Rises the Sun (Part 4)
A Second Generation Whateley Academy Story
Rises the Sun
By Andrew “MageOhki” Norris
With assistance from Elrodw, Nightelf (for some scenes previously written before this became a canon project), JG, and the rest of the Generation 2 crew.
Chapter 5: Contraction
“Mutants, paranormals, metahumans. All People. My job as educator is to educate them, and not view them, as several other institutions and so called leaders have, as weapons. When I became headmistress, part of my duties as I understood them was to be aware that I would have some students who were raised to be weapons. As well as to remember, they don’t know how to be children, so to learn to be adults, they would have to be first taught how to be children again. This is why I want to accept these students. Not because they need to learn to fight … but because they need to learn to play.”
Dr. Carson, to the board of Trustees, 2002, on the situation regarding several young paranormals from Africa that were rescued by SOCOM units and delivered to Whateley Academy.
Jan 25th 2016, early afternoon, Pope Air Force Base Reception Waiting Area.
Waiting for the Gulfstream to land, Hikaru mentally shrugged at her spirit. *It’s odd … Why send Kako-sama to meet me. I’d have thought they’d want this quiet.*
*Quiet, daughter?* Amaterasu’s amused voice answered her. *I’m afraid that covert and not noticed is something I don’t do, if you haven’t clued in yet.* Pausing, still amused. *Nor will you. The years of being in the shadows are over. You cast them now. Not hide in them.*
*... Lovely.* Hikaru sighed. *You didn’t explain that …*
*I’d honestly think it was obvious, I’m afraid. I am a sun goddess, we give off light.* Amaterasu answered, amused still.
*I … see.* Hikaru paused, only to see the Gulfstream taxi towards them. *Well. Here we go.*
*Let’s see this one, she was born after I was in Japan last.* Amaterasu went quiet, as the plane stopped, and a stairwell rolled up to the opening hatch. Both watched as two obvious bodyguards stepped out and after scanning, let their principal out. She walked down the stairway, and went straight to the General, trailed by several others.
“Thank you for having me, General, and taking care of my cousin. My family is in your debt.” Kako, Princess Akishino bowed to the commanding officer of all Forces inside the United States.
“You are welcome, but our care is not over yet, your Highness.” The General nodded at the princess.
“I … see.” Kako’s head tilted a bit, as she looked at the General. “I’m not quite sure what you mean, or are implying, General.”
“She’s still to be fully tested by our people, Your Highness, though we’re willing to have it at Dam Neck Annex. We have … certain obligations, as I’m sure you understand.” The General replied smoothly.
“I understand.” Kako nodded once. “Well. What is, is, what needs to be done …”
“Will be.” The General nodded. “Hopefully it’s just an annoyance, Your Highness, and we can move on.”
“I do hope so too.” Kako bowed again and turned to look at the avatar that she had come to collect. Hikaru hadn’t moved an inch, and seemed to not notice Kako’s evaluating stare.
Striding forward, Kako’s inner troll gleamed through her eyes, knowing she was about to horrify everyone.
“I honestly thought you’d be taller.” Kako began, only to see Hikaru twitch slightly, then she recklessly continued on. “And with white hair. Oh, and wolf ears, can’t forget them or the tail.”
Hikaru twitched. Kako’s grin expanded, as Hikaru heard an incredulous voice in her head. *Did she just … Oh, first, we will talk to her Father. Second, remember that discussion I wanted you to have with those … game designers? Sooner, I do believe. Much sooner. Educate this … disrespectful child, please.*
Hikaru took a breath, then simply eyed the princess in front of her. “I’m afraid that you’re to be disappointed, Kako-sama. I’m not surprised that you however feel the need to pull tails … didn’t you try once before? And didn’t your honored father … discuss that with you?”
Kako’s smile didn’t waver one inch. “And I stand by what I said then … though I’m wondering now, if it’s more the stick needs to be inserted.” Seeing Hikaru twitch again, her smile turned into a smirk. “Maybe later we can discuss that!”
Hikaru twitched again, hearing a stifled snicker behind her as well as seeing the woman behind Kako wince. *Brazen, isn’t she? Susano’o must enjoy her antics.* Amaterasu's tone was a bit bemused. *Why, I think I’ll forgive her this time for that … tail pulling, you say?*
“But that’s for later.” Kako’s smile dimmed a bit. “I believe you understand what’s upcoming?” Her tone shifted to a slightly questioning note.
Hikaru took a deep breath. “Yes. Evaluation and then discussion of exactly what’s next.”
Kako’s eyes narrowed. “I … see.” Pausing a moment, she nodded once. “Well. The faster we get to … Dam Neck?” She turned to the General who nodded. “The faster we can get things done.”
Hikaru suppressed a wince as she followed the Princess and her entourage onto the plane, once the General nodded permission. Evaluation and testing wasn’t going to be fun. And why in hell did Legion have to clone his personality and trolling habits into a Japanese princess?
Jan 25th 2016, Afternoon, En Route to WDC.
Kako smoothed her skirt as she sat down, and watched Hikaru sit down, mentally assessing the person in front of her, as she flipped on the device she had used earlier. Her eyes swept around, and noted that there was no line of sight to the discussion she was about to have with someone who she knew quite well was stubborn.
<“Well.”> Kako tilted her head slightly. <“IHA with the American agencies, and others in Japan has built … a shoe, I think it’s called … yes.”> She nodded once, then continued on. <”For you, they just need the given name you’ve chosen to release it.”>
Hikaru nodded sharply, as if she expected it, which her next words confirmed. <”Expected, if not for internal reasons, but external, the new avatar prize has to be ‘perfect.’”> There was no commendation or anger, just a weary acceptance in her tone.
Kako mentally paused for a second, beginning to realize something wasn’t going as expected. But she couldn’t spend time tracking the issue down, and instead continued on.
<”Right. And with your rather … fetching... change, you can guess what the IHA is lining up.”> Kako stopped for a second, searching for something more, except only getting a nod.
<”Understood.”> Hikaru’s nod was accompanied by her response, in a neutral tone.
Kako’s expression didn’t change as she continued. <”Deportment lessons, public appearances, setting up your history, miko lessons, and of course, all the fun of ‘being’ a woman lessons.”>
Hikaru just nodded, clearly resigned. A flash crossed her face as her eyes unfocused, and Kako’s own eyes narrowed for a second, desperately wanting to know what Amaterasu-sama was telling her avatar.
Kako nodded, continuing, <”Last, but oh, so not least, kyudo, how to act with bodyguards, idol lessons, music lessons, how not to embarrass Japan, and how to shop, and last, dates with suitable gentlemen picked by the IHA. Parenting lessons … Oh, and of course, modeling lessons”>
Hikaru blinked once, then returned to her neutrality. Kako kept a straight face, but at least two of what she had thrown out, would have had all her other cousins or herself sharpening a kunai to toss at the briefer … Something was seriously wrong with her cousin. But this was not the time, and not the place to dig. But she was going to get to the bottom of this. Not for Japan, but for her cute new little cousin. It was clear the Last Myoujin desperately needed something.
Before Kako could formulate a plan, General Smith interrupted. “If you don’t mind, your highness, I need to speak to my officer.” Kako nodded and stepped aside, hearing a very faint whine, as she moved to sit near Akemi.
The Imperial house agent looked at the princess a bit nonplussed. <“Ah, Kako-sama … I’m sure the IHA would never be so crass as to set up the last three. My co-workers aren’t well … that eager to …”>
Kako held up her hand. <“I know. Oh, I know, Akemi-chan. It was ah …. Probing shall we say.”>
Akemi blinked. <”Probing?”>
<”To see how accurate the profile we had was. Which … well. I need to discuss several things, and to throw my weight behind one option, that was discussed. Pray tell, how do you like Hokkaido?”>
Akemi blinked. <”Ah, well, for a short winter vacation … I like to ski.”>
Kako smiled. <”Buy new skis, I have a feeling you’ll have lots of practice in skiing when I get my way. I’ve heard that New England’s very similar to Hokkaido in the winter.”>
Akemi blinked. And started to ransack her brain on where Kako was plotting to send her mistress.
Jan 25th 2016, Afternoon, En Route to WDC.
“Right, now that the princess isn’t listening in.” General Smith blew out a breath. “Before we hand you over to Japan, Okami, you’ll have to re-qualify, so we know where you stand. You yourself wrote those regs.” General Smith received a nod from Hikaru, then turned to Tyson. “You too, Chicken.” Getting a raspberry from the Sgt. Major, he had to grin. “Basic plan is to be at Dam Neck, to do the requals in VR sim, instead of at JFK. That’ll make the diplomats happier, plus it’ll be faster, JFK’s VR setup isn’t ready yet.” Getting two nods, he carefully kept out the other reason. It was much easier for the psychs to actually evaluate the operators if the operators weren’t aware of the observation.
“Understood, and then?” Hikaru looked at the general flatly.
“Basic plan is to turn you over to the princess, after putting you back on Medical. She wants to send you to high school, something we don’t mind, though Chicken, we have some details that we’ll talk about later.” Tyson nodded, clearly not too pleased that Hikaru was being kept out of it, but understanding the logic behind it. “Further, Chicken, the detailed plan is to have you transferring to the JGSDF, and ‘joining’ TSG, but detailed to the IHA.” Tyson grinned at that, understanding completely.
Hikaru nodded once, understanding the messages being sent by several people in this plan. “Understood. I suspect I’ll have an interview with … whichever principal my cousin has decided on? Likely Gakushuin.”
“Not sure.” General Smith nodded. “It’s to build your cover, enough so people don’t go digging, or if they do, by the time you’re fully in the public eye, they run into a solid enough cover, and don’t think to dig further. Last thing we need is someone to blare out some facts about paras that aren’t commonly known, much less that Japan’s prize is such.” He shrugged, spreading his hands. “Way the world is.”
Hikaru surprisingly rolled her eyes. “Not everywhere, but …”
“Why stir the pot, right, Okami?” Tyson snickered. “I mean … bigots will be bigots. And Iron Dragon’s really pushing the hard line in China. Last thing we need is to give him any support in the US.”
