Liberal application of artistic license, light speed plot devices, gaping plot holes and awkward right angle plot twists.
A FLOWER BY ANY OTHER NAME
When 15 years old Shouichi finally sat down to flip through the pages of his newly bought notebook, the last thing he expected to see was a stalk of cowbane wedged between the pages.
His first instinct was to shudder. His future memories rushed through his head and he remembered what cowbane meant in the language of flowers.
Then he snapped out of it, and took a longer look at the cowbane. It was still fresh, as if plucked only yesterday.
He found that strange, as the notebook had been on the table for a few days. He had forgotten all about it until just now.
The strangest thing was the message on the accompanying page where the cowbane had been wedged.
Dear Diary, it read. The coronation is in a week! Though I'm the first prince, I have to say I am not very excited about it. They have allowed me to write, so I am going to write, every day. They'll probably burn this book after the ceremony, though. Too bad, but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. I plucked this flower when I was walking along the bank of the river this morning. Unfortunately, they don't let me near the pretty flowers anymore, so I guess you should be expecting more weeds. Well, see you tomorrow!
Shouichi reread the message for at least five times. He had no idea what to make of it. The handwriting looked familiar.
Eventually, he closed the book, put it back on the table, switched off the lights, and went to bed, curious but not nearly curious enough.
The next morning, he woke up with a start and sat in front of his table staring at the notebook for the longest time.
Then he picked up his pen and started writing in the adjacent page of the message (which was still there).
Weirder things have happened, Shouichi reasoned. Quite sagely, considering his history. Or technically his future.
Dear whoever you are, he wrote. Who are you and why did you sneak into my room to write something so strange? Oh, and cowbane is poisonous! Don't go around leaving it in other people's books!
He then closed the book and left for school.
"You will cause me death."
When Shouichi returned, he sat in front of his desk, staring at the notebook.
Once he was done running through the possibilities of how the message could have gotten inside, he put a hand on the cover and opened it.
There was a new message on a new page, along with a single baby blue-eyes.
Dear Diary, the message read. Wow! I have a diary that replies! This must be their last bit of kindness to me before the ceremony! Well, I'm going to make full use of it. Hello, my name is Byakuran
Shouichi stopped reading right there.
"You will have success wherever you are."
In the end, an interesting combination of guilt and curiosity won out.
It was midnight, and Shouichi was having trouble sleeping. In fact, he was having trouble keeping his eyes shut at all. He was not sure why his old friend's name was coming up now. He was also not sure why he reacted the way he did.
He rose from bed and sat in his seat. He turned on the table lamp, opened the notebook, and began to read.
Dear Diary, the message was still there. Wow! I have a diary that replies! This must be their last bit of kindness to me before the ceremony! Well, I'm going to make full use of it. Hello, my name is Byakuran, and sorry about the cowbane. I hope none of your pages died because of that. I'll put pretty flowers in from now on.
I'm not sure what you meant by your room. I've always been in this room. The only times I get to go out are during the morning walks - which has been cancelled because of the ceremony. I think they're afraid I will run away.
Today, I'm putting in a nice little baby blue-eyes. I think it's the first princess' favourite. She gave one to me when we were both still very small. I've not seen her after that, though. I heard she was grounded (she wasn't supposed to be talking to me). I have other siblings too. Half-siblings, actually, but frankly I don't remember. Royalty was never renowned for their warm familial relationships, after all. Especially not mine!
Tell me more about yourself, Diary! Isn't it boring being a book? What were you doing before I wrote in you? Let me know everything! We only have a week!
Shouichi turned the page. There was no more to read. He was confused about the content of the message. It was almost as if Byakuran from another dimension was writing to him.
Actually, maybe it was.
Shouichi took a pen in his hand and began to write.
Dear Byakuran-san, he wrote. I am not a diary. I am a real person. For some reason, your strange ramblings have been appearing in my newly bought notebook. And it seems like you can see what I write, too. Do you believe what I'm saying?
He closed the book and set the pen aside. If alternate-dimension-Byakuran, or whoever it was on the other side, did not believe in the setting, then there was no point in continuing the conversation.
This time, he fell asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow.
Shouichi ended up waking late. There was no time to look at the diary on the desk. He decided he would look when he returned. He grabbed his bag, threw on his uniform, and dashed out of the house.
Once in school, however, Shouichi regretted his decision. He could not stop thinking of the book at home no matter how hard he tried. It wasn't as if he needed to pay attention to the lessons, but he did want to at least look attentive. Without realising it, he had sighed the whole school day away.
Curiosity was a strange thing indeed.
It was to his disappointment, therefore, that he got home that evening to nothing new.
Well, except a bud of white clover.
Half of one of its petal was folded. Whatever had happened on the other end, it had given the writer only enough time to haphazardly chuck a flower in between the pages of the book and do nothing else except close it.
The uncharacteristic silence was almost too much to bear, but Shouichi still managed to fall asleep after checking the book for what must have been the fiftieth time.
He wasn't concerned, really. Just curious.
The reply must have been written in the middle of the night, because when Shouichi woke up, it was already there.
After thinking it through, it did not start with "Dear Diary" this time, I have come to the conclusion that you must be Shou-chan.
