In a landslide vote of 1:0, replying to reviews by PM has won. So that's what I will be and have been doing. Thanks to Angel of Randomosity, TheChosenOne1889, Puppylove7, Pink-Fairyrose, mrsbeggins, Pelawen Night, and Kajihenge Yoko for reviewing! You guys are awesome! :D
A word of clarification: Friday's other face isn't like Kurama and Yoko. It isn't really even a split personality or an actual being inside her. It's more of a raw manifestation of her animal instinct. And no, she doesn't change her appearance any more than her usual light show.
. . .
"I know I've got a face in me, points out all my mistakes to me. You've got a face on the inside too. Your paranoia's probably worse. I don't know what set me off first, but I know what I can't stand. Everybody acts like the fact of the matter is I can't add up to what you can.
But everybody has a face that they hold inside. A face that awakes when I close my eyes. A face that watches every time they lie. A face that laughs every time they fall.
And watches everything.
So you know that when it's time to sink or swim, that the face inside is watching you too, right inside your skin."
- - Linkin Park
. . .
"It's quiet," Kurama murmured, casting his eyes around him as he searched the dark corners of the buildings that clustered ominously around the pair.
"Too quiet," the fire apparition who paced by his side agreed.
Kurama raised his voice, "I wonder - - " he began, the sense of foreboding growing in his mind.
From behind, the sound of pounding footsteps increased in volume, grabbing the pair's attention. Their heads turned. Swiftly, the dark grey blur of a wolf approached, sprinting down their street.
"Thank goodness I've found you," Hati panted, pulling up alongside, "Friday has - - "
Suddenly, a great darkness descended on the city, as the lights cut out with a slow whine.
An intense feeling of trepidation wrapped the trio in its cold grasp.
A brief flash of erratic light could be seen dimly through the buildings that grew tall around them like a forest of ancient trees.
Wordlessly, they exchanged glances. This did not bode well.
Needing no further prompting, the dependable pair turned and followed Hati as he hastened to lead the way.
"Hey!" a loud shout echoed down the dark street, "Hey, wait up!"
Yusuke caught up to them, but behind him, Kuwabara stumbled in the pitch black night.
"Please tell me one of you guys knows what the hell is going on?" Yusuke requested gruffly.
Kuwabara rubbed his bruised face as he joined them. "Hang on a second. Where's Friday? Don't tell me this..." he trailed off, taking in the overwhelming darkness that covered them like a blanket.
Hati nodded, "The possibility seems all too likely to ignore."
"Then what the hell are we standing around here chit-chatting for?" Yusuke cracked his knuckles.
"Careful, Yusuke. If things are like this, we could be running right into a very dangerous situation," the wolf cautioned as the group picked up their pace once more.
"All the more reason why we need to hurry," Yusuke grumbled.
My vision slowly returned to me as I regained the use of my senses.
What was going on here?
I blinked as I looked dully about.
All around me, the street appeared as though a natural disaster had struck. The pavement was fractured, crumbled, broken.
Behind me, large segments of the wall were crushed, craters formed with deep cracks adorning them like the delicate lace of a spiderweb.
Great beams which had formerly held up the lines that conducted electricity toward the city were toppled, fallen over like so many sticks from a jengan tower built by a child's unsteady hand. The lines themselves were snapped, and occasionally, the ends would spark and thrash, writhing like a great mass of black snakes over the charred ground.
What terror had been unleashed here? What kind of being was capable of causing such utter destruction?
Was it Rikyu?
Warily, I looked down the street, searching for any sign of the commander, but he was nowhere to be found.
No. It couldn't have been Rikyu. If he was the one who had unleashed such power, surely he would have remained to see his victory through.
But if not Rikyu, then who... or what?
My legs trembled from the strain as I felt the pull of exhaustion, dragging my body down.
I let my weary body slump back against the wall. My head clacked against the concrete support, and as it did so, I noticed for the first time the buildings that towered above me had suffered the incomprehensible damage as well.
The power plant which had seemed so sturdy... indestructible even, had been torn wide open one one side. The shattered beams, sticking out in disarray like broken ribs revealing the building's innards, reminded me of a large gash torn from a metal carcass by the teeth of some great behemoth. The slow creak of the steel beams as they slid past one another was an ominous sound in my ears as the structure sang its swan song, looking ahead to its imminent collapse.
