RoseIII—Left Hand of the Dragon—The Bamboo Dragon [Book Eight]

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    Default RoseIII—Left Hand of the Dragon—The Bamboo Dragon [Book Eight]

    I've decided as a final measure to combine the plots of The Bamboo Dragon and Fade to Black, and to eliminate the epilogue. Perhaps at a later date I would be more inclined to explain why I did so. However, for now, I merely bring to you the end of RoseIII.

    =========================================================

    The Right Hand of the Dragon:
    I: The Story of the Roses (1-17)
    II: The Antics of the Roses (18-34)
    III: Tokyo (35-48)
    IV: Ecruteak (49-80)

    Changing Hands:
    V: A Little Game of Life (1)

    The Left Hand of the Dragon:
    VI: 2436 (1-4)
    VII: The Cimmerian (5-14)
    VIII: The Bamboo Dragon (15+)

    =========================================================


    Chapter Fifteen: The History of Love

    ::Takeru::

    I had become everything that, for my entire life, I had loathed and despised. The people feared me and remembered my crimes at mere mention of my name. And yet most could not believe that I could ever possibly exist. I was what, in my time, had been called a Yami. I was considered myth.

    Quickly in wake of the fall of the Bell Tower had science prevailed in dominance over the people. Gene Rhesh had released his hundreds of mutant creatures, known otherwise as Pokémon—Pocket Monsters—upon the unsuspecting world. The people had feared the Pokémon at first. After a century had passed, the humans feared their own native creatures, and the Pokémon had made themselves at home amongst the wildlife. The humans had as early as such begun to train the Pokémon to eradicate the animals; from this era of hunting methods evolved what would become known as Pokémon battles. The humans thought they understood the Pokémon entirely. And yet they had still to understand themselves.

    Ever since the day of my fall from power, that terrible day in which Rukuru had devoured my hand, I had turned further and further inward, forever lonely and forlorn. I could no longer bring myself out in public, and no longer held any love in my life. I felt like I had no reason to live, except for reviving my once legendary collection of dolls. This time, however, there was not inspiration to my work. This time it was a calling. It had to be done.

    Yet still I went on living, having taken residence at Mount Peal. I had contracted for a vast mansion to be built. At the time I'd thought that sparing no expense to feed my luxury would ensure my mind's ease. But it was my voice and mine alone what echoed in my limitless corridors.

    Recently I'd looked into funding the construction of several of the buildings that would stand in what would become the neighbourhood of my childhood. The most notable of these would be the Ecruteak Technical. However, prior to its use as an educational facility, it was known as the only asylum in Johto. No one had ever known that the school had been housing for the mentally deranged a century prior to my time. At least, they'd never spoken of it. I suppose that its inhabitants have to have been quite something horrible for no one to want to remember the place. It had made me wonder what happened to the poor souls.

    Because I was funding the entire ordeal, those involved with the finished product granted me permission, albeit an odd request, to have visiting rights with the patients. Delightful company I'd be soon to have. None of them knew who I was. I believe that they would have allowed me regardless of whether or not they'd known who I was.

    I sat atop the westernmost steeple of my estate, solemnly observing the midnight sky. The crescent moon hung itself low in the sky, as though a platinum scythe ready to harvest the woodlands below. The crisp breeze billowed my clothing, biting my cheeks gently. After having closed my eyes for a moment in quiet respect of the night around me, I took up my viola, which I'd bought in Olivine from an exotic trader and was made of an oak tree native to the Orange Islands. I sighed deeply, then began to play. The sound of my music had been my only companion for so long. But it was, if anything at all, merely the sound of my forlorn heart.

    God, I felt old....

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Rukuru::

    I'd wandered for two centuries now, and I'd not once felt as though I fit. I suppose it's because I really didn't fit, and because I wasn't supposed to. On rare occasions I'd light in a town or village for around a month before moving on. But it was usually a few days before I was jeered and despised. I still was incapable of concealing myself....

    Just before the turn of the twentieth century, I had settled down a bit more, and had circled Kanto more than I had jumped around all over everywhere. I'd discovered that the East Coast had been that of outcasts. I soon found my place there. I would wait for Sarina. She would know how to cure me of my disease.

    I'd wandered the streets of Lavender for many years after I had decided to settle myself down. Most would describe my nature at the time as haunting from how regularly I paced. I was impatient, I suppose....

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    The years of erection had passed quickly compared to all before them. Anticipation devoured the time ravenously, leaving little or no remains behind.

    In the first few weeks there had been only two patients. One of them was not truly insane. The other was completely mad. The first was considered insane by his family because he was a brilliant philosopher. He saw what others could not. The second had believed he'd been abducted by demons, and now was watched by them. He could have been truthful, sadly enough.... I felt sorry for both of them.

    At first there had only been orderlies acting as prison guards. A few months after its beginning, the asylum was given a psychiatrist at the pleas of the friends and family of the patients. I'd desired to talk to him at the time, and had a meeting arranged.

    ~*~*~

    I walked through downtown Ecruteak in noon sunlight, my hair bright gold, my eyes like emeralds. The resplendant silk in which I was clothed shone like rippling, black water. The townspeople had been silent as I passed through. I didn't blame them—I felt as though, regardless of my façade, anyone could see no shadow walked behind me. It walked, instead, in place of me.

    I knew my way around the town quite well, despite the lack of familiar places, and quickly made my way up the hill to the Asylum. The building was poorly lit, albeit gorgeously furnished, but I could see my way to the doctor's quarters.

    I entered without a sound, having phased through the door, and observed the man as he shaved his face in the mirror. He noticed me nearby and twitched, cutting himself. My eyes flashed a mad gold as I tried to keep myself in check.

    "I—you startled me, Sir," the blond began, chuckling nervously as he held his right palm to his jawline. "I didn't hear you enter...."

    I continued to fluster at the scent of the wound. "Then I suppose your senses are not as acute as to be expected...." I glared at him, approaching him and offering a gloved handshake. "My name is Itoh, Keiji Itoh. I'm the one who contracted this place to be built."

    He took my hand in his with apprehension. He could not shake the chill of my gaze. "I—I have heard much about your expenditures, Sir, but I haven't heard much of
    anything about you...."

    "Before I tell you anything about
    me, I'd like to know your name, Doctor." A smirk curled the corner of my mouth.

    His cobalt blue eyes lost their shine for a moment, as though he felt some sheer dread deep within him. "I—I'm Mortimer Rivelle...."

    I leaned closer to him and held my left hand to his cheek, looking into his eyes. He tried to pull away from me, the tall, slender young man that he was, but failed to do so. "Yes, Morty Rivelle.... I am more than familiar with
    you, Sir...."

    He swallowed hard. "N—now that you know who I am, would you tell me about yourself?"

    "If you are such a wonderful psychiatrist, why not try to analyze me?" I grinned, my eyes glittering impishly.

    This made him feel instantly as though he were about to step out onto a minefield. If he were to say the wrong thing and upset me, he could lose his job. However, this was a test to prove himself to me.

    He swallowed hard, then proceeded nervously to his analysis. "You don't like to be shown up, and you yourself like to show off.... Y—your voice speaks volumes about your self-confidence and capability to dominate people."

    I chuckled. "You really are an empath, arren' you?" I began quietly.

    "What?" he echoed, confused and now increasingly worried.

    "You'll make a wonderful doctor here, Rivelle. I'm looking forward to seeing the results of your work." Then I began to leave.

    "I didn't say that I was finished with my analysis."

    I stopped, but did not turn. "Hm?"

    Again he swallowed hard, but was determined to get it out. "You're concealing yourself. You're hiding your true nature. .... Your name is not really Itoh, either, is it?"

    I turned to him, now slightly offed by his audacity. "You're a brave one to admit your knowledge openly, Rivelle. It's not wise to brag to the Fearow that you're the one who's plucked his tail."

    He stepped away from me in fright, seeing the look in my eyes. "Why are you here?" he uttered. "Why did you fund the construction of the asylum?"

    "Is it so wrong for a sad and lonely man to desire companionship?"

    It struck him then. "You see this place as a zoo, and the patients as the animals on display...!"

    I smiled wickedly. "I have more reasons to have given the breath of life to this place than just my amusement...." Approaching him again, I removed rather harshly his hand from his jaw; I paused over his neck, smelling of the small wound for a moment before licking it clean with a pointed tongue. "I should think that I'd watch my step," I warned, letting out a low, throaty growl. The sight of his petrifaction calmed me, and I plucked the barber's knife from his hand gingerly, licking it clean as he stared at me in terror.

    "Wh—who are you...? Who are you really?"

    "Do you really want to know?" I grinned.

    Silence.

    I chuckled, crossing my arms across my chest and closing my eyes in slight annoyance at his lack of backbone. I lazily opened all seven of the eyes in my head, my aureate gaze moving up from the floor to him. I giggled maniacally, my hair turning as black as the clothes I wore. "You won't be able to hide anything from me, Rivelle. I see everything that you do."

    "Wh—what are you!?" he wailed, almost silently, as he backed himself up against the wall.

    "So the question has turned from who to what?" I mused, licking my freshly-cut fangs. "What are
    you? You say that I'm the wolf in sheep's clothing, yet you yourself hide the truth of your being."

    His eyes went wide in disgust of me. I merely chuckled at him.

    "You really dunno who I am...." I closed my eyes again, opening them this time five less than before. "I think you're just in denial of being employed by a creature you both hate and fear."

    He stammered, but said nothing, flustering.

    "You may be an empath, Rivelle, but you have yet to prove to me that you have the gall to keep my pets in good health." Tossing the knife down at his commode such that the tip stuck itself in the wood, I approached him and took his right hand up in both of mine. "Do ensure my doubting mind that you will do your job well," I sang.

    He nodded dumbly, unable to do much else in the wake of such revelations.

    I let go of him and flicked my hair back over my shoulders, returning it to its previous golden tones. Then, a blink of my eyes left them their false green. I looked over my shoulder to him as I left him. "Remember, m'dear, that I will know every move you make. Step falsely and you'll end up on the other side of the doors you tend." Then I phased through the door.

    -=: [rose.iii] -=:=- [the.kuraitenshi] -=:=- [those.things.with.wings] :=-

    i'll believe all your lies, just pretend you love me
    make believe, close your eyes
    i'll be anything for you

  2. #2
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    Chapter Sixteen: The Fever of Infection

    I sighed, depressed deeply, stopping my playing and staring at my bare hands in disgust. Letting my form fail me, I allowed my demon to rear its ugly head. My flesh seemed to rot as it became a nauseating blue; as it scaled over, one could believe hundreds of cream-coloured boils had arisen from the crusted surface, but, in truth, they were hundreds of eyes, what held in each of them an iris as golden as the pair within my face. As my face tapered outward into a sort of muzzle and as my fangs grew longer and enumerated, five more eyes formed—two sweeping back above each of my natural eyes and one in the middle of my forehead. My ears tapered back to their usual elfin nature, and my hair wilted and tangled. My nails became horrible, misshapen claws. From that point forward the typical changes involved in the shift ensued—the tail, the wings, and the size of the Kuraitenshi. "Mutant," I hissed at myself, seeing my shadow cast upon the ground about a hundred feet below me.

    Then I took flight. I needed to clear my head.

    ~*~*~

    It had been, over the course of two hundred years, Xyra who had done this to me.... She hated me wholly, and perpetually sought to exact revenge upon me for having allowed her to be seen by my brother as a loose creature. I think that it had more been my attitude towards her that night, but I remember it this way because it sounds better....

    Her skill in working herself into her victims (namely, me) had increased exponentially in such a short period of time that it shocked even herself. She'd grown accustomed to making additions at her own accord; however, due to the experimental nature of her father's serums, she'd introduced several genetic complications into my system. Over time they've worsened drastically, and their timing of choosing to act up is so synchronised that I consider them one, not many. I fear what it can do to me.... It's already combined my Kuraitenshi, Espeon, and Ditto strands. I can't bear to think what sort of abomination I'd become if anything else were added to the mix....

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Rukuru::

    I allowed myself, upon hearing the news, to become fully Kuraitenshi, and had, at once, leapt up into the air and taken flight to go to my brother at once. I had to tell him the good news.

    It took a good two hours' flying to reach Ecruteak, but I caught sight of him the instant I saw the rooftops of the town. I flew up to him and began a conversation in telepathy.

    Kombanwa, otouto-san, I greeted, zipping up from beneath him to his side.

    Hn? Ah, komban, he returned, solemn.

    Doushita'-ka? I prodded.

    You're definitely happy to see me, he grumbled.

    Well, I came here to talk to you....

    What do you want?

    I heard this afternoon that Sarina's on her way to Saffron.

    He instantly took a dive.

    See? I came with good news!

    Why would she be able to help me? he wailed, falling nose-first through the air, staring straight down at the ground below. He waited until it was almost undeniable that he'd crash before pulling out of it and zipping along the ground. I heard him snivel telepathically, but he said nothing more.

    S—something's wrong, isn't it, otouto-san? I let the wind out of my wings until I fell down to meet his low altitude. Why don't we land someplace so we can talk?

    His laugh was stitched in agony. You want to sit and talk.... How... quaint. Fine. Follow me. He then took a massive amount of wind up in his wings and soared in the blink of an eye back up the thousand feet he'd lost a moment prior. As he'd directed, I followed him.

    We approached Mount Peal, where a magnificent mansion had been built. The steeples of countless towers surrounding it soared a hundred feet in the air, seeming needles sticking up from the earth below. The architecture was elegant and highly ancient. It was built on the Ruins of the Bell Tower. When my brother landed on the roof of the main part of the house, I knew that the mansion was his.

    "How long has this piece of work been here?" I mused, admiring it.

    "Long enough," he snapped quietly. "You're blind, you know."

    I turned to look at him, sounding inquizically. Upon seeing that my gaze fell upon him, he returned the gaze. With a hundred more eyes, which stared at me from all parts of his body, glowing with the light of the golden crescent moon. He let out a low, throaty growl, insulted deeply by me.

    Upon walking slowly up to him I realised that his scales were no longer black, but instead an iridescent and mysterious-looking blue. Then I realised that the pupils of the eyes that covered his body weren't pupils and shivered. I poked at one and he hissed at me, shrinking from my touch.

    "I'm not so much of a beast, now, am I, that I call for being poked and prodded?"

    I frowned. "Forgive me.... I couldn't resist...."

    "Yes... lack of self-control.... That's what brought me to be like this in the first place...."

    I said nothing, too afraid that any comment from my overly hyperactive spirits would cause him to go into some fit of anger or another.

    "Xyra's had her way with me more than once, in more ways than one..." he sighed, sitting himself down on the edge of the rooftop. I followed suit. "She's had control of me several times since the Bell Tower Incident.... And each time she's brought yet another of her father's serums with her for forcing me to drink...."

    "What the hell has happened to you, though? You're not of any sort of creature I'm familiar with...."

    He stewed over the statement. "She's made me a chimera, Rukuru.... I'm not even a Kuraitenshi anymore.... Or an Espeon.... Or a Ditto.... I fail to recognise that my humanity's survived in the slightest...."

    "Two-hundred years can do that to a person, I suppose," a voice muttered behind us. We turned to find a shadowed figure standing there. He approached us, and, upon coming into the light, Takeru seemed uneasy. "I saw the two of you up in the air and decided that I'd introduce myself. Takunei Rei."

    Nayama, Takeru whispered to me, slowly becoming upset.

    My eyes shot wide in cognition.

    "You said something about not being 'a Kuraitenshi anymore'..." he wondered, his stance falling loose and casual. "What I want to know is how either of you were Kurai to begin with."

    "You should know," Takeru growled maliciously, standing and snuffling the air, towering easily over the Tenshi. "You can't recognise a fellow Kurai with the same genetics as you?" He roared at him, then fell to stand on all fours and advanced on the boy, who took several sweeping steps away. "I got my strand from you, and my brother here got his strand from me. We're all the same, now, arren' we?"

    "W—what are you talking about!?" he squeaked, falling to the rooftop.

    The sound of flesh crawling ensued, and soon all of the Bamboo Dragon's eyes were set upon him. "We're from the future, Bouya. Both of us are easily two-hundred years older than you. We've been around."

    He shivered at being stared at by such a creature. I would have done the same, regardless that I felt I knew the creature well. I was my brother, after all....

    "What do you really want, Takunei?" he muttered, annoyance in his voice.

    "I—" He fell silent, then his gaze down to the roof, able no longer to meet my brother's. "I came here to Gaia about a year ago, and I've looked for a place to settle in. Ecruteak had seemed like a fair enough place.... The mountain range to the East and the sea to the West makes for delightful winds for flying, and the locals don't have a reputation that I know of. I was just scouting around to see if there were any precautions to take should I reside here. And I found two of them."

    "Lovely that you think we're something you need to worry about," I half-complained, bitingly. I still had yet to get to know the fellow. I'd heard such talk about him, but had never met him in person. "What makes you think that we can't just get along?"

    "You haven't been a Kurai long enough to understand the stupidity of that comment, Rukuru," Takeru snapped, not looking to me. "I know you've been wandering the continents for the past two centuries, so the strand hasn't actually asserted itself within you. You can't say that you've matured into a Kuraitenshi because you have no territory to defend." He returned the topic to Nayama. "Which brings me to ask you why you left. Hanehasu just issun what she used to be? Hm?"

    "You're from the future," he spat, defencive. "You should know that the government's fallen from archaic fear and superstitious prejudice. Anarchy arose because of my feud with the Shirotenshi. And I can't even be given peace of mind when I go out into any town because all of them either know my face or know me. I thought I could start anew here. I thought that it could be different here. But now I see that Kuraitenshi have already staked their claim upon Gaia. I can't cope with that."

    Takeru grabbed him by the collar and pressed his nose against his, his eyes flashing open again as he spoke with passion. "You have no spine if you can simply crawl away from a new life just because two old fogies are sitting pretty on the Capitoline overlooking your new roost. This is your time to become greater than you ever have before, Takunei. You cannot deny yourself the right to a new world."

    Why let him ruin two worlds? I began to him. Why let him have his way with his *and* ours?

    This isn't our world, he began, terse.

    "What do you want me to do?" he snapped, now growing increasingly irate. I saw the look in his eyes and anticipated for him to drop the humanoid guise for his true self. Yet he refrained then. "What? From the looks of things, you have Ecruteak. You have the world in your hands. You're on top of the world sitting right here. You have everything you want."

    "You dun know me, Kurai," he hissed, splaying angrily.

    "I do know that you could easily do whatever you like to this world and not one person could even beging to tell you otherwise. I've heard about you. I may not know you, but I know how you are."

    He let out a low growl in response.

    "If you know him so well, then why are you antagonising him?" I began, sick of his juvenile actions and words.

    "He's got a fever and he knows it," he replied nonchalantly, gaze locked sickeningly upon Takeru's natural eyes.

    The confrontation tweaked something deep within the Dragon and he went into a brief series of convulsions before regaining his composition, breaking a sweat. "I hate people who act like they know everything," he uttered, disgust in his voice. The moonlight reflected off his teeth, which were now even longer than before.

    "I don't know everything. I just catch on quick." Then he vanished.

    My brother simply stewed for minutes on end before having spoken another word. "And to think that that pipsqueak is the one who bloody caused the downfall of the Tenshi race."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    I brought Rukuru into my estate, the both of us having put away our sharp ends, and I showed him to where he would stay for the time being. We'd decided, the both of us, that we'd go to see Sarina within the week.

    "You're lonely here, aren't you?" he began, commenting upon the way our footsteps echoed throughout the hollow corridors.

    "You always have been one for the painfully obvious, havvun you, onii-san?"

    Neither of us said anything until we came to the room I'd decided to allow him to have. It was on the far end of the place, out of reach from my den. Despite how starved for company I was, I didn't want him into anything of mine.

    "Where are your quarters?" he began as I opened the door and let him in. Upon seeing how dark it was he located the candelabra on the endtable and used a bit of electrical static to illuminate it.

    "I sleep in the West Wing," I replied. "Leave my loneliness unbroken, dear brother. I woddun want to have to do anything drastic at sensing my domain threatened."

    "Th—" He shut up a moment. "What happened to you, Takeru?" he uttered. "What did he say that got under your skin?"

    "It wassun what he said so much as how he said it..." I replied, bitter. "The viruses Xyra's introduced into my genetics are triggered by hormones—notably, adrenaline."

    "It was a literal panic attack, then?"

    "You could put it that way." My gaze followed the walls of the room for a moment, then came to rest upon my brother again. "I take it that you won' need anything from me until the end of the week?" I inquired, hinting that I wanted for him to do as he needed and for him to leave me alone.

    "I suppose it's to be expected as such," he replied, solemn. "But I had hoped that we could spend some time together, little brother.... We haven't been together in such a time...."

    I glared at him. "You're so sentimental, onii-san.... It sickens me."

    "Are you really so cold and hard now that you don't even care about the one family tie you have...?"

    ".... I prefer solitude. My heart knows not to wander. It gets lost too easily."

    "If you'd rather it that way, then I can't stop you from having it that way," he sighed. "Oyasumi nasai, otouto-san." He closed the door behind him with a short, metallic click.

    I stood there several minutes before walking off, my footsteps then the only sound I heard until I was to my quarters. I worked until daybreak on my collection of dolls. I had to prepare them for my elder brother. I had to show him that I was not truly alone....

    ~*~*~

    I came up to his door two evenings from then and knocked before phasing through the door at not receiving an answer. He stared out the window at the waxing crescent moon, sitting on the windowsill. "I thought you wanted to be left alone, Takeru."

    "I thought that you might fancy to see my new vogue children...."

    The comment immediately snatched his attentions. He followed me without hesitation.

    He immediately understood what I'd meant when he stepped foot into my studio. His stare followed the room endlessly, the candlelight dancing upon the faces of the thousands of dolls, which sat on the shelves of the vast room. "Wicked creations, they are," he whispered, on edge by the multitude of porcelain figurines. "They remind me of demons...."

    "Everyone has their own demons to contend with," I began, admiring them solemnly as I, too, entered the room, pacing and gazing upon my beauties.

    "But why, Takeru?" he continued. "Why did you have to begin all over again? These beasts tortured you in your youth; why contend further with the insanity?"

    "Sanity is relative," I replied, smiling slightly as I picked up one of my darlings in my arms and held her cheek to mine, hugging her. "They calm me, Rukuru. They really do...."

    "They aren't real," he uttered, cold and uncomprehending.

    "Who's to say what's real? The mortals cannot perceive reality, and we've evolved from them. We feel the effects of time, regardless of our resilience. We are no longer mortal, but we retain the need to know we have a reality. I make my own reality. And I like it."

    "Being alone really has driven you insane, hasn't it?" he continued, prying the doll from my arms.

    Horrified beyond recognition, I glared at him as he returned her to the shelf. "You never have understood me, have you, onii-san? You never have seen your true potential. You know you're human no longer—you know you're not mortal—and yet you continue to live as one! You could be so much more! This is why you are my lesser! This is why you are not a true Kuraitenshi! This... this is why you have failed to evolve!"

    He merely returned the glare. "I'm not your lesser because I choose to live as I've known for years to live. I'm your lesser because you see me in such light." He splayed and flapped his wings once, blowing out half the candles in the room, perhaps more. "You live in darkness, otouto-san."

    "I can see in the darkness," I sneered, anger welling up deep within me. I cried out in pain when I felt the virus overwhelm me yet again. The golden aura from my seven eyes haunted him then.

    "You only think you can," he retorted a minute or so afterwards. "You want me to leave you be, then so be it. I want no part in the twisted games you play."

    "I want it no other way," I smiled contentedly, watching him leave me in silence and picking up the same doll as before, stroking her sable ringlets as I held her to my breast.

    -=: [rose.iii] -=:=- [the.kuraitenshi] -=:=- [those.things.with.wings] :=-

    i'll believe all your lies, just pretend you love me
    make believe, close your eyes
    i'll be anything for you

  3. #3
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    Leave me alone. I hate you all. x_x

    Chapter Seventeen: The City of Brotherly Love

    I sat up dazedly, several of my dolls falling to the sides of me. My bed was covered in them. I held one of them in my arms, solemnly caressing her cinnamon hair and looking into her soft black eyes. "Kanashii, why must I, in my old age, have so great a difficulty in stringing consciousness together with elapsed time...?" I inquired of her. "I cann' even remember how or why I've brought you and all your sisters to lay with me...." Then I saw that it was night and instantly stood, rushing to the window. "Kanashii, how long was I asleep...?"

    "Two weeks, otouto-san," a dark, put-off voice mumbled from behind me. I turned to find a pair of glowing, pale blue eyes glaring at me in the darkness. A moment passed before I recognised his form to be my brother's. "You really shouldn't drink so heavily, you know. One would think you to be a pædophile with all the young girls with whom you lay...."

    I gave a short, seething hiss to his derision of me, then approached him. "You really shoddun be one to tell me how to live."

    "You're right. I should just leave a withered old man to live in his musty mansion and dusty dolls. It's not my place to tell a dying man how to live."

    "You should know better than to berate me, onii-san," I began, my entire body surging with a sensation of death. I felt my back strain against the wings quickly forming in my back.

    He saw the glow in my eyes and backed off a bit. "You know, I've waited patiently for you to wake up."

    "You rather seem impatient," I muttered.

    "You don't make the best host, Takeru," he grumbled, miffed. "You know very well that the people of Ecruteak don't take too kindly to me."

    The tenseness of my body faded, but still my eyes remained Kuraitenshi. "Then I suppose my otouto-san is hungry?" I play-pouted, palming his cheek gently and looking up at him. I quickly pulled my wrist back when he snapped at me and hissed. "I suppose so..." I chuckled, walking out of my room, stroking my beautiful Kanashii in my arms.

    Rukuru followed me.

    "I'm rather famished as well, seeing as I havvun eaten in what you've said is two weeks," I remarked, our footsteps echoing in the halls as I led the way. We came to the North side of the mansion rather quickly from my wing, whereupon I opened a door to the outside, breathing deeply of the wonderful night air. The waxing moon was hung high in the air. "Come now, darling," I sang wickedly, licking my teeth as I grinned and splaying; yet, I did not allow my demon to consume me. I left Kanashii lying in the grass as I took flight, leading him into town. "I'll feed my onii-san."

    He made neither hesitation nor objection, and promptly followed me into town in similar fashion. I could clearly tell he was hungry. I grinned to myself, contented for the first time in over a hundred years. My brother was again under my thumbnail.

    ~*~*~

    I landed silently in an alleyway; not soon after was Rukuru behind me. The two of us crept up to the corner of the alley and glanced around to both ways, then returned to the shadows.

    Allow me to demonstrate my prowess, I uttered ravenously, growing intensely eager to hunt. I'm already an urban myth to the people of Ecruteak; thus, women are prudent enough to wear starched collars here.... It is fashionable for men to do so, making both sexes in equal need of strategy.

    Then I take it that you've sustained yourself all these years solely upon these poor people?

    When you put it that way... of course, I replied nonchalantly.

    You really do think you're a vampire, don't you? he dug.

    You really think that you arren', dun you? I retorted.

    Silence ensued.

    I'm too hungry to fight with you, onii-san, I half-whined. "Come, darling," I led, beginning out into the streets, folding my wings back into me.

    "I really wish you wouldn't call me that," he muttered under his breath, disturbed.

    "I made you what you are. Dun tell me that my affection startles you."

    "You act as though you love me, Takeru."

    I stopped, but did not turn, staring out of the darkness. "I cann' love my only brother?"

    "Brotherly love and loving one's brother are to be separate," he continued, increasingly upset.

    "....You act as though you're against companionship...."

    He was simply floored. "You've been alone for far too long, otouto-san.... I will not stand for this any longer!"

    "Stand for this?" I began, a flame inside me piqued, turning and grabbing him by the neck. I stared him in the eyes. "I have had no love in my life for three centuries. Of course I'm desperate and easily swayed!"

    "You're not against homosexual incest..." he uttered, completely shocked.

    I dropped my hold on him. "You say that like my heart and my libido are one in the same. I desire companionship," I implored sorrowfully, crumpling.

    "You've made me like you, something that I'd never think you'd do for me. You call me beautiful—'Rukuru.' You even call me your 'darling.' You can't say that you don't treat me as a pet."

    "I made you like me because you became like me," I replied, inching nearer to him. "I'd thought that you'd wanted it.... But I was wrong, wassun I...?"

    He backed away. "Get away from me, Takeru...!"

    I licked my lips hungrily. "If you won' have anything to do with me because I desire companionship—if you won' give me the love I so dearly need—then I dun see why I should continue to help you. You've hurt me deeply, onii-san. You've hurt me very deeply. I think I should return the favour," I whispered, holding him still with my kinesis. "You won' get away."

    He tried to squirm, but failed. "Let go of me, Takeru," he demanded worriedly. "Let go of me right now."

    "Give me one reason why I should allow you to live," I hissed, burning with hatred that soon incinerated my façade, the ashes falling from my true form. All my thousand eyes were fixed solely upon him.

    "Do you honestly think that Sarina will help you, considering exactly what you are? I'm sure she's heard of you on Hanehasu; if she knows who you are when she approaches you, she won't even give it a second thought whether to help you with your infection."

    "What does that have to do with you!?" I roared silently, eyes wide in fury.

    "If she knows how I came to be, her preconception of you is more than likely to be mollified. And who better to implore of her aid than someone who desires to heal what you've done to him?"

    "More remains of you than a scar...."

    "True. Scars heal with time. This has only grown worse."

    "Listen to your words! You are unfit to be a Dragon!" I bellowed in a rage, tensing up in entirety. I collapsed due to the intensity of the ensuing hormones. I howled in agony when my tail split in two, then practically fainted when a furious flame charred my ribcage. When I placed a hand to it, I broke into a cold sweat. "....What am I becoming...?" I squeaked.

    "....What happened...?" he inquired quietly.

    Relinquishing my psychic hold on him, I took his hand in both of mine and placed it blindly upon my breast.

    Once he'd felt of it, he, too, became worried. "Two hearts...."

    I swallowed hard, staring before me at the fury of claw marks I and my brother had made in the hard ground. Then I began to chuckle dryly. "What's the point in having two hearts? My blood is not what flows through my veins.... I suppose the virus thinks me heartless? Hn, heartless—what a way of compensating! Two hearts!" I snorted, completely disgusted with myself. I then continued to ramble under my breath, wide-eyed and delirious.

    "Little brother," Rukuru uttered, breaking a sweat, "you need to calm down. You know as well as I do that getting worked up will only make things worse...."

    I snapped my head up at the scent of his fear, advancing on him hungrily. I ran my long tongue over my long fangs, taking a long breath and a long step, pressing my nose against his and glaring into his eyes. "My own brother is frightened by my very being.... Hnn... joy...." I broke off into a pained, mad cackle, my hunger tearing me to pieces. I phased out of sight and turned to face out of the alley, shooting out into the streets with the agility of an Umbreon in the night.

    Rukuru looked on in horror at seeing some half dozen humans torn to pieces as the invisible dragon devoured them. And yet not a shaving of flesh—not drop of blood—fell to the street. Nothing but bits of bones and shredded cloth remained.

