author's preface: I have never been a fan of original characters in fanfiction. The idea seems altogether preposterous, if not a little presumptuous. But the idea for this series has been living in my head for five years, and now that I've exhausted several of my other Spiral-related writing goals, I have arrived at the turning point. The decision to pursue endroll was not an easy one, and I don't feel that it will be well-accepted. However, at this point in my life I have to write for myself, regardless of whether it's liked or even finished.
Fair warning: this series contains several original characters, though all have a distinguishable link to the original Spiral cast. It is set approximately twenty years after the end of the manga. Common Japanese terms are sprinkled throughout, if only to preserve each character's unique way of speaking; I suggest consulting Google search if you happen upon something you don't understand. Finally, I can't make any promises that this will ever be finished - but I intend for it to be my magnum opus regardless.
Please don't hesitate to leave comments or criticism - I will be editing as I go along. Please also watch for accompanying pieces that may be published at the same time as new chapters, as they will tell some of the stories that occur between Spiral and this series.
together in blindness, alone in light
What are the Blade Children?
Narumi Mitsuko was seventeen and brilliant. By her own admission, she was well-read, studious, and learned at a faster pace than most others her age. Her parents had nurtured the soul of a genius within her - not difficult considering that she had inherited her father's high IQ. She could solve puzzles, logic games, or riddles so easily that they often ran the risk of boring her.
But this puzzle, this single cryptic line handwritten on the back of a postcard that lay on the desk before her, was one that she could not solve.
She stared at it, frowning so hard that her vision began to blur. She'd had this postcard for two days, now. It had been slipped inside the Narumi household's mail slot at some odd time, tucked inside a white envelope with her name printed on the front. She'd written it off as another prank, at first: as the sole member of her high school's journalism and newspaper club, students were known to pass her "suggestions" for nonsensical news articles, most of which ended up in the trash. But the manner in which she'd received this message had intrigued her, and a brief search of the internet for the phrase had returned no results, so clearly...
Clearly, she thought, and bent her head so low to the desk that the brown curls of her hair obscured the note, clearly this had to be an anagram, or even a code of some kind. And she hadn't even considered the image printed on the front of the card, which was a photograph of Tokyo Tower against a bright blue sky. Someone was trying to tell her something - but what?
Mitsuko squinted at the phrase only inches from her nose, half-hidden by locks of hair. "Blade Children," she read aloud, sounding out each character. "What could that possibly mean...?"
"Mitsuko?" There was a soft tap on the brunette's bedroom door; she jolted upright in her leather-backed computer chair, hurriedly tucking the postcard beneath her keyboard. A moment later the door slid partially open, and a pair of inquisitive brown eyes peeked in. "You're going to be late - "
"I know, okaasan. I got caught up in reading the news." Mitsuko stood, pressing the power key on her monitor, hoping her actions were casual enough to conceal what she had really been doing. "Is Kyou ready yet?"
"He's been ready. He finished breakfast before you were even awake." The teen turned, facing her mother, who stood in the doorway smiling. "It's a very big day for him. Are you certain you don't mind walking part of the way? Your father and I can drive him - "
"It's fine." Mitsuko reached to the floor and picked up a satchel bag, shouldering it with a soft grunt. "I'll be off - "
"Hold on..." Though lacking the high IQ that her husband possessed, Narumi Hiyono was by no means dimwitted. The blonde-haired woman blocked the doorway, folding her arms carefully across her chest, looking critically into her daughter's face. "Something is bothering you," she said, softly, tilting her head. "What is it? Are you nervous?"
Mitsuko sighed, sliding the door open completely and brushing past her mother. "No, I'm not nervous. It's nothing."
"Mmm, it's definitely something..." Hiyono's voice followed her as she strode up the hallway into the kitchen and dining area. "You have that same look on your face that your father has when he's really frustrated, or trying to figure something out..."
"The one where you make your eyebrows go really close together, and stare really hard..." She laughed lightly, watching as her daughter turned on her heel and gave her an incredulous look. "And that's the same face he makes after I make a really silly observation." Her eyes drifted to a figure seated at the table in their kitchen. "Isn't it?"
