Disclaimer:I do not own Tales of the Otori. Lian Hearn is responsible for that incredible series, and I can only read it and shiver in delight.
A/N:This is a fic for the Anti-Cliche and Mary-Sue Elimination Society. There are a lot of injokes, references and plot points that will probably make no sense unless you are familiar with us. To get an accurate understanding, please refer to our C2 archive for all of our stories. Otherwise, I'd go find another story to read. I don't want to waste your time.
Now for those in the know of Society canon, this takes place AFTER Insert Epic Space Opera Here. And yes I know that that fic is not finished yet! It will be though! Soon! In the mean time, enjoy the fangirlism.
Insert Poetic Japanese Metaphor Here
Her name was known throughout the three countries. And with it came the promise of peace.
To the common folk, she was a magical woman, who had appeared from nowhere and offered aid to everyone, regardless of how rich, sick or disgraced they were. She had saved harvests, healed the sick, predicted the first storm of the season, and assisted countless communities in their preparations for war that now spread throughout the three countries. They had praised her as a messenger of the Enlightened One, and all she had done was blush and assure her that she was just a concerned citizen who understood their pain.
To the lords and warrior class, she was the long lost daughter of the late Lady Maruyama, and the rightful heir to her domain. She was illegitimate, it was true, but a preferable heir over the former ruler's step daughter. She held herself with the dignity and grace of a woman, but with all the strength and firmness of a man, and all the warriors feared or admired her. Several had been bold enough to ask for her hand in marriage, but rather than shame them when she turned them down, she was kind and gentle about it, allowing every man to leave her with their hope still in tact, rather than crushed with embarrassment.
To the Tribe, she was a traitor, blessed with the supernatural powers that made them the craftiest spies and the most deadly assassins. She had all of their talents, sharpened and honed to a dangerous degree, but she was disobedient, and had defied them all by daring to leave. She would be killed in punishment if they were to ever catch her. So for now, she dodged and evaded them, cautious of every shadow where they may linger.
To the Hidden, she was one of their sect. The secret Christian faith, who had taken her in and cared for her all her life. Her appearance was the usher for a new age where they could live without fear of persecution. Her words and demonstration of her faith gave them all the hope that they so desperately craved, and they followed her blindly, confident that she would speak for them in all their spiritual matters.
To Otori Takeo, she as his latest ally in his quest to avenge his uncle Shigeru, and, in light of his wife's recent capture and marriage to Lord Fujiwara, she was the most perfect woman to become his new bride.
And to fanfiction readers, she was most definitely a Mary Sue.
"Left...left...just a bit more..."
The scene was interesting, to say the least. Crouched in the middle of one of the vast corridors of the Library Arcanium, the Assistant Librarian and Chief Agent's hunched over positions gave the impression that they were up to something rather sinister – probably an accurate guess given their natures. As if to qualify this, the lightbulb above their head seemed to flicker slightly.
"What in the name of Cthulhu are you doing?"
A mischievous brother and sister looked up from their conspiring position on the wooden floorboards, to see the evil trio (Alice, Robert and Louise) standing at the end of the corridor. Louise had her arms folded, an almost parental look on her face as though she already knew that they were up to no good. Robert's eyebrow was quirked in interest – he had been in the Library long enough to know that the two leaders were a devious pair when put together. And Alice was bouncing so fast that she hummed like one of those vibrating massage chairs. On the floor, Michael held a plothole generator, and Tash was clutching her Plot Summary and a small jar.
"Ah! Witnesses to our genius!" Michael grinned toothily. "Wonderful!"
"Yeah...last time I witnessed your genius Michael, I wound up with a nice bald patch where my eyebrow used to be," Louise reminded him. "Thank God for hair regrowth spells..."
"What are you doing?" Robert asked, as the group approached. Michael and Tash exchanged wide grins once more.
"We are playing a prank, my fellow WARGS," Tash explained, poking at her Plot Summary to stop it from going to sleep mode. "You see, a certain Mary Sue was very rude to us on Suebook earlier, and we just won't stand for it!"
"What did they say?" Alice asked curiously, and Tash frowned in thought.
"...I don't actually remember exactly...I remember it was very rude, and I yelled at her, but I'm having the hardest time remembering the exact words..."
"Yeah, I think you pretty much lost the plot about the time she started insulting your mother, Aneki," Michael put in.
"What's that?" crouching down, Robert had only just caught a glimpse of the contents of the little jar. It was wriggling around the glass and glowing a soft pink which seemed to pulse like a heartbeat.
"It's an Earworm," Michael explained, shaking the jar gently and causing the creature to squelch as it fell off the underside of the lid. "A close relative of the Babelfish. Cute, isn't he?"
