[Kill La Kill] - Scissor Sisters

Discussion in 'User Fiction' started by Razor One, Apr 23, 2014.

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  1. Razor One

    Razor One When Science Goes Too Far...

    Scissor Sisters

    Prologue

    Souichirou slammed his fist against the wall.

    My daughter is dead, he thought, we never even named her.

    The look on Ragyo’s face the moment she’d died… not of anguish, nor of pain, merely disappointment, quickly forgotten and dismissed as she’d pushed the button that had dumped the tiny body down a chute and into… into…

    He felt a wave of sickness, sorrow, anger and rage wash over him.

    My daughter was thrown away like a piece of trash by her own mother… who… what have I married?!

    His mind refused to cease tormenting him. An image of his eldest daughter, Satsuki, still in the crawling stage, popped into his brain, being dumped into a mountain of trash just as callously as-

    Souichirou threw up. His stomach retched until it had nothing left. He dry heaved when he still could not put aside his disgust at his wife and the soul crippling sorrow at the fate he, their father, had unwittingly dealt them, until tears of pain flowed like rivers from his eyes.

    And when at last he’d run out of tears and heaves to give, he simply lay there twitching on the ground, lying in his own sick in the fetal position, unable and unwilling to move. He didn’t know how long he stayed like that. Time no longer meant anything to him.

    But in his mind he could not forgive himself. He tortured himself with the future that should have been; the future he’d envisioned for his daughters, the life he was looking forward to, and he contrasted that with the image of the tiny rotting corpse of the unnamed baby he’d failed to protect.

    I couldn’t protect her life, he reasoned, but at the very least I can be a father to her in death.

    He nodded, convincing himself. He could do that at least. And Satsuki would still need him. This… fiasco had been a revelation for him. Ragyo… there was something fundamentally wrong with her. He’d been blind to it before, had excused it as her eccentricities, had forgotten it in the excitement of the research and the implications it would bring.

    Now it was all ash in his mouth. He’d bury his dead daughter and would try to be the best father he could be to his surviving one. It was the least he could do.

    ***

    Souichirou rummaged through the trash like a man possessed. He was frantic. He had to find her. He flung the refuse of the Kiryuuin household carelessly aside as he dug and searched to no avail, screaming with anguish and pain.

    Where are you!? His mind frantically thought, You should be here! You only just… just…

    The sorrow and the pain re-emerged. The hopeful respite of burying his daughter was fading fast as he sobbed.

    I failed you again, didn’t I? he thought, Even in death I can’t be a father to you…

    The thought trailed off, unfinished, when he noticed he wasn’t the only one in the Kiryuuin trash crying. He blinked back his tears and suppressed his sobbing to make sure it wasn’t an echo. He dared not hope…

    It couldn’t be…

    He surged through the rubbish, homing in on the sound of his baby crying. There were only two possibilities to him. Either he’d gone mad with grief, or his daughter, against all odds, was alive.

    He just about had a heart attack of relief when he saw her, tiny, naked, and dirty, crying in an isolated mountain of filth. He scooped her up gently and held her, so tiny, so fragile, as her little hands gripped him reflexively. She calmed down considerably in his hands, making annoyed burbles at her treatment, not knowing how so very close to death she had been.

    For his part, Souichirou continued to cry,this time with tears of happiness, this time with tears of hope.

    My daughter is alive, he thought, And the least I can do… isn’t enough. You get nothing but my all now, Ryuuko, Satsuki, I need to be both your father and the parent your mother could never be.

    ***

    Secreting away Ryuuko had been simple enough. Nobody was looking for a dead baby and she was thriving in Kinue’s care for now. It was Satsuki that was proving to be problematic. The maids of the Kiryuuin household were protective to a fault, to say the least, and Soroi, the butler, most of all.

    They can’t protect her from Ragyo, he thought, If I could trust them to just keep their mouths shut, I could bring them in…

    He shut off the thought before it could grow.

    The less people involved the better.

    “Here to see your daughter again, Souichirou-sama?” asked Soroi politely with a deep bow.

    “She is the dawn to my darkness in this time,” sighed Souichirou.

    “Yes, her younger sister’s death was most unexpected,” sighed the butler, “I would have most enjoyed attending to both their needs.”

    “All that I can do now is mourn and try to move on. Little Satsuki… helps me greatly with that.”

    “Is that why you’re hiding a syringe?” asked Soroi coldly.

    Souichirou froze.

    Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit!

    “Grief can do many things,” said Soroi, “Turn back and leave, I may forgive this, but I shan’t forget.”

    “You don’t understand!” hissed Souichirou.

    “I do understand!” snapped Soroi, “When my wife died I too wanted to end it. The thought that my nephew, Iori, needed an uncle to look up to kept me from that. I won’t begrudge what you’re willing to do to yourself, but leave Lady Satsuki out of this.”

    “It’s not poison,” explained Souichirou desperately, “You’ve seen what’s been happening to Ragyo, haven’t you?”

    “It is not my place to comment on the Mistress of the house,” said Soroi tersely.

    “You’ve seen it, haven’t you? Stop hiding behind that butler’s façade and see with your own damned eyes! Ragyo is insane! She threw her unnamed daughter away like trash, like it was nothing to her! She’d do the same to Satsuki in a heartbeat!”

    “Sir! If you keep disparaging the Mistress of the house I will have to-”

    “Satsuki is not safe here!” snapped Souichirou, “You can protect her from her enemies, you can protect her from disease and even the harshness of this life, but you can’t protect her from Ragyo’s madness!”

    Soroi glared at Souichirou, his nostrils flaring in rage but his posture was tightly controlled, breathing heavy at Souichirou’s words.

    “I know,” said Soroi fatefully, “I know I can’t protect her from that… nobody can… Satsuki… Satsuki will-”

    Not grow up here at all,” finished Souichirou.

    Soroi blinked back his surprise and rapidly reassessed the situation.

    “You have a plan?” he asked hopefully.

    “I have a plan,” he said, drawing forth a syringe containing the chickenpox virus.

    ***

    “Satsuki is dead,” said Ragyo matter-of-factly to her shell-shocked husband as a thunderstorm raged outside.

    Souichirou merely nodded. Not in agreement, merely in acknowledgment. The death of their youngest had hit the fragile human hard; this second blow had crushed him utterly. She could see it in him, the weakness, the softness. With such a pathetic man as a husband it was no wonder that they’d failed to produce viable progeny. His faulty genes had failed her for a second time

    For the last time, she thought, Still, it’s annoying. That a mere childhood disease would besmirch even half of my superior genes?

    She paused, considering.

    I can probably turn this into an advantage, she thought, There must be a charity for children who develop complications due to chickenpox. I could write it off on tax and Hououmaru is always onto me about good public relations too… yes, this definitely works…

    “She’s dead,” mumbled Souichirou.

    “Yes, that’s what I said,” replied Ragyo.

    Souichirou ripped off his jacket and threw it across the room with rage and sorrow.

    “WHY?!” he roared to the heavens. He threw open the door and stormed off down the hall.

    “Souichirou?” she asked more out of curiosity than concern.

    “WHY?!” he roared again, tearing his shirt off with a popping of buttons and throwing it into the face of a nearby maid and toppling a mantelpiece in his rage.

    “Souichirou!” she chastised. She’d probably have to pay the maid more now.

    “WHY?!” he screamed, kicking his left shoe off, “WHY?!” he repeated with his right shoe, “WHY?!” he tore off is belt and flung it at Soroi, who ducked in the nick of time.

    He’s gone mad, she thought as he screamed “WHY?!” over and over whilst shucking his pants, following him out of a morbid curiosity.

    By the time they’d reached the front door of the Kiryuuin Manor, he’d stripped down to his boxers.

    “WHY?!” he raged, and with a mighty effort he tore off his own boxers and threw them at the ground, “WHY AM I ALIVE?! WHY THE FUCK ARE THEY DEAD!? WHY?! WHY?!”

    This is getting boring, she thought, Completely uninteresting. Perhaps it would be best to divest myself of this creature before he taints me, she thought.

    “WHY?!” he roared to the heavens as he strode naked and alone in the thunderstorm, “WHY GOD DAMN YOU! WHY?!”

    Divorce papers in the morning, murder him later when events have suitably cooled down, she thought, I’ll have Hououmaru arrange it. Such an annoying man. Eliminating his weak genes will be doing the species a favour.

    ***

    “I think you rather overdid things, personally,” said Kinue Kinigase in her usual cool manner.

    “I needed her to believe that I was insane with grief,” replied Souichirou.

    “Are you sure it worked?” she asked.

    “If it didn’t then, showing up to the divorce proceedings naked and demanding they address me by my proper title as ‘King of the Potato People’ certainly sealed the deal,” said Souichirou with a grin.

    “Oh I personally think that was a bit of spite on your part. The more insane you are, the worse Ragyo looks just for having married you,” said Kinue.

    “Why not both?” grinned Souichirou, “Besides that, how’s little Satsuki doing?”

    “She’s recovering fine. I must admit I was worried when you wanted to infect your own child with chicken pox,” said Kinue.

    “I needed a real illness to get her out of the house and into a hospital where she could develop ‘complications’, to say nothing of a Doctor who would lie for me, fake the death certificate, supply a lookalike corpse, and keep their mouth shut. Soroi really came through for me there, Doctor Mankanshoku was phenomenal,” he mused, “Besides, some parents try to infect their own children with chicken pox early on to protect them from it later. That makes me no different from any other parent, really.”

    “So, what now? You know Ragyo’s coming for you sooner or later once the divorce is over,” asked Kinue.

    “For now, keep showing up to court naked and keep developing those contacts we’ve been working on. We need to know more about life fibers, even working with Ragyo I was only given so much information and it’s high time we started filling in the gaps. As for when Ragyo sends her goons after me… I’ve already got contingencies underway for that,” he said.

    “Oh? Do tell,” asked Kinue.

    “Just call me Isshin Matoi,” he said.

    “Only on one condition,” said Kinue.

    “Name it,” said Isshin.

    “Put some damn clothes on,” said Kinue.

    “Only when you can find me something that wasn’t made by Revocs.”


    -***-

    Chapter 1

    The Best Father You Could Be
    Isshin Matoi stroked his beard thoughtfully. It had only been a few short years and already his daughters had grown. Souichiro, the man he had once been, was dead, just as he’d intended. The life fiber scientist had now fully adopted his new name and identity, along with his daughters, Ryuuko Matoi and Satsuki Matoi.

    He’d erased any trace or link back to their Kiryuuin heritage, he’d even altered the kanji used to spell Satsuki’s name and kept her hair cropped relatively short to make doubly certain. He couldn’t allow a single remaining thread to trace back to Ragyo. The risk of discovery was too great, the consequences of failure too dire.

    In the interim, his daughters had become quite the handful. Changing nappies, feeding, constantly being hounded by crying in the middle of the night… he had no idea how he’d gotten through it. It was every bit as hard as his university days minus the sex, drugs, alcohol and fun.

    And then they’d grown up just that little bit more and learned how to walk and talk. Little Satsuki was incessantly asking questions that ended in ‘But why?’ while little Ryuuko had developed a feisty and adventurous spirit untempered by caution, resulting in more than a few near misses.

    Kindergarten had been both a godsend and a pain. Seeing his daughters playing with other children was a wonderful thing for the two, while also serving to give him a small respite from the constant worry and stress of single parenting. The pain had come however when it came to the other parents. He’d easily been the most eccentric person there, the long beard, clog sandals, hunched back and cantankerous attitude hadn’t won him many friends, and being one of the few father’s there, and the only single father at that, had made the other parents wary and untrustworthy.

    Much to his pain, that had consequences for Ryuuko and Satsuki. The other children sensed their parents mistrust and taken it out on Ryuuko and Satsuki. The disruption had caused friction between himself and the other parents, which in turn flowed back to their children… a vicious cycle that he couldn’t resolve.

    It hadn’t gotten serious enough for him to remove his girls from kindergarten. As long as they were together the other children tended to exclude them and leave them be… but if either was alone, they tended to be more aggressive, pulling their hair or ruining their fingerpainting. By the time Satsuki was ready to move on to school he’d already made arrangements to pull Ryuuko from the class and keep her at home until she was ready for school herself.

    All the while his research had suffered. Tending to the needs of two growing daughters had taxed his time something fierce. Each night he went to bed more and more tired, with fewer ideas and motivation than the night before. The fledgling Nudist Beach was coming along well thanks to Kinue, Aikuro and Tsumugu, but only because they were carrying a good portion of his weight.

    Everything will get better when they’re at school, he mused.

    ***
    Isshin pored over the patterns he’d been tracing, rubbing out a line here, redrawing it there, adjusting by a few millimeters like so. The design was intricate. Exotic. No modern tailor or seamstress would recognise exactly what he was doing despite the familiar way in which he was doing it. Kamui never worked the way one expected them to. They weren’t clothing so much as living beings masquerading as clothing, and that demanded an entirely new and entirely different technique.

    They’d need to test the prototype he was working on sooner or later but-

    RRRRRRRRIIIIING!

    The phone? Now? Who could… oh… he thought.

    “Hello?”

    “Mr. Matoi? I’m going to have to ask you to come to school right away, it’s your daughters. Again,” said the voice at the other end.

    “I’ll be right there,” he said tersely, grabbing one of his more intimidating labcoats on the way out.

    ***
    “It’s simply unacceptable behaviour!” insisted the teacher.

    “Let me get this straight,” said Isshin as he beheld his daughters, one of them muddy, the other bruised, and both looking quite chastised, “You mean to say one of the boys pushed Ryuuko, Satsuki pushed him back and Ryuuko tripped him?”

    “They started a fight on school grounds,” replied the teacher.

    “It sounds like they were defending themselves,” retorted Isshin.

    “Maybe when Satsuki pushed back, but not when Ryuuko tripped him, and certainly not when Satsuki began kicking him,”

    “You kicked him?” asked Isshin directly to Satsuki.

    “He called Ryuuko a poopy head,” said Satsuki, “And he always tries to steal her lunch when I’m not around!”

    “You need to tell us when that happens, Satsuki,” said the teacher.

    The girl rolled her eyes contemptuously, “Why? So you can do nothing about it like every other time?”

    “Satsuki!” snapped Isshin.

    “You see?” said the teacher, “That’s not the first time she’s spoken with disrespect to other students and teachers either.”

    “Yes, I see,” said Isshin gravely, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to take my daughters home.”

    The teacher caught his meaning and, satisfied the girls would at least be punished, left them in their father’s care.

    ***

    The trio walked back to the car, the two girls sullenly, Isshin gravely. The moment the doors had closed he turned around in the driver’s seat to address the two in the back.

    “Both of you listen to me very carefully,” he said, pointing a finger at them both, “You did nothing wrong, either of you.”

    The two girls sat silently, shocked at the telling off they weren’t getting.

    “Both of you have every right to defend yourselves when bullies come trying to push you around,” he pointed his finger at them as though he were telling them off severely, “But next time, try fighting back a little smarter. Ryuuko, when does that boy try stealing your lunch?”

    “Tuesdays?” she answered, unsure of where her father was going with this.

    “Excellent. I’ll make him a lunch he won’t soon forget, and Satsuki, I know you love your sister, but patience is a virtue. If he can get away with pushing Ryuuko around, you can get away with pushing him around, just do it when no one’s looking.”

    The two sisters looked at each other incredulously.

    “Uh, Daddy?”

    “Yes Satsuki?”

    “Are we being told off?” she asked.

    “Yes. If you’re going to fight, and you’ll need to in life, fight smarter, not harder,” said Isshin.

    “So we’re not in trouble?” asked Ryuuko.

    “Only with school,” said Isshin, “Now, let’s get you home and cleaned up and then…” he paused for dramatic effect, “Ice cream!”

    The peals of joy made the entire affair more than worth interrupting his work.

    -***-
    Auntie Kinue was dead.

    Satsuki only understood that they would never see Auntie Kinue again. They’d never get another present and never endure one of her spinning tackle hugs that they pretended to hate but secretly loved. She didn’t truly comprehend death; only that it was a thing that stopped Auntie Kinue from ever visiting.

    That made her sad. She could see that it made other people sad too. Uncle Tsumugu was so sad he hadn’t even come to the funeral with the black clothing that everyone else was wearing, just some daggy shorts and a t-shirt that he looked like he was itching to take off.

    Papa is the most sad of all, she mused, His hunch has gotten worse, and he hasn’t smiled since the accident.

    She knew that something bad had happened to Auntie Kinue. She’d watched on TV how they did funerals, they always let you say goodbye to the person who’d died. But here the casket was closed and nobody was allowed to say goodbye. That seemed to make everyone even sadder, and the priest babbling on about ashes and dust didn’t seem to be even trying to life the mood.

    She felt her eyes watering as they lowered the casket. This was the last memory of Auntie Kinue she would ever have; a wooden box being lowered into the ground. There would be no Auntie Kinue to congratulate her on solving a math problem, there would be no Auntie Kinue to help her bake a cake, there would be no Auntie Kinue to teach her where to aim on boys ‘where it hurts’ or anything like that ever again. Auntie Kinue was gone. Forever.

    She looked to her father for comfort, and in a single bleak moment realised something.

    That could have been papa, she thought, No, that will be papa one day.

    She sobbed as she understood death for the first time.


    ***
    Isshin walked numbly back to the car. He held Ryuuko by the hand while carrying a sleeping Satsuki with the other. She was almost too heavy for it by this point, but the aging scientist persevered for his eldest daughter’s uninterrupted sleep.

    “Papa, are you gonna die one day?” asked a red eyed Ryuuko.

    Isshin stiffened. He hadn’t prepared himself for this question. He could only nod stiffly in response. He laid Satsuki down in the back seat and hopped in the car, only to find Ryuuko had taken the front passenger seat for the first time.

    “You shouldn’t be afraid, Papa,” said Ryuuko with a steel he heard only when it involved chocolate or supporting her older sister, “Death is just a jerk in a black robe with a silly sword that takes people away,”

    She furrowed her brow angrily. The entire car seemed to boil with her new demeanor.

    “I won’t let him take you away Papa,” she declared, “When he comes for you I’ll… I’ll beat him up! I’ll snap his silly sword and then I’ll make him bring Auntie Kinue back!”

    Isshin grinned with equal parts happiness and sorrow.

    She still thinks that death is what happens to other people, he mused, no need to rob her of that fantasy.

    He tussled her hair playfully, “You’ll need to stop losing to your sister in fights if you’re gonna beat up death kiddo.”

    ***
    Losing Kinue had been a bad blow for Isshin Matoi. She’d been there to help him out when the girls had become more than the handful he could handle alone. The girls had loved her, and it had allowed him to make progress, real progress in his research on Kamui’s.

    It was Kinue that had insisted on the human trials. Kinue that had volunteered to try on the prototype Kamui. Kinue who had begged him with her dying breath to continue the experiments.

    I was such an idiot, he thought.

    He glared at the source of all his recent pains and sorrows as it ravenously writhed against its pins, trying to rip free and consume.

    But you will never hurt anyone again!

    He pulled out his tailors’ dagger, holding it aloft so the prototype Kamui could see exactly what he held and exactly what that entailed. It only writhed in a greater and more frenzied bloodlust, its bestial snarls audible even to him. He quivered with rage before bringing it down on his own creation, rending and tearing it apart as life fibers came apart under his fury. He’d already severed it at the Banshin, the central supporting fiber that imbued the clothing with will and purpose, it was already dead for all intents and purposes, but Isshin Matoi’s rage and anguish could not be satiated by just this. He hacked and slashed until every last scrap of cloth was little more than frayed threads and then he burned the threads.

    I’m such a damned fool! He cursed himself again.

    The Kamui he’d created to be worn by a human had worked exactly as had been intended… by Ragyo. It had recognised a food source and consumed it. It didn’t matter how intelligent he had made it. Once it tasted human it would crave for more than any one person could give.

    What I need to do… he collected his thoughts, the kernel of an idea percolating in his mind, What I need to do is trick the Kamui into recognising humans as something that isn’t food.

    He paused for a moment when another idea struck him.

    Ryuuko had once had the bad habit of sucking her thumb wherever she went. He knew he had to stop her, but also knew she would pop it right back in the moment his back was turned… so he’d started rubbing hot peppers on her thumbs. She’d quickly learned to stop sucking on her thumbs after the first few times.

    It’s not quite the same approach. If humans ‘taste’ bad to life fibers they’ll just spit them out… no… what I need to do is change the Kamui’s sense of taste to not recognise human’s as food, strictly speaking…

    His thoughts raced faster and faster as he went straight back to the drawing board. Changing the way a Kamui perceived a human would require some finesse and original thinking.

    And time I don’t have… he thought sadly, I need more time, or else my daughters won’t have a future.

    -***-
    “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!” screamed Ryuuko as she stormed to her room.

    “Ryuuko!” snapped Isshin to no avail as she slammed and locked the door behind her.

    He knew better than to give chase or to keep pressuring her. It was better to let her rage and cry herself out now and talk to her later than try to force the issue immediately, Ryuuko was hot headed like that.

    Satsuki had taken the news better, for a given definition of better. She’d taken it quietly, silently, the only sign of increased anxiety was breathing heavily and the glistening of barely restrained tears.

    “Why?” asked Satsuki softly, “Why now? Did we do something wrong?”

    Isshin sullenly made his way back to the table and sat next to his eldest daughter. Although still young she was growing into a fine woman, definitely more mature than her years, but maturity didn’t mean wisdom, or the experience to wield it.

    “I’m going to be very busy with work,” said Isshin quietly, “I won’t be able to support us all and look after you at the same time.”

    “We could learn to look after ourselves!” insisted Satsuki, “I can cook and Ryuuko could clean! We can walk to school together! Please! Anything but boarding school!”

    “It’s not as simple as that,” said Isshin, “There are laws against leaving you on your own for too long, and if something were to happen they would take the both of you away from me and I’d never see you again.”

    The tears started flowing more freely as Satsuki barely restrained her sobs. It pained Isshin to watch this. His daughters loved him so much it hurt.

    “At least this way I’ll still be able to visit, and you could still come back for the holidays,” he reassured, taking Satsuki’s small hands in his own.

    “You promise?” she sobbed.

    “I promise.”

    ***

    The drive to the boarding school had been intensely unpleasant. Ryuuko had been seething and brooding in the back seat for the entire journey, burning a hole in the back of the drivers seat the entire way, refusing to talk or even respond to her father every time he tried to mention something nice about the boarding school they were going to or hint at the presents he would bring them when he came to visit.

    In the front passenger seat, Satsuki had been silent and brooding. For the entirety of the journey she’d alternated between staring at the scenery out of the window as it rushed on by, quietly crying, or curling up and sleeping with her back turned to him.

    Their arrival at the boarding school, assignment of a dorm room and introduction to the staff had only magnified the awkwardness of the situation. Satsuki had refused to meet anyone’s eye and had sullenly stared at the ground the entire time, only responding to questions with a silent nod or shake of the head.

    Ryuuko had glared defiantly at everyone that met her eye, challenging them, daring them to try and make her day. No one did. The staff, for their part, were professionals. They were used to rough separations between parents and children. Isshin and his two daughters were no exception.

    When the time to say goodbye came, Ryuuko had simply turned her back on him and had tromped off into her new room to sulk even harder. Satsuki however had hugged the stuffing out of him.

