How I mourn the loss of my creativity. And I've come to the realization that almost all my stuff ends the same. Somehow I need to remedy this.

Disclaimer: Oh how I wish I owned. As such, I don't.


Prelude to a Requiem

prelude; an event that precedes another

In the beginning there had been sunshine, picnics in the summer, and bright smiles.

Without so much as a blink of an eye, they were replaced with the color green, whirring machinery, and a pair of headphones.

Smiles became detached pictures of apathy, and the blare of faintly ironic melodies drowned out the noise of life. She cut and pasted herself from one place to the next, relocation as routine as the brushing of teeth. She played pretend (Let's be friends. It's fun being with you. I'll see you later, and later, and later…) and kept others at arm's length. Being clung to was tiresome, but dealing with pity and concern was even more so.

And all the time there was a blue butterfly and a small whispering voice that always managed to make its way around her deafening music and into her ears with a silky sort of clarity.

(I'm still waiting. Call to me and I will come.)

Limbs lengthened, tiny child body growing into that of a beautiful young woman. With her body grows the effectiveness of the masks and the apathy only shows when she is caught off guard. Now she is noticed all over again. There is no shortage to the confessions and the probing stares of jealous classmates. She takes it all in stride. The loss of childish innocence, of first kisses, and of broken friendships that she had never really cared for in the first place.

The butterfly begins to come closer, occasionally kissing the tips of her fingers with its tiny legs. The whisperings come and go. Sometimes pleading with her, sometimes soothing, but always telling her one thing.

(Let me come to you.)

And then she is returned to the place she was born. There is no unsettling thoughts, no objections, no reminiscent nightmares to accompany this homecoming. Instead there is an eerie sort of detachment to the situation.

She is greeted with the color green. Something inside her whispers (At last) and the feeling of 'home' settles over her for the first time in ten years. But even so she has to use a hand painted map to make her way through the coffins and to the large looming building that is to be her dwelling place for the next year.

The dorm is quiet and empty. She doesn't quite remember the town being so vacant. Nor does she remember it lacking electricity the way it seems to now. But there is something that feels so comfortable about this that she forgets to be concerned.

"I've been waiting a very long time."

The boy is clothed in striped pajamas. Piercing blue eyes and a small mole make up his face. His smile, while being eerie and altogether unsettling, is familiar. He almost feels more like home that this city does. He holds out a contract and asks her to sign. Only one line makes up the contents, of which make her grin dryly and laugh at the ironies because she has never truly chosen anything for herself. She signs her name in looping, girlish letters. And then the boy disappears, leaving unanswered questions and a strange sort of loneliness.

The rest of the night consists of the power coming back on, her meeting two girls, and becoming acquainted with the idea that one of them owns a gun, fake or otherwise. She feels that she should be more alarmed at this, but cannot be bothered to summon the energy to be so. The brunette guides her up to her room, and when the question about the little boy is posed the girl regards her in aggravated confusion. There is a tightening in her chest, and the short thought that perhaps she is finally losing the small grip she has on reality.

O

She floats through school, handling each situation with a practiced ease. The brunette with the gun and the scared eyes puts on a tough façade and half pleads half threatens her to keep what transpired last night a secret. The boy in the cap takes everything the wrong way and slips innuendo out his lips with glittering eyes. She finds him somewhat interesting, and for a moment there is what might be a spark of genuine curiosity in her eyes. But it lasts only long enough for her to get through the conversation and when she is hastily escorted away it is quickly forgotten.

The boy walks with her after school. They chat about meaningless things. Of clubs and sports and 'how are you settling in?'

A voice in the back of her head whispers, Reckless with a need to stand out, but will prove loyal enough. It is not the voice she is used to, of which she knows for certain because this one has a strangely feminine tone to it. The question of her sanity surfaces again. Again she discards it because in the end does it really matter?

