These Fragile Bodies
This fic was written for Kitty Kat K.O. and Tomoyo Kinomoto's Summer Contest. If you want to enter, go to the Free Imagination Forum and then "Tomoyo and K.O.'s Contest" thread for more details. Or, if you're bad at forum navigation, there's a link near the top of my profile. Or, hell, just ask me for more info.
Plot-wise, this is based on SaiKano, although it's a little lighter than that series, believe it or not. Oh, and it probably would have worked just as well—maybe better—as a chapterfic, but the last thing I need is to start another one of those, so thanks, Tomo and K.O.!
Disclaimer:It's pretty obvious that I don't own Tokyo Mew Mew, but how many of you would have noticed that I also don't own any of the dialogue in the first 300 or so words of the story proper?
I study the display intensely. "Hey, Momomiya-chan, come take a look!"
"Hunh? Okay, sure," Momomiya Ichigo replies, sounding a little distracted. It was nice of her to come to this exhibit with me; I don't know many other people our age who would have.
"We have so many endangered species on our planet," I tell her sadly when she comes up behind me. She doesn't respond, probably as aghast as I am at the horrible things we humans are doing to our poor planet.
"I didn't expect you to invite me to an endangered species exhibit," she says after a while. "I wanted to know more about you..."
"Oh, um, I think it's really important to save the planet!" She blushes and waves her arms, looking flustered.
I smile. "I agree." That seems to calm her down somewhat, though her face is still bright pink. I can't understand why she would feel embarrassed to tell me such a thing. Ichigo's a sweet girl, but she 's shy about the strangest things. If I didn't feel the same way, why would I have brought her here? Still, it's nice to know she cares. "C'mon, let's go check out the wolves!"
The wolf room is packed with people, but a display about the Honshu wolf immediately catches my eye, and I push toward it. "Come check out this display!"
"Aoyama, wait for me!" I turn at the sound of her voice, just as she somehow loses her footing in the crowd and stumbles toward me.
Suddenly, the museum is rocked by a sound so huge that it fills up all the available space, knocking people to the ground. Panic breaks out immediately, and I lose Ichigo in the confusion. All I can do is move with the crowd as we herd ourselves like sheep out of the building.
Once I'm out on the street—and I know how awful this sounds—I immediately forget about looking for Ichigo. There's a... It looks like a giant lizard attacking the city. Like they're filming a Godzilla movie and no one bothered to tell us that we're all on-set. The lizard is maybe a block away from me, smashing through buildings and breathing green fire.
All around me, people are yelling and scurrying away from the monster, but I'm completely paralyzed. I-I've never seen anything like this. If I could move my mouth, I'd be screaming and crying right now. I can't; I can't even breathe, and it feels like I'm trapped in the space between heartbeats. No one else is frozen, and the giant lizard sort of starts winding toward me, obviously not taking any particular path. Still, though, it feels like the thing is coming straight for me, and I'm still rooted to the ground.
A small pink blur impacts the lizard from the side, and, wonder of wonders, the monster stumbles. The blur zips around, too fast for its opponent to follow, landing blow after blow on the monster's armored hide. The lizard sweeps the area with its fire breath, but the blur is too quick for it, and with a final impact, the monster falls, shaking the ground like an earthquake. There's a flare of pink light, and suddenly the giant corpse vanishes, as though it had never been.
Now the crowd is surging the other way, curious about what the hell just happened now that the danger's past, and I finally have the use of my legs back, so I follow along, trying to scan the throng for Ichigo. I find my eyes inexorably drawn away from my search again, this time to the devastation the monster wreaked. Everywhere it went, the ground is scorched and buildings are toppled, like the aftermath of an action movie.
This is no movie, though. Most films would pan away from showing this kind of devastation. All around me, corpses are strewn in the street and amongst the rubble of the ruined buildings. Some of the bodies are crushed into unrecognizability; others are blistered and burnt, filling the already foul air with a discordant smell of cooked flesh. There are maybe twenty corpses in all, at least that I can see. Twenty lives ended by... What? Something out of some nightmare movie? I don't think anyone could have survived this, but a tiny sound nags at the edge of my hearing, and I race toward it, unsure of what I can do for anyone who survived but determined to help nonetheless.
Ichigo is there, sitting amidst the rubble. A-at least, I think it's her. Her hair, which should be reddish-brown, is bright bubblegum pink for some reason, and she's wearing one of those headbands with cat ears attached.
"Momomiya-chan?" I ask hesitantly, slowly picking my way over to the pink-haired girl. She turns at my voice, and her eyes, though they've turned vibrantly pink as well, are unquestionably Ichigo's. "Momomiya-chan!? What happened to you?"
