Muv-Luv: Breaking the Tide
Chapter 1 / When the shining time disappears
I had a dream.
It was a dream of people living in the constant shadow of death and despair, without ever experiencing true peace.
I had a dream.
It was a dream of people risking their lives and living for the sake of protecting something, in a world where mankind teetered on the brink of extinction.
In my dream, I fought in that world over and over again. I learned about how fragile life was, about the meaning of peace, about war and death, despair and hope, sacrifice and resolve, and so many other things.
I saw humanity's extinction.
I saw humanity's salvation.
But victory came with a heavy price. All my comrades, my friends… my loved ones died for it.
In the end, I was the only one left.
They would say it was worth it. And, at the end of the dream, I agreed. Their sacrifices had meaning. Compared to the horrifying vision of human extinction I had witnessed, the terrible cost was worth it.
But I still think about them. In my dreams, I always end up standing beneath the bare branches of the cherry blossom trees, where the spirits of all the fallen soldiers rested.
I remember them. I remember how they lived, their smiles, their struggles, their good points and their bad points…
I remember how they died.
I wasn't able to protect them.
Humanity didn't lose. Everything was worth that.
…I wasn't able to protect them.
Shirogane Takeru woke up as dawn's early light peeked through the gaps in his white bedroom window curtains. Once, his eyes would have been full of tears after having that strange dream, distorting the familiar sight of his bedroom ceiling. Now, after almost two years of it, his eyes were dry… if a bit crusty. Maybe that meant he had become used to it.
But time hadn't quite eased the heavy weight of grief that seemed to settle in his stomach every time he had those dreams. He couldn't clearly remember much about his dreams, and what little he did remember usually faded after he woke, but the overpowering emotions they invoked took longer to disappear. Fear, anger, sadness, love, triumph, and so many other feelings swirled around in his gut… including regret.
Takeru sighed as he listened to the sounds of birds chirping outside. "It's way too early for me to wake up," he complained softly to himself, his voice hoarse from sleep, when it became clear he wouldn't be getting more rest anytime soon.
"Uuuuu," Sumika whined sleepily, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. "That's…" she yawned, "…right. It's waaaay too early, Takeru-chan."
"Sorry, Sumika," he smiled apologetically. The image of her as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes, combined with the strange shapes her disheveled long red hair made, made it easy for him to smile despite the lingering sense of sorrow. "Did I wake you up?"
"Yeah," she scowled at him.
His smile faded. "Sorry," he said guiltily.
Normally, accidentally waking Sumika up would not be anywhere near his list of things to feel guilty about. She frankly had it coming, after all the atrocities she had committed in the name of waking him up. And yet… he felt really bad for some reason. It was like he'd somehow failed her. It was a strange and horrible sensation.
"Takeru-chan," Sumika's eyes widened slightly as she took in his expression. "You had that dream again?" she asked, her annoyed expression quickly morphing into a concerned look.
He winced. The dreams had been coming often for a long time, and always affected him deeply, especially in the beginning. Of course Sumika had noticed. It would have been hard for her not to when he had started crying when he laid eyes on her. That was just lame. At least he no longer woke up weeping after the first few times. That had been embarrassing.
Takeru forced another smile. "Don't worry about it," he gently touched her hand in reassurance.
"…Okay," she agreed reluctantly, squeezing his hand back. Despite her words, the look she was giving him made it clear that she didn't think it was okay at all. "But, Takeru-chan, even if you don't want to tell me, you need to talk to someone about this."
"I'm not going to see a psychiatrist," was Takeru's automatic response. Sumika had been bugging him to talk to someone about his dreams for some time.
"That's not what I meant!" she shook her head in denial, sending her long red hair twirling. "I just… You're going to see Yuuko-sensei later today, right?"
Takeru blinked, confused by the abrupt change in topic, "Yeah…?"
Sumika took his hand between hers. "Promise me you'll at least talk to her about it?" she pleaded.
"Why her?" he asked, even more bewildered.
"Sensei is really smart, and I'm sure she can give you good advice. Besides, Takeru-chan…" Sumika's smile looked slightly wistful for some reason, "haven't you asked her for advice tons of times in the past?"
He could only nod in response. Yuuko-sensei was crazy smart and sometimes just plain crazy, but she was reliable when it counted. By the end of high school, she had become the first teacher that came to his mind when he needed advice on something. Marimo-chan was soothing and could always be relied on to provide a listening ear, but it was Yuuko he tended to turn to for advice, even if it often wasn't what he wanted to hear.
"Fine," he grunted reluctantly. "I'll talk to her about them when I see her." Mostly, it was her pleading eyes that swayed him. Somehow that look had become a lot more effective after she'd admitted her feelings to him.
Sumika sighed in relief at his agreement and gave him a gentle smile, "Thanks, Takeru-chan."
With that resolved, Takeru idly wondered what to do next. There wasn't really any point in trying to get back to sleep. It tended to take him a long time to fall asleep after waking up from one of those dreams, and there were only a couple of hours before he would normally wake up anyway. Rather than trying, Takeru got out of bed and began to get dressed.
"You're going running this early?" Sumika asked disbelievingly as she saw him putting on his running clothes.
"Ahhh… What happened to the old lazy Takeru-chan?" she sighed to herself, sounding almost wistful.
Physical training was a habit that had come around the same time as the dreams. Sumika still didn't seem to believe the change. Takeru didn't even understand where it had come from himself, so he couldn't blame her much. It was just some mysterious instinct he couldn't explain.
Still, he couldn't let that kind of comment pass without response.
He struck, lighting quick. His patented Sumika-chop hit with great effect.
"Ow!" Sumika squealed indignantly, her hands covering her head in reflex. "What was that for?!"
"Don't call me lazy!" Takeru responded irately.
A fierce scowl twisted Sumika's face. "You're horrible!" she complained. "How could you do that to your girlfriend? Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stu—Ow!"
"Stop calling me stupid!"
"I can't believe you did it again!" Sumika stumbled out of bed, clutching her head with her hands while glaring angrily at him.
Takeru folded his arms. "You deserved it," he stated with conviction.
Sumika's hands curled into fists. His childhood friend adopted a boxing stance. He might have enjoyed the sight of her moving around dressed in nothing more than an oversized shirt of his if he hadn't suddenly been struck with a deep sense of trepidation.
