Disclaimer: Sekirei doesn't belong to me but to some shady MBI like corporation.
Takami Sahashi puffed nervously on a slightly crooked cigarette as she waited for the chairman's grand entrance. It has become something of a company tradition that the two of them would show up in the secondary underground garage of the MBI headquarters when any of the Sekirei were to be released into the wild, regardless of whether they had any direct hand in their adjustment period or not.
With her shock of white hair, slender figure, conventional scientist's garb and dangling cigarette, she struck a contrary sight. While she didn't elicit nearly the same level of gossip as the Director, who by design seemed to have the market cornered when it came to all things eccentric, she still managed to garner a few whispers of her own. Those that had any prolonged dealings with her quickly came to disregard this surface dressing and instead focus on the keen intelligence she possessed and her peerless mastery of all matters Sekirei related.
As it happened, the subject due for imminent release this morning was the first of Takami's solo charges so she found herself experiencing a bittersweet mix of emotions - pride and happiness for the Sekirei finally being allowed to reach her potential mixed with sadness at actually seeing her go after being so close to them for so long. In many respects, she felt closer to the Sekirei in her care then her own natural children. Not wishing to add any more pressure on the departing Sekirei, she elected to behave like the complete professional she felt herself to be...unlike some others she knew.
As if he knew she was thinking about him, the elevator announced its arrival with a soft chime and Minaka Hiroto swept into the cavernous complex with a wild cheer, somehow knowing that all eyes would find him immediately.
"No 88!" he announced without preamble pointing dramatically over at the already excited girl, "Are you ready to take part in the Sekirei Plan?"
"Yes Professor" she shouted back immediately with equal vigor, startling the attendant physicians who were checking over her one last time.
"Yes!" he cheered throwing both arms in the air as he rapidly approached the circle of people around her, letting the girl's boundless joy infuse his own. Takami simply sauntered in his wake, flicking the last of her cigarette away as she joined the childlike pair.
Standing before her, he placed both of his hands on her shoulders and scrutinized her through his thin glasses. "Do you know what your purpose is, Sekirei?"
"To find my destined Ashikabi," she answered promptly, the question and answer sequence almost a prayer for all Sekirei.
"And when you find your Ashikabi?"
"Earn my wings so that together we can shape the future, "the light in her eyes echoing her most fervent belief in what she was saying.
"Excellent," Minaka smiled, "I hope you know that all of us have very high expectations for you. Any Sekirei that has Takami as their adjuster should easily make it to the third stage at the very least" Takami had to force a smile at this remark from Minaka - he said the same thing to every Sekirei as they were about to leave. She really wished Minaka could tone down his song and dance routine but that was an argument she had lost long ago. Losing didn't mean she couldn't still be pissed off about it though.
"My dear doctor, will you do the honors?" he asked her with an elaborate bow, unconcerned by the all too apparent menace in her eyes.
Takami maneuvered herself between the young girl and the director, wanting this last exchange to at least be somewhat private.
"Musubi, remember what I told you - the second you leave this compound we can no longer protect you. I know you've trained hard and you're not afraid of anyone but you're not to fight until you find your Ashikabi. Do you understand?"
"Yes" she replied solemnly.
"Good girl," Takami nodded apparently satisfied.
She began giving the final instructions. "Okay then, you have to pick one of the SUVs behind you," she indicated to the darkened vehicles parked in a semi circle near them. "Each of them has a random location programmed into the sat-nav that not even the driver knows yet. Once you reach the location, you're on your own and your adventure begins."
88 nodded, having gone over the departure procedure a hundred times already. Finally reaching the point where she was unable to contain herself any longer she grabbed Takami in a silent hug.
"Good luck Musabi, and remember the north" Takami whispered just loud enough for Musabi to hear. She had a reputation to uphold after all.
They separated and with a final bright smile, Musubi lightly hopped into the nearest vehicle ready to fulfill the purpose she was created for. The door closed and with no ceremony at all, both it and the unoccupied vehicles left, the pair of empty vehicles departing simultaneously to throw off any interested eyes that might be watching the MBI headquarters.