"...kinda..." actually it reminded Robert disturbingly of an earthworm, so he wasn't really sure that 'cute' was the word he would use...
"Michael found a few in his room," Tash continued tapping away at her Plot Summary. "Down a tiny bit Michael? So we picked the most annoying one we could find and we're going to open a plothole right over the Sue's ear and drop it in while she sleeps...to the left. We have to get this perfect."
Curiously, Alice picked up the jar and pressed her ear to it. She pulled a face and then giggled madly, before handing it over to Louise and Robert, who pressed their own ears on either side. A delightful beeping sound reached their ears.
"Nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan..."
"That's going to get really annoying very quickly," Louise commented. "That poor Sue..."
"Isn't it great?" Alice looked positively thrilled. "I think this is a genius idea! Who's the unlucky cow?"
"Down a little more..." Tash muttered, and her summary beeped. "Perfect! Open her up!"
Michael smirked and pulled the trigger. A tiny vortex, the size of a penny appeared, and Tash deftly unscrewed the lid of the jar and plucked the tiny worm-like creature out by the tail.
"Bye little buddy!" Michael waved as Tash dropped the squirming worm into the plothole. It gave a squeak before vanishing into the swirling darkness.
"And sweet dreams Merle," the leader said smugly, as the Chief Agent sealed up the plothole again. "Job well done, brother!"
Louise and Robert went a ghostly shade of white.
"...you dropped it into Merle?" Louise burst out. Alice facepalmed.
"Yes, yes we did," Michael nodded. "Did we not mention that?"
"You muppets," Alice kept her face in her hand, but it was just possible to make out light snickering from behind her palm.
"Have you lost your minds?" Louise demanded.
"You can't lose what you never had," the Chief Agent pointed out, the grin on his face not budging an inch.
You could almost see the panic cogs in Louise's head spinning out of control like a hyperactive hamster on a treadmill. Robert's face was frozen as though someone had struck him with something blunt and heavy, and Alice was choosing to cover her face with her hands. Louise sighed heavily, clearly struggling very hard not to scream at them.
"Do you not realise," she said slowly, as though explaining that the sky was up and the ground was down to a three year old. "That Merle is more dangerous than your average Sue?"
"Yeah," Tash shrugged. "And Fish Finger is more dangerous than your average pet – I still take a turn at feeding her though."
Seeing that she was not getting through, Louise abandoned all attempts at self control. She made a noise that was caught somewhere between a groan and a scream of frustration.
"Tash when will you get it into your thick skull that Merle is dangerous!" Stress crept into every syllable. "She is not a Sue that you play tricks on!"
Rolling his eyes, apparently unimpressed by her hysteria, Michael sighed. "Its just a prank. Big deal. Earworms die after two weeks, so its not like she'll have to put up with it for long."
"Nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan..." Tash hummed absently to herself.
"ARGH! SHUT UP TASH!"
The outburst was sufficient to curb the singing. Louise was red in the face and had stamped her foot in frustration.
"Chill hon!" Tash said. "Its just a bit of harmless fun."
"Merle is not HARMLESS!"
"Of course she is," Michael snickered. "You throw a stick and she'll go chase it like a good doggy..."
Tash snorted and doubled over laughing. Louise was not amused in the least.
"Michael you are an idiot. The pair of you take everything as if its a joke! Well welcome to the real world guys! Those of you who will get your head out of your arse for just a moment will realise that those of us –" she pointed to herself and then Robert, who appeared to be trying to make himself vanish into the bookshelf. " – that have lived out there –" now she waved towards the nearest door, though she clearly was indicating Blackspire. "– have more experience of handling people like Merle than the rest of you IDIOTS put together!"
Louise had not so much touched a nerve, as she had stamped on it with steel-toed boots. If she looked mad it was nothing on the look that the Society leader now gave her. Flames were dancing in the back of her eyes, and Michael hastily pulled Alice out of the way in case his aneki decided to set the shelves on fire again.
"Michael-" Alice tried to protest, but the Chief Agent and Robert both gave her sharp looks that spoke volumes – "Don't get involved."
"How dare you?" Tash was all but screaming. "How dare you be so arrogant to assume that we haven't lived through hell ourselves? Michael and I have both been doing this long before you guys even knew that the Society existed! And we've fought enough to know that the second you start being scared of your enemy, they've already won! My boyfriend died while we were running back to real life in fear! I didn't beat Willowe until I stopped being afraid of her! And I'm certainly not afraid of someone as pathetic as Merle!"
Visibly grinding her teeth, Louise refrained from screaming, instead opting for a reasonable tone of voice. "Whilst I admit I'm scared of Merle, I don't under-estimate the level of power, the depths that she will sink or the length of time that she will hold a grudge. No one is safe from her Tash. Your friends, your family...those you care about most will be the ones that she goes for when you antagonise her!"