That night she becomes acquainted with the chairmen of easy smiles and bad puns. She plays the part of the sweet new girl, and the two share a cordial meeting. The new voice pipes up for the second time that day, with a demand of, Obey but never trust. She accepts this at the same time that she shakes the man's hand. Both their smiles are that of plastic sincerity.

Later she dreams of blue rooms (the color of her lonely butterfly) and men with impossibly long noses. There is a promise in there somewhere, but she can't quite remember it.

O

Her room is bathed in the color green. There is something simultaneously sickening and comforting about the eerie glow it produces.

The moment ends with the violent pounding on her door and soon after the brunette from earlier barges in. The girl is panting and scared. Brunette forgets to wonder why the transfer student is up and around, and why it is that she already seems comfortable during this strange time. Instead she hands her a weapon and warns about needing to leave.

The girl drags her down and up the stairs, spewing information between shrieks of surprised fear. At this point she's unsure if she has questions or answers, and if the girl in front of her is informing her of these things or merely reestablishing what she already knows. But she stays silent and wordlessly nods with whatever is said.

They reach the rooftop and lock the door behind them. The brunette breathes a sigh of relief, one that is short-lived because soon enough the number of occupants rises to three. The thing peers at them through an unfeeling mask. As she stares at the monster her stomach does nauseating summersaults and she forgets to remember that it is not herself that she is looking at.

(Shadow)

something whispers to her, long before the shaking girl at her side even attempts an explanation. The thing (shadow, beast, piece of…) attacks and the gun in the girl's hand is knocked away to clatter at her feet.

She bends down, picks it up. The whisper in her head evolves into a roar.

(Let me out!)

A breath, a shudder, a click of the trigger. She sees stars, then a harp. The long-haired goddess has only a moment to glitter in the air. With a violent ripping, the inside of her head burns; mouth filling with acidic bile and what tastes frighteningly like blood. In the back of her mind she feels freedom and the sensation of stretching after a very long nap.

Then there is a high pitched scream and the squelching sound of innards being handled and torn apart. The feeling of disgust is quickly replaced with that of exhilaration. The destruction and knowledge that she is the one who caused it invigorate her more than she has ever been before.

One last scream fills the air. She barely realizes that she has joined in, her own violent shriek tearing through her throat in unison with the demon's above her.

And then the world goes black.

O

When she returns they ask her to join them. A small group of children with a collection of glittering guns. She is 'special'; she is 'needed'. One thing she has always heard, one thing she has never heard. And because there is really no reason to decline, she accepts with a cheerful smile and a promise to 'do her best'.

O

It takes her a while, but she eventually realizes that her little whispering voice is no longer speaking, and its accompanying butterfly is nowhere to be seen.

polyphony; mixing together of many voices

They often ask her what it's like. To have so many different personas at her disposal. So much power at the mere pull of a trigger. She always has to resist the urge to sneer and tell them that it's nice to have so many different masks to cover herself with.

They all form a cacophony inside of her skull. All vying for attention, chattering and fighting amongst the inner workings of her head. If she doesn't focus on one at a time they become altogether unbearable. But in exchange they allow her to wield them; use them to become whatever she needs to be at the moment. There are times when the constant switching of personalities tires her out. Wears her down until she wonders why again she is doing this to herself. But the things they occasionally whisper to her are full of intrigue and she forgets to feel exhausted.

There is one in particular that she refuses to let go of. Her original persona, the goddess with the harp and the long flowing hair, has never left her roster. She supposes it's about time that she part with it, but there is something about the soft feminine voice that whispers secrets of the people around her, and gives advice that is always right.

She finds it ironic that it's so hard to part with her true personality.

characterposse; concentrating on personalities

There is talk of her abilities. About how she's a natural and how strange it is for such a small, fragile girl to be able to wield such power. There is also, though never really in bad faith, whispers between her two classmates about how strange it is that she's able to face her evoker with merely the bat of an eye. Perhaps it's not that she's a natural, but maybe there's something darker lurking in that mysterious head of hers.

