Light My Way
Chapter 2 Episode 6: Secret
"Takumi!" Hikaru called from the kitchen. "Breakfast is ready!" She hummed to herself as she started dishing out the eggs and toast. Her cell phone rang and vibrated, making her jump and nearly drop the skillet.
She reached for the white phone and answered it. "Hello?"
Takumi, his hair sticking up in odd directions, stumbled down the hallway. He yawned and accepted the cup of orange juice that Hikaru absent-mindedly offered him.
"That sounds like a lot of fun, Himeno," Hikaru replied as she balanced her phone between her ear and shoulder. "Hold on, I'll ask him."
Takumi looked up from the coffee pot that he was starting to prepare. "Ask me what?"
Hikaru covered her phone and moved it away from her face to answer. "Himeno and Mawata - my friends from school - they want to know if you and I want to go to the beach with them today. You'd be able to meet Kei's brothers. They're really great people!"
"No need to convince me, Squirt," the brother chuckled. "I have been meaning to thank them properly. What time are we meeting them?"
She grinned and asked the question of her friend over the phone. "Around noon," Hikaru announced. "Sounds good! We'll see you guys there. Oh, Kei will come by? I don't think that's really necessary -"
Hikaru turned away from her brother's inquisitive gaze. "I - guess so. Sure. Okay, tell him we'll be expecting him. Right. See you later! Bye."
She hung up and set her phone down.
"What wasn't necessary?" Takumi asked as he grabbed a plate that had been dished up.
"Oh," Hikaru answered with a shrug, "Kei is going to come by and take us to the beach - I didn't think it was necessary, but I guess it's a beach that one can't get to if you don't know where it is."
"Makes sense," Takumi answered cheerfully. "After all, we haven't lived here all that long. Besides, this will give you two a chance to spend time together! I'm sure hanging out with your lame brother has been a trial."
Hikaru blushed. "What are you saying?! And you're not lame." The pair ate their breakfast, bantering about many things like siblings do.
After they had finished and cleared their dishes from the table and stove top, the siblings went to their separate bedrooms to prepare for their day at the beach.
While Hikaru struggled to find her new bathing suit, she hollered to her brother. "Don't forget to put sunscreen on your tattoo!"
A pause met her reminder before her brother answered. "My what?"
"Your tattoo," Hikaru repeated unfazed. "You don't want it to fade do you? You could always wear a shirt if you want to be safe."
A nervous laugh met her suggestion. "Right, thanks!"
As Hikaru pulled on the one-piece suit, she heard the doorbell ring. With a yelp, she fell backwards onto her bed. Takumi's voice called to her. "I'll get it!"
She hastily tugged on shorts and a shirt to wear over her suit. As she hurried out of her room, Hikaru couldn't help but peek around the corner of the short hallway to see how Takumi and Kei were getting along.
They were talking computers and other things. Before long, Kei spotted her and smiled. "Ready to go?"
Jerking upright, she sheepishly stepped out of hiding and approached. "Almost! Just want to grab a bag of towels and put some water bottles in the bag too.
"Don't worry about food," Kei suggested. "Himeno and Goh have that covered."
"Sounds like we're going to be out all day!" Takumi laughed. "Shall we get going?"
Hikaru picked up the red towel bag and stuffed the water bottles she had set out into the bag. With a grin she joined the pair. "To the beach!"
~ Pretear ~
Hikaru laughed as Mannen, Hajime, and Shin started splashing her. She tried to splash them back, but three against one was a bit of an insurmountable battle. She turned to run back to the safety of the beach.
She smiled at the sight of Hayate and Himeno, Goh and Mawata, and Sasame and Takako. They all looked so happy together. A pang of guilt hit her when she looked in the direction of her brother. He was lounged out with Kei, discussing college and work.