Tash wasn't listening. She was already turning on her heels and flouncing out of the corridor towards the monitor room, where the sounds of a medium level alert were wailing from within. But Louise was not quite done yet, and the rude dismissal seemed to snap what was left of her control.
"THIS WILL COME BACK TO BITE YOU IN THE ARSE ONE DAY TASH! MARK MY WORDS, AND DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU!"
And she stormed off in the opposite direction, leaving Michael, Alice and Robert to peel themselves away from the bookshelves where they had been hiding.
"Christ," Michael finally broke the silence. "That was a little bit..."
"Intense?" Robert gave his input and Michael gave him a musing look.
"I was going to say extreme, but that works too," he sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
"You are an idiot," Alice told him firmly. The Chief Agent lifted an eyebrow.
"You say that like I should be hurt," he snarked, before vanishing off down the corridor. It did not take him long to catch up with Tash.
"Not now Michael, I'm not done being angry," the leader burst into the monitor room and tapped the keys with more force than necessary. "God I hope its a Sue...or better yet, a plot bunny swarm in a fandom...that'll work off some of my frustration nicely..."
Michael wasn't a hundred percent sure that he should be letting Tash go on a mission in such a foul mood – whilst he did not think they were wrong to do the prank in any way, he knew that a pissed off Tash was a volatile one, and one who very often made stupid mistakes. He considered suggesting that she apologise to her friends first, but he dismissed that quickly – Tash was not the only one who was volatile when she was upset. No, better to let everyone calm down first...and maybe a mission would clear his aneki's mind a little bit...
"You're being quiet," his sister interrupted his thought process as he sat in the leather swivel chair with a pensive expression. "Do you think they were right and we should start jumping at shadows?"
"No," Michael shook his head. "No Aneki, I don't think we should stop having fun."
"Though I hope to God Louise is wrong about us antagonising our enemies," he thought to himself. He honestly hadn't thought of it that way before.
"Good," Tash snapped her head back to the control panel and pounded a few more keys, still muttering angrily under her breath. "Michael, promise me that the day we have to stop having fun in this Society, you will take the Darkness and sever my head from my shoulders."
"Consider it done," her brother hissed, his eyes turning a demonic shade of orange. Tash was surprised and pleased, for the Darkness rarely bothered taking over to answer for himself – he seemed to consider addressing mortals as a task beneath him. The words cheered her up immensely, and her mood peaked as the computer screen finally behaved itself long enough to identify the wayward Sue. A database entry popped up with an image next to the fluctuating Suergy ratings.
"Oh look who it is," Tash sneered at the screens. "It's our little parole breaker."
Sure enough, the vibrant red hair and piercing blue eyes identified it immediately as Ocean Daisy Etna Cumulus Sparkleflower Fields.
"Fandom?" Tash asked, frowning at the disobedient visual feeds.
"Just got some interference on trackers..." Michael was tweaking the machine's controls, and when this achieved naught but a painful burst of feedback, he whacked the console with a convenient rubber hammer. The screeching stopped, but the screen remained fuzzy.
"Damn it, why is it not working?" Tash demanded, her temper getting the better of her.
"Here, let me," came a tinny voice, and a line of hearts scrolled across the screen before the issue resolved itself. "I've boosted the signal, but I can't adjust the firewalls to compensate...I don't have the access."
"I never thought I'd be saying this," Tash muttered. "But thank you (a)."
A little heart appeared in the corner, blinking like the tiny help paperclip that one often found on Microsoft computers.
"Its okay...I miss her too."
The mood became abruptly sombre. (a) vanished from the screens, and Michael felt depression settle over the monitor room like a cloud – Phoenixia not being there had left a gaping hole in everyone's lives and it was starting to show in tempers.
"Fandom..." Michael hit a few keystrokes and it finally flashed up on the screen. "Tales of the Otori?"
"Oooh I love that series!" Tash became bouncy. "I have to go! Please!"
She had not been this excited for a very long time, and she put on her best pleading face. Rolling his eyes fondly, Michael patted her on the head.
"Alright. You're the only on duty agent who knows it right now, so get kitted and get going."
She saluted her brother before marching out of the door to grab all her necessary supplies. Keen to see how this mission played out, Michael settled back in the swivel chair and watched the screens pensively. The door creaked open behind him, and he wondered what Tash was doing back so soon.
It wasn't Tash after all. Michael turned to see his youngest Pokemon roll her way into the room. "Yes baby?"
"I buzzed into a wall..." Combee pouted, before flying up into his waiting arms. "Now I have an owie on my head, and I don't remember the second half of the alphabet."
