The Typical Fan-Fiction Disclaimer: I do not own +Anima or any related characters, the +Anima series is owned by Natsumi Mukai, Tokyopop, and various other parties that have to do with the creation and publishing of the series. As I probably don't need to say, this is purely a fan work.
Okay, so, this is my third fan-fiction, and my first not based on the Klonoa video game series! One of which is almost finished – I'm just finishing up the last little bit of the final chapter, and the other of which is a kind of second priority fic, so I thought it was time to start something new as well. Plus, as much as I love Klonoa, I wanted to try writing for a different series. +Anima was an obvious choice since I've been really into the series since discovering the books about 6 months ago…plus writing something for a manga sounds like fun! (A pity +Anima doesn't even have its own section, though…).
Notes: I've been following the U.S. Tokyopop retail releases, so I've read up until +Anima Volume 8. I have not read volumes 9 or 10 – please don't spoil anything for me from those two! Even though I have this story set 8 years after the groups supposed splitting, I do not know what actually happens at the end of the series…again, please don't spoil it for me – think of this as AU, since I need things to be a certain way for this fic to work anyway. However, I will probably still make some references to happenings in the first 8 volumes, so there will likely be some spoilers for the series up until that point (and possibly afterwards after the last two volumes are released…depending on how they fit and if I end up wanting to use anything from them).
Well, here goes nothing! The first little section probably wont make a whole lot of sense, but later on in the story it should.
Prologue: Sleepless Nights And Autumn Mornings
Drip. Drip. Drip.
I can hear the rain tapping on my roof; running down my windowpane like tired little fingers. The branches are clawing lightly on the wood and glass outside – it sounds like they want in, like they want to escape the soft but chilled breeze that is stirring them. It really is autumn.
The dark-haired boy shuffled in bed, turning away from the window, and the wet, watery drops that were beginning to settle there. It was dark, but a delicate, warm light shown from the lantern that rested on the bedside table – bathing the small room in a fragile shade of orange.
The boy pulled the blanket closer to his face, covering his whole body up to his nose in an attempt to combat the slight chill that was also trying to find its way in from outside. But there was another, much stranger chill that seemed to be coming from the inside, sending a shiver down his spine as an all too familiar tingling sensation began to well up in the tips of his shoulders.
She's here, isn't she? I know it! I can feel her!
He instinctively laid his hands over his shoulders, wincing as the odd, feverous pounding spread all the way down his arms.
The boy curled tightly, his arms wrapped around himself and his knees to his chest, all of his limbs tense. But there was little he could do to guard himself against this particular pain.
Why wont she leave me alone?
He kept his eyes fixed on the flickering flame of lantern, the only small pinpoint of light in the otherwise overwhelming dankness of the room. He could understand what she was saying, even if he couldn't hear her words.
"Come. Wont you join me…'Cooro'?"
No! No! No! Just leave me alone!
The strange pounding sensation throbbing in his shoulders and arms increased sharply, causing him to furl together even tighter. It wasn't pain in the normal sense…almost more like something trying to burst out. Some strange inkling trying to escape from inside of him that was almost more mental than physical.
"You're afraid, aren't you?"
No…I…I'm not afraid, but I've told you before – I want nothing to do with you!
"Don't think you can lie to me, I understand how your mind works better than even you do. I know the fear that you use to shield yourself from the feelings buried inside you, but there is no reason to be afraid of what lies within. No reason to fear your own heart."
You're wrong, you don't know me! Stop it, please, just stop it – leave me alone!
"Oh come on; let's not play this game again. It should have been over a long time ago. Now, come to me!"
He let out a sudden scream, the pulsing throb in his mind and underneath his skin bursting through him all at once like a wild rush of fire.
"No!" The word finally slipped from his mouth, breaking his physical silence as the shriek tore through the room.
He reached for the lantern without even thinking, desperate to cut off the terrible sensation and the voice whispering in his ear.
Another scream escaped from his lips as he struck his hand towards the middle of the candle flame and held it there, letting the physical burn distract him from the different sort of burn raging from inside his body. …And all at once, he was alone, the connection between him and the voice severed.
The pulse in his shoulders and arms faded, the haze in his mind receding with it and leaving him with nothing but a sting in his burnt hand. He was still shaking, panting for breath as the autumn darkness stayed as stagnant as ever.
The young girl stopped for just a moment, sparing a glance at the morning sun as it first peeked from behind the hills, the dim light reflecting off her soft, light-brown hair. The skies were perfectly clear as the sun slowly brightened the horizon, the last night's mild wind having cleared out its own rain.