Smith nodded and turned back to the conversation. “Assuming your evaluation and requal is fine, you’ll have a few more issues, at the Puzzle Palace, plus testing at Langley. Japan’s not going to be able to bury your results, and they don’t like it.”
Hikaru’s head tilted. “Oh?”
“They wanted to run you at DOPS’ own lab in Japan, and not give anyone the results.” He shot the operator a look. “And you can imagine how Patton and others reacted.”
Tyson winced. “Badly. Putting aside that Okami might want to re-up, the regs are iron on that. The last thing we want is to have one of the Dogs or Easies go rogue and not a clue on how to take them down fast and hard, without making the news. Hikaru even more so.”
Hikaru nodded. “Of course.”
“Right. Now, onto some other news, Doggies.” Hikaru winced, as a voice entered her head, to Smith’s amusement. “And yes, you can tell her I’m trolling her.” Smith smiled innocently.
Hikaru shot the General a flat look. “Thank you ever so much for the headache.”
Tyson sniggered. “Regen doesn’t work on spiritual headaches, Good to know.”
Smith stopped the joking with two folders. “Here’s a list of current ah … friendlies with experience in SOCOM and like. I’ll leave it to you both to determine if you want to break cover with them, or not. Needless to say, Colonel, you are not to let the students know if at all possible you are Delta. That has to remain pretty much out of public eye, if at all possible.”
“Sir, why is Bardue Jr on the list? And who allowed that dog to spawn?” Tyson groused, to Hikaru’s giggles, then her facepalm, as he snickered back.
The general looked at the two of them, and sighed. “He didn’t.” Turning to look out the window. “You two were Delta at the turn of the century, right?” Receiving two puzzled nods in response, he nodded once. “Does the name Erik Mahren ring any bells, Colonel, Sergeant Major?”
Hikaru tapped her chin. “Somewhat. Don’t really recall where or why.” Tyson nodded at his officer’s statement.
Tyson turned to look at his old friend, and shook his head. “Dragonslayer, Boss.”
Hikaru hissed. “Why do I want to cut open a Marine officer hearing that?”
“She’s not on the list anymore, and she might actually be your contact.” Smith repressively said. “You are going to be reread into that, completely, but this is an oath I require from you and your passenger. Japan and Israel, much less Germany is not to know word one of what’s in that file. No one from those nations, period, dot. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.” Hikaru instantly replied.
“Good. Buckle up for landing.” He eyed Hikaru. “Find out why you blew a tendon from your excessively overpowered tenant.”
Hikaru winced, but settled in to meditate, as Tyson reclaimed some of the files to reread. General Smith eyed the pair then turned to look out the window, sighing, and face turning somber as he pondered the two. Confident, bold, convinced of their own ability to meet any challenge was the hallmark of successful operators, but the flaw as well. They relied on themselves and their abilities too much, and refused far too often to admit when they were over their head. Things have changed, and shooting their way out of trouble was not going to be an option they would have often.
Hikaru settled in, and started to reach for Amaterasu. Before she could sink fully in, she heard a laugh and then Amaterasu spoke. *Yes?* A sense of amusement flavored the next words. *You don’t have to push this deeply for discussions, you do realize*
*I … was a bit …* Hikaru started, but stopped as Amaterasu overrode
*No matter. I listen for you. And well … a teacher must tailor lessons to a student, not herself, no? A lesson that your cousin’s servants will learn.*
Hikaru agreed and added *That is the hallmark of a great teacher, yes. Which brings me to my question*
Amaterasu hummed *How you hurt yourself?* She received the mental equivalent of a nod, and continued on. *You have powers, and instincts to use those powers. However, you have other instincts and well, they merged.* She received from her avatar the wince of understanding *Given everything, sometimes the best lesson is one you learn on your own … and I did warn you.*
*You did.* Hikaru blew a mental sigh, and continued on. *Lovely. So, how will I learn how to use these powers?*
*Mm … practice. That’s really all I can say. While I can teach much, indeed teach more than most would realize, teaching how to fight or use your powers, I’m … unfamiliar with the powers in your body, and I’ve never taught combat.* Hikaru got the sense Amaterasu was trying to find some words, then listened to her as the goddess continued. *Nor magic, really. Honestly, my child, while I am noted for my blade, I am not a combat master like Susano’o or others, nor am I noted for heavy combat magics. I’m afraid this will be a learning experience for the both of us. And some of the ways I do things, you cannot. Let’s take that light step trick. I just will myself where I want to go. You? From what I can tell …* Amaterasu trailed off for a moment then stated. *I think you simply bridge the spaces together. Bending space to combine the two locations. It’s fairly short distances, really, but with it …*
*I … see.* Hikaru sighed. *Lovely.*
*Oh, that’s not the only problem, as I’m sure you’re aware. Pray tell, have you noticed a few issues about center of gravity? Perhaps reach? Little things like that?* Amaterasu sounded a bit amused.
Hikaru didn’t facepalm, though she wanted to. *This is going to be so … fun.*
*Yes, yes it will be!* Amaterasu grinned. *And you have to learn many things! Not just how to fight. One of your western thinkers … had a nearly perfect quote for what I expect you to be. ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’, I believe was the words. If you use ‘word’ instead of pen … That is the hallmark of who and what we are.*
*I … see.* Hikaru left unsaid what exactly she saw, but added as an aside, as she heard the ding of ‘prepare for landing’ in the cabin. *I … do see. This … will be a challenge. I was hoping in a way never to gain my flag, or at least just one star on it to avoid that.*
Amaterasu shrugged slightly. *That would be a waste of who and what you are, daughter. And you cannot avoid it. Try as hard as you might, you would be involved. Now? You will have a teacher, able on at least that aspect, to help you take your proper place. Now, put your shoe on, and let’s see what is next.*
Jan 25th 2016, Late evening, Dam Neck VBOQ (Visiting Bachelor Officer’s Quarters)
Hikaru sighed. Tomorrow was prepared for; her uniform was hanging in the closet, her toiletries sat in the bathroom.
One thing remained. She wasn’t sleepy or really tired – quite the opposite. Having slept for 2 weeks really did give her a lot of energy. *So. I think I’m going to burn off some energy.*
*Oh?* Amaterasu smiled. *Pray tell how.*
*See what I’ve lost.* Hikaru’s reply was dry as she unlocked a case, and opened it. Resting inside was a sword inside it’s saya.
*And how will you do that?* Amaterasu asked, her tone sounding idly curious to her avatar, though something inside Hikaru didn’t think the goddess was.
*Start from the beginning.* Hikaru’s hand idly ran the length of the sheathed sword, grasping the saya right below where it joined the tsuba. Amaterasu’s interest piqued as Hikaru removed the sword from the case.
*Hametsu’Yomi?* Amaterasu tried to push a bit of power out of her host, but felt blocked, as her host’s mind was drifting, as she unsheathed the blade. A voice crossed Hikaru’s mind, and Amaterasu heard it as clearly as her avatar did.
“Never draw steel unless it tastes blood. To not let the blade drink, is to forget what it is meant for.”
*Yes.* Hikaru gave no sign on hearing the long ago words, but Amaterasu felt their impact, even now.
Taking a position, blade’s tip level with the bridge of her nose, Hikaru began the process of remembering her earliest sword drills. The smell of old wood, sweat, and the voice of an old but fierce man crossed her memory as she began performing the most basic of drills she had learned so long ago. When she was just as unsure of what to do, as she felt now. Instead of the fierce words and drive her great grandfather had, it was the world that was blowing this and that way. She had no center. No balance. No ability to bend. But with a sword in her hand, she could cut the wind.
“Again! Until your form is perfect, you will practice. Set your feet the way I showed you. Hold the blade at the ready and …”
As she advanced through the drills, adding movements to more complex drills, memories came unbidden. With every movement, a voice of gravel rang out in her mind, sharp and clear. Foot back, grip higher. You must not grip too tightly or …”
Unconsciously, she found herself responding to the commands, slowly adjusting her kata from something her great-grandfather would have been ashamed of to something approaching acceptable. She flushed in embarrassment; it shamed her that her skills, honed from a childhood once sacrificed to martial perfection, had slipped to such an extent.
Her muscles felt the beginning of a burn, another reminder of just how far she’d fallen. Muscles burned, sweat rolled off of her forehead, but she would not stop, not until the mission was done.
“It will be a cold day in hell before I salute any of you pencil-dicked college babies on this parade deck! Not a damn one of you comprehends what it means to be an officer, much less a soldier! Lesson one, children, One of you fucks up, all of you fucked up. On your faces now!”
Her hands thrust forward with the blade, mimicking movements nearly as old as time as her hands trembled slightly. The dull resistance of flesh and the hot spray of red veiled her vision as feet crunched in barely-compressed snow. The Hindu Kuch rang out with staccato shots and the screams of the wounded, the war cries that even thousands of years of evolved combat could not stifle.
Her body twisted with the memories, blade descending as she moved forward. Thrust forward, tear down, drive the attacker low. The blade was falling, she was falling as the motion came to it’s apex, ending with a slash that would have cruelly disemboweled an opponent and rendered them a eunuch in a single motion.
Artillery crashed as the mortars exploded around her position. The Blade Wheel coming at her on the Miami street ruined as eighty millimeters of hell fell upon it, and it’s companion drones. “TARGET! DANGER CLOSE! FIRE FOR EFFECT!” The voice was hoarse, desperate as her men were being overrun.
Falling blades, downward strokes of an old soldier far beyond caring anymore whistled downward at angles just off. Wounding strikes that would maim, or just barely kill an opponent came down and the blade fell, repeatedly. Every time the blade descended, she found herself falling with it.
“I’m sorry Colonel, but there’s been an accident …”
She stopped. Snow and asphalt gave way to carpet, to her new reality, to the calling chosen for her long before her great-grandfather was born. She gently laid the blade down in a corner, and moved into the opening position of the Yang school of Tai Chi Chuan.
Inwardly, she grimaced. So clumsy, so disjointed, so disharmonious; her great-grandfather wouldn’t have needed to say anything to show his disappointment. Just a frown and a glare were enough. The movements slowly became more fluid, more graceful as she found a rhythm, as she let one movement flow into another.