Hikaru couldn't help but wish that they hadn't left their previous home. Or that Takumi hadn't needed to take care of her. She wondered what it would have been like to have a girl around who Hikaru could see as a big sister -
She shook the idea off as soon as it came. Takumi had scolded her before for thinking they would have been better off separated. He wouldn't hear of her leaving to go live with their aunt who lived somewhere in South America.
"Hikaru!" Shin called from behind her. She turned briefly, wondering why he suddenly sounded so worried. Were the other two ganging up on their younger brother now that she was retreating?
Her golden eyes widened at the sight of something like black ink beginning to swirl in the water between her and the three boys.
Before she could shout a warning back to the beach, or order the three boys to get out of the water, black tentacles shot into the air and a screech tore through the happy sounds from beach-goers.
"Hikaru!" Various voices called to her from the beach. Her first thoughts were to get innocent bystanders off the beach - including Takumi.
"Run!" She shouted, not caring who it was that she was shouting at. Hikaru remained where she stood. Who should she préte with? Hajime seemed the most likely candidate, but he was on the other side of the Seed-creature. They needed a diversion - something that would allow the other boys to get on this side of the creature.
Hikaru opened her mouth to order the knights into a formation they had practiced, but her voice was cut off by a startled yelp when she felt a strong hand wrap around her wrist and tug her backwards.
Hikaru found herself running back to the beach. Too startled to comprehend what was happening, she merely tried to keep up with whoever it was. Once her bare feet hit the sand, she looked up at the back of Takumi's head.
"Takumi!" She protested, trying to yank her arm free. "Let go! Mannen, Hajime, and Shin are still out there!"
"Let the authorities handle that thing!" Takumi retorted in a panic, his wide-eyes looking back at the Seed. They were running with a crowd now. If there was anyway Hikaru was going to break free, it would be now.
"I can't just leave them there!" She argued as she gave one final pull and broke free of her brother's grip. Takumi shouted in alarm as he was swept away in the flood of panicking people.
Hikaru turned on her heels and ran against the tide of people. She winced as people jostled and bruised her. She didn't care, her only thought was to get back to the water's edge so she could préte and Shin could form the barrier.
"Hikaru!" A familiar voice called to her over the screams. Turning toward the sound, blindly, Hikaru reached out a hand and was relieved when she felt someone grab a hold of her and pull her from the throngs.
Sasame held onto her and looked her over with concern. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," she reassured. "Where are Mannen, Hajime, and Shin?"
"Still in the water," Sasame reported.
"We have to get them on the shore-side of the Seed," Hikaru stated urgently. "Has the beach been cleared?"
"The girls are working on it," Sasame assured her. "Hayate, Goh, and Kei are trying to get to the boys."
Hikaru looked toward the fight that had started without her and saw the attempts to retrieve the boys. She shook her head. "We need to do the Poseidon Dodge - I think that will work."
Sasame assessed the situation and nodded in agreement. "Right. Préte with -"
"No," Hikaru answered curtly. "I should préte with Hajime. It's a water based Seed, it makes more sense to préte with him."
"Are you sure?" Sasame questioned, even though he knew the answer. Her firm nod confirmed his suspicions, and he nodded in return. "We better hurry," he stated.
The pair ran toward the shore.
"Hayate, Goh, Kei!" Sasame shouted, amplifying his voice, "Poseidon Dodge!"
The three older men nodded and broke off from their attempts at moving the Seed. The younger boys also heard the order and clustered together to the Seed's left.
Hajime stood in the front while Mannen and Shin stood behind him. The Water Knight made a wave of water surround and lift them up. Meanwhile, Hayate stood across from them, hovering in the air. Goh stood in the middle, right in front of the creature. Kei on the creature's left.
Without warning, Goh sent a blast of fire at the water where the black ink swirled. Sasame targeted the same location with concentrated sound waves. Kei sent light reflected off the water into the inky darkness. The creature shrieked again and flailed its tentacles out toward the sources of its discomfort. While the tentacles all went to the left, Hajime shot his wave with him and his brothers toward the shore. A blast of wind from Hayate propelled them further until the three young knights were safely next to Hikaru on the beach.