The first morning of autumn. Summer had perished for another year. But even though the chill in the air couldn't be denied, the day still promised to be beautiful.
She took in a deep, quiet breath, letting the chilled freshness of the morning liven her sleepy senses. It was still too early to be running around like this.
"Hey, Nana, hurry up! The cart will be here soon!"
The girl blinked, disrupted from her own quiet thoughts. "Oh…sorry. I'm coming!"
Nana had come to work for a food merchant in Astaria – a company that ran a local shop and shipped fruits, meats, and vegetables from the ranch it owned to stores in other cities as well, via the shipping carts that came by during the warm season every month or so. The pay she received was minimal, but more than that, the owner provided her housing in exchange for her daily work in the orchards.
She hurried down the hill towards the shop, carefully balancing the stuffed, heavy barrel of apples and peaches in her arms.
"Did you hear what happened last night?"
The voice turned her attention towards the front of the store, where several other workers had gathered, as she dropped her load by the other parcels gathered for the cart. Her work finished, she padded over to the group, listening from the edge with curiosity. As far as she knew, nothing out of the ordinary had happened that night.
"What do you mean?" A tall, light-haired boy asked the man who had brought it up. "It was a bit cold, but that's all."
"A friend of mine works for the city guards, I ran into him this morning." The well-muscled, brown-haired man frowned. "Not a good night for him – there's been another murder." "What!" The boy's eyes opened wide. "Another one?" A red-haired girl gathered nearby butted in. "But there was that woman found in the park just a few days ago!"
So, another murder, huh? Nana had heard about the elderly women found splayed across the park bench. It was still a mystery what, or who, had killed her… There had been hardly any signs of physical injury, but there had been nothing wrong with her, either. In the end, city guardians and doctors had declared it foul play. She felt a shiver run down to her feet.
"I know." The man nodded grimly. "This time it was a man, just lying there in his own home. But apparently it looked remarkably similar to the killing a few days ago…signs of trauma, but almost no physical injuries to speak of. Scary, huh?" "Geez, not even safe in our own houses anymore..." The other girl added, practically spitting with disgust. "Do they have any idea who the culprit might be?" The boy from before inquired. "We can't just have a killer like that roaming around! That's twice in one week!"
"Well…" The man seemed hesitant for a moment. "There was the man's wife, who was left shaken but somehow unharmed. She claims that she heard a commotion late that night coming from the living room…and that she ran in to find her husband lying dead with a thin, clocked figure hovering over him. And…" The speaker paused, hesitating again. "And…?" The red-haired girl prompted. "And she claims that this person sprouted these huge, black wings and flew away as soon as she walked in…just like that! Leaving behind nothing but a few black feathers…"
Nana caught a startled gasp in her throat, her own eyes widening. Black wings?
"Of course…" The man continued casually. "The wife was probably delusional. That nonsense was probably brought about by the trauma of watching her husband die. Actually, she herself has been taken in for questioning under suspicion of murder… A story like that isn't particularly believable. ...She does have those few feathers she supposedly saved, though…"
"Wait!" Nana suddenly interrupted from where she stood a few feet away, almost shouting as she took a few steps closer. "This person with black, feathery wings, did she get a good look at him? What did he look like?"
The man blinked in surprise, passing her an odd look. "She." He corrected. "The person that the wife claims to have seen was a woman."
"O…oh." Nana's voice shifted. "Is she sure?" "Yes." The man confirmed simply. "Apparently the killer's rather… specific, amount of clothing made her quite positive." "Really, a woman? That's unusual." The blond-haired boy remarked, taking over the conversation. Nana receded a bit, her cheeks blushing slightly. She felt a bit embarrassed at the sudden outburst…and quite frankly, she was surprised with herself as well. But she had known someone with black wings once…
For a second, I almost thought… But it was a woman, so it couldn't be! Now she wished she'd just kept quiet.
"Who cares?" The man's voice rose in pitch, dragging Nana's attention back to the conversation. "It's all absurd anyway!" "Well, could it have been one of those +anima?" The boy added in again. "You know, those people that are part animal? They can have wings and stuff, can't they?" "Well, I suppose…" The man looked thoughtful, considering the idea. "Savage things – it wouldn't surprise me at all!" The girl remarked distastefully, her nose wrinkled.
Nana caught a snort before it left her mouth, offended at the last remark. She knew, though, that it was probably true. Black wings certainly meant it couldn't have been a normal person, but she knew well that a +anima like that was entirely possible.