Sighing, Michael examined her head and the large red lump that had appeared on the left side, before giving it a quick kiss. "There. All better."
"Yay! Thank you daddy!"
The tea room in the Maruyama castle was empty save for one lone figure seated at the low wooden table. This private audience would have no one in attendance, and thus the nearest guards stood outside the sliding screen doors, ready to rush in if there was any commotion. Not that they were expecting any. With someone as wise and clever as Lady Maruyama present, what did they have to fear?
The man known as Otori Takeo sat patiently at the table, concentrating on the movements of the house. His acute hearing – quite possibly one of the most useful Tribe gifts – told him of no intruders or activities out of the ordinary – guards and maids hurried around the castle, and from beyond the residence he could hear the snort and stamp of the horses outside. He could identify most of the footsteps, but there was only one he was really listening for, and it came softly and delicately across the mats outside the tea house. His spirits lifted as he identified the soft tread pausing outside the doors.
He turned as she entered. She stepped lightly like a ghost, but as she closed the door and bowed to him, he knew she was real. He could not help but drop formality around her.
"Please Ocean. Come join me."
She stepped lightly around the table and knelt before him, her robe a soft sea green that complimented her deep eyes nicely. She was as delicate as a flower, and yet beneath that he knew she was possibly the most cunning woman he had ever met. She leaned forward to serve them both tea, and he caught the scent of her perfume.
They drank deeply, exchanging brief pleasantries, before Takeo's curiosity won out and he addressed the issue.
"You left five days ago without telling anyone..."
She smiled, and replaced the cup on the table. "I did. I went in search of some old friends, to better aid in our quest against Arai. I succeeded."
"You brought them with you?" Takeo asked. She nodded.
"They are arriving now."
Even before she had finished speaking they had both tilted their heads towards the entrance to the residence, where two pairs of footsteps – faint, and concealed, but definitely there – appeared on the veranda. Takeo felt a chill in the air – he knew those distinctive treads and what they meant.
"They cannot be trusted-"
"Please, Takeo," she broke in, her eyes wide and pleading. "I have spoken with Kenji myself. I have persuaded them that we need a truce – we will need the Tribe if we are to succeed. You know this."
Deep down, Takeo did know this, but that did not mean he was comfortable with it by any means. The Tribe had issued edicts against the both of them, and they would have to play it very cautious.
"I do know it Ocean. But we're both at risk from the Tribe. We must be careful..." he allowed himself to smile, the mask of a warrior vanishing in an instant. "I couldn't bear to lose you now."
She blushed prettily and went back to the tea. Yes, Takeo decided. It was good that she had got the Tribe on their side. He could trust her not to bring danger upon him.
Hovering uncertainly in a store room, Tash wished she could hear through walls. She heard through the gossips of a few guards that Lord Otori and Lady Maruyama were having tea in the upstairs tea room, and discussing their next move against Arai. Since Tash was certain that she had jumped in to the fandom in the middle of Brilliance of the Moon and not Heaven's Net Is Wide, she knew that 'Lady Maruyama' had to be Ocean. The Sue must be masquerading as the heir to the ancient domain – it was the perfect way to get the canon characters wrapped around her finger.
Quietly as she could, she slid the storeroom door back and slipped out into the corridor.
"Aha!" she grinned to herself. "My stealthy skills know no bounds! Nobody can ca - OW! Bollocks!"
Picking herself up from her ungraceful faceplant into the matting, she rubbed her ankle and glared at the offending straw sandals. She knew in modern Japan you were supposed to remove your outdoor shoes before coming inside and put slippers on, but as this was feudal Japan, she did not know if the same custom applied, and so she had kept her shoes on. Now, frustrated with the way the knots continued to come loose and conspire to make her look like a twit, she was considering just burning the things and having done with them.
"No no," she thought to herself. "Covert operation. Must not start any fires, especially not in this castle – damage done as a result of the Sue is the only thing that's automatically reversed when I leave. If Harriet finds out I had to organise another clean up crew just because I burnt the castle down, she'll be mad...and she'll take the money out of my Lush budget!"
The thought of no more lovely bubble baths was enough to make the leader shiver.
Though the Tales of the Otori series was well researched and described, the layout of the Maruyama castle had never made it into the books, and Tash knew after ten minutes of wandering around that she was lost, and most definitely nowhere near the tea rooms. She had been forced to hide five times from patrolling guards as it was blatantly obvious that she was not one of the household staff – she was blonde and European for one thing.
"Gods, for once I wish it was Willowe," she found herself huffing, after diving into another store cupboard. "At least she left a trail of out of character-ness in her wake to follow..." She paused in the action of slipping out of the cupboard. "Oh great. Now I'm talking to myself..."