The empress of ice and motherly scolding appoints her leader. She sits and chats with her about her day, and plans strategies for late night voyages. There are veiled threats of curfews and subdued praise for good grades. The paper-thin distance between them is iron-clad because the girl with the fire-red curls is uncomfortable with a distance any shorter. She finds she is thankful that the two of them seem to be in agreement about this.

Her afternoons are spent with either her capped compadre, as he refers to them as, or with the pink-clad brunette who believes them to have something in common. The boy she can handle. He is funny in his own right, and while he's not the brightest bulb in the shed he makes up for it with heart. The girl on the other hand, takes much effort to deal with. The fact that the girl in pink believes they share a camaraderie because of a couple of dead parents somehow grates on her nerves. But she needs a real girl friend (if you can call anything she does anymore real) and there is no need to cause unnecessary unrest within the group, so she grins and bears it and pretends that the two of them are simply peas-in-a-pod.

The boxer occasionally escorts her to school. She finds him amusing with his excitement and emotional naiveté. Although she could do without his fan club's piercing stares and she really doesn't need him to, she allows him to hold open doors for her and later on treat her to food. While she is incapable of romance and the relationship they have will never be anything more, she sometimes has to admit that she finds him charming.

Later on a girl with timid tendencies and a shaking voice joins their little crew. She brings support, unsure smiles, and disastrous attempts at cooking. Unlike the others, this girl's approach to her is filled with much more caution. When Lucia scans and searches and probes, there is always a small amount of shock and little bit of fear directed towards her. She brushes it off and ignores the niggling feeling that this girl may find out things about her that she doesn't want the others to know.

O

The first time they meet is in a hospital room. The dark-eyed boy reeks of regret and death, a concept that she is overly familiar with. One of her numerous voices whispers in her, Soon.

She puts on a fake smile and gives a giggle with a practiced nervous strain. He sees through her at once. As they are leaving, she thinks that if circumstances had been different she would have liked to have tried to save him.

O

The midnight chats come infrequently; sporadically. But they always come and after a while she can pin down the exact dates of some of them.

They talk of different things. Of friends and memories and prophecies she has instinctively known for as long as she can remember. Child and adult, innocence and crumbling apathy. They often hold hands, lacing fingers with familiar warmth and a loving feeling of belonging.

Pharos leaves with a kiss and a whisper of 'dearest', and she waits for the next time he comes.

O

When she wakes up in a blindingly pink room on a far too large bed, she's not sure what to think. Something that isn't any of her numerous personas whispers persuasion into the inside of her ears. For a brief moment she thinks that maybe she might as well listen to it. But the moment passes and she's quickly aware of how empty her mind feels. For some reason, she finds she misses the myriad of voices that chatter away in her skull. So she fights the now annoying whispering and only settles back down when she hears the many voices welcome her back and yell about how she hadn't been listening for the last while.

It is not long before the boxer comes into the room, clad only in a towel. An awkward conversation later has the boy diving back into the bathroom, and her trying hard not to dissolve into hysterics. One of her personas chuckles and assures her of the many things he's probably thinking now, while another balks at the audacity of the boy.

Somewhere deep inside of her, something growls and gnashes its teeth in possessive jealousy. She mumbles soothing assurances and promises that she will belong to nobody but him.

O

The next member to join is a white dog with a wagging, fluffy tail and a streak of loyalty that she could never even hope to imagine. She finds it entirely strange that a mere dog is allowed to have a persona. This is perhaps the first thing that she is truly in agreement with the rest of the group.

The dog proves itself to be much more intelligent than she originally gave him credit for. He knows the tricks to getting extra food, or scraps of meat out of the boxer (who is the only one to brave the wrath of the empress). He learns combat skills like it is second nature. Probably the thing that impresses her the most though, is that he seems to know the weaknesses of every member in their dorm. Like how if he lets out a well-placed whine the timid girl comes running. Or how if he stands just close enough to the door the boy in the cap feels bad and takes him on a longer than normal walk.