"You always said she took after me." Ayumu looked at his wife and daughter over the top of the newspaper in his hands, a slight smile tracing the length of his mouth. "She's also going to take after my habit of being late if she doesn't hurry up."
"We have plenty of time." The teenager brightened at the sound of her father's voice, and she moved to the kitchen table, plucking a piece of toast from his abandoned plate of breakfast. "How's your leg today, papa?"
"Better." He placed his reading material on the table, sparing a glance at a wooden cane that stood in the corner of the dining area. "The weather's warming up. I can probably go out without that thing before long."
"Good." She bent and kissed his forehead, then turned her attention to a dark-haired boy that sat at the kitchen table. "Are you ready, Kyou?"
"I'm still hungry." Narumi Kyou, Mitsuko's younger brother, reached across the table and easily snatched the toast from her hand, only grinning at her yelp of protest. "And if we're late, I'm going to tell my teacher it's because you overslept and I couldn't walk to my first day of junior high school without a guardian - "
"Shut up!" She glared at him darkly, then whirled away from the table. "Toast-stealing brat. I didn't even get to eat breakfast..."
Hiyono took a step forward. "Mitsuko, I really can take Kyou to school if you'd like to stay behind and - "
"Nope." The brunette held up a hand, cutting off her mother mid-sentence. "You know as well as I do that you're supposed to be resting, not running around driving anybody anywhere."
"Yeah, okaasan." Kyou jumped to the floor from his chair, bending to pick up his bookbag from the floor. "Didn't the doctor put you on bed rest or something?"
The blonde looked from her son to her daughter, sighing, folding her arms across the full swell of her abdomen. "You two are worse than your father," she remarked. "I'm not really doing that much..."
"You've been up cleaning the house and packing lunches since five this morning. Your physician told you no chores, no exercise, and no strenuous activity after seven months of pregnancy." Ayumu lifted an eyebrow at the appearance of a surprised look on his wife's face. "Don't think I didn't miss that," he said, picking up his newspaper again. "As soon as these two are out the door, I'm carrying you back to bed."
Kyou grinned around the piece of toast in his mouth, and said something that sounded vaguely like an insinuation that his mother's weight would be too much to bear. A moment later he met the floor facefirst. "Ow..." he groaned, rubbing the back of his head. "Oneeeechaaannn..."
"Respect your elders," Mitsuko muttered; then, spotting two packed bentou lunches sitting on the nearby kitchen counter, brightened again. She retrieved them both, tucking the largest one snugly into the messenger bag containing her books and school supplies. "Well," she began, cheerfully, re-shouldering her bag, "we better get going. I'll make sure Kyou gets there in one piece, but I can't promise he'll survive his classes - "
The brown-haired boy looked up at his sister from the floor with wide eyes. "Oneeeeeeeeeeeechaaaan..."
"Come on, come on." She yanked him upright by one arm, shoving his bentou into his hands. "Now you're the one making us late."
Her brother made an annoyed face as he stuffed his lunch into his bookbag. "Only because you hit me."
"Have a good day, you two." Ayumu absently nodded at his children from his place at the table, seeming entirely oblivious to their verbal and physical sparring - or, as Mitsuko guessed, just used to it. "I expect a full report when you get home."
"Okay," they chorused, obediently.
"And," Hiyono chimed in, bounding forward to embrace them both (an action accompanied by a particularly dirty look from her husband), "enjoy yourselves. You only have a few first days of classes left in your lifetimes! This is a really exciting time for you both, isn't it?" There was silence, then both made a face. The blonde groaned, touching her forehead with one hand. "Just like your father..."
"Well, we're off." Mitsuko leaned forward to place a kiss on her mother's cheek, squeezing her shoulder lightly before pulling away. "Have a good day at work and in bed," she addressed each parent, stressing the latter half of her sentence. "Okay?"
"Mitsuko?" Hiyono took a step forward, lowering her voice. "Whatever it was that you were thinking about earlier... you can always talk to me about it."