At this point of time, Shouichi experienced what many have come to call a mind blank. Minutes later, when he had recovered enough motor skills to blink, he read on numbly.
I didn't immediately think of it, but the first time I saw your message, I thought the handwriting looked familiar. I know your handwriting from the other me. He initiated communication a lot with the rest of us, but after that last time before the final battle, there was no more. Suffice to say you and your gang stopped him, right? That's good to know!
What? Shouichi had to shake his head and reread that paragraph. There was a Byakuran in another dimension that didn't approve of this world's Byakuran's plans?
I suppose you must be wondering how is it possible I'm disagreeing with 'myself'. I can hear you think from over here, Shou-chan! You see, it's true that the Mare ring pools our consciousness together so we end up sharing the same memories throughout all dimensions. That said, we are still our own persons. That's not to say the idea of world domination wasn't appealing to me. It did sound fun for a while. However, there is one thing the ring doesn't transmit along with the memories. Clever boy that you are, I'm sure you can figure that out on your own, right?
Not really, thought an irate Shouichi, when he realised that other-world-Byakuran probably wasn't going to share this information unless Shouichi asked very nicely. He read on.
I exist on what your Byakuran calls the terminal dimension, because I am the last. There is no more 'Byakuran' beyond this dimension. I've never met one of Byakuran's counterparts before, and there is no Vongola or Millefiore here either. Whereas in the dimension next to mine, at least a few of them exist. Not all, but some are there. And before you ask, no, there's no Shou-chan here either. Bet you never considered there could be a dimension where 'Byakuran' exists, but everyone else he was making trouble for didn't, hmm?
The words, though frivolous, hit Shouichi like a ton of bricks.
Other-world Byakuran was right. Shouichi had never even considered that possibility before.
When they destroyed Byakuran in the future, did they also destroy this unwitting other-Byakuran's future?
Don't think too much about it, Shou-chan. I didn't write that to make you go on a guilt trip. You can get really caught up in the most pointless things in the world sometimes. At any rate, I'm still here, however much time I have left, so that's happily-ever-after enough for me.
The diary entry (which had already exceeded two pages) stopped abruptly there. It was a strange place to end, so Shouichi was a little surprised. He stared at it for a little while, trying to digest what he had just read.
Then he saw it.
Words were starting to appear by themselves.
I suppose I should be giving you a bit more background about this dimension. Well, for starters, it's veeery different from your world. We're run by monarchies mostly. Isn't it cool that I'm a prince? I'm
Before Shouichi even realised, he had already taken a pen in his hand..
Stop! He wrote on the next line.
not sure how to The writing paused. Wow! This diary talks in real-time! How cool is that!
Shouichi rolled his eyes. Is a monarchal prince even supposed to know the word 'real-time'?
Is a monarchal prince even supposed to know about alternate dimensions? was the cheeky reply.
A ghost of a smile touched Shouichi's lips. They used to banter like this in university all the time. But now there were more important things to talk about. The Mare rings have been sealed. That means inter-dimensional communications shouldn't be possible anymore.
Have they? Byakuran drew a quick self-portrait with an arched eyebrow. Shouichi actually laughed out loud at that. Byakuran's self-portrait of Byakuran looked like a carrot with an overgrown top. Didn't know that. Your world's 'me' hasn't talked to us in a while. A few seconds elapsed without anything new appearing. Then, I don't think this communication thing we're doing bodes anything ominous. Your Byakuran takes his games very seriously. As much as he wants to win, he knows the consequences of losing and he accepts it. So you don't have to worry about this diary being one of his tools for a second bid for world domination. Another self-portrait appeared, with two thumbs-up.
Instead of being amused, however, Shouichi was slightly aghast. It as almost as if other-world Byakuran had read his mind.
No, I can't read your mind, but I have a pretty good idea. The writing mischievously continued.
Well, Shouichi had finally regained enough sense to pick up the pen again. If 'Byakuran-san' says so, then I'll just have to believe, right? Now that that's out of the way, why don't you continue telling me about your world?
Actually, before that, other-world Byakuran wrote, do you have any marshmallows?
Marshmallows? Shouichi could not believe what he was hearing. Or reading, rather. He thought about the kitchen fridge, which was always stocked with one type of snack or another. I probably do... why?
Good, good. Now go get one and put it on the book.
Of course, Shouichi could see where this was all going. You want me to send a marshmallow to you through the book.
Of course I do. I've only ever seen marshmallows in my mind. I've never actually eaten one before! :)
But you have Byakuran-san's memories, Shouichi pointed out.
Memories are just memories, Shou-chan.
And it hit Shouichi.
The Sky Mare ring shared memories across all alternate dimensions.
But it didn't share feelings and emotions.
It's like watching an exciting TV show, but that's all there was to it.
This certainly raised some new moral dilemmas about Shouichi's perfectly executed (or so he thought) plan to save the world. Dilemmas Shouichi was not capable of processing at the moment. Actually, he might have, were it not for
So do I get a marshmallow or not?
Other-World Byakuran being so Byakuran that his years of honed instincts made him retort before he could consciously stop himself.
Fine, fine. Only if you do your pa
Shouichi barely held himself back from completing the last word. He couldn't believe he was on the verge of writing that out. Blurting it out was one thing, yes, but writing it out. It wasn't as if Other-World Byakuran had paperwork to do. The prince seemed pretty free as it was.