    I roared in an animalistic fury when I was electrocuted from behind, regaining visibility. Upon shaking off the paralysation I turned to find my brother had allowed his façade to fail him as well, glaring at me.

    "These people don't belong to your endless hunger," he growled, baring his fangs.

    "I've long since asserted dominion over the people of Ecruteak," I snarled, grabbing his neck with a single hand and digging my claws into him. I paused a moment to lick my lips clean. "Kami-sama yo Ecruteak no," I seethed silently, giving him such a look that he knew he was next on my stomach's menu. "Eating a hungry person makes two less people that are hungry," I cackled, throwing him to the ground, and I screeched at him before leaping upon him and rearing back my head for ripping into him. But my bite was cut short as a thick leather strap choked me in an instant, restraining me mere inches from my brother.

    I roared, fighting the hold, and my eyes turned to look behind me, only to discover that it was Sarina who wielded the pole which held me back. And she was not the slightest bit happy to see me.

    The Tenshi youth glared at me hatefully, jerking me up with the strength of several human men. As I was forced to stand in such a way, I grinned at her with equal malice in my eyes, and she wrung the handle of the rod with a quick turn of her wrist, choking me even more with a greatly tightened restraint.

    Rasheui areru viburi iurye, she spat.

    "Mesubuta," I mouthed silently in response. "Re raesha oure ne iuryia. Khi buroruka aege geruga iuryia."

    She simply seethed at such a comment. After a moment she shoved me down with a violent grunt such that I fell to kiss the street.

    "You are king of no people," she hissed. "Know your place, Dragon."

    I laughed dryly, almost completely inable to open my throat to breathe. Because I could not free myself of the bonds, I used my kinesis to sever my head from my body such that it rolled several feet from me. Though I was in a daze from the denial of oxygen to my brain, I could discern clearly the events that ensued. And I grinned. "I more than know my place, Tenshi. I do believe that it is *your* place that is in question."

    I felt someone pick my head up—my brother. His eyes glowed in insanity; his claws dug deep into my flesh.

    "Otouto-san," he muttered, licking his fangs, "you need to get a hold of yourself." He pushed one of his claws into the eye in the middle of my forehead and I screeched, incapable of getting out of his reach.

    "Let go of me," I roared. "Let go of me right now!"

    "I do believe that I have the upper hand, otouto-san," he whispered, hungry lips inching towards my obliterated eye. He licked at it ravenously, then proceeded to return me to my body. He giggled darkly, kneeling beside me as I regenerated my neck. The instant that I had been pulled back together, he dug his fangs deep into me, drinking heavily. While I was in such a completely helpless position he then proceeded to ravage my body, ripping a good fifty or sixty of my eyes wide open. I bawled in agony, feeling rather like a ball of rotting flesh.

    "Get off of him!" Sarina shrieked, disgusted and despairing. "His blood is tainted! Don't spread it on the street!"

    He instantly relinquished, coming back to his right mind. At realising what he'd done, he shed the form of the Dragon; hunched over and splayed, he grappled his head and tore at his hair. He choked up entirely, then a jolt surged throughout his body and he threw up the contents of his stomach all at once. His face gnarled in utter shock, he simply stared at me.

    Sarina walked up to me and kicked me in the head with the point of her boot. "Ousubuta, get up, or I'll do worse to you than your brother did."

    I growled, but did nothing, more than fully aware that she was more prolific a ten-col than either of us.

    She kicked me again. "Stop resisting me. You don't want me to have to be rough with you. There won't be enough of you to salvage if you keep it up."

    I growled again, shutting all of my eyes painfully, and drew myself up from the ground, presenting my wrists, which she quickly proceeded to cuff together with leather straps similar to that which had prior been around my neck. Upon my cooperating she also took up the pole and slipped the choker again around my neck, slipping the chain which held my wrists together over the tip of the pole, forcing me to stand how she wanted me to stand.

    "If you try that little trick again, I'll just kill you," she smiled, glaring at me with purest hatred.

    Again, I did nothing, hanging my head and following her.

    You told her to come here instead of having us go to her, diddun you? I uttered to Rukuru, who soon realised she was leading me to her ship and rushed to catch up.

    It was for your own good, otouto-san, he replied solemnly.

    Dun you dare act like you hate yourself for it, you bastard. You wanted me to feel this pain.

    He didn't respond.


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Eighteen: Jewel Encrusted Scars

    The ship was of the type that traveled on the ground, though was far too advanced merely to be called a vehicle. For one, the thing was made of metals with which I had never prior become familiar, even in all my five-hundred years; as for another, seeing Tenshi manuscript, which was written on what few screens I could see, amused me to no end, because it reminded me of what, in the next century, would be human definition of what alien writing looks like.

    It had been around an hour since we'd boarded. Sarina had long since placed me in the furthest corner of the ship, out of sight; however, the ship was too small to keep me too far away from being out of mind. Though I was secured only by that single pole, and though it certainly would never budge from its magnetically held place in the foot-thick metal floor by my hand alone, I was far from incapacitated.

    My gaze shifted boredly from glass to glass; there was much to be seen, but the light was dim, and I was at such distance from everyone and everything that I could make out very little. I snickered lightly to myself, deciding to get a bit of attention for having been left in such a state, and with my kinesis proceeded to knock a jar of some sort from its place in the rack across the way from me. The impact shattered the otherwise perfect silence.

    Sarina's head snapped up from the half-exhausted stupor from which she'd observed the terrain, and with equal celerity whipped around to glare at me from the front of the ship. She heard my coarse chuckling and gritted her teeth, standing and taking no heed in approaching me with ire. Rukuru merely sat in the corner, arms curled around his knees while he rocked back and forth, half-asleep; the abrupt noise hadn't aroused him from his daze.

    "What possessed you to do that?" she hissed, looking to see what I'd broken. Finding it to be of little or no importance, she dismissed the loss and focused on the act that had brought it about.

    "Houu..." I growled, grinning to myself, all but my two natural eyes almost completely shut, my gaze set upon the Tenshi. Upon receiving her attention I splayed; yet, she did not back off from me, but instead glared at me hatefully. "You treat me like some caged beast. Is this what hospitality you show all your guests?"

    "Guest! he says," she wailed, throwing her hands up at me. "You are a caged beast, Dragon. And you'd best learn that a beast doesn't get good attention when he rattles his cage."

    "Any attention is better than none..." I muttered disgustedly, staring off to the side of her. "My brother treats me better than this, and he believes me to have wrought a terrible curse upon him...."

    "Aw, he wants attention, does he," she continued, gaze narrowed at me as though she would spit on me had she the moisture in her mouth. She slapped me across the face with a leather-clad hand. "You've gotten all the attention you could ever want and need, you filthy creature."

    I let out a low, throaty growl at her, my tails slashing back and forth through the air. I nosed up nearer and nearer to her, and, once I'd gotten close enough, my tongue slithered out from between my half-bared teeth and slipped up against her cheek; she winced in disgust, but did not move. "Houu..." I grinned, my nostrils flared furiously in lustful hunger. A hoarse sigh escaped my eager lips as I elongated my fangs and opened my jaws wide, turning my head to reach to her delicate neck. But, grinning at me, she side-stepped me such that, much like a leash, my restraints held me mere inches from her as I snapped down.

    "Bitch-dog," she whispered to me with great malevolence, caressing my cheek with her palm.

    I seethed at this, and, after a moment, knocked several more jars from the rack with my kinesis.

    She herself then was the one to exhibit vehemence, rushing to the rack and ignoring the splattered contents entirely. As she withdrew one vial, which contained a clearish fluid, I laughed at her derisively. "You're going to drug me, arren' you?" She didn't respond, but instead approached me with a syringe of the stuff and proceeded to inject it into me by my left wrist. "Diddun even warm it up.... How kind of you.... Hhnn, such a burn...."

    "Shut up," she growled.

    I cackled, glaring at her with all my eyes. "Excuse me for saying so, but I dun seem to see any muzzle over my mouth...."

    "You're asking for more restraints than I'd thought would be humane," she muttered, grinning at me.

    "Hh, I diddun think you'd have any mercy towards me...." She glared up into my face and dug her heel into my bare foot, and I gritted my teeth together, letting out a pained breath through them. "There it is.... There's that malice I've come to know and love...."

    "Since you haven't chosen to be quiet, I suppose I have no choice but to comply to that exigent desire of yours to be completely inable to defend yourself." She used her kinesis to bring a mass of leather straps to her, all of them at least as thick as the ones around my neck and wrists, some thicker. The drug began to take effect then, and I lost my form in an instant, crumpling into what shards of humanity remained of me. Strung up by the pole that had once merely held my hands in front of me, the choker around my neck now hung me several inches from the floor. Moaning, I dizzily tried to squirm my way up the thing to prevent my strangulation, but failed, my body now frail as anything. Again using her kinesis, she turned me to face away from the pole, my hands still suspended over my head, and proceeded to bind me to it with the dozens of bonds she'd prior fetched. One of these was the muzzle I'd so demanded. She grinned at me, running her hand over my throat. "Better?" she mused, eyes narrowed.

    Hh... arigatou, Kizuki-sama, I thanked silently, moments before I was knocked out, my blond hair falling over my face.

    ~*~*~

    I awoke to find myself in similar accomodations as I'd had in the ship, save that the number of laboratory paraphenalia was intensely greater. However, I'd been in Sarina's lab once or twice before, back when I was young, and I knew this wasn't even the half of it. She'd really yet to move into her lab.

    "Ha, the Dragon's finally awake," the geneticist greeted. "I must say I probably overdosed you just a bit.... You were out about twice as long as I'd initially intended." Her dozen or so pedaishi, strung about her neck, tinkled familiarly as she walked up to me from behind.

    Your silver laugh is a welcome sound, m'dear, I began, my emerald eyes following her as she began to pace to and fro.

    "Don't act so close to me, Itoh," she snapped, looking at me chidingly. "You must remember that I'm not the Sarina Kizuki from your timeline; I still know not a single thing about you."

    Why were you so hostile towards me at first...? I began, brow upturned slightly.

    "You say that like you think I don't still detest your very being," she retorted, turned away from me.

    By that I cann' say whether I can discern your intentions... I mumbled, ...or if I like such an ambiguous and open-ended thought connected to your mischievious and plotting, beautiful face....

    She looked over her shoulder at me, a mad glint in her eye. "That is truly my beauty—no one knows me, and never will."

    I could do nothing but stare at her at her having said this. Never in my some two-hundred years' having known her had I seen this side of her. Tenshi are as enigmatic as humans; and, just as though humans, their women are exponentially worse than their men, in every aspect....

    Just then I caught sight of Rukuru in the shadows, several yards away. "Is it really necessary to do this to him...?" he began, walking up to me.

    "It was his own choice," she replied nonchalantly, still staring back at me in infinite bemusement.

    ~*~*~

    Rukuru left, as though watching her torture me weren't some delightful amusement. I'd wondered where he'd gone to, but soon forgot everything of the matter when the Tenshi walked up to me again.

    "I must apologise for before," Sarina remarked. Something was in her hand; it made me nervous. "Needles are atypical of Tenshi medicine, but there is no more effective means of administering tranquilisers than a cold syringe. We haven't come upon a way to integrate morphine into our methods yet."

    Atypical...? I choked, wide-eyed and staring at her hand. Then how...?

    She snorted at me with a smile, revealing a silver ring in her gloved hand. "Human medicine is so crude, and it mutilates the patient's body."

    Jewelry...? I continued in awe.

    "Instead of a patient of Tenshi methods doning scars in his flesh, he wears scars made of silver, gold, and gems. Healing is something to be celebrated, not something to shove from one's memory."

    The pedaishi, then...? And that ring...?

    "Hmm," she murmured, enjoying her explanation of these things. "Pedaishi are a brand, so that anyone could see what genetic alterations had been made to a person. They have had such a connotation since Hanehasu fell to world war hundreds of years ago, when the genetic studies began to be abused." She played with the piece of silver, trying to forget some memory or another. "The ring," she sighed, "has a dual purpose: it can both read a person's genome and determine any illnesses he might have." She looked then at me, her eyes glistening. "You know of pedaishi, then?"

    Might I tell you a story?

    "Tell it to me as I work, won't you? It will help pass the time," she smiled.

    I gave a sound of consent, and continued once she'd placed the ring around the middle finger of my right hand. I dun exactly know where to begin, so I suppose I'll determine how much I need to explain in my story. What do you know of the Yamis, Kizuki-sama?

    She had prior begun walking around the lab and gathering various materials, but stopped at the inquiry, and did not answer for over a minute, trying to form the words. "....My sister stole the love of my life from me...."

    I flustered at this, staring at her. You loved one of the Yamis...? I asked. I was fortunate that my side of the conversation was mental—my mouth was so dry then that I would not have been able to form the words had I been speaking aloud. It floored me that she'd still found love in one of them, even with Scyrus long since dead....

    She gave a sad smile to the conversation. "Why does it shock you? They truly are the single most beautiful creatures that inhabit this planet...."

    I cann' believe what I'm hearing...! I uttered.

    "You say that like you don't agree...."

    Of course I dun agree! I wailed, squinting my eyes shut. In both my times they have been the sole source of my agony. I sighed. This makes it all the more important for me to tell you my story.... There were fifteen of us, just children. Scyrus, the youngest of the Yamis, the one of them who died in this time at the age of seventeen, was in charge of capturing us. Why did the eight of them so desire to have in their possession fifteen human children from Ecruteak, whose ages ranged from nine to sixteen? They wanted lab rats to play with, that's what. I was the youngest of the lot, as well as the first. Because I was considered by my captors to be too small and young to be much fun, they demanded that Scyrus catch older children. I'd only been the forerunner to test the waters.

    She removed the hand-numbing ring from my finger then, and proceeded to sit at what I considered to be a computer, where she inserted the ring into an indention on the keypad to be read. "What did they do to you?" she inquired, sadness in her voice.

    They spliced a full strand of a Pokémon's DNA into ours, making us fully half human and half Pokémon. And we were too young to figure out much more than how to use the powers granted to us by the Yamis. We didn't come upon the skill of hiding our inhumanity until several years later, when we met a Tenshi who felt sorry for us....

    "Which species were you given?" she mumbled, half-asking and half-wondering.

    Eevee, I replied. It helped me get through the ordeal to have such a coincidence that I had a pet Eevee who taught me to cope. I fell to silent remembrance for several minutes, then continued. For a year we were imprisoned in Pewter, where the splicing had been done. Fortunately, only one of the siblings had been assigned to watch over us until we were matured enough to be hunted—Jarrell allowed which ones of us had perservered through the ordeal to leave the laboratory. However, I've still to this day not been able to decide whether she'd merely decided that we were ready for her siblings, or whether she really did want for us to be able to live. Treachery runs deep in that family.

    There were eight of us who'd gotten away, and, by luck, in the fifteenth's journey, were recollected into a clan of sorts. Seven of the Ecruteak Fifteen and five human companions, came to be called in my time Roses. The name came from the dozen pedaishi that you gave us, Kizuki-sama....


    She turned to me, shocked. "Why would I give a dozen humans pedaishi...!"

    I had been bewildered that you'd loved one of the seven Yamis of this time because, in mine, you had married Scyrus.... Because of that tie, you'd been aware of the Yamis' activity, and had proceeded to give us an unforeseen edge. You'd felt for us because you'd understood the cruelty of your husband's siblings.

    I smiled reminiscently. Come here a moment, wonn' you?

    She complied, curious.

    I was surprised that it haddun caught your attention prior, I remarked. I still wear the aureate Rose....

    She looked at it in awe, recognising her own handiwork as she held it in her hands. "....Ditto..." she uttered, having sensed its contents.

    It all began with the simplest of genetics, I mused. From Eevee to Espeon, from Ditto to all Pokémon, from a small, insignificant boy from Ecruteak to legend....

    "All Pokémon..." she uttered, stricken dumb. After she shook the daze she relinquished her grasp upon the pedaishi and returned to her seat, where the computer had completed its reading of the ring. She saw that I'd not exaggerated in the least.

    But there are great sour parts to my life, many of which were not caused by the Yamis.... You know all too well that both I and my brother possess a strand of Kuraitenshi DNA, neh? She made a sound of agreement, having caught sight of it in the analysis. The strand the two of us have is a duplicate of that which belongs to Rei Takunei.

    "The first Kurai," she whispered, staring at the display of the strand on the screen. "How in the world did you ever cross paths with such a creature...!"

    Hnn, he's the Tenshi who'd shown us how to shift genetics in and out of dominance. He'd heard of what the Yamis had been up to and watched us for years.... Upon my first meeting him he'd shown me the true power of my pedaishi strand, which several months later I'd exploited by synthesising an Eevee strand—I'd already evolved into an Espeon by then—which I forced to evolve into an Umbreon strand in order to scare a small girl into leaving me alone. If I'd have known the consequences, I woddun have done such a childish thing....

    "....A hormone spike made you go mad, didn't it...?" she uttered after a long silence.

    You could say that.... You see, my father had found a little bauble just after Toshihiro was born, and kept it. The brooch.... I broke off, feeling my darkness welling up inside me at merely speaking of the brooch. The brooch was Takunei's....

    She again was brought to stare at me, this time in horror. "An unenhanced creature wearing that brooch...!" she shrieked, in throes at imagining the torment it had wrought upon my father.

    You're familiar with the brooch, I chuckled painfully.

    "I'm more than familiar with it," she replied. "I made it for him."


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Nineteen: Discord in Silence

    ::Rukuru::

    I sat in my room in solemn darkness, overseeing the night air what hung over Lavender. Sarina had offered me the place in her expansive complex to rest for as long as it took her to heal Takeru and me; I'd graciously accepted—it meant that she'd given to such a degree consent that she would help us that she couldn't pull out.

    Down below me was a small hill dotted with a few small trees; a stream curved around it and flowed Southward, reflecting the light of the full moon. A few Noctowl roosted in the trees there, as did a Murkrow that taunted at them, stirring them up a bit from time to time. But what caught my attentions then was not the birds, but the vixen who came up to the side of the stream.

    The Vaporeon dropped her head down gently to drink; then, her eyes flashing a pale white for an instant, she snapped her teeth down below the water's surface and pulled out a Magikarp, which she promptly began to savour. "So lonely..." she whispered to herself after several minutes had passed, having finished the late meal.

    I continued to watch her intently, only to discover the creature use Acid Armour. As she dissolved into a shimmering, amorphous body, she swirled up into a creature much larger than before. The Vaporeonmorph sighed once she'd shed the acidity from herself, then hooked her head outward as she stood, letting out a heart-wrenching wail.

    Kitsune, I discerned, failing to take breath at the time. I Teleported out to the foot of the hill, across the stream from her, but continued to watch her from the high grass.

    Her ears quickly piqued at having heard the rustling of brush, and she picked her head up to look in my direction. I knew she must have seen my eyes glowing in the moonlight then, for she froze up and returned the gaze, staring right back at me.

    "Who's there?" she demanded quietly, worried that I was a predator of some sort.

    I stood then, but did not approach her. I said nothing, waiting for her response.

    She walked across the waters, in infinite curiousity as to whom I was. "What do you want?" she continued, standing now on my side.

    "I want you," I whispered, fire in my heart. I was sure that she wouldn't understand what had happened to me. My statement frightened her dearly, but she failed to retreat from me as I approached her. "Meilin, I've been so lonely for all these years..." I mumbled painfully. "I've been able to think of nothing but you...."

    "....Toshi...?" she uttered, eyes as wide as mine. As I neared her and she saw my face, however, she backed off a few steps.

    "Please..." I implored, reaching for her. "Please don't run away...!" Tears began to stream down my face then, the fires within me invoking such agony that I collapsed to my knees. "Meilin... it's me, Toshi.... Please... please don't run away...."

    She halted her retreat and stared at me. "You're not Toshi..." she spat, frightened out of her mind. "You can't be...!"

    I wailed, splaying. Seeing that I had wings only made things worse, as she withdrew to the waters, hiding under the surface and watching me in horror. "I didn't do this to myself," I explained to her, staring back. "Keiji did. He'd thought that I'd wanted to be like him...."

    She failed to do much more than stare up at me for several minutes before pulling her head out of the water. "Y—you have Kuraitenshi in your blood now, don't you...?" she choked out.

    I sniveled, nodding my head.

    She gracefully arose from the waters, wrapping her arms around me and trying to console me. I returned the embrace by wrapping my wings around her; after a moment I shifted Raichumorph in such euphoria that she hadn't fled from my presence.

    "How long have you been in this world?" I asked her quietly, over her shoulder.

    "All too long..." she replied, pulling herself from the hug. She looked at me painfully. "Having been without you for all this time has wrought such devastating a blow upon me, Sesh...." She paused, looking me over. "He gave you the Permutation, didn't he?"

    I led her to sit with me on the hill before I replied. "It was my doing what made for me this gothic countenance. Something had welled up inside me what had prompted the change.... It's what made him think I'd wanted to be like him.... No, I don't fight the Permutation like he has. It completely overwhelmed me—there's no longer any vestige of how I was prior."

    She simply gawked as she began to circle me. "Your hair—!" she squealed sorrowfully, using her gentle fingers to feel of it.

    I surpressed the tears that came then. "I don't want to talk about it...."

    "He took it when he gave you the strand, didn't he?!" she roared, now increasingly hateful towards him.

    "No...."

    Her emotion dulled again. "Then who was it...?"

    "...Xyra...."

    I'd expected her to fall apart at hearing the name, but she did not. "I've heard rumours of you two boys in the time I've been here..." she began minutes later. "People say that Keiji's the one who killed Scyrus...."

    "Ha, likely story," I retorted, passion overtaking me then. "Takeru's got a profound respect for that creature that even I couldn't understand...." I sighed. "Take-ryuu framed him. He's the one who brought us here; though I'm unsure what part you play in his little game...."

    "What the hell are you talking about!?" she shrieked, glaring at me. "You're saying that Keiji's son did this!? Keiji's son is the one who transported us five hundred years in the past just to kill Scyrus and change the future course of events!?"

    "Exactly what I'm saying," I continued. "His logic was skewed, however, by having brought the three of us here.... He did it in order to prevent the Yamis from ever kidnapping us to begin with. He did it so that Father would never find the brooch. He did it so that none of the Itohs would ever become a Dragon. But, with the three of us here, there are now two Dragons." I chuckled painfully then, staring down at the moon's reflection in the water. "Gods, it's been a long two hundred years...."

    "You've been here two hundred years...?" she uttered.

    "...You haven't?"

    She shook her head. "I woke up here about a century ago.... I thought you'd died two hundred years ago, but I see now that you'd only been abducted...."

    "If you came here only a hundred years ago, then Take-ryuu couldn't have brought you here..." I choked. "He died the day after he killed Scyrus...."

    "Then who?"

    "I—I don't know...."

    After a moment of sitting there and staring at one another, we dismissed the subject and decided to return to my room at Sarina's for the night. The two of us were far to exhausted to do much more than sleep.

    I curled myself up around her from behind, holding her tight to me. I giggled when my cheek brushed up against hers and it gave off a light spark. So did she.

    She made herself comfortable, holding my arms around her with her own. "Where is the little Crobat from Hell?"

    "He's spending some quality time with our favourite Tenshi," I replied, grinning to myself. "Something tells me he'll come out of that confrontation half what he is now..." I chuckled.

    She made a sound of inquiry, but, because I did not respond, soon was fast asleep.

    I kissed her lightly on the neck, then made myself comfortable as well. "I love you, Mei." Then I, too, slept. And I slept well that night, the first in centuries that we'd felt each other's touch.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    I sniveled bitterly. How come it dossun surprise me that you have such a connection to the agony my family has undergone for three generations...? I chuckled. How come it dossun surprise me that you yourself are the one that made it...? Such hatred for Sarina arose within me then that I underwent a Permutation, becoming my darkened self. I hissed at her.

    She stared at me in fright. "Wh—what happened to you just now...!?"

    I growled wickedly at her, my grin showing in my narrowed, golden eyes. You see, that brooch embedded the Kurai's instincts into my father's genetics. I inherited it, and, when I forced the Eevee strand to evolve into an Umbreon strand, the Dragon within me surfaced. Ever since I was sixteen I've fought with the darkness within me. The Permutation asserted itself over me mentally then, and I spoke with cynicism then. Sad, really, that I fight it.... The darkness is my only strength.... I tugged at the restraints, chuckling again. I'd forced you to drug me and bind me so that I would be more manageable while you worked on me.... How stupid I must feel at realising I could simply sacrifice my form and simply fall from the leather right now.... I burned my glowing, animalistic glare into her mind with my telepathy.

    She clenched her teeth in despair of how to handle me then; I could clearly tell that she was unsure which of us was stronger. "If you want me to cure you, then you'll behave, Dragon," she warned.

    Is that a threat now, Kizuki-sama? I murmured gleefully. I've an idea, m'dear.... It will help pass the time more quickly. I strained the restraints to as far out as I could pull them by my own physical boundaries. Let's say you have until I muster myself up such that I'm able to break these bonds. If you arren' finished with me by the time I've broken free, you'll find out whether or not I'm still hungry after my appetizers in Ecruteak.

    She stood there and glared at me hatefully. "You wouldn't dare resist me. You came to me for a cure...!"

    By opening my jaws as wide as possible, I ripped through the muzzle with a single bite. Spitting out the leather at her feet, I grinned, showing her my long, eager and excited fangs. "Really, now? I woddun force you to suffer in a matter of minutes the same pain my father, my brother, my sons, and I have suffered for the past five hundred years? Mesubuta," I hissed, my face tapering outward, my tongue becoming thick and pointed.

    "You pig!" she uttered in exasperation, "Blaming me for your hardships!" She moved then in haste, knowing that I was a man of my word.

    "I know you dun want a pig like me even to exist on this earth," I continued, thoroughly enjoying watching her scurry frantically about. "Do your worst to me, Tenshi."

    She didn't respond.

    "Come now, hurry up, m'dear!" I bellowed forcefully, grinning as my skin grated into its disgusting blue scales and my tails snapped out behind me.

    She panicked at hearing the rip of flesh, but didn't look up at me to see how far I'd progressed, running her fingers over every row of vials she had, reading and searching, pulling them out as she went, gathering about twenty of them in her hands.

    "Hou...?" I murmured, grinning as I began to feel the restraints tighten, my many putrid eyes surfacing and slowly fixing their gaze upon her. "You have but a matter of minutes before you find out how sharp my teeth are, m'dear.... Hurry!"

    She seemed to measure them out by sight as she mixed them together, the concoction becoming a pale, translucent blue. She then took the stuff with her and flew to her computer, where she located containment for it and poured it in, then stuck it into a slot in her computer for encodement.

    I choked in delightful, burning pain as my heart pulled itself in two while my wings pushed me forward on the pole. The leather began to vocalise its distress as I quickly grew to be a foot taller, then two. Such noise only forced Sarina to fret all the more.

    I began to grow lightheaded, as the metamorphosis had forced my throat several inches thicker, the choker around it cutting off my circulation and my air. But soon it, too, gave in to my sheer size, and the ten-foot-tall Dragon was soon free of restraint.

    I fell to stand on all fours, slinking nearer and nearer to her. "Your time is up, m'dear...!" I cackled, licking my fangs.

    She turned and yelped to see me rear back and splay my fresh-cut wings. I screeched in response, showing her my long, enumerated, sharp fangs. In an instant she threw me with her kinesis to sprawl out on my back, and she leapt upon me, having snatched up the object from her computer, and rammed the thing into my chest. I screeched in agony, the contents flowing from my hearts through my veins, burning me clean. I dizzily looked to see what she'd used to administer her antidote: a brooch. She'd stabbed me with the pin.

    "You—such poetic justice—" I choked out. I fell into convulsions then, my eyes slowly receding, my scales returning to a darker tone, but retaining their iridescent sheen. Then my complexion became pale again as I lost the dominant strand's influence. But I did not lose my gothic mien to to brooch's potence.

    She stood before me then, looking down upon me disdainfully, arms crossed over her chest. "Don't ever try to prove to me that I can't do something," she spat. "Get up," she demanded.

    I pulled the thing from my flesh and stood, not even capable of looking her in the eye then.

    "Get out of here," she continued, irate. "I have a room prepared for you. You need to get some rest if you're going to let the brooch do its job... Kurairyu."

    I looked to her at hearing her bemusement. "...Kurairyu...?" I uttered. "Kurai Dragon...?"

    She grinned at me, sending my mind reeling in confusion. "You're not a Tenshi, so I can't really call you a Kuraitenshi, now, can I?" She silenced me before I had time to object. "Now shoo."

    ~*~*~

    I entered the room which she'd designated as mine and observed the furnishings. A four-post bed off to the corner, made with white sheets. A small candelabra set for light upon the table. A square table in the middle. A wine glass and a bottle of wine was set there, waiting for me. Upon closer inspection I found that it wasn't wine that filled the bottle.

    "Oh, my infinite bewilderment of that woman...!" I thought to myself, smelling of the stuff. "Offering me her own blood..." I wondered, pouring myself a glass. I swirled it around in the glass for a moment, looking at the purplish stuff. Once I'd taken a drink, I set it down beside the bottle, running the flat of my tongue repeatedly over the roof of my mouth as I stared out blankly into the dim room. I then smiled vaguely. "I suppose it's an attempt to tame me. Ha."

    I sat in the high-back chair and stripped from my body what remained of the clothing I'd worn hours before, casting them into the corner to be forgotten. Then I synthesised a white button-down shirt and a pair of loosely-fitting black pants and put them on. I drained the glass with a single throw-back of my head and slipped into bed, taking the bottle with me and leaving the glass.

    I ran my tongue over the bottle's neck, forcing my fangs longer in burning pleasure of such a delicacy. "Tame me," I reiterated musingly, biting the mouth of the bottle with a grin. I took a large swallow's worth, then laid back in the bed and stared up at the ceiling. "Ha! More like refine my tastes, you peculiar alien girl...."


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Twenty: Mastering Monsters

    ::Rukuru::

    I awoke late that afternoon to find Meilin still asleep in my arms. I smiled, entwining my tail and hers contentedly. It hadn't been a dream that I'd found her! I hugged her tightly and closed my eyes. I didn't want the moment to end! I was whole again!

    But my having awakened brought my love from her sleep as well, and she turned over sleepily to return the hug. But then she felt my wings brush up against her and opened her eyes, looking up to me and realising exactly what she had her arms wrapped around.

    "Toshi...?" she wondered, not having actually seen my face in any semblance of light until that moment. I smiled in self-hatred, nodding slightly. "You called yourself a Dragon last night, like Keiji calls himself the Bamboo Dragon: Takeru. The myth of this place has two Dragons.... You're Rukuru now... aren't you...?"

    Again I nodded. "I remind him of a Dragonair, so he gave me the name Beautiful Dragon."

    "You don't really run around Raichumorph anymore, do you?" she smiled, amused.

    "Ha, no.... Genetic enhancement's not really something that I'd like to explain to this era.... They still think opium's the cure-all." I laughed then. "Besides, the strand clashes with the Kurai strand...."

    Her brow furrowed. "Then why not shift out of it...?"

