Writer's Notes: Meh. D:
I just realized that I know next to nothing about the AAO. Like, what are their intentions, why are they there, why do they go against the Academy if they are Alices themselves? I mean, even if they don't like the Academy's methods, don't they do bad things to Alices, or am I getting confused with the Fanfictioned version?
I'll also be editing some past chapters, I reread a few of them and damn I have some terrible spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. And sometimes I just leave words out by accident. D: And I also need to reformat them since the little dashes I used as dividers disappeared.
Anyway, sorry these ridiculously slow updates. D:
As expected, a shocked, disbelieving silence filled the room. Hellfire gaped at Yomi, completely at loss for words.
"Your…sister?" Ruka said in a strangled voice.
"B-But…Yomi-san, you're 23, right? And…Matsuri's our age, it's hard to believe she's a…mastermind." Yuu said.
The older woman smiled faintly, "She's not my younger sister," she said, and the room went silent again.
"N-Not your younger…?" Stammered Yuu, eyed wide.
"That's right. Matsuri is my older sister. She's four years older than I am."
"But…how is that possible? She's the same age as Mikan and the others, isn't she? And she looks like a high schooler…!"
"Have I ever told you Matsuri's Alice?"
"Well no, but I think we all assumed it was something dangerous…"
"It's not. Matsuri's Alice is a special-ability type. It's an aging Alice. It lets her change her age as she wants, and if she tries hard enough, other people."
"Isn't it funny how she's been able to use such a seemingly useless Alice to do what she has?" Yomi let out a humorless laugh. "But her Alice costs her life force, since it changes her anatomy every time she becomes older or younger. I don't know if she's been using it often or not. But if her life's been cut short…" she paused, exhaled. "She might be going offensive because her life force has been cut short."
Hellfire looked at the café owner.
"That monster is your sister," Tsubasa said, with the smallest hint of disbelief in his voice, "And…you worry for her?"
"Tsubasa!" Hissed Yuu, and the blue-haired member's lips tightened into a thin line.
"What? How far does love go? Some Alices were thrown here by parents who thought them freaks. And can you really say you love them after all the rejection they've shown you? Maybe you can, but Matsuri is a murderess mastermind. I find it hard that Yomi-san can still love her after all that she's done," Tsubasa countered calmly. He turned to Yomi, and she sighed.
"That monster is related to me by blood. She broke my limbs, and all my workers' limbs. She was head of a murder group. And now, she's the mind behind what the AAO is doing now. But when she dies, I'll give her a proper funeral, even if I am the only one attending. But I will never forgive her for her sins. Nor my own. At one point she was the sister I so loved, the sister that taught me everything. And that is who I will be burying and crying for."
Another silence passed, until Natsume proposed the one obvious question to break the noiseless atmosphere. "And, how are we going to bring her down? You and your workers are bedridden. So am I. And Ruka, Yuu, Koko, and Tsubasa won't be enough to bring down an entire organization. And neither is SAGA, for that matter."
Yomi nodded. "Mikan and the others are strong. But Matsuri is stronger. Too strong. There's not much you can do…unless you get the entire academy involved."
Yuu's sharp intake of air was heard. "Are you…suggesting a war?"
"What else do you plan to do?" Misa asked. "What else can you do? Hellfire and SAGA put together aren't strong enough. And Matsuri is not going to fight alone."
"She may have a useless Alice for fighting, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have stones or the physical combat abilities," Suki added.
"But we're…bringing the entire Academy into a war," Ruka said softly, looking down at his hands. "This'll be…complete and utter chaos. That time when Mikan was captured…that was already dangerously tense enough."
"And yet if you do nothing, Matsuri will overtake this academy." Misa growled.
"…Has she…strayed from her goal?" Yuu whispered.
"The AAO was initially created because they thought the Academy was wrong. The Academy is like a prison to some. And the AAO believed that Alices should be able to live freely. And only those who are useful to the Academy are allowed to leave campus." He said quietly. "People are scared. Normal people are scared of us for our abnormal powers. Has the AAO strayed, or are they simply using the wrong methods?"