Longingly, the Assistant Librarian thought of a time when she could have barged her way into any residence, forest, or magic castle, marched right up to the Sue and just demanded she come with her, with no care for slipping quietly past the canon characters, and worrying about whether anyone got hurt...
She frowned to herself, pausing midway down the corridor. Why couldn't she just do that now? The Society seemed to spend half their time pussyfooting around, these days. It would be far easier, and quicker just to do what she and Harriet had always done best – barge in like they owned the place and get the Sue that way.
Pleased with her decision, Tash peered around the corridor and grinned at the sight of a window. She must be on the outside of the castle again – she had left the residence behind a long time ago. The window was covered by another sliding screen, and as gently as she could, she pushed it back.
"Aha! I have stealth!" she muttered to herself. Peering through the window, she saw the castle gate, and concluded that she had gone round in a big circle. "Now where is the best place to make some noise...?"
As she leaned out of the window, arms wrapped around her back and covered her mouth. She squeaked as she was wrenched away from the sunshine and backwards into a dark room. A knife was pressed against her throat and she went completely still. She smelt perfume, and she bit down on her attacker's hand. There was a hiss and the hand slipped momentarily.
"Okay, perfume, female squeak, knife, silent as the grave..."
She took a wild guess.
Her would-be assassin froze.
"Well bugger me, I was right!" she thought to herself, taking advantage of the woman's shock to slip out of her grasp. "I really do have stealthiness...or exceptional luck - one or the other!"
Muto Shizuka did not look much at first glance – rather small and unassuming – but Tash knew like all members of the Tribe, she had the ability to appear in many guises, and appearing as a young girl was one of them. Beneath all that she was deadly spy and a fierce protector. Tash wondered why she was here – continuity wise, this was way before she and Kenji were supposed to start making peace with Takeo...but then again, at this stage of the plot, Takeo should have been run out of Maruyama.
"Ocean has buggered up this plotline big time," she thought, her panic evaporating and being quickly replaced by an enthusiastic grin. "No no! Bad Tash! We do not glomp the knife wielding spy, no matter how awesome she is!"
"Do I know you?" Shizuka asked. The leader paused.
"Err...no. I know you though. Hey, do you think you could tell me how to find Oce – umm...Lady Maruyama?"
The woman shook her head, her eyes narrowed. Tash gulped. It would not be easy to lie to Shizuka. She cursed as she realised that the woman had probably taken one look at her borrowed plain yukata and her straw sandals and drawn her own conclusions. She hardly belonged in a castle in the presence of someone as fine as the lady of the domain.
"I heard you sneaking around," she accused. "What are you really doing here?"
"...umm..." Tash floundered temporarily and wished she could think of a decent excuse. "I wasn't sneaking...I...dropped a sock..."
"Okay she's totally not buying this. Better get out of here. Stealthy skills activate!"
And she flash stepped from the room before the woman could say anything. A few corridors away, a magnificent ripping sound brought her screeching to a halt.
"Right, note to self," she muttered. "Flash Stepping in a yukata is a bad idea." She rolled the dark blue fabric around her knees (creases be damned – she valued her life more) and shot off again. She paused for breath once she was on the other side of the building.
"That was close...at least she didn't slit my throat..." she paused, and huffed abruptly as a thought occurred to her. "Should have just cut my losses and hugged her anyway!"
"Hey Librarian. Hey Jesus."
Dave scowled at the nickname. "Be thankful I'm not!"
Shrugging, Michael removed his feet from the opposite chair and placed them on the counter instead. His movement woke Combee from her happy, honey-filled doze, and all three of her mouths yawned.
"Mmm...good dreams..." she blinked sleepily at her father before noticing the newcomers. "Hello Mister Kitty. Hello Mister Davey. Hello Suki."
At Dave's feet, Asuka sighed heavily.
"We just saw Louise. She sounded a little peeved. Care to elaborate?"
Shrugging again at Dave's question, Michael turned his attention back to the computer screen to watch his sister. "She had a fight with Tash."
"Tash fights with everyone," Dave pointed out. "A little specification would be nice. What's put Louise in such a twist?"
"Five letters," Alice stated, appearing from nowhere with an armful of drawings. She pushed past and flopped into a chair with Robert right behind her. "Begins with M, and leaves dog hair everywhere."
Dave's confusion morphed into a wise expression of understanding, and he stroked his beard. "Ah yes...no wonder..."
Adrian for his part sighed – he did not need to have centuries of experience to guess what had happened to Merle. "What did you do to her this time? And don't play innocent. I know what you and Tashy are like. Partners in crime."
"Dropped an earworm in her ear while she was sleeping," even now Michael was checking Suebook for any updates, and picturing the expression on Merle's face when she realised that the song would not go away. He was not to be disappointed, as a new alert popped up in the corner.