"Uh…" Takeru took a nervous step back, raising his hands up towards her in a warding gesture. "Sumika… let's talk about this, okay?"
"Takeru-chan." Unholy fire seemed to burn within Sumika's eyes.
"Drill Milky Punch!"
The Mitsurugi family was spectacularly crazy.
Takeru was reminded of this every time he left his house for his morning run. Once, his house had been located on a normal suburban street. Now, it was located in the heart of a massive private compound that looked like someone had decided to transplant an entire forest in the middle of a dense urban area, then decided the perfect finishing touch would be a giant feudal palace. It still boggled his mind when he thought about how many people Meiya and Yuuhi had bribed to move so they could claim the land.
He was also reminded of that fact every time he returned from his morning physical training to meet Tsukuyomi Mana, who demonstrated her ninja-like abilities every time they met in the Mitsurugi's dojo. Who in the real world had actual ninja-maids? Given Meiya and Yuuhi's level of common sense, Takeru suspected that someone in the Mitsurugi family had seen some anime or manga with ninja-maids in it and taken it entirely seriously.
The aforementioned ninja-maid cleared her throat. "Are you done daydreaming, Takeru-sama?" Tsukuyomi asked politely.
She had shed her maid uniform in favor of set of stylish looking workout clothes for their training, complete with bike shorts that looked like they'd been painted on and a distractingly tight top, and put her long green hair up in an athletic looking pony tail. Takeru thought she looked more like a model in an ad to sell gym memberships than a refined maid of the Mitsurugi family at the moment.
"Ugh," Takeru groaned, staring up at the wooden ceiling of the dojo in a daze. He couldn't feel his limbs. "I think… you broke… my back," he panted.
"Ohohoho," she laughed heartlessly. "Again with your jokes, Takeru-sama. Please get up or we will not be able to finish in time for breakfast."
It took a few more moments before Takeru's world stopped spinning. He staggered to his feet unsteadily, wondering again why he was subjecting himself to such torture every day. The answer eluded him today, just like it had every day since that strange October more than a year ago when Meiya, Yuuhi, and Kasumi appeared in his life and the dreams started. But whatever the reason, somehow he kept at it. Some unknown force within kept driving him.
So he trained. At first, he'd approached Meiya for help learning hand to hand combat. Tsukuyomi had ended up taking over as his teacher when he started to strain Meiya's unarmed limits, a feat which had surprised everyone, himself included. His body just seemed to know how to fight; the only thing it had lacked in the beginning was the physical conditioning to support it. That had freaked him out for weeks, and it still bothered him when he dwelled on it, but he had eventually decided to just accept it and go on training.
"Okay," Takeru huffed, eyeing Tsukuyomi cautiously. "I'm up. Let's—Geh!"
Without wasting words, Tsukuyomi darted forward, covering the distance between them in an instant. Takeru moved backwards at an angle, deflecting her opening strike. His follow up attempt to lock her arm was foiled, as was his maneuver to get behind her. At least he was able to avoid her viciously fast counters. Takeru's mind was empty as he traded strikes and counterstrikes with Tsukuyomi, his body moving on autopilot.
The entire exchange lasted only a few seconds. It ended in an instant, as Takeru succeeded in breaking through Tsukuyomi's guard and taking her balance, driving her to the ground. Takeru followed her to the floor, intent on pinning her down.
She struggled fiercely, but was unable to get out of his hold. Finally, she relaxed and smiled wryly. "...It is your victory, Takeru-sama," she conceded.
Takeru grinned triumphantly, ecstatic at increasing his slim amount of wins against her by one.
Tsukuyomi cleared her throat. "You may get off me now," she said, her cheeks dusted with pink.
"Eh?" Takeru blinked. "Ah… right," he flushed as he noticed how intimately their bodies we pressed together. Still… despite Tsukuyomi's incredible fitness, her body still felt remarkably soft beneath him.
Unmoving, he continued to stare down at the woman in a daze. The way she looked back at him, her eyes wide, breathing slightly uneven, was bewitching to Takeru. Unconsciously, he lowered his head closer to her.
"…Takeru-sama!" Tsukuyomi finally squeaked out a soft, flustered protest at his slight movement.
He shook his head like a wet dog, trying to clear his mind of the suddenly dangerous line of thought. This is Tsukuyomi-san! What was I thinking? She'd kill me if I did anything weird to her! The fact that she could have easily dislodged him at any time didn't occur to Takeru.
"Takeru-sama." There was a faint note of warning in her voice.
"Right, sorry!" he blurted out an apology, quickly letting her go and jumping to his feet. Nervously, Takeru retreated a few steps, as if backing away from a dangerous snake he had startled.
The maid stood slowly and began absently smoothing out nonexistent wrinkles in her training clothes. "That was an impressive take-down," she complimented quietly to fill the awkward atmosphere that had suddenly developed. "You have improved even further than I had thought." Strangely, Takeru thought she sounded almost proud.
"Ah… thanks…" he scratched the back of his head, unsure how to properly respond. "But… it's really all thanks to your teaching skills. You really are amazing, Tsukuyomi-san."
"I… see," Tsukuyomi stuttered slightly, looking away from him.
Awkward silence once again filled the dojo. Takeru wondered if he had said the wrong thing after all. Tsukuyomi didn't look mad, but she didn't look particularly happy at his words either. She kept fidgeting with her clothes, not even looking at him.
"Tsukuyomi," a soft, regal voice cut through the silence.
Tsukuyomi started in surprise, "…Yuuhi-sama!" She whipped around to face the dojo's main entrance with an alarmed, almost guilty expression.
Mitsurugi Yuuhi stood there, smiling. He wondered when she had come in; he hadn't even noticed her arrival. She looked at the strangely nervous maid, her blue eyes gleaming with amusement. "Should you not begin preparations for our morning meal soon?" Yuuhi asked, tilting her head slightly.
"Of course," Tsukuyomi murmured, composing herself and bowing in acknowledgement. "I shall begin at once, Yuuhi-sama."
Within the blink of an eye, she disappeared. Gazing at the empty spot where she had vanished, Takeru thought once again about the craziness of the family that produced people who could even do that. Speaking of which… he turned to greet the new arrival.