    "When Takeru gave the Kurai strand to me, he grafted it into me," I replied, no longer smiling. "It's one reason I've come with him to Lavender—once Sarina's finished with him, she's going to separate my strands."

    "Finished with him?" It'd sounded peculiar to her the way I'd put it.

    "Xyra's been even more a difficulty here than she was when we were young.... She thought at first that I'd been the one who'd killed Scyrus—I was the one she'd found with his body—and took my hair. Then she learned that it had been Take-ryuu and killed him—gods only know how—and now she torments Takeru. She'd possessed him from time to time to introduce a new virus to his system. And you know with as many strands he has that it's hazardous to everyone's well-being when he's not well."

    "...What sort of viruses? And where did she get them...?"

    "The Yamis' father is the geneticist who created Pokémon: Gene Rhesh. Of course he's got failed products laying around." I sighed. "As to what it's done to him, I can only put it into his own words: he's become a chimera."

    Her eyes went wide then in realisation. "Chimera...! The Thousand-Eyed Vampire...!"

    I snorted. "You've heard.... Ha."

    "Of course I've heard!" she snapped, shuddering. "It's the single thing that made me come here to Lavender. I'd heard that an elven woman had successfully captured the creature. But I stopped looking when I found neither of you...."

    "I think you stopped looking because you were going on a hunch and thought that it was nothing more than that," I chided, stroking her sable hair softly. "Gaia no longer knows Takeru as the Bamboo Dragon, and she calls me Rukuru now—neither name, to your knowledge, referred to those you know."

    She curled up with me again, flustering just slightly. "You always have known me that well, haven't you... Rukuru?"

    I chuckled at her having used the name, smiling and closing my eyes. "Yes, I suppose I have...."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    I woke up the next night at hearing laughter nearby. I immediately rose, both angered by being woken up and by being excluded so, and proceeded to the hallway to discover the source of such mirth.

    The two voices were only a few rooms down the way from me. I stood in the doorway in utter horror, glaring at the Beautiful Dragon and his lover as they sat and talked over a meager meal of fish. Meilin was here now.

    I stood there for several minutes, trying dearly to compute what had occurred. They soon stopped paying attention to themselves and turned to me at hearing my exasperated breathing. I let out a short, pained roar of confusion and turned back to my room in haste, slamming the door shut behind me and curling up in a ball in the middle of my bed, coddling the empty bottle for comfort.

    "Otouto-san, please... please don't be upset..." Rukuru began mere moments later, having phased through the door without asking permission to enter. "We found each other last night...."

    "How can I not be upset?" I snapped, sitting up in an instant and glaring at him. "Look at the two of you! Toshihiro and Meilin—lovers five centuries long! The time you've been apart has only made you more passionate! And me... I have no one.... I've had no one for over half my life! Why cann' I have love in my life? Why must I be a solitary creature!?"

    "Takeru, I don't know why she's here..." he continued. "I don't know how she's here.... She says she's only been here a century...."

    My anger mollified in perplexion. "Just a century...? But—"

    "I know.... Like I said, I don't understand, either." He smiled to himself just slightly. "I'm pleased that it happened this way, though...."

    "It's always been you!" I roared. "You're the one who's always had the good end handed to you! I've never had it easy! I've never had love returned to me by any truly sentient creature...!" I screamed at having admitted my horrible sin, tensed up entirely and holding my head in my hands.

    He'd backed off then, fearing me in my condition. After a few minutes he spoke up. "Y—you aren't having a bleedthrough...."

    I looked at my hands in disbelief, then grabbed at my arms, and then my forehead. I stared at him, grinning oddly. "I'm not having a bleedthrough...." I blindly picked up the bottle and bit it in ecstasy. "She cured me...."

    "She did, didn't she...?" he mused, still on edge by me. He looked at the bottle with a peculiarity in his eyes. "She gave you wine?" he began, brow arched slightly. He probably figured I was drunk.

    "Ha, no...." I handed it to him, and he smelled of it. He blinked, blank, handing it back after a moment. I chuckled. "Smells wonderful, dossun it?" Just a small nod was my response from him.

    "I... if you'll excuse me," he uttered, flustering as he backed out of the room, phasing through the door.

    I laughed heartily at him once he'd left. "Ah, onii-san..." I sighed, setting the bottle down on the table as I got up again. "Your hesitance to embrace your Dragon will always be a singular source of amusement for me...."

    I sat in front of the mirror on the wall opposite the bed, grinning at myself. I slipped an ascot around my neck and bent my collar back down over it, pinning it with the brooch. Then I took a closer look at the thing. "The Kurai Dragon..." I mused, running my fingers over the pale blue crystal cameo, tracing the golden dragon held within it. "Kurairyu wa ore-sama no," I continued, popping my neck in contentment.

    I'd lost my earrings over the course of the night, so I synthesised another pair. I also synthesised a blood-red, full-length coat and a pair of black boots. I stood, looking myself over as I buttoned six of the double-breasted coat's ten buttons. "If looks could kill, I'd never go hungry...." I laughed stupidly at the joke, leaving my room in search of Sarina.

    ~*~*~

    I found the Tenshi meditating in what would probably come to be her gym arena. Roughly ten small torches lined the walls of the large room, illuminating it just enough to be able to discern with normal vision the basic features and inhabitants.

    "You're a nocturnal creature," she muttered, not looking up to me. "Would have never guessed."

    "Such bitterness!" I began, smiling at her admiringly. "You're too beautiful to have such a tongue."

    This got her attentions, and she unfolded her legs, picking her head up. "So warm towards me after what happened last night. Your mood changes at whim, it seems." The flames surrounding us flared up to twice their previous heat, making it quite bright. "I suppose you want me to explain what I've done to you?" she inquired, standing and walking off past me.

    I followed. "It would be nice, considering that it's my body...."

    Once we'd returned to her laboratory, she took a seat at her computer, and pulled up the file that contained the information on my genetics. "Here," she pointed out, "is the conglomeration of the strands the virus spliced together. It contains your Kurai, Espeon, Umbreon, and Ditto strands."

    "But... you pulled them apart... diddun you...?" I asked dryly, upset, but not showing it openly.

    "True, they're separate, but the way the virus had been pulling them together, I couldn't help them all being one entity."

    "I... I dun follow...."

    "You can shift just Kurai if you like, or just Espeon, or just Umbreon, or Ditto, but all of these strands are an inseparable part of your genetic code. It's still a chimeric encodement."

    "So the Kurairyu is still one of my true forms?" I continued.

    "Yes, and no," she explained. "Also because of how the strands were pulled together, they will continue to be pulled together; I couldn't prevent it, but instead mollified the process and the results. However, because of this, instead of having no control over which of these strands are part of into what you shift, you'll have complete control in time over having any number of strands in dominance."

    "Multiple strands..." I uttered, putting my fingers to my brooch in wonder of such a thing.

    "Take-san, I can tell you'll be more than pleased with the results," she smiled, getting up and leaving me staring at the screen.

    Several minutes later, I replied, "Hai, my master...."


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Twenty-One: Se-shi-ru

    ::Rukuru::

    I smiled nervously at Meilin as I returned to the room. "From that outburst, I'm to expect that Sarina's done with him...."

    She looked at me solemnly. "The two of you were fighting over that I'm here, weren't you?"

    "....Seeing you made him remember that Eve had died," I replied, hesitant to explain it to her. "I sympathise with that lonely old man...."

    "Old man," she snorted. "You're older than he is," she poked.

    I flustered. "So are you..." I grimaced, gritting my teeth.

    This brought her to equal aggravation, upon which she glared at me and slapped me with her kinesis. "Don't ever call me old, Mousy. Hmmph." With that she walked off down the hall a ways. After a minute she poked her head around the door frame. "Are you coming or not?" she began. "You said she's done with him, so you're the next 'patient,' aren't you?"

    "Yeah..." I mumbled, rubbing the side of my face as I followed her. I smiled to myself after a minute. Kit-slapped for the first time in two hundred years, I thought to myself, stupidly happy at such a thing. As the two of us went, we shed our shifts.

    On her hunch we found Sarina meditating in her arena—at least, the room we knew as her arena.

    "Hnn, my next patient," the Tenshi mused, looking up from where she sat levitating several feet from the ground to observe Kit. "The Beautiful Dragon has a mate?"

    "It was fate that we came across each other last night," I replied. "She's been here a whole century and not known that I was actually here...."

    "The Dragons are wide-known myth," she mumbled, sinking to the floor and standing somewhat impatiently. "How couldn't you have known that he was here?"

    "In our time they have different names than those Gaia has for them now. I wasn't sure it was them, and was too startled by what I'd heard of them to investigate it for myself until I'd heard you'd captured Takeru."

    "And your name," she began, walking off past us and leading the way, "is Meilin?"

    "Just as nosy as you've always been," she mumbled under her breath as the two of us followed her.

    "If you've known me to read others' thoughts, then you'd know that I cannot help it at times," she retorted.

    At this Kit stood silent.

    ~*~*~

    "Rukuru, dear, do ensure me that you won't act up like your young brother," Sarina implored rather removedly.

    "Of course I wouldn't." Watching her as she rummaged through a few drawers, I began, "What'd he do?"

    She grumbled lightly, pausing her search a moment. "Let's just say that the sedatives did no good...."

    Kit and I choked on the remark, but soon forgot about it.

    "This," she explained, presenting a silver ring to me, "is a freucha: a device used to read a person's genome. You wear it as one would any other ring, but it is not something one should wear as such. If you were to lose it, anyone who had the technology could read the thing."

    "Jewelry," I grinned, taking it in my hands. "Necklaces that splice, and rings that discern what splices have been made. Was such a concept your idea, Kizuki-sama?"

    She chuckled. "Tenshi medicine is greatly advanced compared to human medicine. We rarely utilise any sort of injection or incision. This way is far less crude and mutilating—healing is to be celebrated, not concealed."

    "I suppose you'll tell me next that you have bracelets and brooches for your practise as well?" I continued, quite amused.

    She didn't respond, greatly upset by my comment.

    "I offended you, then, by asking," I mulled, shutting up.

    "No, you haven't offended me," she corrected, rather quiet. "I was exocommunicated from Hanehasu—my home world—for my works involving bracelets and brooches...." She turned to me, her eyes closed in pain of the subject, but then she looked me straight in the eye. "It was my craft what destroyed your family, Rukuru.... I was the one who made Rei Takunei's brooch, the one your father found...."

    I could do nothing but stare at her. "You're kidding... right...? You... you can't be serious.... I'd always thought that you'd hated the Kuraitenshi...."

    She sniveled. "I did, I really did.... But I had my reasons...." She snapped out of it, focusing. "I can't fall apart right now. I have a patient, and I'll cure him.... Slip the freucha on your middle finger of your right hand, Rukuru. And don't be afraid if it tingles or even burns slightly—it's normal to have sensation from it."

    I followed the order dazedly, looking to Kit, who was equally out of it.

    "You're a splicer, too, aren't you, Meilin?" she asked, sitting at her computer once she'd taken the hand-numbing ring from my finger. She slipped it into a slot in her keyboard.

    She nodded. "The first strand I received was of a Vaporeon, but I also got an Espeon strand from you, not to mention several others that I'd obtained from the necklaces you'd given our group."

    The Tenshi looked to her with a brow arched. "So the little one wasn't just making up a story to pass the time," she muttered, a smirk tugging at her mouth. "I used silver for the Espeon pedaishi, didn't I? It should have been that way, if I didn't."

    "You did..." she assured, pulling the argent Rose from around her neck to look at it. "Why?"

    "Silver is a signature metal for genetic information for psychic creatures. If I hadn't, it would have been neither traditional nor up to Tenshi code."

    "Tenshi code?" she echoed.

    "A pedaishi tags its wearer as possessing the strand it portrays. Colours of gems and specific precious metals signify particular traits. It's sort of our way of forewarning one another of the dangers contained in a person."

    "That's smart," she remarked. "I suppose the twelve necklaces you made for us were all roses for a reason, then?"

    "Just as roses have their thorns," she smiled, "you twelve were the first dozen humans ever to receive splicing of any kind. It was a warning for those who know how to read pedaishi."

    "I suppose the Yamis didn't take precaution, then," I snorted, holding mine in hand, too, "so they got stuck."

    "Emerald," she began, not having looked to me, and having ignored my comment. "You have a botanic power, don't you, Rukuru?"

    "To a degree, yes," I replied. "I was one of the four of us that you gave a legendary's strand. This necklace has Celebi's DNA in it."

    "...I'd like to know more about which ones I chose to give to the lot of you," she mused. "Just Ditto, Espeon, and Celebi get me highly interested in the matter." Just then the screen flashed a different colour, and several panels shot up on it, portraying different information. "Ah! here we go."

    The both of us looked over her shoulder, watching as she read the return.

    "You're not a collector like your brother, are you?"

    "Ha, no, I prefer to study Pokémon, not eat them."

    "Eat them...?"

    I shook my head. "Never mind."

    Sarina soon had finished her diagnosis of the situation and begun searching through several drawers again, and several shelves, gathering materials.

    "What sort of instrument are you going to use, Kizuki-sama?" I asked, curious.

    "There's only one thing for untangling grafted genetics, and that's a ring, m'dear."

    "Ahh...."

    Several minutes later she had completed her compilation, and presented the piece of silver to me. Set in it was a piece of blue pearl, engraved in an intricate pattern and enlaid in tiny crystals.

    "I took it upon myself to guess whether you liked the colour blue," she began.

    "I—it's fine, Kizuki-sama. It's... beautiful...."

    "Stop gawking at it and put it on, silly," Kit snapped, anxious. "It won't work unless you put it on."

    "I know that..." I muttered, slipping it upon my ring finger. Again my right hand went numb, but soon thereafter I felt a melting sensation, and splayed on instinct. My wings withered away into nothingness, and a calm washed over me then.

    "Y—you fixed him, Sarina...!" she uttered. "He's not Rukuru anymore...!"

    I looked at my hands to see they'd regained their fleshy tones, and my nails had receded to normal length. A lock of my hair fell over my shoulder for me to see that it had returned to its normal tawny shades. I opened my fangless mouth, but no words could escape my dry tongue.

    "I think he's trying to say thank you, Kizuki-sama," she offered for me, taking my arm in hers. "Come along now, love. We have some catching up to do."

    "If you take that ring off, you'll be prone to regression," she called off after us. "I separated the Kurai strand from your base strand, but didn't remove it from your genome, so you'll still be able to use it, Rukuru."

    Seshi, I corrected, smiling. Rukuru is my darkness.

    She chuckled, but said nothing.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    I sat in front of the mirror in my room, looking myself over proudly. "A chimera," I mumbled, smiling. "Leave it to a Tenshi to turn the worst thing that's ever happened to me into the best thing that's ever happened to me...."

    I flicked my hair back over my shoulders, then leaned forward onto the commode, glaring into my eyes. I closed them a moment, then opened them again, but this time five more than before. "I havvun' had any true berth to play around with the combination of these strands before now.... I think the Dragon is due for some playtime...."

    My low chuckle escalated quickly into a cackle that cut off abruptly. "Melty. Nn." I shook off the slight numbing sensation, only to have it hit me that it had been another strand added to the mix. After concentrating for a moment on the feeling I'd had, I chuckled again. "Haunter. That'll be fun sooner or later...."

    Standing, but still observing myself, I presented my palms to my reflection, allowing to surface from each of them seven eyes—six encircling a seventh larger one in the middle. I looked at my crippled left hand, drawing it up to my face, and pressed the point of my tongue to the eye in the middle of it, biting myself. I recoiled, sucking my bleeding tongue delightfully. "I've never fed using my eyes..." I began, plotting, "and having drunk the blood of a Tenshi makes me want more.... I think it would be poor form to... 'ask' for more of Sarina... so I suppose that a visit to my other Tenshi acquaintance woddun' be out of the question." I let out a short laugh.

    Before leaving I popped my head in to check on the lovebirds, only to find a snoring lump under the covers. Animals, I muttered, shaking my head as I walked off, hands in my pockets.

    Once outside I splayed through my coat, giggling maniacally as I took flight, flying Westward. "Like a Crobat from Hell," I roared psychotically, soaring up to the heavens.

    ~*~*~

    I landed on the roof of the asylum in Ecruteak rather clumsily—to arouse the locals—then folded my wings flat to my back and slid through the ceiling head-first, slinking down the walls as though a lizard.

    I slipped around the corner and into Rivelle's quarters, crawling along the wall beside his bed. I began to breathe excitedly at hearing his anxiety, and I grinned to myself—he was having a nightmare.

    I slipped down into the bed behind him, taking hold of his right shoulder with my right hand and snaking my left arm around his front to palm the right side of his neck. Feeling my hot, wet, hungry breath upon his ear quickly woke him up, but he failed to do much more than produce a hoarse squeak.

    "Hhnn..." I inched eagerly, "such tender flesh.... Such tender, snakelike flesh...."

    His neck tensed up at this. "Taichen...!" he squeaked, panicking. "G—get off of me!"

    I licked his earlobe playfully, then bit down on it with one fang; he winced. "Tenshi blood is so thick and rich.... I'm in dire need to celebrate my most recent achievement, and I do believe I'd just adore to get giddy drunk." I chuckled dryly, licking my lips.

    "Y—you'll regret doing this later," he warned.

    I laughed at him derisively. "Ha, what'll you do to me? Bite back?" Then I proceeded to clamp my twisted hand down on his neck, forcing the seven thornlike fangs out into it. The eyelike protrusions conformed to the wounds, as though seven mouths, and I began to drink from him.

    He cried out hoarsely, falling limp at having been bitten. I cackled in purest decadence, whipping him down forcefully such that his face was mashed into the bed, and wrapped my right arm around to the left side of his neck, drinking from both sides in purest euphoria.

    The patients wailed and screamed at the singular sound of murder, adding to the sheer pleasure of the act. I splayed and screeched, wrenching his neck back just enough to make him scream in agony. All of them then fell silent, knowing that their doctor was dead.

    I slipped out of the bed and strung the drained body up by its feet from the ceiling, having given him a human makeover, then out of the room I went, walking proudly down the halls to observe my handiwork. Licking my hands clean beginning with my palms and working out to the tips of my fingers, I chuckled as I looked from side to side to find the asylum dwellers all backed up against the far wall in fear of me. They could not see me, but they knew what I'd done.

    One of them spat at me as I walked by him. I stopped and he choked, cursing to himself in fear as I turned around and grabbed him by the throat. "Dun ever do that again," I growled, all twenty-one of my eyes glowing deep gold, "or I'll make a meal out of you, too." I let go and he darted back to the far wall in an instant, like all the others. None of the other patients made any retaliation as I finished my walk down the halls.

    "Eh, I never liked that man anyway," I muttered once I'd phased through the wall at the end. I splayed and took flight again, returning home.

    I picked up Kanashii, who was still laying in the grass outside, and took her inside, stroking her hair as I held her in my arms. "Daddy's home, love. Daddy's home...."

    ~*~*~

    Late next morning, I dealt simply with cleaning up the mess I'd made. Having taken on my aureate façade, I went down to the asylum to clear things up with the local law enforcement and investigation.

    Upon seeing me they pulled me aside. "What do you think you're doing, coming in here, Sir?" one policeman began.

    "I'm sorry, but you apparently are unaware that this is my asylum, officer. My name is Keiji Itoh. I funded the construction for about half of the North side."

    "Then you've heard what occurred last night?"

    "All I know is that there was a terrible uproar last night. My estate is up on the hill, and even from there I could hear it. I came down this morning to investigate for myself."

    "Your doctor was murdered, and rather gruesomely, I might add," he continued, leading me to the man's room.

    Upon seeing it, I had to do everything to avert my gaze from the corpse and feign disgust. "That is something I could have gone without seeing...."

    "You're sure you didn't see anything?"

    I shook my head.

    "Do you know whether he had anyone who would have been out to settle a score with him?"

    Again I shook my head.

    He made a face. "Well, if you decide to speak up, come down to the station, won't you?"

    "I'll do everything to help. Anyone who would mutilate a body like that deserves a room here...."

    "Hah, that's true indeed," he snorted. "The weirdest part is how Rivelle's body has no blood left.... His killer even hung him upside-down to make sure we knew there wasn't a drop left...."

    I turned from having begun to walk away, getting the hint. "You think it was the Dragon, dun you?"

    The whole lot of them broke out in laughter. "A grown man believes in the Dragon!" he bellowed. "Sir, even after those six women went missing night before last, I'll even say that there's just a psycho out on the streets, despite popular rumour that it was the Dragon," he giggled.

    Fools, I thought to myself. I suppose, then, that I have no worries in getting away with it. "If you'll excuse me, Sirs, I need to get to work in arranging for a replacement for our dear Dr. Rivelle."

    As I walked out, I stopped and glared at the patient that had spat at me last night. I waited until he saw I was there to spit at him. He was about to speak up at it, but didn't at seeing me curl my lip and glare at him.

    "H—hey!" one of the policemen called out. "Don't make eye contact with them, Itoh! They're more likely to act up if you do that!"

    I snorted. "Of course," I replied nonchalantly, turning the corner and walking to the door. I'm going to eat you, you satanic bitch-dog. And I'll make it as painful as I can if you squeal on me.

    He sniveled, but said nothing.

    Good boy. I flexed my hand oddly, then took the glove off and looked at it, slowly growing to stare at it. "I suppose, then, that a Tenshi's is more potent than a human's," I uttered in a daze as I walked outside, staring at the whole hand in the sunlight. Once the shock had worn off I broke into a short cackle.

    But I shut up abruptly at having a hand placed upon my shoulder.

    "Sir?" a young female inquired.

    I turned to find a brunette with long, flowing ringlets staring me in the face with her pale green eyes. "Hm?" I blushed slightly, my gaze averting to her lace-covered yellow dress.

    "You're Keiji Itoh, aren't you?" Then I realised I was staring at her curved chest and blushed deeply, burning a hole in the ground I was so embarrassed.

    "I am. And how does it concern a beautiful lady like you?"

    At this she blushed. "I've been sent as Dr. Rivelle's replacement. My name is Maki Gianni."


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Twenty-Two: Moonstricken

    ::Sesh::

    I sat up, seeing the morning light shining through the bed sheet that was strewn atop my head.

    "Seshi, lay back down and go to sleep," Kit mumbled, hooking her hand around my neck and pulling me back down to the bed, hugging me as though a teddy bear.

    I chuckled quietly, stroking her hair. "You're adorable when you're groggy," I mused, kissing her on the forehead and settling back down into the bed.

    About half an hour later she came to, and the both of us got up then. I watched her from the bed as she sat at the mirror, putting on the clothes that she'd tossed on the floor the night before—a sapphire high-collar blouse and a slate grey skirt. I rose to do the same as she slipped her hose and shoes on—an off-white shirt and black slacks, with a pair of black shoes. Once the two of us were dressed, we milled around the place. As we walked down the hall, I decided to poke my head in Takeru's room because the door was open. He wasn't in there.

    "Wonder where he went?" Kit began, fiddling with the covers.

    "He returned home last night," Sarina replied, having come up behind us.

    "Did he say why he'd left?"

    She sighed in unease and depression. "I hadn't talked to him before he'd left, no, but no one makes me want to be deaf more than he.... Even I have nightmares from that man's thoughts...."

    "....Why did he leave, Kizuki-sama?" I half-demanded, worried.

    She couldn't look at me when she answered. "I shouldn't have given him my Tenshi blood...." She snorted in self-hatred. "He'd decided he wanted more, but took it from a different source....." At seeing we didn't follow, she sighed again. "He killed Mortimer Rivelle...."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Keiji::

    I felt then as though my entire world had been turned upside-down in the absence of a single man.... This goddess come to steal my heart (and, slowly, as it may seem, hearts) was the replacement for but a single man....

    "I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, m'dear," I bowed, taking her gentle, gloved hand in mine. "I suppose, then, that my search has ended before it's even begun," I smiled, melted by her eyes. She looked at me oddly, fishing for an explanation. "I'd headed out the door planning to look for a suitable replacement for Rivelle, but you had already arrived."

    She blushed, giggling. Such a beautiful sound.... "Mr. Itoh, I appreciate your first impression of me, but you have yet to have seen my work ethic." She withdrew her hand, returning it to its mate.

    We began to walk through the labyrinthine garden surrounding the asylum, talking with one another.

    I plucked a golden yellow rose from a climbing vine as we walked, turning it over in the hand I'd re-gloved a bit prior. "How come a delightful girl like yourself wants to take care of this pile of crazies?" I asked her, setting it upon her ear.

    "You'd think me silly if I were to tell you," she replied, averting her gaze from me.

    "No I woddun," I coaxed, holding her hand.

    She blushed, pulling it from me; her reluctance to be warm made me blush as well. "I myself am not fully sane," she murmured. At seeing I wanted to understand what she'd meant, she continued. "I see things that are not really there. I hear things. I... I even feel things...."

    "That's hardly a lack of sanity, my dear," I grinned, trying to get her to look me in the eye. "It's what the best of them call empathy. The things of which you speak are spirits, are they not?"

    She nodded meekly. "I do not see only the unseen. I see people who merely don't want to be seen as well."

    Anxiety burned in me then, but I hid it as best I could—my intuition had failed me many times before. "I must express remorse in my need to part ways now," I stated, taking her hand in mine. "Ms. Gianni, I bid you adieu."

    "It was a wonderful morning, Mr. Itoh," she returned, bowing slightly as well, with a slight blush.

    "Verily, m'dear."

    Then I walked off smiling to myself. Once out of her sight, I added a spring to my step.

    I returned to my estate in a short time, having walked—the day was too beautiful to have been squandered away. I hummed to myself and pranced about the spantious kitchen, eating an apple. But my daydreaming was brought to a halt at seeing Kit and Sesh waiting for me at the dinner table, arms crossed and stares piercing.

    "It's been all too long since I've seen the true you, Keiji," my brother remarked.

    "Don't look so shocked," I chuckled, sitting down with them, the chair turned backwards, my elbows on the table. Taking another bite of my apple, I asked, mouth full, "What brings the two of you here?"

    "You make me sick, acting like you haven't done anything," Kit spat. "You destroy the Bell Tower because Scyrus was killed before he got to it, then you have an estate built on its remains. You erected an asylum where Ecruteak Technical should be. And your hunger has grown exponentially since your youth, such now your tastes are so epicure that only the bluest of blood will do." She glared at me hatefully. "Neither humans nor Tenshi are your cattle, you beast. The only thing that's made it worse is your cheerful, carefree mood not half a day after you've committed murder!"

    My head had gradually drooped to a stupor as she cut me down limb by limb, and now my hands were the only thing holding it up. "You make it sound like *I* am *happy* that I've done such a thing—!" I wailed.

    "You're sure acting like it," she grumbled, lip curled. As soon as she snatched my fruit from me, she threw it across the room such that it splattered on the wall. "That man brought stability to this region. He brought education to a place of darkness."

    "I... I didn't know what I was doing when I did it...." I sniveled quietly.

    "I know you didn't," she bellowed. "You never know what you're doing! It's as though you don't know the difference between right and wrong!"

    "Kit, lay off him," Sesh began, looking at me worriedly. "You know he still has Permutations. They're just... fewer and farther between...."

    "Yes, I had been moonstricken when I did it," I admitted, staring off into an empty part of the dining room. "You two should know better than to think that I did it in my right mind...."

    "Then why are you so happy?" he inquired, still wary of me.

    I smiled slightly, sighing in bemusement. "Rivelle's replacement...." I blushed when the two of them stared at me strangely.

    "Th—this is just too sick for me..." Kit uttered, pale. "An old man, in love...."

    "Who're you calling old?" I retorted flatly, insulted. "I happen to think I look quite good for my age...."

    "Yes, a man of five-hundred-thirty," Sesh muttered, vaguely amused, "that would otherwise be thought to be no more than thirty."

    "The matter at hand is not Tacky's age"—she growled because I snickered then—"but, in fact, his conduct."

    "What's she like?" the gossipmonger began, grinning and propping his head up by his hands.

    "She's positively gorgeous, inside and out—!" I wailed, dismayed. "Shining jade eyes... long, silken brown hair that falls into tight curls... the creamiest complexion.... And the worst part is that she's not just a pretty face, either—a brilliant mind, she is!"

    "Your heart wanders, otouto-san," he mused. "We might need to invest in some rope to tie your feet to the ground...."

    "Have any clue how old this woman is?" she mumbled, grumpy.

    I shook my head. "She's probably in her late twenties, but who's to say with a beauty like that...?"

    Sesh picked up on Kit's tone of voice at long last. "You're bloody jealous, aren't you, Kit?" he grinned, poking at her. She growled at him; her flustering brought the both of us to snicker at her. She soon vanished in a puff of smoke.

    "Why did you two really come here?" I began, serious.

    "Kit couldn't believe everything she'd heard about you," he replied. "I need to go find her so she doesn't do anything stupid.... Don't go turning into a hopeless old pervert, little brother," he teased, taking leave as his wife had done.

    "Ha, she'd know if I were spying on her, one way or another," I replied to no one, sitting back in the chair in infinite bliss of just thinking about Maki. "I'm sure she wouldn't like me, anyway...." I stared at the mashed apple on the wall in an aftershock of realisation, holding the tips of my fingers to my throat. Wide-eyed, I uttered, "My impediment's gone...."

    ~*~*~

    Over the course of the next month or so, I left several gifts to Ms. Maki Gianni. I grew wary of discovering her reaction; however, a part of me wanted to see her reaction to each of them in person....

    ~*~*~

    She returned from her evening rounds to discover the first of my gifts lying on her commode. Awed and surprised, she cautiously approached the rectangular argentine box, and, sitting, she unraveled the crimson ribbons. "A bouquet of tropical roses native to the Mikan Islands," I whispered in her ear, staring at her reflection lustfully, "though their sanguine beauty pales in comparison to yours, my dear...."

    By the time she'd whipped around to discover who'd been behind her, the apparition had vanished from the scene, smiling contentedly to himself as he kicked back on the rooftop and stared up at the night sky dreamily.

    ~*~*~

    At the same time as last, the following week brought forth a Pidgey that had been trained to sing to her. As she approached it with a vague smile, I grinned to myself. "I made the cage myself," I beamed quietly, again exiting before she could catch wind of me.

    ~*~*~

    In the third week I caught her while she was unpinning her hair for the evening. Restraint failing me at the sheer thought of granting her guise, I crept up to her, my breathing scarce and deep, and, hesitating, I held her still by her shoulders, craning down to her neck. After smelling deeply of her beautiful body, I licked the roof of my mouth harshly, my eyes shut tight. "Such a delightful scent...." I realised that I'd outstepped my boundaries and tensed up entirely, leaping back to phase through the wall.

    She saw the new gift laid on her bed and lost all composure. "A bottle of Angetian perfume..." she uttered, having opened the bronze box and begun staring at its contents.

    My words echoed feintly in the room. "I only hope that it keeps me at bay, my dear...."

    ~*~*~

    I'd spent so many lonely nights in my mansion working on the last of the gifts for my love. I laid it upon her pillow such that she would find it when she retired for the night. I only hoped that she would understand then how I felt for her....