"I beat the monster," she replies emotionlessly, as though that's the most normal thing in the world.
"What? How? What happened to you?"
"I'm a weapon now. I-I'm needed to s-save the world." Her stoicism wears off, and tears start to wend down her cheeks. I pull her close, and as I bury my face in her hair I see that the cat ears aren't attached to a headband; they're real.
Every day, the news is full of the horrors of war, and all I can do is be thankful that I still have electricity. Japan hasn't been hit very hard, maybe because that first fight, the one by the museum, was the only battle we won without serious casualties. Twenty people is nothing now; humans are dying by the tens of thousands all over the world.
I thought it would get easier to deal with after a while—the death—I mean, but it hasn't. Millions of people are dead. I can't even imagine a million distinct people. Numbers like that blur into faceless crowds until they're just that—faceless. Just numbers. But they were always just numbers. That hasn't changed, either.
I've never told anyone this—and with good reason. It makes me sound crazy, but I'm not. I swear. But when I was in middle school, and a little ways into high school, I used to fantasize about something like this happening. People... I don't like them very much. Humans are loud and stupid and destructive. The planet would be better off if we just vanished, and even more so if we had never existed.
So I used to imagine walking through the remains of Tokyo and watching nature slowly take the city back from the defilers. In my daydreams, plants broke through the concrete as cars and buildings decayed into nothingness, and the air was a little sweeter every day. It's an incredibly stupid fantasy, of course; if all the humans disappeared, I'd be gone too, and it supposes that the current environmental devastation can be cured in a lifetime.
But it was a comforting daydream. Now, every time I hear another report of civilian casualties, a little voice in my head hisses, You wanted this to happen. If you enjoy it, you're as monstrous as the enemy, and guilt eats away at me. It's strange. I stopped fantasizing about such terrible things when I started to get to know Ichigo, the first human I've ever really liked. She's not human any more, if she ever was, but I still love her, and she's still the only thing stopping my old dream from coming true.
She's gone a lot nowadays, and I still don't know why.
That's unfair. Ichigo doesn't have any idea why she had to be the one to save the world either, and I imagine not knowing is harder on her than it is on me. Tonight I'm waiting up for her, staring at the black, empty sky.
We were together pretty often when the attacks first started, because they were initially pretty rare, and concentrated in countries around Japan. But they've become more frequent and more spread out in the past few months, so I don't see her as much. When we do have time together, going on dates or just trying desperately to pretend that we're normal high school students, she seems sad and distant, like she's still fighting the monsters in her head.
There's a pink light in the night sky, flaring through the atmosphere like a falling star. I raise my face toward it expectantly. Even if I didn't know what caused the light, I think I would still find it beautiful. It kisses the earth far to the west of my house, presumably at the makeshift military base there.
In a way, the idea that Japan has been allowed to remilitarize to fight the monsters makes this whole war feel real. I know that sounds stupid, but if I could pretend that this was just Ichigo's fight, it could almost be like a magical girl show, with one lone catgirl protecting the Earth from mysterious monsters. But Japan hasn't had a standing military in more than half a century, so the fact that the Americans let us remilitarize means that everyone is scared of this new enemy.
The door opens behind me, but I don't even turn around. Ichigo walks so silently now, as stealthy as she is deadly, that trying to find her in the dark isn't even worth the effort.
I confess that I miss the lights of the Tokyo skyline. Light pollution was a problem, of course, and the generation of that much electricity was a huge strain on the island's already fragile ecosystem. The skyline is dark now because, theoretically, without lights it'll be harder for the monsters to target the city.
But the brightness of the city was familiar. Comforting, even, though it used to disgust me that my country cared so little for the environment. I would sacrifice a little bit of this planet if things could be normal again. I know that makes me a horrible person, but I can't help how I feel.
Strong, pale arms wrap around me from behind, and I twist my head around to kiss my girlfriend. She doesn't respond, so I pull my face away, settling instead for stroking her arms. "Are you all right, Ichigo?"
"I won," she says simply, but by now I know better than to accept that as the whole story. She leads me away from the window onto a couch and we sit silently for a while, just holding each other in the strangely silent Tokyo night. "I had to destroy an entire city." Ichigo's voice is so quiet that I almost don't hear her, and it sounds like she's a million miles away from me. "Oh, Masaya, it was terrible! Th-the monsters had spread themselves through the whole thing, so I had to raze it. Millions of people! They—" she chokes off, unable to finish.