"Morning, Yuuhi—Whoa!" he jumped slightly in surprise as he found Yuuhi standing right in front of him, close enough that he could smell the floral scent of the shampoo she had used for her lavender hair.
"Good morning, Takeru-sama," Mitsurugi Yuuhi greeted him, smiling brightly as she offered him a towel.
"Thanks," he said gratefully, using it to wipe of his sweat. Once he was done, she plucked the towel out of his hands without hesitation and thrust a cool water bottle at him. Takeru drank greedily from it. "Ahhh…" he sighed contentedly when he was done drinking. "Thanks, Yuuhi."
"It was nothing," she demurred, blushing charmingly. "It is only a matter of course for me to attend to my future husband."
Takeru choked slightly on his drink and began coughing. It was hardly the first time she had said something like that, but Takeru still wasn't entirely used to it. Even though Yuuhi's personality wasn't generally as bold as Meiya's, she could be astonishingly aggressive about some things. She also seemed to have a particular knack for catching him off guard.
"Oh, my," she murmured in concern, pressing herself closely to his side to rub his back as he coughed. "Are you all right, Takeru-sama?"
"Yeah," he wheezed, his face growing steadily redder at her closeness. His consciousness of his entire body seemed to narrow sharply until all he could seem to feel was the sensation of Yuuhi's breasts pressed against him. All he could see was her beautiful face, close enough that he could feel her breath against his neck. "…Yuuhi," he breathed.
It felt like forever since the last time he'd seen her.
She tilted her head, smiling mischievously. "Yes, Takeru-sama?"
Takeru's heartbeat thundered in his ears. He wrapped an arm around Yuuhi's slender waist, pulling her tighter against him. She made a soft noise in response, which he quickly covered by pressing his lips against hers. Yuuhi melted against him.
When their lips broke apart, Yuuhi was flushed and breathing as hard as he was. Her eyes sparkled as she gazed up at him happily. It was difficult for him to resist her when she looked at him like that.
"What…" he cleared his throat. "What are you doing here?" Takeru asked her finally, trying to distract them both with something to talk about. If he forgot where they were and things got too heated, there would be a bloodbath—of his blood—if someone found them. "Your day off isn't until tomorrow."
The Mitsurugi sisters were both very busy helping with their family business, and had been ever since they had finished high school with Takeru. Technically, considering they had both finished their educations before he had even met them, they had no need to attend school with him at all, but they had done so using the excuse that it was necessary to get closer to him. Somehow their family had accepted that, but once he had finished high school they had both been called back to contribute in the family's giant corporation.
Yuuhi was especially busy, given her role as the direct heir and future head of the Mitsurugi family. Normally, he only got to see her one day a week. Even that had been a huge concession by the family head, according to Meiya, who had been astonished that Yuuhi had managed to wring it from their grandfather. Meiya was busy too, but since she wasn't the first in line to take over the Mitsurugi family, she had a lot more freedom than her elder sister did. Theoretically, Meiya only had one day off to rest as well, but unlike Yuuhi she was frequently around in the evenings.
"I was fortunate to receive some additional time off this morning," Yuuhi answered vaguely, waving the question away. "More importantly, Takeru-sama…" she leaned up. Just as she was about to kiss him again, the dojo door was thrown open with tremendous force.
"Aneue!" Meiya exclaimed angrily, scowling at the sight of her older sister clinging to Takeru. "What is the meaning of this?" Meiya demanded as she marched into the room.
Yuuhi released Takeru and stepped back with visible reluctance. "Good morning, Meiya," she greeted her sister politely, ignoring Meiya's dagger like gaze. "I am pleased to see you look well today."
"To you as well," Meiya replied automatically, then blinked and pointed an irate finger at her sister. "Do not try to dodge the subject!" Meiya said sternly. "I asked you, what is the meaning of this? Why are you here with Takeru today? Did we not agree that today was to be my day with Takeru?"
"Indeed," Yuuhi nodded. "However, did you not also seek to monopolize Takeru-sama's attentions two weeks ago on my day with him?"
"Uuu…" Meiya flinched. "That was…"
The two sisters stared at each other for several moments. Takeru imagined sparks flying through the air between their irate gazes. He stood as still as a statue, fervently hoping that if he didn't move he could avoid Meiya's ire.
It didn't work. "—Takeru!" Meiya rounded on him unhappily. "Why are you allowing her to cling to you on today of all days?"
"Um…" he sweated, groping for a response. However, his brain had no great response for this situation. "…sorry," Takeru mumbled.
"Meiya," Yuuhi came to his defense. "It is hardly Takeru-sama's fault."
"Yes," Meiya's sharp gaze snapped back to her sister. "I am fully aware of who is at fault here."
Yuuhi smiled serenely in response. Takeru thought frantically, trying to figure out a way to defuse the situation… or at least some way to escape.
A loud growl erupted from Takeru's stomach, breaking the twins' staring contest and causing them to both turn to look at him. Takeru seized the opportunity. "Ahh…" he released an exaggerated sigh. "Man, I'm hungry!" he patted his stomach. "I'm going to go get cleaned up and then get something to eat!"
Having proclaimed his intentions, Takeru moved briskly to flee from the dojo.
The sisters called out for him simultaneously. "Sorry," he replied nervously, speeding up. "I'm really hungry, so… let's talk at breakfast, okay?" Hopefully by then Meiya would have calmed down. She was normally good about not holding grudges.
The Mitsurugi sisters released exasperated sighs, once again in sync. "He is good at running away," Meiya grumbled.
Yuuhi hid a smile behind her hand, "Indeed."
Meiya sighed. "…I will overlook this incident for today," she said finally.
"You are very kind, Meiya."
"Do not mock me," Meiya frowned.
"I suppose I shall overlook the incident from last week as well," Yuuhi mused.
"You saw that?!" Meiya blurted in alarm.
Yuuhi's eyes narrowed. "No," she replied, causing Meiya to wince. "But it appears my intuition was not wrong after all." She folded her arms and frowned at her younger sister. "You were seeking Takeru-sama's attentions during my time with him for two weeks in a row?"
"Uuu…" A blush stained Meiya's cheeks as she glanced away in shame. "It is no different than what you were doing earlier," she protested weakly.
