Accensus in Die Iudicii

He flips to a new sheet of his notebook. "Are you ever


He clears his throat and taps pencil against paper. The question
came out wrong and he knows that, but not how the correction should
go. "Not that -- just... maybe when you first started or, er... has
anything you were supposed to do make you... uncomfortable?"

"This is a very professional place of business," I say. "My
customers have always behaved appropriately."

It's the truth. Don't let anyone say that soapgirls are trashy. We're
as high class as they come, especially the ones here -- you know a
businessman's made it if he visits Flower. Personally, I've never
serviced anyone who wasn't at least an executive.

Not that being an executive means a man wouldn't try anything.
But executive's have reputations to keep, and we're high class girls.
We wouldn't be afraid to make something public.

He clears his throat again (he has such an adorable blush). "That's
not exactly--"

"But I've never been embarrassed about what I do." I run a finger
over my cross, as familiar a sensation as touching my own skin. "With
this on, I've never even felt naked."


The Kamui is so young.

I hadn't known what to expect from him so I hadn't formed many
expectations at all, but the Kamui is not even something I am
accustomed to.

He's beautiful unlike anything I've ever seen. Not in the least bit
sexual (although the way that friend of his looks at him, mine might be
a minority opinion) but ethereal to the point of being unreal. Which is
appropriate I suppose, although that in itself is tragic. Now that I have
seen him, he's also so painfully human.

He's too young. Young and brittle. Slight. His eyes look bigger
than everything else about him put together, and they're raw, bleeding
like wounds that haven't even begun to heal. He looks like he can
barely save himself, let alone the whole world.

I love him already. I love him for his fragility, and, watching him
just before he will meet me for the first time, I think maybe his
weakness is appropriate too.


I wait outside while Mama confesses. We confess at night because
Mama says she needs to be cleansed the most when the demons are
out. Mama always asks if I mind waiting in the dark, empty church
while she goes, but I don't. I like getting to sit in the front row -- it's
always full during Mass -- and it's not dark in here. There are the

Since I can't use Mama's rosary, I make up my own prayers. I tell
God that I hope Papa's happy in heaven and that the demons stop
hurting Mama and making her cut herself with the knife. I pray that I'll
like school and the other kids. I tell God that I love him very much,
and I thank him for making the world.

Mama always worries that I won't like waiting for her, but this is
my favorite time in the whole world, alone with the Lord and the fire.


He shows me wallet sized photos of his wife and child when I ask.
They're both beautiful; the daughter takes after him, the wife looks
happy and kind. There's one picture of him sitting with his wife, their
daughter squirming onto their laps, the three of them grinning at each
other. They all look madly in love.

It fascinates me. Even knowing who he was, he risked marrying a
sweetheart, having a child. He values this love, this contentment, so
much he placed on its subjects' heads a lifetime of worry and fear,
untold pain and, quite possibly, an ugly death.

I wonder if that makes me a coward or him a fool.


My feet ache -- you really shouldn't go into a pre-Apocalyptic
skirmish wearing heels. Its scarves have cut my arms and I can taste
blood in my mouth from when I fell, but I'm strangely satisfied. It was
right to take Aoki-san's place, even if my motivation was slightly
selfish. I'm glad I was able to meet this terrible, marvelous creature
with its lost eyes, who is both what I'm fighting and what I'm fighting

"There's no such thing as a person who doesn't feel," I tell it.
"You're the only one who believes that."

I think it wants to believe me. It lands near me, and maybe this will
end peacefully, maybe the person before me can be more than an

And then I am knocked over.


Mama's been telling me for years that the very minute I'm old
enough she'll take me to Communion and Confession and have me
Absolved. But today's my ninth birthday and she locked me in the

"Demons can't be absolved," she told me. "They can only be

But as I try to stop my elbow from bleeding (it got caught on the
door hinges) while I crouch in the dark, I think that maybe Mama
didn't take me because Communion is so holy. The wine and the wafer
might poison a demon, and, just maybe, she doesn't want me to die


Sorata's gesticulating so frantically as he tells me his girl problems
that he would have knocked over my coffee if I hadn't plucked it out
of his way. He's emotional but he's earnest -- Arashi will be a lucky
girl when she finds the strength to accept him.

"So what do you think, Karen-san?" he asks. "I've done everything
I know of to impress her and nothing's worked. What romantic stuff
have the fellas' done for you that swept you off your feet?"

I laugh, surprised. "You'd do better asking Aoki-san how he
wooed his wife. I'm sorry, but no one's ever done anything very
romantic for me."

He sputters. "C'mon! You expect me to believe that?"

The cup clinks when I put it back down on the saucer. "I'm not
exactly the sort of girl you buy flowers for, Sorata-kun."

