Yay! It's going! It's going! My brain is going again!

...I guess most people don't have celebratory exclaimations of any sort about the movements of their private headmeats, but there you go...

Because my brain is going, there is a third chapter of Tabula Rasa. (And I'm also fixing the blasted summary thing. Argh. It seems like the summary pages for these things just get shorter and shorter every year... I feel so old, but YOU write fanfiction under various names for six years and see what becomes of you...)

I've also fixed up and altered the first two chapters which...I usually promise myself not to do, because I know myself, and I know I'll get stuck making things "better" forever and ever. But...I did it. (And not to mention, it was kind of necessary so things went more smoothly later.) I think Tabula Rasa is gaining a pseudo-epic status. It's going to be an ongoing project. (By which I mean, I have a basic storyline now, so it's morphed past just being an idea.)

So all aboard, kiddies. This wagon-train is just starting up.

Battle systems engage, and where the heck is my sacrifice, anyway?

Yet another conspicuous lack of disclaimer brought to you by Neufe:

"...So I woke up one day and asked myself, 'Why's my tarot pack suddenly all shoujo?'"

--Frank-Yoh

-o-O-o-O-o-

Tabula Rasa (n)

1. (In Philosophy) the mind prior to experiences:

the mind at birth, regarded as having no innate conceptions

2. Chance to start afresh: an opportunity to make a clean break or a fresh start

(Mid-16th century from the Latin

meaning literally "scraped table" or "blank slate")

-o-O-o-O-o-

-III: kinētikos-

-o-O-o-

Kuga usually knocked so softly that there was no way even a yearning room occupant would hear. He, of course, didn't realize this at all, and tended to think most people simply didn't want to see him, and regarded this with long-suffering patience and understanding.

Perhaps then, it was the only logical conclusion that his bond with Kaoru--fractured and fragmented as it was, was what alerted her enough to shout through the door, "Go away!"

Kuga flinched, then forced himself to relax. He was the parent, he reminded himself. Or...was supposed to be the parent. A better parent than a woman who called her own child a demon, at least. He winced, again, unrealizing. "Kaoru...please let me in." He murmured through the door.

"I don't want to see you! I don't want you to come in! Go away! Go away now! You just want to tell me I'm wrong! Leave me alone!"

Kuga shut his eyes tightly, fingers on the door. Nobody was around to see him. Expression flickered on his face to match his traitorous eyes--sadness, longing, grief. "Kaoru..."

A sudden snort in the hall caught his attention, and he jumped. He stared bewilderedly at Mizunagi's malicious smile. "Want me to have another go at her? You could go off and have a private cry. It looks like that's what you're about ready to do." Kuga's face went rigid in panic. "Don't you dare!" He hissed in a whisper more of fear than anger. "You've done more than enough today!"

"Don't talk to me!" Kaoru shouted through the door, obviously noticing there was speech on the other side of the door, but also quite obviously missing its content. Mizunagi raised his dark eyebrows. "Spoiled little princess, isn't she?" He murmured back, with a tinge of malicious laughter in his voice. Kuga looked uncomfortable. "You mustn't...say such things..." He murmured, fingers still spread against Kaoru's door like a religious penitant reverencing--or perhaps protecting--a relic.

"What? Princess? What else would she be? Remember with Kirihara? What she called the soldiers-?"Mizunagi was ready to say something else, when the door creaked open. Kaoru glared at Kuga. "Stop talking. I'm trying to sleep."

"Your music is ten times as loud as Kuga's voice, sweet pea." Mizunagi added in, leaning against a wall with mischief in his dark eyes.

Kuga looked at him in distress and disgust, and pushed into the room with an, "Excuse me." quickly shutting the door behind him.

Kaoru's face twisted. "Get out! Get out!" She screamed, raising her tiny, ineffectual, black-nailed fists at him. Kuga barely even flinched at the blows, though, gently catching her wrists. "Kaoru, please." He murmured.

Kaoru went silent and stared at him, her face twisting further. She snatched her wrists away, turning impetuously in a sweep of blond curls, and throwing herself onto her bed, tangling the blankets around her into a cocoon. "Leave me alone!" She snarled, muffled by the blankets. Kuga didn't appear to hear, turning down her music, and settling his fingers onto a forlorn-looking stuffed rabbit. He gazed at it with a very thoughtful, even nostalgic expression, fingers brushing over one ragged ear, barely touching it. When he'd turned around again, with the toy cradled in his hands, the expression had given way to a fairly earnest tenderness no matter how much he seemed to intend it not to.

He crossed the room and bent at the bedside, peering into the mess of blankets. "Kaoru..." Kaoru's striped eyes gazed out at him defiantly from her tangle of blankets.