“Get those men up, Sergeant, don’t let them give up! You four on me, we’re going to get their attention! Second Squad prepare to rush, Machine guns at the cyclic. FIRE!” The staccato burst of hot brass ejecting its payload slammed into her shoulder as she moved forward. Her men were dying too fast. She had to keep them moving or it was going to turn into a slaughterhouse …
She was shaking, her aim, her focus was off. She forced herself to smooth her motion, renew her focus as she drifted through the forms, moving slower. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast as she struck downward.
The explosions dulled as hospital walls surrounded her; dust fell from the white tile of the ceiling as mortar shell on mortar shell on mortar shell landed around them, a city reduced to rubble, seemingly destroyed stone by stone. The explosions could not dissuade her; they worked like automatons, saving lives even as life was snatched away, one dull rumble after another, each one closer than the last.
She would never realize it, but her reach overextended just enough, her motion just off as her form took her into a position that would have left her too vulnerable, an opening that would have impaled herself on a real enemy’s weapon...
And, then, after the explosions, after the crackle of the fire and the sharp report of weaponry, at the end of all of it - silence. The old smell of blood and suet lingered in the air, with a new smell mixed in, oil and gasoline and asphalt. And that damned silence - the silence of death, the silence of nothingness.
She remembered her thesis as a martial artist, came back to the ready position and picked up the blade and began working through the forms again, mixing the disciplines in a spiral path of annihilation that would drive everyone low as she expended her energy and her breath in a reckless, controlled, rapid burn that tried to drive the air from the room.
The hospital morgue was filled by cold bodies in bags. Too many … too many. She couldn’t recognize the charred remains within, only confirm the wedding ring on a small, once-feminine hand. It was all silence.
Slow, sad, stiff moves, moving to fast lethal moves, she never noticed the hesitations in the lethal strikes. The slowness of the blocks. The slight stopping during moves meant to position her out of the way of return strikes. It ended as abruptly as it began.
Amaterasu, no peaceful person herself, recognized the despair and hollowness of the kata. If this was meant to symbolize Hikaru’s life to date, all it said was there was no life. That all in the end that remained was a shell.
As Hikaru ended the kata, Amaterasu spoke. *When did you start this kata, musume?*
*After …* a long pause and finally Hikaru finished. *Aiko died.*
Amaterasu was silent for a time, trying to parse some meaning from what she witnessed. Martial Arts were as much about life as death. The thesis Hikaru had just performed was not alive. It was dark, a spiral of destruction seen only when a warrior consigns themselves to their battle line. No further. The last stand of one who knew nothing of what to live for.
It didn’t make sense. She was going to have to see more before she could understand why in all of that display of well-precisioned, but ultimately mechanical skill, she had seen nothing of the person whom she’d met as a little, enthusiastic child named Daniel Moate.
Jan 26th 2016, Very early morning, Dam Neck VBOQ (Visiting Bachelor Officer’s Quarters)
As she felt the waves of anguish from her avatar, Amaterasu Omikami grit her teeth.
She had come to hate the night. Hikaru's thoughts were always guarded, always controlled in the daytime; while Ammy could always feel the edge beneath the placid exterior, she was largely spared from her charge's anguish. At night, however, as Hikaru slept, the demons within her would all come out to play, tormenting them both.
Even worse, this was her doing. The Myojin had always carried her banner - and for it, all of her children had paid a heavy price, in blood and tears. Even worse, innocents had died with the guilty, forcing both of them into a perpetual state of mourning.
Ammy frowned. It was maddening - completely maddening. The past was the past, and it had been painful. Now, though, the Myojin had been called, and accepted their duty. Hikaru had power beyond her own understanding. The pain could go away; the sacrifice of blood could really mean something.
And, yet, Hikaru was trapped in this torment. Each night, the cycle began anew - nightmares of death. Blood. Rain of steel, thunder of countless screams. The lightning flashes of destruction on a level that Ammy had to admit was fit to equal any of her battles with her foes. And countless death. Death of those she lead, deaths of those she failed to protect.
A tear ran down Ammy’s cheek. Her charge was hurting.
Her child was hurting.
She looked at the memories within Hikaru, at the nightmares that plagued her.
She could soften them. She could ease Hikaru's pain - help her see beyond this agony, and to what they had to look forward to together.
Her conscience twinged slightly. Humans tended to want to hold on to their pain, far longer than necessary. These were old pains. This was old blood.
It was time to begin anew. With a wave of her hand, she clouded this one memory that tormented Hikaru, making it hazy, indistinct. Better to leave it behind, if it caused so much pain.
The memory faded into the fog; Hikaru drifted into a more peaceful sleep. Ammy took a deep breath, and sighed contentedly.
Tomorrow was a new day. And, hopefully, Hikaru could go forward from there.
Feb 12th, Mid Afternoon, DEVGRP VRTS (Virtual Reality Training and Simulation) Observation room, Dam Neck Annex, NAS Oceana, Virginia.
“You bellowed, General Patton?” Kako inquired sweetly to the General's unamused look. “It was quite loud, or so I was told.” She swept the room with her eyes, noting at least a dozen military officers, plus a clutch of technicians, watching and monitoring the simulation, and if she didn’t miss her guess, the AI links into the simulation. One caught her eye, a female Naval officer who had the most striking black hair, almost the same cut as her own. Just a tad shorter. And pointed ears poking out of the bob cut explained why it was such a rich colour and thickness. Damned Sidhe and their pretty hair, Kako amusedly thought to herself.
“Cute.” Patton returned to the displays, showing simulations and testing at 12 to 1 normal time. “We’re just about done requalifying. And she failed requal completely.”
Kako blinked. “The damage was that severe?” Kako was immediately rethinking and reassembling plans that had previously took into account, no, almost were based around, her cousin keeping, if not all, but the solid core of skills she had spent nearly 35 years acquiring. This would not make her cousin or the rest of her family happy, she thought.
“Not specifically that, though she’s taken significant damage in her skills, we pretty much can write off anything more than a Delta Captain would have on average. Though she’s retained her knack of planning and executing solid plans, at least.” He sighed.
“General, if I may?” a sweet soprano interrupted him. Kako turned to look at the voice’s owner. A raven-haired Sidhe with brilliant green eyes with striking silver accents looked at the princess, while glancing at the General, who nodded.
“Thank you, Sir. For your information, Your highness, I am Lt. Peters, call sign Whisper.” She smiled, striking a chord in Kako, who wondered if this is what others felt around her. “I’m DEVGRP’s house cyberelf.” Kako blinked, raising an eyebrow at the eagle and trident on her breast, but before she could ask the grinning Sidhe, the elf continued, serious now. “She failed on certain … aspects. Operators, especially those who are officers must pass certain psych tests, that our VR can do now, without them being aware, so they can’t game the system.” She rolled her eyes. “All of us would do so in a heartbeat.”
“I … see.” Kako was getting a sinking feeling. “And?”
“To be frank, she failed on several points, mostly valuation and understanding of concept. She’s always selecting mission and her personnel over herself.” Whisper sighed. “Which is not allowed. While cold, officers have to order others to do things that might, and in fact will result in their injury or death, for the good of the mission and the unit. She’s not picking that at all. She’s failed that aspect. Which isn’t a fail, per se, it just isn’t good for an officer.”
Kako actually understood what Whisper stated. “And the other?”
Patton looked at Whisper and nodded. The Sidhe gathered herself, and sighed. “She’s never ever picking any option that maximizes her survival. I won’t say she’s always picking the riskiest option for herself, but there’s a clear trend.” With a look to General Patton she continued. “And that is a fail on mental conditions. Added with how well, passive, in a way she’s in the operations, only doing what she’s ordered, and not ‘leaping’ ahead as she should be, she’s been downchecked for mental, again. Her Operator status is gone.”
Kako understood the unspoken messages. “I … see. Could she … “ She was cut off by Patton himself.
“We’re not going to tell her, but she’s broken. And once Delta breaks, it’s broken. And no glue can put an operator back together again. Not really.”
“I … see.” Kako nibbled at a fingernail, worrying it, trying to figure out what to do. Avatars couldn’t be passive or broken. Bad things happened.
“But, she’s not Humpty Dumpty, Your Highness.” Lt. Peters smiled. “She can be put back together. I even know a place that is very good at putting people back together after traumatic change.”
“I think I know what you’re talking about. And now, I have to talk to a certain headmistress.” Kako sighed. “What do you plan to tell her, General?”
“Bring good chocolate. I found that got me out of several detentions.” With a grin, Whisper returned to observing the sim, while Kako wondered exactly how her cousin got this way, and a feeling that she knew the answer already, and if she admitted it, would be very disrespectful to an elder at Bon Festival and turned to listen to the General.
“Lie. Well, not precisely. We’ll say at this time, until she’s fully retrained, she’s not on active
status. And hope like hell, she gets better enough not to do something stupid, when we do have to admit the truth.” Patton sighed.
Feb 13th, Mid Morning, Flag Officer Visitor’s Quarters, NAS Oceana, Virginia.
As the General and the Princess, the latter carrying a wrapped bundle and a box, approached the door of the house that the Headmistress of Whateley Academy had been offered for her stay, they were startled by the door opening, and watched as two people walked out. One was completely known to the pair, Command Sergeant Major Tyson, in what Kako understood to be near impossible, his full formal uniform, which she remembered were called Blues, and by full, every single medal, campaign ribbon, qualification badge, service time, all of it was on full display. She was struck by the irresistible urge to ask how you could see his uniform though all that. The woman who was talking to him quietly was as different as it was possible to be.
She wasn’t military, and hardly dressed appropriately for what seemed to be the local occasion. Dressed in simple black jeans and T-shirt with fingerless leather gloves, her clothing was the most “normal” thing about her. She was about an inch taller than Tyson, and a bit shorter than Patton, which meant she absolutely towered over Kako. Her hair was black, metallic to her waist, reflecting light, and her pale skin was wreathed in cobalt-blue, runic tattoos. As she passed, Kako could hear the offhanded comment she made as her eyes passed completely over the princess and moved on, completely uninterested in her.