With the vehicles gone, the assorted physicians and hangers on quickly dispersed to leave the two founders of MBI alone in the garage.
"That's quite an interesting outfit she chose," Minaka remarked, "I can see your influence in her choice as I seem to remember that one hot summer when you wore a very little"
"Hee hee. Takami-chan still has a quick temper and an even quicker fist" Minaka laughed, gingerly rubbing the back of his head as Takami stalked off, any semblance of politeness towards the director gone now that the Sekirei had departed. There were few things that cheered him more than knowing that he could still get a reaction out of the old girl.
Minato Sahashi carefully made his way down the darkened aisle, simultaneously trying to accomplish the twin tasks of navigating his way back to his seat while more importantly not dropping one bit of his precious cargo for fear of being sent back to the concession stand again to start the vicious cycle all over again. With the auditorium lights dimmed and no trailers playing yet he found himself having to pause after every step to see if he was at the right row or not by checking the aisle seats for a piece of gum he had noticed on the floor as he left. Hopefully nobody had picked it up.
Determining that he had arrived at the right row (by stepping on the gum rather than spotting it) he shuffled past a few other patrons (apologizing profusely as he did so) before finally finding his seat next to his three companions.
"Ah Minato - you're a life saver. I was going to start eating my fist I was getting so hungry," Seo Kaoru informed him happily as he grabbed the largest box of popcorn from Maintops tired arms. As always, Seo's general demeanor suited his appearance perfectly - laidback. His clothes obviously hadn't been washed recently and the steady growth of stubble indicated shaving had also taken a back seat in the past few days. To most people, appearance was a matter of personal pride but the truth was that Seo didn't really care how he looked. If it wasn't for the company he kept, no one would spare Seo a second glance of any kind.
His companions on the other hand, were anything but forgettable. Sitting on either side of the unkempt man were two of the most stunning women Minato had ever seen. As if having a pair of women accompanying him wasn't enough the pair of women also happened to be twins. But the most unbelievable thing of all as far as Minato was concerned was that they were both happily in a relationship with Seo - there was no apparent hostility between the two and they seemed as content to share him as they were the popcorn they were now absently eating. Had it been anybody else Minato would have assumed the relationship had some basis in money changing hands but knowing that Seo never had any money had ruled that idea out.
It was just one of life's mysteries, one of many that baffled Minato on a daily basis.
Minato took his seat next to Hibiki or "the calm one", as Minato referred to her internally – as a matter of self preservation he had learned how to tell the two apart quickly as Hikari had a hair trigger temper and generally concerning topics that no one would suspect. Safe in the relative darkness he glanced over at them nervously, still intimidated by their beauty. Both of them were wearing almost matching outfits that somehow managed to the trick of appearing almost casual, while still showing off their figures without being tawdry and displaying much skin. Not feeling all that brave, he looked away quickly, not wanting to be caught gaping.
"This had better be better than the last film you brought us to Seo," Hikari warned from the far seat.
"It's supposed to be funny," Seo replied defensively as the choice of film was usually his and his tastes tended to run towards the stupid.
"Hmm," Hikari muttered, obviously unconvinced.
"Quiet," Hibiki hushed them, "the trailers are starting."
The Izumo Inn's single phone's unobtrusive tone rang steadily for a few moments as Miya Asama carefully placed a single three legged stool next to the stairs where the handset was located. Perching delicately upon the seat she picked up the receiver.
"Dr Sahashi," she answered without pause, "punctual as always."
"Miya," Takami's voice broke through a lot of background noise indicating she was on her mobile and probably outdoors. "Is he around?" her voice betrayed her hope that the "he" in question wasn't.
"No," Miya replied, "He left for the cinema with Seo and the twins. Apparently Seo believes that seeing some juvenile comedy will cheer Minato up."
"He really needs better friends," Takami sighed.
"Seo is trash," Maya agreed, "but if he was good enough for Takehito, he is good enough for your son."