Silence lingered between them for several moments. "I apologize, Aneue," Meiya mumbled finally.
"I apologize as well," Yuuhi replied. After a moment, the two sisters tentatively smiled at each other, the tension between them broken. "Shall we go?"
"Yes," Meiya nodded. Together, Meiya and Yuuhi left the dojo to chase down their fleeing prey.
After a tense breakfast, Takeru practically fled his house to make the familiar journey to his old high school to meet with Yuuko. The route was surprisingly busy for a Sunday. Some event was going on in town, though Takeru wasn't quite sure what it was. Even so, he made it to the familiar hill where his old school stood in good time. The cherry blossom trees were in bloom, acting as vivid pink guideposts for the street that ran up the hill.
Takeru entered the mostly empty school and headed towards the physics room. In the distance, he could hear the sounds of students who had come in for club activities and occasionally he saw a teacher catching up on their work in the hallways, but for the most part the school was empty.
"Shirogane-kun? What are you doing here?"
Takeru turned to see Marimo, who had emerged from the room he had just passed holding a stack of papers to her beige knitted sweater.
"Hey Marimo-chan," Takeru greeted her, smiling happily to see his favorite teacher. "Yuuko-sensei called me over for a bit," he explained.
"Yuuko did?" she asked curiously, her long brown skirt swishing around her boot-clad calves as she stepped closer. "Part of your research project with her?"
"Hmm…" she made a thoughtful noise. "I see."
"What?" Takeru blinked in confusion.
"Nothing," Marimo smiled briefly at him, brushing her hair back. "Umm… Shirogane-kun…" she began hesitantly.
"…What is it?"
Marimo's foot started to trace small circles in the linoleum floor. "I… that is…" she glanced around nervously, swallowing. "Myparentsareintown!" Marimo blurted in a rush, looking at his feet.
Takeru stared blankly at her, "…Huh?"
"And, well… that is… if it's okay with you…" she clutched the papers even more tightly to her voluptuous chest. "I'd like… you to… meet them…"
"Okay," Takeru agreed, not sure why she was so flustered.
"I mean—!" Marimo continued quickly. "It's been almost a year now… since we… and it's not like you're my student anymore… and I'm not getting any younger… almost thirty… all my old classmates are building families… my parents have been pressuring me… and then, the other day you said… that is…" she rapidly babbled for a minute, so fast Takeru could only grasp pieces of what she was trying to say. Finally, she trailed off, her head jerking up to stare at him. "…'Okay?'" Marimo mouthed.
"Yeah," he smiled. Watching Marimo get flustered was adorable. "Okay." Really, who got so nervous about having a friend meet their parents? Marimo-chan was just too cute sometimes.
"Thank you, Shirogane-kun~!" Marimo mewled tearfully in relief, stepping up to hug him. "Thank you for accepting meeee… thank youuu…"
Takeru patted her slender back reassuringly, though he wasn't quite sure why she was so grateful, and nervously hoped no one showed up to witness the scene.
After she had recovered her composure, Marimo stepped back, still sniffling slightly. She wiped her face with a hand and smiled radiantly at him. "I'll call you once I get the reservations taken care of, okay?"
"Sure," he nodded.
"Then… I'll let you go see Yuuko," Marimo said reluctantly. "See you later?"
"See you later," he nodded, smiling.
Grinning happily, Marimo twirled around and practically skipped down the hall.
Takeru watched her go, appreciating the sight of the lovely teacher bouncing away for a moment before turning to continue towards the physics room where Yuuko worked.
I had a dream.
It was a dream of—
"That's interesting," Kouzuki Yuuko interrupted, giving him an impatient look over the rim of the paper coffee cup she cradled in her hands. "But I didn't ask you over here to listen to your nighttime fantasies."
"I start to pour my heart out to you, and that's your response!?" Shirogane Takeru retorted incredulously. "What kind of teacher are you?"
"I'm not your teacher anymore."
"Geh!" Takeru made a frustrated noise in response to her instant counter.
That was true. Takeru technically wasn't her student anymore, at least not officially. He had started meeting with Yuuko outside on a semi-regular basis towards the end of his final year in high school. It had all started when Takeru's dreams had started featuring the day in class when Yuuko had started discussing her Quantum Causality Theory. When it kept repeating night after night, Takeru had finally bit the bullet and gone to Yuuko to ask about her theory. In the process, she'd mistaken his curiosity for a desire to become her research assistant—that is, her gopher—and he'd been stuck ever since.
"Besides, I'm a physics teacher, not a counselor. I never had any obligation to listen to your problems in the first place." After delivering those cold words, Yuuko took a sip of coffee, then sighed and placed the cup down on the table and leaned forward towards him. "Well?" the physics teacher asked expectantly.
"Well, what?" Takeru asked uncooperatively, sulking.
She glared. "Did you play it?"
"I know, right!?" she exclaimed, clapping her hands together and beaming at him. "It really was a shitty game! I can't believe it sold as much as it did." Yuuko paused, coughed slightly, and schooled her expression. "And?" she asked again, tilting her head.
"The trigger was the time traveling robot's multi-dimensional gun," Takeru stated, confident in his conclusion.
His latest assignment had been to play the game that had led to her epiphany and caused her to rework her theory, and then he had to identify what about the game had been the trigger for her.
It was a lot harder than it sounded. It had taken him most of a day to track the game down in the first place, since it had become an obscure item only found deep in the bargain bins of used game shops. Then it had taken more than a week for him to actually beat the thing. It was tortuously long, and every minute had been frustrating and painfully monotonous. Only sheer willpower had enabled him to slog through the game without giving up and pitching his Game Guy console out the window.
It was a seriously bad game.
To Takeru, the biggest mystery of all was why Yuuko had actually bothered to play through the whole thing in the first place.
"Exactly," Yuuko nodded, looking pleased. "You really understand how I think! I knew there was a reason you were my favorite student."
"You just said earlier you weren't my teacher!"
She flicked a delicate wrist dismissively, "Don't be so nitpicky."
Takeru suppressed a frustrated groan. She really drove him crazy sometimes. "So, now that I finished that stupid game like you asked, what's next?" he asked.