He gets serious in that way of his that's unexpectedly sobering. "I
would buy you flowers, Karen-san."

He's a good kid. They all are. So good and so /young/...

I ruffle his hair. "If only you were ten years older, Sorata-kun."

He cackles, rocking his chair back until it's in danger of tipping
over, and I'm glad the serious part of the conversation is over. "I'll tell
ya! If I was, you'd give Miss a run for her money!"

I can't blame Arashi for being afraid of what he offers in the same
way I can't blame Sorata for needing to offer it. She is afraid of losing
love; he is afraid of never having it. Ying and yang, although I
probably don't have the authority to make Taoist allusions.

I wonder if between the opposites of light and dark, there is a place
the two flow together, not wholly one or the other and not yet pooling
into a new shade, but somewhere where they intertwine, undecided in
the process of discovering each other.


The next customer isn't a regular yet, but he will be. He's in his
forties and makes an attempt to stay in shape. He calls me 'sweetheart,'
but there have been worse.

"I'll have that foreign looking one," I hear him tell the receptionist
over the intercom. "The one with all the hair and the wise eyes."

That's interesting. I've never thought of myself as having wise eyes.
Tired, maybe. Lost, certainly. Maybe that's what he's referring to.
Maybe, for people who aren't even looking, the search is easy to
mistake for the enlightenment.


I identify him by the blonde hair first. The recognition that he is a
Dragon of Earth comes sluggishly on the other's tail, and I feel foolish.

He sees me and smiles, nice as pie. Too late for it now, and I stop
and face him, one hand on my hip.

"Miss," he says. "How nice to see you again. Would you care to
join me?" He folds his newspaper and tilts his head to the empty chair
across the table.

"I don't think so," I say, clipped. "Unless you want to--"

"There isn't an important kekkai around here. It would be
impractical to start anything right now, and I have a rather pressing
engagement tonight I would rather not miss. So, would you like to sit
down? I hear they make an excellent cake here."

"I don't like sweets," I tell him flatly, and leave.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see him look almost... sad.


I found my flame in church.

I was praying, I believe. Prayer used to make me feel the way
marijuana later never quite could -- peaceful, understanding, at one
with myself and the universe. My eyes were closed and my hands were
clasped, and I curved them out slightly, fingertips still touching, and
gave birth to fire.

I remember laughing when I saw it. It was so pretty. I remember
thinking how wonderful God was for letting me have such a thing.

I remember being so excited to show my mother.

I remember her face when she saw it.


He's not my type in absolutely every respect I can think of, so of
course I fell for him like a ton of bricks.

What am I talking about, he's exactly my type. Or he would be, if I
had a type. I've never been one for chocolate on Valentine's Day and
yearly anniversaries. Men don't want relationships with a soapgirl,
even if they're only paying for dinner.

The problem, of course, is that I am not in the least his type, not
even in a way he would find alluring. I wouldn't want to seduce him,
though. I don't go out of my way to commit adultery.

You laugh, but I live by rules. Strict ones -- any Catholic will tell
you there's no point in having a guilt-based moral system if the laws
aren't draconian. I have a firm code, and I will not stray in part
because I modified it to be so uniquely my own.

I will not allow anyone to be hurt before myself. Especially anyone
others depend on and care for. And especially anyone I care for

So sleep, Aoki-san. I would rather you be angry upon waking up
than never have you wake up at all.


There aren't many people at Mama's wake. Mama thought people
were corrupt and their sin might spread to her, so she didn't talk to
anyone much. Father Isaac is there, and most of the people who come
to Sunday Mass every week like we did, but that's it.

They stand in clusters, holding paper plates full of food and not
looking at the coffin. They look at me, once in a while, and shake their
heads. "The poor child," they say.

They don't know. They can't see what I really am, what I've done.
They don't know that I was so thick with sin that I couldn't even
contain all of it. It crawled out of me and chocked my mother.

I killed Mama by being her daughter.


She told me, of all things, in a dream.

Of course, I know now that there weren't many other ways she
could have approached me. But before I went to the Diet Building to
question her in more detail, part of me thought it was all horribly

I wasn't surprised when she told me. If anything I was obscurely
relieved, as if I could finally stop holding my breath. There had to be a
reason I exist, and here it was.

I almost wanted to ask her, "what took you so long?"


I hate water, always have, the way cats must hate it. It infuriates
me, makes me bristle.

It's been weeks since the fight and I still feel drenched from head to
toe. I can still hear that water master's voice, and I hate it. I hate /him/.
I'm not used to hating anything, and I'm surprised by the depths of the
emotion and how much energy must be exerted over it.