"Shin, form the barrier," Hikaru ordered without missing a beat. "Hajime," she offered her hand to the eight-year-old and waited.
"Right," the ginger-haired boy nodded as he took her hand.
Hikaru barely heard Shin say the words for a barrier as she felt herself surrounded by light and warmth. The sound of a waterfall rushed in her ears and when the light and the sound faded, she was standing on the beach in a light-weight outfit.
"Let's go," Hajime said in a determined voice inside her head.
"Right," Hikaru agreed. "Shin?"
"Done," he replied as he started to bring seaweed and kelp crawling up from the water around the Seed.
Mannen floated into the air and shot toward the Seed, a whoop of excitement escaping his lips.
Hikaru followed after, her mind already working in overtime. "We have to find the weak spot," she said as she watched the other knights get to work binding, blasting, and dodging the Seed.
"It might be under the water," Hajime suggested. "All I see are tentacles."
"He's right," Goh shouted from below as he dodged left. "I don't see a body anywhere among all these tentacles!"
"Just how big is this thing?" Hikaru wondered aloud. "Water Flail!" She whipped her hand in an arching motion and watched as a tentacle broke in half from the force of the whip made from the sea-water.
"We'll need to dig it out, I think," Hajime said. "Shin!"
"Right," the pale-blonde replied as his water-plant-life began tightening like boa constrictors around the Seed's tentacles.
Hikaru held out her hands and began making sweeping motions. The water began surging toward the shore with the gestures of her hands. Sweat broke out over her forehead as she felt the strain of the Seed's and the ocean's weight working against her.
The Seed's shrieks and growls of anger garbled in the air. The other knights did their best to distract the flailing tentacles while Shin and Hikaru worked to drag the Seed from its deep recesses in the sand.
"It's not - working!" Hikaru hissed between her teeth.
"Keep trying!" Hajime encouraged. Hikaru continued to pull. She could feel something moving, but the way the Seed was moving now made her panic.
Her warning didn't come soon enough. The tentacles surged down into the water, the force of the waves that shot up knocked everyone back or off their feet. Hikaru brought up her arms to protect her face from the salt water and heard Hajime's grunt as he took the brunt of the force.
"It's breaking the surface!" Hayate shouted as everyone struggled to get their bearings again.
They all stared in wide-eyed horror as a dark octopus-like Seed rose from the depths. The tentacles were still flailing, but now the group had other problems to contend with - such as the dark, hissing liquid that shot from the creature every time they got too close.
Hikaru circled the Seed, looking for the spot to attack.
"I'm not seeing it," she panicked as she circled the Seed for the third or fourth time.
"Maybe it was on the underside," Hajime suggested nervously.
"The side that is now facing down," Hikaru groused.
"It might not be as stable in this position," Goh suggested. "Shin! Hikaru! Try pulling it off balance again!"
The Plant Knight and Prétear did as told. The kelp and seaweed started coiling around the Seed again while the waves surged around the Seed.
Feeling the creature starting to move with their efforts, Hikaru felt a surge of confidence. They could do this!
With a shriek, the Seed began to tumble. Leaving the job to Shin, Hikaru broke off and flew to the now exposed Seed.
"Hikaru!" Someone shouted in warning just as the dark, ink shot at her.
"Aaah!" Hajime screamed in unison with Hikaru.
They plummeted to the water, covered in the burning goo. Hikaru felt arms wrap around her as they landed in the salty water. The salt and the goo stung terribly. Hikaru tried not to scream even more from the pain, knowing that allowing water in her lungs would be even more dangerous.
Whoever was holding her started swimming up, pulling her along. When they broke the surface, Hikaru gasped and coughed. "Hikaru?" the person repeated, worry laced in his voice.
She winced and met Kei's gaze. "I'm fine. Hajime?"