    As she turned back the covers, she leapt back in fright at discovering the doll that bore her perfect likeness. "I—I know you're in here...!" she threatened, glaring around the room. My cloak failed me once her eyes were set upon me in the candlelight, my darkened self the first thing she saw of me. "....Who are you, and what do you want from me?" she continued vainly.

    I stood at the foot of her bed, a solemn, anxious shine in my eyes. "Do you like the gifts?" I inquired quietly. "Yes, of course you do.... You wove the roses into your hair until they shriveled up and died. Your songbird is fed and petted regularly. And you're wearing the perfume at this very moment. But rather, I should rephrase my question: What do you think of the porcelain doll?"

    She could do naught but stare at me in fright. "I... I don't understand how you've evaded my perception for the entire time you've come to me here..." she began. "No, I know what you want from me. You lust for me," she stated, suddenly unafraid.

    I clenched my teeth for a moment, then regained my usual composure. "My dear, I have skills your mortal mind could never comprehend. See for yourself," I grinned darkly, emotion welling up in the mere presence of the girl that I could never begin to describe. I teleported behind her, grabbing her around her waist eagerly, running my hands over her stomach as my dark hair fell over her shoulders. "Or rather, don't see." I chuckled.

    She was completely tensed up, but did not seem frightened. "Please unhand me," she mouthed, twitching. I complied, not wanting to make her angry with me. "Why have you made this doll to look like me? And why give it to me...?"

    I hooked my chin over her shapely shoulder. "Each of my dolls is a facet of my life.... I couldn't help but add you to my collection...."

    She thrust me away and jumped up onto the bed, unsettling the doll where it had lain. "I—I'm not a doll to be placed on a dusty shelf—!" she defied, now again scared stiff.

    "Don't take my words in such a way, my dear," I began, pouting, approaching her calmly. "I love each and every of my dolls with a passion I don't think you can understand.... Though, I must say that you are the first living creature ever to have graced the menagerie...."

    "Then I suppose I should feel special?" she squeaked.

    I grinned madly. "Hnnn," I mused throatily, "I take back what I've said.... Of course you would understand. You understand your... tenants...." I held her hand, against her will, in both of mine, sitting on the side of the bed. "My dolls... each of them is a facet of my life.... Each of them... each of them is a part of... of me.... Do you understand?" I implored, staring into her frightened eyes. "Do you understand that I want you... that I want you to be mine?"

    "I don't even know who you are—!"

    I chuckled painfully, gritting my teeth as my gaze hit the floor. "I've forgotten that you don't know who I really am, my dear...." I looked at her again with as human a face as I could muster, trying to get her to recognise that Keiji Itoh and Takeru were one in the same. And, slowly, it succeeded.

    She pulled away from me. "You—you—!" She couldn't finish her statement she was in such disarray, backed against the headboard. "You're not...! You can't be...!"

    I tensed up at this, writhing. "True, a part of me is this beast," I tried, "but I myself am not.... There are just some times when I lose control of myself...." I swallowed hard. "Please... tell me how to convince you that I hold a true love for you...?"

    "You... you actually love me...?" she uttered, mouth and very throat dry to the bone.

    I nodded stiffly. "Words cannot explain how much I want for you and me to be one."

    "You aren't here just to murder me...?" she continued.

    Again, I nodded. "Please don't look at it that I'd murdered Rivelle.... I just... I just went a bit overboard that night...."

    "You made a mockery of his corpse," she muttered flatly, beginning to think me a liar.

    "I sustain myself by draining the life-force of others," I explained. "He was of a race whose blood is also healing; it granted such euphoria that I couldn't let go of him—I'd lost myself entirely."

    "I know what you are," she frowned, brow furrowed anxiously of me. "What guarantee do I have that you wouldn't... lose yourself... and decide to feast upon me?"

    "My dear, I would never in a lifetime have the thought pass my mind," I assured, smiling. "You are far too precious for me ever to harm you in any way!"

    She turned her face from my sight for several minutes. "....I... I must confess.... I had fallen to lust in the presence of your human side..." she admitted quietly, still turned from me.

    "Then you are not against my feelings for you?"

    "I... I think that I may love you, too, Keiji Itoh...." She gave a short giggle, looking to me. "If I permit such a relationship between the two of us, would you do one thing for me?"

    I cocked my head to one side just slightly, intrigued. "And what would that be?" I asked, smiling barely.

    "Could I see your human side from time to time...?" She blushed at actually having said it.

    Moving to wrap my arms around her lovingly, I replied, "You must be understanding in the matter of my Darkness; he is temperamental, and tends to follow the moon phases." I sighed. "Such a demand is hardly out of the question, but during certain periods of time it may be inevitable for my restraint to loosen."

    She nodded in small motions. After a silence, she looked to me again. "Could I have a small kiss from the man I'm to have as my lover?"

    I grinned, giddy, then inched to her lips as she inched to mine, the both of us closing our eyes. The binding act lasted several minutes, growing slowly more and more intense. I broke away suddenly, staring at her. She frowned, murmuring in malcontent, then opened her eyes to find me in such a state. "Simply a goddess..." I uttered. "I shall worship your beauty, and pray daily for your kisses." I kissed her again, then stood. "I shan't stay much longer.... The moon rips at me this moment, and I haven't eaten a thing this week...."

    She laughed at this, sad. "Come back to me," she began, more than pleased that I had fallen for her.

    I smiled. "I shall watch over you as you sleep," I replied. "May your dreams be as sweet as mine have been, my love," I whispered, bowing out for a bite to eat.


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Twenty-Three: Tea and Teacakes

    ::Maki::

    "Come back to me, my love," I began, smiling coyly as I reached out to him as he stood.

    He blew a kiss to me, smirking. "I shall watch over you as you sleep," he replied, a lustful glimmer in his wicked beautiful golden eyes. Then a gust blew in through the window, throwing the curtains up as though an apparition, and he vanished.

    Cradling in my arms the doll he had made me, I whispered, "He loves me...." Then I fell asleep.


    ~*~*~

    "Hnn, good morning, darling," I murmured sleepily, turning over to hold him in my arms. But all I found was the rustling of my curtains.

    Now awake and in realisation that it had been a dream, I sat up to find my pet Pidgey had escaped his cage, and that the window was wide open. I rushed to my feet, upset that I had probably not securely fastened his cage, and I had probably dozed off and forgotten about the window. And now he was gone....

    "Why in the world did I have such a dream?" I muttered, depressed as I sat in front of my commode to get dressed for the day. "Do I really have such affections for Mr. Itoh?" I laced my bodice and tied my petticoat, then stared at my now blushing reflection. "Oh, I'm so embarrassed.... I don't know how I'll be able to meet with him...." I looked worriedly at my date book to verify when our next meeting was. "Ohhh..." I whimpered, flustering. "I can't see him today! I'm a nervous wreck...!" The clock struck ten and I wailed. "I've not only made myself miserable, I've overslept! I'm more than an hour overdue for my rounds!" From then forward I proceeded to get dressed in extreme haste, leaving my room in utter disarray. I moved to rush out the door, but a gust of wind razed my mind and I turned back into the room to close it.

    Then I saw the doll laying disheveled in the bed covers, and the colour washed from my face. "What in the world...?"

    ~*~*~

    I made my rounds short and sweet as possible in order to make up for lost time, informing my orderlies that I would be out for the afternoon, and I left, taking a carriage up to Mr. Itoh's estate.

    I arrived in about half an hour's time, and approached the door anxiously. Upon knocking, a servant answered the door promptly and ushered me inside.

    "You the asylum matron, ma'am?" he began. What a lanky little creature he was!

    I nodded. "Mr. Itoh's arranged that I meet with him monthly."

    The pale man smiled, but said nothing as he led me down the dark corridors.

    As we turned several corners, I could hear the beautiful, rich sound of a viola being played, and, smiling, I inquired, "Who is that playing?"

    "That would be Mr. Itoh, ma'am," he replied, stopping. "Isn' 't beautiful?"

    "Yes, quite beautiful...."

    He opened the door and I entered silently, as not to disturb him. I sat on the couch and watched him play passionately; no music was lain out before him. The song sounded as though stitched with love, yet it was almost... painful....

    The instant he had finished the song, I began to applaud, smiling a bit. His head picked up at hearing that someone had been watching, and he turned, flipping his golden, flowing ponytail over his shoulder. At seeing that it was I, he broke a faint smile, set his viola down on the desk, and approached me.

    "Good morning, Miss Gianni," he greeted, taking my hands and helping me to stand. "Hnn, had I known I had an audience, I would have turned to face her..." he mused, a glitter in his emerald eyes.

    "You play ever so beautifully," I praised with a grin. "Did you just happen to pick the strings up one day and decide that you would make women's hearts fain at such a sound?"

    "Ha, I've played all four in my lifetime, but I find that I prefer the viola.... It has a certain excellence in portraying many different emotions."

    "You're a man of many emotions, Mr. Itoh," I began. "Do you ever really show how you truly feel?"

    He chuckled under his breath and turned from me for a moment, walking off to the side of the room. "Would you care for a drink, my dear?" he asked, pouring himself a glass of wine.

    He drinks so early in the morning, I thought to myself, rightly appalled. "N—no, thank you."

    He stopped pouring—a half-glass. "Hm, suit yourself." He leaned back on the recessed bar with his elbows, crossing his ankles casually. He raised the glass to me, then drank half of what he'd poured.

    I flustered. "Y—you know, the doll is beautiful," I fished, on edge.

    His attentions perked up from his glass. "Really? You think so? Hnn, I spent so long on that one.... I wanted her to look just perfect, you know?"

    My face twitched slightly at his response. I hadn't expected such bluntness from such a subtle creature....

    "Are you sure you wouldn't care for a drink, m'dear? You look pale as a ghost...."

    I sat down, feeling faint. I—I'd.... "I think that's a grand idea...."

    He snorted quietly, but said nothing as he pulled another glass out, pouring me as much as he'd taken, and turned to offer it to me. "I didn't think it would be in either of our best interests, if that's what's bothering you...."

    "Wh—what do you mean...?"

    "I did come back last night. I just... I didn't think it would be a good thing for it to get around that I of all people was sleeping in the same bed as you." He picked up instantly on my dismay. "You thought it was a dream," he deduced flatly. "Or, should I say, a nightmare?" He turned from me, his knuckles white on the bar's edge. "No, I shouldn't expect you to understand me.... I'm no... ordinary man, now, am I?"

    "I—I don't know what to say...." I took the opportunity to down the glass hastily.

    "You don't have to say a thing, m'dear," he snapped in self-hatred. "I'd understand it if you wouldn't want that fantasy to become a reality. I did, afterall, create that fantasy.... It's not the first brainchild that's bitten a finger or two off...."

    "I—it just came as a shock..." I stuttered, attempting to calm him. I only hoped that anger did not cause him to show his other side.... "It was too good to be true...."

    His anger ceased, and he stared at me strangely. "Did I just hear you correctly? I would have sworn you said something or another about leading me on...?"

    "I—" I blushed furiously, turning my face from him.

    He knelt down before me and fingered my chin gingerly, then forced me to look him in the eye. "Perhaps you need to understand something, Maki. That conceitedly large brain of yours has an ability or two contributing towards your comprehension of me; and I know this because of your ambiguous tone just now." He grinned. "I love being toyed with," he murmured with a prurious sneer. "Lies, however," he continued, his grip on my throat tightening fiercely, "enrage me horribly."

    I choked up. "I—I understand," I stammered. Never in my life had I felt such a passion for a man then. The sheer look in his eye.... I could hear... no, I could feel our hearts racing....

    "Perhaps you do," he mused, letting go of me and standing, "or, perhaps you don't." He walked to the open balcony and looked out over his garden. "Do you have any idea how old I am, dear?"

    I flustered at such an inquiry. "I—I wouldn't know how to begin to guess...."

    "Then I would guess that you don't really know who I am?"

    "You're Keiji Itoh."

    "Dig deeper, my dear," he led, a fire raging in his very voice.

    "I—you're the one who's responsible for the death of Mr. Rivelle...!"

    It stung him then that I'd said it. "Could I ask you never to bring up my drunken exploits in my presence, my dear?" he led, tears tearing at his voice then.

    The agony I felt prickling off of him brought me to stand and approach him and place my hands upon his shoulders in remorse. "I—I'm sorry.... I don't know how to explain to you who I think you are...."

    "You merely don't want to admit that you know," he corrected, again in self-hatred. "This place knows me for my darker self, and yet I go unnoticed.... It makes me believe I'd be better off erasing myself from existence and going on as Takeru...."

    "Takeru...?" I began.

    "Ha, I'm the Bamboo Dragon..." he looked to me, "and I'm 538."

    The shock wore off and I stopped staring at him after a moment, blushing. "I—you certainly don't look your age," I murmured jokingly.

    "Ha, no, I don't, do I?"

    I held his waist with my small hands and stared into his eyes seriously. "You are the most beautiful and complex creature I've ever laid my eyes upon."

    He melted. "I... I could say the same of you," he parroted, dumbstricken.

    "I just want to know," I began, knowing a passionate kiss was imminent. "Why drink so early in the morning?"

    It shook the daze out of him, and he looked out blankly over the terrace again. "There are several reasons for it, but they all stem from a desire to forget. Though Takeru and I are two different people, we are one in the same entity; I can't help but remember what he sees...." He smiled vaguely. "Why did I need a drink this morning? I haven't slept in a week...."

    "You poor thing," I murmured, playing with his ascot. I then looked in his wonderful green eyes impishly. "Would you care to call this day a ditched effort and make amends for the past week?"

    His attentions were clearly upon me and only me. "I would care for that a great deal," he led, taking me behind the waist with his right arm and drawing me along with him down the hall. "You're dismissed, Fredericks," he called confidently over his shoulder.

    "Yessir," the servant—the one from before—grinned. He knew he'd done his job for the day.

    ~*~*~

    Laying in bed that evening, once the two of us had reawakened from the afternoon rest, I massaged Keiji's temples lovingly.

    "Mmmmh," he mumbled pleasantly. "You're not against all my... problems, are you?"

    I laughed, snapping his neck up in a quick motion, then setting his head down as it had been. "You forget who you're talking to! It's been my job for years to solve such problems."

    He looked to me, brow arched. "You'd attempt such a task as unraveling my knotted brain?"

    "Hmm, I don't know," I played. "I might find that your problems are too complex for me to understand. Or maybe they aren't really problems," I chuckled, moving to massage his neck and shoulders.

    He sat up and pulled away from me, breathing heavily. "I—I'm sorry.... My neck and shoulders are the most sensitive part of me...." He moaned softly, tensed up entirely for a moment, then fell silent, pushing his back out, a pair of beautiful, glistening black wings unfurling from his very spine. He moaned again as he splayed them, this time louder than before. "Ahh... yes, I needed that.... I felt so crumpled up before...."

    All I could do was stare. "You... you are a demon, aren't you?"

    He turned to me, his amused expression stitched bitterly. "I suppose you could call me that, but then that means you're in love with a demon," he grinned, laying down beside me and curling a wing around me.

    "Your fangs are so cute, darling," I murmured, holding his cheeks in my palms and kissing him. I then moved to act upon a hunch, running my hands gently over the wing with which he'd covered me.

    "Ahh, no, n—no..." he half-pleaded, his foot twitching. I pressed a bit harder and he gave in, completely putty in my hands. "S—so quick to find a man's weak spot, aren't you?" he smiled, looking at me sleepily.

    "You're the one who laid it in my lap," I half-pouted. I worked on the second rib a bit and he went into convulsions of ecstasy. "So sensitive to my touch, aren't we?"

    "P—please stop..." he chuckled, unable to contain himself, inching up to me and kissing me blindly on the cheek.

    I drew it up to my mouth and stared at him hungrily while licking it. "And what if I don't?"

    His mouth gaped open as he stared right back at me. He then snapped up in an instant to kiss me animalistically, our tongues locked, and he wrapped me up in his wings, holding me tight to him for hours.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    I picked my head up from my half-asleep stupor, unfolding a wing to look to the doorway. "Really, now, I wouldn't think you'd still be a nightfaring creature after all Sarina did to you, dear brother."

    He twitched frantically. "Y—there's—there's a—"

    "Don't act so surprised," I muttered. "You're the one who let himself in unexpected."

    "—there's a woman sleeping next to you—"

    "Yes, onii-san. There's a woman sleeping with me. Does it really come as that much of a shock?"

    "You raped her, didn't you!?" he uttered.

    I growled at him. "Get. Out. How dare you accuse me of such a thing!" Maki wrapped her arm around my neck and pulled me back down to kiss my cheek. "I'm sorry to disturb you, Maki, dear. My brother was just leaving," I ground.

    He got the message and walked off in a daze.

    "Stupid big brother," I grumbled, settling back down in the bed.

    "What's the matter?" she mumbled sleepily.

    "Nothing, nothing. Go back to sleep...."

    She merely mumbled some more in response, then fell back off to sleep. I soon did the same. And I slept well.


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Twenty-Four: Nexus Rimæque

    I awoke before Maki the next morning, and, in order not to awaken her, as I got up, phased through her what parts of me she'd been laying on. I walked over to the window to the right side of the bed and looked out, a wide grin upon my face. After a minute of gloating silently, I got dressed, and turned to look upon my love. Smiling, I drew the covers up around her and kissed her on the cheek. Then I threw back my long, black hair with gloved hand and trotted down the hall, leaving her to rest peacefully.

    I stopped in front of an open door, gazing out in front of me. "I'd figured that you'd still be here this morning," I muttered, looking at him.

    He was sitting on the windowsill, as he always did, peering down at the grounds below. "I never left," my brother replied nonchalantly.

    "Don't act like it didn't get under your skin!" I hooted, smirking.

    His head jerked to one side, and he slowly turned to face me, staring. "C—come again...?"

    I arched a brow at him oddly. "You're acting like seeing me in bed with a woman didn't get to you...."

    His face twitched after a moment. "Say 'don't'," he led, afraid.

    "'Don't'," I parrotted, staring back in disgust with such stupidity.

    Again he winced. "'Can't'."

    I pursed my lips, irritated. "'Can't', like you 'can't' seem to get it into your head that my impediment's gone. Quit mocking me."

    "I—what...?" He slowly stood and approached me, staring at my neck—apparently, my brooch. "Something happened to the Take-ryuu, didn't it? It did something to your throat?"

    I snorted. "You really should have stayed around that night that Sarina re-coded my virus, onii-san. This isn't the Take-ryuu—it's the Kurai-ryuu."

    "Some fine distinction *that* is," he grumbled, still awestricken by it. "Wait—'re-coded'...?"

    "Yes, re-coded," I muttered. "She changed the way that the virus was integrating all my strands together. Because it's not triggered by hormonal spikes, I don't have bleedthroughs, but you should know that."

    "Wh—" He shook off his daze then. "Why would it be a good thing to have all the strands strung together? Tenshi splicing allows for shifting as is, and any capabilities granted by possessing a particular strand can be used at any time...."

    "It's quite all right to be confused, chiisai onii-san," I belittled, slipping the glove off my left hand. I then slinked up to him smoothly and grappled his throat with it, grinning with eyes wide with my glourious madness. "Feel that? Feel that strong, fleshy grip of mine?" Though he had tensed up at my assail, he realised that I again had two fully-functional hands in the time it took me to gloat over it. "You never heard how Rivelle died, did you?"

    He shook his head frightfully, thinking I was going to demonstrate with him.

    "Hou...." I chuckled wickedly, letting my seven eyes surface in my left hand, and I licked his neck forcefully with each tongue held within them. I watched with purest delight as his expression changed from one of fright to one of petrifaction when he figured out exactly what my hand contained; running the tongue in my mouth over my left fang obnoxiously, I glared at him as my chuckle broke off after turning into a single, loud, burst of cackling. "Can you tell I'm hungry, onii-san?" I whispered. "I drained him with just my own two hands," I continued. "The natives can't perceive just how every drop of his blood had flown out of him... how not a drop had been wasted.... So foolish," I seethed raspily.

    "H—h—Takeru..." he choked out, breathing just faintly. He didn't complete his statement of exasperation.

    I grinned, my fangs longer than before in enjoyment of toying with the stupid boy, and relinquished my grip on him in order to present my salivating palm to him for closer inspection. He leapt away with a girlish squeal, nauseated at simply seeing such a mutation.

    "You're such a foolish little one," I mumbled disdainfully, eyes narrowed as I looked down upon him. "Why would it be beneficial to have all my strands in one? Why wouldn't it be beneficial to be in complete control over which parts of which strands were used to make which parts of my body?" I cackled again, then shut up, seething with pride. "I can have eyes that cover my flesh—Ditto's eyes, which feed directly into my bloodstream; arms, legs, hands—anything!—that come from any part of me, as long and as numerous as need be—by tapping into the formlessness of Haunter; gaping jaws, lined with dozens of sharp, long teeth—Umbreon's jaws, teeming with the poison of paralysis.... And that doesn't even begin to cover it!" Licking my lips and snuffling deeply of the hot air around him, I got up in his face, all my eyes surfacing and glowing with excitement. "Nnn, imagine the adrenaline surging through a victim's bloodstream from being frightened by such an alien creature as myself. Oh!" I chuckled, "it simply slipped my mind! You're scared shitless of me right now, aren't you!" I snapped at him with a roar and he shrieked, vanishing, having frozen me to get away.

    I resumed my stroll, a prideful smirk plastered upon my face. I chuckled to myself as my thousandfold gaze receded; then, I re-gloved my hand. "Oh, you little simpleton..."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Maki::

    I turned over with a gurgling murmur, smiling stupidly as I opened my arms to hug my dearest. But reality then sank in and I opened my eyes, saddened to find he'd risen before me. It had passed through my mind that the past two nights could have been a nested dream, but then I realised that I wasn't in my chambers and knew it had been far from a dream.

    Rising and getting dressed, I noticed a Pidgey on the terrace and watched it from the end of the bed as it sat there. Then it began to sing, and I knew that it was the Pidgey that had escaped me. I smiled, approaching it warmly and offering my fingers for it to perch. It saw me and stopped singing, then cocked its head at me, looking at my hand oddly for a moment, before it leapt upon my hand and sang louder than before.

    "You sing so beautifully, Pidgey," I praised, petting it with my other hand. "I'm sure you had a wonderful adventure in the past day, but I would love it if you would fly back to my room. I shan't be long to return." It looked at me sadly, cooing. "Oh, don't look at me so," I pouted. "You're such a free soul," I thought aloud to myself. "You need to be let free on occasion, don't you?" Though I hadn't addressed it directly, it responded with a chirp of agreement. I giggled solemnly, petting its pretty little head again. "Will you at least stay where I can hear you, dear? You sing just so beautifully." It rubbed its crest upon my palm in consent, then flew off, singing again. "Just so beautifully..." I repeated, meandering off in search of Keiji.

    ~*~*~

    I looked in many of the open rooms, but was far too nervous of disturbing anything (or anyone) that might be behind any of the closed doors; however, I came to a closed door in the West Wing of the mansion that ate me alive that it was shut. But, upon opening it, I forever wished that I hadn't.

    The room was built like a study, or perhaps a library, but no books lined these shelf-covered walls, and there were no windows, but, eerily, some dozen candelabras that had been left unattended.

    Belonging to hundreds, if not thousands, of porcelain dolls, twice as many glass eyes stared at me as though an intruder. Porcelain dolls that had been carved and painted to resemble rotting corpses, their eyes falling from their sockets, their hair patchy, tangled, and thin, their complexion grey, and what clothing they wore stained in what would have been the blood that saturated their death beds. Dead porcelain dolls whose stares bore holes in one's sanity at imagining such little hungry beasts. Porcelain dolls that had been thrown in some violent upheaval, and never picked up, their arms and legs strewn in odd corners of the room, their heads smashed in, their eyes fallen into their skulls, and their attire tatters. Broken porcelain dolls whose stares invoked one's sorrow at envisioning such tormented little ones. But, the most frightening of all were the porcelain dolls that had been made to look perfectly human, few and far between. Porcelain dolls of young women whose stares, regardless of their other facial features, forever echoed within anyone whose sight fell upon them their horrific, inner agony.

    I collapsed to the floor, crippled by the stares of the hundreds, if not thousands, of porcelain dolls. I could hear their mad cackling, their cries of anguish, their silent sobbing. I could hear them chattering amongst one another. I could hear them damning me. I... I could hear them plotting my death.... I was simply petrified beyond recognition, unable to do much more than whine hoarsely in fright as I stared right back at them.

    I heard a gasp behind me, and I knew then that Keiji had found me in the room. He drew me up in his arms, steadying me, and broke my train of thought. I stared at him, afraid that, in his current wicked disposition, he would be upset with me.

    He held my shoulders forcefully, his golden eyes ablaze with worry. "How long have you been in here, Maki?" he demanded, hoping I'd not become comatose.

    "I—I don't know..." I admitted, my gaze settling uneasily upon the obsidian floor.

    He shook me angrily. "Look at me, damn you!" he roared. His voice calmed, barely, when I complied hastily in fright, but his emotion did not. "When you are here, you can't just go wandering off on your own, my love. There are things much worse than this behind some doors of this estate."

    "Oh, I can't imagine anything worse than these demons!" I cried, falling into his arms.

    He held me tight, running his gloved hands over my back to console me. "Promise me that you won't wander on your own," he uttered.

    I nodded rapidly, still shaking and sniveling terribly.

    He led me out of the room, the candles snuffing themselves and the cries of the captives fading away as he closed the door with some psychic strength. "Though I know that it won't be today, if you're to love me, you'll have to learn to love my... demons, as well.... I can't escape some parts of my psyche, so I shut them away.... But some doors are not to be opened twice, my dear...."


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Twenty-Five: Meet the Real Me

    Keiji had moved to calm me by laying me back down in his bed and sitting next to me, holding my hands in his. His eyes had not once changed from their self-loathing light since we'd left the dolls.

    "I—I can't express my remorse for what you've seen, Maki," he began. "I've just been so accustomed to life alone. I suppose I need to remove such hazards before people other than myself come here."

    "Wh—what made you rise so early this morning...?" I uttered, trying to turn his attention to another subject. "I thought you were a nocturnal creature...."

    He smiled vaguely. "I slept too well last night not to rise early," he played. "My brother had seen the two of us in bed, and was still here this morning, so I had to deal with him." He snorted, staring at the bed sheets. "Deal with him. There are just some times when you need to scare some wit into your big brother...."

    "Is he anything like you...?" I inquired, worried.

    "Ha, no, not really; though, he does share a number of similarities, when it comes to temperament and genetic makeup. I think you might like to meet him some time in the future, dear. I think he might like to meet you, too. Hmm..." he grinned.

    A silence ensued that made the both of us uneasy. It gave me more time to think about the dolls. But somehow I hated having such a thought once the words had escaped my mouth.

    "Y—you're not really a man, are you?"

    He glared at me in horrified disgust, but no response came for several minutes, as though the inquiry had been a dagger through his heart. "You dare ask such a question after I slept with you last night...?!"

    I winced, thinking he might attack me for the inquiry. "Y—your dolls.... You say that they are all a part of you.... But... but they're all female...."

    His right eye began to twitch, his mouth to grin dementedly. "That's hardly true, my dear..." he feigned, hurt deeply. "I... I need to go find my brother..." he began, standing and walking off. But he soon stopped, standing in the door way, head hung. "You're the only one here who knows, Maki...."

    "I.... I can't believe that I was right about it..." I uttered, staring at him in utter shock. "It... it was just... so... farfetched... so unlikely.... But I know that you're a changeling... so I had to ask...." I paused to breathe, the conversation too heavy for me. "Have you done this your entire life, Keiji...?"

    He turned to me, anguish upon his face, no shine in his eyes. "Since I was given the ability to change my shape, I have pretended to be a man.... You see, my father was insane by the time he'd impregnated my mother a second time; when he found I was a girl, he was driven into a rage by it. My mother was so dearly afraid of him that she'd given me a male name and dressed me as a male, and brought me up as one, forcing me to keep it a secret. But, I knew that I wasn't. I was made a changeling when I was ten years old, so no one has ever found out that I'm not a man, because I went through puberty as one...."

    The poor thing...! I thought to myself in horror. No wonder h—she's so touched in the head!

    He sniveled. "My mother did everything in her power to keep me from girlish activities and actions while my father was around.... I wasn't allowed to have dolls, even though I had taken several from girls at school; however, when I was five, I found a beautiful doll under my bed—my father had been taken to an asylum, and would no longer pose a threat to my mother or me then, and she'd wanted to make everything up to me. It was the only proof of my womanhood, so I destroyed it when I was sixteen."

    After a minute he laughed painfully. "You have no idea what it was like to realise that I'd impregnated that hapless girl the first time I got drunk...."

    "I—I thought you'd never had any woman before me," I choked, beginning to feel betrayed.

    "She wasn't a woman.... She was my Eevee...." He couldn't look at me then.

    I couldn't compute that he had enacted bestiality, let alone that it had been a successful mating. "Why didn't you ever tell anyone about your father?"

    "....I wanted to shatter neither others' illusions of me, nor mine..." he replied. "Over time it became truth in my mind, and I'd actually been able to forget the truth—that is, until you'd asked just now."

    "I'd always wondered why you didn't like girls," a voice muttered behind him quietly, trying to be funny in order to voice his pity for the poor soul.

    The both of us turned our attentions to the tall, strong blond standing in the hall.

    "I thought you'd left, you scaredy-cat," Keiji hissed, eyes narrowed in hatred.

    "No; I just ran away," he razzed, matching the gaze. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"

    "I only thought it would warp you the way it did me," he snapped, turning from him.

    "You stupid lesbian whore," the other growled hatefully, slapping Keiji in the back of the head such that he fell to the floor. He glared at the victim sprawled out before him. "How could you!? How could you!?!"

    Keiji returned the glare, answering in an insanity-driven, dagger-tongued rage. "How could I not have told you? I figured that you would either find out eventually, or that you would be better off not knowing. How could I possibly be homosexual? How could I possibly not be, considering how I was raised? I do tend to like men from time to time; I did have a crush on Takunei for the longest—at least, until I found out who he was. How could I have killed Anne? She betrayed the very soul of her only daughter to her fear of Father. She wasn't my mother. She only gave birth to me.

    "And I've always wished she hadn't. I've been nothing but a curse to everyone. She was beaten regularly because she had a girl instead of a boy, then, when I re-introduced myself as a true son, she couldn't handle it—and you'd always wondered why she couldn't accept I was the same child she'd borne unto the world sixteen years prior! I'd tormented Meilin's sister constantly for years. I drove Rivelle to insanity all those years ago, then ate him a month ago. Do you remember how afraid the Roses were of me the instant I got my abilities? Do you? Then there is the matter of the incessant hunger, from which I suffer, which has taken the lives of thousands. And you can't imagine how Eve acted when she found out her master had really become a man... not to mention how she acted when I got her pregnant...."

    "You forgot how you forced me to follow in your footsteps in vampiric death for two centuries," he seethed, trying to comprehend that his brother was really his sister. He then glared at me. "How could he tell you, but not me...? How are you different?"