"Kaoru...I'm not here to hurt your feelings."

Kaoru made a noise, twisting to avoid his face, pulling the blanket over her own, and trying to make herself just a lump. Kuga gently pushed her back over, pulling aside the folds of fabric. Kaoru tried to pull it back, but Kuga's grip held firm as he pushed the rabbit into her curled fingers.

"Get out..." Kaoru whispered, twisting her head to try to get away, fingers clenching a stuffed ear. Kuga silently smoothed her hair. "Get out." She said again.

Kuga didn't move, still stroking her hair, soothing her. "I'm sorry." he said. "I'm sorry for what they said. They didn't mean anything by it."

Kaoru's face twisted again in anger, tugging hard at the rabbit's ear. "Kasei did." She spat. "You should kick him out. Why is he even here? I hate his eyes. He doesn't even look at me, and when he does, he makes me angry. Kick him out! Put him on the street!" Kuga blanched. "I'm...not going to do that." Kaoru would never know how much of his willpower it took to say that even when she had no power over him at all. "Besides...Ama-Inu..." He hesitated.

Kaoru glared at him, pulling harder at the rabbit's ear, seams straining. "What? You're scared of him? He's a fool. And he can follow him out onto the street like the dog he is. Ama-Inu...what sort of a name is that, anyway? Sea Dog?"

"Ama-Inu doesn't frighten me." Kuga said with perfect honesty. Wiz-Dom blood ran through his veins, and he was an exorcist...well...former exorcist. ('Ex-Exorcist?' That was how Mizunagi had put it once, wasn't it?) "But it's hardly right for me to kick them out because one of them said something... You...might be overreacting." Kuga's insides cringed at that. It was a role he played which forced those words, and words like them to his lips. And Kaoru knew they had little, if any substance. She glared at him, severing the rabbit's ear with a lengthy ripping noise that made Kuga's insides tighten even more. The black button eyes seemed to stare at him in silent pain, in betrayal.

"I'm not overreacting." Kaoru spat.

There was a snort from behind them both, and they turned as one. Mizunagi grinned. "Sorry. But you want to kick out two people from the house just because of a misunderstanding? Sweet pea, you've got to have some tea to calm those hormones. A little teaparty with all those dolls of yours..."

"Mizunagi!" Kuga whispered, dead white. He felt betrayed, watched.

"You!" Kaoru howled. "How did you get in here?" Mizunagi spread his hands, "You left the door open. Sorry to intrude." But Kuga knew with horror that he hadn't. He'd locked the door behind him to avoid this, exactly. He'd been sure to...

Mizunagi had teleported in. He'd used his powers. RIGHT in front of Kaoru. She hadn't noticed this time. Small mercies that, but still...

What was he thinking?

Kaoru still didn't remember the aquarian age at all. With any luck, she never would. She had no idea the powers of the men she wanted to dismiss from the house over a lunch-time argument. No idea of her own powers which had pulled them all there... All of them had agreed in privacy behind her unremembering back not to use their powers in front of her. Certainly, some things couldn't be helped, like Kasei's flickering tattoo, or Ama-Inu's ruby eyes and unusual omnivority. But Mizunagi knew better than to show off his psychic powers so blatently.

He'd done it intentionally. That was the only possible explanation. And Kuga couldn't think of a thing to say to him in front of Kaoru.

To imagine what he would have been stuck trying to explain had Mizunagi been caught simply waltzing out of the closet--that was where he had to have teleported to, after all--was one of the most horrifying scenes possible. And he couldn't think of a thing to say to him. Deliberately provoking her, deliberately showing off his powers, deliberately proving himself a voyeur of sorts as he went arund, and laughed at every kind word Kuga tried to say, everything he did trying to keep everything together...

Didn't he know how much it would hurt Kaoru to start to remember and resume the burden of being a mindbreaker?

Mizunagi's black eyes glittered when they rested on him. Inside, the psychic was laughing, he knew...

That settled it. Mizunagi knew. He just didn't care.

Kuga hated him so utterly and so ineffectually...

"Well I want you to go away. I'm talking to father, not to you." Kaoru hissed impetuously. Mizunagi only smiled. "But why not double the advice? How hard could it be? Besides, I've known you nearly as long as he has." Kuga's breath froze in his throat. Don't, Mizunagi. Don't do this. You'll spoil everything...