While she knows he doesn't have the same twisted reasons as her, she finds it amazing that this dog can make anyone do exactly what he wants them to. Which is why when he plants himself in front of her, with twinkling eyes and a head cocked just so, she allows a genuine grin to surface and goes to fetch the brush.

O

They all agree to travel to a beach. She is unsure of what exactly is so much fun about wading around in freezing water and burning sand, but pastes on a cheery smile and joins in on the excitement. A large part of her inwardly curses the brunette and the empress because if they weren't having their little tiff then she wouldn't have to try so hard to pretend that she was looking forward to this. The only good thing about it is that it's keeping the timid girl's mind off of the myriad of changing personas in her head, the inconsistency of her mental state, and the dark slumbering beast that she houses somewhere deep inside her soul.

When they reach the island they spend a time overwhelmed with mansions and maids and large elaborate guest rooms. She tires quickly; the atmosphere, the fake smiles and laugher, and the cold water wearing her out quicker than normal.

That night they sit down and listen to talk of past mistakes and watch a video that plunges brunette into an almost hysterical frenzy. She is the one appointed to go and chase after the girl, and she accepts because that's what the best friend does isn't it? As she glides out she finds herself damning them all for being selfish and for believing that yet again she has to be the one to pick up the pieces of their fragile, makeshift party.

As she sits on the beach and listens to the sob story of the brunette with a large chip on her shoulder and a hidden father complex the size of Tokyo tower, she wonders if maybe they really do have something in common. She allows her mask to slip a tiny bit and admits that yes, she thinks it's stupid for her to keep believing in something that has so obviously failed her, but yet she should keep doing so because that's all they really have left. Memories of a time when the world was rainbows and parents would always be there because it was unquestionable to think that they could possibly disappear.

The girl smiles at her, soft and happy and completely devoid of all the false courage that she so commonly wears. There is a thank you for listening to all her bitching and an apology for doing so while knowing that the other party lost their parents too. She thinks that this girl has many qualities that are so much more strong and pure than the ones in herself.

O

The second day there, she is immensely grateful when she is invited to a walk in the forest with the girls. Even if she must spend it in the company of others, anything to get away from the beach with its blazing sun and leering eyes is welcome. The awkwardness that pervades their little outing though kills any earlier appreciation she might have felt. Before she can explode and reveal to them all just how much she really cares for the lot of them, the cell phone rings. She takes this time to calm down and remind herself that if she lost her mask now there would be nowhere left for her to go.

Some talk of tanks and a frantic rush to find the boys leaves her lost and alone. While she realizes that it is probably a bad thing that she is lost in the middle of the woods on an island, she finds that this is the first true peace during the daylight hours that she's felt in a while. Her peace is shattered when a blonde girl in what looks to be a flowing hospital gown intrudes. Blondie speaks some gibberish about finding someone and then embraces her in a too-tight hug that makes her lungs scream out in protest and fear.

Something in her shifts uneasily.

That night they learn that blondie is some sort of android who fights shadows and was the only one who failed to be disposed of because of some huge battle that had her injured. She wonders why she continues to accumulate orphans (both in the figurative and literal sense) around her. The android once more addresses her as the one she had been looking for, and the group once again sends questioning gazes her way. She is unable to answer any of them because the part of her that does shelter some memory of blonde hair and whirring gears just doesn't seem to want to piece itself together properly.

The thing shifts again, this time much more violently, and she has to swear that she will never let anything harm him before it quiets back down.

O

When they get back, they are joined by a young boy in shorts. She is beginning to think that their group is becoming one huge joke. But the boy seems serious enough and he has the drive, so she allows him to join her on the front lines and once again her true opinions on the matter are kept silent.

There is a darkness hidden deep within his eyes, something that both intrigues and worries her. While she bribes him with free food she inwardly wonders how twisted one person must be to go to such lengths in order to wheedle out the darkness in a person's character. He's willing though and soon she comes to the understanding that the boy is beginning to think of her as more than just an elder sister. She is reminded of another boy in striped pajamas, and that makes her wonder if that one would enjoy this as well. She feels the thing moan in private jealousy deep inside of her, and smiles. The thought that maybe she has a shota-complex crosses her mind.