“Sergeant-Major I had to dress in accordance with my options. One, you become a teacher quietly, two, I stuff you in a sack and release you on Range 4 to the horrified cries of the Grunts, who were under the delusion that I was the most evil thing God created in a bout of madness.”
“So, you picked a variant of two, I take it.” Tyson’s snark was amused.
“Please, if I came in a suit, Patton might decide that I had become capable of rational thought and try to recruit me.” She smiled charmingly as they passed and Tyson returned the general’s salute. “Oh hello, General, didn’t see you there. Love to stick around and chat, but I’ve got kids to terrorize. Please put enough kibble in the shipping crate so your Greenie-Beanie doesn’t starve in the cargo plane on the way to work.”
“Bardue did you come all the way here just to yank my chain?” Patton glared at the woman.
“Yes, sir!” She barked out, grinning at Tyson who rolled his eyes. “On a more serious note, we had to formally interview Tyson for the Board of Directors review, and Liz said this was no-shit, short-notice priority. Since I have been trying to dangle things to lure him to my ranges anyway I figured if I wasted the time getting dolled up he might change his mind before I could get my hooks into him.”
She gave an exaggerated shrug as she pulled a packet of papers out from nowhere and handed them to Patton. “And I’m here for my summer ammo drop for the Academy and Security. Since you have no enthusiastic Lieutenants around to protect you by giving me the runaround, sign please so I can go back where I belong.”
Patton ignored the bemused amazement of the princess next to him, and pulled a pen. “Cute, Very cute, Eldritch. Also, meet the guardian of one of your future students. Kako, Princess Akishino. Well, possible future, you know how Carson can be.” Patton ignored the snickers from Tyson, as he added. “As for recruiting you, nah. Rather pay you extra to stay out of my hair. Legion’s bad enough. Also, how good is the Back Cage, now? Magical wardings.”
Kako had an almost uncontrollable urge to giggle maniacally as the woman’s expression froze in a slight smile at the combination of the words ‘guardian’ and “princess’ as she tossed around the ramifications of THAT. “A pleasure to meet you, Princess Akishino. No one bothered to fill me in on the protocols here.” She turned to Patton, “Back cage is fine. Range Four is now a decoy, Blackout has been re-established.”
“Magical wardings, up to Level 10 protection?” Patton inquired idly. “I’m aware of the current status of the storage arrangements.”
“As I said, Blackout has been re-established.” Caitlin replied cryptically, looking at Kako and shrugging. “Tell you what, when you can find someone who can build a better ward kit, send them my way.”
“Fair enough, but the little lady here” Patton shot a smirk at Caitlin. “Has been appraised of the defenses. De facto, she’s the 2nd of DOPS, Japan’s own DPA. And she has a need to know. My authority, and if you want the paper, you’ll have it in five, warper delivered.”
It was Caitlin’s turn to smile tightly. “I don’t care. I don’t appraise anyone of the full extent of the Back Cage, period. Not even you, per the agreements laid out. You apprise her of what you know all you want. Final disposition of knowledge of the contents and full defenses of the Cage are my discretion. Her student won’t be allowed into it, period, and it’s irrelevant to that interest. This is not a point upon which I will negotiate, General. Are we clear?”
Patton rolled his eyes. “I’m not asking you to tell her what’s in it. Nor am I asking for what specifics. Warding schemes are best left unknown, and you damn well knew that, Bardue.” He paused. “As for the future student being allowed in, that’s not my call, anyways. What the Princess has a need to know, is are the defenses good enough for certain items, if needs be, to be stored there. That’s why I was asking level.”
“Then say so. I’m not playing mickey-mouse f … games.” She cut herself off, looking at Kako. “For the purpose of what you are asking, yes, level ten, possibly higher given that I’ve had the better part of over a decade refining the system. The Cage is as safe as it can be made without having someone put the gear in hammerspace and concussing them until they lose the memory of it.”
Before Patton could respond, Kako interrupted. “Well, that’s all I needed to know, indeed. Thank you. We might have you in that case, look over a few other special sites, on your summer break if you’re so inclined.” She paused and nodded once. “It is of some … importance that we are sure there is secure storage for a few items, on Whateley. Not to be a bother, but … blades that in some form date back to the period right after the Sundering, I believe it’s called here, aren’t easily replaced.”
Caitlin twitched as she heard that. “More Five-Fold Court shit,” she said quietly, not happily. “Yep, I may be able to make the effort to ensure things from that era have proper locks.”
“Excellent.” Kako beamed. “I’ll put aside you appearing as a bosozoku, simply because your artistry has become world famous, and artists are artists.” She tilted her head. “Or do you do that to throw people off?”
“More I dress so my movements won’t be impeded and I won’t destroy anything expensive when the next imbecile who thinks I’m docile tries to nab me and force me to build their next big mystic superweapon, or vibrating backscratcher.” She grinned at Patton, “Or an MCO officer tries to apply my DFA … again.”
Kako snickered, and as Patton grinned at Caitlin. “Vibrating backscratcher … I don’t need one … but I might know someone who could use something else that vibrates. Do you do those?” For a moment, no one spoke. Patton and Tyson broke the silence by choking.
“Has someone gotten the stick a little too far up and need a loosening? There’s faster, and more entertaining ways.” Caitlin grinned. “Look folks, I would love to stick around and banter and get to know you all better, except for Patton because I’m allergic to brass, but I really need to get some logistical work done before September kicks off, and I really don’t want to be scrambling at the last possible minute. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to scram, sorry I couldn’t meet your kid you’re sending.”
Kako grinned back. “That’s perfectly understandable … and for meeting my cute little repressed cousin …” She tapped her chin. “I have a feeling about that. Ja ne!”
With that, the Amazonian tattooed woman turned and began jogging at an easy lope that would have had most athletes hard pressed to keep up. As she reached a Dragon Wagon, she climbed in and began rolling the massive rig towards a storage area.
“Just what we don’t need, Berserker meeting Miss-No-Self-Preservation. Remind me to speak to Carson about keeping them separated,” Patton groused.
“That you will not do.” Kako suddenly became deadly serious. “Erik Mahren, or Caitlin Bardue, even though we have little specific information outside both appearances in Darwin, has some understanding of what Hikaru-chan is going through. Maybe not all, maybe not most, but at the very least she would provide at least an understanding ear about redoing high school, without sucking up.” Kako paused for a second and nodded once. “As I stated, even without a full picture … Well. Let’s just say I trust my instincts and leave it at that, General?”
Tyson shrugged. “I’ll be there, and keep an eye out. But if Bardue can get a read on the situation, better to let it unfold organically. Don’t force anything boss, I remember the part from her file that says Rager, but I don’t think that’s going to be in play here. If it was, Carson would never have kept her on.”
“Point. And Hikaru isn’t in any real mental condition to deliberately provoke anyone.”
“I think it would be better if she was,” Tyson shot back.
Kako interrupted both men. “Perhaps, but Carson-sensei awaits me. You can do your traditional sword waving to prove who’s the smarter, stronger, best chest-thumper without me, can’t you?” She smiled innocently at the two men who towered over her by a good foot or so. Enjoying the silence, she strode to the door, and knocked sharply.
Tyson smirked. “I thought here at SOCOM we competed for the title of dirtiest cheater and king of the dick move.”
“Baby steps Sergeant-Major. Baby Steps.”
Feb 13th, Mid Morning, Inside Flag Officer Visitor’s Quarters.
Kako bowed slightly, indicating her respect for the young seeming woman in front of her. “Thank you for seeing me, Headmistress. Or would you prefer Carson-sensei?” She had put down the bundle and box, on a table in front of Mrs. Carson, revealing a fine bottle of sake, plus a kilogram of the best chocolates that could be found in Virginia, Mrs. Carson’s favorites, even.
Elizabeth Carson’s business suit was a sharp contrast to her employee’s near-biker-garb, and she bowed in a similar manner in response. “It is my pleasure to meet you, Kako-Dono. It’s not every day one can play host to a member of the Imperial Family, much less one who will likely head the Japanese equivalent of our American DPA. Please, make yourself comfortable.”
Kako gracefully sat, and paused for a moment. “I find the pleasure is all mine, I had a wonderful time meeting one of your teachers, just now. Such a free spirit. You have shown your wisdom with Eldritch nee Hijacker, that you have, Headmistress.”
Carson fought to keep from rolling her eyes at the mention of one of her most dedicated and abrasive staff members. “I hope you’re more discreet than to mention that around her. She’s a bit unpredictable, and in my experience she’s about as tractable with dignitaries as she is with unruly teenagers and MCO agents. You have to earn the right to discuss that old callsign.”
Kako smiled a bit. “Artists are artists, who would I be if I disturbed her harmony she uses to create her art?” Kako shook her head sorrowfully. “Not a daughter of my house, that’s for sure!”
“Indeed.” The older woman took a look at the unopened Sake bottle and the chocolates. “My, I see old files aren’t the only things that speak to you. A rather lovely and unexpected surprise. How did you manage to find these? They don’t sell them within fifty miles.”
Kako smiled. “I happened across one of your old students, a Lt. Peters. She suggested the chocolates, as she stated they got her out of detention more than once. As for the sake, one of my father’s advisors said you were fond of it, and it was no trouble to acquire either. I’m afraid I can not claim that I personally acquired them, mind you. As for the sake’s quality, I’ve not had it, perhaps you would be willing to share some with me?”
“Of course. I find that a good drink eases troubling conversations.”
“It does allow for the free flow of thoughts, and without the filters polite society does have.” Kako paused. “And given I do not intend to leave without my cousin enrolled in your school, Headmistress, it is best not to use Tokyo style conversations, much less full on diplomatic court.”
Carson gave a slight smirk as she poured two cups, and whispered something to warm the Sake just so. “As fun as it is to discuss the failings in social grace of my staff, I find it to be a rather old topic, one that need not be rehashed today. I’ve been reviewing the request to admit young Miss Myoujin to Whateley Academy, and at this time I’m afraid I fail to see what the school can give Miss Myoujin that she does not already have. We don’t accept students who don’t have a pressing need, and given the circumstances, the need just isn’t there.”