"I don't know," the boy moaned.
Sasame hovered toward them, worry evident in his eyes. "Hajime, break free."
"No!" Hikaru protested. "We have to stop the Seed first!"
"You won't be able to if Hajime is unable to fight," Hayate informed as he too approached.
"I won't be able to préte again, you guys know that!" Hikaru reminded. "Hajime, do you think we can keep going?"
"I can try," the boy answered, "Please let me try, guys!"
"We need to work fast," Hikaru stated as she forced herself to break out of Kei's arms. Without waiting for the others to confirm or protest her decision, Hikaru rose from the water and flew toward the still toppled Seed.
The light faded inside the gnashing and screeching mouth of the Seed. Hikaru's eyes were drawn to the beak-like mouth and focused on the gaping hole. "Hajime," she spoke.
"I see it," he replied. "Hurry, Hikaru!"
Bringing her arm back, she shouted, "Water Flail!" With all her might, she struck out. The Seed screeched in pain before exploding into purple specks.
Hikaru heard the shouts of triumph from the guys. She smiled serenely and said, "We did it, Hajime." Still hovering in the air, she felt the light around her as Hajime started separating. Worried, she asked, "Hajime?"
She heard the panicked calls of the other knights. Hikaru watched as if in a dream as Hajime appeared in front of her, his head falling forward and his eyes closed as if he were asleep.
Hikaru felt herself falling and without another thought, wrapped Hajime into a hug and held on as they fell and tumbled head over heels down to the ocean.
Her eyes began to shut as she braced for impact. Again, arms wrapped around her - catching her before she hit the water.
"Got you!" Kei grunted as he held the pair close. Before too long, they were back on the sandy beach. Kei didn't let go of Hikaru, and she refused to release Hajime.
Sasame knelt beside them and pried Hikaru's hold back so he could inspect his little brother. The other knights stood in a worried huddle as they waited for the prognosis.
"He's hurt," Sasame reported, "but I think he's mostly drained from whatever that substance was. Shin?"
The youngest knight approached. Laying a hand on Hajime's forehead, he closed his eyes. "His leafe is a bit low," the boy replied before his hand glowed white. "He'll be fine soon, but we should go."
The barrier began to fade and the sounds of coastguards and police broke over the briefly quiet beach.
"Let me take Hajime," Sasame offered as he tried to take the comatose boy from Hikaru's arms.
"No," she refused quietly. "It's my fault he's hurt."
"Hikaru," Sasame continued in an equally quiet yet firm tone, "you're just as hurt. You won't be able to stand and carry him."
"He was able to fight the Seed when he was hurt," Hikaru countered stubbornly. "I can carry him!"
"Hikaru," Kei broke into the debate, "you need to find your brother - he's probably worried sick."
Hikaru felt herself deflate. "Takumi -"
As if saying his name had called him to their group, Takumi came running over the sand. "Hikaru!"
The knights all looked up, glad that they were no longer wearing their uniforms and armor. Hikaru looked up as well, relieved to see her brother was all right.
Takumi fell to his knees beside her and hugged her - an awkward feat with Hajime in her arms and with her in Kei's arms. "Don't ever do that again!" Takumi scolded. "What were you thinking running off like that?!"
"I had to help the boys," Hikaru explained when her brother released her so he could look her over. "Hajime got hurt - I had to stay."
"Hikaru," Takumi sounded angry, but she simply shook her head too weary to argue with him.
"Maybe," Hayate interrupted the siblings, "you should take Hikaru home. We need to take Hajime home too. He's hurt, like she said, and needs his rest."
Takumi nodded. While Hikaru reluctantly handed Hajime over to Sasame, she felt Kei's grip tighten around her briefly as if he too didn't want to let her go. She looked up at her friend quizzically, but noticed he was looking at someone else. She followed Kei's gaze to Takumi's face. Why did Kei look so - angry with Takumi?