"How did he take the exam results? He hasn't called me yet which means he's working up the courage at the moment." It was evident from her tone that she wasn't too upset about Minato's most recent failure.
"He put a brave face on it but it was obvious he was sorely disappointed," Miya stated, sharing her observations.
There was silence for a moment, "It's a shame. I've seen a transcript of his paper and he would have been fine had he not started second guessing himself."
"You know this latest setback will not deter him. That foolish sense of male pride will make him try again and again until he gets in."
"It probably won't matter by then," Takami practically whispered.
Miya didn't argue the sentiment as they both knew that the Sekirei Plan was most likely to play out in the next few months and would be the only thing that mattered to the residents of Tokyo for better or for worse.
"You are proceeding with your plan I take it."
"It's done. I'm not leaving something as important as this to dumb luck," Takami stated firmly.
"There's no guarantee he's even capable or eligible and even if he is - that they'll cross paths," Miya suggested.
Takami scoffed though it was more sad then mocking. "Given how messed up his parent's DNA is, there's no chance he's not eligible. I grant you there's an element of chance involved with meeting the girl but I've done my best to stack the odds there as well. Every bit of exposure she got to the outside world mentioned the north of the city. She'll go to where's familiar."
Miya said nothing about Takami's actions. While she could understand to some degree the rationale behind it, the ease with how Takami could pervert a fledging Sekirei's nature offended her. It was an open wound between them but it was an argument that had reached an impasse and so Miya avoided reopening it.
"How long has she been out?"
"We released her this morning. I was hoping to tweak her a little more but Minaka wants them all out as fast as possible and he was noticing all the time I was dedicating on her."
"Does she suspect?"
"Not at all, she's far too trusting for her own good."
"Sounds like an odd choice to entrust your son to her?"
"I'm hoping that Minato will step up and be smart enough for the two of them."
Miya said nothing to this, not quite ready to share her opinion of the boy with his mother.
"So how many have been released now?
"Seventy-four, twenty-five are unwinged, six...returned. We released three in the last two days alone. At the current rate they should all be out within sixty days - provided Minaka doesn't do anything else especially stupid."
It went unsaid that they both figured that this was a likelihood being that they were founding members of the Minaka is an idiot club.
"In the end, we can't fight fate," Miya reasoned even though she knew Takami had a dim view of whole destiny thing, empirical evidence to the contrary be damned.
"We can try," Takami grumbled, also not really wanting to start this old argument.
"Your daughter was successful in her college application?" Miya asked, quickly changing the subject.
"Yukari's too confident for her own good. I couldn't nudge her like I could Minato even if I wanted to. I imagine she's packing everything she owns into travel bags even as we speak."
"I will take her in," Miya offered. Given the women's shared history, it was not an unkind offer.
"I appreciated the sentiment but Yukari probably has plans of her own. Sahashi women like to make their own way in the world. Anyway, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
"Seo, we're going to go wash - take care of our backs," Hikari commanded over her shoulder as she made her way through the door of their small apartment, already starting to peel off her top.
Minato quickly averted his eyes after glimpsing more skin then was probably safe given the owner of said skin.
Seo turned slowly to face the young man, a Cheshire cat smile now taking up the majority of his face.
"While I'd love to stand here and shoot the shit...well as you can see - duty calls," he thumbed over his should in the general area of the washroom.
Minato nodded, not being a complete idiot despite what his recent exam results claimed. "Okay - I'll ah...I'll leave you to it." He wasn't sure what it was exactly. There was a small bit of him that didn't even want to know but there was however a much larger part of him that yearned to have someone want him to wash their back. They didn't even have to an equally attractive twin sister.
Seo closed the door after seeing Minato off and practically skipped into the small bathroom where he assumed his Sekirei were patiently awaiting his arrival.
"You're not naked" he pouted on seeing the pair half way through changing into the clothes they were most comfortable with, their fighting uniforms.
"How long are we going to have to string that sad-sack along" Hikari huffed at him, making a show of being put out by Minato's presence.
