Ten Tears Falling

Drifting Leaves, Part 1

Summer clouds floated above in the hazy blue gray sky. Birds flitted about in the distance and various small insects were about. The recent rain had all but disappeared into a heavy humidity that clung to the air as if the original descent was not enough. Perhaps when the clouds first cried it was not enough.

Regardless of how the weather was feeling just that moment, there was a rather excited buzz that seemed to pervade every corner and every shadow under every tree. People could be seen leaving the great stadium, walking excitedly. In animated gestures and with the rather peculiar jumping of youngsters, it quite appeared that everyone had something to talk about.

And they did. The Angelic Layer Championship match had just ended. The White Angel Athena was defeated and Hikaru stood victorious alongside her Deus Misaki. However the grandness of the display was only one aspect of the tantalizing battle, though only the older viewership had the wisdom to contemplate it. Apparently the people behind the marvelous angels were related in a fantastic Angelic Layer team of Mother and Daughter. And perhaps for these older people that could see the wonderful beauty of this relationship, they brought home with them that day more then they were expecting.

Many years had passed while Mother and Daughter were separated. Shuuko had left her daughter to find a cure for a disease that was affecting her legs, and for seven years she had remained in Tokyo looking for an answer. Her daughter Misaki, a lively young middle school girl that lacked confidence and a Mother, came to Tokyo for school and soon fell in love with world of Angelic Layer. As time and perhaps fate would show they were bound to meet over the white glow of the layer, but the story of their meeting was lost to the droves of people leaving the stadium. They had simply been able to learn that they were Mother and Daughter reunited.

It was a curious championship to say the least. But perhaps all that was truly magically curious was never seen by the audience that day. There were many confections of the heart that transpired that day, and the reunion of those two was only perhaps the most notable. It could be said that even that depends upon who is looking through the looking glass. If one had seen the championship through the eyes of the small six year old girl named Hatoko, it might have been very different.

Hatoko was a bright child, leaning on the side of brilliancy. Her interest in Angelic had started not horribly long ago, however her skill with her angel Suzuka was bested by only a few. She had actually been considered as championship candidate material, though that was not to be this season. The overpowering Shirahime had taken that from her. In retrospect however, Hatoko didn't mind.

As part of the rules for the championship matches, Seconds were required to provide support to the Deuses controlling the angel during the match. Misaki selected Hatoko to be her Second. Misaki's win on the layer that day was a win for Hatoko too. Especially since they had made a promise together to fight Athena, and also to try as best as they could. But right now, Hatoko felt that she had won more then a championship title, and her eyes were glazed over slightly in her victory.

"Hatoko-chan!"

Hatoko snapped out of her daze to find Misaki beckoning her over. Misaki was with her mother, the greatest Angelic Layer Deus in history, Shuuko. Hatoko had always wanted to meet her, but right now it didn't seem quite as important as Misaki's waving arm. Hatoko dashed over, forgetting her casual walk completely.

"Misaki!" Hatoko's voice carried over the thick air easily, her excitement not withheld. She reached Misaki and wrapped her arms around Misaki's waist as best as she could. Misaki was still rather tall compared to her. "I knew you could do it Misaki!"

Shuuko smiled at her daughter and the young girl that was now clinging to her. She had only reconnected with Misaki an hour ago, and now she found herself meeting the wonderful little girl she had heard about named Kobayashi Hatoko. Apparently Hatoko was quite close to Misaki, though it was not entirely dependent on the fact that Hatoko was the first person Misaki befriended in Tokyo.

"You two make a wonderful team, I think I am jealous that you have spent so much time with Misaki!" Shuuko joked, her eyes still glimmering from the emotional out pour she was still feeling in her heart. To finally be this close to Misaki was a wonderful feeling. To finally have a chance to be her Mother once more was even grander. Shuuko noticed Ichirou approaching from one of the many tunnels leading to the center of the stage, and then returned her attention to the two girls again. "Shall we all go? There is a party waiting it seems."

Misaki and Hatoko grinned, and giving one last look to the audience they made their way off the stage. Misaki pushed her mother's wheelchair and Hatoko was close at her side. The fantastic rush of victory still fueled their happy smiles even as the the next episode in their life began to unfold.

- - -

Following the championship match, it had become apparent to Hatoko fairly quickly that Misaki would be spending substantially more time at home with her Mother now that they had been reunited. In all her young wisdom she knew absolutely that Shuuko and Misaki deserved to spend time together, but she was still dismayed to find that Misaki was not available as much.

On one such morning on a fairly nice weekend, the kind where birds chirp outside the window at just the right time, Hatoko lay in bed waiting for just the right moment to spring forth to start her day. Her mind was racing as usual. Thoughts of Angelic Layer, of school, of her brother and Tamayo, of Misaki. She rather enjoyed her thoughts about Misaki.

Misaki had recently asked her to come with her shopping. Hatoko remembered the phone call very well, almost word by word. It had been a couple weeks since they last had an opportunity to spend time together, and as it turned out to be the adventure would happen today. Hatoko was originally supposed to go with her family to a martial arts exhibition, but with a wonderful smile and a sugar cute please her parents had allowed her to stay in Tokyo. Since her parents and brother would be out of town until tomorrow, she would also be staying with Misaki and her mother. Up until this point she had very well managed to avoid screaming in glee, and at this particular point she realized again how wonderful this day would soon be, and she scrambled out of bed with a finally released emphatic vocalization.