"Hmm," Yuuko tapped a finger to her lips thoughtfully. After a moment, she snapped her fingers. "Next, you need to get me another cappuccino," she announced.
"I just brought you one!"
"Yes, but…" she pouted and shook the cup slightly. "Now I'm almost out."
"No way!" Takeru folded his arms stubbornly. He was tired of being her gopher. She wasn't a teacher, she was just a tyrant! Well, he wouldn't bow to her selfish whims so easily.
"Please?" Yuuko pleaded, bending forward towards him, a move which displayed an astonishing view of her spectacular cleavage. Involuntarily, Takeru's eyes were drawn to the view she displayed.
A small part of his brain raised alarm klaxons, recognizing her ploy. But most of Takeru's brain was slowly falling under Yuuko's spell. Yuuko-sensei may have terrified him in some ways, and he deeply respected her intellect, but he was a young man in the prime of his life, and she was one of the most gorgeous women he had ever seen. It didn't hurt that her shapely, voluptuous chest seemed to emit a gravitational pull his eyes were helpless to resist.
"No…" he repeated half-heartedly, his will to resist dropping rapidly.
She looked at him with wide, pleading violet eyes. "Please~?" the young teacher asked again, childishly drawing out the syllables.
"I…" Takeru shook his head weakly, "…won't…"
"Shirogane…" she purred, bringing an arm up under her breasts. The effect nearly caused his eyes to pop out. "If you get me another one, I'll think about… reenacting… our last Christmas party together."
Takeru's mind instantly conjured up the memory of Yuuko dressed in an extremely skimpy Santa outfit, her cheeks flushed from alcohol. It was quickly followed by another memory of her without the skimpy outfit. His memory of the whole night was spotty, since he'd drunk a lot of sake himself, but even so several vivid images stood out.
It had been an incredible—and kind of terrifying—Christmas party.
"You… remember that?" Takeru asked nervously, his voice catching in the middle. He'd always thought she had forgotten; at least, she had always pretended she didn't remember. It had mostly been a relief to think so.
"I've never gotten so drunk that I've forgotten anything," she replied, looking amused at his suddenly fearful expression.
"But, you… you said…"
Her smile turned sly, "Oh? I don't recall ever saying I forgot about that."
Of course not, Takeru thought. It was typical Yuuko-sensei. She'd just made extremely leading comments to guide him to the conclusion she had wanted. Yuuko could be the most confusing woman he had ever met, and given the strange women he was surrounded by, that was really saying something.
"I…" he trailed off, confused. "Why now?" Takeru managed.
She shrugged slightly, "Why not?"
Takeru couldn't believe where the conversation was headed. He wondered if he was having one of those lucid dreams. "Yuuko-sensei… do you even like me that way?"
Yuuko's smile faded, replaced by a frown. She met his gaze evenly. "Do you really think I would bring it up if I didn't?" she asked quietly.
Danger! Takeru's instincts screamed at him. "No!" he blurted quickly, shaking his head in denial.
What was going on? Takeru felt more confused than ever. Had Yuuko-sensei just basically confessed that she liked him as a man? How had they even gotten from discussing a shitty video game to this? What was he supposed to say?
"Umm… I… That is, Sumika is…" he babbled.
"Oh?" Yuuko raised an eyebrow. "Do you really want to bring that up?"
"Kagami," she raised a finger. "The Mitsurugi sisters. Sakaki. Ayamine. Tamase. Yoroi. " Seven fingers were raised.
"Umm…" Takeru sweated.
"Plus, you seem to meet with Marimo quite a bit, despite not being her student anymore," Yuuko interrupted, now holding up eight fingers. "And I don't even want to guess what depraved things you've subjected Yashiro to." She held up a ninth finger.
"She's like a sister to me!" he blurted in automatic protest.
The ninth finger remained stubbornly up as she ignored his objection. "I don't think one more would make much of a difference at this point, do you, Mr. Love Nucleus?"
Yuuko remained a proponent of her theory that he was a love nucleus, possessing a force resembling how electromagnetism held electrons around a nucleus, only in his case the electrons were women and he was the nucleus.
Over time, Takeru had slowly come to believe in her theory as well. At the very least, he believed that something beyond common sense had to be involved in his complicated relationship with the women in his life. Some strange, invisible force had to be responsible for the fact that the girls had neither killed him nor abandoned him yet, despite being in a relationship that had far exceeded triangles and squares and was now easier described as spoked wheel.
"…no…" Takeru mumbled, overwhelmed by the implications of Yuuko's proposal yet unable to refuse.
"Great!" In the blink of an eye, Yuuko went from serious to cheerful. "Then you won't mind getting me another cappuccino, will you?"
Feeling strangely defeated, Takeru could only nod. "Okay…" he mumbled, dazed.
"When you're done, we'll discuss the paper you'll be writing on how the game and the Quantum Causality Theory are related. And then…" her voice abruptly dropped into a smoky purr, "…we can discuss… other matters."
"Ri—right," Takeru stuttered, a shiver going down his spine at the look she gave him.
"Well?" Yuuko made a shooing motion. "Get going."
Takeru got going.
He had never fetched coffee so fast in his life.
"Thank you, Tsukuyomi-san! It was delicious!" Sumika praised Tsukuyomi's dinner.
"Yeah," Takeru agreed between mouthfuls. "Thanks. It's really good."
Tsukuyomi was Takeru's favorite cook. She wasn't quite at the level of some of the famous chefs Meiya used to bring in to make him lunch, but she wasn't far off either. She'd also stealthily studied Sumika and his mom's cooking to discover the secrets behind the food Takeru had grown up eating. The end results had thoroughly blown Sumika's cooking out of the water, though the one time he'd absently made the mistake of saying so Sumika had made him painfully regret it.
For some reason, Sumika had glared at him and Tsukuyomi for weeks after that. Takeru was just glad that Sumika had eventually gotten over it.
"Thank you very much," Tsukuyomi smiled, pleased, and bowed slightly. "I am pleased that the food is not too cold for your liking," she murmured pointedly, shooting Takeru a cold glance before she retreated gracefully into the kitchen.
Takeru choked on a mouthful of rice. Damn you, Tsukuyomi! You traitor!