Kako sipped. Pausing for a moment, she nodded once. “Perhaps in your eyes. But, returning to your teacher, shall we say?” Kako grinned. “Delightful woman, she is, honestly. I could do with more like her. Would she consider moving to Tokyo?” Shaking her head once, she returned to her point. “One would argue that her need was not there. To be fair, I will concede that in terms of basic education, Whateley is no better or worse than the options I can acquire for my cute little cousin. Even in terms of power training, while Whateley is unquestionably the best overall in the world, you would be the first to argue that Japan is no slouch itself, I believe?”
“Yes, but you’re not planning to train your cousin in the equivalent of Mutant Tech School, Which a certain Dojo pretty much is.” Carson sat down, fully and looked at Kako with a considering eye. “As for need, Whateley protects its own. Miss Bardue was one of us before her unfortunate burnout and eruption, and that carried with it other complications. Everything happened so fast that she didn’t even have a chance to really mourn the loss of her fiancee, who died to a sniper on Halloween night. Caitlin Bardue was ours and our family, just like your Hikaru is yours, or Delta’s depending on who is being the most demandingly loud about it.”
Kako smiled. “Now I know you don’t know as much about the Dojo as I suspected you did.” Grinning. “Mutant Tech high. I have to tell the Soke that. He’d love it. Hikaru, like I, or Hatamoto from a decade ago, or Megumi Fujihara, is barred from the Dojo. Too high social status. Yomi doesn’t teach just mutants, but while it would be more accurate to call it a combination of Deville and your own school, it only takes those who … will not disturb society in Japan, shall we say?”
“If I don’t pull his chain, who will? And tell him I said that the rent is too high on that piece of backwater he calls a campus. He gets the best expressions on his face, I think you’ll appreciate it.”
Kako grinned. “I will send you the photos, as well.” Sobering a bit, she nodded once. “Putting Yomi aside, our normal system for exemplars and gadgeteers that don’t go to Yomi, or mages, likely would work, or if worse came to worst, private tutors, agreed. Though … I have a point for you to think on. Why do many of our higher social status, and those who just don’t fit come to Whateley? And that my government has been a shall we say, dedicated backer of your fine school.”
“It’s not a secret. Whateley is an Ivy League education equivalent for high schools, which provides a more engaging social and challenging educational environment.” Carson didn’t bother to feign ignorance here. “The fact is, the Japanese government wants their high society mutants educated in a manner that allows them to interact on the international stage without being sheltered from other cultures or uncomprehending. But while the Japanese government does support the school, I have to answer to the board of directors that set the criteria for admitting students, and I will have to answer to and convince them that this exception must be made.”
“And in this case, with the US military, and Japan calling in favors, you can just use that excuse,
and we both know it, Lord Paramount, while not a frequent guest was an engaging conversationalist when I met him, and well, the dragon and others are very nice people in my experience. Let us be honest, you want me to give you an open reason, however. To admit what I suspect we both know.”
“I can use that excuse, but I won’t. I have to hear the words from you directly, and this cannot be something we dance around. You’re asking me to bring a trained Delta Operator into a High School, an environment that one of MY teachers had to endure, and had an incredibly difficult time containing her outrage and frustration, and she knew what she was getting into and, more importantly, she agreed to endure it. You and I cannot force Hikaru Myoujin to do anything she doesn’t agree to any more than I could have controlled Bardue.”
Kako sighed. “If my cousin would be frustrated or outraged, it’s far better than what she’s showing now!” In a show that Carson would have bet hard money that the Princess would never show an outsider to the Imperial family, she waved a hand in the air, clearly frustrated. “She’s broken. And I don’t know why, and I know Japan would not allow her to heal and reset herself. Japan cannot afford to have her in Japan, while healing, because we would need to use her. And you of all people, Miss Champion, know what avatars are and what can go wrong. Tell me otherwise.” Kako looked coldly at arguably the first recognized female avatar on the planet.
Carson nodded, then simply stood up and walked over to a briefcase, and opened it, plucking a very thick set of files from it and setting them on the table. “I filled in the blanks that weren’t included in the official files, and took the liberty of pulling the transcripts from Daniel Moate’s schools from age five onward. I also pulled his employee record from the University he worked at and combined it with what you gave me. Hikaru’s past is troubling to me, Kako-san, because there’s something very important missing that you, or I, or anyone else might take for granted.”
Kako blinked. “Enlighten me. I cannot for the life of me understand how my cute little cousin got this way! I’ve known robots without a personality matrix more alive than she is right now! It’s like she has a set series of responses based on who she’s talking to!”
“That is, precisely what I’m afraid of. This entire file is one of exemplary achievement, honors, and good conduct and the highest standards of behavior. From the age of five onward, not one disciplinary notation, not low marks, no notations of bands, clubs or social cliques. Notations that Moate seemed to be a loner and was usually quiet and watching more than interacting. Even the reason for his not belonging to the Kendo club, was noted as practicing a family art, and dedicated to it.” Carson pointed at the files. “It’s all not there. Nothing but what a military or motivated, or desperate individual might instill at a very young age to instill a young man with a conditioned response to follow orders and achieve a mission.”
Carson looked Kako in the eyes. “There’s nothing there that tells me that any of this was written about a child.”
Kako blinked, her eyes flicking. “I know Myoujin-san, Ichiro, was worn down by what we now know as the determined destruction of the Myoujin bloodline, but what I know of him, this seems a bit … Wait.” Kako paused, remembering a conversation she overheard between her grandparents and Mother. Oddly enough she seemed to think her great aunt was there for it. Straining her memory, she nodded once, finally. “I … seem to recall a late night conversation a long time ago, Elisabeth. The day before I attended his wake, as you would call it. I think my mother was enraged at Ichiro-dono, for something … involving Daniel, how he pushed meeting the Celestial Empress way too early, something like my age at the time.” Kako looked distressed. “I’m not sure, mind you, it is one of my earliest memories … but it’s one of the few times, I remember my mother spitting rage at anyone. So it stuck.”
“You’re telling me that someone might have basically stuck Daniel Moate, at age five, in a room with a functional Goddess and told him … what? That he had to be ready? That he had to … what? As an Avatar I can tell you that would make the deepest impressions possible on a young mind.” Elizabeth Carson’s face went very pale as she spoke.
“... I can’t tell you that for sure, and my mother would never talk about it to you. Period. That’s Myoujin business. But … it would explain it, Mother is actually very aware of avatars and spirits, it’s one of her private studies.” Kako was trying to figure out the possibilities. “I’m nowhere experienced or educated enough to make a guess on what that would do, and from your expression …” Kako trailed off, realizing why her mother was so enraged, and why she had picked up studies of spirits and avatars at that point.
“Well then,” Carson said rather abruptly, “I think I know what the Academy can teach your cousin. And I know just the merciless lunatic to sic on her.”
Kako’s head titled. “... I suspect I’ve met her, oh, that is … evil.” A smile. “I approve. So what are the details you have in mind?”
“We can hammer out the details once I order some dinner. Unfortunately skipping meals doesn’t mean the same thing for me as it does for most.” She gave Kako a smirk. “As to your cousin, once I get the baseline of what is needed down, I think rather than contriving a study plan, I’ll just set your cousin in the path of the people best suited to helping her and let things develop organically.”
“Always best, I’ve been told, and who am I to argue with an educator of your experience?” Kako suddenly grinned. “One nice thing about being, well, me, at least in this regard, is while I can envy your metabolism due to your gifts, I’m also aware what happens when you don’t actually treat it as the finely tuned jet engine it is. Please, feed it, I don’t want you to eat the carpet in hunger. And I can break my diet too.”
“You get a lot of double-takes around the palace, don’t you?” Carson asked with a wicked smile. “Now about the entry packet …”
Feb 14th, Early morning, Ise Grand Shrine, Ise, Japan
“Saishu!” A female voice called out in an insistent tone, and Atsuko, high priestess of Ise Shrine, and sister to the sitting Emperor stirred from her meditations at the shining from within mirror she was in front of.
“Yes, Miya?” Atsuko responded, curious why her assistant was so eager. Didn’t Miya know that she was meditating in front of one of the physical locations of Amaterasu’s spirit to strengthen her tie to Earth and her avatar?
“Saishu, delivery vans have arrived at the delivery entrance. With clothing designers and clothing in them, Saishu. Several dozen, plus more were arriving when I came to find you.” Miya had not entered the sanctum where the Mirror was located, but Atsuko could see her head touching the outside walkway.
Atsuko blinked. She blinked again. “It’s not time for the Shikinen Sengu, Miya. They have to know this.”
“I asked the first one to arrive, and Mr. Ashida stated that yes, they were aware that Amaterasu’s new clothing is due in 2033. He however asked this, Ma’am … ‘But what about the Lady Hikaru?’”
“Ah … Dare we hope that Mr. Ashida brought Tae along?” Atsuko smiled as Miya nodded. “Well.” Atsuko pushed herself out of seiza and walked out, tapping Miya’s bowed head after closing the sanctum’s sliding door. “Shall we see what these fine people consider fit for the Great Lady’s chosen?”
The two priestesses arrived at the delivery entrance. Atsuko stared for a second, shaking herself. “My. By the looks, all these are properly tailored, too, or close enough any competent tailors could do it.” Pointing at one, Atsuko asked a simple question. “Exactly how did you pull this off?”
The young woman bowed, and replied. “My honored older brother is a genius with computers, and some technical devices, Saishu. When I first started he helped me with a program and computers. The program accurately takes a model’s proportions and frame from a picture. That and the Prime Minister’s help …”
Atsuko blinked. “That still wouldn’t allow such tailoring done, young lady.” She paused. “And what did the honored Mr. Abe do?”
Another designer stepped forward and bowed, replying for the first. “The Prime Minister was kind enough to provide the Lady’s sizes and proportions. We did not ask where he acquired them from.”
The first designer continued, and stated: “My brother again. He provided a 3D printer with certain plastics allowing me to create life-sized and perfect models from the data of his program and other sources.”