"He just failed his exams...for the second time - cut him some slack. And anyway - it's only once a week and we get free food," which Seo figured was the ultimate winner of any argument.
"It's not healthy for him to be around us, Seo" Hibiki added, strangely adamant.
"He's fine," Seo dismissed her concern with a wave of his hand, "because we're keeping our noses clean and not attracting attention."
The twins said nothing.
"We are keeping our noses clean - right?" Seo asked, suddenly suspicious of their silence.
The girls quietly looked at each other and Seo rolled his eyes, knowing what that meant.
"I don't understand why you insist on going out and picking fights with the un-winged."
"We can't change who we are or what we are." Hibiki replied evenly.
"We need to fight," Hikari added.
"Soon, it won't be safe for us to be around him," Hibiki observed.
Seo sat down on the edge of the bath and sighed, "You sense it too huh?"
"Yes. His soul is calling out loudly now. It's only a matter of time before a Sekirei answers," Hibiki responded as Hikari sniggered at her poetic description.
Seo nodded. From his brief conversations with Miya, he understood that no matter what the young man's own desires or ambitions might be, Minato's mother was fixing the game heavily against him.
He wasn't sure whether it was something that was naturally part of his makeup (or more likely a product of growing up around strong no-nonsense women) but Minato was never one to wallow in his own misery for too long. Kicking a discarded can along in front of him as he made his way from Seo's downtrodden house to the Isumo Inn, he figured he was allowed have one night to feel sorry for himself but tomorrow he'd have to shape up.
Firstly he'd ring his mother - he'd been putting it off which was a fact that his canny mother would not miss. But she would still expect a call even if the news was bad.
He could hear practically her voice echoing in his head already, "A man must stand up and take responsibility."
"Yeah right" he muttered as he pushed all his frustration into an extra hard kick, catching the side of the can with his foot. He could only watch helplessly as it spun through the air to crash down into a bunch of cardboard boxes and trash bags that had been haphazardly stacked against the back wall of a large town house.
"Hey!" a disgruntled and surprised cry came from what sounded like the trash pile, startling Minato in the process.
"Uh hello?" Minato called, feeling more foolish than usual for talking to a collection of garbage.
"You hit me on the head!" the voice accused him, in truth sounding surprised more than hurt and distinctly feminine as far as Minato could tell.
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize there was someone...in the trash." It felt more than a little odd apologizing given the circumstances but if there was fault it was clearly his.
"That's okay I suppose. Just be more careful in future," the trash advised him sagely.
"Uhmm, why are you in the trash?" Minato dared to ask after a moment's silence.
"I'm hiding," was the immediate response - like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Why else would somebody possibly be covered in refuse?
"What are you hiding from?"
There wasn't an immediate response this time until finally "Well there are people who want to fight me but I'm not supposed to be fighting just yet so I'm hiding."
"Uh okay," Minato looked around fearing for a moment that this might be some sort of elaborate practical joke, "there doesn't seem to be anyone around now. It should be safe enough for you to come out."
"Do you want to fight me?" the voice asked - suddenly suspicious.
Minato almost laughed out loud. Other then getting hit in the head by his sister for some incorrectly perceived offence, Minato avoided violence with the practiced skill of a life-long pacifist.
"Ah no, I don't want to fight you."
"Okay then," the voice replied happily. The garbage shifted about and what appeared to be a young woman dressed as some kind of kickboxing shrine-maiden, sprang to her feet in front of Minato. Even scuffed and a little tattered as it was, the normally modest outfit failed completely at trying to hide her absurdly curvy figure and the patches of dirt on her face couldn't diminish her obvious beauty. Rather than get caught gaping at her, Minato immediately bowed.
"Please forgive me for hitting you with a can," he practically begged - never before realizing just how interesting his feet could be.
"Well it was an accident so that's okay," she shrugged, wondering why this strange boy was still bowing in front of her. She went to place a hand on his shoulder but paused when he instinctively jumped back from her.
"What's wrong with you?" she asked quizzically as he held his arms up to defend himself..