    "Maki asked," he replied on my behalf, staring at his brother.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    The three of us calmed soon thereafter. Rukuru actually left this time, leaving the two of us to talk.

    "I must say that I really do feel odd being loved by a woman...."

    I snorted nonchalantly, trying not to be moved by the comment. "Don't you feel odd, then, that you love a woman?"

    She smiled. "You're hardly what most consider a woman, Keiji...."

    I flustered at it, but suppressed my dismay quickly. "Gods, I love you," I whispered, staring at her, wide-eyed. "You toy with my emotions so...."

    "Hh, it's natural for an empath to understand such things; why not take them lightly? A heavy heart does no one any bit of good."

    I closed my eyes, smiling as well. After a moment I took a more... effeminate shape—though I made myself more effeminate than I probably should have been as a woman, as I wanted Maki to think I was a beautiful creature—and opened my eyes, staring into hers.

    I opened my mouth to speak, but it took several attempts to produce any sound. My throat had never made such sounds in my entire life. "It's about time I came to terms with the skeletons in my closet." I grabbed her and kissed her furiously, then threw her back on the bed and stood. "You love a woman, Maki."

    She stared at me, shocked by such a sight.

    Then my Darkness asserted itself over me again mentally and I let out a short scream, tearing at my hair in agony and gnashing my sharp teeth. I was compelled infinitely then to compensate for all that I'd just done, and I began by severing my entire right arm from my body. As the blood flowed down my side, I became calmed.

    Maki shrieked, hyperventilating at seeing me in such a condition. The arm turned to a pile of rotten ooze not moments later, drizzling up my leg to rejoin to my body. "I... I can stand no longer...." No emotion in my comatose gaze, I collapsed then, having fainted.

    When I regained consciousness, Maki had gone as well. "Give it time," I sighed solemly. "She will take you back. Someday...."


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Twenty-Six: The Glare of One's Reflection

    ::Maki::

    Gods, what have I gotten myself into? I thought to myself reprimandingly as I sat back tensely on the carriage's cushions. I've fallen in love with the Bamboo Dragon, who's not the man I thought he was, but, in fact, a woman; and now Keiji, the terrible Gengar she is, will, without a doubt, haunt me for the rest of my days if she doesn't get her way. Even if I run, she will find me....

    ~*~*~

    As soon as I returned to the asylum, I heard a pained, screaming roar resonate through the area. I shivered, closing my eyes tight.

    Once the echo had faded, I sighed, looking to the doll. Pressing my knees to the side of the bed, I retrieved it, holding it nervously at half-arm's length as I stared at it. It seemed to stare back with the haunting shadow in its glass eyes that all of Keiji's dolls had. Disgusted at such recall, I turned my head away from it stiffly but quickly, dropping it. A crack was heard seconds later, and I looked apprehensively to find that its neck had been broken; but, otherwise, it was completely in tact. The sight aroused such nausea that I kicked the thing under the bed swiftly, and promptly proceeded to forget about it.

    I sat at my commode to pin my hair for the day. I moved to pluck up the dried tropical roses from the Mikans, but, realising what I was doing, I stopped myself and decided to plait my hair thinly in places in order to suspend it. Then I unconsciously moved to pick up the bottle of Angetian perfume, but again I refrained, putting it back down. As I stood, I noticed the empty Pidgey cage and lightheartedly removed it from the room, shutting it away in my closet.

    "No matter how hard that I try to forget this morning," I sang bitterly, a plaster smile cracking my face, "there will always be a vestige of scarring in my mind...! I cannot dispose of such things so easily...!"

    I turned at hearing a terrible gust-like sound kick up outside; but, my curtains hung calmly at my open window's sides. I approached the window, growing increasingly anxious. Within moments the sky over the asylum garden was filled with a scattered, dark greyish-brown smoke; however, I soon discovered that it was feathers from thousands of Pidgey what rained down from above. I heard a screech from overhead and leapt back from the window, shutting it forcefully, as I saw that it was not just the Pidgeys' feathers, but also their beaks... talons... bones... entrails...! The bloody sight made my stomach gravely seek upheaval in objection.

    The entire asylum was in disarray. I heard screaming from all wings; as the sounds of terror neared, however, I could soon also hear the ripping of flesh and deep, guttural moaning. I began to whimper, knowing I was next, and crept into bed cautiously, pulling the covers up over me, such that I might hide myself. Though I knew in my mind that hiding was futile, I knew also that it was the only comfort in knowing my imminent death. Still the Pidgey rained down from above.

    Several whole minutes passed in complete silence soon thereafter. I heard the door creak slowly open and hollow footsteps enter upon the hardwood floor. I pulled the sheets tighter to me, breathing just scarcely, eyes wide. I jumped in fright when I heard the thud of a dead body hitting the floor, a thick, hungry, raspy huffing nearing me. The sheets were then slowly pulled away from me with an unfelt force to reveal my vulnerable, silent mouthing of last words.

    In the mien of his terrible self, Keiji stood there, his fiery golden eyes ablaze with passionate rage, his wings splayed fiercely; he had reverted to his male façade, and his arm was again a part of him. "You left me..." he uttered.

    "Y—you frightened me—!" I explained shakily. "I—it's not every day that you see someone rip his arm straight off at th—the shoulder, and be c—c—calmed by it...!"

    He growled to himself, glaring at the corpse he'd thrown to the floor just moments ago, then snorted. "I do that sort of thing often, my dear.... Severing parts of my body from me allows for the parts what I sever to lose all fire at once, but, because I am a changeling, like a Ditto, those parts can again become a part of me, so no harm is *really* done to me. Oh, my right side gives me great, writhing spasms...."

    I twitched at remembering how the arm had simply fallen with a sanguine squish, his blood pouring from his shoulder to his feet, forming a thick puddle around the severed arm. It had rotted away and turned to green-grey sludge, and had suddenly taken on a mind of its own, it seemed, as it drew itself up his pants leg. But I fortunately had left before I would have seen him regenerate himself.

    He looked at me imploringly, falling to bent knee at the side of the bed, then bowed his head. "Please forgive me, my dear.... I haven't thought about the repercussions of what I've done whilst in your presence. In the future, I shall make a greater effort to be out of your sight and hearing if I know that I am to be in dire need of such actions."

    I simply stared at him. He—this creature, who thought himself greater than any other—bowed to me!

    "I...." I changed the subject, unable to speak properly. "Why didn't you remain in your female form? Isn't it your natural-born form?"

    He crinkled his nose and turned from me, snorting. "I don't know the first thing about being a girl.... I never was told how to be one...." He paused just a moment, then chuckled quietly. "...Besides, I'm hardly fond of being a girl.... It makes me feel as though I'm not the powerful beast that I am."

    I knew that I should have been put off by such a comment, but I wasn't. I knew also that it was this creature that spoke the words what comprised it.

    "Hn, you took down the cage," he remarked, walking over to the shepherd's hook it had hung on. Holding it gingerly, he turned to look at me judgmentally. "You let him free, didn't you? You didn't want him any more because I gave him to you, did you?" Then he saw that the dust-ruffle had been kicked under and snapped down on his hands and knees to retrieve the doll. Holding the head up by its hair, a demented, shineless glare in his eyes, he rose, his grin twitching. "Is this what you think of the gift?" he murmured quietly. I could see his fangs were longer than moments before.

    I shivered, pulling myself further back away from him in the bed. "I—I—she—"

    "You don't like dolls, do you?" he continued, seeming on the brink of cackling in agony.

    "I—they—their eyes..." I uttered, throat closing on itself.

    His face fell emotionless, and he dropped the doll's head to the floor in the shock of realisation. "You fear my darker half because of his gaze, don't you? You don't like the feeling of being stared at?"

    I shook my head. "Qu—quite the opposite...." I blushed, unable to look at him then. I looked at him after he stood there in complete silence for several minutes to find that he had grown five more eyes in his forehead; all seven of them watched me intently. I choked up at such a sight.

    "I suppose that we both know each other's weaknesses, then," he murmured gleefully, excitedly slinking onto the bed as he folded his wings flush to his back. Kneeling before me on the bed, he took off his coat and shirt, throwing them to the floor; then he returned his gaze to me. He pursed his lips tight as his skin began to crawl audibly; thousands of cream-coloured, festering boils rose from beneath his pallid, leatherlike fell, forming into just as many eyes, with irises the same colour as the beautiful golden eyes set in the orbits of his skull. "You really should learn that I'd do positively anything for you, my dear..." he whispered, all his eyes turning to stare at me, wide open.

    I became paralysed in an instant, my jaw having dropped into my lap. It took me minutes to form the words that came then. "....Beautiful...." I swallowed hard. "You would... do anything for me...?" I began.

    He nodded, drooping his head down as he plucked up my hand and kissed it. "They're not just eyes, you know.... They're... they're mouths, too...."

    The clarification burned me deeply, such that words failed me for a duration. "....You... would you... is it possible to make me like you...?"

    "I... that was unexpected..." he uttered, the glow of his eyes fading from his body as he blinked in disbelief at such a question. "Of course I can," he replied, sliding up next to me, as though a snake, with a wide grin. Wrapping his right hand around my right shoulder, he hooked his chin over my left shoulder as he laced his left hand atop mine. "I just ask one thing," he began, snuffling deeply of my neck.

    I tensed up at the sensation of his cold nose on my flesh. "I... what is it I must do for you...?"

    "I would best prefer it if the process were... oral...." He pressed the point of his tongue into my throat and I began to quiver; so did he, retracting his tongue from my flesh, but keeping it hung out of his mouth lustfully.

    Not even did I breathe then. "You want to drink me.... You... you'd said that you wouldn't dream of such a thing...."

    "You'd enjoy it; I know you would...." He clenched his teeth, baring his fangs intensely. "I knew that it would be going against my prior word; it is why I must explain myself now.... I gave you that perfume so that I wouldn't be able to smell you.... But... you aren't wearing it...." He smiled faintly. "Such a delightful scent.... But I do not ask this thing of you because restraint fails me at the moment.... I'm asking you to help me keep myself in check...."

    "So you would want a drink more than once?" I asked flatly.

    He nodded slowly. "The sting of these many eyes of mine are much less painful than my bite is," he replied. "And I know you are thinking that I would want large quantities every time after now.... Even if I did, once you underwent such a process, it wouldn't harm your health in any way...."

    "Wh... why wouldn't it...?" I uttered.

    He snorted, grinning. "You won't be mortal for long, my dear."

    I simply stared off into nothingness in shock of such a thing.

    "It's up to you, my dear," he grinned. "It is your desire."

    I failed to respond, still dazed.

    "What do you want me to do... my master?" he continued, amusement in his tone of voice.

    That—! That single word snapped me into definition and I crooked my neck out to him. "Do it!" I ordered, clenching my teeth.

    He took in and let out a single, erratic breath in excitement, eyes wide. "Hai...." In an instant, he dug his fangs into my tender flesh, ripping it wide open and burying his tongue in the hole, drinking from me. Within instants he dug into me harder, in ecstatic shock of the sensation for some reason, and he quickly moved to wrap his wings around me in pleasure.

    I moaned in agony, falling limp at having my throat torn wide open and my blood being drained at an ungodly rate. Soon I became greatly dizzy, and even the air began to feel intangible. I felt the life draining from me and I moaned even louder, not able to take it anymore. But still he persisted, renewing the wound with a ravenous motion of his jaws. Then I knew I was dead.

    ~*~*~

    He smiled, running his hands softly over my arms as he lay beside me. "Heh.... How does it feel?"

    I blindly reached for the wound, but found a scar. Pulling my fingers away tinted with my own blood, I uttered, "....I'm... cold...."

    He snorted, grinning proudly. "A perfectly natural sensation to having no blood in your veins, my dear.... Perhaps if you... had a bite to eat...?" he led, offering his wrist.

    At first I was appalled at such an offer; but, I grew increasingly nauseated at realising that I lusted after the pulsation of his veins.

    He chuckled. "Go on, dear," he continued, inching it nearer to my lips.

    I wrapped my fingers around his arm, pulling it to me. Hesitating only barely, I opened my mouth wide and bit him, feeling my fangs in another's flesh for the first time.

    While I took my first drink from his left wrist, he smiled dementedly and wiped his lips clean with his right. He crinkled his nose when I actually got into it and ripped into him. Though a part of me cringed at hearing his flesh tear, the rest of me lusted after it.

    "If you're really that hungry, dear, perhaps we could—"

    I stopped and looked to him darkly with a blood-stained smile. "You're the one who ate all my patients...."

    He snorted at my frank wit. "Point taken. I *am* a bit bloated from such a feast. Perhaps a bit jilted from their sedatives, as well...."

    Giving a short chuckle, I brought his wrist back to kiss my lips, and again I drank. Several minutes later I stopped, but didn't let go.

    "What's the matter?" he began.

    "What exactly did you do to me?" I uttered. He noticed that my eyes were glazed over.

    He smiled, holding my chin so that I would look at him as he slid down further in the bed to look at me. "You wanted to be like me," he replied wickedly. "Though I don't have the slightest clue why...."

    "You... you didn't answer me," I continued.

    He sighed. "I don't quite know how to explain it without explaining it in full.... What have you heard of genetics?"

    I thought on it for a minute, trying to give as best an answer as possible. "I know only what the scholars and scientists know: the body is made of cells—tiny organisms that work together—which take molecular structure from genes in order to draw patterns for its life substances."

    He clicked his tongue dryly. "The gene can be altered, my dear," he explained. "You now not only possess your own genetics, but also the genetics of several Pokémon."

    I stared at him, wide-eyed. "Pokémon...? I thought that you were a vampire, Keiji!"

    His eyes narrowed in bemusement, but his grin faded. "Because Ditto are so rare, no one has ever truly studied them.... They draw their abilities from having drunk the blood of many different species. But I am a vampire in the basest sense of the term—I drink blood, I have the wings of a night creature, and I can turn into many different things."

    I licked my lips clean, then pulled him to me and kissed him gently, smiling. "You take all the mysticism out of everything," I pouted.

    "I'm a realist," he confessed, requiting the kiss. "Tell me.... Why did you want this? I know you fear me."

    I sighed, trying to decide how to explain it to him. "I... I do love you, Keiji. I'm just... trying to understand you."

    "You try to understand me by being like me?" he remarked, making a face.

    "In a way, yes."

    He pinned me and glared at me playfully. "You can't feed me that. I know better." He growled, grinning. "You're trying to have a fight to put up against me."

    "You're just as good at analysing people as I am," I uttered, my face striking a strange smile. "You're strong, Keiji—very strong. I don't like the thought of being a potential meal."

    "You must know, then, that I'm wicked smart, too," he began, his eyes lighting up, like they always do when he gets excited. "You only have within you now the basest pieces of what comprise my twisted soul. Never expect me to give anyone—even you—what I've worked to have over the course of five-hundred years. I don't desire equality. I am nothing more than your possession—your servant. And you are my owner—my... master."

    I quaked at such words. I had never before witnessed such beloved passion.

    A jolt of burning pain burst in my abdomen and I jerked to sit up, moaning as I held fast my stomach. He instantly took notice to my pains and moved to console me. "I—it burns...."

    "What burns?" he inquired, brow furrowed.

    I took his hand and pressed his fingertips just under my navel. "It's...." My eyes grew wide, and I shut up, staring off dazedly in shock.

    "What? What's the matter?" he continued.

    "There's... life inside me.... My entire body feels ice cold.... But... my stomach...."

    He chuckled, amused. "Love, that's just the blood running into your veins again. Don't you think it feels good?"

    "N—no," I whined quietly. "It feels like I'm being drained of what little strength I regained by drinking of you...."

    Closing his eyes, he placed his entire hand down on my stomach then, confused, and he felt of it so deeply that it quickly fell numb where he touched me. He spoke softly after a minute, his eyes having dulled. "....You're pregnant...."

    ~*~*~

    "Stop encouraging the boys!" I called chidingly after Keiji from over the balcony of the bedroom.

    He turned to look up at me from having panicked Hateri and Yoake by splaying at them and growling, both of whom had yelped and run to hide behind a nearby tree. "We're just playing," he pouted.

    "You're going to make them little monsters if you keep it up," I continued, leaning on the rail.

    "Little monsters like me?" he teased, grinning, his emerald eyes lit up like gems in the afternoon sunlight.

    "Yes, little monsters like you, dear."

    "You don't think I'm a good role model?" he played, keeping his eye on me as I descended the stairs that came off the balcony.

    I stood on the last stairs and observed that the twins were trying to sneak up on their father. Seeing the twelve-year-old boys acting as impish as Keiji was too cute to foil, and I merely watched, amused, as they pounced on him from behind. Though he had been pinned down to the ground by the boys, who were not much unlike himself, he was enjoying himself too thoroughly to care one way or the other.

    The two of them quickly moved to actions similar to their father's, splaying and growling playfully as they held him to the ground by his wings. I winced, smiling nervously, knowing full well that it had to have been most painful.

    "Quit tormenting your father, sweethearts."

    The blond-haired brothers looked up to me with their emerald green eyes lit up like their father's, full of more false innocence than anything as they smiled at me. "We're just playing," the two of them chimed angelically.

    I chuckled. "At least let him get up," I led.

    "If I wanted to get up, I would," Keiji muttered, face half-smushed into the ground. "And I will." Then he proved his point and threw the two of them off of him with a single motion of his wings, sitting up to kneel.

    They whined about it, but soon got over it when he stood and glared at them with a wicked grin, splaying. They darted off again like young Pidgey when he hissed, baring his fangs at them. Chuckling, he mumbled contentedly, "They aren't big enough to overpower their old man. Yet."

    "You really should think twice before teaching them to act like you, you know," I began, holding him around the waist from behind him.

    "I made the mistake of not teaching my first sons to be like me. The both of them turned on me in hatred. They blamed me for how they were. And I don't blame them."

    "Darling, don't mull over the past...." I massaged his wings where they met his body and he melted. I smiled. "Remember, you have a whole future laid out before you."

    He sighed, melancholy. "Gods know I try to forget all that I've done, my little sparrow.... I have to make amends somewhere along the line!"

    "Do you really think that this is the way to fix it? Do you really think that the way to fix it is raising your boys to believe that such acts are acceptable?"

    He stared off into the air, the darkness seeming to be aroused in his mind. "Who deems what to be acceptable, my dear? Who makes the rules?"

    I flustered, letting go of him and backing off. "I—"

    "Shh," he silenced, having whirled around and clapped a hand over my mouth, the golden shine in his eyes once more. "It would fall upon deaf ears. Don't waste your breath." He grinned as he let go of me.

    "Keiji...."

    He glared at me, holding a hand to his ear. "Hmm?" He chuckled at me. "If you'll excuse me, love, I think I'm in need of solitude for the time being. I shall see you again this evening. That is... if you want to see me again this evening." He didn't wait for my response, and leapt up into the air and took off, almost blowing me back with the wind from his wings.

    His little fledglings approached me from behind and each held one of my hands in both of his.

    "Where's Father off to?" Yoake inquired sweetly, watching as he flew off.

    "He told Mother that he wanted to be alone," Hateri replied for me, also watching him.

    "But why?"

    "It needs no explanation," I told the both of them. "Though, it is more a matter that he needed to be alone."


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Twenty-Seven: Reflection Reflected

    As I began my rounds for the morning, I realised that almost a full century had passed since Keiji had given me my second life. Upon the revelation, I fell into a daze of reminisce and hollow awe that was only broken when my orderlies approached me.

    "Madam, we have a new patient," the first led, drawing me to the previously vacant cell.

    "Who brought him here?" I began, looking at the man with feign interest. He looked almost familiar....

    "I believe that it was his wife," he replied. "His name is Kagetsuya Itoh."

    I twitched. "H—what did you say?" I demanded quietly, now staring at the brunet intently.

    "Itoh, Madam. Kagetsuya Itoh. Coincidental, isn't it, that he's got the same last name as you?" he mused.

    "Yes, yes it is," I muttered hastily, trying to ignore just how much like Keiji he looked. "What is Mr. Itoh's condition?"

    "He's a violent psychopath who thinks he's possessed by the soul of the Takeru."

    "You fools can't get anything right," Itoh uttered with a wicked grin, glaring at me from where he sat in the middle of the cell, bound by a straitjacket. "I am the Takeru! I was fated to find his brooch! I was foreordained to inherit this power!" He giggled darkly to himself, seeming completely self-absorbed for a moment before returning his conversation to involve us. "You fools think that I'm insane, just like Anne.... If she hadn't taken the brooch from me, I'd show you! I'd make the lot of you sorry for making me feel as though such a degrading piece of filth locked away in a crazy house...!"

    "This... is just too much for me right now..." I moaned, massaging the bridge of my nose and closing my eyes in anxiety. "Sedate him if he makes any trouble, Viari. I need some fresh air...."

    "But you just started your shift, Madam!" he half-complained after me. "You have forty-four more patients to tend to before noon!"

    "I said that I need some fresh air," I growled, not stopping.

    "The case bothers you that much?" he pried, aghast. "Do you believe in the Takeru?"

    I didn't answer.

    Once outside, I teleported to the estate and proceeded my search for Keiji. I found him playing the viola in the parlour.

    "I've just met someone whom you might want to see," I informed quietly.

    He stopped playing, looking to me with interest piqued. "Hm?"

    "Your father was just committed."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    I simply stared at her, holding my instrument just barely. "Committed? To the asylum...?" My voice cracked in agony.

    "....Just this morning, love."

    "You've got to be kidding!" After a moment I chuckled painfully, turning from her to look out the window. "I'd hoped that Takunei would be able to prevent the loss of his brooch...." My darkness tickled at me and my opinion on the matter shifted. "Pleasant, however, that the cycle will repeat itself...."

    "The... brooch...?" she echoed.

    "Yes, the brooch...." I sighed, setting the viola on the windowsill, knowing that I needed to explain the entire tale to her. "Long ago there was a civil war between two tribes alien to this world—the Kuraitenshi and Shirotenshi of Hanehasu. The Shirotenshi had risen to power over the Tenshi race, and none dared stand up against them because they had undergone genetic alterations to make themselves angelic and seemingly divine. The Kuraitenshi also underwent splicing, and formed a reactionary group against the Shirotenshi for having slaughtered so many of the Kuraitenshi's kin. The leader of the Shirotenshi called himself Gabriel, after the most powerful of seraphims, while the leader of the Kuraitenshi was Rei Takunei, who took no alias until he sought peace two centuries later. The matchup between the two was relatively even, though Gabriel had a serious edge over Takunei by possessing telepathic abilities. Because of this advantage, their most skilled geneticist made a brooch for him that, by wearing it, would grant him enough of strength to defeat Gabriel. And he did.

    "Five centuries later Takunei lost the brooch and Kagetsuya Itoh found it. Because it enhances the powers of spliced strands, and Kagetsuya was a simple human, it drove him mad. But he knew exactly what it was, and it did, in fact, make him superhuman. The psychopath beat his wife and son. And she feared him so much that she forced her daughter to be her son in order to suit his demands."

    I sniveled, crinkling my nose in anger and clenching my hands to the windowsill such that my knuckles turned white and my eyes shone gold. "Because the brooch had altered him genetically I inherited the brooch within me. And I've followed in his footsteps since I was sixteen."

    "Sad, really, that these sorts of things only come out of you when something like this happens," she began, upset by my hesitation to open up to her.

    "You should know better than to complain about such a thing, my dear," I retorted, grinning wickedly at her. "The labyrinth of my mind holds booby traps as dangerous and frightening as this."

    "And you should know that your quirks have desensitised me to such derangement," she snapped, glaring at me coldly.

    "This is not a matter to be discussed right now," I dismissed, running the teeth of my bottom jaw along the insides of my fresh-cut fangs. As the darkness took full reign I snorted, flicking my hair as I cracked my neck. "I have some affairs to tend to." Then I fingered the collar of my trenchcoat gingerly to flip it up around my neck, and I left with a sweeping bow for the sake of dramatic flourish.

    ~*~*~

    I found the withered shell of a man sitting, legs crossed, in the middle of his asylum cell. I grabbed the bars of the door with bare hands, peering in on him for several minutes before any discourse took place.

    "You know, I find it rather ironic that you believe you're the one that's possessed by that brooch, love," I muttered, my gaze set coldly upon the back of his head.

    He picked his head up and snapped to attention at hearing my dark, demented voice. And when he saw me, all he could do was stare. "Y—th—the Takeru...!"

    I phased through the door to lean against the inside of it, my eyes not falling from the man. "A smart one you are.... Hn."

    "....You've come to get your brooch back...!" he wailed, backing away from me. "I—my wife, she took it from me! She took it from me so that they could lock me away here!!"

    I chuckled. "Father, I've long since moved on..." I mumbled boredly, running my fingers over the Kuraru.

    It took him a minute to compute mentally that I'd called him affectionately. "H—" he squeaked as I advanced upon him.

    "Father, come to me," I seethed bitterly, extending a hand to him. He simply flustered, enfuriated, and glared at it. "Oh, wait!" I chuckled, "I forgot—you're a bit indisposed at the moment! Here, allow me to give you a hand," I hissed, grabbing him by the collar and hoisting him to stand.

    "I—how can you possibly be my son...?" he uttered, his mouth so dry I scarce could hear him.

    I snorted. "I'm your daughter, love. You bred after you found that brooch, and I inherited all that that pretty little gem contained. I am that brooch."

    He tried to pull away from me, but I merely held him higher off the floor.

    "Stop struggling so much!" I grinned. "Yes, you heard me right. You sure made a freak out of me...." I hung him on the coat hook by the window so that he couldn't crawl away from me. "I've been blessed and cursed through all these six hundred years. And now I can confront the first of those who created this monster I know as myself."

    "I—what did I do to you!?" he bellowed in fright, trying to scale the wall.

    I yanked him back down. "You beat Mother into submission on a daily basis in order to ensure that she made me grow up as your son. You are the reason that I became a man. Because I became capable of impregnation, I fostered a creature far worse than myself. Because I had given life to the demon child, the Bell Tower fell in 1796."

    "I couldn't have had a daughter! I couldn't have!" he roared frantically. He sniveled. "I couldn't have...."

    I grabbed his neck threateningly. "And why not?" I pried.

    "I could never have been able to contain myself.... Anne committed me for all my misconduct, not just because I use force to get her to listen to me...."

    I leaned nearer, snaking my pointed tongue out to lick the lobe of his ear. "Do tell, Father Dearest."

    He choked on being the beaten on for once, and he swallowed hard, closing his eyes tight. "Without that brooch I am nothing more than human.... Without that brooch, I'm nothing...." When he looked to me next, he uttered, "Why did I have to be the one to find it...?"

    I could tell then that the brooch's effect had worn off from his prolonged separation from it, and was calmed by seeing him weak like this. "You ask me like you think that I know," I snapped quietly, eyes wide in derangement. "It took me three hundred years to find out that the brooch had been 'given' to you by the same creature that gave me my wings. You don't learn a thing in this world without first spending a good deal of time in it. And now is the time in which only part is known; the whole has yet to come."

    I sighed, turning from him and relinquishing my grip upon him. "You know, I don't know why I should blame you for becoming this way. I quite prefer being a man, Father. I quite prefer being your son." I clenched my fangs, baring them. "No, you're the one who forced the hand of the one who did this. Though you are just as guilty as Mother, she committed the act directly; you were just the puppetteer."

    He began to cry then. "Please... don't harm her...! Please...!"

    "She's already died once. She can't suffer twice."

    Then the orderlies came around to the wing at having heard their new patient's outcries, and one looked in on him. I stepped back into the corner so that I wouldn't be seen as they came inside.

    "Now how did you get yourself up there, Mr. Itoh?" the dark-haired man mumbled, half-amused and half-annoyed as he moved to get him down.

    Kagetsuya merely stared at me in horror as I grinned at him, tipping an imaginary hat to him as I vanished, moving on to prepare for the next appointment on my to-do list.

    ~*~*~

    Maki came into the Valley as I sat at the desk.

    "What are you doing?" she asked sweetly, putting her hands on my neck to look over my shoulder.

    "Preparing a gift for an acquaintance of mine," I replied, smiling dementedly as I tied the clover green ribbon around a lock of its hair.

    "An acquaintance of yours?" she echoed, confused. "And who might this acquaintance of yours be?"

    "Hnn, you've met her before, I'm sure," I mused, laying the brunette doll in a silver box lined with white tulle. "If you'll excuse me, dear, I have something to tend to." I stood and kissed her, then teleported to Midori.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Keiji, altered timeline::

    "Mom, Keiji and I are going out into the back yard to play," Toshi called as the two of us headed out the back door.

    "Eve, comon," I cooed, patting my leg to get her to follow me.

    "Eevee!" she trilled, pattering after me.

    "Come in for lunch in about an hour, boys," Mom told us.

    "'Kay," the both of us chimed. I closed the door after us.

    Toshi let Kaen and Utsukushii out of their Pokéballs. The Gloom instantly found a sunny patch of grass and took root for her time outside, leaving the Cyndaquil, Eevee, and the two of us to play.

    "Catch!" Toshi smiled, tossing the Frisbee to me.

    I laughed as I chased after it. It sailed into the front yard over the back fence. "I'll get it," I told him.

    I looked around for it, but couldn't find it. I turned back to tell Toshi that it had probably gone into the neighbour's yard, but ran into a man. I looked up at him, frightened, and backed off a few steps. He wore a long, black coat, black pants, and black boots. His long, black hair was very shiny. He looked down at me and the yellow lenses of his sunglasses gleamed in the sunlight. His skin was very pale.

    With a small smile, he knelt down to my level and handed back the blue Frisbee with a gloved hand. "I believe that this is yours."

    "Th—thank you," I stammered, taking it from him. He was carrying a big, shiny box, but I dared not ask him what was in it.

    "How old are you, chiisai?" he began, his smile growing warmer with every word he said.

    "Mommy says I shouldn't talk to strangers," I said, backing away from him and ignoring his question.

    "I'm not a stranger, dear, but in fact quite familiar.... You're four years old now, aren't you, Keiji?" he continued.

    "Y—yes," I replied, more afraid now because of what he had said. "Why...?"

    "Your birthday was weeks ago, but I'm afraid I failed to get a gift to you in time for the day, Keiji. This is for you." He presented the big box to me and chuckled.

    "I—I don't know that I should take anything from a stranger...." I hesitated, but still my hands inched towards taking it from him.

    "I've told you, dear—I'm no stranger. Now take it from me. I think you will like it."

    I accepted the gift, plopping down in the grass to open it. I pulled the lid off of the box to reveal a beautiful doll with brown hair wearing a green and white dress. My eyes glittered with tears, and I sniffled. "She's so beautiful...!" I squeaked.

    "A beautiful doll for a beautiful young girl," he led, taking his sunglasses off. He flicked his hair back over his shoulders as he put the sunglasses in his shirt pocket, looking at me contentedly with eerie golden eyes.

    I panicked, dropping the doll and staring at him in utter fright. "I'm... I'm not a girl!" I defied, swallowing hard.

    "Really, now?" he mumbled, standing to come after me. He picked the doll up. "Then you don't want the doll?"