I don't have paperwork! :D Other-World Byakuran confirmed.
Just go do whatever princes do! Shouichi finally settled down for that. I'll be right back.
He saw that Byakuran was about to pen something like an Okay~, but had stood up and turned around before the words finished writing.
When Shouichi returned, he had no idea what possessed him to go along with the request.
How do I even do this? He wrote. How did you do it? You know? With the flowers?
I'm not sure, other-world-Byakuran wrote back, I just put the flower in and close the book. Somehow it gets over to you.
Dimensional pocket in a book. Now I've really seen everything I guess, wrote Shouichi, as he pulled a marshmallow out from the pack he had brought into his room.
Are you sure you're not talking about a certain cartoon about a blue cat with no ears? Byakuran wrote, and Shouichi could almost hear his playful tone in his head. He dropped the marshmallow onto the book. Oh! It's here! The sentence then continued. The marshmallow suddenly vanished. Intrigued, Shouichi pulled out another marshmallow and put it on the page again. After a few seconds, that one disappeared too. This is good stuff, Shou-chan! Drop me everything!
No! Too much junk food is not good for your health! Shouichi grumbled. But he dropped another one anyway. Last one and no bargaining!
:'( Was the reply.
But Shouichi's mind was already on other matters. He was thinking about the book and how it worked. Nevermind WHAT made it work the way it was working. The engineer side of Shouichi's mind was dying to find out what exactly was going on behind the hood, so to speak. Did everything that was dropped onto the book show up at the other side? What if something bigger than the book was dropped? Why did he not see other-world-Byakuran's hand when he was writing? Were living creatures excluded from the transferring mechanism? As he pondered these questions, and as Byakuran evidently relished his new marshmallows, there was a pronounced textual silence.
Okay, for Shou-chan's cooperation, I'll tell him a fairytale! Byakuran suddenly wrote. It seemed like he had finished his marshmallows. Once upon a time, there lived a prince who loved marshmallows. Of course, that's me.
That makes it not a fairytale, Shouichi pointed out.
Shush, I'm telling the story here, Byakuran wrote back. He was a very nice prince, who could do everything very well. One day, his royal father fell very ill. Before passing away, he commanded the prince to marry.
Oh my goodness, are you getting married? Shouichi thought his brain might stop working. The words "Byakuran" and "marriage" should never appear in the same sentence.
Byakuran ignored the question and carried on with the tale. The dying king had already chosen the one the prince would live with forever. The wedding would be held on the same day as the prince's coronation. After settling that, the king died happy and satisfied. So the date for the coronation was fixed, and the prince incarcerated. They couldn't risk letting him run away from the ceremony, after all. Once every day, they would allow the prince to go on walks in palace territory, where he would pluck flowers for his future bride. And then he would go back to his room and write in his magical diary that granted wishes and grew marshmallows every day. Like, whole packets of them.
There was a long pause.
Well? Aren't you going to make that sentence come true?
Shouichi had to consciously stop himself from banging his head against the book. Did you spin that whole story just to get me to throw you more marshmallows?
Aww, don't put it that way! Byakuran retorted. I didn't spin everything.
Which meant he spun about 90% of the story. Shouichi sighed. You know I'm not going to give in. Why don't you just tell me about your world in a normal way?
Sorry Shou-chan! Looks like my private time with my magical diary's up! I'll talk to you again soon! Or something.
With that parting shot, communication from other-world Byakuran ceased completely.
Shouichi blinked. He took some time to think about what he had just read, and he tried to imagine what the world on the other side was like. After writing down some questions that were on his mind, he closed the notebook. He also realised he was running late for school, so after some hurried preparations, he dashed out of his house for yet another day ahead.
Well, at least he had something interesting to look forward to at home now.
And something interesting it was indeed.
Shouichi discovered that in the days leading up to the coronation-or whatever it was other-Byakuran was going to have to go through soon-that the prince was fairly free for someone waiting to ascend the throne.
This was because upon his return from school, he found a forget-me-not in the notebook along with pages of new writing.
My friend! The new entry began. I'm confined to palace hallways for my daily walks now. It's a sad, sad world here. Nevertheless, they do have some fantastic blooms growing around the castle, so I got another one for you.
Now, as to your questions. My world is an interesting place. It really does seem to be run like one of your world's fairytales. There are castles, kings, and princes, as you already know. I wasn't spinning when I said the king had just passed away. Right now everyone in the castle is just waiting for the coronation. And I do have a so-called 'life partner' waiting for me at the end of it all. I'm not sure if I feel happy or sad about this. I've only ever seen her pictures, and boy does she look fierce! I hope I can take the heat. Or maybe I shouldn't hope for that. It might just drag out my misery. Okay that was depressing. Next!
After the coronation, I won't be able to speak to you through this book anymore, thus the forget-me-not. Don't worry about this dimension, I don't think your Byakuran ever conquered it in the future via me. I'm really not sure, but my instincts say so! Your Byakuran has never shown much interest in this dimension as far as I can tell, anyway. It's really too bad we don't have cameras here. You'd probably be interested in some of the medieval engineering projects being carried out. It's surprising how such a backward dimension can come up with all these neat tricks. Again, I rue the lack of a camera. But as I've said, you don't have to worry about this dimension.