    “You’ll keep your promise, right? You’ll visit us, right?” she sobbed, soaking his shoulder and neck with tears.

    “I promise,” said Isshin, hugging her back every bit as fiercely, “Just do me a favour and… look after your sister?”

    Satsuki nodded, sniffling as she wiped away tears, “Yeah, I will,” she said.

    She turned to follow Ryuuko into their dorm room, but hesitated at the threshold.

    “Bye, papa,” she said.

    “Bye, Satsuki,” he replied numbly as she closed the door behind her.

    For a full minute he couldn’t bring himself to stand. He knelt there as the sound of muffled crying leaked through the dorm room door. Eventually, he knew not how, he managed to lift himself from the floor and trudge back to the car.

    The drive home was silent. Empty. His daughters were safely in boarding school. Now that his research was becoming increasingly dangerous, if something untoward was to happen or someone unsavory were to take notice, they would be safe from any harm that might come to them. He was free now to think and work without the restraint of having to raise two daughters that had a knack for causing trouble.

    But he felt hollow inside, a mere shell of a man. A part of him had done the cold hard calculus of the human soul and had resolved to make both himself and his daughters miserable so they could have a future. Another part cursed him for making that choice, chastising him for even thinking the way he had.

    If I keep them close, they won’t have a future, he mused, If I send them away, I lose them, potentially forever. On every front, I’ve failed them.

    ***
    Isshin Matoi ate alone. His mornings were silent, the only sound was the ticking of the clock and the odd creak of the house. The once lively and boisterous Matoi household had become dark and brooding with the vacancy of its two youngest members.

    With breakfast finished, he withdrew to his basement lab and continued his work. Ideas and inspiration sprang into his mind minute by minute, moment by moment. It was as though all the energy and creative thought that had been sapped by the rigours of raising two young girls had come back with a vengeance, as though the ideas themselves had been a pack of hungry wolves no longer kept at bay.

    He was almost glad that he could work so freely once again… and he hated himself for that. He hated that it took the absence of the two people he loved the most to be able to do his work again. He hated the way he was gladdened by it.

    Work now, hate self later, he thought. It had practically become his mantra.

    Infusing human genetics into the Kamui was proving both slow and difficult, and waiting for the results left him time to work on his other projects, Nudist Beach, and his finest work yet.

    He examined the cooling lump of misshapen metal with a keen eye. It wasn’t much to look at now, but soon enough it would become the weapon to go with the armour that he was crafting, a rending pair of blades that wouldn’t merely cut life fibers, but destroy them utterly.

    The process to create it would be long, arduous, and difficult, requiring many stages and a lot of time, but if there was one thing Isshin Matoi now had in spades, it was time.

    He held a heavy hammer over the glowing lump of metal, took a deep breath, pulled back, and struck the first blow of many, with only one thought in mind.

    For my daughters!

    -***-
    The months had passed slowly since Isshin Matoi had dropped his daughters off at boarding school. While his research was progressing, a letter had arrived.

    Your presence is required at the Kanzaki Noodle House.

    Please be there at 12:00 PM this Thursday.

    Soroi Mitsuzou.
    Isshin furrowed his brow worriedly.

    What could this mean?

    ***
    Isshin knew the Kanzaki noodle house well from his student days. It had all but sustained him through his studies, but though the noodle house still stood, both the times and the neighbourhood had changed. Gone were the thrift shops, culture stores and love hotels of his youth. Replacing them were seedy nightclubs, bars and store fronts for the Yakuza. Even the university he’d attended had closed down, moved off to a new location away from the grunge this part of town had become. There was no way in hell a reputable Revocs employee would be caught dead or alive here… which made it the perfect meeting place.

    Grinning at some of the fonder memories he had of the place, Isshin let himself in. The noodle house itself was, for the most part, unchanged from his youth. The tables and chairs had changed arrangements, as had the decorations festooning the walls and roof. Even the no-smoking policy had changed as smoke curled up from half a dozen ‘legitimate’ customers cigarettes curled up to the ceiling where fans lazily scattered it into the general haze.

    He took in the nostalgia for all of half a minute before he zeroed in on Soroi in casual clothes sitting at the counter, hands clasped, waiting for him.

    “I thought we had an agreement,” groused Isshin, taking an adjacent seat, “No contact, period. Do you have any idea how dangerous it is to even meet like this?”

    “I suggest you keep your voice down,” said Soroi gravely, “Let’s order, it’ll be less suspicious that way.”

    Isshin grumbled in agreement. It was odd indeed to step into a noodle house and then not eat noodles after all. Besides, he’d missed the shio ramen he’d enjoyed so much. Soroi ordered miso ramen and the two men dug in immediately under the glare of the aging chef that, if Isshin recalled correctly, was a stickler for the five minute rule of ramen.

    “So, why am I here?” asked Isshin considerably less irritable after the meal, “Something must have changed for you to contact me after all this time.”

    Soroi nodded.

    “It seems that Ragyo has a new heir apparent, Harime Nui,” said Soroi gravely.

    Isshin raised a brow, “Oh? She didn’t attach her name… that’s interesting,” he mused, “I assume that she’s a-”

    “Yes,” interrupted Soroi, “One of those.”

    “Still,” mused Isshin, “if she’d been fully successful she wouldn’t hesitate to attach the Kiryuuin name to her. She must have disappointed that witch somehow.”

    “I’m afraid I’m not privy to that information,” said Soroi, “I am after all, merely a butler in her eyes. But, speaking of information… how is Lady Satsuki faring?”

    “She’s grown like a weed,” chuckled Isshin.

    He handed Soroi a photo of Satsuki being cheeky to the camera that was at least a year out of date. The old butler’s face brightened considerably.

    “Ah, she’s growing into a fine lady,” he sighed nostalgically, “It truly would have been an honour to tend to her,”

    Isshin nodded. He’d never told Soroi about Ryuuko, and the picture he’d handed him had featured only Satsuki. The less the butler knew, the better for all of them, but he couldn’t begrudge Soroi the chance to have seen Satsuki grow. He couldn’t bring himself to be that cruel or heartless.

    “If we’re done here, I’ll be leaving,” said Isshin tersely. The less time spent together, the better.

    “Wait, please,” asked Soroi, “I have a favour to ask.”

    “This had better be good,” said Isshin.

    “My nephew, Iori, has taken an interest in sewing. He’s quite talented, actually.”

    “What do you want from me?” asked Isshin.

    “Access to your research,” said Soroi, “In time I’m certain he could understand it.”

    “Absolutely out of the question!” snapped Isshin.

    “But-” Soroi was interrupted by Isshin quietly and stealthily gripping Soroi’s wrist and tearing off a piece of his sleeve.

    “Watch carefully,” hissed Isshin.

    With deft hands, Isshin laid the cloth out on the table and prodded it with a needle. At first, nothing happened… and then the scrap of cloth moved by itself. It shaped itself into the form of a worm and lunged for the nearest hand, Soroi’s, before it was brutally impaled by the needle that had given it life. It screeched too softly for anyone beyond their table to hear it.

    “I… what?” gasped Soroi.

    “The clothes you are wearing have a small number of life fibers woven into them,” explained Isshin, “Right now they’re dormant, sleeping, but they are stupidly easy to awaken when you know how.”

    He handed another needle to Soroi and withdrew a pack of cigarettes.

    “Both that knowledge alone and this needle should be all the headstart your nephew requires to do his own research,” said Isshin before slipping Soroi a slip of paper, “And these are a list of companies that ought to be able to supply you with clothing free of life fibers, at least until Revocs acquires them.”

    “T-thank you,” said Soroi.

    “Thank me by burning any clothing that has life fibers in them,” said Isshin, lighting the life fiber scraplet afire with a match before turning it towards his cigarette, “and by never contacting me again.”

    “…you have my word,” agreed Soroi, dejectedly as Isshin Matoi rose to leave.

    As he drove his way home, Isshin was simultaneously annoyed and relieved at the encounter with Soroi. On the one hand, any contact with his old life was inherently dangerous, while on the other, it had quite literally been the most human contact he’d had since dropping the girls off at boarding school.

    If I’m not careful I’ll start to drive myself mad, he mused, What I need is something to keep me sane, something to keep me company, something to…

    The thought died the moment the solution presented itself.

    Oh, excellent!

    ***

    “Welcome to your new home,” he said.

    The fuzzy snout sniffed the air experimentally before the handful of fur darted out and raced for the nearest cover.

    “No need to be afraid,” he said.

    The rat however was a tad more skeptical than most and remained in cover.

    “Have it your way then,” said Isshin, before laying down a rice cracker.

    The rat rapidly reconsidered its earlier caution and raced towards the rice cracker. It gripped the treat in its forepaws and nibbled on it experimentally, before the caution reasserted itself and it scurried, treat included, back to its cover, its squeaks of joy the only hint it was even there.

    “Well, it’s a start I guess,” he mused and turned back to his work.

    After all, he thought, What’s a scientist without a faithful lab rat at his side?

    -***-
    “Come on Sayaka, time for play,” said Isshin, proffering his hand to the cage.

    The rat inside reared up on its hind legs and gripped the wire mesh of its enclosure, its squeaks of joy barely audible.

    The moment he opened the door the rat launched itself up his sleeve, exploring the cave of arm and clothing enthusiastically. It tickled its way into Isshin’s armpit, snuffling his hair briefly and forcing the tailor-cum-scientist to stifle a giggle, before it made its way out to his chest and poked its head out just beneath his neck.

    “Someone’s enjoying themselves, aren’t they?” he commented.

    The rat, for her part, gave his neck a nuzzling lick of love by way of response. He extracted Sayaka from his neckline and laid her out on the lab table, tickling her with one hand she lay helpless on her back. She squeaked happily as his other hand reached for a small, rat sized scrap of fabric.

    “First experimental log,” said Isshin into a nearby recorder, “A small prototype Kamui has been completed using the genetic sieving process. I’ve proceeded as far as humanly possible with cell cultures. Frankly, how a few life fibers behave in an environment with scarce resources is vastly different from how many life fibers behave in a resource rich environment.

    Unfortunately, without a practical human test subject, I’ve been forced to use Sayaka. Being conservative, I’ve approximated the surface area of the prototype Kamui to cover roughly half the body. I believe that both these measures will avert the catastrophe that befell Kinue.”

    He turned towards the rat he was still nuzzling, picked her up fully and placed her in a plexiglass container. He placed the tiny Kamui inside, sealing them both in and then using a pipette, doused the tiny scraplet of cloth with a drop of the rats very own blood.

    This is the moment of truth, he thought, Either it will adorn the rat harmlessly, or it will consume her… it, whole.

    At first nothing happened. Then the scrap of cloth seemed to move, ever so slightly. Sayaka sniffed it experimentally, curious, cocking its head to a side… when suddenly the Kamui lunged for her, entrapping the rats limbs as it squeaked in terror. The sheer suddenness and violence of the movement startled Isshin so badly he practically leapt away from the container.

    No! thought Isshin, forcing himself to continue watching.

    The rat struggled to get away, biting and scratching at the animated red strands that had covered it. Tiny stars began to shine forth as the Kamui began to accept Sayaka as a source of food and power when in an instant the entire container lunged aside with one of its walls smashed clean through.

    What?

    Isshin blinked. The rat wasn’t in the container anymore. He checked it twice before he saw the rat sized hole in one side… then he looked in the direction the hole was facing and found that Sayaka had buried herself halfway into the nearby mortarwork of the basement.

    “Sayaka!” exclaimed Isshin, ambling over.

    The rat squeaked in fear and disorientation alive and well, and covered by a protective red cocoon. He extracted her from the small pit she had made in the wall. She immediately made for the perceived safety of his left sleeve, creeping right back up with more surety and speed than he’d ever seen or felt.

    “E-experiment seems to be a success…” he muttered, shutting off the recorder.

    I hope.

    ***
    The summer heat went unnoticed by Isshin in his relatively cool basement laboratory. Upon a nearby wall hung a dusty calendar perpetually stuck in December. Sayaka had taken to her Kamui rather well after an initial period of adjustment and was none the worse for wear. He even let her roam free around the basement on the basis that even stepping on her with his full weight would barely startle the playful rat.

    He no longer measured time in terms of days or weeks, time spent sleeping or even meals eaten. He was on a different timescale now, measured only in accomplishment, and the pace was grindingly slow.

    The new process for manufacturing the final versions of the Kamui was time consuming. It took almost a full week to manufacture a Kamui scrap measuring seven centimeters by seven centimeters. Such a pace meant that the months had flown by as he slowly stitched and sewed the completed scraps together.

    In the interim between sewing, he continued to hammer away at the slowly-but-surely forming Rending Scissors. He’d gotten the material as sharp as he dared make it… any sharper and it would risk making the blades weak. What made it unique were a combination of density and a fine latticework of holes that riddled the blade in a fashion that any sane metalsmith would have balked at.

    Of course, most sane metalsmiths would never have the privilege of working with life fibers. By threading them through the latticework, encouraging them to grow and fill the gaps, they would bind the dense metal of the scissorblade together with a strength that would make diamond look like talcum powder.

    He held the blade aloft, assessing his work with a critical eye, the dull grey metal still waiting for its final infusion. It was deceptively light considering the density and hardness of the metal he was working with, an artifact of the latticework he’d created. The infusion of life fibers wouldn’t greatly impact the weight of the blade either. He tested its balance and checked its length with a precision that only a master tailor could match. It was perfectly made for a young woman to hold, light enough to be held, strong enough to powderise diamond and sharp enough to cut through anything. If not for the Kamui coming together bit by bit, he would have called it his finest work.

    There’s something I’m forgetting… what is it?

    He submerged each blade in a bath of life fibers to begin the infusion process. In time they would grow through the entire length of each blade, making them impossibly strong and incomparably powerful, a weapon capable of cutting and neutralizing other life fibers permanently, all for his daughters.

    My daughters… he mused, My daughters. My daughters! Oh… oh no…

    He turned to the calendar, then looked up and felt the heat of summer for the first time.

    -***-
    “You…! You! You son of a bitch!” roared Ryuuko and launched herself into the bearded scientist, “What the fuck happened? Where were you?!”

    She shoved him back with each question, the fury of an uncharitable rage burning in her eyes, her face contorted with pain.

    “Ryuuko!” snapped Satsuki, trying to reign her sister in.

    “And now you just show the fuck up out of nowhere? We wrote to you! We called you! Why the fuck didn’t you answer? Were you too good for us? Huh? Did you just dump us so that you could live it up? Huh? Answer us you son of a bi-”

    “Ryuuko!” snapped Satsuki again, peeling her sister off and giving her a hard glare, “Go into the dorm and let me handle him,” she said in a voice that brooked no disobedience.

    Ryuuko flinched away from her sister, face contorted with pain and rage. She spared a final look of disgust for her father, before obediently leaving.

    For Isshin Matoi, if Ryuuko had been fire, Satsuki was ice. She looked down her nose at him with an imperious gaze.

    “Father, so good to see you,” she said with a bone-chilling lack of emotion, “We were worried you might be dead.”

    “Satsuki…” said Isshin, but the words died on his tongue under that icy gaze.

    “I seem to recall our last meeting. I believe you promised to come and visit and to keep in contact with us. Your flesh and blood daughters. Am I perhaps misremembering?” she asked with a seething, icy sarcasm.

    “I-”

    “You what?” she interrupted, “You forgot? You were too busy? What? What could possibly have been more important to you than us?”

    He could tell her. He could talk to her about life fibers, about the threat they posed, about how he was working to ensure that they could all live a happy, hopeful future together… but the notion died under Satsuki’s frigid gaze. She was too angry, to seething, to be willing to listen. Even if he spilled his heart out to her right here and now he could only surmise that she would stab it in her cold fury. And so he did the only thing he could. He kept silent.

    “Not even an excuse,” she said, rolling up her sleeves, “Take a look, father,”

    He looked. He saw. Bruises running up and down her arms, her knuckles were swollen, he even noticed now that her face had the telltale splotch of an almost but not quite healed black eye.

    “W-what have they done to you?” he said, shocked.

    “What have they done?” she spat, “What have they done!? It was you that did this to us!”

    Us? You mean, Ryuuko as well? Thought Isshin with mounting horror.

    “You left us here! You forgot about us! Did you think the others wouldn’t notice? Did you think we’d be all fine and dandy just by ourselves? We’ve had to fight, Father, just like you promised us. Frankly, I don’t blame the little shits. They don’t know what they’re doing. But you… you had a choice. You could have come back for us at any time. You could have read the damn letters we sent you! You could have answered the fucking phone just once!” she ranted.

    Satsuki threw up her hands in frustration and began to pace.

    “We even put out a missing persons report, you know how that turned out?” a trace of ironic mirth crept into her tone, “Apparently you answered the door, said you were fine, and told them to piss off.”

    Isshin tried but couldn’t recall the incident. He’d been distracted a few times during his research but police at the door… try as he might he could not for the life of him remember. Satsuki marched right up to him until she was only inches away from his face. It was only now that he saw just how much taller she’d grown.

    “You broke your promise,” her lip quivered at that, “You broke your damn promise and you abandoned us. You know what you can do to fix that? Hmm? You know what you can say?”

    Anything, begged Isshin as his guts fell through the floor at the horror of his daughters hating him, Anything just name it!

    “Nothing,” she said with finality, “Just turn around and go. Leave. Don’t ever come back and ruin our lives again.”

    She turned to leave.

    “Satsuki,” said Isshin, grabbing her shoulder.

    Satsuki recoiled away from his touch, glaring.

    “Don’t you touch me!” she hissed, “Don’t you ever touch me! We are done, both of us, with you!”

    “I’m sorry!” he begged, “I’m… I’m sorry!”

    This is a nightmare… this is a nightmare and I’m going to wake up… please… anything but this…

    She retreated to her dorm room door, but paused as a final hard look of sympathy crossed her features.

    “Not yet, but you will be. Goodbye. Father.”

    ***
    Isshin Matoi stumbled inside his own lab in a drunken stupor. He couldn’t recall anything after that final goodbye, not even driving home. His first thought upon arriving home had been wanting to forget everything that had happened in the past few hours. Alcohol had always worked in his university days and he’d lunged for the whiskey cabinet.

    After around half the bottle had disappeared he surmised that he still remembered far too much of what had happened. He’d frantically searched for something, anything else to help the alcohol help him forget. The lab was his next solution, to bury himself in his work… but that hadn’t worked either. The numbers didn’t add up, his fingers couldn’t stitch anything right, and even Sayaka seemed to be keeping well away from him.

    He looked from where the Rending Scissors were bathing to the pair of Kamui’s that were still only half done and felt his despair turn to fury.

    You… you! He raged incoherently, If it weren’t for you I’d still have my damn daughters!

    He plunged his hands into the life fiber baths of the scissor blades and drew them forth. In haphazard fury and roaring hatred he swung them as they effortlessly sliced apart papers, his desk, his equipment, the baths, carved up the walls and floors. When there was nothing left to destroy he cast about, looking, seeking for something, anything.

    He then laid eyes on the pair of half finished Kamui’s. They had been intended as a gift to his daughters, the finest armour to be paired with the strongest blades.

    They hate me now, he thought, They hate me and those damn things will be useless forever! It was for nothing! All of it! My love! My anger! All of my sorrow! Nothing! Nothing!

    He raised both blades above his head, panting, seething with fury.

    If I destroy them… If I destroy them…

    He sobbed, dropping both blades to the floor where they buried themselves in inches of concrete. He doubled over with the pain of a dying soul and curled up on the floor.

    I broke my promise, he thought between desperate, gasping sobs, And I failed… I failed to be the father you deserved… I failed… I failed…

    Isshin moaned with the dejected pain of this realization. He didn’t need to destroy his life’s work. He already had.

    -***-
    Isshin Matoi hadn’t gone back to the lab since that night. He’d left it in shambles and had locked the door behind him. His days and nights were aimless and without purpose. He’d been striving so hard for this goal, this one chance, that now it had been snatched away from him, he honestly didn’t know what to do anymore. He was too old to start over and he knew too much to just live his life obliviously. In desperation or despair he began considering actions he’d once have called himself crazy for even thinking.

    Perhaps I can activate some life fibers in front of a crowd… he mused, No, that wouldn’t work, their thoughts would be consumed and Revocs would disappear me.

    He chuckled at that thought.

    Maybe I should ditch the disguise and march right back up to Ragyo, tell her what I’ve been working on, that’d be a hoot. She’d probably kill me outright, but the look on her face would be priceless.

    Sayaka nuzzled his ear playfully. Isshin picked her up and flung her across the room. The rat smacked into a nearby cabinet, then fell to the floor. She picked herself up and shook herself off, none the worse for wear thanks to the small prototype Kamui she was still wearing. Nothing he did to her mattered anymore. To her it was all a big fun game and she scurried right back to him, squeaking happily that they were playing the throwy game again.

    He picked her up, this time by the tail, and held her in mid air. She squeaked unhappily at this. The holdy-in-the-air game wasn’t quite as fun as the throwy game was.

    “Why?” asked Isshin, “Why do you keep coming back to me? What for?”

    Sayaka just squeaked in disapproval at the way he was gripping her tail.

    “Because I give you food? Hmm? Because I look after you? Why don’t you just fuck off!

    He carried her to a nearby window and hurled the little rat outside. He never saw where she landed, and she never returned.

    ***
    The weeks passed on in this fashion, with Isshin Matoi alternating between self loathing and self pity. Alcohol had become a regular part of his diet, but with the waxing and waning of months, he was able to cut down gradually. He’d continued to pay the bills for Ryuuko and Satsuki’s tutelage.

    At least I can’t fuck that up, yet, he thought.

    Try as he might though, he couldn’t bring himself back down to his lab, couldn’t muster the resolve necessary towards completing his work. He’d broken out of a whirlpool of despair only to find himself becalmed on an ocean without a tide. The wind that filled his sails was gone… he had no direction, no other reason.

    Once upon a time, when he’d been Souichirou, he’d looked forward to a bright future in the fashion industry. His insight into both the industry and exactly what it took to make a fine garment that both looked good and felt great had made him famous, influential, his word had carried weight, his talents recognised by the highest authorities.

    It’s what had sent him into Ragyo Kiryuuin’s arms. At first it had been a mere collaboration. Over time it had grown into something more as the two of them shared their passion for clothing. In time he had felt something more for her… something he’d called love. Ragyo had accepted him, had said that he was ‘worthy of her affection’, high praise from one of the worlds most powerful fashionista’s.

    Their marriage had opened doors for him. He’d learned about life fibers, their properties and their potential. He’d been excited. He’d drowned himself in all the possibilities they could yield; clothing that could repair and clean themselves, could augment the wearer to super-human effect and protect them from grievous bodily harm, that could exist in the cold frigid emptiness of space as easily as the darkest depths of the worlds most crushing ocean.

    And he’d been blind. Blind to Ragyo’s insanity, the ‘eccentricities’ he’d simply dismissed, blind to the life fibers parasitic nature, blind to the grand design Ragyo had planned until it was almost too late… and blind to her callousness.

    Isshin Matoi looked over his previous life as Souichirou and found no comfort there. Souichirou had been a man whose ambitions had been crushed by his blindness… just as Isshin Matoi had been. He had changed his name and his identity, but he was still the same man at heart. He was still blind. In the end he had made all the same mistakes. The only advantage that Isshin Matoi now had over Souichirou was that he knew that he was blind.