    "Mommy says I cann' have dollies," I uttered defiantly. I thought about calling for Toshi, but then he would find out my secret. And if I called for Mommy, she would know someone else knew.... I was trapped. I looked behind me and thought about making a start for the front gate.

    "She doesn't have to know, Keiji," he led, trying to hand the doll back to me. "I know you really want the doll. And you deserve it for all you've had to endure."

    "I—if I were to take her, how would I get her inside? Mommy's sitting in the living room, and Toshi's in the back yard waiting on me...."

    He chuckled, stroking the doll's hair. "I'll take care of that, then. ...Dante... will be under your bed by the time you go to sleep, dear."

    "Why are you giving me this doll, Mister?" I asked quietly as he turned to pick up the box and lay the doll back in it.

    "You need something to remember that you're not really a little boy," he replied, not looking to me.

    "I am a little boy," I lied again.

    "Think whatever you like, chiisai. Just remember that you have a friend that believes in you and will protect you."

    "...What's your name?"

    He smiled, snorting in amusement as he looked to me again, pulling out his sunglasses again and putting them on. "My name's not important. Just remember that I'm here."

    "Hey, did I lose a Frisbee *and* a brother?" Toshi mumbled loudly, coming after me.

    "Coming!" I piped up, scampering off frantically with the disk in hand.

    "What took you so long?"

    "Nothing," I lied, putting on a fake smile. When I looked back over my shoulder, the man was not in the yard anymore.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    I had teleported inside the house before the little one had had the chance to look back at me. After placing Dante under her bed, I dug a keepsake out of her closet and pocketed it. Then I walked out of the bedroom and looked out over the handrail.

    Hearing footsteps upstairs startled the mother at first. "Boys...?" she uttered, voice cracking.

    I snorted, but said nothing. Boys, I thought to myself in disgust. Hmph.

    She had stood then, taking up the cordless phone that had lain next to her on the end table, and proceeded slowly to mount the stairs. She saw me standing there, leaning on the rail, and stopped, standing on the fifth stair.

    "Wh—who are you, and why are you in my house?" she demanded, trying to hide the phone from me.

    "Anne, my dear, we need to have a little talk," I explained, advancing on her in order to force her back downstairs.

    "Answer me or I'm calling the cops!"

    I smiled. "You're going to make a phone call with a handset that has no batteries in it?"

    She stared at me in fright, then scrambled to make sure I was right. Hitting the power button and holding the speaker to her ear, she found no dial tone was produced, and proceeded to take the back off. She began to breathe erratically at seeing that the wires had been cut that had held the nine-volt battery in place.

    "H—how did you do that?" she uttered, backing down a step.

    "The same way I'm doing this," I replied, glaring at her as I made a crushing motion with my left hand, destroying the phone.

    She screamed, turning tail to run from me.

    I chuckled, following her to her room. "Déjâ vu," I mused, my back straining to stay put as I saw her cowering in the corner. "My dear, I'm not going to hurt you. But, like I said—we need to have a little talk."

    "Who are you?" she demanded again.

    I knelt down to her and cradled her left cheek in my gloved left hand, staring her in the face from over the rims of my glasses. "I'm your daughter."

    "Y—you can't be my daughter! I've never given birth to a girl in my life!!"

    I bared my fangs and roared at her. "Don't lie to me, dearest Mother," I chided quietly, regaining composure. "I just wanted for you to see what you've done in fear of Father."

    "Wh—what do you mean...?"

    I opened my right hand to show her the Takeru I'd taken from Keiji's room. "The dementia caused by knowing I wasn't really a boy was just enough to make me become one. This little bauble is just so beautifully wicked, isn't it?"

    Her eyes were opened wide in fright. "I—I don't understand!"

    "You gave birth to the Bamboo Dragon by submitting to Father's wishes. And that, my dear, is inexcusable."

    "How could I have given birth to the Takeru?" she squeaked. "From what I know he's over six-hundred years old!"

    "Is it proof enough to remind you of the name of the man who funded most of the construction in Ecruteak?"

    At realisation that the man shared the same name with her daughter, she shivered, suddenly chilled and pallid.

    I bared my fangs at her again as I spoke next. "I've come here to forewarn you that you have to stop what you're doing to that poor little girl of yours. If you don't, you will die."

    She quaked at such words. "What would you possibly get out of killing me...!?"

    I snorted. "I'm not the one who gets that privilege. I've already lain to rest the woman who gave birth to me."

    I teleported back up to the boys' room and returned what I'd borrowed, then returned to the mansion. I began to gather my dolls up into a pile in the middle of my Valley. Taking a lit candle from its holder, I threw my sunglasses to the ground and glared at the mass of porcelain and fabric in a rage. Then I tossed the stick atop them and watched as the fire grew to consume them all. "It's about time I had a bonfire for my vanities...."


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Twenty-Eight: By the Light of the Moon

    ::Maki::

    Melancholy, I sighed and stared out into the night, untying the laces of the front of my blouse as I leaned on the balcony. I loosed the laces just a bit, giving me a bit of breathing room. Then I pulled my hair down from its bun and shook it loose, letting it fall over my shoulders. Then, sticking my hands in the back pockets of my pants, my gaze followed upward to stare up into the sky. "A full moon...."

    I began to pace, thinking about everything that had happened in the past two weeks. I'd begun to wish that I hadn't informed Keiji of my recently acquired patient.... I now was babysitting the most pitiful creature I'd ever laid eyes upon, and Keiji was constantly brooding over whether to interfere with the rearing of the younger version of himself any more than he already had. I was left tending to the asylum all by myself, as well as matters of the house. I had no "me" time. I found no comfort in this moon, the colour of a lonely carrion; yet, despite its repulsive hue, I lusted after it. I hated it for this very reason.

    "Mother dearest," Yoake cooed, slinking up to my left, "you need to eat something. You look pale as a ghost."

    "Yes, Mother dearest," Hateri seconded, slinking up to my right, "I quite agree.... You've been working yourself raw for the past bit."

    The both of them smiled sweetly at me, their eyes like curious emeralds in the moonlight. They rubbed at my neck and shoulders, smelling of me happily. "Get out of the house and enjoy yourself," the two of them chimed angellically.

    I closed my eyes in temporary recoil at hearing their voices echo within one another, then I myself grinned, ostenting, with my fangs, to the both of them that my heart hungered. "Have it your way, darlings. Just let me see if the fire's been lit under your father first."

    The two of them chuckled as I walked off out the open door and down the hall. "She looks just so lovely when she's hungry," Yoake mumbled contentedly.

    In a lesser-traversed room of the estate, in the darkness, Keiji sat in a high-backed leather chair, staring up at the moon. The only movement he made was the placid petting of an Umbreon what lay across his lap. Despite his unincited demeanour, I knew that he was hardly calm.

    "Love, where did the Umbreon come from?" I inquired quietly, standing just out of his sight from around the back of the chair.

    He clicked his tongue dryly, letting out a deep, flared sigh through his nose. "Stroking one's own fur is soothing enough," he replied. He did not return my gaze, but instead let the Umbreon look up at me, its red eyes aglow in the darkness.

    I cringed at seeing how adept my lover was at being two creatures at once. "I know you've been balling yourself up in these dusty, old rooms for the past while," I began, pacing from left to right of him to keep a step ahead of the Moonlight Pokémon. "Would you come with me into town? The moon... that terrible thing's... got me all strung up...."

    After a moment, he answered, "I'll join you shortly if you must have your way with me, but I'd rather keep myself up in here for a bit, if it's all right with you, love...."

    "If you must stay here, at least let me... take part of you with me," I hinted, letting the Umbreon's gaze again meet mine.

    Again he sighed, relinquishing his right hand from its head, letting his hand fall to his lap softly. "As you wish."

    Then the fox leapt down gracefully from his lap and glared up at me from the floor with its four blood-red eyes. 'You have such a queer way of showing your affections sometimes,' it mumbled, trailing behind me.

    'I know,' I returned curtly, my lip curled at one corner.

    Once I had turned the corner and approached the open window at the end of the hall, I looked down at the ground some seven stories down. Then I jumped down, landing hard on the heels of my black leather boots, the numerous golden chains about my neck clashing together in delightful euphony. After a temporary recovery, I took on similar form to my companion, and the two of us rushed into town on padded foot, the scent of dinner on the air.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    It had been around an hour since Maki had left the estate. I stood, beginning to pace the room. Only vague connections could be made between myself and the part of me that had taken on a smaller form, but still I could, from time to time, take memory from what part of me accompanied my young bride. "She's in the suburbs of Ecruteak now," I muttered to myself, hands laced behind me. "I suppose I could... check in on both of me," I mused coldly, throwing open the picture window with a furious motion of both my hands and leaping up on the windowsill, then taking on a diminutive form of Kurai as I fell from around eighty feet. I fluttered onward.

    I lit upon a lamp-post on Midori, twisting my head this way and that to observe my surroundings. I saw two shapes familiar to mine land on a nearby rooftop and I watched intently, the pair having followed two canine creatures.

    The pair of Umbreon leapt atop the high stone fence, which encircled every yard in the suburb, and glared up at the moon passionately, the rings around their body glowing. They let out wicked howls, then sped down the top of the fence, the male following the female. It seemed as though they hadn't eaten yet.

    The two batlike creatures chittered to themselves, also watching the two Umbreon. Then they caught sight of me and squeaked loudly, frightened, then stood perfectly still, imitating gargoyles at the roof's edge.

    You two are hardly in trouble, I mused, jumping up to fly over to them. I know you enjoy moons just as much as your mother and I do. What I want to know is what you're up to, following her like that.

    They again became animate once I landed on the roof. We thought that it was you following her, Hateri told me, anxious.

    It was, I admitted. Rather coincidental that you've landed on the house I left the mansion to visit.... I need the two of you to aid me in a bit of haunting.

    What...? Yoake began, whining.

    This small child's house, I replied nonchalantly, is about to receive three unexpected guests. slinking headlong down the brick wall, taking on a more human form with every inch I advanced; yet still I retained my wings and claws.

    I looked in on the sleeping youth from the window. Dante lay in her arms.

    The twins took footing to the left and right of me, as they always did, and regained their human forms as well, also keeping their wings and claws.

    "What's so special about that little morsel?" Yoake whispered in my ear, running his pointed tongue hungrily over his long, eager fangs.

    "Her brother looks like he'd be a delightful appetizer," Hateri seconded, flustering about being separated from the young blood by a thick pane of glass. Both their golden eyes were ablaze with starvation. They chose only to eat whenever hungriest, as their mother had chosen. And that time always came by the light of the full moon.

    "Dare you think of your father and uncle as a meal?" I snapped, eyes wide.

    The two of them swallowed hard, now afraid of me and confused beyond belief.

    I chuckled quietly, flaring my nose in mental agony. "Think what you might, but your father's grown up quite a bit since she was living here...."

    "I... I don't follow," Yoake uttered in a cold sweat.

    "I didn't think you would. It's not a story for now, however. Just help me by keeping an eye on your grandmother; her room is downstairs. Don't wake her—just make sure she doesn't interfere with my visit with myself." The little one turned in unrest, and the twins gulped, vanishing to reappear inside, downstairs. Don't overturn the kitchen, either. I know from experience there's not a single thing in that kitchen that you'd want.

    Yes, Father dear, the two chirped coyly.

    I unlatched the window with my kinesis, stepping in silently and walking up cautiously to the bunk bed. I hooked my head under the top bunk to gaze down upon the little one who occupied the bottom bunk. She had nestled back down into the covers and had fallen back to sleep.

    "Keiji, dear," I cooed softly, slowly pulling the covers down to her feet. She didn't respond as I carefully picked her up in my arms, letting Dante remain in the bed. "So darling," I admired, smiling down upon her. I retrieved the Takeru without hesitation, and proceeded to the windowsill.

    I heard a gasp from behind me and I turned to find the young Toshi staring at me, petrified. His jaw gaping wide open, he could scarce speak a word.

    I held a finger to my lips, the rest curled around brooch. My eyes glowing madly, I grinned. "I'll bring your sibling back, my dear. Don't worry that pretty little head of yours about it." Then I leapt out of the window and splayed to cushion the descent to the fence, and took off. Boys, I'll be an hour or so.

    Yes, Father dear, they chirped again.

    About three-fourths of the way back to the estate Keiji awoke and opened her eyes. She first looked down to see the sky's reflection on the surface of Lake Peal, and her mouth fell open in awe. "Kirei," she uttered.

    "I'm glad you delight in the view, my dear," I remarked, smiling. "It will all be yours one day."

    ~*~*~

    I landed on the steps, folding my wings to my back and opening the front doors with my kinesis as I let my guest down from my arms. Then I showed her the way inside, leading her to one of the unused bedrooms.

    "This is such a beautiful mansion," she continued, eyes lit up like nothing. "Mommy never let me come up here before...."

    I chuckled, clenching my teeth to subdue an upsurgence of hunger then. "Few have actually been within the walls of my estate, m'dear."

    She saw my face in the candle light then and gasped, backing up against the wall. "You're the man who came to give me Dante two weeks ago...!"

    "Ha, yes," I agreed. "And I can see that you get much more enjoyment out of her than I ever did. It makes my heart glad to see she's made *someone* happy...."

    "What are you?" she asked, aghast.

    "Now that we are without interruption, I can talk to you a bit more in-depth," I began, standing before her. "I'm sure you've heard much of me, considering who your father is. I am the Takeru."

    "The Takeru...?" she echoed, surprised.

    I smiled as she stared up at me in awe. "Yes, dear. And I must say that you please me immensely. It is my enjoyment of seeing you grow up that makes me want to shower you with gifts. I simply cannot wait to see what a beautiful young woman you'll become."

    "I...." She faltered at the appellation for a moment, then went with it once she figured that it was okay to do so. "How come you know I'm not a boy?"

    "That's a long and complicated story, so let us simply say that I have watched over you and your family for years now." I walked over to the closet and opened it, revealing dozens of gorgeous dresses, all Keiji's size, including a pair of shoes to match each. "These dresses are all for you, my dear, if only you'll accept that you are, in fact, the wonderful, smart girl you really are."

    "I... I dunno that I could accept these..." she pondered, upset by the dilemma. "If I wore them, Mommy would be upset, and Toshi woddun play with me anymore...."

    "I'm sure you'd change your mind if you tried one on," I led. "Pick the one you like the best, dear—try it on."

    She cautiously approached them, drawing up a gold one with long sleeves and a half-length skirt. She then grew immensely nervous at my watching her change. I smiled, turning from her, and she continued slinking out of her nightgown. After a moment I heard her slipping on a pair of shoes and turned to look at her. My eyes glistened with tears of bliss and agony. She was truly beautiful....

    I directed her to the full-length mirror to the side of the closet and she looked at herself, fiddling with the white laces around her waist, then with the high collar around her neck. "This dress is so pretty... and so are the shoes...." She smiled.

    "It lacks but one thing," I began, kneeling behind her. I held the Takeru to her throat and looked at her reflection in the mirror. No shimmer in my eyes then, I grinned, showing my long, eager fangs. "Hnn...."

    She put her small fingers to my large hands in shock, staring at the thing. "You know where I hide Daddy's brooch..." she uttered. "....Mommy told me not to wear it...."

    "She's told you not to wear it because she doesn't understand it," I continued.

    "Mommy says it's why Daddy went away...."

    "She's half-right..." I mumbled, now growing impatient. "Your mother doesn't understand how important this brooch is. She thinks it will hurt you. But I know better. It will make you healthy, my dear—healthy and strong."

    "Why does Mommy think it will hurt me?"

    "She thinks it hurt your father, Keiji. But he's just fine."

    "...You know where Daddy went?"

    "....Of course, Keiji. I love you and your family dearly."

    "Why did he leave?"

    I sighed, holding her to me and staring at her solemly in the mirror. "He just needed some time to himself. You've had times that you just wanted to be alone for a spell, haven't you, Keiji?"

    She nodded. "Then he's okay?"

    "He's just fine, dear."

    She stared at her reflection. "I... I'm not the person in the mirror... am I...?" she began.

    "Hnn...." I frowned. "You don't think so? But, you've only known what it's like to be a boy...."

    Like a marionette pulled by unseen strings, after a minute, she asked me, "Would you teach me how to be a girl, Takeru, Sir...? I would love to be a girl...."

    Again I smiled. "Now Keiji, dear, why are you listening to me instead of your mother?"

    She smiled, too. "You remind me of Daddy, and I always listen to Daddy, not Mommy. Daddy knows me better'n Mommy does."

    Chuckling, I hugged her tight. "I should get you back to your bed at home, dear. It's late, and I haven't eaten dinner yet."

    She shivered at the notion of my dining etiquette, and I knew then that she understood exactly who and what I was. "I want to take the dress with me, Takeru.... Is that okay...?"

    "Yes, dear, but you must promise me one thing."

    "What do you want me to promise?"

    "When you wear your dress, I want for you to wear the brooch, Keiji." A silence ensued, but I knew she understood my request. "You should put your nightgown back on. You need to get some sleep."

    She smiled again, turning to me and hugging back. "I love you."

    I snorted coldly, admiring the image in the reflection. "I love you, too, dear. Now get changed so we can get you home."

    "Yessir," she chirped, and I turned from her again, smiling.

    She took my hand in hers, looking up to me sweetly. "We can go now." She held the dress in her other hand, the shoes under her arm.

    "Don't be frightened, but I think it would take less time for me to take you back a different way. Close your eyes, dear." Once she had complied, I teleported the two of us back to her room. "Lay down, dear," I told her, taking the dress and shoes from her. "Get some rest."

    "Yessir," she replied quietly, smiling. She didn't seem fazed in the slightest by having come some five miles in the blink of an eye.

    "Remember what we talked about," I told her, hanging the dress in the closet and placing the shoes beneath it. Then I returned the Takeru to its place in its drawer. We're done, darlings.

    Yes, Father dearest.

    "Yessir," she repeated sleepily.

    I walked over to her again after closing the closet door, and I kissed her softly on the forehead. "Goodnight, love."

    "Goodnight...." Then she was again fast asleep.

    "Leave my brother alone," an angry voice demanded from the top bunk.

    I chuckled. "I'll do as I please, onii-san. And if you don't like it, then you can be on my menu like the rest of the humans around here."

    Yoake and Hateri appeared behind me, and the ravenous stares of our six glowing eyes burned holes into the poor boy's psyche. He gulped, uneasy. I bared my grinning fangs at him and he laid back down, pulling the covers over his head, trying to hide from us.

    "Hh, Toshihiro, dear, don't get brave and tell your mother about the visitors that the two of you had tonight. If I find that you have, mark my words—you won't live more than moments after yours escape your fowl tongue."

    He whimpered.

    "Good boy." I wrapped an arm around each of my sons' necks and grinned, the three of us teleporting back up to the roof. "I have no more use for the two of you at the moment. You can go eat now."

    "She didn't give us any trouble, Father," Hateri informed me.

    "She did seem to be having trouble sleeping, though," Yoake remarked.

    "That would be, most likely, my doing, dears," I grinned. "I had a chat with her last time I came here." I shooed them. "Now go, go. I'm hungry, too, you know."

    "Have a good evening, Father dearest," the twins offered. They chuckled as they took on their prior, miniature forms, and took flight, chittering as they left my company.

    "Oh, I will, I will," I mumbled once they were gone, also regaining my smaller form, fluttering off in search of Maki and my other self.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Maki::

    In the park I found a young man, no older than nineteen, taking a midnight stroll. Foolish boy, I thought, running my broad tongue over my many sharp teeth. Back in my day the people of Ecruteak heeded the full moon for fear of creatures like myself! I closed my eyes in temporary remorse for the pitiful thing, then leapt out of the bushes and followed him, Keiji's clone beside me.

    'This one's yours, love,' the Umbreon whispered, drooling, his four blood-red eyes wide with hunger as he stared at the boy.

    'Thank you,' I replied, making a short bowing motion.

    He had heard the two of us talking amongst ourselves and had stopped and turned to see us. "Agh!" he uttered in exasperation, grasping for the Pokéball at his waist as he turned tail and began to run away.

    'Hnn, perfect,' I grinned, chasing after him by the smell of his fear. 'I *love* fast food!'

    I heard Keiji chuckling from behind me, sitting there on the sidewalk and watching as I leapt up and pounced on the boy with a squealing roar. He stared up at me in fright as I began to drool rabidly, so near to feasting.

    "Machoke!!" he squeaked at last. In a flash of light the bodybuilding Superpower Pokémon appeared, cracking the knuckles of his right fist with his left hand.

    "'Choke," it growled, staring down at me angrily.

    'I'm hungry, too, don't you know,' Keiji mumbled nonchalantly, splaying wings through his fur and standing on his hind legs, becoming humanoid again. His seven glowing, golden eyes were the only feature of his silhouette that the Machoke was likely to be able to make out, but it was enough to make the Machoke run from him. Cackling, he took flight and chased it, knocking it down with his telekinesis and descending upon it in a matter of moments. He screeched, wrapping his wings around its broad shoulders and digging into the wonderful, well-formed neck of his victim.

    I, too, began my feasting, the threat out of the way, in utter ecstasy as the young blood rolled over my tongue with a single Crunch of my jaws. I ripped his head to one side fiercely, snapping his spine, and he fell limp as I drained him. Once I was done with the boy, I threw my head back and howled.

    It got Keiji's attentions, but he was not yet finished with the bulky creature he'd attacked. But, once he was, he chuckled, standing and walking over to me. He opened his strong arms to me, and I leapt up into them. He held me to him, stroking me contentedly. "See? I knew you'd enjoy being like this," he grinned, strolling along the sidewalk with me.

    I ignored the comment. 'Did you finally join me, dear?'

    "I don't alter my clones without altering myself, too," he explained, indirectly telling me he had. "It destroys the image of duplicity not to mirror oneself in both." He looked to me. "How about another go, love? I've always thought we don't spend enough quality time together."

    Chuckling hoarsely with my doggish throat, I replied hungrily, 'I wouldn't have it any other way.'


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Twenty-Nine: Little Pinpricks

    ::Sesh::

    I sat back at the kitchen table, kicking my feet up on the edge and crossing my legs, forcing the chair to tilt back a few inches. Snapping the newspaper unfolded, I read the headlines aloud. "'Five Dead: Umbreon Pair to Blame'," I muttered, unamused. "Somehow I don't find it any surprise.... Ecruteak's chock full of psychotic little beasts."

    "What're you sputtering about now, Mouse-butt?" Kit grumbled, her eyes set on the cup of coffee in front of her. One hand wrapped around the outside of the mug, with her fingers laced through the handle, she stirred sugar and milk into it.

    "Nn," I mumbled, "it's just the sheer stupidity of this city, Kit. Three-hundred years of dealing with that bastard brother of mine and they still don't want to realise that they're being eaten one by one."

    "Maybe they don't want to let on that they know, so they can storm his big shiny mansion with torches," she played.

    "Didn't know you were one for morning wit," I remarked, looking at her.

    She looked at me in response, smiling stupidly. "Gee, thanks. I can't be smart just 'cause I haven't had my coffee this morning?" Her gaze narrowed judgmentally. "You pierced your lip again."

    I shrugged. "Sometimes it just feels like it's time for an addition to the hardware, I suppose."

    "And it just felt like it was about time that you took that ring off again, wasn't it?"

    I made a face. "Guilty as charged. Yeesh, it's not like I'm the evil one. You don't have to be so hard on me for needing to get out of the box once in a while...."

    "You've been doing it more and more often, though!" she snapped, worried. "You've added a new piercing every time you've done it! Since you got it, you've only taken it off twice; within the past three months you've taken it off five more times!"

    I glared at her, hurt. "Is it really my fault that Takeru gets to me like this? Is it really my fault!?"

    "It's not your fault he does what he does, no, but it is your fault how you deal with it."

    I snorted. "You're so cruel to me...."

    "Love hurts, you jerk. Now get over yourself—and your brother—or you'll ruin the day for the both of us."

    I sniveled, folding the paper back up and sitting upright. Laying the paper down on the table and standing, I walked over to the balcony window, looking down to the street. The apartment was only three stories up, but the people below felt as though ants. I solemly let my façade fail me, my Raichu features coming out. My tail curled between my ankles slightly, my ears flat against my head.

    She followed suit, putting her hands on my shoulders. "Oh comon, Sesh, don't get so bent out of shape! I'm just worried about you, 'sall...."

    "If only it were that simple," I sighed. My stomach rumbled slightly and I arched my tongue up against the roof of my mouth to feel the stud in it, squinting my eyes shut. "How's breakfast at Gavrelli's sound to you?"

    "Quit playing with the tongue stud, and I'll think about it," she teased, hugging me.

    I chuckled, grabbing my jacket. "Don't act like you don't like the tongue stud," I grinned, slipping the jacket on while putting away my stray ends.

    "Touchée," she muttered, grinning, as well.

    ~*~*~

    "You know, he's really starting to get on my nerves," I began, mouth full of egg. Kit rolled her eyes, but said nothing. "Seriously! I can't see past how he can even live in a place that big! He's all by himself, and he doesn't do much more than sit and play dollies most of the day!"

    "Oh get off it, Mouse-butt," she grumbled, poking at a pancake with her fork. "You know that's just the way he is."

    "Of course it's how he is," I moaned dramatically. "That's your excuse for not blaming him for anything!"

    "How the hell is it a crime that he lives in that mansion?" she snapped, staring at me angrily.

    ".... Leave me alone," I pouted.

    "No, I won't leave you alone. You need a reality check, Sesh. Life does not revolve around Takeru Itoh!"

    The name got the attention of some disheveled woman sitting at the bar, and she picked her solemn head up to look at us strangely. After a minute her familiar face sunk in, and I realised that she was that girl Keiji'd had in bed that night.... Suffice it to say, I was freaked out. That had been a hundred years ago, and she didn't look a day over thirty.

    She looked as though she had a hangover by the way she walked over to us—dark circles under her eyes. "You know him?" she began, leaning on the table. "From how you were talking, I would've sworn you were talking about the Takeru in a most familiar fashion...."

    "Did you know who he was when you slept with him, dear?" I began bitingly, trying to get the thing to talk more openly to us.

    She and Kit both flustered, the woman glaring at me. "I beg your pardon!" she uttered, blushing deeply. Then she caught a look in my eye and realised she'd seen me before, too. She sat beside me, slinking ever nearer to biting my head off. "I'd rip your throat out for that if we weren't here," she hissed. "I don't take that sort of sass from him, and I'd sure as hell not take it from you!"

    "Sesh, that was uncalled for," Kit whined.

    She ignored her, gaze set solely on me. "What do you have against Keiji? Hm? Is it that his deep, dark secrets are deeper and darker than most? Or is it something more?"

    "Wait, you know Keiji Itoh and Takeru Taich—" she stopped herself, twitching. "N—wait, you...?" She didn't finish her statement.

    "Some brother you are," she spat. "Takes a hundred years post facto for you to find out Keiji and I got married."

    The two of us gawked at her, shocked beyond belief.

    "Oh quit it," she muttered. "It's not like you'd be surprised, Toshihiro. What I remember best from when we last met was the string of names you called him before proceeding to attack him head on."

    "Look, she remembers my name," I sang with sardonic flourish.

    "Do you even remember mine?" she continued.

    I shut up. "....No.... But why would I want to?"

    "Why the hell are you two so malicious towards one another!?" Kit growled, frustrated. "You're fighting like *you're* the ones that got married!!"

    The two of us were thusly put in our place. "We can't say," the two of us said stupidly, heads hung.

    "Don't tell me you've been cheating on me, Mouse-butt."

    The two of us flustered at such an accusation. "You've got to be kidding!" we uttered, irate.

    "Then what else could it be? You sure seem on close terms."

    "Close terms, like how he remembers my name?" she began, tearing into Kit.

    "Leave my wife alone, you whore!"

    She gasped in disgust, and left.

    "Well, then. You learn somethin' new every day, dontcha?" Kit uttered, watching the girl pay for her meal in haste and leave in a huff.

    ~*~*~

    We went up to the estate once we were done eating in order to try to set everything straight. I was certain the girl'd given Keiji a head start into all I'd done wrong.... -_-

    We let ourselves in. A jolt ran up and down my spine at a cold presence behind me, hair on end. I jumped when a pair of chuckles resonated from behind us. I turned to find two guys standing there—twins; they were blond with green eyes, and looked rather reminiscent of my brother. The both of them standing roughly six feet tall, they wore slate grey from head to toe. When they grinned at us, we could see they both had fangs.

    My eye twitched nervously at such a sight. It had been more than enough when Keiji had had two sons, one eight years older than the other. Twins were another matter entirely.

    "You must be our uncle," the first stated, surpressing laughter. "Mother won't leave Father alone about you...." The two of them giggled.

    "H—how old are the two of you?" Kit inquired quietly, nervous.

    "Eighty-seven," they chirped cheerfully.

    The both of us shivered.

    "Where are your parents?" I began.

    "Who's to say?" the second replied, shrugging. "When she gets after him, the two of them get into such flights...!"

    "That was terrible," the first chided, glaring at him.

    "I know, I know," he grinned.

    Then the two introduced themselves.

    "Hateri," the second bowed.

    "Yoake," the first seconded.

    "N—nice to meet you, but we'd really like to talk to your parents...."

    "Why does it matter how he treats you?" Takeru roared, storming down the front stairs to get away from the little wretch. "He doesn't have the gall to show his face more than once every hundred years or so!" He caught sight of us. "Oh, you're here," he muttered, staring at us flatly. "Oh joy of joys, the brother who doesn't know how to talk to women is here."

    "You really should tame your shrew, otouto-san," I mumbled, irritated.

    "Augh!" the woman began, glaring at me from the top of the stairs. "You need to learn to keep your opinions to yourself, lest you sooner end up dead!"

    "Maki, dear, don't threaten. It's not nice," he mumbled, not making eye contact with her.

    "I can't see how you're possibly related to this slime!" she bellowed, making a hideous face of disapproval.

    "Sometimes I myself wonder, dear," he continued, trying to get her to quit.

    "Wow, I thought I'd never see the day the Bamboo Dragon submits to a wet blanket!" Kit hooted, gawking at the scene in awe.

    "Meilin, shut up." He walked up to me, suddenly growing more and more intrigued by me. He eyed all my new attachments in feign interest. "The lip rings don't do you justice, onii-san. You really should lay off the piercings...."

    "That's what I try to tell him," Kit moaned in agreement. "But does he listen to me? No! He'd sooner listen to you, the psychotic younger brother, than his own wife!"

    The masculine appellation got to Takeru and he roared, walking off again.

    "See what your relatives do to you, sweetheart?" Maki dug, trailing after him again. "You don't even care about her enough to've told her, do you!"

    "What don't I know?" she uttered, blank.

    If you be quiet about it, I'll explain it all to you later.

    "Stop that!" she growled, slapping me in the shoulder. "Just tell me!"

    It took me a minute to get the words off my pierced tongue. "Keiji's my sister, not my brother."

    She stared at me. "What."

    "Like I said, I'll explain it to you later if you'll be quiet about it now and watch the lover's spat."

    She nodded blankly, eyes glazed over. "I think that's for the best."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Keiji, altered timeline::

    I awoke to a beautiful morning. I had slept well last night. Sitting up, I squealed contentedly as I stretched. I looked to the clock. It was seven thirty-eight.