If you ever do figure out how is it we're talking to each other, though, let me know! Has to be before the coronation, of course. Do your best, Shou-chan! :D
The text ended there, and Shouichi realised he was smiling slightly. Then he quickly stopped himself and sobered up. No matter how harmless this Byakuran seemed, and no matter how much he tried to indicate that he wasn't a threat, Shouichi was by no means convinced. He'd dealt with the tricky man far too many times. The fact that they were having cross-dimensional conversation also scared Shouichi to an extent.
Whatever it was, Shouichi had to find out the cause for this anomaly. And as soon as possible.
"Please do not forget me."
The answer came the next morning (it was the weekend), in his daily cleaning.
On a whim, Shouichi opened up his study table drawer fully to dig out the random artifacts he had stuffed in there over the course of the past year. He pulled out a box he couldn't recall putting in.
He opened the box, then almost dropped it.
All seven Mare rings were inside.
A few minutes later, when he finally gathered enough wit to collect his jaw from the table, he started examining the rings with apprehension.
The first he picked up was the Sun ring.
A rush of energy ran through his fingers. It was familiar, but much more powerful than he could remember. This was the real Mare ring, and not the brittle imitation future Byakuran had given him before his betrayal. He stared at it in awe and suspicion.
He remembered that the rings were sent back to the past along with the Vongola family and all their memories of the future. However, he did not know where the rings had gone to; he simply assumed that Reborn had been keeping them somewhere safe.
Certainly NOT within such easy reach, in his own table drawer.
For a moment, he wondered if anything might happen if he concentrated some flames into the ring he was holding.
Then the moment of insanity passed and he put the ring back in the box, after which he kept it back in the dark recesses of his drawer.
He opened up the interdimensional notebook and began to write.
Byakuran-san, Shouichi hesitated for a few minutes. Then, Do you happen to have a ring with you?
That was all he felt he could write at the moment, so he closed the book and went for breakfast.
As a matter of fact, I have many rings, was other-Byakuran's reply upon Shouichi's return after his meal. Princely perks and everything. But I suppose you're wondering about the Mare rings. I've checked, really. I don't have any of the Mare rings with me. From what I can tell, they don't seem to exist in this dimension either. Though, since I'm a prince stuck in a castle, you should obviously take my words with a large pinch of salt.
Point, Shouichi noted. He read on.
Well anyway, here's another flower for you. There was a beautiful picture of an anemone drawn on the large space beneath. Sorry it had to be a drawing. Honestly, those guards are getting more and more paranoid by the day. I can't even leave my room now. Thankfully it comes with attached bathrooms and a sun room. Well, two more days until the coronation! I can't believe I'm actually looking forward to it now. After all, I'll finally get to step out of my room.
There was no more text after this. But Shouichi noticed that new lines kept appearing on the anemone drawing. Obviously, other-Byakuran was embellishing it. That meant he was still with the notebook. Shouichi seized the chance to pick up a pen.
Byakuran-san, how much of the future do you remember?
The extra lines on the anemone stopped.
Not much. Why?
Shouchi thought for a few seconds. How is it that you, being in the past, know about Byakuran-san's future here? You mentioned he initiated communication with you, but that should have been limited to knowledge of the present. How would you know about the future unless he'd initiated communication with you again after they sent memories of the future back to the past?
There was a long pause.
The thing is, other-Byakuran finally wrote, I don't know.
Shouichi frowned. You don't know what?
Where the memories came from, other-Byakuran elaborated. Or when, even. One fine day, I woke up, and they were just there. Before that, I was living a pretty normal princely life, I think.
Now that was new to Shouichi. He'd assumed that sharing memories across dimensions meant there was no way NOT to know something the other did. And he wrote down as much.
No, not really, Byakuran wrote back. If the person who initiates communication is able to creep into the minds of his alter egos without them realising, he's free to take and put in whatever memory he wants to.
Shouichi pondered. What if the alter egos notice?
Then control falls to them. They can try to boot him out if they want to. So far, though, none of us have, or have been able to.
Which means you realised he was there when he initiated contact too?
Well, let me rephrase that. So far, none of us who noticed him have booted him out or tried to. Me? I had no idea when he infiltrated my mind and planted all those memories there. Not complaining, though!
Shouichi rolled his eyes. Still the same old, adventure-seeking, fun-loving Byakuran, no matter which dimension he resided in. He sighed. Which brings us back to square one, I suppose.
Does it matter what's causing the dimensional rift? Other-Byakuran asked.
Of course it does! Shouichi could not believe Byakuran was asking. Or actually, he could. If someone's using the Mare rings again to break dimensional walls, we have to do something about it before hist... err, before the future repeats itself!
Uh-huh, was the noncommittal reply. Well if I gain any new memories before the coronation I'll let you know.
I'm not counting on it, Shouichi frankly admitted. But thanks for the offer. He paused, suddenly realising something. Wait. Gain new memories?
Do you mean you gain a whole chunk of memories every time someone initiates contact?