A slight tug pulled at the back of my brain, but my thoughts were hazy, and they stuck in the back of my mind like glue, refusing to come forward where I could examine them.
What terror had been unleashed here?
My heavy head slumped forward onto my chest, eyelids barely restraining themselves from sealing shut as the tips of my lashes brushed. And through them, I saw on the ground brilliant splatters of vermillion, an overzealous artist's paint, that had seeped into the porous concrete.
I closed my eyes and performed my self-evaluation.
I felt the exhaustion deep into my bones, but beyond that there was little pain. Just a dull numbness that seemed to surround me, easing the aches and bruises.
The blood wasn't mine.
The blood wasn't mine... but whose?
My eyes snapped open and my spine straightened as I went on the alert. Head jerking around, I sought the familiar shade of orange that would denote the boy's presence.
And I found him standing there, not far from myself.
But what I saw made my lips halt in their attempt to call out his name.
His eyes were wide, blank, staring, numb, as if they couldn't believe the things they had just witnessed; two lone survivors standing on the brink.
The boy's arms, the one still dripping blood in a slow leak, hung forgotten at his sides.
His jaw was slack, mouth fixed in an appalled expression on his ghost-like face, pale beneath its tan, as if all the blood had been drained from it.
Lines that etched themselves around his wide eyes looked as though they could never be erased, an outward manifestation of the permanent scar burned into his memory.
How could I call out his name, when he looked at me with those eyes?
And suddenly, the shame of what I had done hit me like a wave.
I didn't have to be told. The truth sang out from my very bones, a million pointing fingers accusing me.
I had lied to him. I had let him believe that I was just a normal girl like any other, when the actuality was so far removed from it that as I stood here, I barely even felt human anymore.
And coming unglued, the reality of what had happened in this place struck me like a blow more forceful than any I had sustained from my worst enemies.
This natural disaster, this mindless force that had crushed the strong structures that built themselves up like fortresses around us, seeming determined to outlast the test of time... that destructive force... was me.
And now as I stood here before him, I had nothing to say.
What words could speak out more strongly than the violent actions he had just witnessed that reduced the strongholds around him to rubble?
The very look of his eyes told me he had seen it all.
He knew what I was capable of.
And the lie that I had never meant to hurt anyone with, had never even meant to tell... well, he had nearly lost his life because of it. And no words I could say would ever right this wrong. This horror that I had brought upon him unwittingly.
The glaring truth stepped into the light, laughing, mocking me. How had I ever believed that I could continue to pretend that I was just an ordinary girl?
Naive. Foolish. Vain.
There was no room for pretending anymore. The time had come to grow up, to surpass this make believe. It was time now to step into my own skin and accept what I had become.
I supposed I could understand now what they meant, when they said that with great power came great responsibility. And I had been so irresponsible for such a long time...
Really, how had someone like me ever ended up in charge?
The fate of the world was resting on my slim shoulders, and I couldn't even protect one boy? The boy that I claimed to care so much about...
As this cold splash of reality hit me full in the face, I swallowed the lump in my throat and stood to face him with as much determination as I could muster.
Without even meaning to, I had told such an atrocious lie that it nearly ripped the life straight from your body. How could I ever hope to atone for that? For this intense darkness within me that had disguised itself as light?
Maybe if I give you up now, I can at least pay for some of what I have done, though I understand I cannot right this wrong that has fallen upon you because of me. Nothing will ever right this wrong. But maybe now, if I let you go, Shimabukuro, you can at least live... to blame me... to despise the lies I've told you.
And that would be enough for me.
And someday, when you recover from this, I hope you go on to find your happiness with someone else. Someone who won't lie to you. An ordinary girl. Because you deserve it. All the things I can't give you... you deserve it all, Shimabukuro.
Don't let my shame hold you back. Don't let my guilty conscience influence you.
You have a good heart, Shimabukuro.
I cleared my throat.
The truth is, I lied, Shimabukuro. Now at least let me pay the price.
Levelly, I stared into his hollow eyes.
