Atmung

A Rozen Maiden fanfic by Aondehafka

Disclaimer: the characters and concepts of Rozen Maiden are owned by Peach Pit, not me. This story is based on the anime, not the manga.

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Chapter 10: A Day at the Beach

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A beautiful summer's day. A gentle breeze, swaying the tall oceanside grasses. A tiny beach, isolated in the middle of rocky coastline where no-one would stumble upon them. The ingredients for a perfectly peaceful afternoon, or so everyone had thought.

A picnic basket rested atop a large, flat rock, with an ice chest on the ground nearby. Three teenagers reclined on blankets, one girl reading while the other girl and boy just drowsed in the sun. Another blanket lay abandoned, as the woman who had spread it out was busy snapping photographs of the four remaining beachgoers.

Hina Ichigo looked up from the sand castle she and Kanaria were building. "How much longer until she runs outta film?" she asked, her lips forming a pout.

"She's got sixteen more rolls," Kanaria answered without bothering to look at her medium. "But why does it matter? She's not making you dress up or telling you what to do or anything."

"Yeah, but all those squeals about how cute we are! It's scaring away the seagulls."

"She's not gonna stop that when she runs out of film, you know."

Hina Ichigo stuck her lips out farther, proving once again that she was the Rozen Maiden Princess of the Pout.

"You ought to be thankful for her, Chibi Ichigo," pronounced Suisei Seki, appearing suddenly behind the smallest doll and looming over her with a dark grin. "Seagulls really like blue; that's why they live near the water. And you're the only one of us wearing a blue bathing suit. If it weren't for Micchan, they'd already have flown down and torn it to shreds."

"R-Really?" Hina Ichigo said fearfully, her green eyes widening and her golden curls standing slightly on end. Behind her Kanaria rolled her eyes, but kept silent. The self-proclaimed 'most intelligent doll of Rozen Maiden' had learned long ago not to get between Suisei Seki and a prank.

"Mm-hm," Suisei Seki affirmed. "They like red too, but not as much. That's probably why Shinku wore that suit." The dolls turned to look at the closest towel. The girl lying on it was clearly not Japanese, with her long blonde hair, blue eyes, and creamy pale skin. She wore a reserved one-piece suit of crimson and white. "That way the birds will just tear off some of it. She can pretend to be all modest and still show off for Jun." Suisei Seki glowered at the girl, before switching her gaze to the tall, black-haired, leanly-muscled young man one towel over. The glower faded to something more wistful as she did so.

"Um... I don't get it," Hina Ichigo confessed.

'Neither do I,' Kanaria thought uncertainly. 'Was she really trying to scare Hina Ichigo, or just distract her from Micchan? Or maybe Suisei Seki was the one who got distracted?'

All of a sudden Shinku sat up with a gasp, her eyes wide and her hands crossing over her chest to clasp each opposite arm. Jun was up an instant later, looking at her with concern. "Shinku? Are you okay? You look like you're... cold?"

"I... I feel something." She was trembling now. "Something is chilling me, and it isn't the ocean breeze..."

"Great," Jun muttered under his breath. She hadn't learned to consciously use her abilities in her cursed form yet, but she was still more sensitive than he was. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, concentrating and reaching outward. The rose ring on his finger began to glow crimson.

His eyes flew open again. "Crap!" he shouted as he jumped to his feet, loud enough to reach even photo-happy Mitsu. "It's Suigin Tou!" In nearly the same motion he darted to the cooler, pulled out a bottle of water, popped the top on it, stared hard at it for an instant while his ring blazed like a star, then tossed it over Shinku, the heated water shrinking her down from 'human' to 'living doll'.

"Suigin Tou?" repeated Nori, sitting up and fumbling her glasses into place, even as a whirl of rose petals spun around Shinku, slicing away the excess fabric of the bathing suit and reforming the rest into something that fit. "I know she hates it that Shinku abandoned the goal of Alice and used that magic water so she could be with you, but I thought you made peace with her."

"I guess Suigin Tou decided she couldn't accept it after all." This was Sousei Seki, finally looking up from her study of the oceanside vegetation. Her voice carried the faint but unfading note of disapproval that Jun and Shinku had been growing hard-pressed to ignore.

At the moment, though, ignoring it was as easy as breathing. "She promised us!" The protest and anger in Shinku's tone were far more obvious than any undertones of the Gardener. "After Jun showed Megu how to loop back the Rose Bond and gain the power to heal and strengthen herself, Suigin Tou promised there would be no more attacks!"

"And we believed her," Jun said disgustedly. "But she's out there right now, burning a lot of power, and coming closer... very... fast..."

Even as he spoke Suigin Tou came into view, blazing along four feet over the water with her shoulder-wings of ebon feathers streaming behind her. The other dolls might try different clothes from time to time, but Suigin Tou still wore the only outfit they'd ever seen her in, the Gothic gown of violet and white.

She did have one new accessory, though... the rope she held in both hands. It trailed behind her, tight and vibrating with the speed of her passage. At the other end of it was a beautiful black-haired girl on water skis, still pale from a lifetime spent in hospital but no longer sickly.

The eight beachgoers watched, jaws dangling, as Suigin Tou and Megu blazed out of sight as quickly as they'd entered it. Only for an instant did the First Doll of Rozen Maiden even acknowledge their existence, turning to face them with a tiny, guarded smile. And then the two were gone, hidden by an outlying rocky spit of coast, though Megu's squeals of joy lingered for several moments longer.

As those faded, silence reigned for nearly five minutes. It was finally broken by Suisei Seki. "Nice detective work, you two. But I don't think Kun-Kun needs to worry about his job anytime soon."

"Noooo!" This was Mitsu. "The only chance I may ever have to get Suigin Tou-chan on film, and I missed it!"

"Well, that was a relief. But what am I supposed to do about my bathing suit?" Shinku wondered. "I suppose there's enough material to put together a decent bikini."

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Author's notes

Since I made it reasonably clear ahead of time that Shinku was going to take a Nyannichuan curse, I needed something else for the high point of this final chapter. The image of Suigin Tou zipping along with a water-skiing Megu on a tow rope seemed like a good ending note.

As this is the end of the story, that means it's finally time to mention what the title of the fic means (for anyone who didn't already consult a German-to-English dictionary). The second season of the anime is Traumend, which means 'Dreaming', and my follow-up, Atmung, means 'Breathing'.