That should be the normal process, I guess. But like I mentioned just now, I simply gained all the memories one fine day. I gained memories of someone initiating contact with me though I never went through that initiation personally. Though in a sense, I suppose you could say I did, since I have those memories. You see, I look through your Byakuran's eyes in those memories, and then I see him talking to me, while I'm him. It's a bit hard to explain.
Shouichi spent the next few minutes thinking and thinking about what that meant, and how it could be related to the current phenomenon. In the meantime, other-Byakuran went back to doodling on his anemone picture.
Then Shouichi perked up. He seemed to have stumbled upon something. When did you 'gain' your memories?
Not sure of the exact date, maybe around two weeks ago?
The time Shouichi received his future memories too. In that chunk of memories you received... when Byakuran-san initiated contact, were you or any of the other alter egos wearing the Mare ring?
Not me, that's for sure. Some of the other alter egos probably had it. Especially the ones closer to your dimension.
So the Mare ring facilitates dimensional communication, but the recipient needn't have the ring as well. Did it work the other way? Was there ever a time Byakuran-san initiated contact without the ring?
Yeah, couldn't have been possible. Wait. What?
When he was unconscious or sleeping. He wasn't wearing the ring, but it was somewhere nearby.
Bingo. How does that work?
This is just my conjecture, but I think the ring responds to its owner even a distance apart if he channels enough flame energy to it over the air, or some other connection. The floor maybe?
This Byakuran was so obliging. Why couldn't he have been Shouichi's friend? Flames can travel through the air?
How else do projectile flame attacks work? It's just a matter of willpower.
As Reborn-san always points out. Is the Sky ring the only one that can traverse dimensions?
All Mare rings have that potential. It's not easy to draw it out, though.
Shouichi stopped his barrage of questions. The options had been narrowed. The Mare rings in his drawer were definitely part of the equation. But it was something he couldn't evaluate with science yet. I think I know the cause now.
Shouichi hesitated at first. For a moment, the image of the Byakuran of this world being on the other end, spinning up this wondrous story to get his hands on the Mare rings again crossed his mind. But then he remembered that the Vongola was keeping watch on that Byakuran. There was no way they wouldn't know about something like this.
So he went with this gut instincts and spilled. I have the Mare rings. I don't know why and how, but I have them.
Uh-huh, was the reply. So? Are you trying to tell me you've been using the rings on your notebook?
No! And that's the problem! The rings have to be involved, but I don't see how they could be! Their powers are supposed to be sealed, anyway.
Hmm. It was a thoughtful hmm. I have another conjecture about your Byakuran being able to traverse dimensions without the ring, actually. Maybe what the rings do is draw out a person's innate ability to do something - warp dimensions or whatever. If so, with enough practice and concentration, the person could very well do what the rings help them to do, without help. Eventually. Maybe even unconsciously. Think of the rings as training wheels.
And that actually made some sense. You may be right. Shouichi let out the breath he had been holding. But what does it mean? That Byakuran-san is somehow projecting his will onto this... notebook? Causing it to be able to cross dimensions?
No, silly, it means that maybe YOU have an innate ability to call upon your Sun flames to do this travelling thing. And your innate ability seems to be able to negate whatever seal has been placed on the rings. Either that or you're doing it without the rings. That is the most plausible explanation at the moment, until my conjectures can be debunked.
Shouichi was a bit relieved to know this. He would rather be the one behind this fiasco, than to find out later that it was indeed Byakuran or someone from Millefiore who had done this.
So am I going to get marshmallows for this?
...Way to ruin a good flow, Byakuran-san.
But he dropped an entire pack of marshmallows on the notebook, anyway.
After the discussion about how the notebook was bending time-space laws, Shouichi and Byakuran's conversation drifted off into light-hearted subjects. It eventually ended when Shouichi was called down to lunch, and when he returned, Byakuran was no longer there.
It was just as well, for Shouichi needed to think.
Shouichi was not sure what exactly prompted him to wake up in the middle of that night. He strolled over to his desk, where the notebook was. Something was weighing down heavily on his mind. He didn't know what was causing it.
So he took out the box of Mare rings and set it on the table. He took the Sun ring and stared at it blankly.
All of a sudden, the wall in front of him glowed brightly. He yelped in surprise and fell off his chair. Then he covered his mouth with his hand and stared hard at his room door. Thankfully, none of his family members seemed to have noticed his shout. Fearfully, he replaced the chair and watched in fascinated horror as the glow slowly softened.
And his wall was no longer just a wall.
It was like a window had spontaneously sprouted there. He could see through his wall not into the adjacent room in his house, but another room somewhere else altogether. And the room was not even modern. It was luxuriously decorated with ornamented wood furnishings and decked in plush purple.
He didn't need to be a time travelling engineer to know he had to be looking at something in other-Byakuran's dimension.
But the room looked empty at first glance. "Byakuran-san?" Shouichi called out tentatively. He didn't even know if the other side could hear sounds from this side.
He received the answer to that question soon enough, when he heard a loud crash coming from the other side. He winced, glancing again at his door.
When he glanced back, he saw himself.
Well, he saw someone who looked like himself.
"W-Who are you?" she asked. Oh boy, she even stuttered like him. "H-How did you get there?"
Calm down, Shouichi thought to himself. You've seen way too many things to be surprised by this.
"Where's Byakuran-san?" he asked.