The brunette only smiled, turning to leave the kitchen without saying another word. Her brother followed, both proceeding to the entrance room of their house and quickly swapping their slippers for loafers and sneakers, hastily throwing coats around their shoulders. "Ittekimasu," they called in unison, then darted out the door into the chilly April air. It was the first day of April, the first day of the new semester at school, and Narumi Mitsuko was wondering just what the Blade Children were.
Eleven-year-old Narumi Kyou was the spitting image of his father: tall and lanky with messy brown hair, brown eyes, and wits as sharp as a knife. He was also just as smart as his elder sister... or perhaps even smarter, considering that he'd been pushed ahead two years over the course of his primary school career. Despite his young age, this April morning was his first day of secondary school... and his first time walking in the direction of his classes with his older sibling, who'd been volunteered to accompany him each and every morning.
And this walk was not going well.
"Why are you making that ugly face?"
"Why is it any of your business?" Mitsuko glared down at the top of her brother's spiky-haired head, feeling some sort of shameful rage at the way he casually strolled beside her, walking toward his first day of junior high school like it was nothing to be worried about. She'd been terrified on her first day - and felt even a little nervous now, on her way to the start of her second year of high school. She vividly remembered biting at her nails and tugging at her skirt... but here Kyou was, walking along with his hands in his coat pockets, asking her pointless questions. "I'm thinking about something," she muttered, her mind moving briefly back to the postcard now hidden safely away in her room. "That's all."
"Something stupid, probably." The boy made a snorting sound. "Okaasan said you were holed up in your room on your computer all morning."
"I was reading the news."
"So what's in the news today, then?"
"... hrmph." She looked away, biting down on her lip. She hated how smart he was, for a boy barely older than ten - and hated that she, at six and a half years older, found herself constantly arguing with him, sparring over some topic or another, trying hard to convince herself that he wasn't really that much smarter than she was. "Why do you always act so innocent in front of okaasan?" she asked, quickly changing the topic. "You know she doesn't believe that act."
"Why are you always smacking me around?" Out of the corner of her eye she saw him glance up at her, then shrug and look away. "That's abuse, you know."
"You deserve it for being such a smartass."
"I'm going to tell otousan you said that."
"Go ahead." The brunette stuck out her tongue, tugging on the strap of the bag slung over her shoulder. "Papa won't care."
"Will he care if I tell him you've been skipping out on your piano practices?"
Mitsuko's eyes went wide. "DON'T SAY A WORD ABOUT THAT."
"Why should I stay quiet?" Kyou's lips began to curve into a particularly sneaky grin. "It's not like you're paying me to cover for you or anything. Eventually he's going to realize you haven't been practicing, and that your playing is getting worse..."
"Damn it." She scowled. "It's not like I don't like playing, but I'd rather be working on something else..."
"No wonder he's more proud of me than you."
"Don't say stupid things." She bent and smacked him on the back of the head, ignoring his immediate yelp of pain. "You know as well as I do that papa would never say anything like that. Okaasan, either." She straightened, folding her arms across her chest, tossing her curls over one shoulder. "I'll get back to playing eventually. It's just not easy to focus on the piano when I'm the only one responsible for the school newspaper..."
"That sounds like an excuse, y'know."
"MAI!" Mitsuko started, whirled around, and came face-to-face with a skinny girl with choppy jet-black hair, green eyes, and bright pink glasses. The girl gave her a lopsided grin, and the brunette sighed heavily, sliding her face into one palm. "You scared me," she murmured, rubbing her forehead. "I forgot I was supposed to meet you..."
"I kinda figured. I was coming out to the end of the street, anyway." The girl - who went by the name of Asazuki Mai - gave her friend's shoulder an affectionate squeeze, her eyes creasing. "I didn't know the brat was coming with you."
Kyou stared up at Mai with a completely blank expression. "Hello, Mai. It's been a long time. I hope you've been well."
"What, did somebody finally teach you some manners?" She leaned down and gave the younger boy a long, critical look, her glasses sliding down her nose. "Nope," she said, after a pause, straightening, "you're just as much as a nuisance as you were the last time I saw you. I really don't get how you turned out to be like this when your sister is so sweet, and soooo pretty..."