"If you want to run," I told him, "I'll understand."
My voice was even, surprising me with its own calm.
And for the longest moment, he just stood there. I wondered if he had comprehended through the lifeless look that clouded his eyes.
Then slowly, painfully slowly, he turned. And not running, but walking, he slowly shuffled away, his numb footsteps leading him of their own accord. His body driven by instinct, though the screaming of his mind trapped inside him could barely comprehend this horror. The desperate truth of what he had just witnessed.
The last glimpse of brilliant orange vanished from my sight as he rounded the corner, seeming to draw the last reserves of my strength from me, taking them with him as he disappeared.
My bones turned to rubber, melting down as my legs gave out from under me, sending me crashing to the ground.
Pulling my knees in close to my chest, I sat against the wall and brought my hands up to my face, pausing to examine them.
Why did it feel like everything I touch... gets destroyed?
I hid my face in those hands that looked deceptively fragile, bearing no hint now of the raw destructive power they could unleash.
"Your hands are so small..." his voice whispered in the back of my mind, and the gentle memory cut through my heart like the sharpest knife.
I gasped for air. My fingers found their hold in my roots as they dug sharply into my scalp.
I would banish all these memories...
Never again would I give Rikyu any reason to haunt him.
That's what I decided.
It was impossible for someone like me who was so far from normal to give myself to one so blind to the supernatural.
Yusuke and Keiko were the exception to that rule. And even then, she was constantly endangered for his sake.
Why hadn't I seen it before? It seemed so obvious now. So obvious that even a fool should have realized it.
Was I a fool? I hadn't thought so.
Maybe it was true what they say... that love is blind.
You do not see the pitfalls and traps that lay beneath your feet, ready to catch you in their cruel snare, when you are always looking up.
So now I would keep my eyes fixed only downward, looking straight into hell to meet those yellow eyes that burned like fire into my memory...
Unannounced, a brief flutter like a gentle wind brushed my cheek.
Slowly, I lifted my head and my eyes slid open.
Just beyond the tip of my nose, resting on my knee, was a thing I never would have expected to see in this place... a butterfly, like the ones from my hometown, bright orange with dark patterns painted on their wings. It looked lost, out here all alone in the dark when it was a fragile creature of the day.
Surprised, my lips parted and I exhaled a warm breath onto its wings, but my movement startled it, and it lifted up, carried on the wind from my lungs, into the thick darkness before me.
I watched its brief flutter as it dipped tiredly down the broken street, between the fallen pillars that held the power lines. Attracted to the light, it drifted toward the severed showers of electric sparks. Never realizing the danger, it came too close.
Silently, an arc of bright light snapped out to race over its brilliantly colored wings, engulfing it completely. Blackened, the gentle creature fell to the ground, still as a leaflet of crumpled paper.
Swallowing the bile in my throat, my eyes slid shut once more, and I hid my face in my hands.
What had gone on here? We stopped just short of the scene.
With cautious eyes I surveyed the area. The street was in chaos. Materials that had once seemed so sturdy were fractured in a million pieces like a glass in the hand of a careless child.
And alone in the middle of it all sat Friday.
Her face was hidden from view, buried in her arms, and she was utterly still. A faint breeze stirred her hair, pushing the purple strands further over the thin sliver of her brow that was still visible.
A faint gasp beside me caused me to look down over the blue-haired head of the reaper whose worry-filled eyes were wide with concern.
"Friday..." she whispered as her brain worked to comprehend the chaos that met her eyes.
The street was dark, but for a small shower of blue sparks that ignited from the end of a power line, causing the severed tip to twitch like the tail of a seething feline.
"Friday," Botan said again, louder this time, as her feet pulled her toward the seated figure.
The girl's stillness was almost peaceful, but the agonized curl of the tips of her fingers in her hair betrayed her otherwise calm exterior, giving expression to the current of anguish that ran just beneath the surface. An dark air seemed to hang around her like a cloud.
She still did not look up.
I wondered if she was crying.
My keen, emerald eyes took in the bloodstains on the ground, but my nose did not alert me to any of it as belonging to her. From where I was, the girl's appearance seemed to verify this observation.