    It was in the midst of this introspection, Isshin Matoi’s long dark teatime of the soul, that the phone insipidly rang.

    “Hello?” he dejectedly asked.

    “…”

    Nothing. There was no response.

    “Hello?” he asked again.

    He heard only a click, followed by the dial tone. Whoever it was had hung up. Isshin stared at the phone for a moment before replacing it back on its receiver, unable to even dredge up a shred of annoyance. It was as he was settling back into his soul searching that the phone again rang.

    Isshin considered just letting it ring, considered just pulling the cord from the wall and letting whoever it was suffer the tone of a disconnected phone… but honestly could not muster the necessary levels of irritation. With a sigh, he again answered the phone.

    “Hello?” he asked.

    “...” again, silence, broken only by a sniffle.

    “Who is this?” he asked.

    “I…” replied the other end.

    Isshin Matoi’s heart stopped. He only needed that one word to know who it was.

    “R-Ryuuko?” he asked in stunned disbelief.

    “I…” again, she trailed off, the sound of sniffles and barely restrained sobs emanating from the other end.

    Isshin Matoi burned those sounds into his heart. They were evidence, hard evidence, of just how much he’d hurt his two daughters. Though this was not the torture he’d wanted, this was almost certainly the torture he felt he deserved. He would wait for Ryuuko to calm down and begin hurling abuse at him. He resolved, deep inside, to accept her well deserved hatred.

    “I forgive you, father,” she said, before immediately hanging up.

    Isshin Matoi stared off into space, hand numbly holding the phone as the dial tone sounded.

    What. He thought.

    “What.” He repeated out loud.

    What? He thought again, trying to wrap his mind around this new and unfamiliar development.

    “I… Ryuuko!” he all but shouted into the receiver before his entire mind was on the same page.

    I… she… Ryuuko forgives me… he thought, as tears of relief streamed down his face, she forgives me!

    ***
    He knew it wasn’t much, but cleaning up the basement and running a phone extension cord down the stairs was easily the most productive thing he’d done in a long, long time.

    He also knew that Ryuuko’s forgiveness would not fix things between himself and his two daughters, not by a long shot. But it opened the route for communication, and with time, he was confident that could come to an accord and heal the wounds he’d inflicted.

    Time, he muttered internally, How much time have I wasted feeling sorry for myself?

    He looked to the reams of ruined cloth, the unfinished Kamui, and the Rending Scissors. Getting everything back in order would take a bit of doing, getting everything back on track moreso. Ironically he’d be crunching himself for time more than ever now… but he felt he’d learned from his mistakes. He estimated he could finish both Kamui within the year.

    With the first genuine grin he’d worn in months, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

    ***
    Sayaka had quickly found out that she wasn’t like the other rats. Her clothing made her stronger, faster, and smarter. The other rats soon learned this, learned to keep clear of her, and learned to keep a close eye on her to take advantage of any crumbs she left behind.

    At times she found herself missing her pet human. Other humans, it seemed, weren’t quite as appreciative of rats. They tended to play screamy-screamy-ah-ah and kicky-kicky-stab-stab instead the throwy game she’d enjoyed… even the holdy-in-the-air game was more fun than those. Then she reminded herself that her pet human hadn’t seemed to be very happy towards the end and resolved to let him go free in the end.

    Though few humans suspected such, rats had their own unique culture, language and ways. While humans prided themselves on developing tools and civilization, rats prided themselves on exploiting humans to the fullest. Even so, the increased intelligence afforded to her by her Kamui made Sayaka almost positively philosophical for a rat. Were she a simpler creature, she would have contented herself with finding a hunky boy rat, tricking him into mating with her, having many baby ratties, raising them, and then letting them go to find their own way in the world just as he had. Sadly such simple pleasures no longer held their appeal to her. Sayaka now had a mind for greater challenges and larger pleasures.

    It was this motivation that found her stowing away on a bus, hiding amongst empty luggage racks, bound for a place that was titled in bold lettering. Sayaka couldn’t read, she’d never been taught, but bold lettering could only have meant bold people supporting bolder rats.

    If she could have read, she’d have wondered why they called it:

    [HONNOUJI ASYLUM]

    END CHAPTER 1
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
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  2. Razor One

    Razor One When Science Goes Too Far...

    Scissor Sisters

    Chapter 2

    Daughters of Fire and Ice
    The night Isshin Matoi had dropped his daughters off at the boarding school had been a fitful one, with both Satsuki and Ryuuko alternating between seething hatred of the place they had been left in and tears of homesickness.

    Even in waking it was clear that Ryuuko had cried herself to sleep. Her red rimmed eyes and the buildup of detritus on her lashes spoke to that. Satsuki, for her part, had been more wistful, feeling more trepidation about what was to come in their uncertain future. By the time morning had come she had resolved to make the best she could of a bad and ultimately temporary situation.

    It was late in the morning while the two were sitting in their room, Satsuki listlessly and Ryuuko sulkily, that their door opened revealing the matron of their dorm. With a hurried step, Satsuki pulled a half-awake Ryuuko to her feet in a quick bid to show the matron the proper respect.
    “On behalf of the school officials, welcome to House Asahi,” she said in a tone that bespoke many years of having repeated this phrase, “I am Matron Kuzuha, I will be responsible for you over the coming years.”

    Satsuki bowed reverently at the matron’s formal introduction.

    “You have our deepest thanks,” she said, all but slapping Ryuuko on the back to ‘encourage’ her to match her bow, “We are in your care.”

    “Uh, yeah, thanks,” muttered Ryuuko.

    “Your uniforms are currently in your respective closets. You’ll be expected to wear them at all times while on campus. The semester officially starts tomorrow, so you’ll have some time to settle in, but there’s an orientation class at noon so it’s best you attend,” she informed them, closing the door and leaving them in peace.

    The moment she left Ryuuko went straight back to sulking.

    “Well this sucks,” she groused.

    “It’s only temporary,” said Satsuki.

    “Doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck,” she persisted.

    “It would suck less if you would sulk less,” groused Satsuki.

    “Yes Onee-san,” she said sarcastically, earning a slap to the back of the head.

    “Come on, let’s try the uniforms on,” she sighed as Ryuuko glared daggers through her red-ringed eyes, still irritated from her night of crying.

    ***
    “Man, does this skirt have to be so… short?” asked Ryuuko, shifting the offending article about to get a bit more length out of it.

    “You saw how all the others were wearing theirs,” said Satsuki, “You wouldn’t want to stand out from the crowd on your first day now, would you?”

    Ryuuko fingered her ever persistent lock of red hair.

    “I think I’m screwed no matter what I do,” she said, earning a soft punch from her sister, “What was that for?”

    “Language,” said Satsuki, “they have rules about that here, you know?”

    “Do you see any teachers around here?” asked Ryuuko.

    “As the older sister I have to set an example and set you on the right path,” she said with mock superiority, “Because we both know you’d lose your way.”

    “Ah pull the pole out of your arseh-” Satsuki smacked her before she could finish the sentence, “Ah shi-” another smack, “Try that one more time! I dare you!”

    Satsuki raised an interested eyebrow. She much preferred an angry Ryuuko to a sulking one.

    “You dare me?” she challenged.

    “I double dare you!” retorted Ryuuko.

    “You double dare me?” asked Satsuki, not feeling sufficiently challenged.

    “I do-deca-double fucking dare yo-OW!” Ryuuko hissed in pain at the latest slap upside the head and glared at her sister, “Okay, that’s it, you’re dead!”

    She lunged for Satsuki who ran away laughing at her sister’s antics.

    “Can’t catch meee!” she teased.

    “Get over here, princess, I swear I’ll crush the lumps right out of your head!” threatened Ryuuko.

    “I’m not a princess!” proclaimed Satsuki, interspersing a table between the two, “I’m a queen!”

    She struck a queenlike pose that caused the room to brighten while wearing a smirk that suggested both authority and mischief in equal measures.

    That proved to be her undoing as Ryuuko tackled her squarely in the gut and strained, lifting her over her shoulder.

    “Wha-what are you doing! No! Put me down! Put me down damnit!” yelped Satsuki as she flailed her limbs to maintain balance.

    With heave and a roar, Ryuuko carried her to her dorm room bed and slammed her on the soft mattress. Before her older sister could recover Ryuuko was already clawing into her sides.

    “No! Noooo!” shouted Satsuki as she giggled, guffawed and laughed uncontrollably to her little sister’s expert tickle torture, “Get off! We’re going to be late! Ahahahaha!”

    “NEVER!” proclaimed Ryuuko, getting into the spirit of things, “I, your sister, shall keep you prisoner in this room forever! Do you hear me!? FOREVER!”

    Her sudden proclamation however gave Satsuki the escape vector she needed and she immediately bolted for the front door.

    “See you at orientation!” she quipped, slamming the door behind her.

    “Why you- GET BACK HERE!” shouted Ryuuko, giving chase.

    ***
    “Hey, yo, Jakuzure, like, check out the new girls,” said one of Nonon Jakuzure’s more insipid sycophants.

    Nonon wanted to kill herself right now. Better yet, she wanted to smack the sycophant in the mouth for even talking. The way she talked just pissed her off to no end, the idiot sounded like a fat cow belching.

    And the cow would look prettier, she mused, but held her tongue, knowing better than to spill her venom carelessly in this place. Instead she languidly glared in the general direction indicated for her to see two girls, sisters probably, awkwardly standing in the crowd gathering for orientation.

    The taller of the two, likely the older sister, had shoulder length black hair and features that could be called pretty if not for those ridiculous eyebrows.

    Holy shit they’re like a forest! She thought.

    The other, shorter girl had short hair, a slightly rougher appearance, though Nonon could only suspect that it was because of the haphazard way she’d thrown on her uniform more than anything else and…

    Wait… is that a red bang? She thought, Oh man is she gonna get it.

    Nonon knew the girls bang wouldn’t even be the start of it, judging from the way the twosome was interacting with the other students. They clung to each other. Not physically, but they used one another as a buffer to the groups that were sending out feelers, seeing what kind of people they were, trying to induct them into various cliques and groups.

    Nonon had seen this behaviour before. They were the type that didn’t want to be here, didn’t want to belong, and weren’t interested in grouping up or forming cliques.

    Maybe in highschool they could have gotten away with that, she mused, but boarding school? No way. They’re going to get eaten alive.

    The various cliques and groups were intensely competitive with one another, often competing strongly for new and fresh blood to either stimulate the group or just fill out the rank and file. However, more than competitiveness, the groups had a cardinal rule that all abided by; suffer not the loner who thinks themselves above joining.

    The nail that sticks out gets hammered down, mused Nonon fatalistically as she diverted her attention elsewhere, And those two nails are gonna get it.

    -***-
    Ryuuko ate lunch alone in the cafeteria. So far her week had been entirely inundated with work, study and classes to the point that, when her maths teacher Mr. Fukuroda had added yet more work to her already groaning pile, she’d had to blow off some steam.

    ***

    “More fuckin’ work? Shit.” She groused under her breath.

    “Excuse me?” Mr. Fukuroda asked incredulously.

    She had no idea when the teacher had snuck up on her. Realising her mistake Ryuuko mentally backpedaled.

    “Ah, er, um, I mean, uh, n-nothing, sir,” she’d stumbled.

    The rest of the class looked on in judgmental silence.

    “It didn’t sound like nothing,” said Mr. Fukuroda tersely, “Perhaps you’d like to repeat what you said out loud so the entire class could hear it?”

    A few in the class giggled at that.

    “Uh, no sir, I’d rather not,” said Ryuuko.

    The next thing she knew, Mr. Fukuroda had handed her a green slip of paper and had ordered her to the “Time Out” room. Ryuuko had practically rolled her eyes at that but collected her books, took the form and left the room.

    “Well fuck you too, tightarse,” she groused the moment she was certain she was out of earshot.

    ***

    The rest of the period had been spent staring at walls with a harpy of a teacher that tended to screech whenever anyone else there slouched. She’d given Ryuuko a small lecture about her ‘defiance and language issues’, and had spent the rest of the time screeching at Ryuuko more and more strenuously due to her slouching ‘problem’.

    She shook her mind clear of the minor misadventure and got back to shoveling food into her mouth.

    Cafeteria foods rather good, she mused, could use a little more salt though.

    It was as she finished that thought that her solitude was interrupted by a group of five students joining her at the table, three boys and two girls, all from her maths class.

    “Hey new girl, what’s with the mouth?” sneered one of the boys.

    What’s with your face? Thought Ryuuko, but didn’t say.

    “Excuse me?” she asked instead.

    “That tasteless language you’re using in class,” explained one of the girls condescendingly, “Think the rules don’t apply to you?”

    “I seem to recall being caught and punished,” said Ryuuko in mock absentmindedness.

    The group grinned as one, as though they’d expected that.

    “There’s more rules here than what they’ve written down, new girl,” said one of the other boys, “You want to swear? You have to pay the toll first.”

    The moment he finished, a bottle of Tabasco sauce was plinked on the table.

    “You have to empty the bottle in one go, either on your food or straight up, your choice,” said the other girl, smirking at the prospect.

    “And what if I don’t want to?” asked Ryuuko.

    “Don’t be stupid, new girl, just do it and you can swear to your hearts content,” said the first boy.

    Ryuuko glared at each person in the group and then at the bottle of sauce. She wasn’t exactly familiar with hot foods, but she knew enough to know that the multiple peppers on the front meant that she probably couldn’t stomach more than a dash of the sauce. In less than a moment, she’d made up her mind.

    “Sensei!” called out Ryuuko as the teacher on duty came by, “Need a little help here!”

    “What’s going on?” asked the teacher as he checked out the group of boys and girls surrounding Ryuuko’s table.

    “Just trying to get the new girl here to try new things sir!” pepped up one of the boys cheerily, his entire demeanor changing instantly.

    “I already said I’m not interested,” said Ryuuko.

    “You heard her. Clear off,” said the teacher with well practiced irritation.

    “Of course sir,” said the boy, rising to leave.

    When the teacher turned his back, the lead boy glared at Ryuuko, casually drew a line across his neck, and left.

    Ryuuko saluted his back with her middle finger and continued to eat warily.

    ***
    Ryuuko yawned as she trudged her way back to her dorm. The remainder of the day had been spent in geography. It hadn’t been a particularly taxing lesson like maths… the teacher had seemed to recognise she’d drawn the short straw and gotten the students in their last period of the day, a time not conducive to a hard pace of learning, and had been merciful towards the class.

    Right now all I want to do is flop onto my bed and-GUH!

    Her thought was interrupted by a tackle from behind, knocking her flat on her face.

    “Wha-?!” she yelped as she was roughly twisted onto her back and solidly pinned by five students, “What the fuck!?”

    “Should’a listened, bitch!” sneered one of the girls, producing the Tabasco sauce bottle.

    Ryuuko’s mind caught up instantly. She struggled and flailed, but against five other students pinning her torso and arms she was well and thoroughly trapped. Her legs flailed but couldn’t manage more than a bare tap on the back of the boy pinning her torso.

    “Shit, hurry up with the fucking bottle already!” hissed one of the boys.

    “Say ah!” said the girl carrying the bottle.

    Ryuuko clamped her jaws shut and sealed her lips as best she could. Cruel, well practiced hands soon found there way to her cheeks however and began to squeeze.

    “Open the fuck up already you bitch!” hissed the girl.

    “MMMMFFF!” struggled Ryuuko.

    The hand gripping her cheeks squeezed tighter and tighter, forcing her jaw apart, forcing her mouth open…

    In glugged the sauce, onto her face, her lips, and into her mouth. A burning sensation spread out on her face and lips as more and more sauce pumped out of the bottle. Ryuuko spat and flailed, trying to dislodge her captors, trying to expel the red hot sensation of burning that was tormenting her. She felt herself swallowing the sauce reflexively as the risk of choking became all too apparent.

    “Now her mouth matches her bang!” sneered one of the girls.

    “It’s done! Let’s go!” hissed one of the boys.

    As a group they bolted, leaving a red faced, sweating Ryuuko spitting and gagging on the ground, her tongue and mouth afire with the sting of Tabasco sauce.

    -***-
    Satsuki Matoi arrived back at her dorm room to hear the sound of running water.

    “You would not believe the day I’ve had…” Satsuki began to complain but trailed off the moment she saw Ryuuko all but sucking at their dorm’s tap running at full blast, “Ryuuko, what’s wrong?”

    “H-hot,” said Ryuuko, pulling away from the water for only the few seconds it took to say before launching back under the cascade of water.

    It wasn’t long, but it was long enough to see Ryuuko’s flushed face and the angry red sores on her lips.

    “Stay here, I’ll get the matron,” said Satsuki, rushing to do just that.

    She returned a few moments later with Matron Kuzuha in tow carrying a tray with a jug of milk and a plate of bread.

    “Get out from under the water, quickly,” she said, “You’re only making it worse.”

    Satsuki practically had to pull Ryuuko from the tap.

    “It hurts!” she moaned.

    “Drink!” snapped Kuzuha, proffering her a glass of milk.

    “But I’m-”

    “I said. Drink!”

    Ryuuko accepted the glass and began glugging it.

    “Slow down,” said Kuzuha, “slosh it about in your mouth first, it’ll lessen the burning sensation,”

    “You’ve dealt with this before?” asked Satsuki.

    The matron nodded as she grabbed a crust of bread and offered it to Ryuuko.

    “Chew on it, it’ll clean out what the milk couldn’t get at,” she said.

    “If you’ve seen this before… Ryuuko, what the hell happened?” snapped Satsuki.

    “Five people from my math class didn’t like my swearing,” she replied between chews, “They poured Tabasco sauce into my face,”

    “It’s something of a tradition at this school for new students who run their mouths off to get hot sauced. It happened to me too when I was a student here,” said Kuzuha.

    “They…! They…!” spat Satsuki.

    Satsuki was positively livid. They’d done this to her sister? She’d be the first to grant that her little sister had a mouth about as clean as a public toilet when it came to language… but this…

    Her fists clenched in quivering rage.

    I’m going to kill them! I’m going to rip out their guts! They dared touch Ryuuko that way! She raged, I was meant to protect her! I was supposed to look after her! This happened on my watch! This is on me!

    A dark determination overcame her in an instant.

    I’m going to destroy them.

    “Don’t go off and do something stupid,” chastised Kuzuha.

    Satsuki whirled on her, “They tortured my sister!” she spat.

    “So what are you going to do?” asked Kuzuha, “fight against five other students?”

    “It’s not that many,” seethed Satsuki.

    “Please, just start punching yourself in the face, save us all the effort. You wouldn’t even get past the first idiot before they’d group up and crush you as easily as they did your sister,” dismissed Kuzuha.

    “So what are we supposed to do? If this is a tradition it’s not like the teachers are going to do anything about it!” spat Satsuki.

    “Could just get ‘em back,” said Ryuuko between mouthfuls of bread.

    “Get them back?” asked Satsuki, “You mean…”

    She smiled as Ryuuko’s train of thought made its way into her mind.

    Of course, it’s so simple… she mused.

    Satsuki had wanted to take the bullies and crush them by force, one by one. She’d wanted to see them beaten black and blue. She’d never considered simply giving the bastards a taste of their own medicine.

    “Fight smarter, not harder,” said Ryuuko with a controlled anger that impressed Satsuki.

    “I knew there was a reason I liked you two,” said Kuzuha.

    Ryuuko and Satsuki looked to their Matron warily.

    “Count me in,” she said.

    “But Matron… why?” asked Satsuki.

    “They did the same to me long ago. I’ve been a Matron for House Asahi for twenty years, and perhaps I’m simply sick and tired of seeing those in my care come home like this,” she inclined her head towards Ryuuko, “So. Count. Me. In.”

    Satsuki grinned with savage glee.

    We’re going to need a plan.

    ***

    It had been several days since the group of bullies had attacked Ryuuko. In spite of Matron Kuzuha’s care, the sores on her lips were only healing slowly, giving Ryuuko a thick lipped look that had attracted sniggering from some and sympathy from others.

    She’d been almost terminally quiet since the attack, refusing to speak unless forced to by the teacher, avoiding eye contact, and was forever looking over her shoulder, watching for hidden ambushes.

    In spite of their little plan cooked upon the embers of a dying rage, Ryuuko had in some way been irrevocably changed by the event. Gone was the invisible blanket of security that had once pervaded her actions. She was vulnerable now, and she knew it.

    Getting back at them is only the first step, she thought as she glared at the group sitting and laughing at their cafeteria table, I can’t let anything like this happen to me again.

    Satsuki ate her food furtively next to her. The two sisters seemed to occupy their own bubble of simmering furtiveness, one that drove others away. She continually cast hateful glares at the group responsible for her sisters suffering.

    Any time now, Matron, thought Satsuki.

    Exactly as planned, Kuzuha strode in flying the colours of rage. Satsuki grinned as the first phase of her set itself in motion. She called out each of the bullies by name. Assembled in front of her and away from their plates of food, Kuzuha began to lambast them for what had happened to Ryuuko.

    Seeing that they were distracted, Satsuki passed their own bottle of Tabasco sauce to Ryuuko and watched her lope to their table, trying her best to be utterly silent.

    The other students in the cafeteria watched two spectacles. The first was the calm and mildly mannered Kuzuha, long thought to be the most gentile of Matrons, positively losing it, while the other, more covert spectacle was of Ryuuko Matoi diligently and expertly adding Tabasco sauce to each tray of the bullies’ food.

    The entire cafeteria watched these twin spectacles with murmuring and conspiratorial whispers alike. Even the teacher on lunchroom duty was entirely distracted by the Matron’s escalating rant. Everyone else had rapidly put together what was about to happen… and nobody was willing to lift a finger to interfere. For them, this would be dinner and a show.

    Ryuuko was careful not to add the sauce where it would show up easily, even adding a small amount to their drinks, mixing it thoroughly. When she’d reached the fifth and final plate, before she could add any of the hot sauce to it, she felt a hand on her shoulder that practically drove her heart into her mouth.

    “Pass it here,” hissed Satsuki softly, proffering her hand for the bottle.

    Ryuuko passed it to her sister wordlessly, expecting her to want to add the condiment herself to at least one plate. It surprised her when instead of doing so; she instead opted to shove the almost empty bottle into the pocket of one of the boy’s discarded blazers. Before Ryuuko could question what her sister was playing at, she was already dragging her away from the table as quickly and as stealthily as possible.

    Mercifully, Kuzuha’s rant had become one of the main attractions, even prompting a few of the students to flip out their phones in spite of the school rules and record the raging Matron as she explicated the lacking moral fiber and the terrible example they were setting for others. While many students had seen their stealth operation, they’d already put two and two together. Most looked forward to a good prank, but a few looked on with wistful, hopeful eyes, much like Ryuuko now did from her own position in front of her meal, watching, waiting with baited breath as Kuzuha’s rant ended with the ‘punishment’ of helping the Matron’s with their washing or somesuch.

    Come on, fall for it, thought Ryuuko as the group returned to their meals, barely able to contain her excitement and adrenaline.

    As one they all resumed their meals, wolfing down the food at a pace necessary to clean their plates before the end of lunch. For a few fearful, dreadful moments, Ryuuko doubted that anything was even happening.

