Trick

Rin knows a trick.

He can close his eyes, and see Alice, with her quiet stillness and long dark hair. Her sharp plain face -- an oxymoron if there ever was one -- and the charcoal blue of her uniform. He sees her, and so he concentrates, picturing Alice clearly until she becomes a solid outline in his mind: until she stays there, smiling at him. Standing, her hands are clasped together near the hem of her skirt, and a small leaf flutters on the edge of her coat. Against her prim pose, the effect is a little silly. Silly, just like Alice, and completely charming.

She starts to say something, but her voice is faint, and he can't hear her very well. Behind his eyelids, he can sense a roaring supernova.

He concentrates a little more, and that outline begins to shift. Its figure blurs and--

When he opens his eyes, Mokuren is there.

The world is dark around them, and he can hear crickets.

She smells like lilies: warm and golden, ozone and air. The face she wears is contemplative: so much like Alice, and yet so very different. She is speaking now, with that same upward lilt to her voice, but her voice is even softer than before. He wants to tug at her hands, her wrists, to make sure that she's there, but

something echoes in his mind

That sounds like bells, or perhaps a ring, like that of a cosmic blast or a burst. An explosion of their bodies, still stranded near the airlock of their base. Still there, still burning burning burning -- Mokuren's light fading, burning down in fire and flames.

His fists tighten. Instead of the base, he now sees Shukaido, and he sees himself. Even in his own world, Shukaido won't die: won't do him the favor of self-destructing like everything else he's ever laid hands on. In that mirror, Rin sees everything that he wants to destroy.

When he wakes up, he can still hear the crickets buzzing in his ear.

It doesn't matter.

He thinks for a minute, and then gets a new crayon out of his pencil box to write down the plans for KK-91.