Takeru felt his palms grow clammy as the full force of Sumika's glower fell on him. He glanced away from Sumika, only to find Meiya studying him intensely. Nervously, he glanced at Kasumi, who continued to calmly, methodically eat. But her stoic silver eyes were fixed on him as well, and seemed almost accusing to Takeru's imagination.
He meticulously studied the grains in wood of the table, which seemed to be about the only safe place to look. "…yes?" Takeru replied reluctantly.
"You were pretty late for dinner." It would have sounded like a casual observation, except for the fact that her voice was cold enough to snap freeze a lake. "Why?"
"I too would like to hear the answer," Meiya said quietly, placing her chopsticks down with an ominous clack.
"Yuuko-sensei had a lot of errands for me to run…?" Takeru cursed himself as soon as he heard the words leaving his mouth. Why did he have to make it sound like he was asking them!?
"I see," Sumika nodded. Her eyes narrowed into slits. "And why do you have a hickey on your neck?!" she demanded.
Instinctively, he slapped a hand over his neck. A fire blazed to life in Sumika's crimson eyes.
"Takeru," Meiya looked at him searchingly. "Surely, on our promised day… you wouldn't have…?"
I'm going to die.
Something in his expression must have told them something, since the two girls shot to their feet. Takeru's skin crawled at the oppressive feeling in the air. His martial instincts blared a warning.
This is… killing intent!
He stumbled at of his chair and backpedaled away from the bloodthirsty girls.
"I really did have to run a lot of errands today!" Takeru protested.
"So Yuuko-sensei didn't give you that hickey?" Sumika questioned coldly, stepping towards him.
"Um…" he stuttered, his tongue tied. Shirogane Takeru was not a very good liar. This was a trait they loved about him, but he hated himself for at the moment.
"I see," Meiya murmured, shaking her head. Her look of disappointment was almost as painful as Sumika's impending fist would be.
"Ta… ke… ru… chan," the avatar of his doom rumbled.
"Meiya, help!" Meiya's lips pursed slightly at his voice, but his cry for help was ignored.
"Kasumi!" he glanced desperately at the silver haired teen watching from the table. Minutely, she shook her head, her rabbit ear like ribbons swaying at the motion.
Takeru's back hit a wall. "Sumika… let's talk about this, okay?" he pleaded for the second time that day, his voice shaking slightly. The demon continued to advance relentlessly, alien to the concepts of pity or mercy.
"Drill Milky Phantom!"
"Not the phantom—!" Takeru screamed.
An instant later, Sumika's ultimate one-hit-kill attack smashed into him, and his world went dark.
Daylight stung Takeru's eyes as he woke. He blinked, squinting at the beige ceiling of his bedroom until his pupils adjusted to the light.
His head throbbed.
Sumika, you idiot, that really hurt! I'd almost prefer you stick to the usual Drill Milky Punch in the future.
Or rather, just stop hitting me.
The Phantom variant of Sumika's signature attack was just way too dangerous. Okay, so maybe he'd deserved it, but still… Takeru's head felt like it was about to split open, his whole body seemed to ache, and a strange tingling feeling was going up and down his spine like a busy elevator.
At least it was blessedly quiet. The normal racket that filled his house in the morning would really make his head throb.
It was actually… unusually quiet.
There was a strange feeling in his gut.
Something was wrong.
He sat up slowly and glanced around his room warily. It looked the same as always. The air conditioning unit above his bed, his kickass Jet Syndrome poster, his bookshelves and desk… everything seemed normal. But still, there was something wrong.
It was 08:00 in the morning, but no one had woken him up. Sumika wasn't next to him, or making a commotion in the kitchen, or even banging on the door outside. Kasumi wasn't quietly nudging his shoulder. Meiya and Yuuhi hadn't snuck in again. Tsukuyomi wasn't politely knocking. The Three Idiots weren't making a ruckus. He couldn't really remember the last time he had woken up peacefully alone.
It was just strange.
Though, in retrospect, he supposed that wasn't surprising, given how mad Sumika and Meiya had been.
A part of him had known that he shouldn't have taken Yuuko-sensei up on her offer, but… Yuuko was just too beautiful, and... Something about her stirred feelings in him beyond just lust that he couldn't hold back, just like with the others. She was a constant presence in his strange dreams, someone important to him.
Sumika, Meiya, and the others would understand. For some bizarre reason that he had never been able to comprehend, they always did. His biggest regret was in disappointing Meiya by missing out on the time he had promised to spend with her. That had been a real jerk move.
Somehow, he'd have to come up with a way to make it up to her…
The strange feeling in his gut intensified.
Takeru's head snapped back to the wall by his desk.
The door to Meiya's room wasn't there.
He stared at the wall in confusion.
Memories flashed before his eyes. He remembered the day the door had first mysteriously appeared there, what seemed like a lifetime ago. He remembered Meiya coming in and out of it, smiling at him, frowning at him, talking with him... for a girl he'd only met about two years ago, he had so many memories of her.
"Okay then, let's grow up, marry each other, and have our birthdays together." He'd been a crazy little kid without a clue what he was really proposing. All he'd wanted to do was snap his newfound friend out of her depression.
But she had believed his words. "We can do that," Meiya had agreed thoughtfully.
"Okay, it's a promise!"
"Yes, a promise," she'd agreed again, happily.
Then she'd spent years holding onto his careless words like a treasure.
"Takeru, I am glad that we may spend this time together."
And when they met again, he'd not only forgotten her, but replaced her in his memories with Sumika.
"I wanted to see you, hear your voice, and feel your presence… I will say it as many times as you want."
"…even for me, dreams are not…"
He remembered the day the door disappeared, because he had been too stupid to remember his promise with her on time…
…That wasn't right.
Meiya had never left… had she?
"…at the very least… at the very least, I want… you, the man I love… to be the one… to send me to my grave…!"
That wasn't… that couldn't be…
Takeru grimaced and pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling his headache worsening. Memories tumbled through his skull like rocks in a washing machine. He remembered so many things, things that had happened, things that couldn't possibly have happened. Black spots danced before his eyes and for a moment Takeru saw double.
To steady himself, Takeru took several deep, slow breaths, carefully focusing all his attention on his breathing.
Something was really wrong.
The feeling in his gut had transformed into a bone-deep certainty.