"Byakuran-san?" the girl blinked in confusion. "Who's that?"
"This room you're in," he spoke slowly, so that he could think carefully on what he wanted to say. "It's not your room, is it?"
"No..." the girl glanced around furtively. "But I've been given it."
Strange. "Who was in it before you?"
"The first prince..." she said uncertainly.
"Where is he now?"
"Preparing for the coronation..."
Shouichi frowned, and tried to remember his conversation with other-Byakuran over the notebook. "I thought that's supposed to take place in two days time?"
"Yes, but..." The girl suddenly looked up and into Shouichi's eyes. "W-Why should I tell you anything? Who are you, anyway?"
It was at this point of time that Shouichi noticed the bound parchment sheets in her hands. His gut instincts told him that it was the diary other-Byakuran had been using to communicate with him. "I could tell you who I am, but if you've read that book... perhaps you have an idea."
The girl's eyes widened. "You're Shou-chan?"
So she did read the diary. "Yes. And who are you?"
The girl relaxed visibly. She even smiled a little. "I'm the first princess," she said with a little princessy curtsey. "And my name is also Shou!"
Okay this was getting weird. Other-Byakuran said, or claimed, there was no one else besides him in his dimension that was involved in the fiasco over at Shouichi's dimension. Why was there another Shouichi popping up out of nowhere... and a princess at that?
"I didn't understand everything in the book," the princess - Shou? - continued, oblivious to Shouichi's internal conflict. "But it was so interesting! At first I thought my royal sibling was simply acting out two roles to amuse himself, but the more I read on, the more I knew it was something much bigger than that!"
"And you could accept it?" Shouichi was bewildered. Was she really his alter ego in this dimension? Then again, he followed instructions from a mysterious letter that appeared out of nowhere to a T, so he guessed he really shouldn't be passing judgement on the poor girl.
"I..." Princess Shou glanced downwards. "Yes..." She did not elaborate, choosing instead to fidget in her oversized gown.
After a few seconds of awkward silence, Shouichi tried again. "Where's Byakuran-san?"
Shou looked up. "Who's Byakuran?"
"Uh," Shouichi was surprised she didn't know. Then again other-Byakuran did mention something about complicated royal lives. "You read the book, didn't you? That's the first prince's name, in case you missed it."
"Oh!" The light dawned on the princess. "I'm sorry... I do remember the name. It just didn't occur to me... I've always known him as the first prince."
Shouichi sighed. They were such a messed up family, royalty or not. The very idea that Byakuran and himself could be half-siblings (in whatever gender) was messed up. "You said he went off for the coronation, but where exactly did he go? Is he coming back?"
The girl tilted her head. "He's not coming back. The first prince goes away on a journey during coronation and never returns."
Shouichi's mind blanked out for a few seconds. Say what? "You mean, he's moving to another castle?"
Shou shook her head. "He's going on a journey," she repeated.
How vague. "Where?"
"I don't know."
Shouichi was starting to have a bad feeling about this. "Can you find out? Please?"
"I guess so..."
"As in right now? Before the coronation, probably?"
"Uh-huh," the girl nodded. She put the book on a table. "I was going to do that even without you asking, anyway," she smiled. "I want to talk to the first prince too!"
Who wants to talk to an insufferable slacker like that? Shouichi could not help but wonder. Then he realised he was really referring to himself. He enjoyed talking to Byakuran, whether or not he was willing to admit it out loud. Again, he was in position to criticise the girl in any way.
"I'll come back soon then," Shou turned and quickly left the room.
In the silence after that, Shouichi noticed he was still holding on to the Sun Mare ring. Without a doubt, the ring had to have been behind this. Even though it was supposed to be sealed and everything.
But enough about how this was happening. He had other things on his mind at the moment.
Shouichi sat down in his chair and stared. The notebook that had served as an impromptu dimensional chatroom stared back. He didn't think there would be any further communication, but something just made him open to the last page they had written to each other.
Indeed, there was no more new writing. But clasped between the pages was a single flax blossom.
The thought it conveyed was bittersweet, all things considered, Shouichi wondered if other-Byakuran had been randomly choosing the flowers, or picking them with a message in mind. And didn't he mention he had been confined to his room when he was drawing that anemone? He must have slipped out. Maybe that's why he was herded off early to another room.
Shouichi went back to the front of the notebook, looking at the now dried and pressed flowers between the pages. As he turned the pages, something struck him.
Something the Byakuran of this world mentioned a long time ago. A long time ago in the future, that is.
Did you know that most flowers are bilingual?
A cold chill ran up his spine. He turned back to the first page and started going through the flowers again.
This time, in their second language.
Eventually, he slumped into his chair.
Other-Byakuran hadn't been randomly choosing the flowers. He had been piecing together a message that was almost tantamount to a cry for help. Of course, knowing from the start that this book would be destroyed once he was done with it meant that he knew the cry for help would go unanswered. Perhaps he simply wanted to do this last act of vanity for personal closure. But when Shouichi came into the picture, it seemed that his flower-seeking took a turn for the better (or depending on how Shouichi chose to look at matters, worse). Other-Byakuran became more proactive in seeking out flowers that would suit the theme. And it was what got him into trouble as well, apparently.