She found herself subconsciously tightening her shirt as she turned to walk away, the conversation making her uncomfortable. No one there knew her secret, and she'd been careful over the years to make sure it stayed that way…
The sound of wheels on stone suddenly faded in from the distance, stealing the attention of all the workers away from the conversation. "Hey, it's the cart." The other girl piped up, changing her tone. "Come on, let's go get ready to load it up, we should try to get this done quickly."
Nana sighed inwardly, glad for the interruption, as she hurried over to help.
Nana found her thoughts returning to the morning's conversation as she rested on the shop's old cedar porch – her mind wandering freely as she watched the shipping cart slip away into the noon shadows. Taking a sleeve from her work clothes, she wiped the sweat off her brow as she slowly let her muscles relax after the dawn's labor, the dusty smell of the sun on the old building's frame finding it's away into her nose.
Filling up the shipping carts was always a lot of effort. Considering that they only arrived during the summer months, the loads always had to be big enough to ensure the well-being of the merchant company during the winter. Depending on the weather, that could've been the last shipment until next spring. How many seasons had she seen pass there now, from the old cabin on the orchard? Seven? Eight?
She let herself collapse onto the musty deck, taking in a sigh as she felt a slight fall breeze begin to whistle by again. Yes, that's right, this would be the eighth.
All the talk earlier, about the person with black wings and the +anima, had made her think about the friend's she'd lost those eight years ago for the first time in a while.
Cooro, Husky, Senri…
She'd joined up with the merchant group soon after she'd parted ways with her three companions, and had never crossed paths with any of them since. It was like they'd ceased to exist.
Were they even still alive? She didn't know. She liked to think so, though – she didn't want to believe otherwise. Despite how much time had passed, they'd all four been very close once, and they'd saved her from a life of abuse and thievery that she'd never wanted. …Thinking about it now, though, felt more like thinking about something that had happened to someone else, rather than her own past. Her current life, filled with fruit trees and the merchant shop, was completely different than anything she'd shared with her childhood friends. Their faces had become more like memories from a dream. Like still, faded paintings in her mind.
"Huh?" She shot up at once, started at the voice that had suddenly appeared above her. She'd been so engrossed in her own thoughts that she hadn't noticed anyone approaching. It was Niomi, she realized after giving her heart a few seconds to slow down, the owner of the merchant business.
The woman was holding a cloth bag in her hands, a warm but gruff smile on her face as she waited for Nana to gather herself.
"Nana." She started again. "This package of food and supplies was left by the driver of the cart for the gang of miners that have settled over by the mountains." The shop owner gestured with her hands towards the direction of the northern woods. "It's not too far away, but it would be a difficult path for the cart to travel – we've been asked to deliver it for them. If you take the bag to the miners this afternoon, I'll give you the money the cart paid us for the chore."
"Oh…you want me to deliver it?" Nana questioned, still surprised by the sudden task. "Yep." Niomi confirmed. "It shouldn't take too long; just go through the woods until you reach the cabins set up by the caves near the mountain base. If you hurry, you can probably make it back well before dinner."
"Is it Taru's group?" Nana asked as she got to her feet, deciding to go ahead to get the delivery done. A little extra pay certainly never hurt, and a simple trip through the woods was easy enough.
Niomi nodded. "Indeed. They've come back for the season."
The old cabins that had been built years ago by the mountain base were usually vacant, but on occasion some mining group or another would return there to search for the coal and ores that were getting increasingly difficult to find elsewhere. Taru's group was the one that frequented most, consisting of only the hardened miner and the small group of otherwise homeless boys he would usually take with him. Nana had come across them a few times before, what with the mining camp being located so close to the shop.
"Okay." The girl smiled as she took the bag from her boss. "I'll hurry up and get this over there."
Nana had made her way towards the edge of the forest just a few minutes later, wanting to get this over with quickly.
Hmm…it would be faster if…
She took a quick glance around. From where she was behind the store, no one seemed to be watching, and the package seemed light enough…
Well…as long as no one sees me, what harm could it do?
With one last careful study of the area, she closed her eyes, all at once letting a familiar sensation tingle her senses as bat-like wings burst from her back. A smile spread across her face as she took to the air between the trees, enjoying the sense of the wind against her face and the sight of the ground growing farther away as she weaved through the brush – her wings beating powerfully behind her.
It had been too long.
Well…that's it for the prologue! A bit lengthy for an introduction perhaps, but it sets the stage well. Also, if you'd like a slightly better idea of where this is going, I have a much bigger summary for this story on my profile.
Anyway, please review and let me know what you think!