    And then one of them began to cough. Another began to hack as her face turned beet red. Ryuuko’s savage, gleeful grin grew alongside her sisters as she witnessed the sweetness of revenge unfolding before her. The group reached for their drinks to quell the heat, but Ryuuko’s sabotage hadn’t ended at their meals. Their tainted drinks only exacerbated the burning heat on their tongues. All of this happened around the one bewildered boy whose food hadn’t been tainted.

    Ryuuko might only want to get them back, mused Satsuki, But I want to destroy them utterly.

    The rest of the cafeteria was caught up in conspiratorial snickering laughter and suppressed delight as Satsuki watched her plan, hatched in the moment she’d seen Ryuuko hovering over their meals with the sauce, unfold before her. All but one of the bullies’ plates had been tainted with the hot condiment. It was only a matter of time until-

    “You bastard!” growled one of the bullies, glaring daggers at the only one of their group not suffering.

    The boy bewilderedly protested his innocence in the tone of voice that Satsuki had long come to recognise as the innocent pleading a hopeless case. The boy’s bewilderment at his situation turned to shock and outrage as the bulge in his blazer pocket was revealed to be the almost empty bottle of Tabasco sauce Ryuuko had used to sabotage their meals.

    The moment that bottle came into view Satsuki knew she had won. The group that had worked together so well against her little sister was now crumbling into a fracas that even the teacher on duty couldn’t ignore. Never again would they work together, never again would they be friends, and never again would they harm another student the way they’d harmed Ryuuko.

    We’ve won! Exulted Satsuki with glee, Everything went exactly as planned!

    ***
    Hey Dad, it’s Ryuuko. Just wondering how you’ve been. It’s been a month now… guess you must’ve been really busy with work huh? I hope you’re getting enough sleep and food. Anyway, we’ve been really busy lately. School’s pretty hectic you know? Things actually got a bit exciting a couple weeks back. Had some trouble with a group of bullies… you remember that advice you gave us way back? Fight smarter, not harder? Came in really handy. Satsuki’s a mastermind… are you sure she’s part of the family? I swear she’s like a princess sometimes. Anyway, we’re missing you. There’s a cultural festival on in a few weeks. It starts on the eighth… I really hope you can be there. Gotta go Dad. Love you lots.

    -***-

    Satsuki’s week had been hectic. The preparations for the autumn cultural festival had utterly consumed her classroom and they’d dragged her, kicking and screaming, along with them. Even after the work was ostensibly over and Satsuki could theoretically have just retreated to a quiet corner to read a book, they’d somehow managed to rope her into manning the stall alongside the most intolerable person in the world.

    “Thank you so much for your business! It means the world to me!” smiled the cloying, saccharine sweetness that was Sonoda Yuki, Queen of Class 2-C, ruler of the boys throbbing hearts and parts beyond.

    Satsuki had rolled her eyes so frequently and so hard at every personalized send off that she swore she’d torn a muscle. It didn’t help matters that there was something of a competition to raise money and a tally to keep count. As of right now, Sonoda was winning handily, as Satsuki had yet to attract a single customer. The line for Sonoda’s sweet smile, false affectations and queenly good looks had earned her a line that stretched around the corner while Satsuki sat next to her, ignored by everyone.

    At least I get to slack off though, thought Satsuki, And it shows that all the boys here think with their pants. Damned pigs in human clothing…

    Her thoughts devolved to indiscriminate grumbling and glowering. The fact that Father hadn’t shown up was yet more salt in the wound. She’d been looking forward to-

    “Hey, how much for this?”

    Satsuki snapped out of her funk and beheld that a short, pink haired girl had asked her a question in what had to be the most uncouth accent she’d heard of besides her sister.

    “Uh, five hundred yen,” she managed once she’d collected her thoughts.

    The pinkette handed over a collection of coins, “Must be tough having to compete with little miss perfect over there,” she inclined her head in Sonoda’s direction.

    Satsuki rolled her eyes but winced internally as her overused eyerolling muscles protested.

    “I couldn’t possibly care less,” sighed Satsuki.

    “Oh? What would you rather be doing?” asked the pinkette.

    “Anything but this,” growled Satsuki.

    “So… why don’t you just take off? It’s not like they can force you to stay here,” she said.

    She’s right. Screw this. It’s not like I’m being paid to sit on my ass and do nothing, agreed Satsuki.

    “Why don’t I?” asked Satsuki rhetorically and rose to leave, only to find a hand restraining her.

    “Darling you couldn’t possibly leave just yet!” Sonoda gushed with cloying sweetness, “Why it’s almost the rush hour!”

    Satsuki resisted the urge to slap the girls hand off and shove her away.

    “I’m going on break,” she said.

    Forever, she thought.

    “I do get those, don’t I?” she finished.

    “Well, just be back before lunch because the show must go on!” cloyed Sonoda.

    Satsuki heard the pinkette quip something to Sonoda but didn’t have the patience to catch it fully, she only registered that it was laced with venom. If she hadn’t resolved herself to get the hell away from that damned stall she’d honestly want to get to know the pinkette better.

    It was in her furtive rush to get away that she crashed into a boy, sending takoyaki flying everywhere.

    “Oi! Watch where the hell you’re going ya silly oaf! This jacket cost more than you Pov’s could afford and… and…”

    The boy trailed off under Satsuki’s glare. He had a gangly face, shock of orange hair, expensive clothes, a golden yen necklace hanging from his neck, and gold laced bracers lining his mouth. He was easily the strangest boy Satsuki had ever seen on campus.

    You bumped into me,” hissed Satsuki, before picking herself up and stalking off.

    ***
    Kaneo Takarada had been having the most wonderful time. He’d visited one of his schools partners outside of Osaka, checked up on a friend that had been an exchange student there, had been enjoying the feeling of flaunting his wealth in front of all the Pov’s in attendance, had exulted in the ‘kyaaaa’s that it had elicited in all the girls and had even found some edible takoyaki amongst all the stalls when he’d bumped into a freight train.

    “Oi! Watch where the hell you’re going ya silly oaf! This jacket cost more than you Pov’s could afford and… and…” Takarada trailed off as he beheld the girl… no, the woman before him.

    Her straight black hair extended past her shoulders. She carried an irritated, almost angry look that still held the ‘O’ of surprise at being smacked into. Her eyes were a deep, dark blue, she was notably taller than most of the other girls, and possessed a beauty far surpassing her status of a Pov.

    You bumped into me,” she hissed and immediately picked herself up.

    This by far was the most attractive thing about her. She’d looked him up and down as surely as he had. She’d surely assessed his wealth to be greater by far than hers… and she was not only unimpressed by it, she was actively belligerent towards him.

    I can have anyone I want but I can’t have her… he thought, his heart aflutter.

    He scrabbled back up, composed himself quickly, and gave chase to the raven haired beauty.

    “Oi! Hey! Wait up! Look, I’m sorry about bumpin’ into ya, okay?” apologised Takarada.

    “Be sorry elsewhere, I’m not in the mood,” she glowered.

    Takarada’s heart thumped faster. Having more money than god meant that he could possess anything and anyone. To see someone or something he couldn’t possess gave rise to a burning desire to make it his own… but there was more than mere desire in Takarada’s heart.

    “Oi, hold on, do you have any idea who I am?” he protested.

    “You could be the Prime Minister of Japan for all I care,” she growled, “All I know is you’re annoying.”

    Every girl Takarada had known had in one way or another, either directly or indirectly, subtly or unsubtly, offered themselves to him, knowing full well that they’d be aiming for the Takarada fortune. Here was a woman who not only didn’t seem to give a damn about wealth, but didn’t even know who Takarada was.

    That fired him up. He wanted to get to know her. He wanted to explore the fascinating woman that was this raven haired beauty. He wanted to hear her honesty, her blaze attitude, and her outright dismissals. She was everything his heart wanted in a woman and it sent shivers of excitement into his limbs, butterflies into his belly and sparks into his mind.

    “Okay, okay, now’s a bad time eh?” he asked rhetorically, earning a glare in return, “Yep, now’s definitely a bad time, ‘ow about later then, eh?”

    “Will you promise to go away and leave me alone if I meet with you later?” she asked exasperatedly.

    “Yes,” answered Takarada.

    “Fine,” sighed Satsuki, making a face of supreme regret.

    “How’s around three sound? Behind the gym?” said Takarada as his heart pounded faster and faster in anticipation.

    “Three behind the gym. Fine. Can I go now?” groused Satsuki.

    “Y-yeah, sure…” said Takarada, letting her stalk off irritably.

    Nice legs too, he noted, flushing when he noticed he’d been checking her out.

    Takarada distracted himself by searching out the stall that sold the edible takoyaki to replace his dropped and ruined set, but as he made his way there, he couldn’t keep the spring out of his step. By the time he was anywhere near the takoyaki stand, he was positively dancing up and down the school hallways, not caring a whit about what anyone thought. The world was noticeably brighter, everywhere he looked he saw joy and happiness, and the tingling feeling all throughout his body elicited the largest grin he’d worn for a long time.

    You’re in love, mused a sane and rational corner of his mind, God help you Kaneo Takarada, you’re in love!

    -***-
    Satsuki’s mood had gone from angry and irritable to wistful and lonely in the span of a few hours. She hadn’t understood why that gangly boy had been so keen on meeting at the back of the gym… it was practically the most secluded part of the school during the cultural festival.

    Still. With Ryuuko being pressed into assisting the cooks for her classes’ maid café she wasn’t entirely spoiled for company.

    I pity the poor souls who eat her cooking, she mused, I think she managed to burn water that one time…

    She gave a small grin at the memory as she slowly wandered her way to the back of the gym. She was a little early but beyond avoiding the stall they’d tried to chain her to, Satsuki had nothing better to do than see what the boy wanted.

    She was approaching the front of the gym when she saw Sonoda Yuki and another person she didn’t recognise striding towards her. There was something in their eyes, the set of their jaws, and the way they were walking that tripped an internal alarm in Satsuki. She turned to leave, only to find two more girls she didn’t recognise cutting off her retreat.

    Do or die, Satsuki, she thought as her body pumped with adrenaline for flight.

    “Get her!” shouted Sonoda the moment Satsuki broke her stride.

    The group rushed in. Satsuki tried to run but was immediately cut off. She changed directions only to be cut off again. Seeing exactly where this was going, she tried to barrel through one of the girls. Instead of giving way, her opponent simply hooked her arm and caught her by the chest, using Satsuki’s own momentum against her to throw off her balance, and with a resounding thud she slammed into the dirt.

    “Guh!” spat Satsuki as her opponents pinned her.

    “Oh, hi Slutsuki,” said Sonoda with all her saccharine false innocence as she looked right down her nose at the girl.

    “What the fuck is going on?” asked Satsuki incredulously.

    “You really are a stupid bitch, aren’t you, Slutsuki?” sneered Sonoda.

    “It’s Satsuki you pretentious whore!” spat Satsuki.

    Sonoda merely smirked at that.

    “Give her some beauty tips girls, and make sure to stash her somewhere safe,” said Sonoda before stalking off.

    Satsuki didn’t have the presence of mind to figure out what Sonoda had meant by ‘beauty tips’ until a girls fist smashed right into her face.

    Screw this shit! She seethed.

    Satsuki writhed with rage and fury as fists and feet punched and kicked into her. She wrenched an arm free and vaulted herself up onto one of her captors, biting down hard on her shoulder.

    “AAAAH! Fuck! She’s biting me! Shit! Shit!” swore her victim wailed at Satsuki’s ribs, “Get her off! Fuck, get her off!”

    Satsuki only bit down harder, heedless of the attempts to wrench her off the other girl, until the satiating taste of blood washed over her tongue. She let go and spat the mixture of spit and blood into her victims face.

    “You fucker!” yelled one of her other opponents as she cracked her fist in Satsuki’s face repeatedly.

    Satsuki took seven blows to the face before her head finally smacked into the ground with a cringe inducing crack. Her opponent had already drawn her fist back for another round when her other partner stopped her.

    “Hold up, she looks out of it,” said the girl that had been kicking her.

    The girl that had been wailing on Satsuki pulled her up by the shirt and assessed Satsuki’s slack jaw and unfocused eyes. She rammed a knee into her gut for good measure and then shoved her face in point blank.

    “Don’t fucking bite!” she roared.

    The small part of Satsuki’s mind that was still aware and barely lucid laughed at the sheer irony of that.

    “She fuckin’ drew blood!” cried the girl Satsuki had bitten.

    “I say we have a little fun with her then,” said the girl with the mean fists.

    “Wait, what are you-” the girl that had been kicking Satsuki began but stopped immediately when she saw the camera phone come out, “Whoah, wait, what the fuck?”

    “You know how Sonoda always calls her Slutsuki. So why not?” sneered the girl with the mean fists, “Fucking whore deserves it for what she did to Kaijura,”

    “No, no, for fucks sake you always take this shit way too far! Let’s just chuck her in the equipment shed and be done with it!” hissed the girl who’d kicked her.

    Seeing no support from her peer, the punching girl turned to the one called Kaijura.

    “Up to you, Kaj, reckon we should show this school what a slut this bitch is?”

    “I don’t fucking care, I gotta get this shoulder looked at!” wailed Kaijura.

    “Pansy,” muttered the punching girl.

    “It’s you against me. If you’re dead set on this Kuri, we’re not friends anymore,” said the girl that had kicked Satsuki with a threat that implied more than a broken friendship.

    The two stared each other down for a tense moment. Even Kaijura had stopped nursing her shoulder to watch the tension unfold. It was only when Satsuki moaned that the two broke out of their staring contest.

    “Shit. Shit! Fine! Let’s just throw her in the equipment shed already! Fuck!”

    Satsuki felt herself being dragged along the ground. The world spun lazily and incoherently around her as she tried to collect her wits but couldn’t for the life of her focus. Before she could figure out what was happening, she found herself in a dark room and heard the sound of a heavy lock being drawn into place.

    “Fuck!” she heard, the words muffled by the door, “We should have shaved her damn eyebrows off!”

    “Will you knock it off already!”

    She didn’t know how long she just lay there uncomprehendingly. Eventually, some mental part of her reconnected to her body and felt the flood of screaming pain, bringing Satsuki back to the world in a wail of bitterness, pain, and the ashen sting of defeat.

    ***
    Almost late! Phew! Breathed Takarada as he bounced a bouquet of blue roses he’d had specially brought in for… for…

    He swallowed as he paced back and forth. His every limb was tingling with anticipation. He checked his hair for the umpteenth time. He danced from one foot to the other as his heart went aflutter with the torturous feeling he was experiencing.

    I’m gonna do it, he said, I’m gonna confess my love her… damn, what the hell is wrong with me?

    He hadn’t felt this giddy since he’d made his first million yen. Hell, he hadn’t even felt this way when he’d made his first ten million yen.

    Wait, how exactly am I going to phrase this? He thought with sudden dread.

    He almost dropped the flowers with shock.

    Shit! Shit! I gotta get this part right! ‘I love you!’ is too direct! She’ll freak out if I do that! Maybe if I asked her out on a date? But she goes to this damn Pov school, the long distance wouldn’t work. Maybe I could transfer here? Ha! Yeah, right, Dad would lose his shit. Gotta think, Kaneo, keep it cool. Money won’t work, she flat out doesn’t care about it. And she’s too good for money anyway. Gotta think. She definitely needs romance. Hell yes, romance, that’s the trick. Girls love that stuff, right? All that ‘Romeo, Romeo!’ stuff… she’s hotter than Juliet anyway. But she’s not just any other girl! No! Not a girl! A woman! A proper woman! She’s perfect damnit! How do I know anything like that will even work!? Ah crap, calm down, calm down. Breathe man, just breathe. Okay. Look, no matter what, it’s gotta be honest, from the heart, and with real effort. I’m not trying to trick her into liking me, I want her to actually like me, and for that she needs to get the chance to know me and for me to know her and then maybe just maybe we could hit it off and get married and have a dozen kids and a white picket mansion…

    It was in the midst of his daydream that the words came to him.

    O’ flowered love of love’s delight,
    Give unto me, but a single night,
    Render that which is unto fate,
    And render me, but one nights date.


    Takarada blinked, thunderstruck by the revelatory words.

    They’re perfect! Gotta write that down! Holy crap they’re perfect!

    It was as he was fishing for a pen that he heard the scuff of gravel nearby.

    She’s here! Shit! She’s here already and- the thought stopped dead at the sight of a reasonably pretty girl approaching him... hadn’t she been sitting next to the girl that had captured his heart so thoroughly?

    “Hi, are you Takarada-kun?” asked the girl, “I’m here for my friend, Satsuki, she says she’s flattered but… look, I’m sorry.”

    Takarada was very, very still. He felt his vision tunneling and a sting forming in his eyes. He felt like he’d been hit by two freight trains that had collided into one another.

    “Oh…” he said, barely comprehending what she was saying.

    “But I was thinking… maybe we could go enjoy the rest of the festival together? I know a stand that sells some really good spring rolls and…”

    Takarada didn’t even hear the girl babbling on. His entire body bristled as his heart thundered in his chest. A yawning sting in his throat rose up as his feet and limbs felt as though they’d turned to lead.

    “I… uh… I have to… go…” he said numbly, walking by a stunned Sonoda Yuki.

    I was such an idiot, he thought as an unrepressed tear streamed from his eye, I was so fucking stupid!

    He tried to suppress the tears. He tried to keep down the lump of shame and embarrassment that had formed in his throat. He tried to stop the racking sobs that threatened to explode from him. He tried… but he failed. They exploded in a chorus of anguish and an overture of heartbreak.

    He took one last tearstained look at the bouquet of blue roses he still held in his hand, wondered briefly if he would ever feel love again, and bitterly, threw them into to trash.

    -***-
    Satsuki Matoi had only endured a few hours alone in the equipment shed before it had been unlocked. She sat in the nurses office, now patched up and on a mild dose of painkillers.

    “We’ve done everything we can,” said the deputy principal, “Those girls will be punished by their respective schools,”

    “What about Sonoda?” asked Satsuki as she nursed her still aching jaw and cheek with yet another icepack.

    “It’s your word against hers I’m afraid, she says she was at her stall and we have dozens of people who vouch for her,” he replied.

    “Are they all boys?” she asked rhetorically.

    “Your sister had to be placed in the time out room for attacking Miss Yuki,” he said, changing the subject.

    Oh shit. Thought Satsuki.

    “Fortunately Miss Yuki was quite good at running and was able to get to safety, I trust that as her older sister you’ll be taking responsibility for her unacceptable behaviour?”

    “Yes sir,” she replied.

    Satsuki grinned at the thought of Sonoda Yuki running from Ryuuko.

    Hopefully shitting her pants the entire way, she mused.

    In truth, she was actually glad that Ryuuko hadn’t actually harmed Sonoda. One scratch would have sent half the school baying for their blood and the other half into the stands to watch them get ripped to shreds.

    I have to make it up to her. Maybe I can convince Matron that I need a double helping of icecream… she mused.

    ***
    “’Nee-san!” cried Ryuuko, throwing a massive bear hug around Satsuki the moment she entered their dorm room.

    “Ow! Ryuuko! It still stings!” hissed Satsuki.

    Ryuuko flinched, “Ah, sorry,” she said sheepishly, looking her sister up and down, examining her battle scars, “They really fucked you up, huh?”

    “Could have been worse,” said Satsuki, hissing in suppressed pain as she gently sat herself down on her bed, “One of them kept the other two from going too far.”

    “What were you even doing heading to the gym anyway?” asked Ryuuko, “There was nothing there for the cultural festival.”

    “A… a boy asked me to uh… meet behind the gym,” said Satsuki, blushing at the way it sounded as it came out.

    “Ehhh? A boy? Interested in nee-san eh?” Ryuuko leered, “Was he cute?”

    “Doesn’t really matter. He set me up.” Said Satsuki.

    “What.”

    “He was probably working with Sonoda but… why? That’s not her style,”

    “That fucking bitch can run,” said Ryuuko, “Would’ve caught her if the teachers hadn’t gotten in the way.”

    “That was a good thing, Ryuuko, she’s way too popular to just bash up,” warned Satsuki.

    “See how popular she is when I break that fake nose of hers,” she seethed.

    “Just leave her to me,” said Satsuki, “I’ll figure something out eventually. Still, I wish I could have seen the look on her face when she saw you coming after her.”

    “She was all like ‘aaaahhhh!’” said Ryuuko, imitating a terrified expression, “And I was like ‘DIE BITCH!’” she gave a snarling rage-filled look, complete with slashing motions.

    Satsuki tried to suppress giggling at her sisters antics. It hurt to laugh.

    Still… that wasn’t like Sonoda’s usual style. She likes using words, not fists, she thought, The boy maybe? But we only bumped into each other and sure, I was a bit rude, but bashing someone over that? It doesn’t fit.

    “Nee-san, nee-san,” said Ryuuko, noticing her sisters’ attention had been drifting, “Look at me, I’m a slug!”

    Ryuuko stuck her hands firmly by her sides and began to undulate on the mattress towards her sister, making an ‘ololololololololo!’ sound that Ryuuko used to indicate slugs.

    “I said stop it, you’re making me laugh and it hurts to laugh,” said Satsuki between fits of giggles.

    Ryuuko hasn’t played slug for years, she thought, the last time she did I had the flu…

    Satsuki appreciated what her sister was trying to do for her. The two of them always supported each other when the going got rough. Even if she was the older sister, even if she was meant to be the responsible one, it felt good that she could rely on her younger sibling for love and support when she needed it most.

    Then matron Kuzuha entered their dorm carrying a tray and Satsuki realised that what she needed right now more than anything wasn’t love and support, it was ice cream.

    “I have vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, take your pick,” said Kuzuha.

    “I’ll take strawberry!” shouted Ryuuko, swiping the bowl of pink ice cream and its attendant spoon.

    “I brought these for your sister,” said Kuzuha with mock terseness, “The one who’s injured, remember?”

    “Can’t talk, ice cream!” said Ryuuko as she dug in.

    “Vanilla, please,” asked Satsuki politely.

    “Are you sure about that?” Kuzuha asked as she passed the bowl of plain white ice cream to Satsuki while taking the chocolate for herself, “I always find it a bit bland,”

    “I like vanilla, it’s the finest of the flavours,” said Satsuki.

    “Care to back that claim?” asked Kuzuha before sighing in chocolate ecstasy.

    Satsuki let the vanilla ice cream melt in her mouth, letting the flavour penetrate her tongue before swallowing the partially melted ice cream.

    “The flavour is subtle, yet bold, it is sweet, smooth, and has a wondrous aroma. It is pure in its simplicity, elegant, difficult to get right, and so easy to get wrong. At its worst it is just another flavour, ho hum, but at its best, it stands far and above its brethren,” said Satsuki thoughtfully.

    Kuzuha sat still for a moment and then applauded softly, “When you put it that way…” she trailed off, suddenly desiring vanilla instead of chocolate but was unwilling to deprive Satsuki of her claimed bowl.

    “Strawberry is best because strawberries!” claimed Ryuuko before boldly putting shoveling in an entire tablespoon of ice cream.

    “Ryuuko, you’ll get a-”

    “Agggghhhh!” groaned Ryuuko, interrupting her sisters warning as an ice cream headache struck.

    “You never learn, do you?” said Satsuki.

    “I do learn, I just don’t care,” said Ryuuko as she went back to smaller spoonfuls.

    Typical imouto, Satsuki thought as her spoon dove into her bowl for another nourishing scoop of ice cream… only to find none left.