Other-Byakuran, being Byakuran, didn't actually spell out the fact that he needed help, of course. But there was just one thing about him Shouichi was very sure about.
He was dying. And he didn't exactly relish the idea.
It seemed highly unlikely it was illness, but having only conversed with him through writing, Shouichi knew he couldn't rule that out. He had also spoken of the coronation and a future bride. While he was apparently resistant to the idea, he showed no signs of wanting to actively go against that fate.
Shouichi knew Byakuran was never the sort who put in more effort than necessary into anything, unless he wanted to. Sometimes on a whim. But this involved his very life. It had to be something he had no choice in. Or maybe it was really just too troublesome to bother. Besides, the prince had lived many lifetimes through his alter egos.
Or it could be something else altogether.
And that was the problem when it came to Byakuran. Despite their long years of friendship, and despite Byakuran himself calling Shouichi his best friend, he could never understand what the man was thinking and he'd long decided that he wasn't insane enough to try. The only thing he had more or less figured out by now was that Byakuran had his own definition of things - friendship included.
He closed the notebook, flipping the back cover over the front. His hand slipped and somehow, he ended up flipping to the last page instead.
Shouichi's eyes widened. There were words there.
How long had they been there? Shouichi clumsily reopened the book to the last page, where the entry began.
They're coming to take me away! the entry said. I shouldn't have sneaked out to grab that flax flower. But no time for explanations (I'm sure you've already figured that out)! I'm going to tell you what exactly's going on, so that you don't end up thinking about something you have no control over. So sit tight! This might take a while! Or not, depending on when they come!
Shouichi resisted the urge to laugh. Only Byakuran could make light of a situation as grave as his own death.
If you've been reading the flowers you probably know I'm not going to live past the coronation. I'm not sick or insane, in case you're wondering. The kingdom has a tradi
The writing stopped abruptly. Shouichi almost swore. He quickly flipped through the other pages to see if there was anything he'd missed. There wasn't.
As his mind raced, he heard the sound of a door banging open from the dimensional window on his wall. Then princess Shou ran in, a heavy tome in her hand.
"Shou-chan!" she cried. It was so surreal hearing someone who looked like you calling you by your name. "It's terrible! The first prince is going to die!"
I know that, Shouichi again thought to himself. But he also knew he shouldn't be confusing the girl any further. There was no time to be wasted. "What's happening?" he asked instead.
After a few sniffles, the princess replied, "The kingdom has a tradition. When the king passes away, his successor will be the second-in-line to the throne. That was what I was taught..."
What a strange tradition. "But what does that have to do with Byakuran-san dying?"
The girl bawled. "That wasn't the full picture! The kingdom laws actually state that the first-in-line will be the successor, but after he's crowned, he has to be executed!"
"What?" Shouichi shouted. "Who did you hear that from?"
Princess Shou gingerly held up the tome in her hands. "This chronicles the kingdom's history and laws," she explained, after noticing the perplexed look on Shouichi's face.
"But why does the first-in-line have to die?" Shouichi was having difficulty wrapping his head around to the idea.
"It's because of the kingdom's history," the princess explained, tearfully. "Since the start of the kingdom, the first heir always led rebellions against the kings. And for ten generations they succeeded. The kingdom was in turmoil, growing weak against external forces. Finally, the tenth king decided it had to be a curse, and he took measures against it. He rewrote the laws of the kingdom to exclude his immediate heir from any contact with the outside world, and ordered the execution of the heir once the second-in-line ascends the throne. It worked, and the kingdom thrived, so the law continues to be enforced down to this day. I only just found out, too..." Shou hugged the book closer to her.
After a few seconds, Shouichi almost burst out laughing in derision. "Superstition? Because of superstition?" he eventually managed. "So what are his options now? Either he rebels and usurps the throne or he allows himself to be executed. Really? Aren't you guys just forcing the first heir to repeat history?"
Shou had nothing to say to this. "In fact," she remarked, "there have been a few rebellions after the law was enforced, and all by the first heirs. But because they had restricted contact with anyone out of palace guards and retainers, there was really nothing much they could do. And because of those occurrences, the kings and citizens have all felt that the harsh laws were justified. The vicious cycle thus continues..."
Shouichi was growing angrier by the second, but he knew there was nothing either he or the girl could do. Actually, wait. "You're the first princess," Shouichi said. "Does your kingdom allow for princesses to be crowned?"
"Yes," was her short answer.
Now there was a light at the end of the tunnel. "You can save him."
She blinked. "I can?"
"Can't you change laws as the monarch of the country?"
"I-I'm not sure..." she started fidgeting again. The king had evidently raised her whipped. The country advisors were going to have a field day manipulating the poor girl.
"Don't you want to save your brother?" Shouichi screeched, then shivered. Acknowledging that they were related was hair-raising! But as he calmed down and reflected on what he had learnt about this family, he realised that other-Byakuran had mentioned he only saw the girl once. Their relationship wasn't something he could use as a bargaining chip to move her to action. He'd probably need to try something else.
It was therefore to his surprise that the girl shouted, "Y-yes!"
Stunned, he had to ask, "Why?" Wait! He shouldn't be sowing doubts in her mind!
"B-because..." Shou glanced around again. "He promised..."