    Getting up and tucking Dante back into her box under the bed, I went into the bathroom and pulled my step-stool up to the counter, then got up on it. I looked at myself in the mirror, smiling after a minute. "I *am* a girl, arren' I?" I giggled lightly, washing my face and hands, then drying off with the hand-towel and putting the step back by the toilet.

    I heard Toshi in the closet and went to say good-morning to him. "Good—"

    "Why is there a dress in here, Keiji?" Toshi uttered, interrupting me whilst staring at it. "And shoes to match?"

    "He gave them to me," I admitted, not looking at him. "He says I look pretty in them."

    "You're a boy. You don't wear dresses and cute little shoes."

    "Why not?" I looked at him innocently, trying to get him not to be upset.

    "It's the way things are. Boys just don't wear dresses, Keiji. Forget whatever that man told you. He's crazy." He looked nervous, but put the topic to rest. "I'm all ready dressed, so the closet's yours, lil' bro." He left me standing there and closed the door.

    I wanted to please my mother and my brother. Yet, once I'd stripped off my nightgown, I went immediately for the dress. It felt awkward to wear it, but it also felt right. And I wasn't one to go against gut feelings.

    I approached the chest of drawers that was at the far wall of the walk-in closet, the drawers which held all of Toshi's and my most precious of belongings—our jewelry, our treasures, our secrets.... Drawing out the bottom drawer, I ceremoniously picked up the piece of white fabric held within, and unfolded it, revealing the Bamboo Dragon. Admiring it only for a moment, I looked to the mirror that was hung on the door and used my reflection to pin the gold-enlaid emerald brooch to my collar. The instant I looked upon myself once putting it on, I felt cold. Very cold. I took it off hurriedly and put it back, worried about it.

    I walked out of the closet, no shine in my eyes, no emotion in my face. Deep down I somehow knew that I was meant to be the owner of that hunk of gemstone and precious metal. But the time had yet to come that I would endure its magic.

    "Keiji, what're you doing!?" Toshi exclaimed, panicking and rushing out of the bathroom at the sight of me, hair brush in hand.

    "I'm doing what is right," I answered monotonously, not stopping on account of my brother.

    I left our room and proceeded to the edge of the second floor, looking down over the handrail to find mother at the kitchen table with her coffee. Then I processed down the stairs. "Dun I look beautiful, Mommy?"

    She froze up the instant she saw me, upset and disturbed deeply. "K—Keiji, where did you get that dress...?"

    "A friend gave it to me," I told her, smiling and standing before her like a good little girl. "Dun I look beautiful?" I repeated.

    "You're a boy, Keiji," she uttered. "Boys don't wear dresses."

    "Mommy, you know I'm not a boy. I cann' go through life pretending any more," I explained, hugging her.

    "But—"

    "Daddy's not here now. He cann' tell you to make me be a boy any more. He cann' tell you what to do. And he wonn' be hitting you anymore."

    Something struck her and she seemed okay all of a sudden. She ran her hand through my hair, smiling sadly at me. "Keiji, you're too smart to be four years old," she beamed, on the brink of crying. "You should know that it's too late to turn back...."

    "It's not too late," I defied, frowning. "I can be a girl right now. See? I'm wearing girl clothes!" I did a little twirl, then stood still again, cheerful and hopeful that she would understand.

    "It's too late for me to turn back, sweetheart," she sniveled. "Everyone else in the family will turn on me if they find out that I did this to you.... They'll think I'm a sick psychopath like your father...!"

    "You did this because of Daddy, not because you wanted to do it," I continued, crawling up in her lap and drying her tears with my sleeve. "If I can, I'll stand up for you if anyone is angry. Daddy's not here anymore. Daddy cann' tell us what to do."

    She laughed sadly, looking at me without hope. "I only wish it were that easy, Keiji.... If anyone finds out, they'll take me where they took your father. Then you won't have me or Daddy to live with."

    "Takeru can make everything right," I begged. "He knows so much, and he loves us—all three of us."

    "You can't trust someone like the Takeru, sweetie," she uttered, hanging her head in despair. "You just can't."

    "Why cann' we trust him? He wants to help us."

    "....He wants me to go where Daddy went," she admitted. "He wants for you and Toshi to be alone."


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Thirty: Gravity

    ::Takeru::

    "Keiji, what's the matter?" Maki asked, coming up behind me.

    I sighed, staring out the window. I'd grown fond of that room in the past few years, and had made a habit of walling myself up in it when I felt like being alone. "Rain always makes me feel like I'm underwater—suffocating and crushed on all sides."

    "Oh," she frowned. "I suppose there's nothing to be done that would change that?"

    "I don't like interfering with the weather," I replied, melancholy. "I may have that capability, but for something as frivolous as being put at ease? I'm not that sort of person, love."

    She kissed me, then sat on the arm of the chair. "Are you sure there's not anything that would make you feel any better?"

    "I just want for this storm to pass, that's all."

    "I'll leave you alone, then, dear."

    Once she was gone, I sighed again. "The sound of rainfall used to be so soothing," I mumbled, melancholy. "I wonder what changed that all...?"

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Keiji, altered timeline::

    I sat down at the window and propped my head up by my left palm, resting my elbow on the windowsill. Water streamed down the window, distorting my view. The sky was covered in dark grey clouds, and it rumbled from time to time. I sighed. "It's raining...."

    It had been four years since Takeru had last come to visit me, and it made me so very sad. I'd really enjoyed the time I'd spent with him. He was especially different from anyone else I knew, but not just because he was powerful, but also because he was very wise and intelligent. And I could relate to him—we both seemed to have difficulty being accepted by the world.

    "Hey Keiji, want somethin' to eat?" Toshi asked, seeing me sitting at the window.

    "I'm not hungry," I replied quietly, still looking out the window.

    "Whatcha doin'?" he began, growing worried. It wasn't normal for me not to be hungry, and I didn't want to upset him, but it wasn't normal for me to lie, either.

    "I like listening to the rain. It's calm."

    "Is there anything wrong?"

    "....I want to see him again," I uttered.

    After a moment he knew who I meant. "....Why...?"

    "I like him. He reminds me of me."

    "How could a creature like the Takeru remind you of yourself?" he inquired, confused and skeptical.

    "We're the same, him and me. We both have to pretend for the world to understand us."

    "W—what?" he laughed lightly, nervous.

    I looked down at the wet ground, melancholy and not wanting to tell him. "We're just similar, 'sall."

    He dismissed it, seeing how unusual a mood I was in, growing more and more uneasy of me with each passing minute. "I—if you're okay, Keiji, then I'll leave you alone...."

    "I'll be fine. I just wanna watch the rain fall."

    "O—okay...." Then he walked off, seeming quite afraid of me.

    Eve leapt up onto the windowsill and rubbed her body against my arms. I blindly petted her, keeping my gaze out the window.

    "Vee?" she trilled inquisitively, looking up at me in confusion as to what I was watching out there.

    "There's a man out there that understands me even better than either of my parents. He's beautiful, strong, and ever so smart." I thought on the matter not more than an instant before snapping up to go to the closet. "....Eve, I have to go see him," I explained to her as I slipped on my overcoat. "I dun care what Mom or Toshi'll do if they find out. He cares for me. He cares for me a lot."

    She trailed around my feet as I gathered up Dante and the brooch. "Ee eevee," she cooed, rubbing at my ankles.

    I smiled, kneeling down to her and scratching her behind the ears. "Can you go get my umbrella from behind the front door, Eve? If I went downstairs right now, Mom and Toshi would wonder what I was doing. It's raining outside, and they'd want me to stay inside 'cause of it."

    She nodded after taking the short order, then darted out the crack in the bedroom door. From there I waited for the quiet thumping of the small fox Pokémon dragging an object, which was easily the size of her whole body, up the stairs, the tassel of the handle in her mouth. Once she darted back into the room I closed the door quickly but quietly, then proceeded to open the left side of the bay window, which opened up close to the tree outside our room. I climbed out cautiously, having put the brooch in my pocket and having concealed Dante under my coat. Then, sitting on the branch, I opened my arms for Eve to jump. As soon as both of us were outside, I grabbed a dead branch from overhead and pulled the window shut so that no water damage would be done to the window or the wall. Then I jumped down, Eve and Dante in my arms, and I ran for the front gate as quickly as I could, so that I could avoid being seen. Once around the corner, I snapped the umbrella open and darted the half-mile to the asylum.

    From there I hurried up to the top of Mount Peal. There were no wild Pokémon out in the woods surrounding the base of the mountain, which was too small to be a true mountain, but was similarly too large to be considered merely a hill, so I didn't have to worry about being attacked by Spearow or the like as I went. A sudden gust of wind blew the umbrella inside-out, and I threw it down in frustration; the wet ground had ruined my loafers, and I was very cold, but I didn't care. My forward movement may have slowed drastically in comparison to how it had been when I'd first started out, but still I continued onward.

    I reached the estate about fifteen minutes after my path had taken an upward slope. As I stepped inside the outer gates, the surroundings took on a much darker, serious feel. Climbing roses covered everything, but they weren't in bloom—it was December. The place was made entirely of stone, centuries old, worn away by the passage of time. It seemed as though the flora was the only thing that thrived here, not Pokémon, not people. I shivered. I didn't know whether it was because I was cold, or whether I was frightened in that moment. Then I sneezed violently and tried to locate a way to get inside.

    I found a door on the side that opened into what seemed to be the kitchen—but it was gigantic in proportion to the one in my house. I continued further inside, cautious. The only sound was the squeaking of my soggy feet.

    "Vee," Eve protested quietly, poking her head out and shaking off as best she could.

    "Shh," I silenced, trying to figure out where in the world anything in this huge mansion was. I was intimidated by the lack of light, to say the least. And the rain outside wasn't helping the matter in the slightest.

    "Why've you come here?" a male voice uttered from behind me. Then a hand was placed upon my shoulder, and I fainted before I had the chance to experience shock.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Hateri::

    Once I'd used the pressure point in his shoulder to knock him unconscious, I took the small boy up in my arms, taking him to the nearest bedroom on the first floor. I laid him down in the bed and peeled his coat from his soaked form, only to discover an Eevee and one of Father's porcelain dolls concealed inside. As the kitsune glared up at me and hissed, fur on end, I cocked my head to one side in confusion.

    'What'd you do to her?' she demanded, standing on her master's chest and baring her fangs.

    'I thought that he would run if I tried to talk to him. I just wanted to see why he'd come inside the mansion. From the looks of it, the two of you came here without much preparation. Are you running from someone?'

    It floored her to hear a human speaking Eevish. After a moment she replied, 'My trainer came to see the Takeru. He lives here, doesn't he?'

    I smiled. 'The Takeru is my father. I can take you to him as soon as your trainer's dried off and feeling better.'

    It was acceptable for the small pet and she calmed down, turning to look her sleeping master in the face and licking his cheek. 'How long will she be asleep?'

    'Not long,' I told her, turning to the closet in search of some towels and a change of clothes for the boy. Continuing to strip the wet clothing from his body, I tossed each article to the floor as I went and dried his body off, laying his head down in a nest of towels. Then it struck me as I stared at the naked body of the small girl before me. 'You said your master's a she, not a he?' I asked, confused. Once the Eevee began to speak, I slipped the nightgown on her that I'd found.

    She flustered. 'I haven't had to hide it from other humans before because the humans I live with don't speak my language,' she admitted, embarrassed by it. 'Keiji ran away from home because she didn't want for her mom to tell her to be a boy anymore.'

    I was dumbfounded. This small girl had the same name as my father!

    The girl came to not moments after the Eevee had spoken, and she looked to her, then petted her, smiling. Then she realised that I was there and scrambled back on the bed, noticing all at once that she'd been dried off and reclothed. "You—!" she squealed, blushing deeply. "What'd you do to me!?"

    "I didn't want for you to protest when I approached you in the hall," I replied sheepishly. "And I figured you'd catch a terrible cold if I let you lay there with wet clothes on...."

    She couldn't look at me. "You know, dun you?" she asked quietly.

    I couldn't look at her, either. "Yes."

    "You wonn' tell people, will you?"

    "No."

    ".... Who are you?"

    "My name is Hateri. I'm one of Takeru's two sons." I smiled when she looked up at me curiously. "What?"

    "You look a lot like him, except his hair is black and curly..." she replied, looking at me and trying to envision me as my Father.

    I chuckled, sitting on the corner of the bed. "You don't know him that well, now, do you?" She made sound of confusion, and I grinned. "Never mind that. Your Eevee says you came to see Takeru?"

    She nodded. "I need to talk to him...."

    I picked the doll up and looked it over, stroking its hair gently. "Where did you get one of my father's dolls?"

    She blinked, blank. "You know that Takeru made it?"

    "Of course. All of his dolls are made like this one. Though I must say that this is the most innocent-looking one he's made in years...!" I snerked, amused.

    "He called her Dante. Do you know anything about her?"

    "Dante!" I hooted. "What a name for such a cute little doll! He must have had some specific reason for naming it that...."

    She shrugged and picked it up in her arms. The Eevee came over to the doll and began to purr, getting up in the girl's lap and nibbling at the doll's hair. "He gave her to me for my fourth birthday. That was four years ago. I've missed seeing him...."

    "Let me take you to him, then," I began, standing.

    "I would appreciate that," she smiled, the Eevee zipping up to perch on her shoulder as she, too, stood.

    "Then come along, and stay close to me. I don't want you getting lost."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    "Father?" Hateri uttered, coming into the room, disturbing my half-sleep.

    I picked my head up dazedly. "Hn?"

    "Keiji's come to the estate to see you."

    I rushed to my feet the instant I understood what he'd meant, and turned to find her standing next to him, Eve on her shoulder and Dante in her arms. She ran to me, the doll dropping to the rug and the Eevee jumping down to the floor, and she wrapped her arms around my waist, hugging me tight. Once the shock had worn off, I smiled, placing one hand upon her head and the other at her back.

    "I've missed you so much," she wailed, the sound muffled by how she had her face buried in my side.

    "Hn, I've missed spending time with you, too, my dear." I pulled her away from me for a moment to get a better look at her. An impressed look upon my face, I uttered, "You've grown so much since I saw you last...!"

    She blushed. "It's been four years since you brought me here," she replied, solemnly. "Why did you stop coming to see me?"

    "I didn't want to interfere with your life any more than necessary, Keiji."

    She took it as a sufficient response, despite its ambiguity.

    "Father—"

    I lifted a finger to my mouth to silence him. "I'll talk to you later," I interrupted, not looking to him. He flustered at it, but left after a moment.

    "I cann' take it anymore, Takeru!" she exclaimed, once Hateri was gone. "I want to tell my brother so badly. He dossun' deserve the truth being hidden from him like this. But even at this, I dun like feeling like I have no other choice!" She sniveled, clutching me again. "Takeru... you understand.... You know I'm not a boy.... You know *me*...."

    I sighed, kneeling down to her eye level. "You ran away from home, didn't you?"

    She nodded, wiping the tears of frustration from her cheeks. "I just had to come see you...!"

    I looked her straight in the eye. "You know what I've told you. You must take charge of your own life, dear, or others will do it for you, and you'll be miserable like you are now."

    She melted into sheepishness. "It's so hard.... I'm so much smaller and younger than they are...."

    "That doesn't matter," I defied, not looking away from her for an instant. "Have you been wearing the brooch like I've told you to?"

    She didn't look at me. "They dun want me to wear it.... It reminds them of Daddy.... And because they dun want me to wear it, it's hard to wear it without them noticing...." She knew how it upset me and she frowned at me. "I carry it around with me," she continued, pouting.

    "So long as you remember the brooch, it's fine. Wearing it does not necessarily mean simply pinning it to your person—it means bearing its very soul along with you, wherever you go."

    "I understand, I think," she mumbled. She went to dig it out of her pocket, but found the nightgown had no pockets and flustered, upset. "It was in my coat pocket," she told me. "Wherever Hateri had dried me off is where it is."

    I panicked at realising that Hateri or Yoake could have gotten a hold of it and rushed out of the room, trying my best to sense the brooch's location. I darted from room to room until I found one with the sheets a tangled mess and a pile of clothes on the floor. I snapped the coat up with my kinesis and snatched it hastily, digging in the pockets. I pulled the Bamboo Dragon out and sighed with relief.

    "You were worried about your son having the brooch?" she inquired from behind me, having followed.

    "....They would be affected by it very differently from how you are."

    "Affected by the brooch?" she echoed, staring at the bauble in my hand.

    I flustered slightly, but didn't let it faze me. "Yes, affected. It has a certain magick to it."

    "So it did drive Daddy insane, diddun' it?" she began, growing less and less trusting of me.

    "....It was his obsession with it that drove him mad, Keiji," was the best response I could give. I couldn't risk her discrediting the brooch.

    "This brooch is yours... right?"

    I nodded.

    "Why do you want me to have it?"

    The look she gave me denied me the capabiliity of any white lie to escape my mouth. "You really must know, mustn't you?" I asked seriously. I sighed when she didn't back down. "I want to make sure that you don't grow up the way I did, dear. I want to make sure that you have the choices I never did." She was confused to no end, and I continued to attempt to hide the real truth of the matter from her; but she was very smart, and was more than likely to figure it out sooner rather than later. "I didn't think anything of that brooch until I was old enough to know exactly what it was.... Because I found out after all the decisions had been made for me, I couldn't reverse the damage my loved ones had done to my life. I am how I am because of it."

    Still she was confused, but she knew I didn't want to explain my past to her just yet. "You say this brooch is magical.... It has the ability for me to persuade people, is that it?"

    I smiled, seeing she had not been turned from its beauty. "You could say that. It has many abilities, actually, but it makes a person very good at getting their way." Amused with how I'd explained it to her, I began to stroke the Kuraru unconsciously.

    "Is that brooch like this one?" she asked me.

    "Hn, this one healed me of a curse placed upon me," I told her. "It was made specifically for me, so it makes me much stronger than yours would make me. You see, the Bamboo Dragon was not made for me, but instead made for the one that gave me my strength. I... came to possess it, but, because it was not tailored specifically for my genetics, it was not nearly as effective as it should have been. But it's perfect for you, my dear."

    "Genetics?"

    "I'm a splicer, dear."

    She simply stared at me. "It's possible to splice DNA?" she uttered.

    I chuckled, taking her hand and putting the brooch in it. "It's not something to worry your pretty head about at the moment. You're to stay here until the storm lets up. Then I want for you to go home, Keiji."

    She frowned. "Why cann' I stay any longer?"

    "Your family will be worried about where you are, and, if you were to tell them that you were here with me, there's no telling what measures they'd take to keep you from coming to see me."

    "I'll stay where I'm supposed to be," she caved, rubbing her bare foot in the rug. "Promise me that you'll come to see me more often, though, wonn' you, Takeru?"

    I smiled. "I'll try my best."

    She hugged me. "I love you."

    I couldn't respond, so deeply pleased that she actually cared about me, even after I hadn't visited her for several years.

    "What's the matter?" she asked after a moment.

    I sighed, contented. "The rain isn't heavy anymore...."


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


    Chapter Thirty-One: Don't Know Nothin'

    ::Keiji, altered timeline::

    "I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to feed you before you go back, would it?" Takeru grinned, leading me back to the kitchen. Eve followed, still a bit uneasy of him. "If I remember correctly, you're rather fond of fruit, aren't you?"

    "Yessir," I chirped.

    He sat me down at the kitchen table and offered the basket of various fruits that lay in the middle of it. My eyes lit up in the presence of food and I happily grabbed for an orange and set it in front of me, carefully digging a small hole in the rind so I could peel it. Once I'd gotten half of it peeled, I pulled off half of the flesh and began eating it segment by segment. "This is a wonderful orange," I beamed, enjoying it thoroughly. I fed Eve half a piece and she took to it immediately. "Ecruteak dossun' get many shipments of oranges in the winter. You must have had these mailed here from the Mikan Islands."

    "I myself have a certain pallate that calls for such measures," he replied, taking an orange as well. He peeled it with greater dexterity than I'd demonstrated, and was quickly snacking in similar fashion to myself. He seemed to be playing with his food, though, how he was licking at it and then biting a piece of it off.

    "I thought you, er...." I blushed deeply at having piped up about such a thing. But I had to ask—it shocked me to see him eating fruit, it really did!

    He chuckled, putting it down in front of him and staring at it a moment. "True, I do have such need about once a month, but I'm not always the vampire people make me out to be. I enjoy fruit just as much as you do, Keiji. Sweets, too."

    "Eating is one of the biggest joys in life," I agreed, loving more and more just how similar the two of us were. "Taste is the beset sense a human has." I giggled, seeing he was playing with his empty rind, using his nails to cut shapes in it. "That's so cool," I awed, watching him, still eating my orange.

    "Hn?" He'd just been doing it out of mild boredom, apparently, and looked at it, flustering slightly. "Er, I tend to do that. I don't know why."

    "I still think it's cool. That looks exactly like a Pidgey!"

    He arched an eyebrow in mild interest of the thing. "I suppose it does, doesn't it? Shows where *my* mind is...." He stood, leaving it there, and looked to me. "You have made your mind up on the matter, though, have you not? You can't continue to pretend to be a girl for your family. You'll hit puberty in the next six years, and, when that happens, you'll be an even more girlish boy than you ever were."

    I sighed, disliking how serious he'd made the conversation so quickly after I'd grown to enjoy it. "You know that I agree with you, Takeru. Must you ingrain it into me every time I see you?"

    He flustered, seeing he'd upset me. "Forgive me. I feel as though I'm on a mission when I'm around you." He sighed, stepping up to the kitchen door and looking out at the rain. "You really should be getting back. I'm certain your mother and brother are worried sick about you, dear."

    I frowned in protest. "Are you sure I cann' just stay with you?"

    "I'm sure of it," he stated, seeming just as upset by it as I was. "If they figured out where you were, they would probably try to make sure I couldn't come see you anymore. And they'd most likely take the brooch from you."

    I nodded, still sad. I usually liked when he was right, but this time made me all angry and confused inside.

    "I'll take you home because it's so horrid outside, but I'd prefer it if you changed your clothes. A nightgown isn't something I'd want them to think I'd made you wear."

    I smiled, suddenly excited again. "Does that mean you'd give me clothes like you did last time? I love that dress so much, but it dossun' fit anymore...!"

    He grinned, contented with my enthusiasm. "If you'd really like that, then I suppose I could arrange that." He took the orange rind from me and put it on top of his, then led me off into the mansion again. With Eve trailing behind us, he brought me to a room that looked a lot like the one I'd been in the last time I'd come to his estate, and he opened the closet, looking for a moment before offering it up for my picking over. "I'll let you have two this time, since I think you're old enough that you can take the matter into your own hands."

    I giggled gleefully, skimming over the dozens of outfits. Excitedly, I began pulling various articles of clothing out to try on, but then realised that he was there and looked to him to hint that I wanted for him to look away. But he was sitting at the window, petting Eve, who had jumped up in his lap, so I didn't bother them to tell them just not to look. I slipped off the nightgown, then experimented a bit before coming up with the two outfits that I wanted to take with me. The one I'd decided to wear home consisted of a dark green turtleneck and a black and white plaid jumper, with patent leather Mary Jane shoes. The other was a full-length, sleeveless black dress, with a blue long-sleeved shirt to go underneath it. Both skirts had nice, big pockets—big enough for Eve to fit in one and a novel in the other. And, knowing that he would want for me to wear the brooch with whatever clothing he gave me, I did so before he asked. But this time did not make me feel cold like the time before.

    Pleased, I walked over to Takeru's side and posed for him, making a cutesy face. He looked over to me, half-asleep, then saw that I had made my decision and smiled. "You have a very adorable sense of fashion, my dear. I think it lacks one thing, though." He stood, setting Eve in the chair, then walked over to the chest of drawers and pulled out a green headband to match my shirt, then slipped it back onto my head, pushing my hair out of my face. "There! have to see those beautiful green eyes of yours, my dear!" I blushed, complimented. He noticed I was wearing the brooch and grinned. "You know you didn't have to wear it for me," he began, smirking.

    "I knew you'd ask me to, and I wanted to see what it would look like with the clothing you're giving me," I told him, twirling and enjoying the feel of a skirt again at my legs. "I'd like to go home now," I continued quietly, complying with his prior wishes.

    "Then by all means, let's wrap up your wet clothes and take you home," he smiled, closing the closet door and walking out of the room with the other outfit in his arms, going to the bedroom where Hateri and I had talked. By the time I'd caught up with him, he'd already retrieved my belongings. "Now then, I suppose we're ready." I took his hand cheerfully and he teleported me back to my bedroom. "Will they have been worrying about you?" he began, eyeing Eve as she darted off to the front window to sit and watch the rain hit the street.

    "I doubt it," I replied, looking to the clock. "I was gone an hour at most."

    He entered the closet and placed the folded outfit on the dresser, then put the wet clothes in the dirty laundry and came back out, closing the door behind him quietly, smiling to himself as he leaned against it, arms crossed. "You're turning out just like me, you know. I used to get out of the house and run up to that hill all the time."

    I giggled, sitting on my bed. "I had to come see you is all. I coddun' stand not having seen you for so long!"

    "So you came to me," he smirked, looking to me. "I have one last thing for you, dear."

    I got up off the bed again when he approached me, pulling something out of his coat pocket. "Hm?"

    He handed me a book. "It really is quite a good read. I'm sure you'll enjoy it." The two of us heard footsteps and he stood up again, smiling at me. "I'll get out of your hair," he teased, blowing me a kiss before vanishing into the air around him.

    "Keiji, Toshi told me you weren't hungry—" Mom came in and found me sitting there, looking at the book. She said nothing for a moment, trying to compute who I was. "He came again, didn't he?"

    I giggled, smiling. "Yes."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Toshi, altered timeline::

    I came back to the bedroom, this time cookies in hand, to find Keiji curled up in bed with a book. He was wearing girl's clothes again, and had his hair pulled back with a headband. The sight made me drop the box.

    "K—Keiji, how did he know that you'd wanted to see him?" I uttered.

    He looked up at me and smiled, putting a bookmark in his book. "I went to him, not the other way around."

    "H—I don't understand. You know where he lives?"

    "Of course I know where he lives. He took me to his estate when I was four."

    "Where is it?" I continued, awed at the fact that the Takeru really did have interest in my little brother.

    "He lives in the mansion on Mount Peal."

    "That place hasn't been lived in for years, Keiji. That's mad talk."

    "Do you think that a vampire's house would look lived in?" he retorted defencively, thinking I was calling him a liar.

    It hit me then. "Th... the last person...." The last person who'd been known living in that house was Keiji Itoh, the man who chartered much of the construction in Ecruteak. I noticed he was waiting for me to finish my statement and smiled nervously. "It's nothing. I was just remembering something. Want a cookie?"

    "Sure!" He stuck his hand in the box and pulled out three, then handed it back. "Thank you, Toshi," he admired, mouth full.

    "No problem," I muttered dazedly as I walked back downstairs.

    I couldn't have said it. I just couldn't have. My little brother was the Takeru....

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    "That girl is such a handful," I told Hateri, having come into the room he'd gone to when I'd told him to leave me and Keiji alone.

    "Hm? Oh, I'm important again," he mumbled, looking at me boredly. "I insist that you explain this whole thing to me this instant. I'm more confused than a Psyduck!"

    I snorted. "Important again," I razzed. "It's so simple I think even you can understand it, Hateri. I know I've told you before that I'm from a timeline slightly deviated from this one. Keiji is this world's version of me."

    "B—but Keiji's a girl!" he defied, even more confused now.

    Again, I snorted, taking on my truest form. It took him a minute to absorb that I'd actually turned into a girl, but, when he did, he leapt away from me much more quickly than he'd caught on to the whole situation. "Don't imply that your father's lying, dear. She'll just go and prove you wrong."

    "B—but—" He couldn't take it and simply gawked at me, his brain having liquefied.

    "You thought I'd tell you Keiji's really a boy, didn't you?" I chuckled, fingering the frame of his chin and glaring at him playfully. "No, dear boy. That'd be too easy."

    "But you're a man—!" He twitched.

    I began to enjoy his dismay more and more, and decided to shift Kuraru just to ingrain it into him that his father was a woman. As my eyes surfaced, I hunched over and shoved my wings out of my back, screeching at him. He scrambled away from me and squealed at seeing me literally burst at the seams, and fled in a puff of smoke when I leapt upon him.

    Content, I cracked my neck and curled up in the middle of the floor, opening my eyes to sleep.

    -=: [rose.iii] -=:=- [the.kuraitenshi] -=:=- [those.things.with.wings] :=-

    i'll believe all your lies, just pretend you love me
    make believe, close your eyes
    i'll be anything for you

  4. #4
    Like the Memory of a Kiss Kurai's Avatar
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    6_6; Yeah, I kinda figured no one here cares about RoseIII anymore....

    Is it 'cause it's hit its 120th chapter mark? I don't think anyone cares about Pokémon enough to write, let alone read, anything that long.... >___<....

    -=: [rose.iii] -=:=- [the.kuraitenshi] -=:=- [those.things.with.wings] :=-

    i'll believe all your lies, just pretend you love me
    make believe, close your eyes
    i'll be anything for you

  5. #5
    A black and white world Blackjack Gabbiani's Avatar
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    I think it's because the parts are so LONG. I mean, really...I was thinking if you cut down on how long you make each post, you'd get more readers. Maybe post one or two chapters at a time, rather than in a cluster like that.

  6. #6
    Like the Memory of a Kiss Kurai's Avatar
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    I will have chapter thirty-two up sooner or later. Its first revision came out at under a page, so I'm grafting thirty-three to it once I'm done with it. ^^;

    Chapter Thirty-One: Don't Know Nothin'

    ::Keiji, altered timeline::

    "I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to feed you before you go back, would it?" Takeru grinned, leading me back to the kitchen. Eve followed, still a bit uneasy of him. "If I remember correctly, you're rather fond of fruit, aren't you?"

    "Yessir," I chirped.

    He sat me down at the kitchen table and offered the basket of various fruits that lay in the middle of it. My eyes lit up in the presence of food and I happily grabbed for an orange and set it in front of me, carefully digging a small hole in the rind so I could peel it. Once I'd gotten half of it peeled, I pulled off half of the flesh and began eating it segment by segment. "This is a wonderful orange," I beamed, enjoying it thoroughly. I fed Eve half a piece and she took to it immediately. "Ecruteak dossun' get many shipments of oranges in the winter. You must have had these mailed here from the Mikan Islands."

    "I myself have a certain pallate that calls for such measures," he replied, taking an orange as well. He peeled it with greater dexterity than I'd demonstrated, and was quickly snacking in similar fashion to myself. He seemed to be playing with his food, though, how he was licking at it and then biting a piece of it off.

    "I thought you, er...." I blushed deeply at having piped up about such a thing. But I had to ask—it shocked me to see him eating fruit, it really did!

    He chuckled, putting it down in front of him and staring at it a moment. "True, I do have such need about once a month, but I'm not always the vampire people make me out to be. I enjoy fruit just as much as you do, Keiji. Sweets, too."