    Plinking her spoon to confirm the bowls emptiness, Satsuki turned towards Kuzuha with a pleading look.

    “Please miss, can I have some more?” she asked.

    “More?!” hissed Kuzuha with mock outrage.

    “More,” said Satsuki, passing her bowl to the matron.

    “More it is,” said the matron and left get just that.

    “She’s spoiling us, you know?” said Ryuuko.

    “Hush now, only ice cream,” said Satsuki.

    Kuzuha returned a few minutes later with three fresh bowls, two vanillas and one strawberry.

    “Thanks mum,” said Satsuki as she accepted her bowl.

    Wait. Mum? Shit! Satsuki cringed and turned beet red.

    “I mean, matron! Kuzuha! Guh,” flustered Satsuki.

    “Its fine, most people wind up calling me mum sooner or later,” she said, “I’m not as strict about being called matron as the others.”

    She was about to get started on her vanilla when she noticed the two girls were looking down from the previous high.

    “Really, it wasn’t that bad, you’re not in trouble!” assured Kuzuha.

    “It’s not that,” said Ryuuko, “It’s just that-”

    “We never met our mother,” said Satsuki softly.

    “Oh...” said Kuzuha sympathetically, “I’m sorry.”

    “Dad never talks about her. I kinda wonder what she was like sometimes,” said Ryuuko.

    “Or what happened,” said Satsuki, “Is she alive? Is she dead? Did mum and dad divorce? Are they separated?”

    “Not even a picture?” asked Kuzuha.

    The girls shook their heads in unison. Of all the subjects their father had discussed with them over the years, from the way of the world, to boys and to fights, there was no subject that was off limits, save for his work and their mother.

    “I figure I’ve got her hair,” said Ryuuko, flopping her signature red bang for effect.

    “And I’m positive I talk like her, it’s the only thing that explains how we can grow up in the same household and sound so different,”

    “Do you often think about your mother?” asked Kuzuha.

    “Not really, no,” said Satsuki, “It’s just that sometimes… I wish… I wish I could have known her, felt her love, you know? Maybe if she was still around Dad wouldn’t be so… so…”

    Satsuki couldn’t finish the sentence. Her eyes stung with imminent tears. This was a sore point for both Satsuki and Ryuuko, but moreso for Satsuki, who had felt more acutely the absence of a mother’s love… and then she felt a pair of arms wrapping around her.

    “M-Matron!” gasped Satsuki in surprise.

    Kuzuha’s job always called for a professional distance between herself and her wards. There was an arbitrary closeness that denoted a Matronly relationship with their ward, and there was an arbitrary closeness that denoted a Motherly relationship. It was important not to get too close so that the students could still relate to their families when and not if they went home. But just because Kuzuha had become a Matron did not mean that she had stopped being human. Unlike some of her peers, sometimes, when her wards needed it most, Kuzuha would cross that line, as she had with Satsuki.

    “Just, just pretend, just for a little while,” she said softly.

    Satsuki relaxed her beaten body into the hug, shuffling aside to allow Ryuuko to join her. For the first time in her life she felt it, even if it was only from a surrogate, even if the woman hugging her wasn’t truly her mother, for the first time, she felt a mother’s love for her daughter.

    It feels warm, she thought.

    -***-
    Hey Dad. It’s been a while, huh? I got in a fight a few days ago… I lost… hurts like hell but I’ll get over it. Ryuuko was pissed though, she wanted to tear the face off the girls responsible. We’re missing you. What kept you from coming to the cultural festival anyway? I was really looking forward to that. Oh well. You can make it up to me when Christmas rolls around… you shouldn’t be working then, right? …come to think of it, what do you do for a living? You never really talked about that. I’m… I’m actually a bit curious about mum too… you never talked about her either. Look, I’m worried about you. All this time and no word? Not even a letter? We’re your daughters. You said that we could talk to you about anything. I want to return the favour, Dad, you can talk to us about your work, you can talk to us about mum. We won’t judge. Whatever it is, whatever happened between you two, it can’t be that bad, can it? My time’s nearly up. Call us? At least write to us. I love you, Dad, bye.

    ***

    “Hey Slutsuki, nice bruises,” teased yet another girl.

    Ignorant bitches, all of them, seethed Satsuki as she grit her teeth and bore with it.

    It had been over a week since the cultural festival, and Satsuki was still recovering from her bashing. In the midst of it though, the nickname Sonoda had applied to her had spread like wildfire amongst the students. The only reason she could think of as to why was as a way of getting back at Ryuuko indirectly for trying to rip her face off immediately after her ordeal.

    Or it could be hate, she mused idly as yet more snickering found its way to her ears, good old fashioned hate.

    She hadn’t tried to deny being a slut in spite of Ryuuko’s urgings and her own natural desire to set people straight. She’d seen what became of those who tried. The more you protested your innocence, the more you tried to show that you weren’t a slut, the more people would throw the name at you, the more of a slut you became in other peoples eyes.

    Like trying to polish a turd, she thought, the more you try to wipe it away, the more you wind up smearing it on yourself.

    And so she had endured. And endured. And endured. She endured the sexual taunts. She endured the subtle and not so subtle innuendo that people threw at her and the obvious changes in behaviour whenever she entered a room. She endured the pathetic come-ons, the kind intended to shame her rather than express any real interest, both by boys and the odd girl. She even endured it when one of her teachers had slipped up and called her Slutsuki by accident.

    But Satsuki was human like any other. Every word and slight that she endured went into a vast reservoir of hate and anger… a reservoir that was fast approaching full.

    “Hey Slutsuki!” shouted a boy in a rowdy group as it passed Satsuki, “Suck my dick!”

    The group jeered and cheered the offender as the anger Satsuki Matoi had carefully bottled away exploded in a flash. Before thought could form, before sight could see, her cup ranneth over with hate and rage, and she struck the offending boy with a right hook to the neck so hard and so fast that he toppled over in a heap.

    Satsuki breathed heavily and deep, more out of raw unmitigated rage than any sense of tiredness. Her fists trembled with adrenaline surging into her system.

    “Get her!” shouted one of the boys.

    Satsuki was livid with anger, but she wasn’t in the least bit stupid. Alone against almost a dozen boys, her mind didn’t even so much as need to run the calculus to know that “Run like hell” was a far better option than “Fight to the death”.

    Shit. Shit! Shitshitshitshitshitshitshit! Thought Satsuki as she tore down the hall, What the fuck was I thinking?

    She came to a stairwell and leaped half the flight of stairs in one go, vaulted around the corner and took the remaining half to drop down a whole floor in a few seconds. She ran from A-Block, the building she’d had classes in, and raced towards an adjacent building, hoping to get out of sight as soon as possible and lose-

    “She’s headed to C-Block! Get her!” she heard her pursuers shout.

    Fuck! She swore internally.

    She changed directions and ran towards the library, leaping a wooden barrier in one fluid swoop that others would have considered her mad for even attempting at that speed. Her legs carried her at a pace far greater than any of her sports instructors could credit her for, whatever internal reserves and safeties that normally applied no longer did as her body prepared itself for survival, not for performance.

    Satsuki tore past the library and rounded a left at the corner leading her on a path that lay between the library and D-block, where the senior years held their classes.

    “Get her!” yelled a new group of boys coming from behind the library.

    Shit! Of all the boys I had to punch it had to be Takamori!

    Had she not been running she would have slammed her head against a brick wall for her own stupidity. If Sonoda had been the schools queen, Takamori was arguably its king. Pretty, popular, personable and rich, it was often argued that the only girls that didn’t want a piece of Takamori either wanted the whole thing or were hardcore lesbians.

    She pulled a hard right towards E block and the gym as dozens of people tore after her, baying for her blood. She rounded the corner of E block and turned another hard right, gunning it the entire way, crossing the entire distance in thirty seconds flat to run right by the flat footed oafs who had tried to cut her off.

    “Shit! She’s fast!” yelled one of the group as they kept up the chase.

    Satsuki gunned it towards the science building and rounded the far corner, intent on getting out of sight of the dozens that were chasing her down so she could hide and catch her breath.

    “Gotcha now, bitch!” yelled a group that interposed itself between Satsuki and escape.

    Satsuki didn’t even slow down. She barreled right through the group of boys using her sheer speed and momentum to the fullest. Someone grabbed onto her uniform, she heard it tear, but the boy lost his grip and she was free.

    She tore into the cafeteria, dodging the slow and dawdling students going about their lunches with the speed of a madman and saw Ryuuko settling down for lunch. In one flash of movement, Satsuki had grabbed Ryuuko by the arm and practically dislocated it dragging her sister after her.

    “Nee-san? What’s going on!?” asked Ryuuko incredulously.

    “RUN!” she yelled to her sister.

    Ryuuko looked back just as a horde of boys and girls came crashing in.

    “Shit! What did you do?!” asked Ryuuko as she matched the brutal pace her sister was setting.

    “I was stupid, okay?” panted Satsuki as they blitzed out of the cafeteria and towards G-Block.

    “Please tell me you have a brilliant plan for dealing with all the people after us,” panted Ryuuko.

    “Run. Hide. Fight,” summed up Satsuki.

    “Brilliant,” groused Ryuuko as they cut through G-Block.

    The moment they emerged on the other side Satsuki saw their salvation. Across the pair of netball courts lay, M-Block where the music rooms were housed. Given the number of buildings between them and their pursuers, Satsuki deduced they could hide there and hopefully lose all the people after them.

    “Come on,” panted Satsuki as she grabbed Ryuuko’s arm and ran towards their salvation.

    The two of them ran up the ramp, thrust open the doors and barged into the small foyer of the music block. As Satsuki turned to close the doors behind them, she saw her pursuers catching up. Hissing with annoyance, she slammed the doors shut and ushered Ryuuko deeper inside, hoping that they hadn’t noticed her attempts to hide.

    “Ararara,” leered an uncouth sounding, short, pink haired girl, “Look at what the cat dragged in.”

    -***-
    “You two are the talk of the town,” said the pinkette as she dangled her phone in front of the two.

    A chatroom updated rapidly in front of them with the subject of the day as “Kill the Bitches” that constantly ferried updates on the chase and instructions for various groups.

    They’re surprisingly organised… mused Satsuki, noting names like Lookout12 and RedLeader115 in the flurry of activity.

    She judged by the look of it that they’d already tracked the both of them to the music block already.

    Crap, thought Satsuki as the girl drew her phone back and started tapping at it.

    “What are you typing?” asked Ryuuko.

    “Just telling them I’ll handle you two,” she said nonchalantly.

    “You… what?” asked Satsuki.

    “You’re on my turf now,” grinned the pinkette, “I’m Nonon Jakuzure. I own the music block,”

    “By own you mean-” began Ryuuko.

    “No,” cut off Nonon, “I mean own, bought and paid for by me, because what they had before was utterly atrocious.”

    “How rich are you?” asked Satsuki, casting a look at the odd looking walls no doubt shaped for perfect acoustics.

    “Rich enough to set the school on fire, piss on the ashes and still have the school officials kiss my ass,” she said with a smirk.

    “I like the way you think,” grinned Ryuuko at the thought of the school burning in flames.

    Satsuki shot her little sister a half-hearted disapproving look. Personally she agreed, but it was best to steer her sister away from being a deranged maniac wherever possible.

    “And I like your style. Your work with the hot sauce group was hilarious,” said Nonon, “and putting that bitch in cows clothing Sonoda in her place was golden.”

    Satsuki smiled. For the first time in a while things were looking up.

    Jakuzure doesn’t seem to have a pole permanently wedged into the depths of her ass. With any luck we can-

    “Satsuki Matoi,” said a boy’s voice.

    I just had to go and get positive, didn’t I? she scolded herself and turned to face the music.

    The boy was tall, unusually so, and fairly well built. Judging by his height, his build, and his confident leer, Satsuki reckoned that he could snap her in half unless she fought dirty.

    “What do you want Kunikida, music’s a bit highbrow for you, isn’t it?” snarked Nonon.

    “Stay out of it rich girl,” said Kunikida, “I just want these two ladies to step outside and have a nice little chat,”

    “We weren’t born yesterday, you know,” said Ryuuko sarcastically.

    “Besides, you don’t need fifty people to ‘have a chat’,” added Satsuki, “Seriously, how dumb do you think we are?”

    “Dumb enough to punch Takamori?” replied Kunikida.

    Nonon smirked and suppressed a guffaw.

    “Walked right into that one, nee-san,” said Ryuuko with a half grin.

    “We’re not going out while you and your goons are out there,” declared Satsuki.

    “Chicken shit,” spat Kunkida.

    “Says the asshole that needs forty people to take on two girls,” teased Ryuuko.

    Kunikida was about to retort when his phone rang.

    “Yeah?” he said, putting the phone to his ear and turning away from the threesome.

    Satsuki, Ryuuko and Nonon exchanged glances and shrugged in turn, politely waiting for Kunikida to finish with his phone call.

    “Yeah, they’re right here,” he said, “No I… yeah, but… You can’t be…!”

    He cast the three a hateful glare before getting back to his conversation.

    “Fine. Fine!” he said, “Yes, okay… no, I can handle it… of course! No, I’ll be fine. I will. Okay. Bye.”

    “Trouble with your boyfriend?” asked Ryuuko.

    “Yeah, he- I MEAN NO!” flustered Kunikida.

    All three girls traded a quick round of glances at this as they tried to figure out who the seme and who the uke was.

    “It’s okay,” teased Nonon, “We won’t tell anyone about your special feelings, towards Takamori.”

    “Shut up. It’s not like that,” denied Kunikida, reddening further.

    “So romantic,” jeered Satsuki, happy at having the tables turned.

    “Takamori called us off,” said Kunikida, furtively averting his gaze from the girls, “He promises you’ll be safe and none of his people will touch you.”

    With that he retreated, leaving the three without so much as looking back.

    “Well, that went better than expected,” said Ryuuko, “I swear we were this close to the ass end of an ass kicking.”

    “Thank you, Jakuzure-san,” said Satsuki, bowing deeply, “If you hadn’t helped us out…” she trailed off, leaving the sentence and the thought unfinished.

    “Ah quit it with the respect bullshit,” said Nonon, “I like it better when you dare to be stupid,”

    Satsuki was about to ask what the hell she was talking about when Nonon’s phone rang.

    “What,” answered Nonon flatly, pausing to let the person on the other end respond, “Yeah well fuck you too.”

    She handed the phone over to Satsuki, “It’s for you.”

    Satsuki put the phone to her ear, “Hello?”

    “Satsuki Matoi?” asked the boy on the other end, “Takamori Kikuchi at your service. I believe you punched me in the neck not long ago?”

    I can’t tell if he’s being polite or sarcastic, mused Satsuki.

    “I seem to recall something like that happening,” replied Satsuki, deciding to split the difference.

    “You’ve got a mean right hook,” replied Takamori, “But surprise won’t always be on your side. Next time go in low for an uppercut so you don’t compromise your defenses,”

    “I… what?” asked Satsuki, confused that the person she’d decked was giving her advice.

    “I’m sorry about the others chasing you,” continued Takamori, heedless of Satsuki’s growing consternation and confusion, “I’m afraid my fanclub can get a bit… enthusiastic at times. The word to lay off is still getting out, so I’d hole up in the music block until lunch finishes,”

    “Uh… yeah…” said Satsuki, her mind tying itself in knots trying to decipher how she’d wound up in the twilight zone.

    “Anyway, sorry for all the trouble. I’ll be seeing you around, I’m sure of it, oh, and say hello to your cute sister for me, will you?” he said before hanging up.

    What? What. What!? Flustered Satsuki as she tried to register all the different ways Takamori had destroyed her brain, including hitting on her sister.

    ***
    Takamori Kikuchi grinned as he hung up on Satsuki Matoi, confident in his ability to throw just about anyone off their game. He was about to slide his phone back into his pocket when he felt it vibrate. Frowning, he answered.

    “Hello? Ah, it’s you… you heard about that huh… Nah, nah I’m fine, all a big misunderstanding really. You what? No. No, that’s not necessary. No! I’m cool with them, okay? It really isn’t necess- Are you sure? Do you really have to? Well, yeah, but they’re having a bit of a rough time and… no, no, I understand. Yeah, no. There’s really no talking you out of this is there? Man you’re a damn sucker for challenges. Yeah. Is it okay if I give them the heads up? A month? Why so long? Usually you’d be down here by the afternoon if something warranted your attention in the morning… ah, I see, so things have gotten complicated eh? Those Honnouji bastards at it again? Yeah, we’re ready for them if it comes to it, the Matoi’s gave us a fairly good dry run after all. Yeah. Yeah, see you round, Sanageyama.”

    -***-
    Ryuuko tapped away at a drumset, trying and failing to play the rhythm to a song that Satsuki couldn’t recognise.

    “Well she didn’t get any of the musical talent,” said Nonon, glancing towards Satsuki, “How about you?”

    “I never really could get the feel for an instrument,” admitted Satsuki, “I couldn’t get the hang of the guitar, and my keyboard lessons only lasted for a few weeks before I quit.”

    “Keyboard?” hissed Nonon with disdain, “Piano’s and organs, yes, Keyboards? No. Absolutely not!”

    “What about you?” asked Satsuki.

    She was glad she could finally have a normal conversation with someone at this school without any of the hostility underlying most of her other conversations or the furtiveness that applied to talking to a girl ostensibly branded as one of the least popular in the school.

    “Everything,” said Nonon proudly, “From the tuba to the cello, the saxophone, even the zither,”

    “What’s a zither?” asked Satsuki.

    “It’s like a cross between a guitar and a harp that has forty two strings,” she said thoughtfully.

    “That’s uh… impressive…” she said, unsure of how to talk to someone so obviously talented.

    “Hey nee-san, look at this!” called Ryuuko.

    As she sat at the piano, her hands danced over the keys and the melody for an extremely familiar tune began to play, pitch perfect and precisely on time.

    “How are you doing that?” asked Satsuki, fully knowing her sister had no musical talent.

    “It’s a pianola,” said Nonon, rolling her eyes, “A trained monkey could play it just as well.”

    Satsuki looked closer and saw pedals at Ryuuko’s feet, then noticed the rustle of a roll of paper being wound from one spindle to another. She was about to clap her sister upside the head for pulling an unfunny joke when a small mass of grey and brown fur shot past her and towards Nonon.

    “Marika! How did you get out of your cage?” asked Nonon to the small monkey that clambered up her leg and settled on her shoulder.

    “You have a pet monkey?” asked Ryuuko as the tune for the Carmen Overture she’d been ‘playing’ died off with her footfalls, “How the hell did you score a pet monkey?”

    “She’s rich, remember?” reminded Satsuki.

    “Oh, right,” mumbled Ryuuko.

    “Little Marika’s been my best friend forever, haven’t you?” said Nonon.

    She nuzzled the monkey under the chin in a way that she apparently liked, before producing a piece of dried apple for it to snack on. The monkey took the treat and happily began feasting.

    “I’ve had Marika since Kindergarten,” explained Nonon, “She’s pretty old now, probably won’t survive the rest of the year, isn’t that right you poor little monkey?”

    She gave Marika a sympathetic pat and tickle. The aging creature barely even heeded either gesture, content to hang on to Nonon’s collar with one hand whilst feasting on dried apple with the other.

    “Oh wow, that’s uh, sorry,” said Ryuuko sympathetically.

    “It’s alright,” said Nonon, “I’ve been expecting it for a while now. I’ve got things planned out, and besides, she’s been a great pet and a better friend for all these years.”

    “May I?” asked Satsuki, holding out her arm for the monkey to clamber on.

    “I wouldn’t she tends to scra-whoah!” Nonon yelped.

    The monkey leaped from her shoulder and scurried up Satsuki’s arm, clambering around her back to get lost in the forest of her hair. Marika eventually found her way out, settling contentedly on Satsuki’s shoulder.

    “Hey there little Marika!” said Satsuki in a cutesy voice.

    “What the hell? She’s not clawing your face off!” exclaimed Nonon.

    “Nee-san is good with animal’s maybe?” asked Ryuuko.

    “No, it probably just means your sister is weird,” replied Nonon.

    ***
    The rest of lunch had been spent in the music block, trying out instruments, playing with Marika, and discussing music. Nonon favoured classical music, whilst Satsuki, to Ryuuko’s surprise, favoured classic rock. Ryuuko had almost felt embarrassed to admit that she liked various pop titles. The way they’d looked at her when she had though had vindicated that embarrassment; they’d both scowled as though in the presence of a plebian.

    Not that Ryuuko cared much. She’d long decided she had no fucks to give for someone who judged her for her taste in music, and her sister would have to learn to live with her ‘objectively shit taste’.

    Come to think of it, thought Ryuuko as she walked back to the dorms, Nee-san and I hardly ever talk music.

    Satsuki had always been a bit of a queen when it came to the radio or the tv remote. She would always pick the music, the channel, or the show they watched and listened to and always assumed that Ryuuko liked or agreed with what they were watching, while Ryuuko had rarely got her way.

    Maybe we’re changing more than we think as we grow up, thought Ryuuko, Even now, she’s staying back in classes and apologising for being late, I’m just heading straight home.

    The thought troubled her. Ryuuko had always been close to her sister in her own gruff way. The idea that they were growing apart, even by degrees, was worrisome. No matter how far ahead she thought or whatever outrageous future she dared to imagine the thought of growing up alone and without Satsuki at her side was nigh unthinkable to her.

    These thoughts troubled even as she entered their dorm room. She threw herself on her bed and was intent on catching a quick afternoon nap to clear her head of them when she heard a deep, distinctly unfeminine snore emanating from a nearby chair. Ryuuko hiked her head up slowly and by degrees to see Takamori Kikuchi slumped in said nearby chair, snoring loudly enough to wake the dead.

    It took seven full seconds for Ryuuko to realize that a boy was sleeping in her room, that that boy was the one Satsuki had punched, located deep inside the girl’s dorm, where the punishment for having a boy in your room, let alone the building, was both harsh and severe. It took two further seconds for her to come to a decision and act on it.

    “What the fuck are you doing here?!” she hissed, grabbing the boy by the shirt and wrenching him awake.

    “Buh-wah?” he replied inarticulately.

    In a rage Ryuuko ripped him from the chair, threw open the window and put his back towards it, pushing him a few inches out to make her point clear.

    “Whoah wha-hey! Wait! Don’t drop the messenger!” he panicked.

    “Why the hell are you here!” she hissed again.

    “I’m here to warn you!” stammered Takamori, “You and your sister are in danger!”

    -***-
    Satsuki arrived at the dorm she shared with Ryuuko to find her sister hanging Takamori Kikuchi halfway out the window.

    “Explain, quickly,” said Satsuki tersely once she’d been brought up to speed on exactly why Takamori was in their dorm room, “before Matron Kuzuha comes and kicks all our asses!”

    “Alright, as soon as I’m not about to fall out this window,” said Takamori, looking pointedly at Ryuuko.

    She looked to Satsuki for guidance, and with a nod, she assented to Takamori’s request. Ryuuko slowly pulled Takamori out of the window and back into their dorm.

    “Make it quick,” groused Ryuuko, preferring to have dropped Takamori rather than speak to him.

    “Have you girls ever heard of the Northern Kanto Banchou Alliance?” he asked.

    “Who the hell are they?” asked Ryuuko as a sinking feeling made itself manifest in Satsuki’s stomach.

