The word leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I've hated it for as long as I remember. I should hate it. I have every right to hate it.

It took everything from me. Everything, anything that I, as a child, should have had. The love of a mother and father, friendship, human warmth…. I had nothing of it. I lost my claim the moment I was born.

Had I been a male, it would've been different. For this flaw in me, that twist of fate that left me a girl, my life that was perfectly constructed came tumbling down, brick by brick.

I blame the power that was given to me, that led me away from the ordinary, happy life that others of my clan shared. This strength that shouldn't have been bestowed on me left me a wreck of what was barely a human being.

My father loathed me. I suspect he was jealous, or perhaps he was aware of the threat I posed to him and his authority over his—no, out—clan. He never liked me much, even from the start. He knew any child of his would be gifted in the arts of the onmyouji, and he hoped for a boy to carry out his legacy. But instead he received a scrawny red-headed runt of a girl. He expected me to be useless. I believe he would've liked me better had I been that way. But when my talent in the magical arts and swordsmanship was revealed, his hatred shone through, harsh and clear. As I pursued the strength of an onmyouji, he punished me, both physically and mentally. Whenever I dared to spar with him, he showed no mercy, pushing me to painful exhaustion. Call me a fool, if you must. I know full well how irrational my choices were. But I don't regret the pain of the physical deterioration.

But his detest for me stretched farther, much farther than the mere pain of wounds.

My father….he was a charismatic man, extremely popular among our clan members. He was worshipped like an idol. People adored him and aspired to be like him. Whatever he said was a word of wisdom. Whatever he did was a gift from Kami-sama. He could do no wrong.

No wonder they mimicked his distaste for me. No wonder no one would greet me or even smile in my direction. I had no friends. A noisy room I entered would silence in a heartbeat. Cheers would fade the moment I appeared. The closest thing to acknowledgment were the hostile glares aimed my way.

It hurt so much.

Over and over, every time I tried to thaw the ice between my family, my clan, it only solidified more. If I even smiled, they would shriek in horror. If I so much looked their way, they would claim it a curse. Only my mother stayed by my side, to an extent. I begged her to leave me alone. I couldn't bear for her to be shunned the way I was. No one else deserved this pain.

My one solace was training. I trained and trained and trained. My blood was painted permanently into the wooden handle of the practice blade. My fingers' skin would be scraped off, my flesh throbbing and raw, my head aching after an afternoon of practice. Pain was my only true companion. I had no other.

People began to fear me. Maybe because of the way I trained, so mercilessly and splattered with blood, or perhaps the gloomy aura an isolated one has around her, or perhaps how I tried to keep my expression emotionless, to discourage further taunts. But perhaps all of those reasons coupled with my father's disdain lead to fear and hatred, the whispering behind hands, glowers and mutters, the demon protection signs people cast in my direction. They called me a demon, a monster, a devil.

I remember the tears that pricked my eyes, the screams that threatened to rip up my throat. Who were they to judge me? They didn't know the real me! No one did! They had no right! How could they say such things about a girl they never, and would never, know?

Eventually these questions became ponderings that floated at the edge of my consciousness. I became immune to the stares, rumors, and hissing. I would always be an outcast, wouldn't I?

Then that day came, a few years later. The day when my hands ran red with my father's blood. As I stood there, on the polished wooden floor of the studio, with the fifth, and last, demonic sword, my father spit profanities at me as his life drained away. I didn't want to kill him. But he had pushed me too far.

I'm ashamed to say I felt no sadness as the man who should have been a father, a mentor, an idol to me passed away with the wound I inflicted sucking his last moments into nothingness. I hope you do not judge me as others did.

I left that day. There was nothing there that would keep me anchored. I had no obligations to the villagers. I had no friends, no happiness.


My mother came with me. I told her she didn't have to. She shook her head as we mounted our horses. She told me that no matter what others in the clan thought of me, she was proud, and that I would go far. Her eyes were genuine. An unfamiliar feeling began to creep up my chest, throughout my body. My lips pulled up into the first smile of my life.