"She's about as pretty as a bucket of dirt."
"Start walking, Kyou," Mitsuko said, pushing on her brother's shoulders, too concerned with the possibility of him being late to class to worry about smacking him around for his latest insult. She would get him back for that later. "We're almost there, and if you and Mai-chan get into another fight, I'll have to answer to your homeroom teacher."
The brown-haired boy visibly lifted his nose into the air as he began to walk ahead of the two girls. "I would never stoop to her level."
Mai narrowed her eyes at him. "Brat."
"Hey, hey... come on." Mitsuko laughed softly, tugging on the younger girl's arm as they began to walk together. Asazuki Mai was sixteen and rebellious, and for over ten years had been her closest friend. They'd practically grown up together: Mitsuko's parents had been friends with Mai's in high school, and had remained close after their daughters were born. As a little girl, Mai had been energetic, athletic, and carefree - a complete contrast to Mitsuko, who always had her nose in a book and was so clumsy that she could barely look at a soccer ball without falling over. They'd been good for each other, though, and when it came time for Mai to enroll in high school, she'd pushed herself hard to score high enough to end up in the same one that Mitsuko was already attending: Tsukiomi Gakuen. It was a decision that had made their parents happy, of course, having attended there themselves years before. "Are you nervous?" the brunette asked her friend, smiling. "It's your first day of high school..."
"Nah." The raven-haired girl shrugged, tugging on the strap of her checkered shoulder bag. "Though 'kaasan lectured me for almost ten minutes straight about how I was gonna get in trouble for having my hair dyed, and wearing my uniform with boots, and how my bracelets were gonna piss someone off..." She nodded at the accessories she sported on her wrists, black leather cuffs dotted with metallic studs and spikes. "I think 'tousan was laughing behind her back the whole time."
"Well, your dad was like that when he was young, wasn't he?"
"Yep... I've seen enough pictures to know it. His hair was way brighter than mine." She smoothed back the short locks of her hair that had been blown into her face by the morning breeze, then tucked her hands into the sleeves of her jacket. "But my mom's not happy with anything I do. I'm used to it by now."
Mitsuko smiled. "She really isn't as hard on you as you make her out to be."
"That's what you think." The younger girl kicked at the sidewalk, snorting. "It's gonna be a pain in my ass to have to see her teaching gym classes, on top of seeing her at home. I don't know what possessed me to enroll at Tsukiomi..."
"Mm..." The brunette paused for a moment, watching the form of her younger brother strolling casually ahead of them. Her mind was on its way back to the postcard - the mystery she hadn't yet solved - and it occurred to her, after a moment, that her friend might have some insight. Mai was, after all, an expert on the unknown and undiscovered, and it was possible that she would recognize the phrase. "Mai-chan," she began, softly, "can I ask you a question?"
"Yeah, sure. Anything." The green-eyed girl tipped her head to one side. "What's up?"
"Have you ever heard anything about the Blade Children?"
"Blade Children." Mitsuko sounded the phrase out again, slowly, the syllables difficult and foreign in her mouth. "Somebody sent me a postcard the other day, and "what are the Blade Children?" was written on the back of it. I couldn't find anything online, so I was thinking it was code of some sort, or a hint... But I can't figure anything out." She frowned slightly at this admission. "I thought that maybe it was something you'd know about, but..."
"No idea." Mai shrugged, giving the older girl a sympathetic look. "Sorry. Not something I've ever heard of. Are you sure it's not some prank?"
"It very well could be..."
"Jerks." She kicked at the sidewalk a second time. "I'm gonna join the Newspaper Club just to be your bodyguard. I'll beat up anybody who runs their mouth or sends you stupid tips - "
"Mai-chan, that isn't really necessary." Mitsuko laughed. "Thank you, though."
"Hey." Kyou's voice interrupted their conversation, and the boy suddenly spun on his heel to face them, his hands still stuck in his pockets. "This is where I leave."