The initial posted that he had left on the wall read. "Dear Merle. Good sleep? Sincerely Michael and Tash"
The fresh reply quite simply read. "You two are DEAD when I see you!"
Michael smirked. That was five Sue's he had irritated today, and it wasn't even lunch time.
"...seriously?" There was an odd tone to the Librarian's voice, and his kitty ears twitched. "That's...that is...GENIUS!"
He burst out laughing and sank into the chair which had been occupied by Michael's feet. Dave facepalmed and exchanged a long suffering look with Robert. Alice for her part looked miffed, and as she caught the eye of the hysterical Librarian, she gave him a piercing glare.
"Erm..." wiping his eyes quickly on the sleeve of his trenchcoat, Adrian attempted to adopt a serious voice. "Dangerous of course. Really irresponsible for leaders..."
"Irresponsible. Uncaring. Some might say disgraceful," Alice tacked on with some of the words that Louise had been muttering when she and Robert had gone to check on her. Michael huffed.
"Yeah? Well I think its disgraceful that Robert has been hanging around with you for a year and he's not a Doctor Who fan yet. Honestly! Call yourselves fangirls..."
"Yes, yes," Adrian held up his hands to stem the argument before it could explode. "Irresponsible and everything. Should think of the consequences before you do it...but..." he couldn't help it, and another snort quickly escaped him.
Now turning her glare up to a level which she inherited from her mother, Alice leaned out of her chair with her hands on her hips. "Watch it Kitty Boy, or I'll tie your tail to the back of the chair!"
The Librarian mewled in a frightened manner, and curled his tail safely under his trenchcoat, where no hands that did not belong to his girlfriend could find it.
"So where is the lady of sarcastic wit now?" Dave asked, peering curiously at the screen, which seemed to be displaying a beautiful castle in the middle of feudal Japan.
"On a mission," Michael explained, adjusting the visual feed so that the screen became larger. "Grab some popcorn. Its proving to be amusing. Aneki keeps falling over her clothes."
Alice got immediately to her feet, and went to the minibar in the corner – with the kind of audiences that missions tended to attract, having a popcorn and slushie machine had only made sense. She pulled out drinks from the fridge and began loading ice into the slushie maker, before switching the popcorn machine to 'on'. Dave quickly took her vacated chair, and Adrian leaned over to speak to Michael.
"So what song?"
"Nyan Cat." Michael could not have looked more pleased with himself if he tried, and Adrian – giving into giggles but still wary of Alice's death glare – began dying quietly of laughter in his chair.
Another alert popped up on Suebook, and Michael pulled open the appropriate page. It was another wall post that he had made today, and there had finally been some response.
The post read, "Dear Runoa. You just lost The Game. Sincerely, Michael."
Michael smirked. The first comment was a simple "Dammit!" from Edward Casanova, followed by a puzzled "...the game?" from Ardelisa duVinevil. Following this was Runoa's predictable outburst of "MICHAEL I WILL END YOU!"
Pleased with himself, Michael went back to watching the screens, and wondered if he could make ten Sues mad before the day was out.
As Ocean lifted the china to her lips to take a final sip of her tea, the floor gave an almighty shake, and she dropped the cup. Being a Sue, and naturally graceful and quick of reflexes, she was able to catch both her cup and Takeo's before they hit the table and shattered. She set them quickly on the table, only for another tremor to shake the castle.
"An earthquake!" she cried, her voice brave and strong despite the apparent danger.
"No," for once, the canon character was ahead of the Mary Sue – Takeo had felt his share of quakes to know a real one from a battle tremor – added to which, the cries and running footsteps that his hearing had just picked up told a different story. "There is a fight in the castle."
Leaping to his feet, he picked Jato up from the floor and raced towards the noise. Moving as though on wheels, Ocean glided after him.
They found themselves in the main audience room, where the rest of Takeo's most trusted retainers and allies had already gathered. They were battle ready and tense, but as Ocean entered the room, they immediately fell calm and one or two even managed a smile.
"Makoto, Kahei," the young heir of the Otori clan glanced between them. "What was that?"
Before either of them could answer, a pair of heavy thuds appeared outside. Takeo was not stupid. He knew that the guards had just been knocked out, and all the men in the room drew their swords.
Some were expecting a warrior. Others, the Tribe. A few expected a demon from the screams they had heard. All of them expected an enemy...
So you can imagine their surprise therefore, when the door slid back a foot, and a blonde head appeared in the doorway.
"Heeeere's Tashy!" the Society leader giggled.
The men in the room looked confused. Ocean however went pale.
"Terribly sorry about the mess gentlemen!" Tash said, sliding the door back further and letting herself in. "I started blowing things up but then I remembered that this is Japan, and everything in here is so pretty, and I kinda went all fangirl over the screening..."