Kuga wasn't actually stupid. He was gentle at his core, but not stupid. And he could see why Mizunagi could do this suddenly. Who, after all, could Kuga tell? If he told Ama-Inu and Kasei... Ama-Inu, well, who knew what he'd do? But Kasei would kill him. And he would do it without a worry int he world. He wouldn't even bother with a fair fight. he'd simply find the moment, and he'd run him through, and leave him. And he wouldn't forget. Kasei took threats very seriously, and he was so empty inside. Kuga shuddered privately. The eastern emptiness in him. Some would call it Nirvana that Kasei had acheived. To Kuga it was nothing more than a frightful black hole. Remorseless, loveless, almost thoughtless.

It wouldn't matter what Ama-Inu would say about it, but he couldn't tell him without telling Kasei. Ama-Inu had no subtlety. He loved the fight. He loved life. And in a way, he had no remorse either. He lived an animal's life--Kill or be killed--and he embraced it with an unholy sort of glee.

If Kasei found out, he'd kill Mizunagi, and Ama-Inu would help him, just out of the interest of a fight.

Kuga couldn't say anything. And Mizunagi had to know it.

No...Not just know it. He'd planned this.

"Think of me as the indulgent uncle if you'd like." Mizunagi added. "I only want the best for my little girl. Don't underestimate me."

"The best for me is if you leave me alone." growled the mindbreaker, a hand bunched in her black-petticoated skirt.

"Ah, well. That, I'd rather not do. I could sit in the background here. You'd hardly notice me." Mizunagi said, settling himself with a theatric little sprawl into the chair beside Kaoru's desk, a stiff gothic-black ballet dress hung over the back of it, giving him the impression of sitting on a rather black and scratchy little cloud. "Go on, go on." Mizunagi said, with a wave of his hand, and a rigid smile. His hand slid into a drawer almost before he'd finished the words. "Oh my!" He exclaimed with marvelously poor theatrics. "What's this?" He opened the book and began to read aloud:

"I am a black sheep, accepted by no one. Living in a hateful house of men who all act as though I'm some specimin of princess doll. I hate their faces and their hands, and the way they all watch me, but don't understand-"

"GIVE THAT BACK!" Kaoru screamed, launching herself from the bed with a violence and hurling the one-eared rabbit with dreadful speed. Mizunagi gave a short, sharp laugh of delight, blocking the mutilated plush with the hardcover journal. It bounced off harmlessly, and he caught Kaoru by the wrists, keeping out of the way of her feet.

"Mizunagi, stop it!" Kuga cried, horrified to his core by the spectacle.

Mizunagi however, kept laughing as Kaoru screamed at him. It was the first time Kuga had ever heard Mizunagi laugh as though he were enjoying himself. It was a cruel and terrible little dance as Kaoru jerked ineffectual fists, and Mizunagi kept laughing and laughing... The motion seemed to spin. Mizunagi was spinning her, as though it were all a game, as though it were ecstasy--a celebration of motion.

Kuga was on his feet before he knew what he was doing, wrenching the two of them apart, murder in his eyes. The chair tumbled to the ground with a horrible scraping noise. Mizunagi smiled at him with viciousness. "You're stretching my shirt." He said, laughter still dancing in his voice, in his eyes. Go ahead. His eyes seemed to say. Give me a reason. You know you want this.

Kuga's hand trembled. "She told you to get out. She doesn't want you in here, and neither do I." Kuga said quietly, priestly training the only thing keeping his voice steady.

"She told you to get out too." Mizunagi said with a perfectly delighted little smile, his teeth very white and perfect. His eyes crinkled in absolute joy. And Kuga flinched at the words, glancing at Kaoru and realizing...

She was huddled on the ground, her black-nailed hands biting into the plush of her animal, diary against her chest and loathing betrayal in her eyes.

I failed you. I let him in, and he did this, and you don't even know why. And you don't know what he's ruining either.

But another part of him pointed out to him that Kaoru was miserable. The diary had proved that. She was miserable. She wasn't better. And his heart ached for her.

"I don't want to see either of you. Get out." Kaoru spat.

Kuga's brown eyes widened and he stared at her, aghast, and Mizuangi smiled blissfully at the both of them as the other opened his mouth to speak, to feebly defend himself...

There was a deafening crash from downstairs, and a high, canine howl.

Mizunagi's smile faded, and he frowned. "Shit." He said, pulling his shirt free of Kuga's weakened grasp. "What's their problem, anyway? I can't leave them alone for a minute. Like children..." He muttered, rubbing at his hair, and palming himself a cigarette from his back pocket.

Kuga stared at Kaoru, distressed. She was huddling around her journal, the head very nearly pull off of her little doll, glaring silent fury at the floor.

He bent down beside her, ignoring Mizuangi, his hands outstretched to comfort her. He remembered the first time he'd seen her--a girl wrapped up in a little blanket with the saddest eyes peering out sorrowfully at the world... His heart had gone out to her then, and it did again now.