O

There is something soothing about walking Koromaru. She can't put her finger on it, but she thinks it might be the solitude that the act invites. Occasionally she is joined by her dorm mates, and though she wants nothing but, accepts the offers with a smile because not doing so would raise suspicions.

More often than not, it is blondie that asks to join. They sit at the shrine and speak about things that are normal for humans, how much the android remembers from before her ten-year sleep, and about the feeling that blondie has of protecting her. The girl's sincerity is both alarming and new for her. But she is guarded because there is something that she wants to protect, and this girl is in some way a threat to it. There is never any hint of danger though, and in time she begins to relax her guard a bit.

It has to be the fact that blondie can communicate with the dog.

O

They meet again.

The boxer brings her along in order to procure the assistance of the dark-eyed boy. He scowls and argues but eventually gives in. The two of them share something that is more than a glance, but less than a look.

He is accepted rather easily; without any question whatsoever. Koromaru, much to her jealous chagrin, is happier than he has ever been. The only one who seems to have any problem is the kid. He glares, fidgets uneasily, and hides himself in his room. She wonders what happened between them, but doesn't feel compelled enough to ask.

The boy in the coat eventually invites her out to dinner. She accepts out of curiosity. He asks about the others, and have the two seniors been good, and if everyone is eating right. She thinks it funny, his concern, but responds with what she presumes to be the truth (because honestly she doesn't pay enough attention to them to really know).

There is something about him—something in the way he glances at her—that tells her he can see right through whatever persona she is currently emulating. It unsettles her that someone is able to realize what she is really thinking. But to avoid him would be the same as admitting that his glances are right and it would invite the curiosity of the others. So the two of them continue to eat together, and both are silent in the matters of real thoughts and actual feelings.

serenata; 'evening song' performed for celebrations in someone's honor

They lie together, stretched out on the narrow confines of a mattress. She curls up like the child he's supposed to be, and Pharos strokes her hair in comforting gestures.

He is getting stronger. His voice is deepening; his hair is beginning to show signs of getting longer. Their last meeting, the ends of his sleeves reached a little farther down his wrists. It is frightening to think that this is a sign he is growing away. At the same time, these changes incite a smoldering excitement within her. The words he speaks are no longer those of a child's endearment. His touches become more wanting. When he leaves, he leaves her shuddering and wondering how a small boy can make her insides burn and twist themselves into unrecognizable shapes.

'Three more' he whispers into the dip of her collar bone.

She shivers, burns, and replies with, 'Grow up soon'.

O

Shinjirou cooks for them all. He makes the offhand comment that she is the reason he got up the courage to, and briefly she feels superior.

She has long since stopped donning her masks around him. They have adopted a strange friendship that neither of them really understands and neither of them are prepared to change. Her personas are quick to remind her that they don't have much time left. She ignores them, if only to forget for a moment what the two of them already know.

The others have noticed the odd ritual that they have. They seem to be in agreement about not answering the questions the rest of the dorm poses. Koromaru, of course, is perfectly happy with the arrangement because that means longer walks and more treats.

Near the end of the month, they walk to the shrine without the presence of their dog, and seat themselves to talk. He asks her to take care of things, of people. For the first time in her life, she finds that when she agrees, she has every intention of keeping it. They chat a little longer and when it is time to go back, she smiles wryly at him and promises she'll see him soon.

Shinjirou's gaze is narrowed and searching, and when he sees all he needs to in that grin of hers, he snorts and looks away. 'Your funeral' is his reply.

Neither of them comment on how ironic that statement really is.

O

He dies in a pool of his own blood. The only true sending off he gets is the loud sobs of a breaking young boy.

