(Disclaimer: Neither Eternal Longing nor I bear ownership of anything appearing in this story other than the plot. This is written for fun and not profit.)
Birds sang cheerfully and loudly making them the only noise that pierced the calm silence over Mahora as class was in session. The sun shone brightly, the sky was a terribly beautiful azure, and the weather felt perfect. It was one of those rare days where everything is calm, but even that could not shake the terrible dread Konoka felt when Takamichi informed her that her grandfather had extremely urgent and grave news.
Even beautiful days have their tragedies.
Setsuna rose from her seat to accompany Konoka, but Takamichi raised a hand to stop her. "Setsuna-kun, please wait here," he told the loyal guardian, nodding to Negi before he led Konoka away.
Konoka's panic reached Setsuna almost the moment she had left the room, but the swordsman could do nothing but watch as her best friend was led away - Takamichi had expressly told her to wait. Yet when was she, Setsuna Sakurazaki, guardian and protector of Princess Konoka Konoe, left out of the important conversations? There had to be something wrong, after all.
Even beautiful days have their tragedies.
"Setsuna-san, please read the next passage," Negi's calm voice snapped her out of her thoughts.
"Huh? Oh, yeah, right."
"What does grandfather need to tell me, Takamichi-sensei?" Konoka asked as the two walked side by side within one of Mahora's numerous grand hallways. "Am I in danger or something like that?" To herself, she added, But if I was in trouble, wouldn't it have been better if Set-chan had come as well?
"Konoka-kun," a gentle voice intruded upon her thoughts. Konoka looked up at Takamichi as he told her, "We're here." And true enough, the simple double doors to the Dean's office stood before her, for once not in the least welcoming. Takamichi nodded to her; she opened them. The knobs were cold, as metal should, but there was also an indescribable quality to it. Malicious - yes, malicious was the feeling that crept up Konoka's hand at the mere touch. The feeling became much worse the moment she stepped within the large room. Soon, it became oppressive, forcing Konoka to take shallow breaths.
It was chilly and the visage before her was grim. Her grandfather's usually cheerful smile was gone, replaced by a frown that she refused to look at for more than a second. The usually spacious office now felt close, tight, and constrictive though each step seemed to take up less than a hundredth of the distance between her feet and the desk where Dean Konoe's head was bowed - though in actuality, it only took ten steps to reach the middle of the room. Each step felt like an eternity, an eternity that Konoka wished she could use running away, far from this frowning weary old man whom she could not believe was her own flesh and blood.
"Konoka," the Dean's voice snapped Konoka out of her trance-like, unblinking gaze, freeing her from the numbing thoughts that had plagued her mind. The old man managed a smile which seemed to brighten the room. At the sight, Konoka smiled return. There could be nothing wrong if her grandfather could smile, right? But... the Dean's greeting had carried no warmth and the smile was dead and cold. Konoka felt her smile slipping as she realized he had called her by her first name only, without the usual honorifics. "This might come as a shock to you," the Dean started slowly. Konoka took a step backward. There was nothing she could grab for the support she knew she would need, so she took another step back. "Your father..."
"No," Konoka whispered.
"Unfortunately, Eishun Konoe has..."
"No!" Konoka shouted. She spun around, racing towards the doors and freedom, but she had not taken more than two steps before the door was blocked by no other than Takamichi. "Set-chan, where are you?"
"Konoka-kun, you must hear this. There is no use in denying the truth."
"No..." Konoka sank to your knees. She half turned, pleading with her grandfather with her eyes.
"Konoka," the Dean hesitated as tears spilled from his eyes. "Eishun, your father, has passed away."
Setsuna felt the shock and grief slam into her through the ethereal bond that connected her to Konoka, a bond formed of love, trust, and friendship.
"Setsuna-san!" Negi exclaimed when the girl suddenly leapt from her seat and raced out of the room. Negi's eyes widened when he realized that, in her haste, she had left behind her ever-present sword.
"Grandfather... you can't be serious!" Konoka sobbed.
"I'm sorry Konoka, it is the truth."
Takamichi shook his head.
"Father..." Konoka cried softly, tears running down her face, her uniform soaking up the moisture like a sponge. "How... how did he... die?" Konoka choked out a moment later.
"It is still under investigation," Takamichi told her, once again gently as if he was afraid any loud noise would break her, but Konoka was strong and her mind was already working frantically.
"Under investigation..." Konoka repeated, glaring up at the teacher. "By under investigation, do you mean that my father did not die by natural means? He was murdered?!"