There's nothing I can do for her, no comfort I can possibly provide against so much death. So I just hold her tighter, trying to wordlessly reassure her that I, at least, forgive her. Someone has to. Since my home is subject to the same light laws as the rest of the city, the two of us are nothing but shapes in the dark, still as gargoyles as we wait for dawn.
"It's all right," she whispers to me, her pink eyes feverishly bright, as I open my arms to her. She embraces me, but I stiffen as I process her words.
"But... I heard on the radio... All those deaths, Ichigo! And you did that? How can it be all right!?" She takes a half-step back, her hands still on my hips, and stares at me with those strange eyes.
"Because I beat them." Her voice, though still barely audible, is fierce, almost joyful. I recoil—that's terrible, I know it is, but I can't help it. Ichigo steps close to me again, and her lips almost brush my ear when she continues. "I made them all vanish, thousands of monsters, and all it took was the disappearance of a city. I... For the first time, I think I can really win this war, Masaya!" She laughs, the same bright, sunny laugh that I've grown to love. She sounds the same as she always has.
Something inside me breaks, and I run. She just watches me, curiously, like a cat watches a particularly slow, stupid mouse. I'm certain she could catch me if she wanted to. How can I outrun someone who can fly around the world and kill entire cities' worth of people without a second thought?
But I don't think she's behind me, though I turn around, panicked, every time I hear the slightest noise. I'm out after curfew, possibly endangering the whole city with my recklessness. No one else is around, and Tokyo is so eerily quiet that it almost feels as though I'm the last human left alive. Beneath my sneakers, weeds are beginning to break through the pavement.
She finds me, days later, hiding in the ruins of the museum where we had our first date. Idiot that I am, I don't even hear her come up behind me; ironic, really, as I've spent every waking moment on the lookout for her, barely eating and not daring to move into the open.
"I was wrong," she confesses wearily by way of introduction. I whirl around, almost falling among the debris.
"What are you doing here, Ichigo?" I want to sound stern, but my voice comes out too soft, too hopeful. Ichigo bridges the distance between us slowly. At first I think she's trying not to lose her footing, but she's as graceful as ever, probably just afraid that I'll bolt again if she makes any sudden moves. She's probably right about that.
"I'm not human, Masaya." She stops a few feet from me and looks down, not making eye contact. "I think I've known that for a long time, but I didn't realize how bad it had gotten until you left." I stare at her, silently, her beautiful, inhuman hair the only spot of color in this horrible place. She takes this as a sign to continue. "I... You're the only thing in this world I care about enough to protect, and I couldn't even do that." Her eyes are shining liquidly, but no tears fall. Perhaps she's not capable of crying any longer.
"What are you talking about? You can't protect me from what?"
"You're the only thing that's keeping me human, and once I lose you, I'll..." Her mouth works silently for a moment before she manages to talk again. "I tried to keep fighting when you were gone, but there was no point to it. What do I care if the rest of the world dies? I'm not human any more. And once you're gone..."
"I'm not going anywhere, Ichigo," I say, still keeping my distance. She looks so small and sad, all alone amid the rubble, but I don't dare reach out to her. I can't help but remember what she's capable of, nor the rapture in her voice when she described the deaths she caused. The air around her looks a little hazy, but she still stands out like a beacon. "You're not going to lose me."
Even as I say it, I realize that it's true. I'm still terrified of her, but I don't want to flee again. So I step forward hesitantly. She waits, motionless, and lets me make first contact. I lose my balance and stumble into her; she catches me, easily, almost like she was anticipating my fall. The breath hitches in my chest as her arms enfold me, and I can't seem to catch it again.
"I couldn't stop them," she says, her voice raw and painful. "No matter how many of them I destroyed, there were always more, and then..." she pauses, trying to work out what to say. "They put something in the air, some sort of deadly pollen. It... It's already spread all over the world. Japan was the last safe place, the place I wanted most to save. But I couldn't. I c-can't even save you..." She kisses the top of my head, still holding me tightly. I know she's telling the truth. The air is getting harder to breath, and my thoughts are starting to go fuzzy. "Suffocation is a horrible death. I don't... I don't want you to die like this."
She holds me tighter, and I understand. "What... About you?" I manage to choke out.
"I don't know. Nothing seems to have an affect on me any more. I'm not human, and I don't think I can die." For some reason, her tearless eyes make me sadder than my own impending death ever could. She can't cry, even now. "Are you ready?"
"Yeah. I... Love you, Ichigo..." My voice is a death rattle already, and my chest is on fire. I don't have enough oxygen to keep myself upright; she's completely supporting me now.
Black spots begin to dance in my vision, and the last thing I see is her frozen, impotent eyes as her hand moves to snap my neck.