I hate him for precisely the same reasons I hate his element. He
never stopped smiling the entire battle; he flattered me as he tried to
kill me. I was fine with the banter, banter I can handle, but don't try to
pretend this is anything but what it is, don't say one thing and mean
another. Water can save you or destroy you on whim. It is one or
other as it pleases.

You can tame fire as best you can, contain it and feed it just
enough to keep it alive, but it will still burn you if you get too close.


I had thought losing my virginity would be more complicated than
this. But it turns out not to be a big deal at all -- just a half a bottle of
white wine and some giggling and fumbling and sheets I'll have to
wash tomorrow.

I watch him sleep for a little while before it gets boring. There's
nothing particularly poetic about him when he's sleeping. His mouth is
open; I hope he doesn't start snoring.

I turn over on my side, away from him, trying to keep the sheets
covering my chest like in the movies, but everything's sticky and
uncomfortable and I give up after a while.

I guess I'm an adult now.


Mama likes my hair. When she's in her better moods, I lie down on
the bed with my head in her lap and she brushes it with the antique
brush she got from her own mother.

My head still hurts, although the blood is drying. My hair must
look so ugly. Mama won't want to brush it now.

Maybe if I clean the blood off the bedpost, she won't be as angry
with me.

I'm sorry about the fire. I should have known it was bad.

But it was so pretty...

I can hear Mama praying in bathroom.

I should pray too. Pray and clean the bedpost. But my head's still
so fuzzy...

I'll pray soon, Lord Jesus God who died so we may live. I swear I
will. I'll be a good girl. There won't be any more fire.

I promise.


I convince myself to go back to the restaurant a few weeks later.
You can't let your life be ruled by fear, even justifiable fear. I sit down
at the table he had sat, just because I can.

The waitress comes over. "Miss," she says. "I was asked to give
you this if you ever came back."

It's a fruit basket, delicately arranged. Mostly pear with some kind
of apple.

A note on the handle, written in neat script: I hope this isn't too

I stare at it, with absolutely no idea what to think.


Spring is here and love is in the air. As a connoisseur among
spectators, it does my heart good to see it, as bittersweet as it may be.

Yuzuriha is golden and lovely. She hasn't matured in the least, but
she doesn't particularly need to. Her love glows around her like a
nimbus although she never talks about it. I hope the object of this
affection deserves it and acts appropriately -- I can't imagine it being

Kamui is unaware of what he feels. Subaru-san has not noticed it
either, which I can't help but think that is for the best. I'm not even
positive Kamui is in love, it could simply be desperate infatuation.
Kamui needs to care about someone again, needs someone to care
about him.

Oh, darling boy. Of all the people to choose.

And as for me, who knows, and knows better...

Well, if you can't be a lover, you might as well play the fool.


I showed my first boyfriend my flame. Melodramatic teenager to
the hilt, I made an elaborate ceremony out of it. It certainly meant
more to me than sex between us ever did.

I could see the fire's reflection in his pupils. I held my breath.

"Wow," he said. "Cool."


The first question is, "how did you first... decide... on this

I smile a little -- I can't help it. "Well, I never made it through high
school, so... there's that. It's good money, pretty fun, and, hey, why
not make the most of my figure while I still have it?"

He adjusts his glasses and tries not to evaluate my figure for
himself. "So... you're satisfied?"

I shrug. "Don't get me wrong, this isn't what I plan to do with the
rest of my life. It's just something to put a roof over my head and pass
the time."

"What do you want to do with the rest of your life?"

"Something important." It sounds lame, like an excuse, but it's true.
I'm not just killing time. I'm waiting. I'm waiting as best I can for
whatever it will be.

He doesn't say anything for a moment, and I feel slightly
embarrassed. Then our eyes meet almost by accident.

He smiles. "Me too."

And, for this moment, the wait is nearly a pleasant thing.


I've met Magami Tokiko a few times before this. She's always
struck me as elegant and calm, and, as I sit in the cathedral with my
hands folded in supplication, I think about that serenity in the face of
her fate. The two are related in ways I can understand, intellectually,
and respect, but don't have the patience for myself. Which is perhaps
why she was given her role and I given mine.

I pray as I wait. My prayers are mostly of thanks these days --
thanks that my life has been given meaning, thanks for the cruelly
beautiful world that is worth this fight. I thank you, My Lord God,
creator of light and dark both, for the eternal burning of your love.

The End.

The title translates to 'kindled on this day of judgement,' and was taken
from Stabat Mater, a thirteenth-century Latin hymn set to music by,
among many others, G. B. Pergolesi. The line is from the eleventh
movement Inflammatus et accensus, which has always been among my
favorites and also turns out to be freakishly appropriate for Karen.