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Stranger In A Strange World
Strange New Life
"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
Tsukune's return to consciousness was rapid; almost abrupt. Blinking the fog from his eyes, he surveyed the now-familiar infirmary room with a nagging sense of loss, and a barely-tangible feeling that a part of him was missing. As his eyes finally focused on his parents, his father thumbed the intercom beside the bed.
"Doctor, he's awake," Kouji spoke into the box, before turning to his hatch-ling. "So, how do you feel?" he asked expectantly.
Tsukune rubbed his temples, as if feeling for something that wasn't there. "She's gone, isn't she?" The disappointment in his voice was palpable.
"She released you while you were still out; something about reducing the disorientation. How does it feel?"
Tsukune thought for a moment, then sighed. "Empty."
Kasumi opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the arrival of the Commonwealth neurologist who had accompanied them to the surface, and performed Tsukune's implant procedure.
"Ah. Fully conscious, are we?" he asked. Tsukune nodded his reply as the doctor produced a medical scanner from one of the many pockets of a Fleet flight suit. "Any pain, or vertigo?" he asked as he adjusted the device and started a scan of Tsukune's head.
"No pain; just..." Tsukune hesitated, then met the doctor's gaze. "Is it abnormal to miss being psychically dominated? Shouldn't I be feeling liberated?"
The doctor cocked his head to one side in curiosity. "Yes, actually, it is. Of course, I've not seen anything quite like what we observed during your procedure. There was a strong psycho-emotional component to the connection. A physician of another, more expressive species could describe it better, but my own experience with such effusive brain activity is limited. Anything else?"
"Good," he continued when Tsukune shook his head. "Your suppressive implants are set, and there's no sign of rejection. You'll remain a fully functional telepathic receiver, but we've sharply curtailed any ability to project mental energies. At best, you'll be able to communicate telepathically as you did before, but you'll have no ability to suggest or exert any influence on a sentient mind. As your brain continues to mature, it will progressively override the implants, but only to the degree that your level of control has developed. Eventually, you will become fully functional again, perhaps a little behind the curve of what would have been your normal development. Any questions?"
"You might have heard..." Tsukune started.
"That you might opt to stay on this planet?" the doctor finished for him. "While I cannot fathom why you would choose to, I produced the implants for your current genome. No further intervention would be required. When you return Home, and are reverted to your natural form, the necessary adjustments can be made during the geno-forming process." He paused briefly, and as if satisfied there were no further questions, departed with a perfunctory "Good day," over his shoulder.
'Ssu frowned as she regarded her willful castaway and his parents. The female monsters were allowed a brief visit with the patient, then were firmly dismissed from the room while she talked some sense to the young man. Surprisingly, the parents offered no assistance at all.
"He's your child; shouldn't you be encouraging him to be sensible about this?" she hissed. A quick calculation of the orbital period of the planet revealed Tsukune to have reached the Age of Decision among his people while marooned here. Further, he'd been a de facto member of the backwards human civilization for more than ten local orbits, so it was his right to assume citizenship of his new home, had there been an administrative mechanism to do so. It was all very frustrating to the normally professional and level-headed reptile.
Could it be that these foolish emotions are somehow communicable? She shuddered at the fleeting thought.
"We won't interfere in his decision," said Kouji. "The doctor's certified him to be free of external influence; so get on with it and brief him on the options."
"You have two: return with us, and resume your life among the Commonwealth in your natural form; or stay, and be forever removed from the Commonwealth. Your genome exists now only as a sizable record in a Commonwealth database; it will be deleted, and your racial heritage along with it. You will become, for all practical purposes, a human. Your knowledge and memories still pose a threat to this planet's quarantine; they will be deleted. You will have only knowledge of the local dialect, and your natural intelligence as survival tools. You will be removed from this place, and deposited in a remote location where it is probable you will be discovered and sheltered by the local populace, the victim of an apparent terrestrial automobile accident with permanent retrograde amnesia. If you are so enamored of this so-called civilization that you will abandon your home and species, you will be placed at its mercy. The only source of support you will enjoy will be that which they would offer one of their own most helpless members. Your friends, if they wish to offer aid and support, will first face the challenge of finding you, then convincing you that they are, in fact, your friends; you will not remember them. They must willingly agree never to reveal your previous nature and origins to you."