Although one of the sleeves of her jacket had been torn clean off, she did not look to be injured beyond a few faint, superficial scratches and the new tears in her jeans.
Botan approached Friday.
"What happened here?" she asked, worry coloring her voice.
Slowly, Friday raised her head. Her eyes were dry as paper.
Unconsciously, I took a short step back, startled by what I saw, as my own gaze widened.
More than eyes, they resembled pits, as a dull blankness looked out from her face, transforming it, leeching the life from it.
These were not the eyes I knew so well.
Not even a hint of her plain, brown eyes that had shone with an extraordinary determination, filled to the brim with life like none I had ever seen before could be found.
What had marked this change?
"What happened here? Was it Rikyu?" Botan repeated herself when Friday did not answer.
Friday was silent still, but momentarily, the girl blinked, her eyes closing slowly and with an extreme act of effort pushed herself to her feet, bones creaking in protest.
"It doesn't matter anymore," the girl spoke in a low tone that was surprisingly raw.
The wind whipped through her hair and she tugged what remained of her jacket closer around her, like a second skin to replace the one that had grown cold.
"Let's just go," she said in a flat voice, devoid of emotion as she turned and began to walk away, leaving the rest of us to follow.
But Hati would not let her go so easily.
I did not know the things the wolf had seen in his long years, but more than the rest of us, he seemed to comprehend what had gone on in this place.
Closing the distance that separated him from his Sleeper, he spoke out to her plainly: "Anger is not your friend." The heavy words fell like stones into the tense silence.
And as I stood, muscles clenched on edge, I identified the true origin of this strained feeling.
The very air here was thick with energy, like the mounting pressure of the atmosphere before a storm, charged and ready to open a path that would connect the heavens and the earth as a bolt of searing-white lightning would rend the sky, tearing it in two.
Her eyes gleamed dully as they reflected the sparks that flickered from the severed arteries of the power lines.
"You think I don't know?" her voice was so low that even my ears could barely catch the sound.
She shifted, appearing ready to return to her pace, but Hati stopped her. "Promise me you won't give in to it," he demanded with resolved eyes, clenching the fabric of her already-shredded jeans between sharp teeth.
The tension in the air crescendoed to a hair-raising potential, but at its height, it broke, and subsided with a subtle sigh, like a spent wave returning to the sea.
Nevertheless, her answer was not quite pleasant as she spoke once more: "I don't make promises that I don't intend to keep," she said. And with those words, she continued on her path, the denim of her pant leg ripping with a loud sound as the piece that was left behind, trapped in the wolf's strong jaw, fluttered in the wind.
I could not see his face.
To that face, which lives inside me:
Though I do not know what you are, or where you came from, if you are even a part of me...
You have lent me strength, and for that I am grateful. But I am not someone whose hand you need to hold. I am not subservient to these feelings that you so desire... the boiling rage that makes you thrive.
Even so, I cannot force myself to feel nothing at all.
I've spent too long riding the high of my anger, and I can no longer give it up. In that time, I have become dependent on it. It gives me strength, fuels my power, drives me to achieve new heights. Without it, there is very little I can do on my own.
But even so, I know that I'm better than this. Why should I let this anger have me? Why should I let rage take control? I am not some mindless creature that runs on instinct alone. I am not that face.
So I will save all this rage that I have bottled up inside me. I'll be saving it for him.
And you can devour it all, if it will help you to grow...
But know that I will not let you out... cannot let you out... you are far too dangerous for this world.
Only someday, lend me the strength I need to overcome him. When that day comes, I will rip out his heart... and crush him. And then he will be no more. No longer in my way.
Then, I will be free to do as I please. No more looking over my shoulder. No more holding my breath...
That is the promise I have made.
"Friday?" the small voice interrupted my dark musings, and I lifted my eyes from the pavement, where my intense stare seemed it would begin to burn little pits in the ground before me at any moment.
A worried face met my gaze, and I realized just how strangely I had been acting.
Her pink eyes were wide with a barely-contained anxiety as she fluttered before me with nervous energy, fretting over my state of being. My eyes softened.
It seemed I was causing her a great deal of concern. I hadn't meant for that to be the case. I shouldn't let my friend suffer so over my unbalanced mental state.