Atsuko just shook her head. “And you all did this in less than a fortnight. Indeed, less than a week, if I dare guess. Admittedly, I’m sure you all had outfits already in mind, but this is impressive. I am sure Lady Hikaru would be quite thankful and appreciative of your work. And I’m sure she knows, or will shortly.”
The priestess was rewarded by beams. Casting her eyes over the various vans and even guards, she realized none of these designers had slept. A mean part of her giggled evilly at the number of designers, tailors, jewelers and sundry who must not have slept for 3 days to produce all these items. Amaterasu rarely got the devout worship that Atsuko felt she deserved. Even the clothing she had been given the last time the ritual of renewal took place, felt … while respectful, not the best the selected designers could do. She suppressed this thought, and returned to being the Saishu. “Would you all like some tea? After we place these items, of course.”
She was rewarded by a collection of nods, and she smiled, waving at the assistants the designers and others had brought with them to come in.
Miya leaned over to her superior. “Ma’am … it’s very nice to see this. Isn’t it?”
“Miya, dear. While I’m sure the Lady, well, both of them, will be pleased, I’m ashamed of you thinking such thoughts.” Atsuko chided, as she divined that her assistant’s thoughts tracked the thought that she had suppressed. “But … yes, yes it is. And Mr. Abe is so milking this. He must be desperate to shore up support. Shame that an endorsement from the Lady isn’t coming … and from what I know of my distant kinswoman … I doubt it’ll be coming from her.”
Miya smiled. “I’m getting the sense a lot of people will be trying to buy Her favor now that it’s clear she’s back. And buy her champion’s.”
“It’s the way of the world. When the gods are away, the children will forget about them … but when they’re back …” Atsuko trailed off.
Miya just nodded, and closed the entrance gates as the last clothing arrived and followed the party into the shrine.
Atsuko fell into position with the first designer she had singled out. “What is your name, young lady?”
“Hida Sayako, ma’am.” The designer bowed slightly embarrassed that she hadn’t given her name.
“You all must have worked to the bone, to have all this ready.” Atsuko hummed. “It is quite impressive.”
“It was a challenge. How to design for both. No true designer could pass up this challenge and temptation, Saishu.” Sayako paused. “And it was more difficult than I thought.”
“Oh?” The tone was interested.
“Without seeing the Lady move, it’s difficult to gain an appreciation for her range of moment and how she moves, so several designs had to be put to the side, given that they generally only really work in movement.” Sayako smiled. “My sensei, Mastui Eri was most upset that she couldn’t get pictures and video of the Lady in movement.”
Atsuko blinked. “The mathematician designer?”
“Yes. She scouted me right out of middle school, when I started being inspired. I told her I saw all my designs as angles and clouds of possibilities, and she smiled.” Sayako smiled. “I’ve learned a lot under her, and I don’t want to leave her company.”
“Loyalty is well respected, Sayako. And as for the movement problem … well, let me discuss a few things with others.” Atsuko nodded. “We might be able to arrange a solution for you and your fellow designers.”
Sayako bowed again, as the racks of clothing reached the inner shrine, where shrine workers were waiting to take the clothing and a small meal and tea had been set up. Before Sayako handed over her racks she spoke. “We would most appreciate it, seishu.”
“It is the least we can do, since you are all going to such effort, no?” Atsuko smiled.
Sayako just bowed again and they all turned to the waiting feast.
Feb 13th, Evening, Dam Neck VBOQ
Kako popped her head through the door, startling Hikaru from her looking out the window. “Cousin!”
Hikaru turned to glare at her cousin. “Knocking. Heard of it?”
“Maa, maa!” Kako waved her hand. “I really needed to get you right now. You’re needed to meet someone.”
Hikaru’s eyes narrowed as she ran though things mentally. Finally, with a sigh. “Okay, who?”
“Headmistress Carson.” Kako beamed. “I figured you should meet your new headmistress.”
“Excuse me?” Hikaru stared at her cousin, wondering why what she expected was being changed. “I distinctly do not recall any discussion about which high school I would attend. I might have …” pausing for a moment, nodding once. “Accepted that thanks to everything I’d have to attend, but I believe there are high schools in Japan, are there not?”
“Well, yes.” Kako carefully edged into the door, making sure she had clear line of sight of Hikaru.
“Then why a western headmistress? I’m not aware of any schools in Japan with one I’d be accepted to, or IHA would consider.” Hikaru’s eyebrow rose.
“Well, that’s because it’s not in Japan?” Kako offered a bit lamely.
“So ka.” Hikaru’s tone indicated she clearly saw scheming on the part of her cousin.
“Well, it’s like this. You need to learn your powers, and in a place where it’d not get back to the press! Nor would you be expected to be on your best behavior and perfect little avatar 24/7, no?”
Hikaru’s eyes narrowed. “Go on …”
“So why not?” Kako smiled. “Whateley is first rate by any standard, so … send you there!”
Hikaru’s face scrunched as she tried to remember if she had ever heard of a high school called Whateley. “Okay … what is Whateley. Seriously, why not Gakushuin1? All the royals have gone there, including you, I did myself before …” Hikaru paused, continuing on, “And they’re used to the level of press that I’m likely to draw. So why not? Kami, Gakushuin would throw fits, if they didn’t get me.”
Kako paused for a second, reviewing quickly some conversations. “Well … I thought you knew about it, and Whateley actually has been taking students from Gakushuin …” Before she could finish a knock was heard on the doorframe.
“May I come in?” a soft and calm alto voice asked.
“Yes.” Hikaru’s annoyed soprano responded, as a statuquese blonde entered in response to Hikaru. The avatar’s eyes narrowed, as information sped through her brain, setting on how to deal with the famous Lady Astarte. Before Hikaru could say another word, Kako broke into the chain of thought Hikaru’s mind was leading down.
“Headmistress.” Kako’s voice caused Hikaru to sightly quirk an eyebrow. “I thought we’d meet at the cafe, as discussed?” Before Mrs. Carson could response Hikaru acted.
Hikaru turned and studied the Avatar, and a memory came to mind. “Oh. Oh.” She nodded once to the amusement of Kako, who’s smile widened at Hikaru’s following words. “Carson’s school for gifted youngsters as Slicker said …” Hikaru paused, head snapping to Kako. “Mutant High? The boarding school version?” Hikaru paused. “Where everyone is hopping beds and getting into fights on a daily basis, or so Slicker and others told me? Are you insane?” Mrs. Carson’s eyebrow rose, but she remained silent
“Well … some have said so.” Kako beamed. “But no, not this time. I do have a reason, cute little cousin, several of them.” Kako’s eyebrow rose slightly. “Though I’m surprised you remembered that, if you didn’t remember Whateley.”
Hikaru rolled her eyes, then her expression turned icy cold. “I remain, Kako. I will not forget Slicker, Longleg, Jubes, or any of those who died under my command. That would be to finally and completely fail them. I won’t let that happen.” She paused, stuffing her anger and pain behind a mask that had slipped. “Again, me, in that school? Putting aside the schoolyard rutting issues, if any took an interest in me, there’s the fighting to consider. I’m Dog. They are children! This is insane.”
“I agree,” Mrs Carson said as she sat down. “It is insane to want to send a soldier with holes in their memory to a school that has the best experts in the world to repair such damage, one way or another. It is insane to want to send someone to where they are best able to receive assistance, and it is absolutely crazy to want to use that person to mentor others in the same position.”
Kako nodded her agreement with the headmistress. “You have to let someone help you.”.
“You don’t understand! I … I could accidentally kill someone you want me to help!”
“Get over yourself, and grow up. Most of my students could accidentally kill someone. You’re not as special in that regard as you think you are. You need help I can provide, and I need help you can provide, and those kids you mention need help we both can provide.”
“How can I help them?” Hikaru demanded. She turned to Kako. “You seem to think I can’t even help myself!”
Mrs. Carson looked calmly into Hikaru’s eyes. “You’ve crossed the Styx and spat in the face of Hades to bring back your comrades. My students haven’t. Most of them have never seen death up close and personal. How do you think they’ll react when they’re facing an angry mob of H1, or MCO?” If Mrs. Carson was waiting for Hikaru to blink or gulp or otherwise acknowledge what she was saying, she was disappointed. Still, the pause lent great weight to the Headmistress’ words. “You can help teach them to survive when they do encounter such things.”
Hikaru’s eyes narrowed as she studied the wise heroine. Her mouth started to open in protest, but Kako beat her to the punch.
“Search your feelings, little cousin. You know it to be true.”
Hikaru’s expression went from considering to blank faced confusion. “... what?” Pausing for a moment, her blue-hazel eyes showed the racing thoughts, then she shook her head and spoke seriously. “They shouldn’t have to face angry mobs.” she finally spoke.
“You know they will, simply because of who they are,” Mrs. Carson reminded Hikaru with a reproving look. “You know that.”
“I know more than that.” HIkaru shot back. “And if there was any justice in this world, the MCO would not be. As you well know, with several Dragonslayers in your employ or former employ. I can only hope to be there for their end.” Before Kako could ask, Hikaru raised her hand. “Oaths to America.” Kako opened her mouth, then closed it with a click.
“You’re the historian here. Tell me that tiny minorities are never oppressed!” Mrs Carson challenged Hikaru. “If not H1 or the MCO, it’ll be another group. And you know it. That’s why they need to learn to defend themselves.”
“Of course, in that, we’re in agreement. As well as what to not do to attract the attention of my former brothers and sisters in arms.” Before Mrs. Carson could speak, Hikaru continued on. “Which, of course you either personally taught or were their headmistress for a fair amount! And I’m more worried about students pushing me, to the edge. I already know I’ve lost some of my edge, some of my normal trained reactions. It will do them no good to be trained to face angry mobs when they trigger a person trained to defeat paranormals. That is my worry.”
Before Mrs. Carson could speak, Kako broke in with a sniff. “As if. As if a Myoujin would ever strike without true cause and strike to kill those who do not earn such. My father would be a Chippendale for 80 year old grannies first!”
Hikaru’s expression went blank again.