For once, the calm and collected Takamichi hesitated, glancing over at his superior before replying. "It... hasn't been confirmed; the investigators aren't sure. It could have been an accident," he told her though it sounded like he didn't believe his own words.
"There's no way it could have been an accident," Konoka hissed. "Not Eishun Konoe, the head of the Kansai Magic Association!"
"This debate is getting nowhere," the Dean suddenly interrupted, harshly. "Konoka, what are you going to do from now on? What have you planned for the future, your future?"
Konoka twisted back to face her grandfather, eyes wide at this side of him she had never seen before. "What do you mean?" she stammered out.
"With your father gone, there will be a fight for the seat of power. You are too young to be the next leader of the Kansai Magic Association - you would lose for sure as a candidate. The one problem with your father and I is that we have no inheritance to leave you if our positions are taken. That means that you will be left with nothing in the event that I die."
The Dean took a calming breath. "I do not want to see you hurt or living a life you don't deserve, Konoka. To that extent, I have arranged a protector for my only grandchild."
"A protector..." Konoka gasped. "You don't mean...?"
"Yes, Konoka," the Dean spoke softly but in a firm tone that would suffer no argument. "You will be married three days from now."
Silence filled the room. Konoka was stunned, and from the stifled gasp from behind her, she realized that Takamichi hadn't known about this sudden revelation either. "Wait, what?" a voice shattered the silence. For a second, Konoka covered her mouth in horror at the outburst, but she soon realized that she had not spoken a word.
She whirled around. "What did you say...?" Setsuna hissed from the doorway, anger radiating from her posture, eyes, and clenched fists.
"This has nothing to do with you, loyal Setsuna of the Sakurazaki clan. Please leave us be while we mourn the death of our loved one."
"Death?" The word confused Setsuna such that her malicious aura diminished in size and intensity. "Eishun-sama?" she gasped in realization.
Takamichi put a comforting hand on the girl's shoulder as she struggled to deal with the news. "Let's go, Setsuna-kun. They need to deal with this alone." Takamichi urged her back with soft words and insistent pressure. It almost seemed like the girl would allow herself to be led away, but suddenly, Setsuna lashed out, pushing Takamichi away and dashing forward to slam her hands down in front of the dean, denting the wooden desk.
"And what does marrying Kono-chan away have to do with Eishun-sama's death?"
"Set-chan..." Konoka murmured, amazed at the outburst.
"Where's your composure, Setsuna, and your respect?" the Dean snapped. "Do you dare disrespect my granddaughter's name in front of me? I thought you were her guardian; when have you become so loose with your tongue?"
Setsuna hissed, "When it comes to Konoka Konoe, I will do anything to make sure she gets what she deserves."
"And what do you deserve, Setsuna? Be gone from my sight. As of this day, you are no longer the protector of my granddaughter. Her husband will be apt enough after he takes the seat as leader of the Kansai Magic Association."
Setsuna stood silent in shock. She had been Konoka's protector for most of her childhood. Her earliest memories were of guarding the young girl from enemies that the carefree child had never realized were there.
"Grandfather!" Konoka shook her head. "Don't do this!"
"Nothing you say will change my mind, Konoka," the Dean growled. "This course of action had been decided before Setsuna ever opened her mouth." Turning to the horror-stricken girl, he added, "You just made it easier on me."
Setsuna stared unseeingly out the window. Her life had ended with those words.
"What, Kono-chan?" Setsuna whirled around to face her last and only lifeline.
"I understand, Grandfather. You have left me no choice. Let me say goodbye to Set-chan, no… Setsuna Sakurazaki before she leaves."
The Dean seemed to deflate then and there. Fresh tears sprung from his eyes as he nodded calmly. "Go ahead. Engrave these last moments in your memories for it might be your last..."
Konoka nodded, gestured for Setsuna to follow, and bowed out. Behind her, the Dean sighed, "And remember Konoka-chan, I will always love you no matter what happens..."
"Ojou-sama!" Setsuna called out her name desperately, running towards her charge.
"Don't call me that, Set-chan," Konoka turned around, admonishing Setsuna. "I'm not your master anymore. I never was."
"Fine then... K-K-Kono-chan, did you really mean what you said back there?"
"Yes, every word." Konoka faced away from her.
"Then you mean to say goodbye?" Setsuna's voice began to waver. Was Konoka seriously leaving her for good? She couldn't—
"Yes, I do, Setsuna Sakurazaki, but not to you."