There was a long, thick silence and Tsubasa glanced at his fellow member in slight disbelief.
"You're…suggesting that the AAO might be...good?" Sumi asked lightly.
"The AAO was good once," Kuri sighed. "But that was before I was born."
Yomi looked sad, and she closed her eyes for a moment. "The AAO is also known as Z, for Zero. They were good once, their motto something along the lines of 'for the greater good'. It doesn't make sense of all they do to the Alices, because some are Alices themselves. But now, it's essentially just turned into an all out hostile rivalry between two organizations. Zero, who doesn't like the Academy for their containment of Alices, or what the Academy does behind the scenes. Zero who has gotten confused over the years. The Academy is simply their enemy because they are the opposite. And the Academy, who hates the AAO, because of the things they do to Alices, because of the things they want to accomplish. It's like light and dark, they fight because they are light and dark. But in our case, who is light, and who is dark? It doesn't even matter anymore. It's a born rivalry now. It's in our nature to fight against them now."
Yuu nodded, but looked down at his hands. He had always been kind. Almost too kind. He was not meant to fight a war, but he could and would contribute to it anyway. But he was also beginning to get confused, because what was he fighting for, who was he truly fighting against?
When he looked up, all eyes were trained on him. He sighed. "It's not like I'm going to join the AAO," he said. "It's just…the idea of war…it saddens me. Nothing good ever comes from war. Only bitterness. And hatred. And wars only spawn more wars."
"Maybe the AAO can be considered from a different perspective. But I think we momentarily forgot that Matsuri is in charge now," Misa said, crossing her arms. "And Matsuri is changing some things…and people are following."
Yuu nodded, eyes determined. "I do believe that she must be stopped," he said.
Everyone in the room nodded.
"Oh…" Ruka said, something dawning on him. "I…had a thought. We've been discussing the fact of everyone's participation of…plan. I think the Academy will fight, if they need to. But…concerning SAGA…they were close to Matsuri, weren't they? And they're so happy to have her back. But…how is this…"
"Are they in danger?" Koko asked. "They went on a mission together, didn't they?"
Yuuki shook her head. "I don't think Matsuri would kill them. She probably actually likes them. And they're too valuable to lose. But she'll try and get them on her side."
"Hotaru might believe what we say," Kana said. "But even she was close to Matsuri. They all trained under her first, before she let Mikan back into Frozen Butterfly for bringing in so many new unstable Alices."
"I don't think Mikan and the others will be that easily convinced to join the AAO, though…Her mother was in it. She hated her mother. And she would never turn her back on her morals…"
The group turned at the voices of the newly awakened maid, Miki. She rubbed her eyes wearily.
"Mornin', guys," Miki mumbled, trying to prop herself up. But she gasped in pain and decided to remain lying down.
"Morning," her friends greeted back.
"But then again, it can go either way," Ami said, her voice faint. He had been a bit worse off, holding off on speaking until she needed to. "She might be swayed. She might not be swayed."
"She might believe me after my little play," Yomi mused. "And she might not believe me."
"What was that, anyway? Why couldn't you just have told her?" Koko said, with an almost snappish tone in his voice.
"I said at the time that she wouldn't believe me. You saw how they reacted when I told them Matsuri was full of lies. That was the first stage of denial. And even if they did believe me, they'd go searching for her. I would have to tell them that she was, or is, alive. And then Matsuri would kill them. And everything would speed up. I tried to protect her by hurting her, to see if I could just confront my sister myself and then SAGA would never have to know the truth about their ex-leader. Obviously, that didn't work out so well seeing as I'm here. Familial bonds mean nothing. We're strangers. But the same blood still runs through our veins."
"You're an idiot," Tsubasa said, and Yomi gave another humorless laugh and waved her hand airily.
"I am. Matsuri was always the one that our parents praised."
"Your parents…the AAO president." Natsume remembered.