"Come on, Squirt," Takumi coaxed as he tried to pull her to her feet.
Kei's grip loosened after a minute or two, but he held out his hands to steady her when she swayed on her feet. "Are you sure you can make it home?" Kei asked, his attention back on Hikaru.
"I'll make sure she can," Takumi spoke up, regaining Kei's ire.
"I can escort you both home," the Knight of Light offered, his voice tense.
Takumi wrapped a protective arm around Hikaru's shoulder. "What kind of brother would I be if I didn't take responsibility over my sister's well-being? Besides," the brunette continued as he nodded toward the other knights, "you have your own family to look after. Right?"
Goh, used to sensing tempers, quickly came up beside Kei and put a restraining hand on his brother's arm as he helped Kei to his feet. "They'll be fine, Kei," Goh reassured.
The knights watched as Takumi led his sister away. The red-head looked over her shoulder, her gaze weary and sad.
~ Pretear ~
Hikaru glanced at her bedroom door nervously as she bit her lip. "I know, Himeno, but I don't think now is the best time to tell him."
She listened to her friend over the line and shook her head. "After today - I think he'd be livid if he found out this is what I've been doing the past couple of months. No, I think I should wait a while. Give him time to relax."
"Hikaru?" She heard her brother call from down the hall.
"I got to go," Hikaru warned her friend. "Tell Mawata I said hi. Keep me updated about Hajime, okay?" She smiled wanly. "Yeah, bye."
The red head sighed and let her head fall back against her pillows. She shut her eyes and wished for the hundredth time that evening that today had turned out differently. A knock on her door made her look up.
"May I come in?" her brother queried from the other side.
"Yeah," Hikaru answered as she sat up.
The door opened, and Takumi entered carrying a plate with a sandwich on it and a cup of what she guessed was hot chocolate. "Hey, Squirt," he greeted. "I wasn't sure what to make, so I did something easy."
"Tuna fish?" she asked eagerly as she accepted the plate and mug.
"You guessed it," he replied with a smile before it faded from his face. Hikaru watched with worry as he sat on the edge of the bed. "Hikaru," he began slowly, "what you did today was reckless."
"I was fine," she reassured him. "I am fine! The guys wouldn't have let me get hurt - and Hajime needed me."
"His brothers probably had it under control, Hikaru," he argued. "Even if they didn't, you all should have let the authorities take care of it. You're not a group of - superheroes!"
The bite of tuna fish sandwich turned to ash in her mouth, making it hard to swallow. Forcing the morsel down, Hikaru said, "Takumi - I need to tell you something."
As if she hadn't even spoken, Takumi continued, "I don't like doing this - you know I hate grounding you - but it's for your own good."
"Wait," Hikaru stammered, "grounding me?"
"Yes," Takumi replied. "I don't want you seeing those guys for a while. If today was any indication of what they're like, I don't know how you thought it was a good idea to hang out with them. I shudder to think how they looked after you when I couldn't."
"But - Takumi!"
"No," he stopped her with a raised hand and a firm voice. "Until I have a discussion with those guys, and until I know for certain you're not going to jump into danger, you can't go near them. Or their girlfriends for that matter."
Hikaru shook her head in disbelief. He couldn't be serious!
Takumi sighed. "Hikaru, I don't want to lose you. You know that right?" He stood and ruffled her hair. She ducked away from his touch and handed the uneaten sandwich and untouched hot chocolate back to him. Wordlessly, she looked away. Takumi reluctantly took the offered items. "If you get hungry, this sandwich will be in the fridge. Goodnight, Hikaru."
She listened in continued silence as he walked out and shut the door. Hikaru looked down at her phone and wondered what to do now. Did she dare disobey her brother and go behind his back? Did she dare continue to be the Prétear? Or did she disappoint the knights and tell them to find someone else?
Whatever she decided, she knew that she would have to keep a secret, and someone was going to be disappointed.