Takeru shook his head, trying to clear away his strange sense of anxiety. "I can't stay here all day daydreaming," Takeru told himself firmly. At the very least, he could start his day as normal. His first class at the university wasn't until 10:00, so he still had plenty of time, even if Sumika and Kasumi had both atypically failed to act as alarm clocks. But he couldn't waste too much time unless he wanted to skip out on breakfast.
Within minutes, he was dressed and ready. Takeru grabbed his bag and headed for the door, only to pause for a moment with his hand hovering over the doorknob. Uneasy, he glanced back at the wall where Meiya's door had been, and then to his window where Sumika's house stood. Shaking his head again to clear his thoughts, he opened the door and headed to the kitchen.
Something was really, really wrong.
Takeru stared at the empty kitchen, where no food awaited him. Tsukuyomi was conspicuously absent, and Sumika remained elusive in the kitchen as well. His parents remained a distant memory, not that he'd held much hope of seeing them when they were off on another Mitsurugi-funded world tour. At this point, he would have even been glad to see Meiya's lethal, explosive culinary techniques at work. But there was no evidence that any of them had even been near the kitchen.
The house was eerily silent, except for the sound of Takeru's own heartbeat. A sensation of déjà vu hammered Takeru like a storm surge.
Something was wrong, but also… strangely familiar.
I had a dream.
This had happened before.
A dream of people living innocently, without knowing the meaning of peace.
With leaden feet, Takeru made his way to the front door.
I had a dream.
A dream of people risking their lives and living for the sake of protecting something.
It wasn't possible.
I think...only God knows which it was.
Takeru jerked the front door open and stepped outside.
A mournful wind sighed through the empty streets and between the ruined houses. A ruined city greeted Shirogane Takeru, as it had so many times before. His house stood, battered but still standing. The same could not be said for Sumika's house, which lay crushed beneath the corpse of a giant, robotic war machine.
So it wasn't… a dream…
His headache was gone.
Memories clicked into place.
"It was supposed to be over," the whispered words tumbled out of Takeru without volition. "…damn it."
He stared numbly at the ruined blue Gekishin. Details from another time, another world flickered through his mind.
Type-77/F4J Gekishin. An old first-generation Tactical Surface Fighter. Tough, but clunky and slow. A lot of F4 pilots would have disagreed with Takeru's assessment. But he had been spoiled by piloting the Type-97 Fubuki, which despite being a trainer was based on third-generation TSF technology, and the Type-94 Shiranui, which was a full blown third-generation fighter. He hadn't been particularly impressed by the Gekishin he had piloted, even though it'd been a relatively new Block 214 variant. It just hadn't been capable of moving the way he had wanted it to.
"But…" he blinked, perplexed. "I never used a Gekishin… did I?"
Takeru didn't think he had.
Except… he remembered…
That's right, of course he had. The very first time around, his squad had been assigned the Gekishin as their primary TSF. He'd spent years piloting one.
How had he forgotten…?
"Ah, geez!" he ran his fingers through his hair roughly. "I hate this!" Stupid quantum causality bullshit was messing with his head again. It was supposed to be over. He wasn't even supposed to be a causality conductor anymore. "Why is this happening?" he demanded in frustration, looking up at the sky.
According to Yuuko-sensei's theory, it had been Sumika who had made him into a causality conductor, along with something about the effects of the G-Bombs that he hadn't really understood. Without her, there shouldn't have been anything to pull him back to this world in the first place. But… if that was really the case, how was he here again?
No answer came to him. Not that he'd expected any. Answers in this world didn't come easily.
"Damn it," he said again wearily. Reality was sinking in. He was back. It didn't really matter how or why at this point. The truth was that he was back in a world at war with the BETA. It was a war that would be lost, unless he did something again.
Takeru marched back inside the house. It remained pristinely like his house in his peaceful world for now. Eventually the house would go back to the ruined state it really was in, though it made absolutely no sense to Takeru either way, but for now he would take advantage of it without looking the gift horse in the mouth.
The desk chair squeaked slightly as Takeru sank down heavily on it. He leaned back, staring at the ceiling as he grappled with the reality of his situation.
For a brief moment, he wanted to scream.
He had been home.
After everything he had seen and done, he had finally, finally made it home. He had lived in peace surrounded by the girls he loved in what he could only look back on as a utopia. All he'd had to worry about was balancing his massively complicated relationship with the girls, and some troubled dreams.
Shirogane Takeru had clawed his way back to heaven.
Now he had been thrown down to hell once more.
Yet again, he would have to go to war.
There was no question in his mind that he had to take action. His long dormant memories blazed through his thoughts. Among the heaviest of those were his memories of humanity's defeat; of Alternative V and the futile struggle that had followed. His memories after the migrant fleet had left were hazy, but he knew he had borne witness to the inevitable defeat of humanity on Earth.
It could never be allowed to happen again. Not while Takeru was here, not while his lungs still drew breath. He would protect humanity and its home world.
Prevent Alternative V.
The words were burned into his brain.
To prevent Alternative V, Alternative IV had to succeed like last time.
Takeru's thoughts skipped like a jostled record.
"Goodbye. The yakisoba bread was delicious."
Shirogane's eyes misted, remembering her final letter. It was just like her to end her last words on a joking note, as if she hadn't confessed her love a few lines before.
"My dream is still for everyone to be happy. I want everyone I love, everyone in the world to smile happily together. That dream won't change."
It was a struggle for him to banish the image of her broken corpse, but the sincere, positive words she had left for him helped Takeru supplant it with the image of the living Tama.
"Finally, there's one last thing I want to tell you, Takeru. This will be the last time you have to put up with my antics, so bear with it. I've been hiding it for a long time, but I love you, Takeru. …As a girl, of course."
She'd said she would write in her usual style, but her letter had remained lucid from start to finish. In the end, he regretted that he'd never told her that he had started to see her as a girl.
"Finally, please forgive me for being cowardly, selfish and weak enough to write this. I loved you."
"Class Rep… Chizuru."
More than anyone, her straightforward words had surprised him the most. He had only glimpsed the surface of the burdens that had weighed her down, and he'd never even guessed what her true feelings were. He really was as dumb as she'd accused him of being.
"…at the very least… at the very least, I want… you, the man I love… to be the one… to send me to my grave…!"