"I'm sorry. It's just this is usually the moment when I usually get hit…as punishment," Minato sighed realizing that he had over-reacted to her kind gesture.
"I'm not supposed to be fighting yet so that can't be your punishment," she explained thoughtfully.
Looking at the pair of sparring gloves she wore, Minato figured that a slap from this strange girl might hurt a great deal more than one of his sister's love taps. Not wishing to dwell on that thought he changed the subject.
"I didn't know there was a shrine near here," he said indicating to her outfit without actually looking at it.
The girl just looked at him, obviously not understanding what he was getting at.
"Do you live around here…when you're not hiding in garbage?" Minato tried again with a nervous smile.
She placed a slender forefinger to her lips and hummed for a second as though this was the most difficult question she had ever been asked. "I've only just come to the city so I'm not really living anywhere yet" she finally proclaimed, apparently pleased with her answer.
"You're living on the streets!" Minato was shocked. "But surely that can't be safe."
The girl shrugged again, apparently unconcerned.
Minato was torn. This really wasn't his problem and he wasn't sure that Miya would approve but he couldn't just leave the girl to her fate. Again his mother's disproving voice echoed in his head, "A must stand up and take responsibility". Realizing what needed to be done, he steeled his will and looked her in the eye, "Uhm, I'm currently staying at a boarding house near here. The landlady of the inn is very nice and would surely be able to help you find somewhere more permanent to stay."
He knew it was presumptuous on his part to speak for Miya but she did seem to collect odd tenants and a kung fu shrine maiden probably still wouldn't be the weirdest one in the building.
"Will there be food?" the girl asked.
"Sure, I guess" Minato shrugged.
"Good. I'm really hungry," she smiled happily, and a low rumble from her belly seemed to confirm this statement.
"You really are!" Minato exclaimed.
She blushed in embarrassment but smiled when she saw that the strange young man was smiling happily at her.
"We better get you fed," he stated and beckoned towards the inn.
Humming contentedly as she hung her various tenant's laundry, Miya paused the moment she felt that strange prickling on the back of her neck. Knowing what it meant, she took a breath and finished the task at hand.
Assorted clothes hung, she put the basket back in its rightful place and made her way back to the kitchen, seeking comfort in the familiar. She took an apple from the fruit bowl and started peeling it slowly with one of the myriad sharp knives that she carried on her person as she wrote a few things down on a small slip of paper.
It wasn't long until she could hear Minato's nervous babble through the wooden door. He slid it open and seemed surprised for a moment to find her waiting there for him.
"Oh Landlady, you give me a surprise."
Miya smiled enigmatically as if that were the last thing she intended.
"You have a guest I see," she stated.
Minato removed his footwear and stepped out of the way before gesturing at his companion to follow.
"Yes, this is ah, Musubi. I ah, met her and she doesn't have anywhere to stay right now and I was thinking that because..."
Miya held up a hand to stop his rambling.
"Come in Musubi and let me see you."
The young girl dutifully entered the room and stood nervously in front on the appraising land lady.
"Is what Minato says true," she asked, "you have nowhere to stay?"
Musubi nodded emphatically.
"Very well – it was my husband's wish that no one ever be turned away from Izumo Inn. You may stay here but first you must clean up. We can't have you dressed like that in the inn. Minato, take this list and get some more food from the grocers – I wasn't expecting extra company tonight."
Minato nodded happily, pleased that Miya had taken the girl in without raising a fuss, not even thinking to question why she had a list to hand.
"Now young lady, you come with me and we'll get you cleaned before he gets back" Miya commanded kindly.
"Thank you Land Lady, Minato" Musubi bowed to each in turn.
"It's really no prob-" Minato began before Miya halted him by simply pointed at the door,
Minato smiled and nodded again, gathering his shoes and making his way back out into the darkness.
Even if the rapidly departing boy didn't see it, Miya couldn't miss the lingering look her latest charge gave his retreating form as he left.
Well Takami, you got your wish.
Next Time: Winging and meet your new neighbours