She does not cry for him, they had said their goodbyes already. But the next day when the scene has been cleaned up and the sham of the funeral service is over, she heads down to the station and lays a cyclamen on the already fading blood stain on the pavement.

O

The boy comes to her. He drags her to the station and they stand in silence. Eventually he begins to cry.

She wraps her arms around him, and allows Ken to sob into the fabric of her blouse. The thought that he might ruin it never crosses her mind.

entr'acte; an interval between acts

The boxer brings her to the back to the shrine. He talks about Shinjirou's death, and how he feels that he should have been able to save him.

While she feels somewhat sympathetic, this isn't something that she really cares to be spending time listening to. If she hadn't promised to take care of him, she wouldn't be here trying so hard to make him feel better. But the subject changes and she's baffled to realize that he's talking about a dead sister.

She doesn't know if she should be offended or honored that he's comparing her to a little lost girl named Miki. But Akihiko looks as if he's gotten something off his chest, and the boy is smiling as if he no longer has anything to worry about.

O

The chairman is the next to go. She regards his death with bored passivity. The group is no longer sure what they are supposed to do. The empress is preoccupied with mourning her father (of which she doesn't blame her for) and the rest of them mull around in listlessness.

She thinks it was all rather anticlimactic. She also thinks that they are all being a little too serious about this whole thing. Maybe it's just because she has never really been all that concerned with getting rid of the Dark Hour.

In the back of her mind, Orpheus whispers, 'You know what happens next'. She becomes somber and is unable to answer back. Her chest constricts.

O

Pharos leaves for good, like they both knew he was going to. He kisses her, whispers 'dearest' and disappears. For the rest of the day, she is unable to concentrate on anything.

O

The timid girl is the first to notice the change in her demeanor. On a day off, the girl hesitantly asks her if anything is wrong. She says that there is nothing, and under her gentle tone there is an allusion that she absolutely does not want to converse on it.

The girl does not listen, and instead begins to talk about when they first met. There is admittance that at first she was terrifying. The inside of her head was a jumbled mess of things and creatures that didn't like to be intruded on. There was also something, that if Juno scanned real deeply, that gnashed its teeth and promised pain to whoever tried to touch its host.

She really doesn't want to hear this anymore. But the next sentence makes her pause and stare at the girl. Fuuka admits that while she was scared of her, she also envied her. There was something about the way she smiled at everything and how she always knew what to say. The girl tells her that she's glad they're friends.

She wonders if this girl is really trusting enough to believe all her masks. A part of her thinks that perhaps this kind of gentle naiveté might actually be welcome.

O

The transfer student's eyes are the same shade of blue as the one most precious to her. She believes they might be one in the same. By the sideways glances and secretive caresses, he seems to remember her as well.

Even with her doubts and his uncertainties, they feel more at ease with each other than with anyone else. They spend most of their free time together. Her dorm mates are getting suspicious, their classmates are beginning to gossip. They ignore it and prance around the city with the vivacity of a couple who is enjoying the throes of first love.

Ryouji becomes close friends with the boy in the cap, and oftentimes the three of them end up together. When she isn't cursing him for cutting into their alone time, she finds that she's genuinely thankful that Junpei is a friend. Against her better judgment, and all the warning bells that are going off in her head, she joins in on their shenanigans and helps plan attempts to prank their teachers. She can't remember a time before this that she was actually having fun.

O

Blondie is not happy with her new friend. She declares that Ryouji is dangerous, and when she can, parades her back and forth to school as an attempt to keep him away from her.

She is more than a little frustrated.

There is sincerity in the android's actions though. She comes to the conclusion that the girl is genuinely afraid of the transfer student and though she finds it unnecessary, she thinks that maybe this isn't so bad. So she sits Aigis down, and talks to her about the feeling of paranoia, and that she is old enough to make her own decisions, whether they be good or otherwise. Aigis listens intently and finally agrees to back off. But the girl still stares at Ryouji with a calculated caution, and never fails to inquire about whether or not she is safe.