"He's hard to describe. He loved both of us. And then mother died, by the hands of an Alice. Murdered. And then that twisted everything. He loved us equally, but Matsuri did hold slightly more of a place. Always on top, always so cute and pretty, always the social butterfly. So he's letting her run her course with Zero. I'm not sure how he's doing. He used to get sick very easily. Mother was always the strong one. Maybe he's dead, and that's why Matsuri's leading."
The older woman's look was melancholy and faraway, reminiscing about things that used to be, and that would never be again.
"…How do we know that we can trust you?" the fire-caster said flatly.
"You can't know." Suki said almost immediately. "So you'll just have to decide."
"And if we choose the wrong choice, it's because of our own foolishness," Yuu smiled. The pink-haired girl smiled back, nodding.
"And anyway, you already said we're not your enemies. So you've made your choice. And it's up to the rest of your members to make their own."
There was an exchange of glances, shrugs, and nods.
"We've unanimously decided," Tsubasa announced airily. "Nattchan's the leader."
He received a glare at the uncool nickname.
"And I'm also betting that it was Matsuri who tried to stab you," Yomi added. "Or one of her lackeys. To get rid of you. So you wouldn't be swayed. But you survived."
Natsume let out a sarcastic noise.
"So? How are you going to do this? Do you have everything planned out?" Tsubasa asked.
"Are you going to wait until you've recovered?" Ruka inquired, his voice soft.
"Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to, none of us can move. Or barely, rather. Broken bones take about six weeks to heal for something small. But considering what Matsuri broke isn't anything small, we'll be here for at least a month, to three months or more."
"So it was Matsuri who did this to you," Ruka mused, and Yomi's lips formed a thin line again.
"Er. Well. Yes. Like I said. I thought I could take care of this, with the help of my friends. It's only Matsuri, afterall. We could sneak it pretty well, and my status wouldn't go unnoticed had I presented myself. My father still loves me, afterall. But of course that didn't go right, and I believe I caused more of a commotion rather than to do this in secret."
There was a knock at the door, Koko, Yuu, Tsubasa, and Ruka jumping slightly at the disturbance. A nurse peeked her head partway through the door.
"Excuse me," She said, "But visiting hours are almost over for them. They really need their rest. I'll be back in ten minutes to change the casts and bandages, and if you aren't gone by then we'll be kicking you out." She gave them a threatening glare, ignoring their handsome looks and concentrating on her profession. She closed the door again.
The group stood up, stretching their limbs. "Well. We'll get going then."
"How are we going to break this news to Frozen Sakura now, though?"
"You, of course." Misa said. "We can't move. And we're dead if you bring them here, because Matsuri will be coming with them."
"She won't be leaving her ex-gang alone," Yuuki warned. "Be careful. She's a tricky little bitch. Take as much time as you need, but watch her movements. And watch what you say. Watch your back. Just be on high alert, but don't appear suspicious. Don't look like you know anything we just told you."
"Because she's not just going after Hellfire and SAGA," Kuri growled.
"We're half dead, so she'll naturally want to finish the job," Kana replied in the same fashion. "The hospital ward is tough to break into. But it's doable."
"Shouldn't someone watch you, then?" Ruka asked, eyes widening.
"Too much attention," Suki murmured. "If we do anything, she'll know. We're lucky that she doesn't know we're awake yet."
"Our Alices are a dangerous thing to use right now, so we can't try and force them. Kuri? Are you okay?" Misa asked, eyebrows knitting together in worry.
"I'm fine," said the twin, "But I can't keep it up for much longer. My Alice isn't terribly draining or anything, but it takes concentration…"
And her face was rather pale, eyes beginning to become a little glazed.
"Release it," Yuu said quickly. "We're leaving now."
She obeyed, and the instant all the background noise of the hospital ward came back as the sound barrier was removed, Kuri passed down, lapsing into sleep again.
Misa looked apologetic for making her teammate use her Alice to that extent, and lay down as well, feigning sleep. The other maids followed suit, and the members of Hellfire looked at their leader.
"Get well soon, Natsume." Ruka smiled.
"Yeah, we'll be back soon. With markers to draw on your face," Tsubasa smirked.
"Try it and die," Natsume threatened.