Tsukune nodded as each condition was pronounced like a sentence upon a convicted criminal. He avoided eye contact with his parents, not needing to see their expressions to feel their growing concern.
If I stay, I won't remember Kurumu, or how I feel about her, he thought morosely. If I go, I'll remember my feelings, but never be able to feel them again.
'Ssu paused, about to ask if he understood his options, when Tsukune finally spoke.
"Enough. I've made my decision."
The mood in the Astronomy Club room was somber, as Kurumu, Moka, Mizore and Yukari waited for their alien friend to make the most important decision of his young life. Kurumu's nerves were stretched almost to the limit. She sat silently at a desk with her hands clasped in front of her, unable to keep them from shaking when they weren't holding on to something. With her Charm connection severed, she couldn't feel any of Tsukune's mood or emotions, and void was like a physical pain in her chest. Soon, she would be the most fortunate Succubus in history, and be united with a Destined One selected from across the galaxy for her; or she would be the most unfortunate, having found her Destined One, only to have him ripped away and separated by sixty-five light-years of empty space. With a discipline utterly foreign to a Succubus' normal psyche, she resolved that she would abide by his decision, and not beg, or plead for him to stay. She would not ask her love to abandon all that he was or could be for her happiness. Kurumu winced visibly when the door opened to admit the lizard, 'Ssu, two of the alien soldiers, and her Tsukune.
"He has made his decision," said the psychologist without emotion.
Kurumu stood, trembling, as Tsukune walked up to face her. She could feel his hands shaking, as well, as he took her face in his hands, moved in to kiss her softly, but lingeringly, on the lips.
"Kurumu, I've got to go away..." he started after breaking off the kiss, and hesitated as he felt her heart sink into the abyss. "But just for a while."
"What?", Kurumu blurted, afraid to hope that she was hearing him correctly.
"They're going to take my memories for this, but I'm staying. I'll be dropped somewhere far from here, like an amnesiac accident victim. Come and find me. If I'm really your Destined One, you can't not find me again, and show me the feelings we've shared, right? If you truly believe we're fated to be together, then I'll be out there, waiting for you, even if I don't know who or what I'm waiting for." Tsukune turned to 'Ssu. "I'd rather temporarily give up the memory of these feelings, and have the chance of discovering them again, than abandon them, and Kurumu, forever. Do what you have to do."
Kurumu clenched him in a fierce embrace, kissing him again, this time with the fervor of all her built-up anxiety and fear converted into passion. Tsukune returned the kiss as best he could, but he was, after all, only human. She only released him when she felt a soft pop from his spine.
"I'll find you," she promised in a hoarse whisper, tears of joy welling up in her eyes. "If I have to fly to the South Pole on my own wings, I'll find you and make you mine again!"
"Until then..." Tsukune started, but his voice caught, and he could only kiss her again, bathed in the sensation of her emotions.
'Ssu, nonplussed by her own perceptions of the emotions in the room, shook herself slightly and motioned to the Marines. The two soldiers took up flanking positions on either side of Tsukune.
"Sergeant, take the castaway into custody. He is to be isolated until the memory deletion is complete."
The Marines clasped his arms firmly, but not painfully so, and pulled him away from Kurumu's embrace. They only had time to turn toward the door, when it opened, and the Commander, Contact Specialist, and Chairman strode in. Regarding the Marines, the Commander spoke softly, but authoritatively.
"That," he said, "will not be necessary."
One week later…
The day started out dark and overcast, and Kurumu anticipated a break from stargazing that night. As the day marched on past lunchtime, however, the sky cleared and the afternoon was bright and sunny.
More work, she thought in resignation as the dismissal bell chimed, and she descended the stairs to dusty old library. The events of the past week were a whirlwind of partially remembered highlights, and stark memories of being busier than any high school student in history. At least, it seemed that way.
An hour later, Kurumu emerged from the library with an armload of dusty tomes, some apparently centuries old, and started to trudge up the stairs to the administrative offices. Nodding to the Chairman's assistant, she walked up to the door of a small side office and tapped on it with the toe of her shoe. Next to the door, a small engraved placard proclaimed it to be the office of:
Commonwealth Diplomatic Service
Consular Attaché, SSI-45961-3 (Terra)
Below that, a slightly smaller sign,
Terran Sapient Documentation Project
The door opened, revealing Tsukune, dressed not in his Youkai green sport jacket, but a gray and red military-style tunic, bearing a patch depicting the planet Earth, and the insignia of the Commonwealth Diplomatic Corps on the shoulders. Without a word, he took the books from Kurumu, placing them on an already overloaded desk as she closed the door behind her. In the past week, Kurumu had become Doctor Saito's de facto research assistant, digging up source material for Saito's expanded database of Earthly life forms.
