Cadenza Cantata: Rites for the Living, Rites for the Dead
1945, the end of the Second World War. The world is on its way to recovery from the war, into much economic progress and prosperity. However, wriggling in the dark, unknown to anyone, an enemy emerges; Invaders, that can only be defeated by a power from other dimensions known as "Gates" wielded by people known as the Gatekeepers. An underground organization was formed as a world-wide defence network.
They are AEGIS.
In such times of new uncertainties and constant changes, they are the divine shield against the hand of those that threaten the people.
By 1959, the Far East branch was established in Japan with a total of seven active Gatekeepers in two teams and when the Kikai-Shogun began his march to conquer the world, Japan was her first line of defence. The alpha team Captain, code-named "Angel", went into a rampage and his campaign never took off. Kikai-Shogun fled, grievously injured, his army devoured, in a single strike. Such was the power of the Gate of Genocide.
It was another two days before the tragedy would come to an end. The AEGIS Far East Branch was ordered to search and destroy, an order Magus and Elysia, her team-mates, could not accept. The three had come to be as sisters, being war orphans rescued and adopted by AEGIS. Still, despite their refusal to comply, they were the only ones who dared approach when they found Angel.
Their intention was to capture and that became their undoing. Moments later, AEGIS troops witnessed the end as the Gatekeeper Angel was consumed by her own Gate.
I stood by and watched them disappear, those mere children. She gave me her handkerchief for spilling coffee on me at the hospital. Her handkerchief, that silly child. What am I to do with it? How has she expected me to give it back to her? Her childish innocence had not considered this. Asagiri Reiko, I admire you. You are able to do whatever you want with little or no thought to the consequence, a free agent of your free will, able to be completely honest to, with, and about everything. You alone afford the leisure to stop and say: It was my fault. I can't go on.
Every time I look in the mirror, the lines on my face get clearer. The past is gone, you've got to move on; isn't that the way things go? Everybody has their dues to pay. The fallen merely paid theirs... So why does it feel as though they have footed mine as well? And does it matter? We will become dust, nothing to nothing, forgotten on the wild wind. Already I am nothing, ordered to bury my identity, change my existence; half my life is nothing more than shredded pages, all my memories are of someone else's sin. My companions have long since been gone, quietly forgotten. And so, I am nothing, left with nothing. I am Kaonashi, the faceless spirit.
I will always be here; that is my mission, my purpose for living. Is that enough? It is enough.
It has to be.
... ... Blip
Blip ... ...
She couldn't see at first what had the Captain so worked up, since his tattered, scorched and blood-soaked uniform blocked her view, but it couldn't be good. She was on her last legs, only the need to survive kept her on her feet, yet despite that, she found it in herself somewhere to pull up her last power, another summon for her fiery Gate.
The others... she had no idea where they were in the swarming mass of enmity, or how they were holding up. She gritted her teeth, keeping her back board-stiff with Chinese pride, the bright red glittering weakly around her fingertips, her body screaming, wondering if this was what Shun was going through now, wondering if she would rip into a million pieces supporting this effort...
Blip ... ...
"The evidence against her case is very strong, you understand, and these are serious allegations that have been made, that cannot be dismissed simply with a vouch for her character."
"De... demo... "
"I'm sorry, Ochiai-san, you don't seem to grasp the enormity of this trial. She has actively and directly placed several officers of the Aegis organization, her own team mates, even, in dire risk. Allow me to remind you that members of your team, even now, lay in intensive care with slim chances of survival. The precedence for this is life imprisonment and exile, failing death."
"Fa... Failing death?"
"Well, yes. In the event we are unable to destroy her, we will employ other methods of containment."
"Has the defendant anything to add to the Court's account?"
The terrible sound lingered in her ears, of Shun screaming. It was a broken sound, like the death-rattle of some awful creature. She was frightened like she had never been before – not from the sound – but the numbness in her legs. What was wrong with them? She tried to twist... to wriggle around and feel about, but she was wedged tight and it was dark.
She whimpered, listening out for a response, someone, something, that could tell her everything is okay. That things are going to be all right. She quivered, and realised it was a shiver. The shiver continued into her gut, and then she was crying, alone in the dark and unable to help herself. And then, to cover the muffled sounds of the world caving in around her, Kaoru screamed and brawled.
He screamed, he roared, he screeched, and the earth ricocheted with him, all the raw power of his Gate ripping through his body, through the parched, torn ground, rampaging across everything in its path until it eventually exhausted itself far away from its epicentre. The city trembled. Thankfully, the cowering towers held. So, miraculously, did his abused skin.
Primal force drove him, bloody and bloodthirsty, when he fell upon the Invasion. Or perhaps, he was still, and the world threw itself against him, searing into white-blue nothingness, into black, into void.
"It is clear the girl has nothing to say for herself. She knows it for herself! This trial which you have insisted on holding is nothing more than a drama. Let her be taken away and never spoken of again!"
"Very well. A verdict has been reached and the motion been passed. Take her away, gentlemen. Let her be dealt with."
"Is it worth it to fight so hard, to act so tough? Is it necessary? Don't forget you are only mortal, only a child."
The vision of Ikusawa Ruriko whipping round, beautifully terrible, a lady of grace and poise in an aura of awesome power had burnt into her mind.
The field laying around her dead and wasted, the familiar, cheerful yellow ribbon fluttering silently in an unfelt wind, mocking. Her posture was serene, her movements surreal, and her eyes were dark and terrible, flashing, as she spoke in calm, dead tones, commanding the cold cycling rings of a black gate.