She'd never remember the times she'd called to him, the slender thread of trust they'd had when she'd been his master, the safety of being near him because he was just a piece of puppeted meat. And he hadn't minded, hadn't minded at all--because she'd needed them all, and as long as she'd thought he was nothing at all, he'd been able to comfort her. As long as she'd refused to se that he actually cared for her like his own child, she'd tolerated his presence, his comfort, but now...

Kaoru slapped away his hand with a toss of hair. "Don't touch me." She hissed. "Just get out. I don't want to see anybody." The man's face faltered, and his hands lowered. Now she pushes even me away. How long can she live like this? She needs us...

"Don't try and fight it, Kuga. She wants to be alone. Come on. We should see if someone broke in, or the other guys are just being stupid again." Mizuangi said with his easy bluntness. And Kuga remembered his anger. Kaoru woudl have to wait. He needed to talk to Mizunagi. He needed to catch him. So he followed after, whispering at the door as he closed it. "I'm sorry, Kaoru."

He waited a moment, and he heard the music turn up again, and scream at the door with mind-numbing bass.

-o-O-o-

Mizunagi was waiting for him near the stairs, and he smiled around his cigarette. "You alright?"

Kuga turned his eyes to him. "I know what you're doing." He said quietly, almost inaudibly, anger behind his soft voice.

Mizunagi smiled beautifically. "Of course you do." Blue smoke snaked from between his teeth, amking him look like a demon. "But can you think of anything to stop me?"

Silence was his only response accompanying Kuga's glare.

Mizunagi shrugged, sighing. "Then that's too bad."

Kuga gritted his teeth. "What makes you so sure I won't tell any of the others?"

"Well you won't want to see me killed or...at least them trying to kill me." He paused. "You ever see anyone try to kill a man that can teleport? It's not really a fair fight. I can do it much faster than you might think over short distances." Mizunagi turned his face to him and finally, lazily shrugged. "You'll be watching for your chance to stop me. You'll want to fix it all on your own and keep everyone living happily, though."

Kuga nodded. That about covered it.

"Well," Mizunagi gave an expansive gesture, sweeping his cigarette around. "In that case you're going to have to stay quiet and wait for the best moment, aren't you?" He patted Kuga's arm easily, twisting his blank expression around into a smile that only reached the mouth. "Come on. Let's go see if they've managed to kill eachother. Your job will be that much harder if they start lapsing too. It's terrible, the moral degeneration these days. You just can't seem to trust anyone."

"Why should I trust you again?"

"Ah." The psychic smiled again. "I'm hurt. We're comrades, aren't we?" He blew smoke around him, glancing about for something. "They say war changes a man. So what's a man like if all he knows is war?"

"Is that some kind of riddle?" Kuga asked, frowning uneasily.

"Do you think it's a riddle?" Mizunagi looked at him pointedly. "Riddles generally have answers."

"You don't intend to change at all, do you?" Kuga whispered. "You'll just keep spouting cryptics at me to throw me off."

Mizunagi grinned. "If it does have an answer, the question you should be asking is, 'Is the true man of war equipped for nothing but change?'"

Kuga's brows knit. "That's nothing but cyptic Bullsh..." He always have a funny delay, a funny guilty slur when he tried to swear. It was fairly pitiful to Mizunagi. "Bullshit?" He drew out. Kuga gave a wince. He clearly couldn't help it. Mizunagi grinned at him. "That's certainly one theory."

He grabbed Kuga by the tie, and leaned clsoe to his ear. The other man had hs hand on his sword in an instant, stiffening when he realized he couldn't actually use it. "Try and keep up." He whispered, pulling back in a cloud of smoke and smiling. "I'm going downstairs." He vanished in wisps, in ribbons of self, his blue eyes glittering.

Kuga's fingers tightened around the hilt of hsi sword, then he forced them away, covering his face with his hands.

"Alea iecta est." He whispered in a groan.

-o-O-o-O-o-O-o-

Review replies to the esteemed Foolish Mortal-sama will take place more privately in this case, since I can communicate with her so, and actually, in all technicalities, they probably already have. (I know you guys who might otherwise be reading are all crushed since you can't eavesdrop. Crushed. You'll probably never be the same. I will carry that emotional burden for the rest of my life. What a monster I am!)

But as she did point out, my chapter-thingie was wrong. I put in "Patris" because I wasn't thinking well. The chapter-title in the selector has now been changed to "Pater" as it should have been, and as it appeared in the title-header in the chapter text itself. Both technially still mean "father", but FM-san is right about the dative/ablative thing. It's just not the right tense by any stretch of the imagination unless I meant a reference to the religious phrase "E Nomine Patris, et filio, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen" which, while interesting, was not my intention. Sorry for offending you, latin-fluents.