"What do you mean?" The building sadness in Setsuna's heart turned into surprise and confusion.
"We're leaving, together." Konoka faced her again, this time her face was serious and determined, a side Setsuna rarely saw from the girl.
"Leaving? Leaving for where? Even if we did leave, the magic world wouldn't let us go so easily, especially with your magic potential!" Setsuna immediately warned.
"It doesn't matter." Konoka answered briskly. She had truly made up her mind about this. " There's no point in staying if I'm just going to be married to some random person I've never even met. There's no meaning to life if can't make my own decisions; there's no point in living without you."
"Ojou-sama…" Setsuna trailed off. Even though Konoka always said it, it was still a shock that the girl thought so highly of her.
"It's Kono-chan, Set-chan." Konoka corrected almost by default.
"What about your grandfather? Won't you miss him?" Setsuna asked.
"Of course I will, but it is too late for regrets. This idea is his after all."
"Acted perfectly for Takahata-sensei to act as witness." Konoka was well aware of her grandfather's roundabout ways of saving her. Those words to Setsuna were in fact the icing on the cake—to deceive your enemies, you had to deceive your friends first after all...
"Then…" Setsuna didn't know what to do at this point.
"Let's go, Set-chan." Konoka took her friend's hand. "I'll miss everyone—our classmates, Asuna, Negi-sensei... but we have to leave. This day's coming was predestined."
Even beautiful days have their tragedies, and that was the last anyone had seen Konoka Konoe and Setsuna Sakurazaki.
It was a busy day as usual for the newspaper business. One of the main reasons, it seemed, was that they were sorely lacking an old pair of helping hands.
"It's a shame to see that that Asuna girl's not working with us anymore," one man sighed. The balding middle-aged man added, "She was such a great help, too."
"Time flies, you know," the other worker, his wife, told him wryly. "Kids grow up. Their schedules change, ambitions in life change... my, and to think it's been three years since she last worked for us! Oh, how time flies."
"Indeed. Speaking of which, today's news is announcing the details of the memorial for the old dean from Mahora, right?"
"Yeah... that man was a legend amongst legends in Mahora. Even a couple of years after his death and he's still pulling so many supporters. Are you going?"
"Most likely. The man needs my respect too, and if Asuna's there, it would be nice to catch up."
Even with the Dean's memorial, the magic associations were already having a joint meeting—it was one of the few times the Kanto and Kansai Magic Associations even met, let alone worked together.
The pair of guards outside could hear the bickering even from outside the door. Figuring that, though this couldn't possibly end well, they had no say in what went on behind those walls, they decided to ignore it and continue their watch. Time ticked away and it was a good while before something out of the usual occurred.
Footsteps faint but noticeable echoed within the dim, empty corridor leading to their post. Immediately at attention, the two guards placed hands on their weapons—guns and wands. A few moments later, they could finally see the source of the footsteps. To their surprise, out of the shadows stepped a girl. Walking towards them was a slender girl, her black hair parted to one side. She wore what looked like traditional samurai garb except that it had a pale blue tassel hanging strangely over her shoulder—strange for their day and age—and a serious expression that dared them to challenge her. Nonetheless, it was their job to just that.
One of the guards gave her a warm smile and said, "Hey, excuse me, you can't go in there—"
Without stopping, the girl pulled the aforementioned tassel with an easy tug. Her robes split along the black as she continued to walk forward. A second later, a pair of wings unfurled from her back. The two guards could only gape in shock as she walked past them, wings slamming them against the wall, knocking both out as she opened the door.
The mages inside were in the middle of a heated debate, but the sudden entry of the girl halted them in their motions, silencing their mouths. The temperature in the room dropped as she sheathed her wings, stepped inside, and stood there, staring coldly at them for a moment before reaching behind her back. As she brought a wrapped bundle to the light, a few of the mages finally recognized her.
"Where did you come from?"
"What are you doing here?"
Setsuna answered with nothing, only taunting them with her cold stare. Of course, she was not obliged to answer them.
A fist slammed into the oval-shaped table that took up most of the room. "YOU HERETIC, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO KONOKA?" one of the men yelled, furious at being ignored.
"Nothing..." A cheerful voice replied as another girl walked in from behind Setsuna. "But you fools on the other hand..."
"…shall come face to face with justice," Setsuna finished, speaking for the first time.