She paused as she found herself on the receiving end of five swords.
"Ah yes...that's why we don't charge in anymore – canon characters aren't nice to you if you start blowing up their homes..." she blinked and suddenly studied each of them carefully. "My God, your outfits are gorgeous!"
"Who are you and what do you want?" Makoto was the brave one to speak first. Tash resisted her fangirl urge to glomp the monk – he was by far one of her favourite characters.
"Sorry! Very rude of me! I'm Tash, Assistant Librarian and Leader of the Anti-Cliche and Mary-Sue Elimination Society, and I'm here to arrest..." she paused as she realised that the back screen had been opened and the elusive Mary-Sue was nowhere to be seen. "Damn it! Where did she go?"
Her yell was enough to distract the canon characters, who only just now registered that their beautiful and spellbinding lady of the castle had gone. Taking advantage of their lovesick expressions, Tash palmed a handful of Copyrights and slapped them onto the warrior's heads, two at a time. They staggered away, rubbing their eyes in confusion as the Mary-Sue's effects slowly evaporated.
The thought crossed Tash's mind that maybe she should be chasing Ocean...but then she saw Makoto blink in confusion at his surroundings, and she gave in, letting out a fangirl squeal as she glomped him.
Makoto finally gathered his thoughts, and was understandably alarmed to find a blonde girl hanging off his waist.
Blushing, Tash released him, before racing after her quarry. She gave a yelp as her yukata ripped further and halted her from flashstepping.
"How do you people run in these things?" she demanded, before rolling the yukata up around her waist once more (she had cropped pants on underneath for modesty) and giving chase.
As she ran, her phone buzzed, and she wrestled it out of her pocket.
Her brother sounded terribly amused.
"Don't yell at me!" Tash protested. "I haven't succumbed to my fangirl urges for years now! I needed release! Its been building for ages –"
"And you finally snapped," Michael finished. "Getting it out of your system, as it were. That was a pretty impressive display I have to admit. You feel better now?"
"Yeah, actually I do. Think I can go catch her now."
"Then off you go! Check Suebook when you have a chance. Oh! And Alice says you look ridiculous with your yukata rolled up like that."
"Hey I look badass!"
"Oooh!" Everyone in the monitor room winced as the leader ran at full pelt into the waiting frying pan.
"That is going to hurt tomorrow!" Michael stated.
"Auntie Tashy go boom?" Combee asked in a worried tone.
"No, but something will when she realises who hit her," Dave was saying grimly as the Sue stepped out from behind the door smirking.
"Oooo...unpleasant..." the leader moaned, rubbing her skull, and thanking the Gods that she had not passed out. Ocean stood over her curiously.
"Hmm...oh dear. Guess I didn't whack hard enough," the Sue said in a falsely apologetic tone. "Don't worry dear. I was part of the Tribe. I can cut your throat in just the right place so that you won't even feel any pai-"
She gave a shriek as Tash reached out with surprising accuracy and slapped a Prohibitor around her ankle. The frying pan clattered to the floor and the Sue dissolved into hysterics.
"No! My powers!"
There was a cheer from the monitor room, and everyone present applauded.
"Go Aneki!" Michael beamed, and Combee flitted around the room in an excitable manner, bumping into walls and singing her joy for the whole Library to hear.
"Auntie Tashy got a soup girl! Auntie Tashy got a soup girl!-"
There was a sudden snap as the screens went black, and reappeared with a crackling of static. Everyone froze, save for Combee.
"Auntie Tashy got a soup girl! Auntie Tashy – ooh! Daddy!" Combee bounced on the table in excitement. "It's snowing! It's snowing!"
"That's not snow baby," Michael said darkly, getting up and pounding at keys. "Something's jamming our feed."
He thumped his fist on a big red button and alarms began to sound all through the Library. Dave had already seized a communicator and was speed dialling their leader.
"Tash, this is Dave. Come in..."
A burst of dry static was his only response.
In the audience room of the Maruyama castle, the five warriors blinked at each other in confusion. Takeo rubbed his head. He wasn't quite sure how he got here, or indeed why he was clutching Jato. He felt like he had been readying for a fight, but he could not remember what the danger had been...
He suddenly felt his stomach drop as he remembered Kaede, his wife, was kidnapped and forced into marriage by Lord Fujiwara. He would order his army out immediately. The nobleman would not get away with this!
"Kahei, gather the army. We march at once on Lord Fujiwara. I must speak to the council."
And he strode off with war on his mind, and the plot back in place...
Well, all except for Makoto, who was rubbing his midriff and wondering why he suddenly felt so violated...