While I was busy fixing the title and such for chapter two, I actually put up the later draft of that chapter. It's not much different, but I figured out how to explain a few things better, so I altered it. (And now it beats to death the point that Kuga is a wuss, and Ama-Inu is basically "man's best friend" and has all the brainpower of a sweet potato pie.) I don't normally do that, even though re-reading my stuff always makes me edit it, but this time I made an exception. If anyone other than FM-san notices it, I will make Kuga a big plate of takoyaki, and watch his priceless expression of astonishment as I bestow it upon him. (Like anyone's ever nice to Kuga...)

Anyway, in the time since I put up the first two chapters, I've had some thoughts and initial brainstorms about possible outcomes for the fic, and I might actually have a direction.

Also, since the people of the RP comm I was on before this, basically kicked me off for distractability, I needed an outlet for my idiocy. So I joined another RP, and I play as Tracer and Katan of Angel Sanctuary. As you can imagine, playing Tracer on a regular basis should be enough to make anyone more cheerful. Really nice, open little place. (Also in need of more people--shameless plug much? I'd really love some Juvenile Orion people, though. I can wish, right? It's pan-fandom and allows Original Characters and basically just focused on character-development. What more could you want?)

Tracer's sideways ramblings about inverse werecats and spirit mirrors and just how much he'd like up the robe of a certain priest somehow helped me get this chapter done. I don't know how. I don't know why. But there you go. (I think it was the Mizunagi in this. Mizunagi's like Tracer except a lot nastier? I don't know...It's had to explain.) Bit of a fire under my tail anyway.

You'll recall the thinly-veiled physics references in th last chapter? Well you call should know what "kinetic" energy is. Energy of motion. Hurrah! Mizunagi's stirring the pot and putting things back into motion. (Ahh, Mizunagi. You are a plot device worth ballads and songs...)

Happy points to anyone who can guess what Kuga said in the last line of the chapter!

While we're on the subject of more chapter-relevant notes, you know who Kaoru reminds me of? Akito. From Fruits Basket. (Pre-chapter-97-Akito, by the way. I always liked him better when he was nasty...) Really very similar. Except Kaoru doesn't get such a shocking plot twist. (Don't spoil it, anyone who knows what I'm talking about I'm still stuck someplace in book 23...Oh, shoujo manga!) She's a bit of a brat, though. Even when things go well, she wants to camp it up and make it all about her.

Why do I always like such nasty characters? Maybe I should get my head checked... (I really like Mizuangi, too. His Tabula Rasa self is just so much nastier than his Gracious Wings incarnation. So much more fun...)

You can insert your own tasteless goth-hyping soundtrack in there of course when Kaoru starts pounding out loudness on her stereo. (Though you should make sure it still has good instrumental tones, etc.) Heh. Sakurako Gokurakuin does reference the original "Gloomy Sunday" in her series Catagory:Freaks, just out of side-interest. (Supposedly it's one of those legends of "if you hear this song, you'll die"?) And of course Emilie Autumn goes off and makes a rather nice little song called "Gloomy Sunday" herself. So it's enough to doom me to think of pink-haired gothic ladies when I write Kaoru, ever after. I fail on so many levels for getting stuff stuck in my auditory head-tracks.

Moral of this chapter?

Roundabout obscure references half-connecting in eachother help you get stuff done. (That and procrastinating on, or altogether not doing papers for classes.)

Good news otherwise? I'm doing with this what I did for GW. I'm writing crazy ahead-scenes, and my plot's starting to fit together. (Under the pretense of personal challenge, of course: "Hey, self! Yeah, you, Skunky! Why don't you shake things up and write something that doesn't follow your previous fandom incarnations just to see if you can?" Pretty good incentive...)

I've already figured out what to do with Lafayel. I've figured out what I'm going to do with Ama-Inu and Kasei, and really what else was there to worry about?

So...I think I know how to get it done if I accelerate it a little.

Mm...action...Mizunagi, you're full of plot-device wonder. Every fandom should have one of you. (happy)

Chapter four I'll try to get together soon. (I only have about two or three more week of school before I go on the summer hiatus where I write insane amounts and updating properly becomes a hassle... Also not doing so well on some classes because sophomore-moron me took all 4000 levels this semester, so wish me luck.)

I miss the fans (Reviews were nice)

I miss your friends (the hordes of mice).

Oh, for the fandom loved of yore,

Alas! The end! My brain is sore...