Yuu laughed nervously and Koko laughed outright. They left, not speaking a word to the café members to keep up appearances. They stopped a nurse on their way out, writing down that Yomi and the seven maids' conditions needed to be kept a secret. She nodded and passed the note to a girl who could send messages via telepathy, and the boys took back the note, burning it in the kitchens.
The returned to their dorms, as if nothing had ever happened.
"This place smells like mold," Misaki whispered, wrinkling her nose in distaste.
"It's old, after all," Nonoko whispered back, peeking out from behind a crate.
No one talked anymore, using hand motions as they got closer to the meeting place. They saw a man, directing others in the warehouse who were moving things back and force.
Mikan looked at the rest of her members, and they nodded their heads. She let out a squeaking noise that sounded very accurately like a mouse. The man did not make any indication that he had heard, but he gave the clipboard he was holding to someone else and picked up to crates, walking nearer to where Mikan was. They had chosen a safe distance away from where everyone else was, and the man put down the crates a few inches from where they were hiding. He tapped the big crate twice, and left.
Mikan lightly tiptoed forward, opening the big crate to reveal a smaller crate, much more convenient for carrying. She took it, closed the crate back up, and motioned to her members. They gathered around her and teleported back to the academy. It was simply too much trouble to try and escape normally. It was an easy mission, but they still had to avoid any chance of being seen.
They landed outside the school, where they had met. Persona was waiting for them, hand out expectantly. Mikan placed the box in his hand, and received a dark smile in return. He left without a word.
"What a creep," Matsuri 'hmphed', crossing her arms.
The brunette laughed. "He's always like that."
"You said that about the Hyuuga kid, too. You're getting comfortable here, aren't you?"
Mikan shrugged. "I like my freedom. But being here isn't bad."
Matsuri's golden eyes narrowed slightly. "…You like being trapped in this place?"
The nullifier raised an eyebrow, slightly surprised at the sudden change of tone. "…It's a home to come back to, Matsuri. You know that I don't have a house anymore."
"Hmmmm~" the blue-haired girl looked at the building, tall, proud, beautiful. Strong. "I never went here, so I don't know. I struggled with my Alice, I always had my freedom. Maybe I should've gone here."
"Well…" Anna began, "After we thought you died…we didn't know what else to do. I mean, we wandered around for a while until Mikan took up the position as leader…but in the end we decided that the Academy was probably best for training. Mi-chan transferred a bit late though."
Matsuri smiled. "I'd be interested in the festivals that this place holds," she said cheerfully, tapping her hand on the brick walls of the school.
Misaki laughed. "Your name is Matsuri, afterall. They do hold some pretty good ones."
"Cool! I think I'll hang around some, kill some time then. I haven't had any fun since trying to run for my life."
"Yay!" Mikan sang, hugging her ex-leader. "This will be fun. Just like old times!"
Even Hotaru gave a small smile, all the over members offering hugs as well. But it was the inventor that was still holding suspicion at the blue-haired girl's tone of voice. 'You like being trapped in this place?'
It was true that some of the students hated this place. Outsiders regarded the Academy as some sacred prison; you went in and never came out. Parents who loved their children cried.
But surely Matsuri would've understood just from the facial expressions that they liked this place. She knew their pasts; she knew that none of them had homes or loving parents to return to. So this school, this closely knit community, was their home now.
And she regarded it as being trapped, as people who hated the school, or outsiders, would have regarded it.
Hotaru wasn't sure she liked that. Well, she didn't like the way Matsuri had said it, she hadn't even apologized. But this was their beloved Matsuri who had trained them, who had treated them like family. Of course it was Mikan that SAGA was the most close to, but Matsuri was like the godmother. The guardian.
She played a part with Mikan as a savior in deciding to take them in, even though she had originally kicked Mikan out. But she brought Mikan back in and they were all a happy family. And when they separated from the bigger group and became their own gang, they were only themselves.
Matsuri probably didn't mean anything by it, she was an outsider afterall. She'd never been here, so naturally she would see it differently.
So they could trust her. They knew her well. How could they not trust her?