Huh? "You've spoken to him before?" Shouichi was flummoxed. Other-Byakuran clearly stated that he'd never seen the first princess again after that time she got grounded for giving him a flower. "What did he promise?"
"We wrote letters," she simply said. "Not often, but we talked when we could distract the guards enough to slip parchments under each other's doors."
Okay, so it's true that Byakuran didn't see her again after that incident. What a sly little fox. Shouichi wondered how much of what he had written could be trusted.
"I wanted to speak with him face to face one day," the princess said glumly. "I even asked him to, but he never agreed. When I finally understood I was going to inherit the throne instead of him, I was distraught. I didn't want the throne. I'm timid but I'm not stupid. I'm not cut out for such things. I was terrified. So I sneaked to the front of his room in the middle of the night and cried and cried until he finally spoke to me from behind the door. He told me to be strong. He said I could do it. And he promised he'd help me when I eventually..." she stopped, unable to continue.
Oh, Byakuran-san, Shouichi thought to himself. In his own way, he did care for his younger sister. Still, that was a cruel thing to tell such a fragile girl brought up like a doll. Especially since he had no intention of fulfilling that promise.
"...How will he be executed?" Shouichi asked, after a while had passed.
The girl was evidently surprised at the question. She put the tome down on the table and started to turn the pages. Soon, she found the one detailing the execution. "Err... it says the first heir will marry the Fie."
The what? "Who's that? What's it got to do with the execution?"
"Umm..." Shou started looking around again. "The Fie is an active volcano on an island north of the capital..."
Oh. My. Goodness. The pieces of other-Byakuran's convoluted fairytale were starting to slide into place now.
"And when someone is betrothed to the Fie... it means they are pushed into its center..."
And either die by lava or die by a broken neck. Crass didn't even begin to describe the entire event. Why in the world did other-Byakuran agree to this? But Shouichi took deep breaths. He knew he had to calm down, or there would be no helping anything. His stomach was starting to hurt.
"When will that be?" he continued to ask.
More pages were turned. "On coronation day. After he's crowned... he's sent to the Fie."
"When will you become queen?"
The girl twitched. Apparently, the word didn't sit too well with her. "After that..."
There was no window of opportunity for her to act at all. Shouichi grit his teeth.
"Um..." the princess was saying again, "I have this invention..."
"Invention?" Shouichi's ears perked up.
"Yes... It turns people invisible, but only for a short period of time... I-I don't know if it could help, but I was thinking..."
She really is me, Shouichi was torn between feeling happy and sad. "What's the percentage of success, and how long does the invisibility last?"
The princess was visibly shocked. "You... you're not making fun of me?"
Huh? "Why would I? Unless you were lying..."
"No, no!" Shou shook her head frantically. "I really did invent the machine. But no one's believed me until now... except the first prince."
Of course he did. Was there anything that guy wouldn't believe at this point of time?
"Well, anyway," the princess began to wring her clothes in her fingers. But when she spoke, her tone was businesslike. "So far it's been 100% success rate. The invisibility lasts maybe ten minutes to twenty minutes, depending on the fuel load. It's a bit bulky, though. I'm working on a way to scale it down so that it can be inconspicuous enough to hide in a cloak."
"I'll help you with that," Shouichi declared. His inventor blood was boiling. And if all went well he might even save silly other-Byakuran, who was throwing his life away on a whim. "Show me all your drafts. After that, we'll come up with a plan to help your first prince."
Princess Shou visibly brightened at that suggestion. "R-really? Thank you so much!" She bowed deeply.
And thus began two sleepless nights for two (one?) brilliant brains.
"Thank you for your kindness."
The portable invisibility cannon was ready by coronation day, but the princess was a bundle of nerves. The plan they had come up consisted of an altered coronation schedule, two large pieces of cloth, one miniaturised invisibility cannon with two loads, an auto-inflatable strawman and impeccable timing. The princess had memorised everything she needed to do. All that was left was for her to actually do it.
"Here," Shouichi dropped something onto the notebook. They had tried passing things through the wall but it hadn't worked, so the notebook it was. "Put this in your hair when you go there."
Shou retrieved the object on her side. "Buckwheat flower?" she wondered out loud.
Shouichi simply nodded.
"Make sure he sees it!"
"In joy and in sorrow."
A few weeks later, Shouichi found a large grape hyacinth flower in his notebook. It was nearly the size of the notebook itself. He actually laughed out loud at the comical sight.
Of course it was him. Shouichi could think of no one else cheeky enough to pull this prank, really.
He eventually curbed his laughter, but was still smiling.
Then he picked up a pen.
"You will cause me death."
(I do not lament death.)
"You will have success wherever you are."
(I forgive you.)
(Please think of me.)
"Please do not forget me."
(We are true friends.)
(I wait for you in faith.)
(Please do not betray me.)
"Thank you for your kindness."
"In joy and in sorrow."
(I will save you.)
5 march 2012
I don't know what possessed me to write this fic, since neither Shouichi nor Byakuran is my favourite character in the series (they're pretty high up there, though!), but time travelling? Alternate dimensions? I am so there!
For the flower language, the two main reference sites used were: hanakotoba dot name and hanakotoba-labo dot com. Hope the last part was clear enough.
I was also exploring a new style of writing.
Hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it!