"Rurippe ja nai." — Not Ruriko.
Her voice at that moment, so cold and adult, so frightfully hollow, haunted Reiko as she hiked through the cemetery after Shun and Megane.
The Pink Lady had given them directions, but would not go with them. Her place was in the school. They were surprised to find that there was no special cemetery for AEGIS personnel. The confidentiality of their organization prevented this. Many lay amongst their fellow men, mere numbers on a scrap of paper. In death, there were no secrets, no alliances, no allegiance. In death, they were their own.
"So... This is what happens when we go."
And Shun realised suddenly how they were ever able to afford his father's funeral.
"Hello, can I help you?" There was something mystical about two ladies driving up to your gas-pump at sunset in a blue Cadillac, especially these two ladies.
The sweet, child-like passenger smiled and all his weariness seeped away.
"The Special, please."
The Special? – AEGIS?
She flashed a card bearing the relevant emblem. The young man sketched an awkward salute and the code sign, then fumbled at the secret switch. She waved him good-bye as the car sank out of sight and he sighed happily. An AEGIS agent! That means he'll probably see more of her. Good. He would like that very much.
"You're terrible." The driver commented blandly when they were alone.
"What? He was rather sweet." Kaika smiled, all pleased with herself, to her companion's annoyance.
"And at least a decade younger than you are."
"Love cannot be bound by age my dear." She smiled. The AEGIS base flashed past their windows as the car descended deep underground, winking coldly. Koto sighed.
Three markers stood alone, set apart from the rest on a private lot. Three perfect granite boulders, simple and dignified, and a little bit mystical. These were the empty graves of the three Gatekeepers lost to the Gate of Genocide, bearing little inscription save their names followed by the Greek symbol for the Sun (a circle with a spot in its heart) and the year.
A silken length of ritual rope adorned the centre rock, marking it as sacred, or a sign that a vengeful spirit had been put to rest here.
Megane struggled to keep his balance under Shun's weight. He stood there for long moments, in silence. The plot was on a low rise, and as he looked around, he realised that he had a clear view of the other AEGIS Gatekeepers' graves. Even his father's.
"The Angel, Magus and Elysia watch over us as we lay to rest here..." Reiko said softly, the breeze tugging through her straw-coloured hair.
"We are not dead, Asagiri." Shun replied curtly. Though their losses were great, they were not dead yet. The score will be settled. Kageyama. The two Dark Gatekeepers. They will pay. His sullenness disturbed Reiko.
"I'm going home... I... promised to uh... do something for the housekeeper imasuu..." She mumbled quickly and started to walk away, feeling a very different person.
She left Shun and Megane alone, as well as a single, perfect Japanese Rose on the middle marker for Senori Chie, whose meaning was "a sad and beautiful death".
They placed Feye in a containment facility pending her transportation. They could have saved on the security since the prodigy Gatekeeper has neither done nor said anything since they retrieved her from the Disaster Site. The execution was to be held at the World Headquarters of AEGIS in North America as soon as possible, with no possibility of appeal.
Shanghai expressed deep regrets and gave its best wishes to a speedy resolution. She was denied visitors.
"Ochiai-san, I have decided... ... Ochiai-san, I'm sorry but my parents... ... Ochiai-san, since there are no... ..."
Reiko put down her hairbrush and stared at herself in the dresser mirror for long hard moments, trying to find the best way, the perfect expression, to tell Ochiai-san, the unconscious Shirei and everyone else how she felt and of her decision to leave Tategami High School; more importantly, Aegis.
She did not know what to make to everything, of herself. She recognised a tiny, treacherous voice in her heart, that she was more of a liability than asset. That she was dangerous to the team and everyone else besides. That things might have been different if she had been someone else. She was weak and useless, and she was weak and useless by her own choice and accord.
She was confused. The changes that were happening frightened her. It was Shirei, and the Negative Gatekeepers, and now Shun and Kaoru and Bancho and... Feye. And the Invaders. There are no more Invaders, they had said. She wasn't sure what happened, but it appeared that Feye had burnt everything and accidentally microwaved Kaoru, Shun and Bancho to make sure. Or it could have been Shun, vaporising everything he touched. She could not be sure.
They said that now, there really are no more Invaders in Japan. Did this mean no more need for Gatekeepers as well?
She did not know how to give up her powers. Indeed, she didn't seem to be very useful for anything at all if not for her Gate. She would wrap it up in a pretty box and nice wrapping paper and a beautiful ribbon, if she could, and present it to someone better, someone else.
She did not fit in. She had always known this. Behind her soft-spoken, always-dreaming self, Reiko was not dumb. She had trouble keeping her mind focused on the Outside, where everyone else lives, because she could not help averting her gaze from its perversions. Deep within herself, she simply cannot understand how anyone could stand it. She craved the magic of wands and fairy castles, magic without consequence, the only solution for a broken world that did not come with a price.
This was childish, innocent, Reiko-like. Deep within herself, this was the Truth of Self she had woven for herself. And the Reiko-who-was-not-Reiko saw that it was good.
She would, if she knew how, wrap it all up in a pretty box with nice dazzling wrapping paper and a beautiful silken ribbon, soft as a dream, and present it to someone more real, someone braver.
Cadenza: An extended solo passage, usually near the end, improvised by the performer, sometimes written out by the composer.
Cantata: A short lyric form dealing with either secular or sacred subjects