Several of the mages got up, starting incantations, but a hail of magical projectiles launched out of thin air and blasted into their magical barriers, shattering their guards with the sheer force of the impact. A second wave of magic knocked away their staffs and wands , rendering them powerless. Konoka let the hand she had raised drop, Setsuna following suit as the mages looked around bewildered at what had happened in a matter of seconds. The two had not spoken a word.
"Don't bother moving," Konoka told them. "I'm not finished yet."
Even as she said this, some of them opted to flee. Setsuna put a sudden stop to those plans, drawing her blade from the wrapped bundle she still held. Konoka grinned as the stray mages were kicked back into their seats. In a cheerful voice, she chanted: "The end is near, but suffer whilst you wait; a prison of revolving blades: Feather Bind!" At once, rows of daggers surrounded the necks of every mage in the room. All efforts to escape stopped then and there, as silence once again overtook the room. The tension was so thick that several of the men and women could only draw in short, ragged breaths.
Setsuna sheathed her blade, smirking, "I recommend you stay as still as you can listen carefully to what Ojou-sama has to say."
"Ojou-sama?" one of the mages spat. "I recognize no girl in this room that deserves the title of royalty."
"Oh?" Konoka grinned. "Did you forget so quickly that I am descended of the Konoe clan? Actually… a better question would be... did you forget so quickly about the people you killed?"
"Ha, they deserved to die for allowing demonkind to live with—" he started, but a sickening ripping sound interrupted him as the revolving blades around his head instantly decapitated him. "Oops, lost control," Konoka giggled, balancing one of the bloodied blades on her fingertip.
"She's insane!" someone declared in horror.
"Oh, I'm quite sane," Konoka smiled charmingly. "But too bad for you, I'm not in a very 'sane' mood."
"What is the meaning of this?" another brave soul ventured to demand. His reward was a sharp stinging sensation at his neck where one of the daggers keeping him trapped had dug deeply into his skin.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Setsuna cautioned as the man's hand reflexively lifted to touch the wound.
"Try again," Konoka told him.
"What?" The man received another cut.
"Try again, and this time, mind your attitude."
The man gritted his teeth before he asked, "What are you planning to do to us, and why are you doing this?" His tone was quite submissive this time around.
"Better," Konoka smiled as blood poured onto the ground. She twirled around as she left the fallen mage's corpse and answered the last question he would ever ask. "That's an easy one to answer. I'm here to play the judge and to put an end to this little game of power and corruption." The other mages stared in horror at the sight of the rolling head. "North American Overseer, suspected of illegal magical cloning attempts and illicit interaction with his creations. Proved to be exceedingly loose with the law and was arrested on several accounts for involuntary manslaughter during botched experiments." This was met with murmurs of disbelief, but Konoka paid that no mind.
With her ever-present smile, Konoka turned towards another of her prisoners. "Charged with three attempts to break into the Homeland's vault of artifacts, I'd say you're the next one on my agenda, aren't you?" Konoka asked the mage sitting closest to her right.
The man denied, "I wasn't trying to break in! I had a pass..."
"A pass that had expired 3 years ago. Next!" She smiled again as another head dropped to the floor. There were only four other mages remaining.
"Bribery, corruption, and planned assassinations, Ms. Secretary," Konoka honed in on her next target, sitting to her left at the far end of the table. "An untold number of innocent people were destroyed by your selfish desires... Did you do that for yourself or for your two husbands who know nothing about the other except that they are part of the same organization?"
"Please, stop this, Konoka Ojou-sama," the man to the Secretary's right pleaded. Konoka shifted her gaze to the man directly across from her.
"Pray do tell me, Mr. Chairman of the Kansai Magic Association, successor to my dear father, why I shouldn't just chop off her pretty little head?"
"This isn't like you," the Kansai Chairman smiled weakly. "Or like Sakurazaki-san."
"Oh really?" Konoka mused and unleashed a single magical bullet. The sphere of magic burned a circle into the man's chest, but the man took it with only a grimace. "No scream..." Konoka frowned. "That's not very fun."
The Chairman was hardier than that. Despite the pain, his voice only reflected minor discomfort. "Leave these girls, demon," the Chairman pleaded.
"Oh ho? You believe us to be possessed?" Setsuna, who had been watching from the background, rounded on the Chairman. "We are under our own control. To say that we are influenced is entirely absurd..."
"Little girls murdering their superiors is what being under control means these days?" one of the remaining mages spoke haughtily and almost hysterically.
"At least, I am not a brainless wife, unlike you, who allowed your husband to 'influence' several young women into being his own personal concubines. Without a word from you, I might add."