She had loved him. And he had killed her.
"I was able to fight hard until the end…. because of the Santa rabbit you gave me, Takeru-chan. Thank you… so much… so, so much…"
Takeru ground his teeth together, his nails digging sharply into his palms at the overpowering memories that assaulted him. Memories of his comrades… his friends… the girls he had loved… filled his vision. He remembered living with them in his original, peaceful world, and he remembered fighting with them in a world consumed by war.
Most of all, he remembered that he had failed to protect them.
They had died.
That was unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable.
This time, he had to make sure it went better than the last. This time, he would bring the people that were precious to him home. After falling in love and being loved in return, to lose them again… he didn't think he could survive it.
Save my friends.
Takeru etched the goal deeply into his brain. He would not and could not fail them again.
Defeat the BETA and save humanity.
It was the only way to end it all. Somehow, someway, no matter how unrealistic it seemed, the BETA had to be defeated and driven from Earth. There would still be countless BETA out there, among the stars, but if they could at least reclaim Earth, humanity could gain some breathing room. If they didn't... no, they just had to. Otherwise, his friends would never have a chance to experience true peace. Otherwise, mankind would eventually tip over the edge to extinction.
"Prevent Alternative V," Takeru said aloud. "Save my friends. And defeat the BETA and save humanity."
Those were his goals.
Just three simple objectives, but between them was a wealth of meaning and a world of obstacles. Even one of them alone would be nearly impossible. Last time, armed with foreknowledge and skill, he had barely managed to prevent Alternative V, and while he had won a great victory against the BETA in helping destroy the Original Hive, he hadn't been able to see the BETA on Earth truly defeated. And during the process, he'd brought untold catastrophe upon another world due to his cowardly behavior.
And… he hadn't been able to save his friends.
But that was last time.
Shirogane Takeru had fought and despaired and ultimately fulfilled the goals he had set out to accomplish. It hadn't been anywhere near perfect, but in the end, he had succeeded in what he had originally set out to do. After all that, there was no reason to whine about the difficulty of his goals now.
Determined, he made a fist. "I will prevent Alternative V," Takeru growled fiercely to himself, subduing his inner doubts. "I will save my friends. And I will defeat the BETA and save humanity."
If he didn't believe it was possible, then he would fail before he even began. So even if he had to hypnotize himself, even if it was all just a naïve, egotistical delusion, he would believe in his goals and strive to fulfill them.
The only question was what did he need to do to not only succeed again, but do better?
In order to prevent Alternative V, Alternative IV needed to succeed. That meant that he had to help Yuuko complete the 00-Unit. To do that, she needed the equations that his world's Yuuko had thought up.
To get those equations, he had leapt across worlds and brought death in his wake. He couldn't do that again. Yet, despite Takeru's studies with her, he hadn't learned enough about his Yuuko's revised Quantum Causality Theory to give it to this world's Yuuko by himself. And this Yuuko would never figure out the revised theory on her own; this world, this culture just didn't have the stimulus that the other Yuuko had experienced.
Takeru froze, his eyes widening in realization. He quickly yanked open the top left drawer of his desk and began rummaging around frantically. After a few moments of searching, he raised a plastic case into the air triumphantly. The cover displayed a hardboiled little humanoid robot on top a mountain of shadowy corpses clutching a chain gun in its hands and a knife between its teeth, set against a background of flames. Bold English letters declared the game's tacky title, the Burning Fighting Chronicles.
"I'm so glad I didn't throw this away," Takeru heaved a deep, heartfelt sigh of relief. The shitty game he held just might be able to help save the world.
Takeru's heady feelings of relief faded quickly, his mind once again turning back to consider the next step.
Even if the crappy game helped Yuuko come to the same conclusions her counterpart had reached, which was a big if, there was a major problem with the completion of the 00-Unit.
As soon as Sumika needed ODL purification, all the information she learned would be passed to the BETA via the reactor deep beneath Yokohama base. That meant that there was an extremely short time between showing the results of Alternative IV to the world, thus preventing Alternative V, and the BETA learning everything.
Any assault on Kashgar would need to happen within 3 days. Yet with such a short amount of time to prepare, Takeru couldn't see how the operation could end any better that the last time.
Somehow, they had to keep Sumika from passing information to the BETA. Or at least, delay it as much as possible to buy more time to prepare for a full scale assault on Kashgar.
Takeru grimaced. There was nothing he could think of to solve that particular issue. He would just have to hope something occurred to him along the way, or rely on Yuuko-sensei to figure something out.
If they could work out those issues, then maybe they could destroy the Original Hive without sacrificing all of his comrades.
The desk chair squeaked as Takeru stood, finally ready to get started. He methodically gathered some items that he thought might be useful, including the game case and his portable GameGuy console, and stuffed it in a duffle bag. Then Takeru slowly made his way downstairs, silently saying his goodbyes to his home and the ghosts living in it.
When Takeru made it to the entryway, he slipped on his shoes and paused with a hand on the front door. "I'm off," he announced, looking back into the house.
He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and hardened his expression before opening the door.
With determined strides, Takeru began the trek towards the distant hill where everything would begin again.
Muv-Luv was the created by Age, not me. All the concepts and characters from the franchise are theirs. This is a non-profit work of fiction.
Thanks for reading the first chapter of Breaking the Tide.
This came about after I ended up playing through the Muv-Luv trilogy recently. I'd heard a lot of (mostly) good things about it before, while somehow managing to stay unspoiled about the plot (aside from the vague knowledge that there would be giant robots eventually), and finally got around to getting it. It was quite a journey. By the time I finished Alternative, I was in dire need of therapy. So that's when I started writing this, as a sort of catharsis. That's why it starts in traditional Muv-Luv fashion, with harem comedy. Because damn it, I wanted a happy end after all that suffering. And then also in traditional Muv-Luv fashion, after Takeru essentially attains the best end somehow, quantum wizardry comes along to ruin his day. Because it just wouldn't be Muv-Luv otherwise.
I alone proofread this chapter, so there may be (or rather, almost certainly will be) mistakes that I missed. If you see any, please point them out. Anyways, please tell me what you think. Any comments and/or criticism you have on grammar, spelling, or the story in general would be highly appreciated.