O

Junpei is in love. It's not that it hasn't been painfully obvious for a while, she has just never taken the time to really pay attention to it.

The girl is an enemy. She is irrationally rational, naïve in the ways of expressing emotions, and is a danger to herself. Lolita is a ticking time bomb.

But Junpei seems to look past everything, and when he speaks of the girl he is more than just animated. Ryouji gives him relationship advice that hits a little too close to home for her taste. She listens to the conversations that they allow her in on, (It is explained to her that sometimes men need to talk about men things that girls cannot understand. She thinks that is a stupid reasoning.) and gives her own input when she deems it necessary. This is another first for her. To think that she is giving advice to another on relationships is both hilarious and disturbing. She only hopes that if he does take her advice, it was actually good.

Along the way the boy comments that this is the first time it seems as if she is actually listening to him. She tries to play it off as him being silly, but a part of her feels frantic at the idea of him finding her out. She is saved when Ryouji teases that maybe he just didn't have anything interesting to say.

lied; German song, centers upon themes of romantic love

Ryouji is naïve and painfully sweet. It is these things that he has in common with Pharos. Unlike the boy, Ryouji's smiles hold more than just affection, and sometimes he accidentally brushes against her collarbone and forgets for a moment to move his hand. When he does, her skin burns not uncomfortably, and there is something in the way his eyes flicker that tells her he knows exactly what is going through her mind. There are times when this scares her, and she wishes that she could have her little boy in his pajamas back. But as the accidents become more and more frequent, she finds that she's longing for it, and after a while she becomes impatient and begins to have accidents herself. If he notices, he does nothing more than invite her out for coffee.

O

They talk about the night, and how calming it is to them. Conversations of different things reveal that the two of them are almost frighteningly similar. The things that are different are that Ryouji prefers sweet foods to her spicy, that he loves the color yellow to her pink, and he's fond of being around people to her preference for solitude.

But he admits when they are together, he would rather no one else be around.

O

The first time they kiss she sees stars.

Their movements are slow, then quickly become greedy. Demanding. She wonders about why this has taken so long to get to. In the back of her mind she understands that doing this will probably hurt the both of them. But she is too caught up in the moment, and since he obviously doesn't have any objections, allows herself to be swept away.

Orpheus clucks her tongue.

O

In Kyoto, she is dragged into joining the other girls in the spring. Aigis talks about therapeutic benefits, and Fuuka marvels at how lovely the skin of the other girls' is. She tries hard to blend into the water, and wants nothing more than to be forgotten. It does not happen.

Brunette grabs her, and after pulling her in to be a part of their little circle, starts barreling her with questions about girl stuff. Of course 'girl stuff' involves relationships as well. She gets extremely uncomfortable, and by the way the empress is looking, the woman is too.

She is saved when there is a clear splash from the other side of the spring. She and the empress share a relieved glance. They split into pairs and go investigate. It is both typical and slightly surprising when they discover the three boys hiding on the other side of the rock.

If this had been a month earlier, she would have put on her mask of offense. But she finds that she doesn't feel like she needs to hide her emotions, and so she makes it painfully clear that she thinks this is hilarious. The girls, save for Aigis, are slightly surprised as she breaks down into laughter. The boys just take this is a sign of foreboding.

O

At the end of the day, she is cornered. The brunette demands they talk under words veiled in cheeriness. She allows herself to be escorted home and when the two of them reach the girl's room, brunette locks the door behind them.

The first question, unsurprisingly enough, is whether she and Ryouji are in a relationship. She dabbles with the idea of sneering and explaining exactly what the contents of their relationship are. But she refrains and instead answers with a simple 'Yes'.

What happens next surprises her.

Brunette explains that she's worried about her. The girl mentions her concerns about his flirting, and that his whole background is hazy and unclear. Yukari admits that she doesn't want to see her get hurt.

She smiles, thanks her for her worries, and explains that not only is Ryouji faithful as can be, but she has no intention of leaving him. She almost slips and admits that if they do indeed get hurt, he will probably be the one in the most pain.