    “I’m a member, one of the bosses caught wind of our little scuffle earlier today and-”

    He was interrupted as Ryuuko grabbed Takamori by the scruff of his neck again.

    “I thought you promised us you’d called those fuckers off!” she hissed.

    “I did!” choked Takamori, “I called off everyone subordinate to me! This guy is higher up in the chain! I practically begged him not to come!”

    “So what happens now?” asked Satsuki, “Have you come to gloat? Are you just going to watch while we squirm?”

    “That’s not it,” said Takamori, “I came to help you, okay? The guy’s name is Uzu Sanageyama. He likes fighting and he loves challenges. We’ve got a whole month to prepare! I can help train you guys so that you’re a-”

    “A what?” interrupted Satsuki, “A challenge?”

    Satsuki didn’t believe it for a second. The guy she punched was here to help them? The warning was handy, but there was no way in hell she’d trust the subordinate of the person coming to bash them.

    “We don’t need your help,” hissed Ryuuko for much the same reasons as Satsuki, “We’ll do fine on our own.”

    “You two have no idea what’s in store for… you…” trailed Takamori before turning white as a sheet.

    “Ara ara,” said Matron Kuzuha with saccharine sweetness, “Takamori-kun, what would all your girlfriends say if they knew you were here wooing the Matoi sisters? Hmmm?”

    “M-Matron Kuzuha!” gulped Takamori, “I uh… I wasn’t… This isn’t what it looks like!”

    “Girlfriends?” asked Satsuki with an emphasis on the plural, “Really?”

    “They’re not my girlfriends,” insisted Takamori.

    “Ara, that’s not what they tell me,” said Kuzuha, laying a hand on her own cheek in a mix of nostalgia and glee at the suffering of Takamori “‘Oh Matron Kuzuha, Takamori gave me his drink! It’s our first indirect kiss! Kyaaa!’” she mocked.

    “S-stop it, Saori sounds nothing like that!” stammered Takamori.

    “Ara?” said Kuzuha, raising an eyebrow with a shark like grin, “I never said it was Saori I was imitating.”

    Takamori turned beet red as Ryuuko released him from her iron grip.

    “I’ll overlook this little incident, Takamori, since all your girlfriends like you so much,” said Kuzuha, emphasising her words to cause Takamori the most pain, “and since I know the Matoi’s here are smart enough not to do this and that with you. Just don’t ever let me catch you here again. Understood?”

    “Perfectly, Matron,” said Takamori solemnly.

    “Good,” said Kuzuha, “Now scram!”

    She glared at the boy as he ran out the door.

    “Thank you Matr…on,” said Satsuki, trailing as she saw Kuzuha redirect her glare to both Satsuki and Ryuuko.

    “As for you two, I know I spoil you, so I’m afraid that I won’t be overlooking this little incident,” she said tersely, “Both of you will be mopping floors tonight.”

    “Yes Matron,” said Satsuki and Ryuuko contritely.

    ***
    Hey Dad, it’s Satsuki. Listen… we’re in some real trouble here, we could really use your advice. Call us as soon as possible, please, or better yet, come here. We really, really need to talk.

    ***
    It had been several days since Takamori’s warning. Despite their brave front days earlier, both Ryuuko and Satsuki were nervous about this Sanageyama’s impending ‘visit’.

    “I heard about your problem,” said Nonon, joining the two sisters as they sullenly ate at their cafeteria table, “My condolences.”

    “What problem?” asked Ryuuko, deciding to play dumb.

    “Oh you know,” said Nonon coyly, “a certain boy who’s coming in what, a month? All because a certain someone decided to throw her fist into someone’s face.”

    “I already said that I was an idiot for that,” growled Satsuki.

    “I know,” said Nonon, “personally I’m looking forward to you two kicking his ass,”

    “You really think we have a chance?” asked Satsuki.

    “Not if you don’t try,” said Nonon.

    “And not if you don’t take some damn help for it,” said Takamori as he clattered his tray on the table and lazily joined them.

    Ryuuko had to do a double take. Both the most popular boy in the school and the richest girl in the school were sitting at their table being friendly with them. She could practically feel the glares of ‘how dare you!’ burning her back to cinders.

    “Are you two working together or something?” asked Satsuki.

    Nonon and Takamori looked at each other before laughing.

    “As if!” snorted Nonon, “Like I’d ever get drawn into this idiot’s harem!”

    “Who are you calling idiot?” snapped Takamori, “And why does everyone say I have a harem?”

    “That must be where the idiot part comes in,” mused Satsuki out loud.

    “Just do yourself a favour and remember these two things,” said Nonon, “The first is that it’s a lot like that movie Fight Club. You don’t talk about it, not to the other students, not to the teachers, and absolutely not to your parents. You don’t squeal, got it?”

    Ryuuko and Satsuki both nodded.

    “The second rule,” picked up Takamori, “Is that there are no rules in a fight. Anything goes. Almost.”

    “Almost?” asked Satsuki, “That kind of defeats the purpose of ‘anything goes’,”

    “Practical stuff mostly, avoid killing, avoid dealing serious injury, they prompt too many questions,”

    “So how do we win?” asked Ryuuko.

    “You win when you pin him for an extended duration or he gives up. Good luck doing either of them though,”

    “You know, if Fukuroda was still here we could-” began Nonon.

    “Shut up!” hissed Takamori, practically lunging across the table to shut her up.

    “What the hell is your problem?” asked Ryuuko, “That bastard Fukuroda gave me another D on my last test.”

    “We don’t talk about it,” said Takamori, “Except for some loose lipped people here!”

    “I’ll say whatever the hell I feel like saying,” hissed Nonon, “Besides, if no one ever talks about it, how the hell are we ever going to protect ourselves?”

    “What the fuck are you two talking about?” asked Satsuki.

    Nonon cast a ‘to hell with you’ look at Takamori and leaned in conspiratorially towards the sisters.

    “Fukuroda’s your math teacher right? Well, up until three months ago he had a son who was real atheletic. Wanted to start up a boxing club but his father got his knickers in a twist about it. Wanted him to get into maths like him. So instead he joined the wrestling club,”

    “Doesn’t sound all that hush hush to me,” said Ryuuko.

    “Would you let me finish?” asked Nonon, “About three months ago, he vanished. Poof. Disappeared off the face of the earth. Gone,”

    “Some said he ran away,” said Takamori, leaning in and joining the conspiratorial conversation despite his earlier reservations.

    “They’re a pack of idiots,” said Nonon, “Because if you ask Fukuroda about his son now, he’ll look at you funny, like he never had a son.”

    “That happens sometimes, doesn’t it?” asked Satsuki despite the knot of dread it formed in her heart, “Sometimes parents just go off their children and pretend they never existed.”

    “They’re just pretending though,” said Takamori, “Fukuroda’s not acting. He doesn’t go all stiff and say ‘I have no son!’ like they do in the movies. He really can’t remember his own son. His class does though, and so do most of the people in his year level,”

    “That’s… really fucking weird,” said Ryuuko.

    And the way they put it is so creepy too, she thought, it’s like something just came and ate his memories.

    “Tell them about Shun,” said Takamori.

    “Who?” asked Satsuki.

    “One person claims he knows what happened to Fukuroda’s son,” said Nonon with a sarcastic emphasis on ‘claim’, “Says he was kidnapped at the school gate by a bunch of uniformed thugs.”

    “That’s crazy,” said Satsuki.

    “Yep. Everyone knows Shun is a compulsive liar,” said Takamori, “Still. It’s made everyone a bit nervous lately.”

    “Wait, if everyone thinks he’s a liar, why does anyone take what he’s saying seriously?” asked Satsuki.

    “He wouldn’t let up, kept howling about what he saw up and down, left and right,”

    “Ah,” said Ryuuko, knowing what was coming next, “They bashed him to make stop eh?”

    “A couple of the more rough delinquents here did, yeah,” admitted Takamori, “When that didn’t stop him, people started listening.”

    “I put out a few feelers to my old school and a few of my friends, apparently this has happened in other schools too,” said Nonon.

    “Students disappearing?” asked Satsuki with creeping horror.

    “Yep. There’s a school up in Hokkaido that had a fifth of its students just vanish overnight,” said Takamori.

    “You’re fucking with us,” said Ryuuko, “That shit would make the news, hell, the police would get involved!”

    “It’s true,” insisted Nonon, “Something is screwing with the adults heads when it comes to this shit,”

    “No, fuck off, this is bullshit!” hissed Satsuki, “It was believable when it was just Fukuroda, but a massive chunk of a school? It’s like some terrible plot out of a chuunibyou shit light novel!”

    “We can prove it,” said Takamori, “We can visit the school it happened at.”

    “Fine, we’ve got midsemester next week right? We can visit it then,” said Satsuki.

    “I can’t,” said Ryuuko, “School camp, remember?”

    “Shit,” said Satsuki, dreading the thought of not having her sister to back her up.

    “It’ll be fine,” said Nonon, “Takamori here will make sure you get there and back safely, he always looks after the ladies, isn’t that right, Takamori?”

    “Yeah, of course,” said Takamori, oblivious to Nonon’s ‘hidden’ message.

    -***-
    The panic was spreading. Everywhere she looked, she could see it in people’s faces, in the way they walked and in the way they talked. Each one was stewing with a primal fear, an inexplicable dread.

    Satsuki walked down the street of a highly urbanised city… she knew not where, merely that the buildings were tall, made of brick and glass and towered into the sky.

    She came to the door of a street level apartment. She was wearing winter clothes and her breath came out in deep white puffs. She cast her gaze about furtively, looking to and fro, seeing the fear, seeing the panic. Everyone was afraid, but nobody knew why.

    She put her key into the lock and found it didn’t fit. She turned it around, shook it, shimmied it and jimmied it. She tried every which way to get inside with mounting fear and dread building in her heart.

    Something wicked this way comes…

    She did not hear it, nor did she see it. She felt it. The foot of an enormous creature had parked itself right beside her on the road. She looked up and saw an enormous, leathery skinned, amorphous mass towering far into the sky.

    34,000 feet high, she thought, not knowing how she knew how tall it was.

    Its body filled the sky above her. Its shadow consumed all that lay beneath it. In blind panic and terror she shoved her key again into the lock. This time it found purchase, and she pushed her way desperately inside.

    Satsuki now found herself in a room devoid of all but a rough carpet, brick walls, an enormous window, and a boy with blue hair lying below the sill in abject terror. He looked to her and dragged her down below the sill with him. He put his fingers to his lips… or rather, a finger to where his lips ought to have been if he hadn’t been wearing a sweater with the neck zipped all the way up to hide half his face. His eyes were hidden behind blue tinted glasses, and his shock of blue hair was a mess of unkempt knots. His face however gave further message than the silent shush had.

    For the love of god, said the look, don’t let it know we’re here!

    Satsuki had almost been about to peer out the window when she again felt the presence of the monstrosity that had terrified her into this place. An enormous, bulbous, veiny eye peered into their tiny room, searching for morsels, tiny creatures to consume.

    The two stared at each other in silent terror, each one silently pleading, hoping, begging, for the monstrosity to move, to find them an unappetising and unappealing morsel. Mercifully, the creature moved off, enticed by the screams below. When Satsuki looked out the window at last, her breath caught in her throat.

    The vista beyond was apocalyptic. Not one, not few, but many thousands of the enormous creatures were striding the land, plundering a vast but burning city of its human occupants. Satsuki looked out upon the land and knew that the end had truly come.

    ***
    Satsuki shot up in her bed, panting and sweating in the middle of the night. In a separate bed to her left, Ryuuko snored softly. Clutching her chest, calming herself, she put a hand to forehead and wiped the sweat away.

    “What the fuck was that?” she asked herself.


    ***
    Ryuuko was busily trying to concentrate in math class. She was desperately trying to figure out what the hell X was this time around using a combination of expanded brackets, raised exponents, and inverted equations in order to twist things around until they came right back to the beginning none the worse for wear. She needed this. She needed the distraction.

    It didn’t help her that her conversation with Nonon and Takamori the other day had disturbed her to no end. It was no further help that just looking at her teacher, the elder Fukuroda, the man that had forgotten he’d even had a son was teaching her class, was a constant living reminder of that conversation and the implications that had riven her with troubled sleep.

    And it was no help at all when the girl to her immediate left kept making minor panicked noises every time a new question came up and she got it wrong, which, as Ryuuko judged by the frequency, was damn often.

    “Um, s-sir? I… I can’t understand this!” she stammered as Fukuroda walked past her desk.

    “Ask Ryuuko to help you then,” muttered Fukuroda.

    “Sir, I don’t get it either,” said Ryuuko, hoping to get out of helping.

    “One learns most when teaching others,” said Fukuroda irritably, “Help each other or you both get a double helping of homework.”

    The girls looked to each other before Ryuuko shrugged and scootched her desk over.

    Leave it to teacher to provide ‘motivation’. Thought Ryuuko.

    “So, let’s see what you’re doing… here…” Ryuuko trailed off as she tried to follow the girls logic.

    “I got that one wrong,” said the girl.

    “I can see that,” said Ryuuko, frowning, “I’m just trying to figure out how you got it wrong… what did you do here?” she said, pointing to a particular point in the equation.

    “Ah, well, I couldn’t work out that part, so I just got rid of the letters, solved it, and put them back in,” she explained.

    “You got rid of…” she trailed as she realised the girls mistake, “Wait, no, you can’t just do that,”

    “Do what?” she asked.

    “You can’t just fuck off the letters. What you do to one side of the equation you have to do to the other,” explained Ryuuko, not noticing the slight quail the other girl gave at her casual swearing.

    “I… don’t get it…” squeaked the girl.

    Ryuuko sighed and resisted the urge to put palm to forehead.

    This is going to be a long lesson.

    ***
    The rest of the lesson was spent explaining the various methods for rearranging equations, power and inversion laws, as well as what an X and Y intercept was to the poor girl Ryuuko had been saddled with. Shinobu Aoki, as her name turned out to be, was even worse at math than Ryuuko, but the end of the lesson had proven Fukuroda right. She’d learned more by being forced to teach Shinobu, and in so learning she’d been able to impart a bit of that understanding onto Shinobu as well.

    The two had parted only to find each other again in chemistry, where Ryuuko had helped her understand parts of the periodic table and the various components of an element, electrons, neutrons, protons and so forth. Again, they parted ways at the end of the lesson… only to find themselves in the same class again for physics, and again for biology.

    While it was irritating for Ryuuko at first, especially given the massive gaps in Shinobu’s knowledge, she found herself striking up more and more of a friendship with the girl the more she caught up with Ryuuko. With time, Shinobu was helping Ryuuko on a few things that she’d been having trouble with, such as electric fields, graphing, and equilibrium reactions.

    By weeks end, they’d filled a dozen exercise books with roughly scrawled equations, terribly written jokes, and scratched out hundreds of tied games of noughts and crosses, to say nothing of the endless games of Rock, Paper, Scissors and the odd one of eye spy when the studying became too much and they needed to let their brains drain.

    I finally made a friend, she thought.

    -***-

    Satsuki Matoi tugged at her clothes in discomfort. They’d fit when her father had dropped her and Ryuuko off at the boarding school, now they were tight, a sign that she’d grown… a sign of just how long it had been since they’d last spoken.

    She couldn’t blame the discomfort on her clothing alone, however. The last three Hokkaido towns she’d passed through had given her a severe case of the screaming willies, especially after talking with other teenagers who’d had friends disappear.

    I’m so glad I’m with Takamori and Nonon, she thought, I’d have lost my nerve without them.

    “Nervous?” asked Takamori as he sat across from her on the train.

    “No,” she lied, glad for the distraction, “just uncomfortable. I haven’t worn these clothes in forever.”

    “It shows,” mused a bored Nonon.

    “I know what you mean,” said Takamori, “after spending so long in uniform, going casual just feels sort of… wrong.”

    “Is that normal?” asked Satsuki.

    “Hell if I know,” he said, “Saori just strips off the moment she gets back to her dorm.”

    “Oh I bet she does,” teased Nonon.

    “What? What did I say?” asked Takamori.

    “Oh, nothing,” teased Satsuki, “If you’re too dense to figure out what you just said then there’s no hope for you.”

    The three lapsed into silence as they watched the countryside clack by.

    “Wait, shit, no! That wasn’t what it sounded like!”

    “Too late, no backsies,” smirked Nonon.

    “We’re not like that! I swear!” protested Takamori.

    “Save it for your harem,” said Satsuki.

    “For the thousandth time I don’t have a… ah screw it,” he muttered.

    Nonon and Satsuki looked to each other and discreetly high-fived. It was nice to forget what they were looking into. Even if only for a while.

    ***
    Furano had been the hardest hit by the disappearances and it showed. Their guide, a boy called Kozue Hakodate had shown them into several houses where both student and family had been abducted, seemingly in the middle of the night, without so much as a police investigation.

    “We tried getting the police involved,” said Kozue, “At first they were extremely concerned, but after a day or two… they just started getting all weird. They took down their crime scene investigation stuff and just… forgot.”

    “That doesn’t make any sense,” said Satsuki, “Why… how would that even work?”

    “We don’t know,” said Kozue, “We tried following them up on it but they’re just brushing us off as chuunibyou, and these houses are now apparently ‘derelict’.”

    “There is seriously something wrong here,” said Nonon, hugging herself nervously and sticking close to both Satsuki and Takamori.

    “You don’t know the half of it,” said Kozue, “Come on, I’ll show you.”

    He led them down the road to eventually stop at a typical two story suburban home that bore the Hakodate surname.

    “Mum, Dad, I’m home!” called out Kozue cheerlessly, “I’ve brought some friends! We’re just going upstairs!”

    “You still haven’t cleaned the spare room!” yelled the boy’s mother.

    Kozue winced, “I’ll get on it later,” he grumbled painfully.

    After taking their shoes off he led them up the stairs and around the corner. A hallway with several rooms lay before them. Kozue took them to the second door on the left.

    The room was a mess. The bed was unmade. On every wall hung a poster of various athletes, all tennis stars, while the floor was strewn with tennis rackets, tennis balls and old clothes clearly belonging to a girl who was very much into sports.

    “This isn’t your room, is it?” asked Nonon incredulously.

    “No,” said Kozue gravely, “This was-”

    “It doesn’t count if you get your friends to help you Kozue,” said a stern feminine voice from the door.

    “Ah, mum, uh, hey, like I said, I’ll do it later,” mumbled Kozue.

    “You’ve been saying that all month,” said his mother as she set down a tray of drinks on the bedside table.

    “Y-yes, mother,” he replied meekly.

    “Now, who are your friends?” she asked, changing the subject, favouring the group with a smile filled with sharks teeth.

    “We wanted to hear more about Kozue’s sister,” said Satsuki

    “I see. So that’s how it is. I don’t know what convinced my son to fantasise about having a sister but we’ve discussed this and it ends now. Please don’t help his fantasy along by playing into it.”

    “Are you sure you’ve never had a daughter?” asked Nonon, “I mean, this is a lot of junk just for a fantasy.”

    Kozue’s mother pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration.

    “Kozue is an only child,” she insisted sternly, “And if he keeps this up we’ll be taking him to a psychologist.”

    “I’ll clean it up tonight, mum, honest.”

    “See that you do,” she said, giving one last stern look at the group before leaving.

    The moment his mother was out of earshot Kozue burst out into tears.

    “My sister,” he sobbed, “she loved tennis… they took her in the night… mum and dad don’t even recognise her anymore…”

    It’s not a fantasy of his, thought Satsuki, If Ryuuko were ever to be taken like that…

    A cold creeping horror entered her mind.

    Not just that… his mother… his mother was the scariest part… not even recognising her own child, that she even had a child… what if… what if…

    She dared not finish the thought.

    ***
    There was no doubting the stories now, not after three days of travelling. Satsuki Matoi had seen exactly the aftermath of what had happened with her own two eyes, the confused looks, the extremely selective memory, even the thought patterns that arose when presented with conflicting information… it freaked her out in a way that no horror film had ever managed.

    Nonon and Takamori were talking strategy, something about checking the rolls for the schools that had suffered disappearances to work out who was being taken and why as the train clacked its way back to the boarding school. Satsuki paid the conversation no mind as she again tried calling her father, and was again rewarded with the answering machine.

    Did something happen? She asked herself, Could… they have done something to father? Has he… has he forgotten us?

    It had been hard enough on them all living in a family with only a single parent. To suddenly have none… She fought down the rising panic that thought caused her.

    No. No! I can’t panic. If something happened to father, then that just means I need to be stronger, for Ryuuko’s sake.

    She reached down into her heart and found an iron sliver of resolve. Her first instinct had been to go straight home, to make sure her father was alright, that he still recognised his own daughters, but a more immediate, more important concern arose within her.

    I have a sister to protect.

    -***-
    “How was your trip home to see your father?” asked Matron Kuzuha sweetly.

    Satsuki froze as she put down her pack. She knew what that tone meant.

    “Good,” she lied.

    “I see, strange,” said Kuzuha, tilting her head to a side, “You didn’t answer the phone when I rang, neither did your father, come to think of it.”

    “We must have been out,” lied Satsuki, trying to cover her nerves with a smile.

    “In Hokkaido perhaps? With your friends Nonon and Takamori?”

    “Uh-”

    “Don’t bother answering if you’re going to lie to me for a third time, Miss. Matoi,”

    Shit. ‘Miss Matoi’ only comes out when she’s pissed off. Thought Satsuki.

    “How?” asked Satsuki, finally acknowledging that she was busted.

    “You forgot the lunch I prepared for you. I was hoping to catch you when I saw you hop on the wrong train with Takamori and Nonon. It was easy to tell where you were going from there.”

    Kuzuha shook her head and sighed nostalgically, as though she’d seen this happen before.

    “When was the last time your father contacted you?” asked Kuzuha, changing the subject.

    “When he dropped us off,” answered Satsuki.

    “That’s entirely too long,” said the matron, shaking her head, “I was right to call the police in on this,”

    “That-that’s not necessary,” stammered Satsuki, nervously, “Dad said he’d be very busy with work so… so…”

    What if they got to him? Do I even want to know?

    “I’m afraid it is in this case. I know a call for attention when I see it,” said Kuzuha.

    “Wait, what?” said Satsuki, startled.

    “Your father hasn’t contacted you for months, it’s natural for a girl to do something that will get his attention,” said Kuzuha calmly, “I’ve been a matron for years, do you think I’ve never seen this kind of thing before?”

    “Matron, wait, please, this… this isn’t what it looks like,” said Satsuki, realising just how pathetic it sounded the moment the words left her lips.

    Kuzuha put her hands on her hips and looked down at Satsuki, “What then, pray tell, is it?”

    I don’t know what to do, she thought, strange things are happening, dad must be swamped with work, or worse, they got to him and he’s forgotten us. I need help. We need help. We need guidance. We need someone we can trust.

    “I’ll tell, just promise to listen, please? No matter how crazy it sounds?” asked Satsuki desperately.

    “Alright,” said Kuzuha, her visage softening.

    Satsuki told her everything, the disappearing students and families, their investigation, Fukuroda’s son, all of it. By the time she was done Satsuki felt drained.

    “It’s all so hard to believe,” said Kuzuha, “But you’re not lying this time, are you?”

    Satsuki shook her head needlessly in response.

    “My first instinct would be to talk to the police but…” Kuzuha trailed off thoughtfully, “No, even Fukuroda’s been acting strange,”

    “You noticed?” asked Satsuki.