"Oh..." Mitsuko slowed to a stop, looking down the street to the right; her old junior high school, now Kyou's junior high school, sat at the end of the sidewalk there, surrounded by students in navy blue uniforms sporting backpacks and lightweight coats. Tsukiomi was only a few blocks from this spot, which had made it an even more ideal choice for her high school. "Well," she began, "do your best - "
"KYOU!" The brunette screamed after her brother as he abruptly turned and walked away, feeling a flush of irritation rush into her face. "Don't you want some of my sisterly advice?"
"Nope." He raised one hand and waved without looking, his voice fading as he strode down the sidewalk. "See you later, oneechan."
"Well." Mai watched the boy walk away, her voice flat as she spoke. "He really is an atrocious little shit, isn't he?"
Mitsuko sighed, her shoulders slumping. "I have no idea how he ended up like this..."
The raven-haired girl's eyes suddenly brightened behind her glasses. "Maybe the Blade Children are assassins dedicated to killing obnoxious little brothers, and they're trying to offer you their services. Wouldn't that be timely?"
The brunette sighed a second time as they resumed walking in the direction of Tsukiomi. "I wish."
Mitsuko was already mentally planning her day by the time she split up from Mai and arrived in classroom 2-4. First there would be a brief homeroom period, followed by the opening ceremony for the new year. The ceremony would run long, as it had the year before, up to lunch period. Just the thought of lunch sent her stomach in the direction of rumbling: she'd missed breakfast in favor of devoting thought to that postcard, and she was sure the bentou her mother had packed was full of her father's delicious cooking. After lunch, she'd have just a few classes, and then she'd spend an hour or so in the Newspaper Club room, cleaning up the dust that had accrued since March - and hoping someone would come to join the club in which she was the sole member. Then she'd head home, have dinner, do some homework, read, and go to bed. All in all, she thought, not a bad day.
The brunette surveyed her classroom as students drifted in, her chin propped up in her hands. Most of these students had familiar faces, were those she recognized by name. It hadn't been that long since she'd seen them, after all. There were a few she didn't know, or only vaguely recognized - transfers, she guessed, from other classes. Class 1-4 had been recognized as the unofficial "class of geniuses," where the students with the highest test scores or overall best performance had been gathered. 2-4 was looking to be no different, perhaps with just a little bit of the "fat" trimmed out to make room for those with more promise than others. Of course, the Tsukiomi faculty members would never confirm such a thing, but they wouldn't deny it, either.
After a few minutes of Mitsuko's silent observations, the classroom door slid open and a short, balding man with black hair and tortoiseshell-framed glasses walked in, carrying a heavy stack of notebooks, papers, and two or three textbooks. This was Inoue-sensei, their homeroom teacher and mathematics instructor. At his entrance, the students that were still standing about talking with others reluctantly took their seats; Inoue was not, by any means, a stern man, but what he lacked in forcefulness he made up for in willingness to issue annoying forms of punishment.
The students rose, bowed, and sat again on their instructor's cue, without complaint, and then waited for their routine "first day" announcements to begin. But this didn't happen: instead, Inoue looked out at the students, adjusted his glasses, and cleared his throat. "We have a transfer student joining us," he announced.
Mitsuko sat up straight. This was unexpected. Tsukiomi was notoriously difficult to transfer into, even at the start of a new year, and class 1-4 was - well, had been, she corrected herself, glancing at an empty desk directly to her right - full. Maybe they were accepting a foreign exchange student? Her thoughts instantly moved to what a good story this development would be for the newspaper. Some of the other students seemed surprised by this news, as well, since an instant murmur rose up in the room. Inoue didn't bother silencing them; instead, he motioned to someone standing outside of the door. "Come in, please," he requested.
A tall male student with dark blue eyes and white hair styled into a faux mohawk stepped through the door. Mitsuko stared, blinked, and immediately felt faint. She gripped the sides of her desk with both hands, barely hearing her teacher asking the student to introduce himself. All she could do in that moment was reel. This could not be happening -
"My name is Lacuna Rutherford." The teenager grinned out at the class. "Yoroshiku."