Passages, Prelude & Chapter One

AN - This sort of popped into my head last night after reading some TOURS doujinshi. Somehow I decided that I wanted to a) write a story in the HiME-verse and b) write it far in that universe's future. I'm posting this to gauge interest and to see if I should go on.

It's been ten years since that day, almost to the date. Ten years since I ordered Duran's guns to fire one last time into the serpent-like grip of the monstrous Kiyohime. Ten years since I took my own life.

Death is one of those entities that has a sinking habit of sneaking up on you, whether you want it to or not, it's nearly impossible to prevent it from happening. There are stories about men who wanted to be immortal, they asked for things that no right-minded human would want - and the prices they paid were always far higher than they had expected.

I did not ask to live, nor did I ask to die.

It was simply a set of circumstances that I, and twelve others like me, were thrown into against our will. We were chosen at birth for the roles we placed in that fool's carnival - and our roles were all that mattered. After that we were brushed aside, our schooling and future employment completely taken care of in the single gesture of pity we were afforded.

We fucking died for them and all they could do was give us money.

I want my life back.

I want my life to return to the way it was before those bastards took away everything that I held dear.

They stole a year of my childhood and ten years of my life with one simple action.

My mother was hardly innocent, I know that now; but at the time my mind was too clouded by everything I refused to see. It was right in front of my eyes all along, I was just too blind to notice.

Such is the nature of my existence.

Mai, in her spare moments between her restaurant and Mikoto at university, tells me that I'm rather dense. I prefer to think of myself as a blunt person; people need to be blunt with me or I will miss the point entirely.

I'd hate to think that I'd missed the point of what happened to all of us. As far as I could tell, there was no point. We'd fought a battle because some higher power had wanted us to, and now we were expected to just go on living.

How does one go about living when you have seen death? I try to answer that question very day, and I find that there are no answers to it. I have seen what is at the end of the metaphorical tunnel. There's no white light, and it isn't pleasant - there's just nothingness and a feeling of isolation so powerful that you almost want to believe in God and Heaven to escape the dark.

I've never talked to anyone about what it was like to die. I was one of the few who faded away into nothingness, pulled by a girl who loves me more than life itself.

Mai doesn't understand that feeling, but she understands how the loss can affect a person. She lost so much in the battle, while I had already lost most of what I had before it even started.

The string the Fates cut for me was very different from the ones cut for the other twelve. We're all so very different - there's nothing we have in common save this carnival.

I sometimes wonder, how would I be, should the carnival had never taken place. I can't even begin to imagine it, I was angry then, and I'm angry now.

Shizuru says that I stress myself out, thinking about these things.

It's been ten years, however; and I can't stop dwelling on the past. I feel as though I'm still missing something important, a lesson I should have learned from those days that I haven't picked up on, yet.

Five years later.

The early morning sunlight filtered in though the western-style binds and cut through the darkness of the room with large slices of color that illuminated the room within. On a futon in one corner, a red-haired young woman lay curled up into a ball. It was as if she was trying to pull her body as far as humanly possible from the sunlight before wakefulness jolted her back onto this plane of reality.

She was having a nightmare, and her breath was coming in sort gasps as she tried to fight it off. Her fingers clawed at her futon, desperately seeking to hold onto something, anything to stay the pain of what she now felt. She needed to be whole again, not this half-life she was now living. The nightmare raged within her, and a fleeting thought passed through her mind: it was a good thing she had thrown that man out earlier. He didn't need to witness this.

No one did.

Her fingers were tearing into the futon now, coated in a strange glove of olive green and magenta. The mattress was nothing against the claws that the woman had long since forgotten she possessed - it was ripped to shreds almost without a second thought.

She twisted once again, rolling onto her back as she tried to escape the sensation of being chased, of being powerless, of knowing that what she held most dear to her would perish if she got it wrong.

These sorts of things were persistent, however, and the woman's forehead was covered in sweat by the time her alarm went off.

"Julia!" She shouted, sitting up abruptly.

She looked around the room, at her ruined mattress and disheveled bed. Why were the dreams back now? So many years had past since them, since the events they proceeded. Why were these thing happening again?

She switched off the alarm and stared a little more closely at her mattress. The marks were long and precise, as though they'd been done with a knife and not frantic fingernails.

Not that her nails were sharp enough to do that kind of damage, anyway. They were just pleasantly sharp, to give her bed-partners something to remember her by before she threw them out of the apartment.

Discovering sex had been a revelation for her, for it made men come to her like never before - and it made the eventual betrayal all the sweeter. Her mother called her 'loose' for what she did, and her friends joked about her insatiable sexual appetite.

Really, she would do anything to escape the memories of the game she so foolishly played as a girl. She'd been insane then, they all had been.

A blood red blade descending down, a monster roaring up behind her.

Some of them had been crazier than others.

Her mind again drifted back to that blood red blade, thinking of it was enough to fill her with more terror than her nightly trips down memory lane. It was an element, like her own, so powerful and so useless in this day and age. What does a worker in Advertising need with a weapon like that? An element? She wondered, looking down at the long slices into her mattress. The man earlier had been the boring type, not adventuresome enough to be into blood play. It couldn't have been him, which left only her. A sense of fear gripped her as she tried to think of something - anything, that could have done the damage.

There was nothing.

The marks were made by the near-perfect weapons that she'd now found herself wishing for at every turn. Razor wire and knives, two perfect weapons that left men to be putty in her hands.

They were the only things that it could be. Shakily, the woman fumbled under her pillow for her cell phone and dialed a number from memory, a number that she did not dare to keep in the phone itself. Association with that sort of people was enough to lose her job if she wasn't careful. She had to be oh, so wary these days. One false step and she'd be back on the street, jobless and penniless again.

And considering by whose charity she was living now, that option almost seemed worth it.

She did not take favors from anyone.

"Kuga," A gruff and tired sounding voice said on the other line, "This had better be good."

The woman paused, wondering what Kuga would say when she spun her tale. "I summoned my elements last night, Natsuki."

Kuga did not say anything for a few drawn out moments. The woman could see her, sitting at her desk in that big corporate building she'd decided to work in, chewing on her thumbnail. Gone was the woman who had argued against the conviction that they were the same. They were both so very different now, Kuga and herself. Worlds apart as they struggled with their shared past. Kuga would always be one of those beautiful things forever out of her reach, claimed by another far more powerful than she.

The woman wasn't one to push her luck. She'd seen how far that could take her while she was still in middle school.

"You're lying, Nao." Kuga said at length. "It's a poor joke."

Nao frowned, "I have successfully decimated my mattress and all you can do is grunt out, 'you're lying'? Don't you get it, Kuga?" How could she explain to this incredibly dense woman that she was not joking.

"I see no other reason why you would call me, I'm just a ghost from your past now."

Nao found herself pouting slightly, she still came to Midori's 'HiME Sentai' gatherings every few months - and she came round to Mai's restaurant more often than not. "I see you enough to make you at least an apparition, Kuga. Ghost is a one time thing, we see far too much of each other for that."

"Whatever." Kuga sounded tired, very tired.

Fujino must have kept her up all night again. The thought came pleasantly to Nao, but the thought of the honey-haired woman filled her again with the same dread she'd been trying to avoid ever since she'd woken up.

"Look, I don't want to talk to you either, I just thought that you'd like to know." Nao spat into the phone, banishing all thoughts of Fujino from her mind with the simple anger that she'd long-since trained herself to fill her life with.

"Good, you told me, now leave me the fuck alone." Kuga's voice was harsh, but Nao was well-versed in Kuga's moods, she was annoyed, if not anything else. And intrigued.