    “We all thought it best to let him deal with his son’s disappearance in his own way,” said Kuzuha, “I’ll have to talk to him about this.”

    “Are you sure that’s wise?” asked Satsuki, “Maybe whatever’s making him act strange will get you too?”

    “That’s being paranoid,” said Kuzuha, “Whoever is responsible for this can’t be everywhere.”

    “I suppose,” agreed Satsuki reluctantly.

    “We’ll get to the bottom of this, I promise,” said Kuzuha, “You really need to tell me these things when they happen, like your uniform,”

    “My what?” asked Satsuki, confused by the sudden change of subject.

    “It’s torn,” said Kuzuha, “You’ll need to get a new blazer at least, how did you manage that anyway?”

    Satsuki thought back to the time she’d decked Takamori in anger and the chase. She thought she’d managed to hide the tear well enough since then.

    “Uh, well,” Satsuki began.

    “Don’t tell me,” groaned Kuzuha, “Another long story?”

    “Yeah,” admitted Satsuki sheepishly.

    “Save it for later,” said Kuzuha as she rose to leave.

    ***
    Satsuki was lying back on her bed when Ryuuko burst into their dorm.

    “Hey, Ryuuko, how was camp?” asked Satsuki.

    “Guh,” grunted Ryuuko as she dragged herself through their dorm and flopped exhaustedly on her bed, “It was shit,” she mumbled into her pillow.

    “You want to talk about it?” asked Satsuki.

    “No,” groaned Ryuuko.

    “That bad?” asked Satsuki.

    “Mmmhmmm,” replied Ryuuko.

    Satsuki sighed. She wanted to talk to Ryuuko about everything that had happened, but her sister wasn’t in the most talkative mood.

    “I got busted by Kuzuha,” said Satsuki.

    Ryuuko turned over just enough to favour her sister with an eye.

    “What did you do?” she grumbled as curiosity won out.

    “She sniffed out the plan to check out the other schools,” said Satsuki.

    “Oh, is that all,” said Ryuuko, “I thought she’d busted you for that torn blazer of yours.”

    “Uh, that too,” said Satsuki sheepishly.

    Ryuuko snorted at that, “Is that all?”

    “She uh… she called the police-”

    “She what?!” Ryuuko shot up, “She can do that if you tear your uniform? Shit! Did she say anything about my uniform?”

    Satsuki gaped at her sister for a full five seconds before she threw her pillow straight at her head.

    “She called the police on dad you idiot!” corrected Satsuki, “You must be out of it, damn.”

    “Hey, I’m dead on my feet, okay?” retorted Ryuuko, throwing the pillow right back but lacking the energy or the effort to aim it properly.

    “Aren’t you worried?” asked Satsuki, “What if something happened to dad?”

    “’Course I’m worried,” replied Ryuuko, “Shit, I’ve been trying to stay busy so I won’t have to worry. It’s not like we can do anything about it now though.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Satsuki.

    Ryuuko shrugged and flopped her face back into her pillow.

    “Don’t worry about crap you can’t change,” said Ryuuko, “Just handle the stuff you… can… hmhmagmmhm,”

    “Ryuuko?” asked Satsuki as her sister trailed off, “Ryuuko?”

    Satsuki shook her sister but received only a snore in response. She shook her head, smiled, and tucked her sister in, clothes and all.

    “We’ll talk about this later, huh?” she said, stroking the red hair out of Ryuuko’s eyes.

    “Nnnngnnnn,” replied Ryuuko insensately.

    Satsuki smiled until she noticed the smell.

    Would it have killed her to take a damn shower first though?

    -***-
    Satsuki filled Ryuuko in on everything that had happened properly the next morning after she’d had her recovery sleep and had properly woken up.

    “Shit,” said Ryuuko once Satsuki had finished, “Shit’s getting serious now.”

    “We have to watch out for each other,” said Satsuki, “Kuzuha has our back but I’m not sure who we can trust.”

    “Dad, obviously,” said Ryuuko.

    “I’m… not so sure about that,” said Satsuki hesitatingly.

    “What do you mean?” asked Ryuuko.

    “He hasn’t talked to us in months, Ryuuko. Either something’s happened to him or…”

    “No,” denied Ryuuko, “I refuse to believe that he forgot about us,”

    “What if he never loved us in the first place?” asked Satsuki.

    “The fuck are you saying?” snapped Ryuuko, “You don’t fucking go there! Of course he does!”

    “How do we even know that?” asked Satsuki, “He never talked about mum… what if he just got saddled with us, what if we were only an unwelcome burden that-”

    SLAP!

    “I told you don’t go there!” glowered Ryuuko before pushing her sister aside, “I’m late and I’ve got study and assignments to do. Later.”

    “Ryuuko, I-” Satsuki caught herself as she saw the ‘not another fucking word’ look on Ryuuko’s face.

    ***
    “She busted you too, huh?” said Nonon as she dried off yet another dish.

    “I now know what Saori meant by ‘never fuck with Kuzuha’, shit, she nearly pulled my damn ear off,” grumbled Takamori as he scrubbed.

    “What else could she have meant by that?” asked Satsuki before it dawned on her, “Oooohhh, nevermind.”

    “Wow, even the head of your harem fears that you gravitate to older women, Bakamori,” sniggered Nonon.

    “I... you…” choked Takamori, “I swear you girls have your minds deeper in the gutter than anyone I’ve ever met.”

    “It’s easy to get this deep when you keep digging the hole,” smirked Satsuki as she delivered another stack of filthy cafeteria plates for the other two to wash and dry respectively.

    “Could we change the subject to something else?” sighed Takamori exasperatedly, “anything else? Please?”

    “Okay,” granted Satsuki, “What’s our next move? We know what’s going on, what happens now?”

    “Well, the school watch is in place,” said Takamori, “We just need a few more people in on it and we can cover the school pretty much completely.”

    “School watch?” asked Satsuki.

    “Remember that goon swarm you were running from the day we met?” asked Nonon.

    “Oooohhh…” said Satsuki, finally understanding how the mob could have organised itself so quickly.

    “Yeah,” said Takamori, “the idea is that the school is too big for all the tough guys and girls to cover, so we keep a watch and a rapid response going. Mobility and all that.”

    “Better than that giant idiot from Yokohama’s ideas about security. What was his name again?” mused Nonon.

    “Toad something or other,” said Takamori offhandedly, slipping another plate onto the drying rack, “Fortifying the school is just not possible.”

    “He wanted to fortify his school? As in walls and towers and stuff?” asked Satsuki incredulously, “How dumb or rich is he?”

    “Fairly rich,” admitted Nonon, “Fairly dumb too from what I’ve heard.”

    “Idiots aside,” said Takamori, “We have more immediate concerns. Your little tussle with Sanageyama, for instance.”

    “I’ll handle him,” groused Satsuki.

    “You punch like a girl,” said Takamori pointedly, “Keep that up and he’ll hand both your asses to you.”

    “Fuck off,” dismissed Satsuki.

    “Look, Sanageyama likes a challenge and he’s a Kendo nut, play your cards right and he might deal you into the North Kanto Banchou Alliance,”

    “I just want him to leave me and my sister the fuck alone,” growled Satsuki.

    “Just play it his way,” said Nonon, “Bakamori is a special kind of stupid and won’t stop until you agree.”

    “Yeah, I… hey!” Takamori glared at the smirking Nonon before deciding against berating her, “Look, what do you have to lose by trying things my way?”

    “…fine,” said Satsuki, defeated at last by Takamori’s sheer stubbornness.

    “Great I made arrangements with the Kendo club, grab your sister, meet up at the gym after three,” said Takamori.

    “Less talking, more dishwashing!” yelled one of the nearby cafeteria staff.

    The trio shut their mouths and picked up the pace.

    ***
    “Listen up new girls!” shouted Saori Kishi sternly, “You’re gonna learn how to fight properly! And the first thing you need to learn is how to take getting hit!”

    “Is this really necessary?” asked Satsuki, tapping the protective men on her head.

    “Sanageyama is a Kendo nut,” smirked Saori, “He’ll go for three places exclusively, the men, your head, the dou, your chest, and the kote, your wrists.”

    “Yeah, but it’s not like we’re going to be wearing armour in the fight,” replied Ryuuko.

    “Taking the hits is step one,” sighed Saori, “avoiding them by knowing what he’s going to do is step two. Once you get there, you can remove the armour. Until then…”

    Her grin turned savage as she took up a straighter stance. She pointed her bamboo blade directly at Satsuki’s throat. She stood with her feet half off the floor, like an athlete about to spring into explosive action.

    “HYAAAAAAAAA!” Saori roared with ferocity.

    Satskuki had to resist leaping back in fright at the sheer intensity of the intimidation that was buffeting her. Before she could count a single heartbeat, Saori and more importantly, her wooden blade were upon her.

    “MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!” she roared triumphantly the instant the blade made contact, careering past her with a flurry of footwork.

    Wha? Thought Satsuki as she felt her entire head ringing dissonantly with her helmet.

    She felt dazed, as though the strike had pushed her into another world. The strike had been so fast… so hard…

    “Hey! Wake up!” Satsuki heard Saori through the helmet, “We haven’t got all day! Turn around already!”

    Satsuki turned around to see that Saori was already in position to hit her again.

    “I know getting smacked upside the head the first time is magical, but we need to train you up fast. This time we’re doing the dou. Remember to lift your arms and it shouldn’t hurt if I do it right,” said Saori.

    If you do it right? Thought Satsuki worriedly.

    Again Saori roared in an intimidating howl before launching herself with nigh inhuman speed towards Satsuki. She lifted her arms just in time to receive a painful battering in her ribs.

    “DOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUU!” roared Saori triumphantly.

    “Gah,” grunted Satsuki painfully.

    “Woops,” said Saori with no hint of remorse or regret, “Time for the kote this time around, just present your wrists like we practiced, the gloves should do the rest.”

    Saori repeated her routine of an intimidating roar before launching into her strike.

    “KOTEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIII!” she practically screeched.

    “Ah! Motherfucker that hurts! Shit!” hissed Satsuki, her wrists protesting the pain in spite of the protective gloves she wore.

    “Sorry,” apologised Saori insincerely, “Just the thought of you and Takamori together for three days caused me to hit you at half power instead a tenth like before. I’ll try to reign it in.”

    Shit. Thought Satsuki, Of all the people in the world to give us a few fighting pointers against Sanageyama, it would have to be Takamori’s damned harem.

    -***-
    Satsuki pulled at her torn uniform as she slunk her way back to her dorms. Ryuuko had gone straight to the library to continue studying in spite of the physical toll their two hour training session with Takamori’s ‘harem’ had taken. In that time they’d gone over taking hits, avoiding them, and finally moved onto to striking at the enemy.

    At first Satsuki hadn’t seen much point towards all the screaming, but the moment she’d held a sword in front of her for the first time, the moment that Saori had encouraged her to reach deep down inside her and unleash a small fraction of the fighting spirit inside her in the form of a bestial roar… she’d practically leaped forward with a downward slash of her sword, as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

    “Miss Matoi,” called out Matron Kuzuha, intercepting Satsuki in the hallway.

    Satsuki noticed that something was different about Kuzuha. She seemed much more stern than normal.

    “Ah, Matron,” said Satsuki nervously, “How did your talk with Fukuroda go?” she asked, stalling against the larger question in her heart.

    “What talk?” asked Kuzuha.

    “About his son,” reminded Satsuki with knots of panic in her stomach, “The disappearances?”

    “Oh,” said Kuzuha with disdain, “You’re a subscriber of that popular fantasy as well?”

    What? Thought Satsuki.

    “Mr. Fukuroda has never had a son,” explained Kuzuha exasperatedly, “Where this ridiculous fantasy came from I will never know.”

    “Wait, we talked about this yesterday after-”

    “After I caught you returning from Hokkaido red handed, yes I remember… I… what…” she trailed.

    Kuzuha looked confused. Her eyes seemed to cloud over and her face contorted with an attempt to reconcile what she was saying with what she was remembering.

    “I… Fukuroda… his son… we… your father…”

    She clutched her head with one hand and held herself up against the wall as though she were feeling both a headache and faint at the same time.

    “Kuzuha, are you alright?” asked Satsuki worriedly.

    “I, yes, it’s just a dizzy spell,” she brushed off, straightening herself out, the confusion gone from her eyes, “What were we talking about?”

    “Our talk about Fukuroda’s son?” pushed Satsuki hopefully.

    “As though I would entertain such notions,” dismissed Kuzuha, “Besides, you have much more serious matters to concern yourself with considering your recent police involvement.”

    The moment of truth, she thought through a tiny knot of panic.

    “The police called. They said your father is well, if agitated, it seemed that he wanted to be left alone and without a warrant for search or arrest couldn’t pursue the matter further,” said Kuzuha crisply.

    “Is that all?” asked Satsuki desperately, “Why hasn’t he called?”

    “It’s hardly my business, I suggest you manage your personal problems yourself, Miss Matoi,” replied Kuzuha frostily.

    “Matron, please!” begged Satsuki, grabbing her arm.

    Kuzuha flinched, recoiling from her touch.

    “You are much too familiar, Miss Matoi,” hissed Kuzuha.

    “M-matron?” asked Satsuki, confused.

    “A matron must maintain a professional distance with her ward at all times. I am not and have never been your mother, do not presume such,” said Kuzuha.



    What happened? Why has she… oh… oh no… thought Satsuki with a sinking dread.

    “I… y-yes, Matron,” said Satsuki, trying to keep the fear out of her eyes.

    “Furthermore,” said Kuzuha, “Your uniform is torn. I suggest you attend to it before tomorrow lest there be consequences, do I make myself clear, Miss Matoi?”

    “You told me about that yesterday,” said Satsuki weakly.

    “You would be in trouble today if I had, get it fixed. I have other duties to attend to, good day, Miss Matoi,” said Kuzuha, stalking off.

    ***
    Ryuuko huffed as she trudged her way back home from an afternoon of studying calculus with Shinobu. It troubled her that she now thought of the dorm she shared with her sister as home now instead of just ‘her dorm’, she felt like she was losing a part of herself.

    The afternoon of training had been rough. She was sore and sweaty after nearly two hours straight of getting whacked in the head, ribs and wrists, swinging swords and generally doing stuff that she saw as more the formalities of Kendo than anything that would actually be useful in a fight. She could see the logic of knowing how this Sanageyama thought and fought.

    If we’re gonna beat him though, we have to think outside his box, she mused.

    “Yo, ‘Nee-san, I’m home,” she yawned, kicking off her shoes.

    “Hey,” said Satsuki lifelessly.

    “Sorry about this morning,” said Ryuuko, “I just… I went overboard. Sorry.”

    “Its fine,” said Satsuki in that same, lifeless tone.

    Ryuuko looked to her sister, who was lying on her bed staring up at the ceiling.

    Something’s wrong, she thought, something is damn wrong.

    “Is something wrong?” asked Ryuuko.

    “Everything’s fine,” said Satsuki in that same lifeless tone.

    “Bullshit,” said Ryuuko, “Talk to me, what the fuck happened?”

    Satsuki opened her mouth to speak, but shut it again immediately. Her face contorted into an aggrieved expression and her lips quivered as long suppressed tears welled up to the surface.

    Holy shit she’s crying, panicked Ryuuko, ‘Nee-san almost never cries.

    She recalled the last few times she had seen Satsuki cry. The first was when they’d gotten separated at a shopping center and Satsuki had been utterly convinced that Ryuuko had been kidnapped or killed. The second had been when auntie Kinue had died. The third and final time, before this one, had been when Satsuki had thrown a tantrum and screamed about how dad never loved her and…

    Oh shit.

    “’Nee-san, what happened?” asked Ryuuko with rising fear.

    Satsuki tried to speak, tried to sniffle her tears away, but instead, lunged for her sister and pulled her into a deep, needy hug, sobbing into Ryuuko’s shoulder, soaking it.

    She’s relying on me, thought Ryuuko as she returned the hug, Now I know something is wrong.

    “Everything’s gone to shit,” sobbed Satsuki, “That asshole is coming to bash us, something terrible happened to matron Kuzuha and… and…”

    A fresh round of sobs interrupted Satsuki’s confession of grief.

    Let it all out, ‘Nee-san, it can’t be that bad, thought Ryuuko.

    “Daddy doesn’t love us anymore!” she wailed.

    “What?” asked Ryuuko before she could even think.

    Satsuki sniffled and tried to wipe away her tears. With titanic effort she forced down her grief, if only temporarily.

    “Th-the police checked on dad,” sniffled Satsuki, “They said he’s fine and that he just wants to be left alone… he doesn’t want us anymore…”

    Satsuki burst into a fresh round of sobs as Ryuuko stared at her, dumbstruck.
    “No way,” said Ryuuko, “That’s bullshit, that’s… that’s…”


    He didn’t abandon us!

    “He doesn’t call, he doesn’t write, he’s alive and well and living it up!” wailed Satsuki.

    Ryuuko didn’t know what she could do to fix the mess they were in. She was still in shock from her sisters words. Wringing her father’s neck for making Satsuki cry was at the top of the list but she knew it wasn’t exactly practical at this point. What her sister needed now more than ever was support.

    I can cry later, I can crash and burn on my own time, ‘Nee-san needs me here and now. She doesn’t need to protect me alone anymore. We protect each other from now on.

    Ryuuko deepened their mutual embrace, fighting back her sisters quaking sobs and absorbing her tears with her shoulders, rocking back and forth, whispering whatever false reassurances she thought she could get away with and making the odd soothing noise.

    “I’m here for you, ‘Nee-san,” said Ryuuko.

    Her only reply was continued sobs well into the night.

    -***-
    “You’re a fucking liar,” said Takamori flatly.

    “I’m telling you what ‘Nee-san told me,” hissed Ryuuko, “And I’d believe my sister if she said if pigs were flying.”

    “Then you’re an idiot. I want to hear it from her,” said Nonon, “No offense Reddy, but hearing it from the horse’s mouth would go a long way,”

    “Why is it that people say ‘no offense’ when they really mean ‘fuck you’?” asked Ryuuko rhetorically, “Kuzuha flaked out on ‘Nee-san right there. She’s acting all prim and proper around us now when before she was cool. The only thing, the only thing that changed is that we let her in on the disappearing act. What more do you need?”

    “A believable story,” retorted Takamori, “Nobody saw anyone suspicious walking the campus when you say this all happened. How the hell do you screw with someone’s head without even being there?

    “Hell if I know, but it happened, so deal with it,” snapped Ryuuko.

    “Why isn’t Satsuki here telling us this?” persisted Nonon.

    Ryuuko put her fingers through her hair and sighed.

    “Shit’s fucked up at home,” she grunted, “’Nee-san’s taking it hard.”

    “Why’s she taking it hard if you’re not?” retorted Nonon.

    “Hasn’t hit me yet,” said Ryuuko, sighing deeply, “Not sure when it will…”

    “Take your time,” said Takamori, “We all crash sooner or later.”

    “You believe me now but not before?” asked Ryuuko.

    “Tell me something believable and I’ll believe it,” said Takamori, “Tell me something bullshit and I’ll call bullshit.”

    “Your fly’s undone,” said Nonon.

    Takamori checked.

    “You fucking bitch,” hissed Takamori.

    “Gullible moron,” grinned Nonon.

    Ryuuko snorted her suppressed mirth at their exchange.

    ***

    Ryuuko couldn’t concentrate on her calculus equations. Everything kept running through her mind. The fight, Kuzuha’s strange behaviour, the disappearances, her father’s continued lack of contact… it ran over and over and over through her head, pushing out the math and equations when she needed them most to distract her from the almighty mess her life was becoming.

    At least I have Shinobu for a friend, she thought.

    She spared a look towards the slim girl who was even now tackling the mathematics Ryuuko had helped her learn, remembering all the times they’d shared jokes, laughed, studied together, of how many books they’d filled with noughts and crosses, and even their discussions about which boys were cute. It felt so good for her that she wasn’t alone.

    “I’m so glad you’re my friend, Shinobu,” said Ryuuko warmly.

    Shinobu seemed to stiffen briefly, before she continued on with her maths.

    That’s odd, thought Ryuuko.

    “Hey, Shinobu, are you and Reddy friends?” asked a nearby girl.

    Shinobu kept her head down and focused entirely on the page of math before her.

    “Shinobu, we’re friends, right?” asked Ryuuko as a pit opened up in her stomach.

    Please, say we’re friends…

    The girl kept on furiously pushing her pen to her paper, not daring to look up at the increasingly appalled and betrayed looking Ryuuko.

    “Ooooohhh…” said one of the girls as the implication of Shinobu’s silence sunk in to all those within earshot.

    “Were we ever friends?” asked Ryuuko bitterly.

    Silence was her response, just as Ryuuko had expected. With a huff she shifted her desk as far she could get it away from Shinobu without causing a scene.

    Guess I know where I stand now, huh? She thought.

    By the end of the lesson, all she had accomplished were a series of ever increasingly angry scribbles.

    ***
    The first clue Satsuki had that something bad had happened to Ryuuko was the way she launched her school bag into their dorm before she could even see Ryuuko.

    The second clue was the way her sister paced back and forth swearing constantly under her breath, building up to an explosive crescendo of frustration before it would simmer down and begin the cycle anew.

    Satsuki knew her sister was having a rough time. She knew something bad had happened. And from beneath the covers of her bed, she knew she should do something to alleviate her sister’s condition… if only she felt like it.

    I couldn’t even get out of bed this morning, she thought, What makes me think I can help Ryuuko?

    After half an hour of the pacing with no sign of abatement however, Satsuki found that misery was easier to wallow in when it was at least silent. She pulled her head out from behind her bed covers and huffed dramatically.

    “What happened?” she practically groaned, dreading the answer.

    “Fuck this place, fuck Shinobu, fuck Dad, fuck the world fuck ALL OF IT!” ranted Ryuuko, “I’ve fucking had it! Every god damn fucking time I think things are looking up life finds a new way to fuck me!”

    “Bad day?” asked Satsuki dejectedly

    “You have no fucking ide…a…” Ryuuko trailed off mid-rant as she turned to behold her sisters dejected, incredulous glare, the wind taken right out of her sails.

    Satsuki smiled wanly at that.

    Misery loves company, she thought, I don’t even feel guilty about feeling good because my sister had a bad day… if anything it’s cheered me up.

    Ryuuko flopped onto her bed and started talking, venting about her day, the way Shinobu betrayed her, how Takamori and Nonon weren’t taking her at her word, and everything else that was occupying her mind, from their Dad to the way Satsuki had simply been moping in bed for the last few days.

    Okay, maybe a little guilty, reconsidered Satsuki as she listened.

    “It’s just that… I feel so used,” said Ryuuko after coming full circle once again, “I mean, I thought we were friends, you know? The jokes, the good times, even the study… hell I was starting to like maths.”

    “You,” said Satsuki incredulously, “Liking maths? Pffft!”

    Satsuki couldn’t hold in her laughter.

    “It’s not funny!” hissed Ryuuko.

    “I’m not laughing,” said Satsuki, failing to keep a straight face despite her best efforts.

    “Stop laughing!” persisted Ryuuko, punching her sister in the shoulder, but succumbing to the infection of her laughter.

    “I’m sorry!” guffawed Satsuki, “You liking maths! Ahahaha!”