"No!" Ocean was wailing as the leader dragged her towards the castle wall. Thankfully in the confusion of her initial entrance, the gate was unguarded save for by two very perplexed looking dogs. They growled at Tash as she passed with the Sue, but otherwise, remained at their posts.
"Look, stop fidgeting!" the leader huffed. "I have a headache!"
"I won't go back in your hellhole! You can't make me!"
"I kinda am, aren't I?"
The sun was setting, and Tash dragged her into the nearest side street. A few children watched the two strange women in confusion, before scattering into the houses. Tash shivered. The heat of the day was dipping and she felt goosebumps erupt on her skin. She'd need to find a safe place to plothole soon. Here looked good enough...
"Why can't you just let me go?" Ocean was sobbing. "Please..."
Her headache was getting worse, and Tash massaged her temples before rounding on the Sue.
"Ocean, if you had just behaved yourself we wouldn't be in this situation. You have only yourself to blame."
The Sue pouted and her lip trembled with sobs, but she stopped struggling, sinking down instead onto the ground and curling up into a ball. Deciding that she might as well make some progress from the beginning (and remembering Dave's recent stance on dealing with the Sues) Tash knelt down in front of her and folded her arms.
"Ocean?" she tried. The Sue continued to whimper into her knees. "Ocean, why don't you want to go back to the basement?"
"Mmm mmm mmm..."
"Come again?" the leader asked, and Ocean slowly lifted her head enough to speak clearly.
"I want my freedom!"
"And you think that everyone deserves the right to freedom?" she asked. The Sue nodded fiercely, tears still streaming down her face.
"Of course they do! Its a basic human right!"
"Really?" Tash lifted an eyebrow. She was so close she could see Ocean's breath misting in the cold air. "So what about those canon characters in that castle? Takeo, Makoto, Kahei? You used your powers and manipulated them into doing what you wanted them to do...that doesn't sound like freedom, does it?"
Ocean opened and closed her mouth several times, but said nothing. Tash smirked.
"I thought so. You didn't think of it like that, did you? What about Kaede? While you were running around flirting with the hero of the story, his wife was suffering in seclusion at the hands of a nobleman who treats her like a prize. You condemned her to imprisonment for the rest of her life. Doesn't Kaede deserve freedom?"
"I...well...yes, of course she does," Ocean sniffed.
"Don't you think she deserves her freedom back?" Tash asked. "Don't all these characters deserve it?"
"Yes," Ocean nodded. "Everyone deserves to be free."
"Then leave with me, and let them have their freedom back," Tash said firmly, getting to her feet and offering her a hand. "You're going back to the basement, yes. But its not permanent. You know its not permanent. But I think its only fair since you took the canon characters freedom from them, yes?"
"I suppose so..." Ocean shuffled anxiously as she stood up. Tash hoped that that was shame she could see on her face.
"I'm not very good at this counselling malarkey," the leader decided. "Oh well. Time to get back."
"Umm..." Ocean cleared her throat as Tash tried to find a place to put down a plothole. "Natasha?"
"Yeah?" Tash asked, shaking her head. She was having trouble finding the concentration to will a plothole into existence. She blamed the frying pan.
"I never noticed as a Sue..." Ocean began slowly, hugging herself tightly. "But...is it meant to be this cold at night?"
Tash froze, and the goosebumps abruptly became more acute.
No sooner had she said it when she felt the unmistakable rush of power. Something pale and glistening shot from the nearby house like a battering ram and ploughed into Tash's throat, slamming her hard into the wall, and causing her aching head to ring. The pillar of ice pressed hard against her neck, cold icicles creeping from it and solidifying against the wall like a collar.
"Tash!" Ocean was terrified as another pillar of ice shot from the same location and pinned the leader's wrist to the wall. A third followed in quick succession rendering her unable to move.
"Ocean, get out of here!" Tash yelled, gasping as the ice seemed to tighten around her throat and choked any more screams back from her mouth. The terrified Sue fled down the street. Tash did not watch – she was more concerned about the figure that emerged from the splintered wall of the building.
"No not again. Not him...please not him..."
She could not look away, and Purity's icy blue eyes locked onto her own.
"Don't struggle, Phoenix. No one is going to hurt you."
Tash did not believe that for an instant. Pinned as she was against the wall she had never felt so vulnerable. Closing her eyes against the Sovereign, she pushed as hard as she could against the ice. The bindings hissed and the ice melted away from her fingers. She went straight for her throat, even as Purity pointed and another pillar shot from the ground. It missed by an inch and collided into the wall, where it shattered like glass. The ice melted like butter under Tash's fingers – just an inch more and she could reach Nephthys...
But Purity's eyes had widened at something just beyond her, and he started towards her. "Order don't!"
There was a dull thud on the back of Tash's head, and she knew no more.