Mrs. Carson’s unwavering expression stayed fixed on Hikaru, to the point that the princess felt a little uneasy. “Over the years, I’ve had many staff members - both normal and mutant - who were trained to fight and kill paranormals. You would hardly be the first, and you won’t be the last. Any edge that I can give any student, if it helps just one survive such an encounter, is a win for the academy.”
Hikaru rebooted from Kako’s statement, and spoke. “One small difference, Carson-sensei. I am to be a student, not a staff member, or so I understand.”
“Do you think the academy would overlook a gifted or talented student as a teaching resource just because they’re not staff?” Carson asked with a wry smile. “If so, you seriously underestimate my staff and I.”
Hikaru said nothing for a long moment as she looked at the blonde avatar. Finally she spoke. “I would be slightly confused on how a new student, freshman, I believe would be respected as such by her fellow students, as far as I’m aware, American high schools don’t have teaching assistants, class reps as Japanese high schools do, or similar.”
Mrs. Carson smiled. “At Whateley, we do use teaching assistants. We aren’t your ordinary American high school, after all.”
Kako broke in. “And you are useful! You’d know what the kids shouldn’t do! You did take political science, which includes public manipulation, no?”
Hikaru turned to Kako. “I took international relations, at the doctoral level, not practical politics.”
Kako sniffed. “People are people. A nation is simply a collection of them.”
Hikaru paused for a long moment. “It’s a boarding school. Even if I would concede I do know a
bit about perception manipulation, still … boarding schools? Roommates?” Hikaru’s expression was a bit sour on the last.
Mrs. Carson was not about to let Hikaru win any objection. “Given your unique circumstances, I think a normal rooming arrangement would be troublesome for you. And given your … experience … in leadership, I think I have a perfect position for you in our cottages. Resident Assistant.”
“Resident Assistant?” Hikaru asked cautiously, her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “That sounds like … some kind of dorm supervisor.”
“Close,” Mrs. Carson answered. “An RA is an assistant to the House Parents. He or she is responsible for helping maintain order … or should I say, for helping minimize chaos … on a portion of the cottage. Mostly watching for and reporting flagrant rule violations, solving small problems, setting a good example.”
Kako nodded. “You’ll be good at that, I know it!”
Hikaru paused for a moment, thoughts fleeting through her eyes, and a voice inside her head breaking in.
*She is right, you know, and I think this will be … better, than Menji’s little school. I wouldn’t order you to go, but … This will be … better.* Hikaru didn’t respond, but finally sighed and fixed her stern gaze on the smug grin of her cousin, a grin of triumph at how Kako and Carson had persuaded her, and somehow getting Amaterasu on their side. “You make a lousy Vader,” she said evenly.
Kako’s smile widened even more. “And yet, you joined us on the Dark Side, no?” She nodded, sliding a folder over to HIkaru. “These are the forms, mostly filled out, Hikaru-chan, though if you could look through it, and note any changes, or anything about your powers, it’d be helpful.” HIkaru looked at Mrs. Carson who simply nodded.
Hikaru scanned the documents, pausing a moment at several spots, and moving on. “Melville? And why does this dorm have a surcharge?” She finally asked.
Mrs. Carson started to speak, but Kako spoke first. “Correct me if I’m wrong, please,” she said to the Headmistress, “but the IHA is quite insistent that Melville is most suited to someone of your importance to all of Nihon. Melville has a few more amenities than the other cottages.”
“Ah.” Hikaru’s tone was dry, indicating she got the unspoken message Kako was trying to pass along without embarrassing Mrs. Carson. “I see. Even at Whateley, there are those with higher expectations.” She shook her head amused, as she returned to scanning. “Powers? Look complete, though with energizer powers, who knows?” Hikaru snorted, waving her hand. “It’s not like I’m some mahou shojo, who can just make a pistol out of her fingers” Putting action to her words, she did exactly that as she waved her hand absently, not really caring where her fingers pointed because she was looking at Kako with frustration. “And drop the thumb, and a laser ...“
Kako blinked. Stared. Looked at her cousin. “Apparently it is, and apparently you are a mahou shojo.”
Both young women turned to look at the unamused alto voice. Looking at the headmistress, both girls noted several of the long tresses on the left side were now about a half inch shorter, as well as smouldering.
Carson reached up and took the smoldering strands in her fingers, moving them in front of her face to gawk at them, and then fixed an unhappy gaze on Hikaru, an intimidating look made even more so by the headmistress' lack of anger. "I see we'll have to prioritize you for power testing."
Kako nodded. “Oh, yes. DOPS will most certainly make that a priority before she attends your fall semester.”
Hikaru gave into the urge she was feeling. “Oooops?” If they wanted her to be a teenager, she would act like one, and her comment was the most teenage thing she could think of saying.
*Well. That was a bit of a surprise for us all. This will be so much fun!*
Kako beamed. Everyone saw Mrs. Carson’s powers and capabilities in combat, never truly understanding that Mrs. Carson had taught students for longer than even her cousin had been alive, and ran a school heavily dependent on donations and careful politics. The fact that Whateley had thrived under the Headmistress should have tipped others off to the simple implication that Mrs. Carson was a skilled actress, educator and manipulator and used it to steer people, most especially reluctant ones, to the conclusions she wanted. Kako almost felt guilty about turning Mrs. Carson loose on her cousin. Almost.
Feb 14th, Early Morning, Dam Neck Visiting Officer Quarters, Dam Neck Annex, NAS Oceana, Virginia, United States
*Wake up!* An insistent mental voice woke Hikaru from slumber. *Waaake up!*
“wzzt …” Hikaru replied, shooting up, and casting around. After looking carefully, she came to the conclusion, her spirit was a bitch. *I was sleeping, after that bastard of a meeting about what I can and can’t say, and you woke me up for no threat? And a good two hours before I had to get up?* Hikaru mentally snarled at her goddess in residence.
*Well, if you hadn’t figured out I’m a bitch yet, you now understand why Tyson thought you were a bit slow, daughter. It’s one of the privileges of being me.* Amaterasu sounded smug. *However that wasn’t the real reason I woke you up, daughter.* Amaterasu paused. *I’m not quite sure how much of abilities you know about, but one useful one is I can see and hear anything in my shrines. Period.* The goddess paused, and then continued. *I can see and often hear in other places, as long as there is light there, and sunlight makes the seeing even easier, but the point is, my senses in my shrines are absolute.*
*Okay …* Hikaru eyed her pillow, wondering if she could get back to sleep. *And this requires me waking up to learn this, why?*
*Clothing!* Amaterasu sounded pleased. *And in your sizes!*
* … what?* Hikaru was completely lost. * … exactly what in the bloody blue blazes name are you talking about? Clothing?* Hikaru cast about for a moment, then sighed. *Shikinen Sengu was set in 2013, after all. And why would clothing for you be in my sizes?*
*Because it’s not for Shikinen Sengu, daughter. It’s offerings for you, as my chosen and champion, to placate their previous inattention to me. Apparently they decided to be mice to my cat, and the offerings were growing more and more just … routine and not the best they could be.*
* … great. Can you drool over them while I sleep?* Hikaru sighed. *Why would I care?*
Amaterasu hummed as Hikaru plopped her head back on the pillow. *We’re going to go through them all. And decide which ones we donate to charity, and which ones we pay to have shipped here!*
Hikaru groaned. She just buried her head in her pillow. *And how would I see them?*
*Oh, I can show you the images, myself.* Amaterasu gave the mental impression of a sharp nod. *So, let’s go shopping! Even better we don’t have to spend any money!*
Hikaru once again pondered why she agreed to this insanity. Ah, that was why. Oh, well. It wasn’t forever. *Fine. Fine.* Hikaru ran her hand through her hair, and sighed. *Show me while I’m showering.*
Amaterasu was humming as Hikaru gathered her shower items. Hikaru shook her head as she walked in the bathroom, and shot to her spirit. *Morning people. Hate.*
*You’re a morning person, daughter …* Amaterasu shot back amused. *Remember that bit. You are part of the Sun.* She withdrew for a second. *Hurry up with the bathing. We need to call one of my priestesses.*
*Why?* Hikaru was in the middle of washing her hair as she asked that. *It’s not that important, is it?*
*Yes, yes it is. We can tell them which ones we want to be packed up, and shipped, and which ones they can covertly dispose of.* Amaterasu sounded smug. *After all, why ship some of these.*
*Oh, lovely. And when they get here, you’re going to want me to try them all on in front of a mirror, aren’t you?* Hikaru finished rinsing out the soap from her hair, and then started applying conditioner.
*Of course. We have to know how they fit and look on you, don’t we?* Amaterasu sounded puzzled. *I am sure you don’t want to just pick the morning before you wear it and find out it doesn’t work …*
Hikaru continued to rinse, as she pondered Amaterasu’s words. Finally she answered as she stepped out, and began toweling off. *Exactly why do I care? I’ll be wearing a uniform most of the time …*
*And when you’re not? Please, you expect me to believe you’ll wear a uniform all the time?* Amaterasu sniffed. *I doubt you did, even when you were your most active. Surely you realize that.*
Hikaru sighed. *Fine, fine.* Pulling on a robe, she padded back into the room, picking up her cellphone. *What was the number again?*
Amaterasu rattled off a number, then commented *I’ll tell her, if you just ‘lean back’*
Hikaru blinked, but dialed the number and let it ring.
“Moshi moshi?” A female voice answered on the fourth ring.
“Hello, this is Myoujin Hikaru, calling for Amaterasu, please hold.” Hikaru paused, and then listened to her voice talking to the miko that she had just called.
“Why hello, Miya. I am going to give some instructions, and you are going to do what I tell you to, dear.”
Hikaru listened in as Miya stuttered, but finally Amaterasu had gotten her to agree and do what she wanted. With Amaterasu spelling out exactly what she wanted, shortly the outfits were being shown.
Hikaru’s recollections of this would be a riot of red and gold, peppered with splashes of white, mostly, though Amaterasu tended to reject slacks and what she called frumpy outfits pretty fast. One 60’s styled outfit with go go boots, and a micro skirt attracted her attention, especially the plunging neckline.