    "Eating is one of the biggest joys in life," I agreed, loving more and more just how similar the two of us were. "Taste is the beset sense a human has." I giggled, seeing he was playing with his empty rind, using his nails to cut shapes in it. "That's so cool," I awed, watching him, still eating my orange.

    "Hn?" He'd just been doing it out of mild boredom, apparently, and looked at it, flustering slightly. "Er, I tend to do that. I don't know why."

    "I still think it's cool. That looks exactly like a Pidgey!"

    He arched an eyebrow in mild interest of the thing. "I suppose it does, doesn't it? Shows where *my* mind is...." He stood, leaving it there, and looked to me. "You have made your mind up on the matter, though, have you not? You can't continue to pretend to be a girl for your family. You'll hit puberty in the next six years, and, when that happens, you'll be an even more girlish boy than you ever were."

    I sighed, disliking how serious he'd made the conversation so quickly after I'd grown to enjoy it. "You know that I agree with you, Takeru. Must you ingrain it into me every time I see you?"

    He flustered, seeing he'd upset me. "Forgive me. I feel as though I'm on a mission when I'm around you." He sighed, stepping up to the kitchen door and looking out at the rain. "You really should be getting back. I'm certain your mother and brother are worried sick about you, dear."

    I frowned in protest. "Are you sure I cann' just stay with you?"

    "I'm sure of it," he stated, seeming just as upset by it as I was. "If they figured out where you were, they would probably try to make sure I couldn't come see you anymore. And they'd most likely take the brooch from you."

    I nodded, still sad. I usually liked when he was right, but this time made me all angry and confused inside.

    "I'll take you home because it's so horrid outside, but I'd prefer it if you changed your clothes. A nightgown isn't something I'd want them to think I'd made you wear."

    I smiled, suddenly excited again. "Does that mean you'd give me clothes like you did last time? I love that dress so much, but it dossun' fit anymore...!"

    He grinned, contented with my enthusiasm. "If you'd really like that, then I suppose I could arrange that." He took the orange rind from me and put it on top of his, then led me off into the mansion again. With Eve trailing behind us, he brought me to a room that looked a lot like the one I'd been in the last time I'd come to his estate, and he opened the closet, looking for a moment before offering it up for my picking over. "I'll let you have two this time, since I think you're old enough that you can take the matter into your own hands."

    I giggled gleefully, skimming over the dozens of outfits. Excitedly, I began pulling various articles of clothing out to try on, but then realised that he was there and looked to him to hint that I wanted for him to look away. But he was sitting at the window, petting Eve, who had jumped up in his lap, so I didn't bother them to tell them just not to look. I slipped off the nightgown, then experimented a bit before coming up with the two outfits that I wanted to take with me. The one I'd decided to wear home consisted of a dark green turtleneck and a black and white plaid jumper, with patent leather Mary Jane shoes. The other was a full-length, sleeveless black dress, with a blue long-sleeved shirt to go underneath it. Both skirts had nice, big pockets—big enough for Eve to fit in one and a novel in the other. And, knowing that he would want for me to wear the brooch with whatever clothing he gave me, I did so before he asked. But this time did not make me feel cold like the time before.

    Pleased, I walked over to Takeru's side and posed for him, making a cutesy face. He looked over to me, half-asleep, then saw that I had made my decision and smiled. "You have a very adorable sense of fashion, my dear. I think it lacks one thing, though." He stood, setting Eve in the chair, then walked over to the chest of drawers and pulled out a green headband to match my shirt, then slipped it back onto my head, pushing my hair out of my face. "There! have to see those beautiful green eyes of yours, my dear!" I blushed, complimented. He noticed I was wearing the brooch and grinned. "You know you didn't have to wear it for me," he began, smirking.

    "I knew you'd ask me to, and I wanted to see what it would look like with the clothing you're giving me," I told him, twirling and enjoying the feel of a skirt again at my legs. "I'd like to go home now," I continued quietly, complying with his prior wishes.

    "Then by all means, let's wrap up your wet clothes and take you home," he smiled, closing the closet door and walking out of the room with the other outfit in his arms, going to the bedroom where Hateri and I had talked. By the time I'd caught up with him, he'd already retrieved my belongings. "Now then, I suppose we're ready." I took his hand cheerfully and he teleported me back to my bedroom. "Will they have been worrying about you?" he began, eyeing Eve as she darted off to the front window to sit and watch the rain hit the street.

    "I doubt it," I replied, looking to the clock. "I was gone an hour at most."

    He entered the closet and placed the folded outfit on the dresser, then put the wet clothes in the dirty laundry and came back out, closing the door behind him quietly, smiling to himself as he leaned against it, arms crossed. "You're turning out just like me, you know. I used to get out of the house and run up to that hill all the time."

    I giggled, sitting on my bed. "I had to come see you is all. I coddun' stand not having seen you for so long!"

    "So you came to me," he smirked, looking to me. "I have one last thing for you, dear."

    I got up off the bed again when he approached me, pulling something out of his coat pocket. "Hm?"

    He handed me a book. "It really is quite a good read. I'm sure you'll enjoy it." The two of us heard footsteps and he stood up again, smiling at me. "I'll get out of your hair," he teased, blowing me a kiss before vanishing into the air around him.

    "Keiji, Toshi told me you weren't hungry—" Mom came in and found me sitting there, looking at the book. She said nothing for a moment, trying to compute who I was. "He came again, didn't he?"

    I giggled, smiling. "Yes."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Toshi, altered timeline::

    I came back to the bedroom, this time cookies in hand, to find Keiji curled up in bed with a book. He was wearing girl's clothes again, and had his hair pulled back with a headband. The sight made me drop the box.

    "K—Keiji, how did he know that you'd wanted to see him?" I uttered.

    He looked up at me and smiled, putting a bookmark in his book. "I went to him, not the other way around."

    "H—I don't understand. You know where he lives?"

    "Of course I know where he lives. He took me to his estate when I was four."

    "Where is it?" I continued, awed at the fact that the Takeru really did have interest in my little brother.

    "He lives in the mansion on Mount Peal."

    "That place hasn't been lived in for years, Keiji. That's mad talk."

    "Do you think that a vampire's house would look lived in?" he retorted defencively, thinking I was calling him a liar.

    It hit me then. "Th... the last person...." The last person who'd been known living in that house was Keiji Itoh, the man who chartered much of the construction in Ecruteak. I noticed he was waiting for me to finish my statement and smiled nervously. "It's nothing. I was just remembering something. Want a cookie?"

    "Sure!" He stuck his hand in the box and pulled out three, then handed it back. "Thank you, Toshi," he admired, mouth full.

    "No problem," I muttered dazedly as I walked back downstairs.

    I couldn't have said it. I just couldn't have. My little brother was the Takeru....

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    "That girl is such a handful," I told Hateri, having come into the room he'd gone to when I'd told him to leave me and Keiji alone.

    "Hm? Oh, I'm important again," he mumbled, looking at me boredly. "I insist that you explain this whole thing to me this instant. I'm more confused than a Psyduck!"

    I snorted. "Important again," I razzed. "It's so simple I think even you can understand it, Hateri. I know I've told you before that I'm from a timeline slightly deviated from this one. Keiji is this world's version of me."

    "B—but Keiji's a girl!" he defied, even more confused now.

    Again, I snorted, taking on my truest form. It took him a minute to absorb that I'd actually turned into a girl, but, when he did, he leapt away from me much more quickly than he'd caught on to the whole situation. "Don't imply that your father's lying, dear. She'll just go and prove you wrong."

    "B—but—" He couldn't take it and simply gawked at me, his brain having liquefied.

    "You thought I'd tell you Keiji's really a boy, didn't you?" I chuckled, fingering the frame of his chin and glaring at him playfully. "No, dear boy. That'd be too easy."

    "But you're a man—!" He twitched.

    I began to enjoy his dismay more and more, and decided to shift Kuraru just to ingrain it into him that his father was a woman. As my eyes surfaced, I hunched over and shoved my wings out of my back, screeching at him. He scrambled away from me and squealed at seeing me literally burst at the seams, and fled in a puff of smoke when I leapt upon him.

    Content, I cracked my neck and curled up in the middle of the floor, opening my eyes to sleep.

    -=: [rose.iii] -=:=- [the.kuraitenshi] -=:=- [those.things.with.wings] :=-

    i'll believe all your lies, just pretend you love me
    make believe, close your eyes
    i'll be anything for you

  7. #7
    Ou Chestra Goth Keiji's Avatar
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    OKAY FINE. *curses at BMG boardcode* -_- Stupid thing. Won't let me stay logged out. *impersonates Kurai* XP

    ============

    This is the last chapter of RoseIII. I'm done. I'm going to leave you happy-land-obsessed people alone now. For good. You won't see me again. Ever. And I want you all to be happy about it, damnit. Longest Pokéfic ever. 122 chapters of nonsense. Eight books of nothingwords. Four years of my life... gone to waste.... And what do I have to show for it? Zilch! ;__;....


    Chapter Thirty-Two: The Mephisto Waltz

    ::Keiji, altered timeline::

    He came to me again that night, appearing as a darkened silhouette in the full moonlight. I could not see his face; his back was to the window.

    "Keiji, I cannot bear to see you live your life like this for one day longer," he began fiercely. At that moment I could see that he held something in his arms. I could not discern exactly what it was. "I must have it my way! I refuse to allow you to let yourself conform to that witch's demands! You are a woman, and a beautiful one at that."

    I blushed, rising from the bed, and I approached him. "What could I possibly do against her?"

    He remained silent for a duration before he replied. "You must not falter, even if it ruins you. Stand up to her. Let her know that you won't allow her to rule your life."

    ".... I must have it, mussun' I...? Even if... it... ruins me...." When he understood my compliance, he handed me the emerald green dress that had been wrapped up carefully in his arms.

    The next thing I knew, he took my left hand with his right, guided me to place my right upon his left shoulder, and he placed his left hand to my right side. Still I could not see his face; but, I could see he was not wearing his coat. He had on a beautiful silken shirt, a pair of dark brown slacks and an olive green vest. A cravat was fastened around his neck by a pale blue brooch. His bare hands were cold to the touch.

    Because I could not see his face, I looked down at his boot-clad feet, only to discover that I was already wearing the dress he had given me, and that my body had become one that would belong to a teenaged girl. My hair fell in aureate ringlets around my neck. I was taken surprise by this sudden change, but was not upset. Instead, I was simply glad to be in Takeru's presence. And we waltzed to some unheard, solemn tune, what ached with ancient muse.

    As the time went by, the distant, disconcerting sound of the mutilation of flesh grew louder and nearer. When this terrible cacophony ceased, I pulled away from the comforting euphoria held in our embrace, only to look on in horror at seeing, scattered on the floor in the corner, the remains of my mother and brother. When I looked back to Takeru, I could see his face at last, but then wished I could not, his glowing, golden eyes, veiled in the shadows of his sable hair, his insanely fangèd grin dripping with their blood.


    I awoke with a scream, shooting up in the bed with a cold sweat drenching my hair. I patted myself frantically in an attempt to disprove my seemed reality. Once I was sufficiently convinced that it had merely been a dream, I looked to the clock, still worked up. It was 4:30. I laid down and went back to sleep.

    ~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    I awoke from my nap to find it nighttime. I uncurled myself and stretched with contentment, which was held in a squeal and a splay; then, slowly, I opened all my eyes sleepily and slinked down the stairs on all fours. Snuffling of the air, I smelled Maki was nearby and experienced, in knowing that she would see me like this, a sense of agony what writhed in my belly like a mass of unruly maggots. Yet still I smiled coyly, continuing on my way, shoving the disconcerting sensation down into my entrails and forgetting about it.

    She had been walking in a tired daze, it seemed, and hardly took notice of me until my tail brushed against her leg as she passed me. She looked at me for a moment before realising that I wasn't human, let alone female. As expected, she screamed.

    Once she had gotten the chance to re-collect herself, she began to berate me nine ways to Sunday. "You scared me half to death! You know I'm not used to seeing you like that, let alone female!! Why!?" Yet still it continued, though I shan't repeat her exact words.

    My ears flat against my head in beaten protest, I inserted my explanation wherever I felt I could. "I only changed to prove the truth to Hateri...!" My voice was entirely not my own, darker and richer in the form of the Kurai, let alone female.

    This shut her up, abruptly, at that. "You told... Hateri... that his father... is a bloody woman...?!" She now seemed as though she could come unhinged without provocation.

    "Keiji came to the mansion this afternoon, and Hateri happened to discover that the little one is really a girl, let alone that she's actually me."

    "...You brought her here? Again?" she muttered in intolerance. She hated how I had been handling the matter.

    "Actually, she came to me, and entirely on her own, for that matter," I replied bluntly, stepping up to the mirror, wings haughtily snapped out behind me. The full moon was nigh, and I could feel the hunger begin to take me over. My eyes glowed a nauseating bluish gold as I stared at my reflection.

    "She— it was raining this afternoon...."

    "I know. I wouldn't be surprised if she has a cold."

    ".... But why did you have to become Kuraitenshi in order to explain your womanhood to Hate?"

    "I didn't," I grinned, running my tongue along the inside of my fangs. "I wanted to enjoy it, 'sall. He freaked out just at seeing me as a woman, and I could only imagine what a fright it would be for him to put all my sharp ends to the idea...."

    "I'm married to the single most twisted woman on the face of the earth, who takes delight in permantently scarring her offspring."

    "Is that really so bad, my dear?" I began, looking to her wickedly with all my thousand eyes.

    She simply melted. "N—no... I guess... not...."

    Chuckling, I loomed over her intimidatingly, wrapping my left wing around her, and I led her down the hall to our bedroom. Shee needed a good night's rest, so she would be up for tomorrow evening, afterall....

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Keiji, altered timeline::

    I awoke about an hour later, unable to sleep. I got up again and dressed myself in the black jumper that Takeru gave me, with the long-sleeved blue shirt underneath, which he gave me also, and I curled up in the closet with the book he'd given me: The Screwtape Letters. I didn't want to disturb Toshi, so I remained as quiet as possible until he would get up in a matter of hours. One of us needed some sleep, and it wasn't going to be me.

    Try as I might, I couldn't concentrate on the novel, the vivid events of the dream too much for me. I put the bookmark back just before Letter Number Twelve, then began to mull over the dream. It has to contain some hidden meaning, I thought to myself. Could it be that it was trying to tell me that Takeru really *is* out to kill off Toshi and Mom? No, he coddun' be.... I shook my head indecicively. Is my affection for him blinding me to the truth? Does confiding in him seal their fate? If I do decide to live my years as a girl, will they die...? I shook these morbid thoughts, unable to stomach it, and again tried to read.

    Not an instant after I began to read Letter Number Twelve did I begin to mouth the words in utter dismay.

    "My dear Wormwood,

    Obviously you are making excellent progress. My only fear is lest in attempting to hurry the patient you awaken him to a sense of his real position. For you and I, who see that position as it really is, must never forget how totally different it ought to appear to him. We know that we have introduced a change of direction in his course which is already carrying him out of his orbit around the enemy; but he must be made to imagine that all the choices which have affected this change of course are trivial and revocable. He must not be allowed to suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space.... We do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognised sin, but only with this vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn't been doing very well lately. This dim uneasiness needs careful handling.... It may wake him up and spoil the whole game...."


    I slowly again closed the covers of the novel and set it down, then stripped calmly from my body the black jumper that Takeru gave me, and the long-sleeved blue shirt beneath, which he gave me also. I dressed myself again in my nightgown, and I curled up into a small ball in the far corner of the closet. An apathetic tear rolled down my cheek. "I'm nothing more than a morsel to you, am I? I... I thought you cared for me, Takeru.... I really thought you cared...."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Sesh::

    Looking over to Kit, who'd probably not been asleep more than an hour or two, I smiled. Then I quietly rose from the bed and proceeded to dress myself for the day. I looked to the clock. 4:30. Once in the kitchen, I turned on the coffee maker and went to retrieve a newspaper from the vendor at the street corner.

    I descended the three flights of stairs of the apartment building and walked up to the stand with a gold piece in my hand. I had no need to ask the man what I wanted—I always got the same thing, and I got it every day. After making the transaction, I stuffed the newspaper under my arm and returned upstairs with it, where my fresh coffee was waiting for me. I poured myself a cup and sat down at the dining room table, then sighed, feeling as though I were in a complete and total rut.

    There was no truly breaking news in the headlines, so I moved to the comics page to try to lighten my spirits, maybe wake me up a bit. I'd not been able to sleep lately, but that didn't mean I wasn't still tired as hell every time I got up.

    What'd been eating me, you ask? Ha, the fact that my brother had erradicated the potential existence of the Ecruteak Technical by instead constructing an asylum. I was without the work I once loved, and the children of the area were anywhere near capable of common sense in any manner of the term. He had destroyed every aspect of my life, as though his subconscious held intention to avenge my early years.

    I looked to the ring upon my finger, the ring that had been made for me in order to surpress my darker intent. As the time went by, rarer and rarer was a time where I wore my ring for more than a week; every time I fought it I paid for it with another mark of hesitation in my flesh. Already my face alone was adorned with over thirty piercings. I wondered how many more would manifest before my darker side considered the job complete.

    Anxiety devoured me then as I stared at the silver bauble wrought around my middle finger. The longer I glared at it the more it seemed a confining shackle, the more it seemed to burn. It took me no time to decide to remove it, pocketing it as a safety precaution. It took me no time at all to feel that the ring no longer adorned my finger, and even less time for the act to arouse my alter mentality. As always, the first sign was a coldness that ran deep inside me. Then the long, thin fangs slid out of my gumline; the blue-black shine shot runners down my wonderfully long hair before taking complete hold and choking out what sandy blond tones remained; my complexion paled to a soft white. Though I couldn't see it happen, I knew all too well that the pupils of my eyes were now animalistic and held a bright, bloodthirsty fire in them.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Rukuru::

    I licked the sharp tips of my teeth and grinned coldly, then stood, folding the newspaper calmly and going to the bedroom door, whereupon I looked on at Meilin. She slept so peacefully.... I sighed and turned back to the otherwise empty apartment living room, walking over to the window and looking out in disdain at the just-awakened city below me. I wondered if any of them would even care that I existed.... It was then that I decided I would take a light into the morning air, and I stepped out onto the balcony, taking a quick balance before splaying through the back of my shirt, the shrill rip of fabric sending a delightful shiver down my spine. I let out a low hiss to forget the brief pain rendered by forcing the appendages through a taut medium, then leapt gracefully into flight, an hallucinagenic sight to behold to any below me. Though I was sure no one would care, even if they had seen me....

    However long I'd had the wings, it made no difference—I would always revel in the act of flight. Though, I did quickly grow bored, and began to scheme and obsess time and again. It took no time at all for me to fall upon a singular subject, and even less time to cook up a hideously delightful prank. I bubbled with eagerness and returned to the apartment, hoping Mei would share the same relish as I.

    I emerged from the ceiling, having put my wings away, and hung down in a batlike fashion behind Mei, who was preparing some ramen on the stove for lunch. When she turned around, she noticed me with only a small obliviousness, and leapt back immediately, aghast. Sufficiently spooked, she glared at me angrily.

    "Where the hell've you been all morning?"

    I grinned. "I needed to get out. I'm sorry if I didn't leave a note or call or anything," I apologised sarcastically.

    Her facial expression fell flat in unamusement. "I hate you when you're like this," she griped. "You make me look like I'm the one who's so intolerable."

    I crossed my arms across my chest. "Well, you are, really," I mumbled. "You simply can't stand it when I take control."

    Returning to her ramen, she muttered something inaudible. "Get out of the ceiling and act normal for once, Rukuru."

    I forced a bemused breath through my nose, then complied. "Hai, my love," I mused, running my hands around her front and holding her tight to me. I turned her head to look at me by holding her chin in hand, and I kissed her softly, then smiled. "You're still not used to calling me that, are you?"

    She snapped away from me rigidly, turning from me. "Of course not. It's not like I consider you something different from Toshi."

    I chuckled, knowing she'd keep defying me if I touched her. "I didn't think I was any different, either, until Sarina forged that ring. It separated the two of us, however subtle our differences may be."

    She was rather put off at this. "If you're not so different from him, then why must the two of you fight for control so much? Why must it be a struggle?"

    "It's a being's need to have control, a need to feel alive," I explained sweetly, snaking around to face her. "You understand that, don't you? I need to be allowed to exist, not surpressed...!"

    She didn't look at me, despite my effort to obtain her line of sight. "Don't you have someone else to torment?"

    "Hmh," I grumbled, put off. "I really don't quite understand you. You're such an enigmatic creature...."

    "What's to understand? I'm only human." She turned back to her ramen again, grinning to herself.

    I took her hint and bowed out, deciding to leave her out of my little scheme.

    ~*~*~

    I ducked into the mansion, having teleported within its walls, and began to wander about, musedly searching for my younger sibling. Once I had looked around one floor, I proceeded to the second, where I found a pair of feet propped up on the arm of a couch, from behind the back of which came a reminiscent snore. Ah, there... she is, I thought to myself, looking over the top and down at her, smiling coldly. "Ohayo, onee-chan," I greeted quietly, snaking over the top and laying down beside her, stroking her face.

    Vaguely aroused, she looked up at me sleepily, and she cooed at me cutely. "Hnn, ohayo gozaimas'...." It then sank in who hung over her and she snapped to attention.

    Before she could move another inch I restrained her by the wrists and pressed my nose against hers, grinning madly. "How is my little darling today, hmm? Oh, don't bother. I know you're just fussy 'cause you're hungry...." I chuckled. I added, pouting dramatically, "The approaching moon's got me wound up, too."

    She snapped at me, glaring furiously. "What do you want with me?"

    "Hoo, what a hoot! you want to know what I want with you! Don't act like you don't know, sweetheart."

    She sniveled and bared her fangs at me. "I'm serious. Tell me or I'll rip you to shreds for violating me like this!"

    "Tsk, tsk." I dug my nails into her arms and she winced a moment, albeit unfazed. "Don't take that tone with me. You know I want some quality time with you."

    "What the hell is that supposed to mean...!" she squeaked, reeling from how gingerly I'd been treating her.

    I laid down on top of her and kissed her on the cheek. "You make a very good girl, onee-chan," I whispered, biting her ear. "You're weak and submissive...."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Keiji, altered timeline::

    It seemed like an eternity before Toshi found me half-asleep in the closet, curled up and sniveling. And he just stood there, staring at me like he didn't know how else to react. "Wh—what's the matter, Keiji?"

    "....I...." I couldn't speak I'd been crying for so long. "....I dunno what's real anymore...."

    He noticed the book in my hands and made a face. "You had a nightmare 'cause of that book, didn't you?" He sighed. "You shouldn't read mature literature like that before bed."

    "I... no, Toshi, you dunn' understand...!" I sat up, sore and frail from the night before. "Takeru gave me this! He wanted me to read it! He wanted me to understand! Gods, why did he want me to understand!?"

    He knelt down on instinct and held me tight, trying to calm me down. "Shh, otouto-san...."

    "Why would he want for me to understand if he wanted to manipulate me so...? Why would he have wanted for me to know...?"

    He realised what I meant and shivered. "Keiji, vampires don't make any sense. They're insane."

    I cried furiously then, wanting so dearly to make sense out of it all. My last and most vivid memory of Takeru was as he stood behind me and admired how I looked with the brooch at my throat. It suddenly became completely opaque to me, and I stopped. I just sat there, completely stricken dumb, and I stared out of the bay window from across the room. "Toshi... vampires sleep during the day.... Vampires... they have no reflection.... They... I... Takeru has a reflection, Toshi.... He eats things other than blood...."

    "What are you talking about?" he uttered, looking on in confusion and sudden denial.

    ".... He's... not a vampire...."

    "....Then what is he...?"

    A chill washed over me then. "I... I donn' know...."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Takeru::

    I slinked away from him, feeling like a beaten dog, and surpressed severe agony from having been ravaged by my elder brother of all things. He'd gone insane...!

    "What's the matter, m'dear? You can't tell me you didn't enjoy that...." He giggled giddily, licking his fingers of my blood.

    I held my stomach tight, feeling rather ill at the notion of what I'd become. I could barely form the words to retaliate. "You... I remember... you once told me you were against incest...."

    "Hnn, a sharp one, she is," he snapped bitterly, smiling at me. "That was Toshihiro spouting his moral nonsense. You know that I do whatever the hell I bloody please. And *that* was bloody pleasant."

    Gods, I thought, completely disgusted with myself. Why can't I fight back at him? What the fuck is wrong with me?! I threw up violently, practically collapsing at such an upheaval.

    He stood, approaching me. He looked down upon me disdainfully, a cruel smirk at the corner of his mouth. "You know, had I known earlier that you were just a little brat like this, I'd have put you in your place a lot sooner'n this."

    I could take it no longer and teleported away from him, finding a vacant cell in the asylum, and I closed the door behind me. I curled up in the middle, cold and hollow, and awaited my long since imminent lunacy. Maybe Maki would find me....

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Toshi, altered timeline::

    "What the hell have you gotten yourself into, Keiji!?" I snapped, holding Keiji harshly by the shoulders and glaring at him. I was trying dearly to be angry with him, but my eyes could not hide my horror. "Why the hell did he have to find you!?" I tried to keep from crying, but it was useless.

    He was stunned by the agony in my words, and failed to produce sound when he opened my mouth to speak. Tears trickled down his face.

    I could do nothing but continue to question over and over in a futile attempt to grasp the situation. "Please explain to me what he wants with you. You... you have to know...."

    Entire minutes passed. He stood silently, stripping his body of clothes. I stared in endless denial before averting my eyes and blushing deeply. Presenting her naked body before me, she closed my eyes and looked away in embarrassment. "....Toshi... I...."

    "You... you're...." I swallowed hard. "P—p—put your clothes back on...." She proceeded to do so. Still looking away from her, I uttered, "Why didn't you tell me sooner...?"

    "I... I diddunn' think I could.... Mom told me that I had to be male for as long as I can remember knowing that I wassun'." She sighed, sitting again. "You... you dunn' hate me for not telling you... do you...?"

    "No, of course not...." I also sighed. "You... you're my sister, Keiji.... I couldn't hate you. It's not even your fault." He smiled slightly, hugging me peacefully. "Y—you told me just now because he's trying to help you break the lie you've been forced to lead... right...?"

    "No, but you know me much better than you let on, Toshi.... That's why I was so encaptured in his very being.... He... he just seemed... so... perfect...."

    It struck me then that my sister was female, and my prior conviction that the Takeru was Keiji Itoh left me. I twitched frantically, and broke down completely, unable to understand anything anymore.

    "T—Toshi...? Are you... are you okay?"

    I didn't respond.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ::Keiji, altered timeline::

    When I knew Toshihiro would not be coming to his senses anytime soon, I blamed my own actions and resolved to find Takeru. I had to know what he wanted with me, regardless of whether it ended my life.

    I instinctively clad myself in the black and blue dress he had given me not two days ago, and habitually adorned my throat with the brooch. Staring at myself coldly in my reflection, I knew at that very moment that I was hardened to my conviction. I petted Eve for consolation—though I'm unsure which of us it was intended to comfort—and left her there, sitting on the edge of the bed and watching me solemnly.

    Upon walking downstairs I felt all blood drain from me, but I did not forget myself, and I continued onward. Mom stopped me, but fell silent in her attempt to question me when she saw the look in my eyes. "K—Keiji...?" she uttered, unable to breathe. She fainted even before the door shut behind me.

    It took me no time at all to reach the estate borders. Upon entering the mansion I heard cackling from the West Wing, and instantly froze up, knowing it was not Takeru's voice. I clung to the door behind me in sudden fright, unsure of what to do.

    A dark figure stared down upon me from the top of the stairs. As he descended to me, I could see that it was a very tall man, with long blue-black hair, a pale complexion, and many facial piercings. Clad in a white suit, hands in his pockets, he nonchalantly approached me, grinning cruelly. He had fangs. "Well then, I suppose the hearsay is what it sounds like." He ducked down to meet me eye to eye and I shivered when he touched my brooch. "Oh the marvellous things this brooch has done...." He chuckled, licking his teeth.

    "Where's the Takeru?" I demanded at a squeak.

    This amused him endlessly. He took no time to respond. "Ha, you're the Takeru, m'dear. Look in that mirror there!"

    I fearfully approached my reflection, confused at what he had meant by such a thing. The instant I saw what I'd become I looked away quickly, unable to swallow it whole. Tears fell from my aureate eyes, and my sable hair fell to hide my face. "Why...?"

    He cackled at this, coming up to me again, his grin showing that he delighted in the horrible anguish he'd wrought. "Why? Why don't you ask her yourself?"

    He took hold of me brusquely, and, in the blink of an eye, the two of us were in a dark, cold place, with many rooms and only two hallways. There were people locked away in most of these rooms, and several moaned and shrieked at various imagined ailments. Asylums are worse than any hospital or funeral....

    He snorted, looking into the small opening at a higher altitude than I could reach, and clicked his tongue disgustedly. "You have someone to see you, onee-chan." He took hold of me again and threw me at the door such that I missed the impact with the cold metal and fell flat on my face on the padded floor.

    Then all fell silent.

    "You got your wish..." I told the seemingly lifeless mass that laid there before me. "Now tell me why you desired this...."

    Takeru rose from where he had lain, but did not look at me, turned away from me. "You're smart enough to understand everything now that you're just like me, chiisai," he replied quietly, almost too quietly to have heard. I twitched, approaching him nearer. "Yes, you heard me correctly."

    I stared at her in horror. The Takeru was a woman...! "Y—you're...!"

    She smiled up at me faintly, and I knew by the look in her shadowed eyes that she no longer possessed emotion. "Of course, dear. Like I said, we're the same now, you and me—empowered by so much... and yet... left so weak...."

    "But... I thought you were a man, Takeru...."

    "I am you, Keiji. My father instilled similar notions on me. The brooch granted me the ability to become what I thought I was meant to be. But I realise now in my current state that it was all a delusion of grandeur...."
    Who opened Pandora's Box and made *you* king?

  8. #8
    A black and white world Blackjack Gabbiani's Avatar
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    Interesting ending. But it seems like it ends in the middle of a thought.

  9. #9
    Ou Chestra Goth Keiji's Avatar
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    Of course it ends mid-thought—you haven't calculated the horrifyingly-complicated symbolism of the farce, have you? Takeru had a mental breakdown because (s)he's symbolic of the mind—and sanity; thus, the ending had to just sort of happened.

    Not just that, but I had to euthenize it. I did not want to end it. I never want anything to end. If you ever read any of the other fics I've actually finished, the last chapter's rushed and either overly-long or painfully short. It's attachment issues. x_o;

    I'm really dissatisfied with how the ending turned out. x_o *wants to kill self for killing this*
    Who opened Pandora's Box and made *you* king?

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    A black and white world Blackjack Gabbiani's Avatar
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    Well, it be your fic, so...

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    No! Don't end it! T-T It's too good to end!

    Alas, the greatest fic ever is done. =( Hey, if tehre were ever a way to turn it into a book I would buy it, lol. ^^

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