She hung helplessly within the bars of her prison, suspended in a straight jacket and locked away behind a metal helmet. How many years had passed she could not even guess. Her body had grown from a child's into a young woman's so she supposed a number of them had come and gone. In this place one day bled into another, an endless stream of boredom broken up only by the horrors of experiments meant to test what her body could endure. There was no day, no night, it was never spring time or summer or fall or even winter. Christmas never came to this place. Time just was. It would stretch out until the day she finally died and brought all this pain to a final end.

Hanging in her cage she thought about the same thing she always did; her time with Kouta. She recalled those sweet summer days, the only time in her bleak existence when she had been truly happy. She remembered the sad melody that had been playing from a music box he held and the excited way he had told her that her horns were, 'cool.' She remembered games of tag and hide and seek and walks through the woods as he drew landscapes. She remembered that wondrous trip to the zoo and her astonishment at how big an elephant could be. She'd gotten to spend a day at the zoo as just another ordinary child and it had been the best day of her life.

All those happy moments had been because of Kouta.

He was the only one to ever look at her like a person rather than as a horned freak. She had loved him for that, really loved him in that special way only children could. A simple pure love that just was and that asked for nothing in return. She had loved him and when she'd caught him in a lie the pain she'd felt at his betrayal had driven her mad. She'd deliberately slaughtered his sister and father right before his eyes just to hurt him. She hadn't touched him though; even in her madness she could never bring herself to physically hurt him. She would have killed his cousin too, but the sight of his tears and the realization of what she had done to him brought her back to sanity.

Why? Why had she done that? Why had she intentionally hurt him like that when he had been so kind to her? Even if he had lied and betrayed her did that cancel out all the joy he'd given her? Why couldn't she have just forgiven him or simply walked away? Why had she felt the need to take away what he loved?

Maybe I really am a monster like they say, she thought. The only thing she wanted, her sole dream, was to escape this place so that she could be with Kouta once more. If she could be with him again she would devote herself to protecting him and making him happy. Even if he could not forgive her she would dedicate her life to trying to make up for what she'd done.

"Is that what you truly want?"

The voice took her off guard. When the guards locked her in here and turned the lights down they usually didn't come back for hours. The lights were still low and the screeching sirens that always preceded the heavy doors opening had not sounded. Looking down she was shocked to see a man in white robes standing less than two meters from her inside the perimeter of her cage. His eyes seemed to be glowing and he was dressed like a priest not like a guard. He was completely out of place and she couldn't begin to guess how he had gotten there without her noticing.

The details didn't matter any. Everyone here was her enemy; she would gladly kill them all if she could. She reached out with her vectors to tear this man apart. She gasped when they hit some invisible barrier a foot in front of him and were halted.

"How?"

The odd priest tapped a gold rosario with a red center piece and smiled. "You are not the only one with special gifts."

"Who are you?" She demanded. Her voice was muted with a faint echo coming from within her helmet.

"I am someone who helps those who are called monsters find a place in this world controlled by humans. I have come here to try and help you as well."

"If you want to help me get me out of this cage and through those doors."

"If I did that what would you do next?" He asked her.

"I'd kill every last human I ran into until I was free."

"And after that?" He prompted.

She stared at the strange man through the red glass of her helmet. "I'd try and find someone."

"Kouta?"

She began to think this had to be some type of bizarre dream. No one here knew about Kouta. He was her salvation, her long cherished hope that gave her reason to keep living. She would never tell them about him. They would have just used the information to try and invent some new torture for her.

"How do you know about Kouta?"

"I can see many things Lucy," he told her. "Even dreams and heartfelt wishes. I know what is in your heart. You long for acceptance, peace, love; in truth you don't want to kill."

"You're wrong, I'm a Diclonius, a monster, and killing is what I was made for. It's my nature. If you don't believe me just ask any of the guards here."