*No. I wouldn’t be able to bend over without flashing everyone. I can’t fight in it either, it looks like it’ll fall apart.* Hikaru paused and added reluctantly. *I’ll admit the boots are nice.*
*You can’t reject everything.* Amaterasu nodded. *And … oh, yes you can fight in it, my dear. The most elemental of fighting, the one that men and women have been indulging in before civilization ever started.*
Hikaru paused, pushing aside a quick flash of imagery of her wearing that dress, and leaning over a table in front of a man. *No, just not happening.*
*Boots though …* Amaterasu ratted off an instruction to Miya, and she moved on to the next outfit. Both avatar and spirit paused and studied the outfit. Not in desire, but a tilting of heads, one physical, one mental. Studying the red skirt, gold blouse and red jacket outfit, with boots, both simply paused at the cut and various attached metal bits, jewelry that was better suited to be 19th century factory parts and metal gloves.
*Did someone marathon Full Metal Jacket?* Hikaru finally thought after staring in shock at the steampunk outfit. *I mean … that’s so …*
*Yes, yes, yes, daughter. Not only no, but burn it with fire. That outfit is … not only Is the skirt unsuited for today, it’s just … * Amaterasu trailed off, mentally shaking her head, then shot into the phone orders to burn the outfit. Until the only thing remaining was a pool of metal. Miya sounded stunned, but promised it would be done. Amaterasu went back to flipping through outfits, surprising Hikaru with her next stop.
*Well, well, this is nice.* Amaterasu’s purr caused Hikaru to look deeper at the red and gold with white edging racing suit. *Keep. Period. That zipper is so nicely placed and long.*
Hikaru eyed the boots and mentally shrugged. She could see some use for a motorcycle themed catsuit, at least, and given that she had nixed one outfit, Amaterasu deserved a victory. *Fine.*
*Good. Next!* Amaterasu moved on, as Hikaru looked through her senses. Several rejections, several keeps later, Amaterasu and Hikaru began to argue over another outfit.
*No! I’ll concede the skirt’s longer than a belt, but still!* Hikaru argued. She admitted she liked the gold gypsy five inch stiletto boots, and the layered belts, but a mid thigh gold skirt wasn’t in her plans. Considering it was side cut all the way up to the waist, any kicks would show off the g-string suggested for it. The blouse was worse, in Hikaru’s eyes. Semi transparent red sleeves blending as flame into the white torso, with red buttons. It’d show off if Hikaru was wearing a bra or not very easily.
*I allowed you to say no to another outfit. This has a longer skirt, and that red and white blouse is to die for!* Amaterasu insisted on the outfit. *It’s nicely elegant and cut for dancing! You would cut such a path on the dance floors!*
Hikaru face palmed. Debating quietly to herself, she sighed and went. *Fine, fine, not like I’ll have time for the dance floor, but whatever. Not worth arguing over.*
Amaterasu sounded smug as she sent a order to Miya, and then moved on again. After having gone through the vast majority, one last item caught the goddess and avatar pair’s eyes.
The dress would be longer than Hikaru’s legs, even with the four inch strappy heels, and skirt was a billowing cloud of red and gold cloth, and both women imagined it, carefully, realizing it’d present a picture of Hikaru stepping out of the sun both in movement, which would show off her legs, as the silk strips would show off her legs, but when standing still would enshroud her legs, leaving her in a cloud of fire. The tight top and sleeves enhanced Hikaru’s frame to the choker collar. Finally Amaterasu broke their study of the outfit.
*I … like. Daughter, we have to know who made this outfit. It is so … elegantly precise, perfect and calculated out to the perfect detail and clearly done with respect to both of us.* Amaterasu finally stated.
Hikaru nodded. “Miya. Who’s that designer?” Hikaru asked the question as Amaterasu returned to considering the outfit.
“Mastui Eri, Lady Hikaru.” Miya had quickly caught on to the different people speaking in the same voice to her, and managed to respond correctly to them. “You and the Goddess have picked a lot of her outfits … though the Goddess didn’t like some … something about too far out there. You and she also liked her apprentice, a lot.”
Amaterasu broke in, and commented. “I want to meet her and her apprentice. Make it happen.”
“Yes, My lady.” Miya paused. “That was the last outfit … where do we send everything you and your champion picked to?”
Amaterasu poked Hikaru to rattle off an address, and then added to her priestess. “Make sure all the shoes, lingerie and jewelry except what I said needs to be destroyed, combs as well. Ja Ne!” Amaterasu waited till Miya confirmed, and then hung up before Hikaru could comment.
*Amaterasu! Why …* Hikaru shouted mentally at her spirit
*Choices, daughter dear, choices. It’s not that you have to wear it, is it?* Amaterasu sounded smug and prodded at her avatar. *Don’t you now have to get ready for your meeting today? The meeting to discuss what training you’ll be undergoing in Japan?*
Hikaru paused, and then decided it wasn’t worth arguing about at this time. *Fine. We’ll discuss this later, when I have time.*
*Of course, of course!* Amaterasu sounded cheerful as if she knew something her avatar didn’t.
Hikaru’s eyes narrowed as she went for her underwear, but a quick look at the clock indicated she’d not have time to discuss it.
Feb 15th, Cave in Japan
Kumo looked around at the crowd in the cave, and shivered. Caves, by their nature, were dark; the mood in this cave was as black as he’d ever known.
When word of the failures had reached the Servants of Mikaboshi – in this case, from the front page of the Asahi Shinbun - it had hit all of them with the force of a sucker punch. Secrecy had been one of their weapons; that no one knew of their existence was to their advantage. However, now that their ‘terrorist cell’, a group ‘similar to Aum Shinrikyo’, was ‘being pursued and hunted down’ … everyone could read between the printed lines.
They were identified, they were known, and they would be found. And America as well would not only assist, but take an full and equal role in the hunting.
Some had despaired; some stood, paralyzed, unsure of what to do. Some, including the Master, had retreated into the Cave. A few had even fled, despite knowing their fate once the servants tracked them down.
Master, to his credit, remained silent. He knelt in front of the wards confining their Lord to his cave, chanting furiously in a low voice. He’d done this before of course, a conversation with their Lord, spoken in a language the rest of humanity had long forgotten. It was a strange tongue, harsh and guttural.
Still, they waited. They would wait forever, if need be.
Finally, after Lord knew how many hours, the chanting stopped. Oppressive silence hung in the air. Master used his walking staff to ease himself up from the stone, and looked out at the crowd.
Surprisingly, Master had a sad smile on his face.
“She is a dangerous beauty, is she not?”
The comment took many in the crowd by surprise. After the news from across the ocean, everyone had been at their worst. To hear such a lighthearted comment shocked all of them.
“She is. Truly. It is why our Lord desired her so long ago. There is no shame in admitting power where it exists. There is no shame in that.”
Murmurs of agreement passed through the crowd.
“Our Lord, you see, was being kind to us.” His dark eyes passed through the crowd. “It was a kindness to send his followers there to their death. It was a kindness that they pass from this world in the Lord’s service.” He paused. “The Lord has acknowledged their sacrifice … and is pleased.”
Gasps rippled through the crowd as tears ran down his cheeks. “It is her fate that the Sun Bitch come to take her place. Her destiny!” he crowed. “Our Lord demands her at any price.”
Shouts of agreement cried out from the group.
“Any price,” he spoke, almost casually.
“Any price!” a shout came from the crowd. The crowd took up the chant. “Any price! Any price! Any price!”
Master brought his hands up to quell the crowd. “I am sure that our Lord is grateful for your devotion. I certainly am.” He paused for a moment. “But … any price …” He pointed to Densenbyo, a young man near the front. “Are you ready to pay the price?”
“I am, Master!” the young man shouted.
He pointed to another, Dogarebyo. “Are you ready?”
“I am ready, Master!” he shouted.
He pointed to a third. “Are you ready, Kachigaru-chan?”
The woman in question bowed. “I live to serve my Lord.”
Master nodded, satisfied. “Good. Good.” He took a deep breath. “This will be the last time in the cave for many of us.” Gasps echoed through the room. “Do not fear. Know not fear.” He nodded.
“Our Lord had hoped to be merciful. He had hoped to avoid this war. Now … we know it to be inevitable.” He looked out at the crowd.
“War is coming. Beautiful war, terrible war. War that this world has not known since its formation.” He grinned. “The Sun Bitch will be on the front lines. That is why she has gone to those foreign lands – to fight.” His grin turned into a death mask. “She wishes to fight. And so we shall.” He raised his staff to the crowd. “Our Lord has called us to war.”
“If it’s a war they want, it’s a war they’ll get!” a member of the crowd shouted. The cavern went into bloodlust as they envisioned fighting and dying, as an army, for their Lord Mikaboshi.
Master stood there for a moment, letting the din subside before continuing. “Our Lord has told us the way. We leave at dawn. Pack as though you were preparing for a long camping trip in the woods. Do not tell your friends, do not tell your employers, do not tell your colleagues. Leave a simple note, and return here, ready to leave, at dawn.” He let out a deep breath. “Dismissed.”
The crowd left the cave in a frenzy. Finally – FINALLY – they were going to take the fight to the Sun Bitch herself! Light and Darkness would clash for the final time. They would be soldiers in the service of their Lord. It would be beautiful.
Kumo hurried to his domicile, barely able to contain his excitement, and began to pack. Soon. Soon, they would fulfill the promise they’d made to their Lord. Soon, the darkness would prevail.
- 1Gakushuin also known as Peer school has been the school for royalty and nobility in Japan. Even though officially only the royals remain of that system, the elite still go. It’s a full ladder school (all grades, including university) as well, and considered one of the elite universities for Japan (One of the ‘Tokyo Four’ Universities that provide significant graduates to the government. Not to be confused with the Confederation of the 4, a recent development focusing on science/tech schools.) in Whateley, that hasn’t really changed (either aspect), and it’s added some paranormal training, though most gifts would be done in either a juku (after school program/tutoring) or private tutoring. Whateley Academy has been eating into Gakushuin’s primary student body, for reasons given in story.