    “It’s good to see you laughing at least, ‘Nee-san,” said Ryuuko between chuckles, appreciating the fact that something at last had brought her sister out of her funk.

    “I needed that,” said Satsuki, “It’s shitty what happened to you though, some people are just users.”

    “Well, lesson learned, trust no one from now on,” grumbled Ryuuko.

    “Not even me?” asked Satsuki honestly.

    “You I can trust,” said Ryuuko, “But only if you get your fat ass out of bed.”

    “My ass is not fat!” retorted Satsuki.

    “It will be if you keep hogging all the ice cream and sleeping in bed all day,” replied Ryuuko.

    “Ryuuko Matoi, one of these days,” growled Satsuki as the room visibly brightened, “I will kill you!”

    Especially if she keeps being a clever bitch and making me angry instead of mopey, mused Satsuki, She is getting way too good at that lately.

    -***-
    “Today’s the day,” said Takamori, “Saori reckons you might only get your asses kicked instead of merely trashed, that’s an improvement I guess.”

    “Reassure us more, please,” said Ryuuko sarcastically, “I need to feel my calmest before some gang leader comes and kicks our fucking asses.”

    “What do we have to do?” asked Satsuki, hiding her apprehension beneath a mask of determination.

    “Officially, you two will be helping Jakuzure with a play as stagehands. She’ll be your alibi. If anyone asks where you were and what you were doing, you were running errands for her. She’ll cover for you. Unofficially, you’ll be with me. There’s an abandoned warehouse not far from here. Company went bust or something, I dunno. Either way, nobody goes there, so it’s perfect for a fight.”
     
    • Like Like x 17
  3. Razor One

    Razor One When Science Goes Too Far...

    All of Scissor Sisters is now mirrored here. The astute reader will note a section that has yet to be published also made it in towards the end of Chapter 2. Consider that a bonus, but keep in mind it's subject to change.
     
  4. Razor One

    Razor One When Science Goes Too Far...

    This is a WIP of part of the next snippet.

    ***

    “Today’s the day,” said Takamori, “Saori reckons you might only get your asses kicked instead of merely trashed, that’s an improvement I guess.”


    “Reassure us more, please,” said Ryuuko sarcastically, “I need to feel my calmest before some gang leader comes and kicks our fucking asses.”


    “What do we have to do?” asked Satsuki, hiding her apprehension beneath a mask of determination.


    “Officially, you two will be helping Jakuzure with a play as stagehands. She’ll be your alibi. If anyone asks where you were and what you were doing, you were running errands for her. She’ll cover for you. Unofficially, you’ll be with me and Saori. There’s an abandoned warehouse not far from here. Company went bust or something, I dunno. Either way, nobody goes there, so it’s perfect for a fight.”


    “What about you?” asked Satsuki, “I’m not getting busted over this bullshit just because we couldn’t get our stories straight.”


    “I’ve got a dozen buddies who’ll swear I was with them the whole time,” smirked Takamori.


    “Why do we wind up helping Jakuzure but you get to do nothing?” asked Ryuuko.


    “The idea is for the story to be believable,” said Takamori, “As if I’d ever be caught dead helping with a play.”


    “What else can we expect?” asked Satsuki, trying to steer the topic back on course.


    “Sanageyama will show up with three of his men. To balance things out, Saori and I will back the two of you up. The boss sticks to his word, but I figure it’s the least we can do,” explained Takamori.

    “Damn straight it’s the least you can do,” groused Ryuuko, “You’re not the ones that are fighting!”


    “Neither are his three henchmen,” said Takamori, “He’s made it clear he wants to fight both of you, two on one. Equal numbers between parties is just a polite formality.”


    “So he thinks he can take us both at once?” asked Ryuuko.


    “He knows he can take you both at once,” clarified Takamori.


    “So what’s the point then? If he knows he can beat us?” asked Satsuki.


    “He’s the leader of the North Kanto Banchou Alliance,” explained Takamori, “He lets one of his boys, me in this case, get punched in the face, he looks weak. Even if I’m totally fine with that, he can’t be, he either shows strength or-”


    “Or someone less reasonable rips him down?” finished Satsuki, seeing where Takamori was going.


    “Exactly,” he said, “Either from with the alliance itself or some upstart who thinks Sanageyama’s gone soft.”


    “So he doesn’t have a choice? What sort of a weak leader is that?” asked Satsuki.


    “I wouldn’t talk shit about Sanageyama until you’ve met him,” warned Takamori, “Sanageyama is many things, weak isn’t one of them.”


    “We’ll see,” said Ryuuko, cracking her knuckles melodramatically.


    Satsuki knew that Ryuuko’s bravado was merely a façade for the same apprehension she felt. Most all of the fights she and her sister had found herself in the midst of had been spontaneous affairs, borne of the moment in the fires of youth and anger.


    This fight is different, Satsuki mused, This fight has been hanging over our heads for a month. I just want it done.


    ***


    [6 Hours Before the Fight]


    Satsuki was on her way to deliver a rushed assignment to one of her teachers when she passed a crying Matron Kuzuha sitting on a bench outside the staff lounge. At first she walked by, unsure of how to handle the crying Matron, but then paused to reconsider, and finally turned around entirely.


    “Is everything okay, Matron?”


    “No, not really,” said the teary eyed Matron, doing her best to hide them, “The head Matron just chewed my head off.”


    “What for?” asked Satsuki curiously.


    Matron Kuzuha leaned forward and held her head in her hands.


    “She made me sit Seiza for three hours while lecturing me about being too strict and formal with students,” she said, “When she said ‘I had nothing to prove’ I realised how much of an idiot I’ve been to so many people lately, including you and your sister.”


    “R-really?” asked Satsuki, flabbergasted.


    “Sympathy and Strictness in equal measure,” said Kuzuha, “Somehow I forgot that. I’m so sorry.”


    A fresh round of tears burst forth as Satsuki awkwardly sat there. Her first instinct was to give Kuzuha a hug, but she thought the better of it. On the one hand, this showed that the Kuzuha she knew was still there, on the other, she didn’t want to get too close to her, unwilling to risk another incident where her eyes would cloud over and her demeanor once again turn cold. Fortunately the flow of tears did not last long.


    “Feeling better?” asked Satsuki tentatively as the Matron once again cleaned her face of tears.


    “Much better, actually,” she said, “I just needed a good cry.”


    “I’m glad you’re alright,” said Satsuki, rising to leave, “but I need to turn this assignment in, sorry.”


    “Just a minute,” said Kuzuha with a sharpness to her voice that forced Satsuki to halt in her tracks, “Did you fix your blazer? It was torn as I recall.”


    “Yes, I got a new one,” said Satsuki, showing it off to prove it.


    “New one my foot,” said Kuzuha, “That’s an old one.”


    “Well… I did get it from the second hand uniform shop…” admitted Satsuki sheepishly.


    “They used that logo for the school back when I was attending here,” she said, her eyes narrowed before she continued, “Do you mind turning up the collar?”


    “…why?” asked Satsuki after a cautious pause.


    “Indulge me?” asked Kuzuha.


    As Satsuki popped her collar, Kuzuha’s face lit up.


    “Tell me, dual inner pockets? Silk lining?” asked the Matron.


    “How did you know?” asked Satsuki.


    “That’s my old blazer!” crowed Kuzuha before putting a hand to her lips to silence herself, “I can’t believe that old thing is still around!”


    “You’re kidding me?” asked Satsuki, “…you’re not kidding?”


    “Oh that brings back memories. I was quite the troublemaker back in my day. I might even tell you a story or two over icecream. You like vanilla, right?”


    “Yeah,” smiled Satsuki, “How did you know?”


    “You just seemed like a vanilla person. It’s the finest of the flavours anyway,” replied Kuzuha.


    “Damn straight it is,” grinned Satsuki happily.

    ***

    So far, the plan for this snippet is --> Cold Open --> The Lowdown --> Satsuki Happiness (Current Progress) --> Ryuuko Happiness --> Warehouse --> Fight --> REVEALS

    So, all in all, fairly lengthy compared to previous snippets, hence the additional time to produce it. I want to get this just right, so I'm investing a bit more thought and work into it, rather than trying to push it straight out the door.
     
    • Like Like x 20
  5. You forgot to post the prologue.
     
  6. Suryn

    Suryn On the wings of a Dragon

    I am glad I too a look at this. Looking good.

    I hope the Matois eventually make peace before Nui does her thing, though I don't expect a full reunion to happen.
     
  7. Razor One

    Razor One When Science Goes Too Far...

    Thanks for the heads up, edited into the first post.
     
  8. Strunkriindiisk

    Strunkriindiisk Best Eldritch G.I.R.L.

    Yay, the suffering is alleviated a bit!
     
  9. Aranfan

    Aranfan Team Plasma Grunt

    Looks like the other people still remember how Kuzuha used to be like and are reacting the the sudden change in her behavior. And since that's collateral damage instead of what the fibers were trying to suppress, they don't just ignore it.
     
  10. Derek58

    Derek58 Fan of Quality

    Location:
    Eastern US
    Nice! Looking forward to the rest.
     
  11. BlackAeronaut

    BlackAeronaut Scaring people witless since 1980

    Location:
    San Antonio, TX
    Whew! Took me a while to get through this. You make long story posts, and that is a good thing. Still trying to figure out exactly what you're up to with this, though I think the idea of keeping the sisters together is interesting.
     
  12. Hmm, it may be because I haven't actually finished watching Kill la Kill yet, but I'm confused by the memory stuff.

    I'm guessing life fiber shenanigans messing with people's minds.

    Anyway, this is a fun story.
     
  13. Razor One

    Razor One When Science Goes Too Far...

    More WIP'age. I apologise for the latest round of delays. My brother landed in hospital with a twisted intestine. Which is exactly as painful as it sounds. The nephews are as fun to play with as ever though.
    ***

    [4 Hours Before the Fight]​

    Ryuuko trudged her way to her locker, eager to finish out the day, get back to her dorm and get some down time before the showdown. The fluttering in her stomach and the tingling in her arms and legs hadn’t abated the entire day, the equal and opposite feelings of nervousness and excitement doing their respective parts in making her classes positively drag.

    With a flourish she opened her locker, unleashing a flood of cards and letters.

    “Wha-what?” said Ryuuko.

    She bent down to pick up one letter in particular.

    Oh red rose,
    Of Class 1-B,
    My heart doth flutter,
    Flutters,
    For thee…


    Ryuuko reddened as she continued reading the love poem.

    “Arara,” said Nonon as she caught Ryuuko unawares, “What do we have here?”

    “Nothing!” yelped Ryuuko as she desperately tried to clean up the pile and shove it back into her locker, her bag, and both all at the same time.

    “Looks like your fanclub struck, huh?” said Nonon.

    “…fanclub?” asked Ryuuko in shock, “I… I have… I have a fanclub?”

    “Sure you do,” said Nonon, bending down to pick a particularly floral love letter off the floor, “It’s not like you’re hideous or anything, most cute girls have fanclubs here.”

    “I’m cute?” she asked.

    “Don’t get your hopes up, most of the guys that stoop to love letters are pathetic no life nerds with hygiene issues,” tempered Nonon, her visage darkening as she continued reading the lover letter in her hand, “And you poached one of my fans too!”

    “I did?” asked Ryuuko dumbfoundedly, still trying to understand that someone out there found her cute.

    “Yes you did!” growled Nonon, “I’d recognise her handwriting anywhere!”

    “Her?” asked Ryuuko, uncomprehendingly.

    “Yeah, the handwriting is really girly, you can tell,” explained Nonon.

    “I don’t get it…” said Ryuuko.

    “Oh it’s all the strokes you see, a guys hand is-”

    “No,” interrupted Ryuuko, “I don’t get it. Why… I thought the school hated me?”

    “They hate that you stand out,” corrected Nonon, “Red bang? Nice skin? And with those pretty eyes? You’re practically a heartbreaker.”

    “I... you… I… I…” choked Ryuuko, reddening further and further in embarrassment, unable to deal with the compliments Nonon had just heaped upon her.

    “Not a match for me though,” grinned Nonon, “My fanclub should have delivered by now.”

    Nonon threw her locker open.

    NOTHING?!” she screeched, “What the fuck is this! I am going to fucking kill...! Oh, wait, there’s one there.”

    She picked up the sole letter in her locker.

    “CONDOLENCES!” she roared, throwing the card as far as she could hurl it, “FUCK ALL THOSE NO LIFE PIECES OF SHIT!”

    “What’s the matter?” asked Ryuuko with suppressed mirth, “Did I poach your entire fanclub?”

    “FFFFF-” trailed Nonon as she bit down on the F-bomb she was about to drop and did her best to contain herself, “Fortunately not. Here, let’s do the right thing and get rid of all these love letters.”

    “Eh? But I want to read them! It’s the least I can do for my… my… fans…” trailed Ryuuko as she finally clicked that she had a fanclub of people that actually liked her.

    “Trust me. You don’t wanna read the dribblings of the mouth breathing neckbeards this school has to offer. Besides, if they really had feelings for you they’d confess in person, not shove cards in your locker,” said Nonon before her visage turned cruel and dark, “No. What we’re gonna do is go to the incinerator and burn these pieces of shit nice and slow. Nice and fucking slow.”

    Nonon practically salivated at the prospect as she dragged Ryuuko along to do just that.

    ***
    That's an artifact of shunting the story over here from SB. Each section, shown by the "-***-"'s, are the original 1,000 word (or so) snippets. The main idea was to try to push out 1000 words a day, minimum. Lately I haven't been able to keep to that due to forum drama and IRL stuff. I'm hoping to get back into the groove and produce regular snippets again, but every time I manage to start getting on track something always kicks me down. It's irritating.

    And yeah, keeping the sisters together from the start, and the resulting butterflies, was the brain bug that kickstarted the entire story.

    I strongly suggest watching up to episode 19 if the memories thing confuses you, it gets exposited on there. But essentially, yes, Life Fiber shenanigans.

    Directly quoting the episode:

    Tsumugu: "But why isn't there any uproar among the media and the populace even though Covers are attacking academies all over Japan?"

    Aikuro: "They're already being mentally influenced."

    Inumuta: "Clothing made by Ragyo Kiryuins REVOCS has reached the entire population. The Life Fibers woven into them are manipulating the minds of their wearers and devouring any unnecessary information from their brains.

    Tsumugu: " "They have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear," huh?"

    Aikuro: "Well, they do use human psychogalvanism as their energy source.
     
    • Like Like x 20
  14. Schrodinger's Cat

    Schrodinger's Cat Hallelujah!

    Now Satsuki needs her own fanclub, or at least her eyebrows do.
     
    • Like Like x 6
  15. Aranfan

    Aranfan Team Plasma Grunt

    That must have been an excellent boost to Ryuuko's self confidence.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  16. Finished the series earlier today. Crazy and awesome.

    Now I'm wondering if in this story you'll give Satsuki a non-evil Junketsu, or make a new Kamui.
     
  17. BlackAeronaut

    BlackAeronaut Scaring people witless since 1980

    Location:
    San Antonio, TX
    I've always liked Nonon. She always seems so unflappable until you find one of her berserk buttons. And then she goes thermonuclear. Hilarious. :grin:
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Razor One

    Razor One When Science Goes Too Far...

    More WIP'age.

    ***

    “That’s the place,” said Takamori confidently.

    “It’s a dump,” said Saori.

    “It’s an abandoned warehouse, of course it’s a dump,” retorted Takamori.

    Ryuuko and Satsuki exchanged a furtive glance with each other before casting their gaze about, wary for anyone that might be watching. The warehouse was a typical affair, surrounded by a cyclone fence topped with barbed wire with rough gravel covering the ground on all sides and was poorly lit by the few remaining flood lights at irregular intervals.

    While the massive doors at the front of the warehouse were shut and the building proper was clearly dilapidated, it was readily apparent that the warehouse wasn’t entirely abandoned, with light flowing out of a side entrance that had been left clearly ajar.

    “Come on,” motioned Takamori, ushering them through one of many holes in the fence, “they’re expecting us.”

    “One thing,” said Satsuki as they trudged over the gravel, “Before we go in, whose side are you on?”

    “What do you mean?” asked Takamori,

    “If shit goes south, I need to know you’ll have our backs,” said Satsuki, “Because if I can’t trust you…”

    “I spent the last month helping you out, what do you think?” retorted Takamori.

    “I think you’ll be loyal to your boss,” said Satsuki plainly.

    “I think I’d have to look you in the eye every day if I stab you in the back here,” replied Takamori evenly, “I only have to deal with Sanageyama once or twice a month, and he prefers it if I stick to my guns.”

    “Just fuckin’ answer her,” growled Ryuuko.

    “Yes, he’s on your side,” groaned Saori before directing a furtive glare to Takamori, “Shit, just talk straight next time you idiot.”

    “I was,” said Takamori, rolling his eyes.

    The first thing Satsuki noticed the moment she crossed the threshold into the warehouse, beyond her own trepidation, was the endless clinking of glass bottles.

    “Little giiiirls… come out to plaaaay…” taunted a voice from the shadows, “Little giiiiirls come out to PlaAaaAAAaAY!”

    A figure stepped out of the shadows wearing an almost ridiculous pompadour and rough clothes that had seen better days, the glass bottles attached to his fingers clinking ceaselessly to the rhythm of his taunting.

    [FUKUYAMA YATARO]
    [HENCHMAN, NORTH KANTO BANCHOU ALLIANCE]

    “LITTLE GIIIIIRLS! COME OUT TO PLAA-OW-OW-OW! STOP IT MAN!” yelled the taunting boy, interrupted by the shinai that had struck him upside the head.

    “I told you it wasn’t funny an hour ago!” snapped…

    [UZU SANAGEYAMA]
    [LEADER, NORTH KANTO BANCHOU ALLIANCE]

    The kid, for Satsuki couldn’t think of him as a man just yet, was dressed in a T-shirt that her limited English told her said “Bad Boy”, black pants with a spiked belt, and a black coat with a popped collar. His hair was done up almost childishly like something out of Dragon Ball.

    “Oh come on boss,” said Fukuyama before swallowing his words at Sanageyama’s angry glare.

    That must be Sanageyama, mused Satsuki, And he looks absolutely ridiculous.

    And so Satsuki did the only thing she could.

    She laughed. She pointed at Sanageyama and she laughed at how childish and pretentious he looked. She laughed at how she’d worked herself up into a pile of knotted nerves about someone coming to beat them up who looked barely even older than herself.

    “Hey boss, she’s laughing at you,” said…

    [AKIYAMA NAMIE]
    [ALLIED PARTNER, NORTH KANTO SUKEBAN FREEHOLD]

    “She likely underestimates the tactical effectiveness of the boss,” said…

    [SHINJIRO NAGITA]
    [STRATEGIST, NORTH KANTO BANCHOU ALLIANCE]

    “Clearly she’s not as intelligent as we were lead to believe,” finished Nagita.

    “I like her already,” said Sanageyama, “She has the guts to speak her mind.”

    “Hey bitch! Nobody laughs at the boss and gets away with it!” snapped Fukuyama.

    “Can you blame her?” asked Ryuuko as Satsuki reigned herself in.

    “My apologies,” said Satsuki with a bow once she’d composed herself, “You weren’t at all what I expected to see.”

    “Good,” said Sanageyama happily as he swung his shinai lazily over his shoulder.

    It was as Satsuki’s head rose from her bow that she caught a good look at the only girl in Sanageyama’s party as she exchanged a look with Sanageyama.

    I remember her! Thought Satsuki as she recalled…

    ***

    “No, no, for fucks sake you always take this shit way too far! Let’s just chuck her in the equipment shed and be done with it!” hissed the girl who’d kicked her.

    Seeing no support from her peer, the punching girl turned to the one called Kaijura.

    “Up to you, Kaj, reckon we should show this school what a slut this bitch is?”

    “I don’t fucking care, I gotta get this shoulder looked at!” wailed Kaijura.

    “Pansy,” muttered the punching girl.

    “It’s you against me. If you’re dead set on this Kuri, we’re not friends anymore,” said the girl that had kicked Satsuki with a threat that implied more than a broken friendship.

    ***

    Yes, it’s definitely her, mused Satsuki, recalling the girl that had savaged her ribs with those nasty kicks, but had held her ‘friends’ back from doing worse.

    “Small fucking world, isn’t it?” asked Satsuki with a pointed look.

    Akiyama grinned at the recognition.

    “You have my thanks,” said Akiyama, “That little fight of ours gave me the excuse I needed to throw those two stupid bitches out.”

    Satsuki snorted at that.

    “You see why this has to happen,” said Sanageyama as he approached, stopping only when he was between both groups, “I can’t just ignore two attacks on different people I’m in charge of.”

    “Let’s get this over with then,” said Satsuki as she strode forward to meet him.

    I feel so calm, she thought, there’s no more fear, only certainty.

    “Oi, oi!” objected Sanageyama loudly, “What the fuck is this?”

    He pointed his Shinai to Satsuki’s immediate left where Ryuuko was standing, cracking her knuckles.

    “Ryuuko!” hissed Satsuki, instantly realising that Sanageyama had only come to fight her and not the both of them, “Get back, he only wants me!”

    “When’d you figure that one out?” asked Ryuuko lowly.

    “Just now, so get out of here!” hissed Satsuki.

    “Yo!” yelled Ryuuko in a way that Satsuki knew was her stubborn mode, “If you wanna fight ‘Nee-san, you wanna fight me too!”

    “Oh?” asked Sanageyama with relish, “Two on one ain’t exactly fair!”

    “Neither is bringing a weapon, dickwad,” retorted Ryuuko.

    “Interesting,” said Sanageyama with ever increasing relish, “Very interesting. Alright. I’ll allow it.”

    “Boss! Don’t!” cried out Fukuyama.

    “Shaddap!” cried Sanageyama, “I’m the boss! What I say goes! And I say its fine! Don’t fuck with me when it comes to a challenge!”

    Sanageyama’s party backed down as per their bosses implied orders.

    “Good luck!” cried out Takamori.

    “Give him hell!” encouraged Saori.

    “You don’t need to do this,” said Satsuki as she entered a ready fighting stance, trying to give her sister one final out, even knowing that she’d turn it down.

    “Like hell I don’t,” said Ryuuko, doing the same, “If they mess with my sister they mess with me.”

    “Idiot,” muttered Satsuki.

    “Love you too, ‘Nee-san,” replied Ryuuko.


    ***
    The astute reader will notice something major was revealed here. :drevil:
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2014
    • Like Like x 22
  19. Derek58

    Derek58 Fan of Quality

    Location:
    Eastern US
    Shinjiro Nagita :o

    Also Sukeban Freehold :D
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2014
    • Like Like x 1
  20. Aranfan

    Aranfan Team Plasma Grunt

    Wait, isn't Nagita that guy Nui pretended to be?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  21. Warriors reference for your gang fight... Excellent.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  22. Derek58

    Derek58 Fan of Quality

    Location:
    Eastern US
    Yea that was great, and Sanageyama wacking the guy was even better :D
     
  23. Let's just hope that he was actually a real person that Nui impersonated. Otherwise...
     
  24. If you're going to move your fic somewhere else, at least have the common fucking courtesy to inform the people who are watching your old thread where you've gone. I just found this now.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  25. MobiusOneDT

    MobiusOneDT The Sharkmouth Bastard

    Location:
    Columbus, Georgia
    Don't worry you guys they've totally got this!
     
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