Yukari allows the subject to drop, and ends up steering her into a conversation about how close senior year is, and the current gossip of their class. Though she has never before had any interest in such things, talking to Yukari is proving to be fun.

O

Lolita is dead.

She herself isn't all that torn up about it, but Junpei refuses to come out of his room. Ryouji is getting worried, and even the classmates who she can barely remember exist are noticing that something is wrong.

She takes turns with Yukari, sitting outside his room and chatting around random, stupid things. He never once answers them. She wants to think that this is an aggravating waste of time, but the thought of the boy's tear-stained face when he held Lolita in his arms hurt in a way she couldn't really explain. She wants him to smile again, and since she and Yukari seem to be on the same page, the two continue their little ritual.

Eventually he comes out, and after a few more days of coping, is able to joke around again. She's glad she has her friend back.

O

It is almost time and they can feel it. The moon gets bigger as the days go by, like a sneering reminder of inevitabilities. Neither of them speak of it, and they pass the days with soft words and loving smiles. Ryouji is getting more possessive. She's fine with that, because she is getting greedier.

'I'm making up for lost time' is her explanation.

He smiles at her and refrains from asking if she means the past, or the future.

O

When he leaves, neither of them say anything. Because for ten years words have been unnecessary, and 'I love you' just doesn't seem good enough.

O

Junpei proposes they walk home together, and she accepts with half-hearted apathy. He talks of an appriser with black hair and loving, sorrowful eyes. He talks of first meetings and flirting gestures; of nights of video games and days of ramen. He speaks of dates, of hot springs, and of secret kisses he had accidentally stumbled upon.

He leads her to the park, sits her down on a swing, and orders her to cry. And for the first time in ten years, she does.

When she is finished (still wants to, but no longer needs to) Junpei sits on the swing next to her and assures her that they'll kick all kinds of ass. She laughs, agrees, thanks him.

She wonders how the boy in the cap and the easy grin, who speaks innuendo like it's nothing and thinks of girls as an entirely different species, wormed his way into becoming her best friend. In the end she finds she's thankful.

O

The most unlikely person ends up trying to comfort her.

The empress takes her aside and proposes they go out to eat. She accepts partly because this is uncharacteristic, and partly because she has no reason not to. They end up at Wild Duck. Because all of this is throwing her for the biggest loop she has ever been in, she doesn't have enough of a mind to think that having the woman talk to her about how these things happen and maybe defeating Nyx will bring him back, is in any way out of place.

By the end of the outing, she has found out a lot of things about Mitsuru. Most of them she would have never expected from the woman with the grace of a queen. Mitsuru promises her to always be available to talk to, and she takes the invitation with a sweet smile. It is almost like she has an older sister now.

aria; solo performance

They all talk about Nyx. About how there's no way they won't be able to win, and how even if something happens at least they tried their best right? She nods and agrees and keeps mum about her real thoughts. She doesn't want to alarm anyone.

Orpheus reminds her of what she will need to prepare for. She merely assures the goddess that she is well aware. Soon enough, Orpheus disappears from the back of her head. Her other personas say nothing on the loss of such a permanent structure.

O

She stands alone. The pressure that the inside of this thing is putting on her is almost enough to make her knees buckle and joints tear themselves apart, but she stands strong. Her naginata is no longer in her hands. The inside of her head, for the first time in what seems like forever, is blissfully silent. She thinks about the people she has met. The things they have changed. The emotions they had made her feel, that for so long had been lost to her She raises her hand.

Something comes at her call, and though it looks different, she can recognize the persona anywhere. The goddess smiles at her through a closed mouth and harp strings. 'Welcome back' she whispers, and Orpheus strums in reply.

'It's nice to see you again Riichi'

She finishes how she started. Alone.

requiem; service for the dead

In the end there is a genuine smile, a thank you, and an embrace into long, warm arms and yellow fabric.


Cyclamen – flower meaning resignation and goodbye