'll just have to be ready for them when they come.
"However, if they do wish to confront us, then that means they've already included myself and Ai in those plans, which alone is enough for worry. Why the sudden confidence? The truth behind that is the true concern.
"But whatever the case, there's no denying that we need to step up our own timetables a bit. Which means finding the crucial loci and achieving the balances before anything else unexpected appears. I just hope that that 'pulse' before was merely a test and nothing yet finalized.
"But enough of speculation. Let Ai and I show you what we know."
Within the core of D-7, with the containment unit itself resting peacefully behind him, Watabe sat at the communications port of the floor control deck patiently awaiting an incoming transmission from a brother affiliate. While waiting, he basked in the silence of the now staff-free room, with several reports in hand, just him and the hibernating 'unit' behind him. It was relatively peaceful for a change.
After the momentary 'awakening', there were secret reconnaissances world-wide on the influences recorded. Most seemed rather passive. Depression amongst those of Aura, normal people unaffected… nothing major. But on the other hand, to stop Zerodyme and his brother, there had to be something more to that.
Which should be the purpose of this transmission… which according to his watch should be… now.
Watabe pivoted in his chair around to a paneled screen that showed a silhouette of a man in a plain room as to prevent knowledge of identity. It was something that Watabe felt was entirely unnecessary, but he let it go as long as they did their job well.
"Yes, I'm here." He said lazily. "You had some information for me, as I understand it?"
"Yes, that is correct, I'm sending the files electronically now. They should have more detailed figures on the respective 'awakening' of your system, as well as to the specifics behind its ability of interference to those of a higher Aura state."
"Sounds boring." Watabe replied. "Don't tell me you made me wait just for this?"
"No. I was also asked to inform you that your resources are not unlimited, and neither are ours. While this latest 'test' was impressive, it was merely a test."
"My point is; that unless you and your researchers show results in actual application, then you can expect your funds and contacts associated with you and this project will dry up and disappear respectively. Now then, you wouldn't want to have that."
"Of course not." Watabe stated calmly. "But you seem to misunderstand something.
"You misunderstand that my way differs from that of my late brother's. Where as he was impetuous by nature, more-so driven by his loss and ambition… I am calm and collective. I don't do anything half-assed."
"That may be… but it doesn't change the fact that the higher-ups want to know whether you're planning on keeping things the way they are now, or if you'll be stepping things up."
"Heh." Watabe laughed amused. "Either way, it doesn't really matter how much time we give them, for to those two Auras; time is already lost to them.
"Their stability is lost, and they are more likely to be in disarray while trying to figure the significance of meaning behind what blotched their efforts. And should they try again at whatever they are attempting, then the sensors will know… and we will stop them again.
"Besides, I should let you know this now.
"I'll only move when the time to move is right. And as eager as I am to be the first to strike, I only strike…
"When I know that I'll win."
A/C (10/30/06): An update... after so long. Sorry that real life interceded and caused a bit of writer's block before I could focus again. I do hope to continue this as I can, so hopefully the next release won't be as long in waiting.