"More books for the Doc?" he asked as he turned back to Kurumu, only to be wrapped in a firm hug and kissed soundly on the lips. After returning the kiss for a few seconds, he backed up slightly, looking bewildered.
"Um…who are you again?" he asked seriously, before breaking into an impish grin.
"Let me jog your memory, my comedic Destined One," Kurumu said as she kissed him again, this time with the ardor only a Succubus could muster.
"Alright! I surrender!" he laughed as she finally broke the kiss. "Did you have a good day in classes?" he asked as he removed the tunic.
"Actually, not bad," she replied. "It seems our connection was more than just emotional. My marks are up by at least ten points over the last week." Kurumu watched as he hung up his "office" jacket. "I'll never get used to that," she said, pointing at the empty shoulder holster that was concealed under the tunic.
"A necessary evil, I guess," Tsukune shrugged as he retrieved a small, angular pistol from a dimensional portal safe set in the wall. "With the implants, I can't defend myself the way I used to." After checking the charge and the safety, he holstered the weapon and reached for his green school jacket. "Besides, even after all the negotiations and agreements, I'm still a human at Youkai. It's not like I don't have enemies."
"I still say Moka and I could defend you, if you needed it."
"There's also protocol to consider, Ku-chan. Since we negotiated my right to carry it; I'm sort of obligated to do so."
Now dressed as a typical first-year student of Youkia Academy, Tsukune held out his arm to Kurumu.
"Shall we go stargazing?"
Kurumu and Tsukune enjoyed the walk to the Astronomy Club's hilltop in silence, basking in the contact of her arms around his. Despite the maelstrom of political and personal events of the past week, they managed to get a little "alone time" together. Kurumu was discovering the appeal of the mental and emotional connection they shared, even as Tsukune was slowly learning the joys of physical affection. (The sensitivity of human skin may not be ideal for proper reptilian sunbathing, he concluded, but it was not without its upside.) Kurumu even kept her previous promise to be patient with her Destined One; not once yet raping him, despite her innate urges. The day was rapidly waning to dusk as they reached the halfway point of their trek to meet the rest of the Astronomy Club. It was then that Tsukune felt a familiar presence.
"Ku-chan," he said in a warning tone. "Stay calm. Don't go crazy on me."
"What is it?" she asked suspiciously.
A familiar form stepped out of the trees. Tsukune felt Kurumu's youki building as she recognized the two pony tails, antiquated Western-style dress, and large wand.
"Calm down, Kurumu. She's not here to fight," he admonished.
The witch, Ruby stood for a moment in front of the couple, and without a word, knelt in front of Tsukune with her fists planted on the path.
"He's right. I only wish to thank Master Aono properly for freeing me. Allow me this, and I will leave," Ruby begged.
To her credit, Kurumu's talons only came out a centimeter or so as she suppressed her demonic rage. "Do you have any idea," she hissed, "what you nearly cost me?"
Ruby looked up at the Succubus, then to Tsukune, and her eyes widened as she saw in her own way the connection between them. Gasping, and planting her hands flat in front of her, Ruby bowed until her head touched the ground.
"Daughter of Lilith, I had no idea. Take what retribution you feel is yours."
"No!" Tsukune blurted. "The personality that did that is gone, wiped out like the lizard man." He turned to look directly into Kurumu's furious eyes. "There's nothing to be gained by punishing her. This is not the same witch."
Kurumu's aura hardened for an instant, then relaxed. "For my Destined One's sake, I accept your apology. Now go."
"I will not." Ruby raised her head in defiance. "I swear to you that I will repay my debt to you. I will remain here, at Youkai until I've done so. Either of you can ask any favor, any boon, at any time and it is yours; even if I must spend the rest of my mortal life here."
While Kurumu gaped in astonishment, Tsukune groaned inwardly.
This can't possibly make my life more complicated, can it?