"Not that you are married," Konoka added with glee.
"As Ojou-sama says."
The female mage stuttered. "I... I... I..."
"Get her a dictionary," Konoka sighed and waved an arm. From the table rose a binder that, presumably, contained the topic that had been discussed. Konoka motioned it forward like she would a dog and the book slammed into the woman's face, pushing her back into the blades that still revolved around her neck.
"She's going to kill us all!" the secretary wailed.
"Precisely the point I was trying to make," Konoka agreed. "But to tell you the truth, I'm getting quite bored with this. Let me just convict you of your wrongdoings and end this already." She scanned the room of the remaining mages that were alive. "Hmmm... actually, two of you are missing..." Konoka sighed. "Where's the Australian overseer and your so-called Treasurer?"
"If I tell you, will you spare their lives?" answered the only man who had not yet spoken. His seat sat directly opposite of the Kansai Chairman. Konoka found herself staring at him incredulously: the Kantou Chairman... her grandfather's replacement. But though he lacked the fear of his comrades, his steady eyes also lacked any dangerous defiance. Konoka regarded him with interest.
"I'll think about it," Konoka answered smoothly. "In the meantime, why don't you relinquish that Kantou title to me?"
The man sighed. "How can I trust that you'll keep your word? How can I trust that you won't abuse your power?"
"You can't – trust is not that easily earned – but I don't see how you have choice in the matter," Konoka smiled sardonically.
"And will you kill me if I refuse to hand over my title?"
"Do you deserve death?"
"No one deserves death by your hands, Konoka Ojou-sama," the man replied. "You are not the one who has the power to judge—you are not God." His words had a tone of deference that was almost convincing. Almost, but not quite, and that fact irritated her.
"Who said I was God? I just came back to end the strife brought on by years of political corruption, and claim my rightful place... You can see that, right?"
"By ending lives?" Even with his question, the Kantou Chairman completely understood the reasons behind her line of thought. Those words simply affirmed what he had believed for three years—Konoka would return. The betrayed girl would return with a vengeance.
Konoka shook her head disdainfully at the question, but her reply didn't quite match her dismissal. "Lives that would end countless others if they were to continue... I won't stand for that anymore," she whispered. The knives around the Kantou Chairman closed in, just slightly enough for his calmness to falter. "You seem to be pragmatic and I don't have any grudges against you. Why don't you just give it up?"
He bowed his head and nodded quietly, but even as he did so, he spoke: "Once again, I ask you to spare the lives of the others. If you do so, I will do anything you ask."
Keeping her irritation in check, Konoka smiled gently. "I knew you would see things my way." She turned to the Kansai Chairman. "You heard this man. Sign those papers and you don't get hurt."
With the wave of a finger, a sheet of paper formed from apparently nothing. It landed smoothly on the table in between the two men without a wrinkle.
"How do we sign?" the Kansai Chairman inquired.
Konoka giggled, sending a shiver up the man's spine. "With your blood of course."
Another wave of the finger sent the man into tears, but instead of meeting death, he found his forefinger bleeding from a painless cut.
The Kantou chairman signed with a defeated calmness; the Kansai chairman scrambled out his signature. His life depended on it.
"I am now the ruler of both organizations... See, now there's no more bickering," She laughed softly with a pained expression that, almost as if she were about to cry. "Now I can put an end to all this selfishness..."
"Ojou-sama." Setsuna was at her side in seconds.
"Take them to my throne room," Konoka grinned. "Please."
"Understood," Setsuna murmured, and with that, Setsuna disappeared with a hand on each of the former chairmen, leaving almost no trace that she had ever been there in the first place.
Konoka walked through and over the pools of red liquid, shoes not quite touching the surface of the drying substance. She walked around the table and picked up the blood soaked binder she had thrown earlier, opened it with a snap, and smiled sadly as she read its contents...
When Light Descends to Madness
(Ansem: So we start with a bang, huh? Eternal Longing and I begin our semi-dark and all moody exploration of what happens when even the kindest of creatures loses it.
Eternal Longing: This is not a KonoSetsu story. I wash my hands of this madness. If there are any KonoSetsu elements, Ansem will answer your questions. Once again, I wash my hands of this madness.
Ansem: It'd probably be more accurate to say that this is a deconstruction of sorts. Still, not a true KonoSetsu story guys, sorry. Reviews welcomed, constructive criticism requested, flames will be used for marshmallows, and ridiculous suggestions shall be tossed into COMPLETE DARKNESS... and that's putting it nicely.)