"Do you know what, 'monster' is Lucy? It's a word created by humans a long time ago to describe anything that they feared and could not understand. There are races other than man on this world, just as ancient, just as civilized, and just as entitled to life. The difference is that most other races aren't taught to fear and hate anything that they do not understand. It is a catch all phrase that does not specifically refer to nay one specific creature or race. In essence the word 'monster' could just as easily be replaced with, 'everything feared and not understood by man.' There is no connotation of evil in that, no suggestion of savagery or murderous intent. Being Diclonius makes you just that; a Diclonius. A race different from man, but not necessarily better or worse than man. You are intelligent and have free will; killing is a choice not a part of your nature."

She wasn't sure what she was supposed to say to that. Everyone who'd known what she was had labeled her as either a monster or a freak. The scientists here all insisted it was her nature to kill. She had never seen any reason to question that.

"Even if I didn't want to I would still have to kill humans. It's the only way to make a place for myself."

The man shook his head. "There are more than six billion humans in the world; do you really think you can kill them all? Violence is not the answer. All it leads to is more violence. If you wish to survive the only option is coexistence, learning how to blend in among them."

She laughed a bitter resentful laugh. "I have a couple horns sticking out of head! How could I ever blend in?"

"There are ways," he assured her. "In your case it is actually simple. You have no tail, no scales, no fur, no hooves, no claws, no wings, nothing but those horns mark you. In every other way you appear a perfectly normal human girl. Horns can be broken off and kept filed down. If you truly want to pass as human it can be done."

She'd known about keeping her horns hidden or course, but had never considered a more permanent solution. If she really could get rid of her horns then maybe she could pretend to be one of them.

"If you don't want me to kill humans then what do you want?"

"Come with me to a sanctuary where you will be safe and where you can learn how to fit into human society. The Diclonius race is a new one upon the Earth and I would like to help it survive. Unlike others you have the burden of being a known quantity, a scientific fact. Without outside help your race faces genocide. Let me help, come with me and learn a different way of life. If you can do that I can promise you what you want the most."

"What I want most is to be with Kouta."

"I know."

Yes, it had to be a dream. Escaping this place and going somewhere safe to be with Kouta could only happen in a dream.

"All right, sure why not."

XXX

The next morning when the vault door opened the guards found the cell empty except for her straight jacket and helmet. She had vanished without a trace.

XXX

Kouta was on a school bus headed to some place called Youkai Academy. He was 16 years old. Ever since the deaths of his father in an accident and his little sister from illness he had been bounced around from one set of relatives to another. For a long time he had suffered from nightmares and had trouble sleeping. He had been listless and had difficulty making himself care about school work or anything else. There were large gaps in his memory and sometimes for no reason he would get scared if he was all alone. With his poor grades his relatives had been worried about what to do with him for High School.

Then from out of the blue he'd received a full scholarship to a private school that included three years room and board. To his relatives it had been a godsend and to him it had been a chance for a fresh start somewhere new.

The bus came out of some weird tunnel and arrived at a stop with a weird scarecrow by a bench. One person was standing there waiting.

"Good luck young man," the bus driver said as he stepped off. "Youkai can be a scary place."

"Uh, thanks."

As soon as the bus pulled away the person at the bench took a nervous step towards him. When he got a clear look at her his breath caught and he had a momentary bout of panic as he sometimes did. Thankfully it passed quickly and he didn't think the girl had noticed. He had no idea why the sight of such a pretty girl would make him react like that, there was certainly nothing scary about her. She was dressed in the female equivalent of the school uniform he ws wearing. She had long red hair and red eyes. She was a real beauty. As she approached him she looked more nervous than he felt.

"Hello Kouta," she said in a low voice her eyes looking at the ground to escape his.

"Hello," he answered and held out his hand. "Are you my guide?" When she looked up at him he got the oddest sense they'd met before. For some reason he heard a sad tune playing in his head. It was strange since he'd never heard that song before.

She reached out and took his hand. "That's right, my name is Lucy and I'm going to show you around and explain some of the special rules about this place. It… it may seem scary and you may feel like a freak some times, but I promise you that you're not alone here. I'll stand by your side and be there for you no matter what. I hope that we can be very close… friends."

"Any chance we can be more than friends?" He asked her as a joke.

He saw her blush. "If… if you want."

He wasn't sure just what kind of school it was or what sort of experience the next three years were going to be like, but right then he wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else in the entire world.