I put on a bright smile.
"Gomen, gomen," I apologized lightly, hands shoved in my pockets, "I didn't mean to worry you."
I ruffled her hair, jokingly pointing out her sad expression, trying to convince the ferry girl that her fears were unfounded.
"If you keep looking like that, your brow is going to permanently crease," I laughed. It sounded a little hollow in my own ears, but I surprised myself by how convincing it still seemed.
The worried furrow of her brow smoothed out and she laughed along with me, though I think hers was real.
"You're sure you're alright?" she asked hopefully.
"Mm," I nodded, keeping my smile turned on.
"That's good," she said in a relieved sort of way, placing a hand over her heart.
That's right, it wasn't fair to the others for me to act like that. What had passed tonight hadn't been their fault, hadn't involved them at all.
A cold wind picked up, blowing through the corridor of the street, whipping my hair around in its passing.
Automatically, I shivered, feeling the goosebumps rise on my arm where the sleeve of my jacket had been removed somehow.
It was cold.
Funny, with all the things I couldn't feel, it seemed the cold still got to me.
Cold. It was a strangely ordinary sensation after all the things I'd been through.
"A jacket," I spoke into the night sky as I examined the ocean of stars made all the more prominent by the fact that the majority of the city lights were still out, having not been supported by generators of their own.
"What?" Botan questioned.
"You asked what I wanted for my birthday. My old jacket ripped, and I need a new one," I stated, "It's a little chilly out here."
Botan perked up. "Then I know just the place!" she said, her exuberant smile returning.
"Ah... Hati-san," she addressed the wolf, flapping her hand at him, "Friday's worked very hard today, and besides, we never got to finish celebrating her birthday. It's alright if we take a little break now, right?"
"That would probably be for the best," the wolf said, nodding solemnly. I could feel his eyes as they tried to search mine.
You'd be happier if you didn't think too hard on it... Hati... I thought, careful to keep my smile fixed in place, even if its curve had gone rather flat.
She smiled brightly, but it was so stretched that it made me want to turn my head away. Such false expressions didn't suit her.
What had happened tonight that she would rather hide than let out into the light? It didn't seem like a course of action she would ordinarily take.
That woman... I could never understand what she was thinking... why she did the things she did. Often, I couldn't make sense of any of it.
But I was confident in my ability when it came to puzzle solving... surely someday, I would gather all the missing pieces.
Patience is a virtue, after all.
I shoved my hands deep in my pockets and followed behind the others, keeping my emerald eyes trained on the girl, watching her subtle movements for anything that would give her motivations away.
The thought crossed my mind that perhaps I had become a little too curious.
AN: Sorry if anyone feels they were gypped with the Friday kicking Rikyu's butt scene (you know, the nonexistent one). There will be plenty of those in the future, promise. The point this time is that it was more frightening to Friday to have no recollection of what she's done than facing Rikyu would ever be.
On a random note, I'm feeling particularly proud of this title. They usually have at least two relevant meanings, but this one has three. Oho! Since I'm feeling so cunning today, allow me to explain... (1) an electrical shortage... very literal (2) a loss of consciousness / memory (3) suppression of information / silencing of truth. Anywho... there you go. In case anyone was interested in knowing the depths of my genius :P
I still have a deviantart account where I will be posting some pictures of characters, etc... to go with this story. Check it out if you want. I'm theanonymouspen . deviantart . com (no spaces)
Just anticipate an UPDATE: Pictures, pictures on DA. If anyone is curious to see, you should just check it out weekly, since I've really been enjoying drawing lately. Trying to sketch ever day. There's some pretty epic actiony sketches of Friday... with lovely glowy bits... Er... just check it out... (And yes, I still love comments, even on DA).
Thank you for reading :)
Preview: Friday and Botan search for a jacket. But that's not all they find while they're out. Hiei actually sets foot in a clothing store? And the gang gets a hint at Tsuki-Yomi's powers!? And what's going to happen to that roll of tape Friday has been carrying around? All coming up next Friday! (Hopefully.)
Please REVIEW! (I love knowing what you guys love so I can try to keep things interesting for you all.)