Hatoko would be turning six relatively soon, but by the way she efficiently prepared for her day you would think she was much older. Her hair was tidy and her clothes were well picked and suited the day perfectly. Her self-identity was well developed, and her internal compass of will and compassion was tuned to a much higher level of maturity then most adults. She had of course had her moments, especially with regards to being unable to keep promises to people such as Misaki, but all in all she was quite level headed.

Breakfast came and went, Hatoko had already decided a plan the night before. In this particular case she had left a note asking her brother Kotarou to leave her some breakfast before he had left with their parents. Being a good brother that he was, a suitable portion of food was left for Hatoko on the kitchen table. She had promised Misaki that she would eat breakfast before they went out, a promise on her own volition.

Having just finished gathering her things together for the evening such as pajamas and a change of clothes, Hatoko checked the time to find that she was an hour early. Sighing, she fell onto her bed. It was like every other day with Misaki: She was always ready quite early. Her black hair splayed behind her head, she closed her eyes and ran through a mental checklist of things one more time.

" ... brush, yes I have that. I remember it because I put it in after my slippers. I'm pretty sure those slippers are the ones she said were cute...", thought Hatoko. Her cheeks were a slight pink, and a smile crossed her face. It was still rather cool that morning, yet Hatoko began to feel perhaps a little warmer then usual. It was a curious occurrence, yet Hatoko was so involved in her thoughts that she did not notice the change.

Hatoko had found that time could pass easily when she was either practicing Angelic Layer or thinking of Misaki. Hatoko had once noted that practicing Angelic Layer and thinking of Misaki were very different concepts. Considering that she was never able to entertain herself while thinking of someone in the past, she had let the two topics fall together in a tenuous category known as happiness. Hatoko felt that perhaps they were different feelings that she didn't understand well, but for know she could rely on them to bring a smile to her face. In this particular case Misaki seemed to dominate her mind, and her idle thoughts continued.

For all the maturity that Hatoko had acquired through the years, and all the knowledge that she had absorbed in all the many different ways she found it, Hatoko could not explain so well her feelings when she thought about Misaki. Hatoko had never asked her brother, even though she was strong willed and generally proceeded to ask anything. These questions had never escaped her lips and rather they had remained deep in her heart, almost meditatively. At the very least she knew quite well that they might be described as an overwhelming attraction to Misaki. That these feelings made her quiver silently and yearn for Misaki's companionship in a deliciously satisfying yet depressing way. Hatoko sighed and looked at the clock.

"Maybe she will be here early," said Hatoko quietly to herself. With thirty minutes to go, Hatoko found no reason to stop her dozing. She closed her eyes and listened intently for Misaki's voice, wanting to believe that she could hear Misaki's voice no matter where Misaki might actually be. It was a romantic thought, but Hatoko did not think of that way. Only in certain situations she found that she could possibly understand the world of adult feelings, and right now was perhaps not one of them.

- - -

It was strange today Misaki noted to herself as she made her way to the Kobayashi Doujou. She would not be seeing Kotarou at all all, not even to say hello for a few minutes. Kotarou would be gone with his family. On the other hand, Hatoko would be spending the day and evening with her. It's not at all that she didn't like spending time with Hatoko, it was just... Strange maybe that it was only Hatoko all day and all night and all morning. Her Mother would even be busy with a proposal that day.

Misaki had many times before thought of how wonderful it was to have Hatoko as a friend. But even though Hatoko was special to her and she enjoyed spending time with the younger girl, she also wondered if it was okay that Hatoko did not have many other friends, especially at school.

"No, it's okay," Misaki said to herself, "She has other friends, their age doesn't matter right?" Misaki thought about it for a moment, only to conclude that it had to be true. If age ever mattered then perhaps their relationship would be much more distant, and Misaki didn't want to think that perhaps that could ever happen.

Age, as well as size, doesn't matter. Hatoko's Golden Rule. Misaki thought it was very fitting for the precocious little girl she had come to know as one of her greatest friends. That one rule had given her much of the needed courage to win the championships, and perhaps the one girl known as Hatoko had given her the spirit as well. It was interesting to think about, but Misaki's mind soon wandered to the day ahead. Certainly they would be stopping at the Piffle Princess and Hatoko would gleefully run up to a practice layer?

The sight of the residence came into view, and Misaki soon entered the courtyard. The warmth of the fall sun was beginning to take hold now and she brushed her hair from her face. The rustling of a sliding door could be heard, and Hatoko soon appeared.

"Misaki!" Hatoko exclaimed, running up to Misaki and leaving her overnight things at the door. She smiled up at Misaki, curbing her excitement as best as possible. "I'm glad you made it okay."

"Hatoko-chan, it has been a little bit!" Misaki smiled and pointed to Hatoko's things, "Do you think it might be a good idea to leave them here while we are out?"

Hatoko nodded, "I wanted to spend all day out so it would be a burden, wouldn't it? One moment." Hatoko ran back to the door and closed her things inside of the room before dashing back.

"Shall we go then?" Misaki asked. Hatoko nodded again, and proceeded towards the sidewalk energetically with Misaki following. "Hatoko-chan, you are excited today!"

"Mm, because I haven't seen you for a long time!" Hatoko laughed, taking Misaki's hand and leading her down the street.