We continued on to a small city, where my mother owned a villa. We took to living there, and I began attending the high school nearby. I was, for the first time in my fourteen-year-old life, surrounded by children my age, people who were friendly and willing to accept me. My mother joined the Holy Office of Index. She felt welcome there, as if she belonged. I suppose we were both outcasts. I bid goodbye, and wished her well. My life began brightening, like the sky after a great storm. I had friends now. I laughed and smiled along with them. It was wonderful.

But that bitter, bloody taste of power stayed with me, haunting my every step. I practiced hard, even joining the kendo club. But this time I did it for my personal enjoyment, not for survival. Those hardships of my first home would never repeat if all went well.

Three years later I found myself drawn into a different world, dark and forbidding, tinted red. I was a senior at the time.

Then I met him.

He was a junior, a hopeless, sentimental fool of a boy with a strange eye patch. I remember the time we met well. He was trying to defend his small friend with a broken pipe. His courage was matched only with his stupidity.

In its own pathetic way, the gesture touched my heart. Not many would go so far to protect someone they loved. I learned later that his name was Satsuki Kakeru. The little brunette he was defending was his childhood friend, Minase Yuka.

We met others like us, others, who were drawn into that dark world that lacked the concept of time.

There was that mute girl, Tachibana Kukuri, whom I could comfortably call a friend. Hirohara Yukiko, the sweet, bubbly blonde with glasses, became a little sister to me. The punkish boy, Tajima Takahisa, grew on me despite his brashness and immaturity.

It was strange how the power I had loathed for so long led me to them.

Takahisa, Kukuri, Yukiko, and even Kakeru knew the feeling of being feared for one's power. Takahisa had been abandoned at childhood due to his fire-manipulation abilities. Yukiko, sweet, darling Yukiko, housed a tragic past that mine paled in comparison. Kakeru's sister had died trying to prevent the power from going on a rampage, killing herself to rid the world of her dangerous strength.

I felt as if I finally had a true family. The feeling….it was beyond anything I had ever felt before.

Kukuri, Yukiko, and Yuka were like sisters I never had. Takahisa was the loud, obnoxious brother I never knew. And Kakeru….he was possibly something more.

For them, I'd do anything. Power….the same might that deprived me of everything was something new altogether in this perspective. It took so much from me…. And returned much.

Suffering is nothing new because of this strength I have. I will use it to shield my new family, even if it costs me my life.

Kakeru, Yukiko, Takahisa, Kukuri, Yuka….. they accepted me. They made me feel as if I belonged. I would do anything to keep them alive.

And so, it seems, my power and I have come to a truce. I still taste the bitterness, the abhorrence, but there is a trace of sweetness, knowing that I have the ability to protect those I care for.

A/N: I haven't written anything for an extremely long time. I haven't written anything for 11eyes for an even longer time. So I'm kinda surprised I managed to write a story after such long Writer's Block.

And yes, I know the theme's... strange for me, but I wanted to give it my best shot. XD I failed, though. I probably won't write anything like this for a super long time. Back to Writer's Block!

Okay, now to my version of Kusakabe Misuzu's history. Her ***** dad died (she killed him, I'm pretty sure) and her mother left the Kusakabe clan with her. But in the anime (and the game, I think) they never showed Misuzu's mom, and just blotting her out randomly in the story seemed...unfit. But then keeping her there would be strange, since the gang of fragments+Kakeru never saw her, ever, and Misuzu's villa. So I shipped Misuzu's mom off to the Holy Office of Index. Seemed apt, I guess.

Tad bit of KakeruxMisuzu. Just a bit. I didn't have Misuzu jump out going "OHMIGOSH he's so perfect I wanna have his babies!" because that's a Yuka-thing, not Misuzu. And besides, when the first met, Misuzu did look down on Kakeru and Yuka (who can blame her? They did look super stupid) so it would've been OOC if she started going "Hmmmm, he's actually pretty cool" right from the start.